PhD update – June 2024

I am writ­ing this final PhD update as a fresh­ly mint­ed doc­tor. On Thurs­day, May 23, 2024, I suc­cess­ful­ly defend­ed my the­sis, ‘Con­testable Arti­fi­cial Intel­li­gence: Con­struc­tive Design Research for Pub­lic Arti­fi­cial Intel­li­gence Sys­tems that are Open and Respon­sive to Dispute.’

I start­ed the PhD on Sep­tem­ber 1, 2018 (read the very first update post­ed on that day here). So, that’s five years, eight months, 23 days from start to fin­ish. It has been quite the jour­ney, and I feel hap­py and relieved to have com­plet­ed it. I am proud of the work embod­ied in the the­sis. Most of all, I am thank­ful for the trans­for­ma­tive learn­ing expe­ri­ence, none of which would have been pos­si­ble with­out the sup­port of my super­vi­sors Gerd, Ianus, and Neelke.

On the day itself, I was hon­ored to have as my exter­nal com­mit­tee mem­bers pro­fes­sors Dignum, Löw­gren, van Zoo­nen, and van de Poel, pro­fes­sor Voûte as the chair, and Joost and Mireia as my paranymphs.

The the­sis PDF can be down­loaded at the TU Delft repos­i­to­ry, and a video of the pro­ceed­ings is avail­able on YouTube.

Me, with a copy of the the­sis, short­ly before start­ing the layper­son­’s talk. Pho­to: Roy Borgh­outs.

Recent events

Review­ing my notes since the last update, below are some more notable things that hap­pened in the past eight months.

  • I ran a short work­shop on AI Ped­a­gogy Through A Design Lens, togeth­er with Hosana Morales, at the TU Delft spring sym­po­sium on AI edu­ca­tion. Read the post.
  • A sto­ry about my research was pub­lished on the TU Delft indus­tri­al design engi­neer­ing web­site in the run-up to my defense on May 14, 2024. Read the sto­ry.
  • I updat­ed and ran the fifth and final iter­a­tion of the AI & Soci­ety indus­tri­al design engi­neer­ing mas­ter elec­tive course from Feb­ru­ary 28 through April 10, 2024. A pre­vi­ous ver­sion is doc­u­ment­ed here, which I plan to update some­time in the near future.
  • I gave a talk titled Con­testable AI: Design­ing for Human Auton­o­my at the Ams­ter­dam UX meet­up on Feb­ru­ary 21, 2024. Down­load the slides.
  • The out­comes of a design sprint on tools for third-par­ty scruti­ny, orga­nized by the Respon­si­ble Sens­ing Lab, which took inspi­ra­tion from my research, were pub­lished on Decem­ber 7, 2023. Read the report.
  • I was inter­viewed by Mireia Yur­ri­ta Sem­per­e­na for a DCODE pod­cast episode titled Beyond Val­ues in Algo­rith­mic Design, pub­lished Novem­ber 6, 2023. Lis­ten to the episode.
  • Togeth­er with Clau­dio Sar­ra and Mar­co Alma­da, I host­ed an online sem­i­nar titled Build­ing Con­testable Sys­tems on Octo­ber 26, 2023. Read the thread.
  • I was a pan­elist at the Design & AI Sym­po­sium 2023 on Octo­ber 18, 2023.
  • A paper I co-authored titled When ‘Doing Ethics’ Meets Pub­lic Pro­cure­ment of Smart City Tech­nol­o­gy – an Ams­ter­dam Case Study, was pre­sent­ed by first author Mike de Kreek at IASDR 2023 on Octo­ber 9–13. Read the paper.

Looking ahead

I will con­tin­ue at TU Delft as a post­doc­tor­al researcher and will stay focused on design, AI, and pol­i­tics, but I will try to evolve my research into some­thing that builds on my the­sis work but adds a new angle.

The Envi­sion­ing Con­testa­bil­i­ty Loops arti­cle men­tioned in pre­vi­ous updates is now in press with She Ji, which I am very pleased about. It should be pub­lished “soon.”

Upcom­ing appear­ances include a brief talk on par­tic­i­pa­to­ry AI at a Cities Coali­tion for Dig­i­tal Rights event and a pre­sen­ta­tion as part of a pan­el on The Mutu­al Shap­ing Of Demo­c­ra­t­ic Prac­tices And AI at TILT­ing Per­spec­tives 2024.

That’s it for this final PhD update. I will prob­a­bly con­tin­ue these posts under a new title. We’ll see.

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Kars Alfrink

Kars is a designer, researcher and educator focused on emerging technologies, social progress and the built environment.

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