CHI Workshop

Very happy to have par­ti­cip­ated in the CHI 19 con­fer­ence work­shop:
Explor­ing the Inter­sec­tion of Philo­sophy and HCI

Ann Light and I wrote a short piece for the work­shop:

Figure from paper: Figure 1: Multispecies, multiscalar relations.

ABSTRACT: This short piece, far too short for the space it demands, spins togeth­er a lively and unwieldy story about meth­ods — the prac­tices we in design and design research fol­low to both know about the world and to have an affect on it. We spec­u­late on a mode of doing design inflec­ted with ques­tions about what we are doing when we study and inter­vene in the world. This is a pro­ject full with the hope of renewed design­erly meth­ods that make more of/in the world; that pro­mote a flour­ish­ing of dif­fer­ence; and that might just lead to mod­est but bet­ter ways of liv­ing and dying togeth­er. Our philo­sophy (if that is not too grand a word for it) comes less from a stand­ing on the shoulders” of any one per­son, and more a think­ing through and with fem­in­ist ways of know­ing, doing, and being. Weav­ing into a mesh of ideas from the likes of Barad, Der­rida, Dewey, Durkheim, Hack­ing, Har­away, Law, Stengers, and so on, we find there to be troubles between the ways we come to know the world (doings, meth­ods or prac­tices), and what we know (know­ings or the­or­ies). The prob­lem­at­ic dis­tinc­tion between such doings and know­ings, and the murky worlds between them, open up a space for thinking-doing a world oth­er­wise. When we come to accept that what we do and what we know are always already togeth­er, and that this togeth­er­ness’ is all the world can be, then we, in design, are left with a begin­ning: What worlds do we want to do-know?

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EASST 2018 Presentation

Abi­gail Dur­rant and I gave our paper Mod­el­ling Cells in/with risky comak­ings and devi­ous worlds” at EASST last week, in the fab­ulous Fem­in­ist Fig­ures pan­el.

Mod­el­ling cells in/with risky comak­ings and devi­ous worlds

ABSTRACT
We use String Fig­ures and Invol­u­tion­ary Momentum to read against the grain” of a con­tem­por­an­eous bio­logy char­ac­ter­ised by reduc­tion. Work­ing through the design of a tool that mod­els cel­lu­lar sta­bil­ity, we spin a yarn of affect­ively charged” rela­tions between research­ers, cells and tech­no­lo­gies.

Draw­ing from her found­a­tion­al stud­ies of bio­logy, Evelyn Fox Keller (2009:301) writes of a com­plex­ity and con­nec­ted­ness that might just char­ac­ter­ise our devi­ous” world(s). She has traced threads through bio­logy for over 40 years, draw­ing atten­tion to — amongst oth­er things — how it has often res­isted the explan­at­ory powers con­ferred upon its coun­ter­parts in oth­er nat­ur­al sci­ences. A prag­mat­ic approach has dom­in­ated, she extols, in which unknowns have been a part of biology’s messy real­ity.

Look­ing ahead, to the deep­en­ing entan­gle­ments between bio­logy and com­pu­ta­tion, we find con­tem­por­an­eous ima­gin­ar­ies sur­round­ing cel­lu­lar life to be test­ing this lin­eage. Cer­tainly — as Keller her­self has reflec­ted — com­pu­ta­tion makes pos­sible very par­tic­u­lar modes of under­stand­ing, ones con­form­ing to the reduct­ive, mech­an­ist­ic, and adapt­a­tion­ist logics” that char­ac­ter­ise a pre­vail­ing neo-Darwinism (Hus­tak & Myers 2013:77).

