Member Spotlight: Oliver Haimson

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Member Spotlight: Oliver Haimson

This month’s Member Spotlight features Oliver Haimson, Assistant Professor of Information, School of Information and Assistant Professor of Digital Studies Institute, College of Literature, Science, and the Arts.

Professor Haimson conducts social computing research focused on envisioning and designing trans technologies, social media content moderation and marginalized populations, and changing identities on social media during life transitions. Much of his research has focused on transgender identities and experiences online and with social technologies, and his research goal is to impact technological inclusion of marginalized users. He is a recipient of a National Science Foundation CAREER award.

  • Tell us a bit more about the focus and details of your current research/projects

My current work is all about trans technologies: technologies including apps, websites, AR/VR, supplies, art, games, etc. that help address some of the challenges that trans people and communities face. In one part of this project, my research team and I interviewed over 100 creators of trans technologies, and that data and analysis is the focus of my forthcoming book called Trans Technologies (MIT Press, 2025). In another part of the project, we conducted participatory design workshops with trans people to inform the design of new augmented reality technologies that will help with trans identity exploration, changing bodies, and changing gender expressions.

  • What is innovative/new/exciting about these projects?

Most mainstream technologies do not consider or prioritize trans people, and often end up excluding or marginalizing trans users. This can be especially problematic in healthcare contexts. By centering trans needs and designing technology specifically for trans people, we help to address trans needs and influence trans technological inclusion more broadly.

  • What is the anticipated outcome of this research?

Ideally, we hope to create technologies that will make tangible positive impacts on trans people’s lives.

  • How it will benefit patients and clinicians?

Some of the augmented reality technologies that we envision could help trans patients to view their bodies as they could appear after medical intervention, and then work with clinicians to customize medical outcomes to better align with their desires and expectations. Other ideas we’re working on involve ways to increase trans people’s agency over their own healthcare, because trans people currently face many barriers to receiving trans-inclusive and gender-affirming care.

  • How is Precision Health is supporting this research? 

Mostly as a way to connect with other researchers and to spread the work about our research.

  • What are your research interests, broadly?

human-computer interaction, social computing, transgender and LGBTQ+ health and wellbeing, trans technologies

  • How does your work apply to the field of precision health?

My research on trans experiences with technology can inform the development of more inclusive and personalized healthcare technologies and systems that recognize and adapt to a wide range of diverse genders, which is crucial for addressing health disparities in precision health efforts.

  • Please share links to recent/significant work:

  • What do you like to do when you aren’t doing research?

My favorite hobbies are reading books, bike riding, and jigsaw puzzles!