I’m back again with another Ph.D. update. Five years after I started in Delft, we are nearing the finish line on this whole thing. But before we look ahead, let’s review notable events since the previous update in March 2023.
- I presented our framework, Contestable AI by Design, at the annual NWO ICT Open conference, which, for the first time, had an entire track dedicated to HCI research in the Netherlands. It was an excellent opportunity to meet fellow researchers from other Dutch institutions. The slides are available as PDF at contestable.ai.
- I visited Hamburg to present our paper, Contestable Camera Cars, at CHI 2023. We also received a Best Paper award, which I am, of course, very pleased with. The conference was equal parts inspiring and overwhelming. The best part of it was meeting in-person researchers who shared my interests.
- Also, at CHI, I was interviewed about my research by Mike Green for his podcast Understanding Users. You can listen to it here. It is always good practice to try and lay out some of my arguments spontaneously live.
- In June, I joined a panel at a BOLD Cities “talk show” to discuss the design of smart city systems for contestability. It was quite an honor to be on the same panel as Eefje Cuppen, director of the Rathenau Institute. This event was great because we had technological, design, political, and policy perspectives. Several guests argued for the need to reinvigorate representative democracy and give a more prominent role to elected politicians in setting technology policy. A report is available here.
- In August, the BRIDE project had its closing event. This is the NWO research project that partially funded my Ph.D. The event was an excellent opportunity to reflect on our work together over the past years. I took the opportunity to revisit the work of Saskia Sassen on cityness and to think through some of the implications of my work on contestability for the field of smart urbanism. The slides are available at contestable.ai.
- Finally, last week, a short opinion piece that lays out the argument for contestable AI in what I hope is a reasonably accessible manner, was published on the TU Delft website.
Eefje Cuppen and I being interviewed by Inge Janse at the BOLD Cities talk show on June 22, 2023—photo by Tiffany Konings.
Envisioning Contestability Loops
Throughout this, I have been diligently chipping away at my final publication, “Envisioning Contestability Loops: Evaluating the Agonistic Arena as a Generative Metaphor for Public AI.” I had a great time collaborating with Leon de Korte on an infographic of part of my design framework.
We took this infographic on a tour of Dutch interaction design agencies and conducted concept design workshops. I enjoyed returning to practice and sharing the work of the past couple of years with peers in practice. My friends at Eend wrote a nice blog post about it.
The analysis of the outcomes of these workshops forms the basis for the article, in which I explore the degree to which the guiding concept (generative metaphor) behind contestable AI, which I have dubbed the “Agonistic Arena” is a productive one for design practitioners. Spoilers: It is, but competing metaphors are also at play in the public AI design space.
The manuscript is close to completion. As usual, putting something like this together is a heavy but gratifying lift. I look forward to sharing the results and the underlying infographic with the broader world.
Are we there yet?
Looking ahead, I will be on a panel alongside the great Julian Bleecker and a host of others at the annual TU Delft Design & AI symposium in October.
But aside from that, I will keep my head down and focus on completing my thesis. The aim is to hand it in by the end of November. So, two more months on the clock. Will I make it? Let’s find out!