In this paper, we wish to cut across what on the face it appears to be biology’s nar­row­ing move. By look­ing askew’, we hope to ask more about bio­logy and wheth­er or not it is being rendered com­pu­ta­tion­al. Examin­ing a pro­ject inves­ted in the com­pu­ta­tion­al chal­lenges of mod­el­ling cel­lu­lar sta­bil­ity, and rely­ing on the risky comak­ings” (Har­away 2016:14) between act­ors, algorithms and com­pu­ta­tion­al tools, we stay com­mit­ted to the troubles enlivened by knot­ted rela­tions. We use two fem­in­ist fig­ures, Haraway’s String Fig­ure, and Hus­tak and Myer’s Invol­u­tion­ary Momentum, to (re-)tell a story of unfold­ing rela­tion­ships between research­ers, cells and tech­no­lo­gies, spin­ning a yarn of affect­ively charged” (Hus­tak & Myers 2013) relays and knot­tings that res­ist sin­gu­lar fig­ur­ings.

Ref­er­ences
Har­away, D.J., 2016. Stay­ing with the trouble: Mak­ing kin in the Chthu­lu­cene. Duke Uni­ver­sity Press.

Hus­tak, C. and Myers, N., 2012. Invol­u­tion­ary momentum: Affect­ive eco­lo­gies and the sci­ences of plant/insect encoun­ters. dif­fer­ences, 23(3), pp.74 – 118.

Keller, E.F., 2009. Mak­ing sense of life: Explain­ing bio­lo­gic­al devel­op­ment with mod­els, meta­phors, and machines. Har­vard Uni­ver­sity Press.

Papers presented at CHI 18

Delighted to see the two great papers I con­trib­uted to being presen­ted at CHI 2018 in Montreal.

Ari Schle­sing­er, Kenton O’Hara and Alex Taylor (2018) Lets Talk about Race: Iden­tity, Chat­bots, and AI. In Pro­ceed­ings CHI 18. ACM Press.

Anja Thieme, Cyn­thia L. Ben­nett, Cecily Mor­ris­on, Edward Cutrell and Alex Taylor (2018) I can do everything but see!” – How People with Vis­ion Impair­ments Nego­ti­ate their Abil­it­ies in Social Con­texts. In Pro­ceed­ings CHI 18. ACM Press.

Abstract — Why is it so hard for chat­bots to talk about race? This work explores how the biased con­tents of data­bases, the syn­tact­ic focus of nat­ur­al lan­guage pro­cessing, and the opaque nature of deep learn­ing algorithms cause chat­bots dif­fi­culty in hand­ling race-talk. In each of these areas, the ten­sions between race and chat­bots cre­ate new oppor­tun­it­ies for people and machines. By mak­ing the abstract and dis­par­ate qual­it­ies of this prob­lem space tan­gible, we can devel­op chat­bots that are more cap­able of hand­ling race-talk in its many forms. Our goal is to provide the HCI com­munity with ways to begin address­ing the ques­tion, how can chat­bots handle race-talk in new and improved ways?
Abstract — This research takes an ori­ent­a­tion to visu­al impair­ment (VI) that does not regard it as fixed or determ­ined alone in or through the body. Instead, we con­sider (dis)ability as pro­duced through inter­ac­tions with the envir­on­ment and con­figured by the people and tech­no­logy with­in it. Spe­cific­ally, we explore how abil­it­ies become nego­ti­ated through video eth­no­graphy with six VI ath­letes and spec­tat­ors dur­ing the Rio 2016 Para­lympics. We use gen­er­ated in-depth examples to identi­fy how tech­no­logy can be a mean­ing­ful part of abil­ity nego­ti­ations, emphas­iz­ing how these embed into the social inter­ac­tions and lives of people with VI. In con­trast to treat­ing tech­no­logy as a solu­tion to a sens­ory defi­cit’, we under­stand it to sup­port the tri­an­gu­la­tion pro­cess of sense-making through pro­vi­sion of appro­pri­ate addi­tion­al inform­a­tion. Fur­ther, we sug­gest that tech­no­logy should not try and replace human assist­ance, but instead enable people with VI to bet­ter identi­fy and inter­act with oth­er people in-situ.

CHI 2018 papers.

