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.

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.


Article in Design Issues

Design Issues, Sum­mer 2017, Vol. 33, No. 3, pp. 25 – 36

Cover art for Design Issues, 33 (3) 2017

ABSTRACT — In his 2015 Research Through Design pro­voca­tion, Tim Ingold invites his audi­ence to think with string, lines, and mesh­works. In this art­icle I use Ingold’s con­cepts to explore an ori­ent­a­tion to design — one that threads through both Ingold’s ideas and Vin­ciane Despret’s vivid and mov­ing accounts of human‐animal rela­tions. This is a think­ing and doing” through design that seeks to be expans­ive to the capa­cit­ies of humans and non‐humans in rela­tion to one anoth­er.
I’m so pleased to finally have this art­icle pub­lished in Design Issues, and very grate­ful to Abi­gail Dur­rant, John Vines, Jayne Wal­lace, and Joyce Yee for all their help with edit­ing my text and the Spe­cial Issue: Research Through Design: Twenty‐First Cen­tury Makers and Mater­i­al­it­ies.

In my con­tri­bu­tion, I’ve reflec­ted on Tim Ingold’s pro­voca­tion at the Bien­ni­al Research Through Design con­fer­ence, and tried to play around with open­ing up a more gen­er­at­ive kind of design. My exper­i­ment has been to put Ingold’s ideas of lines and mesh­works in con­ver­sa­tion with Vin­ciane Despret’s uplift­ing stor­ies of anim­als and becom­ings. A strange mix, but one that for me at least raises plenty of inter­est­ing ques­tions — and isn’t it more ques­tions we need?!

For an early draft of the art­icle see: What lines, rats and sheep can tell us, Design Issues 2017

Surfacing Small Worlds through Data‐In‐Place

Very happy to have anoth­er pub­lic­a­tion from the monu­ment­al Ten­ison Road pro­ject, this time in the Journ­al of Computer‐Supported Cooper­at­ive Work (CSCW).

Lind­ley, S.E., Thieme, A., Taylor, A.S. et al. (2017). Sur­fa­cing Small Worlds through Data‐In‐Place. Com­puter Sup­por­ted Cooper­at­ive Work.

An exten­ded engage­ment with a com­munity and its data

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We present find­ings from a five‐week deploy­ment of vot­ing tech­no­lo­gies in a city neigh­bour­hood. Draw­ing on Marres’ (2012) work on mater­i­al par­ti­cip­a­tion and Massey’s (2005) con­cep­tu­al­isa­tion of space as dynam­ic, we designed the deploy­ment such that the tech­no­lo­gies (which were situ­ated in res­id­ents’ homes, on the street, and avail­able online) would work in con­cert, cut­ting across the neigh­bour­hood to make vis­ible, jux­ta­pose and draw togeth­er the dif­fer­ent small worlds’ with­in it. We demon­strate how the mater­i­al infra­struc­ture of the vot­ing devices set in motion par­tic­u­lar pro­cesses and inter­pret­a­tions of par­ti­cip­a­tion, put­ting data in place in a way that had rami­fic­a­tions for the recog­ni­tion of het­ero­gen­eity. We con­clude that redis­trib­ut­ing par­ti­cip­a­tion means not only open­ing up access, so that every­one can par­ti­cip­ate, or even provid­ing a mul­ti­tude of vot­ing chan­nels, so that people can par­ti­cip­ate in dif­fer­ent ways. Rather, it means mak­ing vis­ible mul­ti­pli­city, chal­len­ging notions of sim­il­ar­ity, and show­ing how dif­fer­ence may be pro­duct­ive.

See more on the CSCW site here. See an early draft here.

Re‐making places

At the CHI con­fer­ence this year, Clara Crivel­laro presen­ted this paper on our amaz­ing work at a regen­er­a­tion site on the out­skirts of Lon­don. The work touches on many issues that are import­ant to me, from grass­roots par­ti­cip­a­tion and hous­ing to invent­ive meth­ods and technoscience’s pro­duct­ive pos­sib­il­it­ies.

HCI, Com­munity Build­ing’ and Change

Clara Crivel­laro, Alex Taylor, Vasil­is Vlachokyriakos, Rob Comber, Bet­tina Nis­sen, Peter Wright

We present insights from an exten­ded engage­ment and design inter­ven­tion at an urb­an regen­er­a­tion site in SE Lon­don. We describe the pro­cess of design­ing a walk­ing trail and sys­tem for record­ing and play­ing back place‐specific stor­ies for those liv­ing and work­ing on the hous­ing estate, and show how this is set with­in a wider con­text of urb­an renew­al, social/affordable hous­ing and com­munity build­ing”. Like pri­or work, the research reveals the fric­tions that arise in par­ti­cip­at­ory engage­ments with het­ero­gen­eous act­ors. Here we illus­trate how mater­i­al inter­ven­tions can rearrange exist­ing spa­tial con­fig­ur­a­tions, mak­ing pro­duct­ive the plur­al­ity of accounts intrins­ic in com­munity life. Through this, we provide an ori­ent­a­tion to HCI and design inter­ven­tions that are con­cerned with civic engage­ment and par­ti­cip­a­tion in pro­cesses of mak­ing places.

Published Data and life on the street

We’ve pub­lished a short com­ment­ary on the Ten­ison Road pro­ject in the new Big Data & Soci­ety journ­al. Down­load it here (open access).


Taylor, A. S., Lind­ley, S., Regan, T., & Sweeney, D. (2014). Data and life on the street. Big Data & Soci­ety, 1(2).

Abstract: What does the abund­ance of data and pro­lif­er­a­tion of data‐making meth­ods mean for the ordin­ary per­son, the per­son on the street? And, what could they come to mean? In this paper, we present an over­view of a year‐long pro­ject to exam­ine just such ques­tions and com­plic­ate, in some ways, what it is to ask them. The pro­ject is a col­lect­ive exer­cise in which we – a mix­ture of social sci­ent­ists, design­ers and makers – and those liv­ing and work­ing on one street in Cam­bridge (UK), Ten­ison Road, are work­ing to think through how data might be mater­i­al­ised and come to mat­ter. The pro­ject aims to bet­ter under­stand the spe­cificit­ies and con­tin­gen­cies that arise when data is pro­duced and used in place. Mid‐way through the pro­ject, we use this com­ment­ary to give some back­ground to the work and detail one or two of the troubles we have encountered in put­ting loc­ally rel­ev­ant data to work. We also touch on a meth­od­o­lo­gic­al stand­point we are work­ing our way into and through, one that we hope com­plic­ates the sep­ar­a­tions between sub­ject and object in data‐making and opens up pos­sib­il­it­ies for a gen­er­at­ive refig­ur­ing of the man­i­fold rela­tions.