What can a remote Himalayan community teach us about innovation? Emelia's Silicon-Valley-first-world frame of reference is the dominant lens of her work. It's the place where we buy into technology's promise to help solve the world's problems. But it's also ground zero for a dystopian future where humans are automated out of relevance. In this PechaKucha Emelia will explore the ways Nangi Village, with the help and leadership of one member in particular, is using technology and innovation to increase its collective power for its own goals of educating its young, connecting to the world, and driving its own economic development. This talk will also be a personal meditation on Nangi's impact on her own perspectives regarding human agency, problem solving, and innovation.
Emelia Rallapalli Emelia is a brand strategist, researcher, and founder of Pebble Strategy. She consults for some of the world's most influential brands.
Home automation has made big promises for utilizing intelligent technology to help the lives of everyday people, but the potential of the technology can only be as good as our understanding of the world we are trying to improve. In this PechaKucha, I share insights from my years of conducting ethnography in homes where families have lived alongside AI and automated technology. Our initial tries at intelligent technology in the home were modeled after our own assumptions, but it failed to account for the full variables of the ‘household’, which had an agency of its own. When technology has the potential to disrupt not only our workflows, but relationships between people in the home, it's the responsibility of technologists and ethnographers to provide the critical human perspective necessary for technology to live in harmony with people.
LaiYee Ho is the co-founder of Delve (www.delvetool.com), where she pours her years of experience as a UX researcher and designer into creating...
Social Sciences, University of Michigan-Dearborn
Agency and automation is explored through three case studies of the use of Cobots – collaborative robots – in three different auto production firms. The business challenges faced by these firms include labor shortages, quality control and reduction of waste. The Cobot solution resulted in different effects on agency through (1) agency task displacement, (2) agency enhancement and (3) agency expansion. In addition, the individual characteristics of the workplace structure also mediated the effects of Cobots on agency. In the first case (Uno Motors) Fordist technology and the presence of a union ensured that Cobots were deployed instrumentally. The second case (Duo Global Technologies) was one in which Cobots were flexibly deployed to meet changing production demands. The third case (Trio) went furthest in integrating Cobots into the production process as co-workers requiring new workplace relationships together with the potential...
Alliance Innovation Lab – Silicon Valley
Alliance Innovation Lab – Silicon Valley, MIT
Alliance Innovation Lab – Silicon Valley
This paper explores how the design of everyday interactions with artificial intelligence in work systems relates to broader issues of interest to social scientists and ethicists: namely human well-being and social inequality. The paper uses experience designing human interactions with highly automated systems as a lens for looking at the social implications of work design, and argues that what human and automation each do is less important than how human and automation are structured to interact. The Human-Autonomy Teaming (HAT) paradigm, explored in the paper, has been a promising alternative way to think about human interactions with automation in our laboratory's research and development work. We argue that the notion of teaming is particularly useful in that it encourages designers to consider human well-being as central to the operational success...
ELIOT SALANDY BROWN
In 2016, we set out to understand the future of driverless mobility—and specifically, how a mobility company can build products and services that will optimize the relationships between people and advanced assistive systems in an increasingly automated future. This case study will shed light on how an ethnographic approach inspired by actor-network theory allowed us to look closely at human-system interactions, build a unique perspective on the forms of agency people value most, and understand how mobility companies can harness this understanding to build automated systems that strengthen their relationships with consumers.
Drawing from the core tenets of actor-network theory, our research placed an emphasis not on individuals or even broader social ecologies—but rather, shifting networks of relationships between humans, objects, ideas, and processes. We divided our resources between two research tracks: i) human mobility, studying the complex network of relationships...
GREGORY A. BENNETT
This case study explores how a series of customer site visits to two international service centers drove design recommendations for a chatbot building platform that could encourage positive agent-chatbot collaboration. The first part of the case focuses on the research undertaken by a team of user experience practitioners at the enterprise software company Salesforce. The team used contextual inquiry and group interviews to better understand the daily experience of customer service agents and service teams in search of ways to responsibly implement automation tools like chatbots within a service center environment. The second part of the case study highlights how the UX team applied these learnings into specific product recommendations and developed a set of principles that could drive the product forward while remaining empathetic and supportive of customer service agents....
CHLOÉ HUIE BRICKERT
As part of an international research conducted for a French car manufacturer, a team of anthropologists and designers were asked to analyze the use of a car diagnostic tool by mechanics in their garages, in order to recommend ways of improving it. A single glance at the diagnostic tool’s interface was enough to get a feel for mechanics’ new reality: lines of codes and numbers, webpages filled with blue hyperlinks leading to readymade repair methods. Does being a mechanic in an automation era mean anything anymore? Based on findings from a study conducted in 5 countries with mixed ethnographic and UX methods, this case study explicits the interest of understanding mechanics as a profession – or even more, as an art – before studying the use of the tool itself, and mostly, it demonstrates how solutions can be contained in agency – and how design and tech teams can find inspiration from bypasses, local initiatives, and informal rituals. From supervising an international...
Recent debates around the future of work have largely focused on how automated technologies are contributing to job loss or decline. However, in this paper, we draw from original ethnographic research with four types of automation-affected workers – insurance agents, pharmaceutical representatives, medical device salespeople, and medical device technicians – to argue that, rather than being replaced by machines, many workers are in fact adapting how they define and perform their work to survive in a more digital age. Uncovering such adaption tactics is crucial for recognizing the human agency that is present in, even definitive of increasing encounters with machine-driven technologies and can help large organizations solve some of their toughest challenges, including how to predict future trends in the labor market, define the added value of human labor, build and train a better workforce, and develop and evolve existing...