Anja Thieme, Cyn­thia L. Ben­nett, Cecily Mor­ris­on, Edward Cutrell and Alex Taylor (2018) I can do everything but see!” – How People with Vis­ion Impair­ments Nego­ti­ate their Abil­it­ies in Social Con­texts. In Pro­ceed­ings CHI 18. ACM Press.

Ari Schle­sing­er, Kenton O’Hara and Alex Taylor (2018) Lets Talk about Race: Iden­tity, Chat­bots, and AI. In Pro­ceed­ings CHI 18. ACM Press.

Very happy to have con­trib­uted to two papers being presen­ted at the upcom­ing CHI con­fer­ence this year. One reports on work with the blind and vis­ion impaired a few of us have been involved in dif­fer­ent ways (see here). Broadly, we’ve used the piece to reflect on the rela­tions between vis­ion impair­ment and arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence, and set out dir­ec­tions for a pos­sible design space.

The second paper picks up on a new theme for me, but one closely related to past reflec­tions and design work around machine intel­li­gence. With the fant­ast­ic Ari Schle­sing­er (GA Tech) lead­ing the research, we exam­ine the chal­lenges faced in hand­ling race talk (and racism) in human-bot inter­ac­tions. Tak­ing both Tai AI and the black­list as start­ing points, we take ser­i­ously the com­pu­ta­tion­al under­pin­nings of chat bots and con­ver­sa­tion­al agents, to under­score the role they have in sus­tain­ing troub­ling racial cat­egor­ies and the con­di­tions they make pos­sible for more just and equit­able ways for­ward.

Abstract — This research takes an ori­ent­a­tion to visu­al impair­ment (VI) that does not regard it as fixed or determ­ined alone in or through the body. Instead, we con­sider (dis)ability as pro­duced through inter­ac­tions with the envir­on­ment and con­figured by the people and tech­no­logy with­in it. Spe­cific­ally, we explore how abil­it­ies become nego­ti­ated through video eth­no­graphy with six VI ath­letes and spec­tat­ors dur­ing the Rio 2016 Para­lympics. We use gen­er­ated in-depth examples to identi­fy how tech­no­logy can be a mean­ing­ful part of abil­ity nego­ti­ations, emphas­iz­ing how these embed into the social inter­ac­tions and lives of people with VI. In con­trast to treat­ing tech­no­logy as a solu­tion to a sens­ory defi­cit’, we under­stand it to sup­port the tri­an­gu­la­tion pro­cess of sense-making through pro­vi­sion of appro­pri­ate addi­tion­al inform­a­tion. Fur­ther, we sug­gest that tech­no­logy should not try and replace human assist­ance, but instead enable people with VI to bet­ter identi­fy and inter­act with oth­er people in-situ.
Abstract — Why is it so hard for chat­bots to talk about race? This work explores how the biased con­tents of data­bases, the syn­tact­ic focus of nat­ur­al lan­guage pro­cessing, and the opaque nature of deep learn­ing algorithms cause chat­bots dif­fi­culty in hand­ling race-talk. In each of these areas, the ten­sions between race and chat­bots cre­ate new oppor­tun­it­ies for people and machines. By mak­ing the abstract and dis­par­ate qual­it­ies of this prob­lem space tan­gible, we can devel­op chat­bots that are more cap­able of hand­ling race-talk in its many forms. Our goal is to provide the HCI com­munity with ways to begin address­ing the ques­tion, how can chat­bots handle race-talk in new and improved ways?

Paper presented at Assets

I’m very happy to have been a part of the work lead­ing up to a paper presen­ted at Assets 2017, the ACM con­fer­ence on Access­ible Com­put­ing. Report­ing on work from a group of us at Microsoft Research, the paper describes an ori­ent­a­tion to our stud­ies with the blind and vis­ion impaired.

