Human Data Interaction and the HDI Network Plus

Human Data Interaction (HDI) is a conceptual framework for ethical systems design, focused on systems that collect and process personal data. The network’s projects used and advanced HDI, creatively expanding our understanding of how to design systems that collect, share and use data—especially personal data. Here’s a one minute overview of the network, made for us by the excellent MindTheFilm:

HDI documentary overview (1 minute)

HDI differs from most such frameworks in being practically oriented, giving clear help to designers, so that the systems they make are understandable and useful to those whose data is collected, processed and shared. The HDI network’s projects were organised around a set of nine themes—each involving an investigator and a number of practical projects that we funded. The 11-minute video below gives a richer overview of the themes and projects:

HDI documentary (11 minutes)

Prof. Matthew Chalmers (U. Glasgow) led the Beyond Smart Cities, Surveillance & Resistance, and Theory themes (the latter two with Dr. Alan Munro); Dr. Hamed Haddadi (Imperial College) led IoT, System Design and the Law; Prof. Ewa Luger (U. Edinburgh) led AI, Intelligibility & Public Trust, Learning, Skills & Social Justice, and Ethics and Data; Dr. Elvira Perez Vallejos (U. Nottingham) led Future of Mental Health, and Prof. Atau Tanaka (Goldsmiths) led Art, Music & Culture. Dr. Alan Munro (U. Glasgow) was Coordinator and Cultural Attaché, spanning all the network.

Projects spanned diverse and emerging topics, as the following examples show.  Environmental citizenship and urban/ecological space are explored in Willis’ ‘BREATHE – IoT in the Wild’, which looks at shifting agency in data gathering into the hands of people in low-connectivity rural landscapes, with a focus on human health in relation to breathing.  Legal frameworks are reworked and updated for emerging forms of HDI in McStay and Rosner’s project ‘Emotional AI and Children: Ethics, Parents, Governance’, which presents findings and design recommendations for the ethical deployment of emotional AI in children’s toys, centred around the personal experiences and nuanced roles of childhood and parenthood.  Papadopoulos’ wearable artwork ‘Embodied Companionship’ is a scarf that explores markers of aliveness, the potential for affective relationships, and the ‘intra-active’ engagement between humans and machines.   

We managed a budget of £1M, granted to us by the EPSRC to foster an emerging research field and build a community of HDI researchers. We set up open calls so as to establish sub-projects of a size ranging from £2.5K to £50K, that brought together a wider range of participants and perspectives than most projects in this general area. This helped advance research in HDI, the digital economy, and computer science more generally.   We are connected to the established informal HDI research community centred on, with an overlap in membership. We hope that this formal but fixed-term project will contribute to that ongoing community and its work.

Network News

Showcase project, Countermeasures: Giving Children Better Control Over How They’re Observed by Digital Sensors

Responding to our proposed fourth tenet of ‘Resistance’ in the HDI framework, Angus Main’s Countermeasures explores methods of enabling children to disrupt digital sensors and surveillance mechanisms in their smart devices.

Showcase project, Zoom Obscura: Creative Interventions for a Data Ethics of Video Conferencing Beyond Encryption

Check out the creative interventions of 7 artists responding to the proliferation of video conferencing technologies such as Zoom, as part of Pip Thornton et al’s project from our ‘Ethics and Data’ theme.

Showcase project, Data and Disadvantage: Taking a Regional Approach Towards Human Data Interaction (HDI) to Inform Local and National Digital Skills Policies

Addressing the deficit in HDI concerns and approaches in regional digital up-skilling agendas is Sarah Hayes et al’s project from our ‘Learning, Skills and Social Justice’ theme. Read about the project and their upcoming work here.

Showcase project, MIRLCAuto: A Virtual Agent for Music Information Retrieval in Live Coding

Combining machine learning with music information retrieval techniques, and in collaboration with IKLECTIK, Leicester Hackspace, l’ull cec and Phonos, Anna Xambó has created a virtual assistant for live coders that aids musical creation and performance. A discussion of the project, as well as four interviews and performances with artists using the tool, and dates for upcoming events can all be accessed here.

