RRI und Interdisziplinarität

July 15, 2022

Als Gewinner der Idea-Competition des Co-Change Projekts mit unserem Projekt „DEBIAS - Digitally Eliminating Bias In Applicant Selection“ durfte ich kürzlich Tecnalia in Bilbao, Spanien besuchen.

Der folgende Blogpost ist vorerst nur auf Englisch verfügbar:

The CTS/C!S Project „DEBIAS - Digitally Eliminating Bias In Applicant Selection“ placed first in the idea competition hosted by the Co-Change Project. Representing the CTS, I was fortunate to visit Tecnalia - one of the consortial partners in the Co-Change Project in Bilbao, Spain for a one-day workshop and guided tour. The visit was focused on an exchange of ideas on Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) and interdisciplinarity in technology development, and to gain insights into Tecnalia’s RRI-related activities and organisational transformations.

Just a short bus ride from Bilbao’s city center with some beautiful vistas of the Basque Country brings me to Tecnalia’s headquarters, where I’m greeted by Antonia Bierwirth and Ezekiela Arrizabalaga Salegi. We take a sip of our coffees, and dive right in on what would become the defining question of the day:

How can we communicate and introduce the value and importance of interdisciplinarity for RRI to technology researchers and innovators?

The CTS and Tecnalia’s Change Lab face similar challenges: An organisation’s committments to ethical, sustainable, inclusive and responsible research and innovation are often contrasted by a less-than-enthusiastic response by its practitioners. Too often, the integration of RRI principles into practice is seen—at best—as a nuisance, or at worst, as slowing the pace for innovation. As a result, many research projects yield questionable results that may raise concerns over potential discrimination, or create technologies ripe for misuse.

Tecnalia’s commitment to integrate RRI principles in an attempt to bridge this gap resonates well with the CTS’s approach to introduce and enforce interdiscplinary exchange between technology and natural sciences on the one hand, and the social sciences on the other. In my presentation, I discuss the dangers of techno-deterministic views of real-world problems and solutions, and present the DEBIAS project as a counterexample of human-centric, participatory technology design to address the problem of bias in recruiting: instead of trying to replace biased human decision-making with (differently biased) automated decision making or AI/ML technologies, the DEBIAS tool empowers humans to overcome their own bias and supports their decision making through comparatively simple technological measures.

Tecnalia’s research and development activities are rife with opportunities to take similar approaches. As I get to visit the Quantum Lab and the Sustainable Mobility Lab and talk with the researchers, their past and current projects offer both fascinating insights and many starting points for a critical discussion on the ethical dimensions of their research. Constant, however, remains a reluctance to concede that ethical concerns could be relevant for their research, or that there may be a need to integrate interdisciplinary, social science perspectives into their work.

As I keep discussing and chatting with my gracious hosts, the core challenge we face emerges more clearly: To change people’s minds, guidelines and letters of committment won’t be enough. RRI needs more concrete, positive value propositions to incentivize practitioners - because the current, opposite approach of dissuasion and deterrence of ethically questionable research will not foster the kind of open-minded, interdisciplinary exchange necessary to make RRI principles a broadly applied standard.

I would like to express my heartfelt thanks to my gracious hosts, Antonia and Ezekelia, and to Tecnalia for this exciting opportunity for scientific exchange and discussion! (fc)

Critical Algorithm Studies und der AMS Algorithmus

May 11, 2022

Das C!S und CTS durften 25 Studierende des Studiengangs Philosophy of Science, Technology & Society der Universität Twente für einen Workshop zu Critical Algorithm Studies begrüßen.

Der Workshop wurde im Rahmen einer Studienreise der “W.T.S. Ideefiks” Study Association organisiert, die am Zusammenspiel von Technologie und Gesellschaft interessiert waren.

Das Kommittee beschrieb die Studienreise wie folgt:

“We are a group of twenty-four master students at the Philosophy of Science, Technology and Society (PSTS) program at the University of Twente, the Netherlands. It is a two-year degree where students learn to reflect critically on the role of technology in society. Together with two of our teachers, we are coming to Vienna in the first week of May. The goal of this trip is to get a better perspective on possible career opportunities, to expand our network internationally and also to simply have a good time together with our fellow students. Next to the CTS / C!S and the aspen.mobil.lab, we plan to visit the University of Vienna (specifically their STS group), the Austrian Institute for Technology (AIT), the Smart City department at the municipality and a start-up focussing on sustainable trading. We are very much looking forward to meeting you soon and engage in an inspiring coming-together!”

Der Workshop wurde durch das C!S // CTS organisiert. Nach der offiziellen Begrüßung durch die Organistorische Leiterin des CTS, Anna Franzkowiak, präsentierte Florian Cech eine Einführung in das Forschungsfeld Critical Algorithm Studies (CAS), und eine detaillierte Beschreibung der Case Study “AMS Algorithmus”. Für den interaktiven Teil des Workshops bildeten die Studierenden Gruppen und bearbeiteten eine Reihe an kreativen Fragestellungen zu dieser Fallstudie. Unter anderem analysierten sie, welche Zukunftsvisionen durch das System manifest werden, welchen kulturellen Einfluss das System haben könnte, die Problemstellungen rund um Bias und Diskriminierung sowie Transparenz und Accountability, die das System und seine Einführung begleiteten, sowie die politischen Dimensionen des Projekts.

Das C!S//CTS bedankt sich bei den Studierenden für die engagierte Teilnahme am Workshop!