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Lessons from the Past for the Future

29 May 2015

Full paper accepted to ECSCW’15!

I’m very pleased to announce that we have had a full paper, Human Data Interaction: Historical Lessons from Social Studies and CSCW accepted to the European Conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work (ECSCW) 2015! A collaboration with Dr Andy Crabtree, it examines particularly the role of interaction in HDI and explores how past technical approaches, such as Dataware, to the challenges posed by HDI haven’t fully considered the inherently social nature of data.

The full abstract is as follows:

Human Data Interaction (HDI) is an emerging field of research that seeks to support end-users in the day-to-day management of their personal digital data. This is a programmatic paper that seeks to elaborate foundational challenges that face HDI from an interactional perspective. It is rooted in and reflects foundational lessons from social studies of science that have had a formative impact on CSCW, and core challenges involved in supporting interaction/collaboration from within the field of CSCW itself. These are drawn upon to elaborate the inherently social and relational character of data and the challenges this poses for the ongoing development of HDI, particularly with respect to the ‘articulation’ of personal data. Our aim in doing this is not to present solutions to the challenges of HDI but to articulate core problems that confront this fledgling field as it moves from nascent concept to find a place in the interactional milieu of everyday life and particular research challenges that accompany it.

and we conclude:

This paper set out to understand how interaction is configured within the field of Human Data Interaction, taking the Dataware infrastructure as an exemplar, and how this ‘fits’ with existing social viewpoints on personal data interaction. Seen from a social perspective, data interaction appears to be as much about human relationships as it is about data itself. Data, as Star makes visible, is always embedded in human relationships, and efforts to create infrastructure turn upon stabilising those relationships through appropriate methods of communication and coordination. CSCW orients us to key issues involved in creating such methods, particularly the need to devise mechanisms of interaction that articulate a) the field of work and flow of information between parties, and b) the arrangements of collaboration that make the flow possible. Historical insights drawn from social studies of science and CSCW have allowed us to identify a range of problems that affect HDI and a number of distinct thematic challenges they occasion. The broad challenge now is to address these problems and themes and shape the articulation of HDI around the accountable social nature of personal data interaction in order to drive a real and significant step-change in everyday life.

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