Showcase project, Governing Philosophies in Technology Policy: Permissionless Innovation vs. the Precautionary Principle

Vian Bakir’s (Bangor University) and Gilad Rosner’s (IoT Privacy Forum) project from our ‘IoT, System Design and the Law’ theme attends to the hidden ideologies that often underpin IoT development policies, and considers how two varying approaches (permissionless innovation and the precautionary principle) enable (or disable) the HDI tenets of legibility, negotiability and agency. The project also exposes the relationships, politics, norms and values of the actors and institutions involved in the governance of IoT and other emerging technologies. Read more

Our ‘Future of Mental Health’ theme has funded one large project, ExTRA-PPOLATE, an augmented intelligence tool aimed at assisting therapists in improving therapy sessions. The project is conducted by a large and multidisciplinary research team from computer science, linguistics, clinical psychology, natural language processing and data analytics. There is also a roadshow event happening on the 20th April. Sign up for it, and read about the project here.

The Theory theme is launched

This theme is our last, and was launched on March 9th. It is based on a call for research projects that reflect on the development and refinement of the HDI conceptual framework, and its application—particularly within this NetworkPlus. More information is available here.

Showcase project, BREATHE – IoT in the Wild

The second showcase project is from our Beyond ‘Smart Cities’ theme, and is lead by Prof Katharine Willis. BREATHE applies HDI approaches in rural settings, implementing an IoT network alongside wearable smart technology, to help patients in more isolated areas better manage their health. As this project navigates the challenges of COVID-19, those same challenges also shed light on the value of this project. More here.

Showcase project, Emotional AI and Children: Ethics, Parents, Governance

The first showcase project from our AI Intelligibility and Public Trust theme is Prof A McStay’s and G Rosner’s report on emotional AI in children’s toys, suggesting future governance built around fairness and support for children and parents. Read more about the project here.

Surveillance and Resistance theme call for projects launched

A new theme was launched on July 29th, with a call for research projects that address the issue of resistance against data surveillance in a practical and demonstrable way, by developing technical solutions, provocations or experimental explorations. More information is here.

Ethics & Data theme call closes

We are calling for research and development proposals exploring concepts, provocations and solutions related to the moral challenges posed by data-driven systems. More information on this project theme is available here. We have revised the deadline to give a two week extension to 24th July. 

The Art, Music and Culture theme funds 10 projects

Following a funding call framed by the output of a workshop run at (and in collaboration with) Somerset House, this theme has set up a broad portfolio of projects, applying HDI tenets in areas ranging from live performance to issues of spectatorship and consumption of digital media. More on these projects is here.

Project work begins in the IoT, System Design and the Law theme

Three projects have now been set up to explore legal, social and technical issues, as seen through the lens of HDI.  The Trust in Home: Rethinking Interface Design in IoT (THRIDI) project, from U. Brunel, deals with personal agency with regard to IoT devices in the home; Governing Philosophies in Technology Policy: Permissionless Innovation vs. the Precautionary Principle, from U. Bangor and the Internet Privacy Forum, advancing discussion of future harms and the discussion of long term governance; and Who, then, in law is my neighbour? – Judgment, responsibility, and expectations of the onlife reality, from U. Winchester, which re-assesses the common law right to privacy, as applied to the design of data-intensive systems. More on these projects is here.

The Future of Mental Health theme’s project work begins

The ExTRA-PPOLATE (Explainable Therapy Related Annotations: Patient & Practitioner Oriented Learning Assisting Trust & Engagement) project is beginning, in work jointly supported by the UKRI eNurture network on young people’s mental health. More detail here.

Three new projects starting up in the Beyond ‘Smart Cities’ theme

As described further in the theme page, we have three projects starting up: More-than-human data interactions in the smart city, Dr. Sara Heitlinger (City University) et al.; Data negotiability in multi-mode communication networks, Dr. Poonam Yadav (U. York) et al., and BREATHE — IoT in the WildDr Katharine Willis (U. Plymouth) et al. The latter has particular relevance to the COVID situation, dealing as it does with creating agency for people with breathing-related health problems in rural communities.

Cut off date for HDI-funded projects extended

We realise that the current situation will affect project timelines, particularly of new projects just launched, and those of themes we are in the process of launching. Thus we have decided to extend the cut-off date – by which your project has to finish – to 9th June, 2021.

New guidelines for research projects funded under HDI NetworkPlus

There is new advice on ways of working from your own institutions, and UKRI have posted advice already. We recognise that many of you had scheduled to conduct participant research, and that in some cases you will not be able to carry out this work in the current climate. We recognise and accept this, and will support you as best we can towards the completion of your project. Please keep us up to date if you want to conduct alternative activities or adjust timelines.

If you are planning interviews, focus groups design sessions and the like please remember that they will be have to be done virtually in the short term, and that this might have to be a ‘plan B’ if this situation lasts longer than we hope. We do not know how long this is going to go on, but we do not wish your project to be a hostage to fortune.