Like it or not, we are, as humans in today’s world, implicated in interactions with data. With every search on a smartphone, every purchase with a credit card, or every photo uploaded to social media, we become more embedded and more entangled with data and technology. Human Data Interaction (HDI) is a conceptual framework for ethical systems design, focused on systems that collect and process personal data. There are many such frameworks, but few are practically oriented, i.e. giving clear help to designers so that systems that collect, process and share data are understandable and useful to those whose data is collected, processed and shared. It supports a move away from the use of personal data in ways that benefit centralising governmental/corporate structures much more than the people that the data describes. You can find more about the framework here.
The network’s projects are using and advancing HDI, creatively expanding our understanding of how to collect, share and use data. They are organised around a set of nine themes—each of which involves an investigator and a number of practical projects funded via the network. Prof. Matthew Chalmers (U. Glasgow) leads the Beyond Smart Cities, Surveillance & Resistance, and Theory themes; Dr. Hamed Haddadi (Imperial College) leads IoT, System Design and the Law; Dr. Ewa Luger (U. Edinburgh) leads AI, Intelligibility & Public Trust, Learning, Skills & Social Justice, and Ethics and Data; Dr. Elvira Perez Vallejos (U. Nottingham), leads Future of Mental Health, and Prof. Atau Tanaka (Goldsmiths) leads Art, Music & Culture. Dr. Alan Munro (U. Glasgow) is Coordinator and Cultural Attaché, spanning all the network.
Projects funded so far span 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 are managing a budget of £1M, granted to us by the EPSRC to foster an emerging research field and build a community of HDI researchers. To this end, we have been and are continuing to set up open calls as we establish ~45 sub-projects, ranging from £2.5K to £50K, that bring together a wider range of participants and perspectives than most projects in this general area, so as to help advance research in HDI, the digital economy, and computer science more generally. We are connected to the established informal HDI research community centred on hdiresearch.org, with an overlap in membership. We hope that this formal but fixed-term project will contribute to that ongoing community and its work.
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 Wild, Dr 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.