NordiCHI 2020 workshop: Strengthening human autonomy in the era of autonomous technology

The aim of this workshop is to address the role that human autonomy presently receives in HCI research and how “autonomous technologies” might challenge, rather than facilitate human autonomy. We acknowledge a need for new ways of understanding HCI and interaction design as digital technologies develop in the “4th wave”. In this workshop, participants are invited to a discussion where the autonomous human-being—who can act autonomously with autonomous technologies—is emphasized, beyond simple human control to a more flexible, sophisticated, subtle, and sustainable autonomy.

Themes for the workshop

With our main interest being ‘autonomous technologies’ and how they might make the interaction imperceptible, challenging rather than facilitating human autonomy: we wish to envision the role of human autonomy and the right of the individual to govern their own lives in the 4th shift. We are particularly interested in discussing the following themes but are also open for other takes on our main questions:

Imperceptible interactions: Interactions that we cannot directly perceive (see, touch, feel) or understand (the mechanisms behind the technology is hidden) such as; smart environments and homes, ML algorithms and predictive technologies, robot “decisions”. How do people (users and designers) relate to and understand autonomous technology when they cannot sense or make sense of its operations (see e.g., Soma and Herstad 2018)? How can we design for human autonomy when the human does not know s/he interacts or what the autonomous technology does? How do we describe and critically consider being an involuntary user of autonomous (and ubiquitous) technology? How can humans relate to autonomous and/or imperceptible ‘things’ – or how do we describe the human-thing and subject-object relations?

Interaction with autonomous things: Interaction with robots, (chat)bots, or smart vehicles. We have seen that with the introduction of a robot in a domestic setting, humans need to carry out facilitation (Soma et al. 2018; Oskarsen 2018) or articulation work (Saplacan and Herstad 2019; Verne 2020). How do we describe how we relate to technology that perform tasks for us and with us? How do people handle having autonomous or automatic things as “colleagues” or “partners” in work where work tasks are distributed or shared by humans and technology? How do people whose workflow includes AI/ML-based decisions relate to the automatic decision-making process? What is a good mix or fit between machine and human decision-making?

Perspectives on “imperceptible interactions with autonomous things.”: We welcome philosophical and theoretical perspectives on human autonomy in today’s society and how technology can strengthen human autonomy. How do we describe and critically evaluate the different ways that technology represent, protect and support or weaken human autonomy? Within this theme we include questions about how we can design these interactions, i.e., how to design for capabilities (Joshi 2017), prolonged mastery (Joshi and Bratteteig 2016), or situated abilities (Saplacan 2020), how to design for perception and meaning-making when imperceptible interaction is the basis, how to design for interaction with moving things like robots (Saplacan and Herstad 2019) or autonomous vehicles? We also think that a debate about the (human) values and foci of the 4th shift in interaction design / HCI is timely, as are possible mechanisms and design concepts for increasing human autonomy (Bratteteig and Verne 2012).

We wish to further explore interaction goals, relevant theories, methods, relations between the human and the computer, and relevant values and questions for these technologies, potentially defining a shift in HCI.



We invite the participants to submit a 2-4 pages position paper related to the topics described above. The participants will get the chance to present and receive feedback on their papers in a round-table paper presentation format. If the conference is organized as a full or hybrid digital conference, we suggest organizing the workshop in three sessions centered around our three themes, each with two prerecorded short presentations available before the workshop and a Zoom workshop consisting of three 60-75 minutes discussion, separated by short breaks. In this way we avoid that the participants need to be continuously digitally present for many hours and still facilitate a continuous discussion of the theme(s).

Selection and filtering process of the submissions: 10-20 submissions are expected to be submitted for the workshop. The participants’ contribution to the workshop will be selected by a jury based on the relevance of the submissions to the themes of the workshop. The plan is to group the submissions and divide the participants in groups according to their submissions and the themes of the workshop. Each of the groups should be between 3 and 5 participants and address the theme or discussion in one of the sessions. The participants in the same group / session will get to read the others papers prior the workshop.

Submission: A position paper is expected to be submitted by the participants at latest on 17th of August, through the dedicated website (to be announced). The text of the submission should be between 2 and 4 pages, and should present a case, a reflection, a discussion, a debate, a discourse, reflections or thoughts related to one or several of the topics indicated as addressed topics in the workshop description. The submission can have the form of a position paper, or have a free format preferred by the participants. For an increased readability of the text, we recommend the participants to use the NordiCHI ACM template for short papers (will be provided).