Cecily Mor­ris­on, Edward Cutrell, Anupama Dharesh­war, Kev­in Doherty, Anja Thieme, and Alex Taylor. 2017. Ima­gin­ing Arti­fi­cial Intel­li­gence Applic­a­tions with People with Visu­al Dis­ab­il­it­ies using Tact­ile Ideation. In Pro­ceed­ings of the 19th Inter­na­tion­al ACM SIGACCESS Con­fer­ence on Com­puters and Access­ib­il­ity (ASSETS 17). ACM, New York, NY, USA, 81 – 90. DOI.

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Paper at 4S 2017

I’m thrilled to have our paper sub­mis­sion accep­ted to the . Cyn­thia Ben­nett and I will be busily pre­par­ing our paper for the always amaz­ing event, this year in August/September in Boston.

A care for being
more (cap-)able

Cyn­thia Ben­nett and Alex Taylor

In this paper, we begin with Ingunn Moser’s and Maria Puig de la Bellacasa’s gen­er­at­ive notions of care and use them to expand how we under­stand cap­ab­il­ity. Draw­ing on field­work with blind and vis­ion impaired people, we turn our atten­tion to a mater­i­ally enacted, unfold­ing sense-ability’. This is a sens­ing that puts (cap)ability and care togeth­er, that under­stands seeing-in-the-world’ as a prac­tic­al affair that is, at once, know­ing, effect­ing and affect­ing with oth­ers (humans or oth­er­wise). Thus, we show not only that care can con­test an instru­ment­al­ism’ in forms of know­ing and doing — by re-affecting objec­ti­fied worlds’ (Puig de la Bel­lacasa, 2011: 98) — but also give a great­er clar­ity to how care can be, in prac­tice, entangled in prac­tice. This sense-ability seeks to be act­ive, enliven­ing how we become cap­able; it is figured to be worked with, not finite and dic­tated by assumed bod­ily lim­its, but open to becoming-with and becoming-more. Bor­row­ing from Vin­ciane Despret, this sense-ability is to gain a body that does more things, that feels oth­er events, and that is more and more able…” (2004: 120).

Despret, V. (2004). The Body We Care For: Fig­ures of Anthropo-zoo-genesis. Body & Soci­ety, 10(2 – 3), 111 – 134.

Moser, I. (2011). Demen­tia and the Lim­its to Life. ST&HV, 36(5), 704 – 722.

Puig de la Bel­lacasa, M. (2011). Mat­ters of Care in Tech­nos­cience. Social Stud­ies of Sci­ence, 41(1), 85 – 106.

4S is the Soci­ety for the Social Stud­ies of Sci­ence. The annu­al meet­ing details are here.

Do data publics work?


I presen­ted at the Data Pub­lics con­fer­ence last week­end, at Lan­caster Uni­ver­sity. Got lots of help­ful feed­back to some early thoughts on pub­lics (think­ing with some of my old favour­ites, Despret, Har­away, Marres, Stengers, etc.).

Pro­voked by Vin­ciane Despret’s W for Work”, in What would anim­als say if we asked the right ques­tions?”, my start­ing point was the ques­tion:

Are we think­ing well
with data pub­lics?

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Vin­ciane Despret (2016). W is for Work. In What Would Anim­als Say If We Asked the Right Ques­tions”. Uni­ver­sity of Min­nesota Press: 177 – 184.

Paper presented at 4S/EASST meeting

At the com­bined 4S/EASST meet­ing this year, Sarah Kem­ber and I presen­ted a paper titled:

Writerly (ac)counts of finite flour­ish­ings and pos­sibly bet­ter ways of being togeth­er

As Sarah’s intro­duc­tion to the paper out­lined, our co-writings were an attempt to think with the emer­ging strategies of fem­in­ist count­ing, account­ing and re-counting.

Below, I present my part to the co-authered piece. It’s long, so I put it here more for the record than any expect­a­tion it will be read. I must add that the ideas I present draw on work done by . Without her energy and always thought­ful invest­ment in the field site, this reflec­tion would not have been pos­sible: (more…)

... work­ing from Newcastle’s Open Lab