— Nora Kenworthy, PhD
I’ve got a new paper out this week, which was a very long time in the making — a first deep dive into ethnographic data on users’ experiences with medical crowdfunding. The article peels back the lid on the profound inequities between different crowdfunder experiences, providing a counterpart to the all-too-frequent stories of easy success and viral empathy we see on the news.
The stories people told about unfairness and inequality on GoFundMe were haunting. Because I think stories like these should not just sit behind a paywall, I want to highlight some insights from them…
As protests over police brutality and the recent killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Tony McDade (among many others) spread across the US this month, GoFundMe emailed their “community” with a message of commitment. “To drive change we must get involved and take action,” the new CEO, Tim Cadogan, wrote. His message echoed those of other tech platforms this week that publicly endorsed the Black Lives Matter movement but failed to recognize, or reckon with, the ways their platforms have been used to exacerbate racial bias and amplify the voices of hate groups.
Over the past two months, Americans have become familiar with exponential-style graphs of the spread of COVID-19. Steep curves illustrating the scope death and disease have exposed our vulnerability to this novel virus and the institutional failures that hampered the US response. In addition to the direct damage wrought by the novel coronavirus, mitigation efforts like physical distancing have led to widespread economic displacement. In response to these acute challenges, many Americans are seeking support using crowdsourced funding platforms. Many more Americans have been asked to contribute to such campaigns.