Human Data Interaction: Legibility, Agency, Negotiability

Lead Research Organisation: University of Glasgow
Department Name: School of Computing Science


Within almost every discipline related to the digital economy, there are critical and emerging issues around humans and the data they generate either directly, or as a byproduct of their endeavours. Equally, the data economy has stimulated a range of initiatives responses within each of the three sectors (public, private and third), as well as a broad portfolio of research across relevant disciplines. However, while such important work is ongoing, such these efforts are often disparate and tend not to feed directly back into the science of data-driven systems itself. There is an urgent need to guide the realisation of system design principles that are productive, and yet fit with the ethics and values acceptable to wider society. Those who are expert in development of the systems, algorithms and analytics that raise such issues face challenging culture gaps: firstly, with regard to those who are expert in areas such as the arts and humanities, and secondly with regard to those who are inexpert in technology but who are increasingly impacted by it in their everyday lives. Core to these divisions are issues such as a lack of social understanding of the technical capabilities of data-driven systems, inconsistency of research and development effort across sectors and disciplines, and tensions between industrial, societal and academic drivers, and human needs. Such tensions are visible in several domains, though few as pointedly critical as health. One need only look at NHS' efforts to protect individuals' medical records, in contrast to contrasted against the corporate monetization of DNA samples, as individuals take advantage of advances in low-cost mobile self-monitoring and diagnosiseek low cost solutions to their health-managements. Here, state, corporate and individual-level drivers create inconsistent approaches to the management and value of data.

It is time to draw together, consolidate and formalise our efforts across disciplines. We must now seek to structure further endeavour, while considering how new and emerging systems are realised, received and responded to-not just within the bounds of the DE but cross-sector, i.e. within the range of organisations and communities that reflect and support daily human activity and concern. At a sectoral level, industry has often focused narrowly on either corporate monetisation of data from individuals, or individuals' efficiency and short-term optimisation of personal metrics (e.g. the 'quantified self'). Market pressures mean that technical advances are increasingly implemented before social and cultural effects can be determined. This means, however, that data-intensive systems to support long term social, cultural and creative benefits are rare. At the same time, academic research has often focused on questions of interest more to itself than to other sectors. Academic work with public and third sector organisations has been fragmented, with interactions often weighted in favour of shorter term innovation cycles rather than longer term social needs. Such challenges, divergences and tensions lead to duplications, contradictions, and unproductive effort. This is the problem space within which we operate.

Our network a holistic and inclusive network approach, sensitive to the socially situated nature of such systems. To achieve this we will (a) develop and sustain a collaborative, cross-sectoral community under the banner of Human Data Interaction, (b) develop a portfolio of system design projects addressing underexplored aspects of the DE (c) create cross-sectoral interdisciplinary synthesis of research under the HDI banner (d) conceptually develop and flesh-out the HDI framework, (e) create a suite of policy and public-facing case studies, papers, prototypes and educational materials, and (f) develop a set of core guidelines intended to inform the design of human-facing data-driven systems.

Planned Impact

The Human Data Interaction Network+ will have direct impact with industry, the wider public, media and education and skills. The concept is core to the vast majority of new and emerging systems with which we all interact on a daily basis, both above and below our immediate level of awareness. As such it will transform many areas under the Digital Economy theme. This is evident through the strength of support and interest articulated by our partners and collaborators, even before commencement of the work. There is no question that this is a critical area and, as such, will attract multiple opportunities for impact.
Specifically, this network will progress the state of the art in respect of systems design and research by (1) establishing the foundations for a new science of data-driven systems through (2) collaborative development of the Human Data Interaction framework. In order to achieve this, this Network+ will fund a portfolio of 45 projects, culminating in a review and showcase event. The work will establish the foundations for a new science of data-driven systems through the framework of human-data interaction.

We will promote the new approach within our research communities. We will organise a workshop at premier conferences, and present our work at leading research institutions (including those of our network members). We will pursue opportunities for outreach and advocacy among the general public, industry, the public and third sectors and the wider scientific community, e.g. demonstrations and displays at science festivals, trade fairs and industrial outreach events, and debate through learned societies. Indeed, part of this outreach is inherent in the design of the network. We will also draw upon the networks of our partners in order to communicate both network opportunities and findings of the research.

Our collaborations already include a broad range of industries and organisations. We will build on our ongoing collaborations with companies including Google, Microsoft Research, IBM, Spotify and Arup -reaching out to SMEs, startups and others through Digital Catapult and ICAEW. Through these mechanisms we will establish further collaborations with major companies, to expand our set of collaborators as the network matures. We will be assisted in this work by our partners, the planned workshops and our universities' Business Development Teams and Research & Enterprise units. Such collaborations will enable us to support and promote research, and demonstrate that any prototypes can operate in a definite market. Our collaborating partners will benefit from access to the leading researchers in this emerging area, the ability to shape the ongoing research as it happens, funded collaborations, and the ability to demonstrate and evaluate the work in deployments aligned with their commercial areas of interest.

The funded project arising from of the network activities will act as demonstrators for media, the public, and government, highlighting new areas of research, asking new questions and drawing together existing endeavour. In this way, the network+ in Human Data Interaction has the potential to be the driving force and public face of research under this banner, exploiting the relationships forged during the life of the network into the long term. Through our government partners, this network will contribute towards evidence based policy-making and influencing public policies and legislation at a local, regional, national and international level.

Lastly, we will inform skills development through our partnerships with professional bodies (ICAEW and ALT) in addition to our strong links into the network of local authorities. In summary, the impacts of this network will be broad and far reaching, even beyond the life of the project.


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