Results from the workshop

We expect new knowledge to emerge through our discussions, and we thus aim to write a paper or suggest a special issue grounded in this. Long-term cooperation after the workshop is therefore desired.

Planned activities after workshop: The selected participants will be invited to have their submission published on this webpage. This will be done during the submission phase. The participants will be asked to submit an agreement to grant non-exclusive publication permissions to the editors/publishers (i.e. the organizers of the workshop). The submissions will be published online by the editors/publishers on the web publishing system. 

Participants will benefit from presenting ideas and sharing knowledge with fellow researchers. By exchanging ideas and further developing their ideas on the subject matter, the participants may gain new insight on perspectives related to human autonomy in the HCI landscape, and together we might deepen our collective understanding.

With human autonomy as our primary perspective, we invite participants in this workshop to discuss how recent technological developments change the core of HCI, and how we want to envision this field as it moves forward: how to design, evaluate and implement interactive systems that enable people to govern their own lives. The outcome of the workshop for the NordiCHI community is ideas related to interaction with autonomous or imperceptible things positioned in a Nordic context, contributing to defining and influencing a 4th HCI shift.

By emphasizing the importance of human autonomy in a technology driven society, the challenges we as a community face will become clearer, and thus possible to address and tackle. Presently, the challenge of preserving human autonomy during the next socio-technical wave has not been addressed in the NordiCHI community. Further, such perspectives are much needed if HCI should renew itself and its theoretical basis, while simultaneously maintaining our Scandinavian tradition and Nordic values. 


Background & references

We know that technological development often opens new areas of application. The latest technological advancements in AI and ML open up for increasing the range of application areas (i.e., areas for automation) as well as the levels of automation. HCI-researchers have referred to socio-technical shifts as paradigm shifts (Harrison et al. 2007) or waves Bødker 2006; 2015; 2016; Duarte and Baranauskas 2016), emphasizing that the waves coexist like generative metaphors (Agre 1997). The previous three waves: (1) human factors and ergonomics, (2) symbolic information processing, and (3) networks and mobile computing, consumer technologies, human experience, and user participation have been accompanied by a change in the theoretical basis for understanding interaction from psychology via cognitive science to a wider range of disciplines including philosophy (e.g., phenomenology (Dourish 2001)), social sciences (e.g., situated action (Suchman 2007; 1987)) and design (Winograd 1996; Janlert and Stolterman 2017). Current discussions of the future development of HCI includes human-computer entanglement (Frauenberger 2019) and integration (Farooq and Grudin 2016; Mueller et al. 2020), the computer as a partner (Beaudouin-Lafon and Mackay 2018) and political positioning (Shneiderman et al. 2016; Bødker and Kyng 2018; Bannon et al. 2018). We are particularly interested in discussing the challenges to HCI by a set of relatively new technical possibilities: autonomous technologies.

In an already complex and cluttered environment, the combination of these three waves has further complicated our environment as it becomes populated with physical and virtual systems. Now, more than ever, digital systems and artifacts get more entangled with almost all aspects of societal life, and autonomous (and ubiquitous) technologies add to the number of things we interact with in our daily lives: the digital permeates society. Autonomous technologies appear as self-directed and/or self-sufficient (Bradshaw et al. 2013): they do their things without explicit instructions from a human. Digital artifacts or systems that are “artificially intelligent” (AI) or use “machine learning” (ML) and neural networks to make decisions often operate outside the reach of human interventions; they are imperceptible as we cannot always know what they do or why they do it. In the light of the new kinds of interactions offered by the latest technological advancements, this workshop particularly addresses human autonomy, focusing on the individual humans and their autonomy and self-determination as the overall goal for HCI. How can we, as researchers and interaction designers, understand, evaluate and describe human—technology interactions in an increasingly complex and technologically diverse environment? The aim of this workshop is to address the role that human autonomy presently receives in HCI research, and how we can ensure that this perspective gets proper attention as autonomous technology advances beyond (the average) human understanding.


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Tone Bratteteig, Diana Saplacan, Rebekka Soma and Johanne Svanes Oskarsen
Tags: Human autonomy, Interaction, autonomous things, perspectives
Published June 12, 2020 9:06 PM - Last modified Aug. 13, 2020 11:25 AM