This case study seeks to increase understanding of how agency is fostered in human-AI interaction by providing insight from Uber’s development of a conversational voice-user-interface (VUI) for its driver application. Additionally, it provides user researchers with insight on how to identify agency’s importance early in the product development process and communicate it effectively to product stakeholders. First, the case reviews the literature to provide a firm theoretical basis of agency. It then describes the implementation of a novel in-car Wizard-Of-Oz study and its usefulness in identifying agency as a critical mediator of driver interaction with the VUI before software-development. Afterward, three factors which impacted driver agency and product usage are discussed – conversational agency, use of the VUI in social contexts and perception of the VUI persona. Finally, the case describes strategies used to convince the engineering and product teams to prioritize features to increase agency....
IDEO and DePaul University
Three service design projects, in hospitality, finance, and health care, highlight how to design for agency in the workplace, including the implementation of automated and data-driven tools. Inspired by Tacchi, Slater, and Hearn's work on ethnographic action research, Amartya Sen's capabilities approach, and Gibson's affordances theory, this paper examines work as an ecosystem, in which workers’ motivations, values, and ability to achieve what is important to them should be a continual input into how structures and tools are designed. In order to design for agency, teams must shape access to information in order to support workers’ autonomy. Second, project outcomes should reflect the emotions and values which create a sense of progress and purpose. Third, tools, technologies, culture, and incentives within the work ecosystem should be aligned with workers’ goals. Finally, workers must feel safe and protected from censure when they participate in co-creating...
Amidst the advances of AI and automation, this paper provides a framework for ethnographic methods and insights to enhance human agency at work. Through analyzing data collected from ethnographic immersions in three different consulting firms (a professional services firm, a management consultancy, and a boutique insights agency), human-agent decisions are isolated in case studies and the pathways of unlocking the potential of automation to enhance the agency of individuals rather than constraining it are highlighted. Through drawing a distinction between thinking agency and executional agency present in the work of a consultant, this paper argues that automations that preserve thinking agency while maximizing productivity and accuracy are the solutions that should be adopted. Through vetting workflows sourced from ethnographic immersions with the established criteria, a framework for consultancies – and more broadly businesses – to better...
by DANYA GLABAU, Implosion Labs
What if we thought differently about how to integrate human and machine agencies?
Automating Inequality: How High-Tech Tools Profile, Police, and Punish the PoorVirginia Eubanks2018, 272 pp, St. Martin's Press
As I sat down in to write this review of Virginia Eubanks’ latest book, Automating Inequality: How High-Tech Tools Profile, Police, and Punish the Poor, I couldn’t help but consider it in light of the growing restiveness among tech workers in response to their companies’ perceived ethical lapses. Rank and file employees have begun to speak out against the use of big data-driven software systems and infrastructure for ethically questionable ends like warfare, policing, and family separation at the United States-Mexico border. To date, these protests have mired several public-private contracts between government agencies and some of the world’s biggest tech companies in controversy, including Google’s Project Maven, a collaboration with the Pentagon...
University of Albany, SUNY
Virginia Eubanks is an Associate Professor of Political Science at the University at Albany, SUNY. Her most recent book is Automating Inequality: How High-Tech Tools Profile, Police, and Punish the Poor, which dana boyd calls “the first [book] that I’ve read that really pulls you into the world of algorithmic decision-making and inequality, like a good ethnography should,” and Ethan Zuckerman calls “one of the most important recent books for understanding the social implications of information technology for marginalized populations in the US.” Eubanks is also the author of Digital Dead End: Fighting for Social Justice in the Information Age; and co-editor, with Alethia Jones, of Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around: Forty Years of Movement Building with Barbara Smith. Her writing about technology and social justice has appeared in The American Prospect, The Nation, Harper’s and Wired. For two decades, Eubanks has worked in community technology and...
Nissan Research Center – Silicon Valley; Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Nissan Research Center – Silicon Valley
In this paper we explore the idea of a system of care through a city transit system. We argue that a systematic orientation to care is central to what makes a transit system work for people. Further, we suggest that this care orientation is recognized as such, even though it is not apparent in typical modes of systems management. Care is what knowing in this system is for. We examine how participants in the system navigate different epistemic bases of their work, focusing on how care work and information work intertwine. How is this work practiced and known? And how could we, as design researchers, use these practices to design systems of care? In service of these goals, we expand the notion of care work toward care of non-human actors as well as that of people. We focus particularly on the roles of automation and the risks automation presents for care. In a moment of increased...
Nissan Research Center – Silicon Valley & Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Nissan Research Center – Silicon Valley
Nissan Research Center – Silicon Valley
We take the polysemy at the heart of autonomy as our focus, and explore how changing notions of autonomy are experienced and expressed by users of self-driving cars. Drawing from work-practice studies and sociomaterial approaches to understanding technologies, we discuss how driving as a task is destabilized and reconfigured by the introduction of increasingly automated systems for vehicle control. We report on the findings of a hybrid ethnographic experiment performed at Nissan Research Center – Silicon Valley, in which we video recorded interactions of 14 participants inside a simulated autonomous vehicle, and conducted semi-structured post-interviews. We look at the responses of our participants in light of three different themes of autonomy, which emerged through the analysis of the...