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Claudia Müller-Birn gives a talk at the lecture series "CS Talks" @TU Graz - Collaboration is Key: A Human-Centered Design of Computational Systems

News from Mar 05, 2020

Tuesday, March 10th, 5:00 pm, Prof. Dr. Claudia Müller-Birn will give the talk "Collaboration is Key: A Human-Centered Design of Computational Systems" at the Graz University of Technology.

This talk is part of the new lecture series CS Talks hosted by the Faculty of Computer Science and Biomedical Engineering in cooperation with the Know-Center. The CS Talks were initiated by the Graz University of Technology and the Know-Center in 2018 to highlight the social relevance of computer science and especially the role of women in this exciting (research) area.


We use computational systems for supporting our decision making in many parts of our society. Computational systems filter, sort, calculate and recommend choices based on the data available to them. A common assumption is that these systems can replace (or at least support) humans in their decision-making processes. Thus, the introduction of computational systems is often thought of as a ‘substitution problem.’ In a fixed human workflow, certain tasks are replaced by a machine or an algorithm, leading to the need for less labor, fewer errors, and higher accuracy, among other things.

We all know, however, about problems that have occurred while using computational systems in social contexts. Two issues characterize these problems with computational systems. First, technology is not value-neutral, since computer scientists define how they act. Secondly, delegating formerly human tasks to machines (or vice versa) can lead to significant shifts in social practices and responsibilities.

In my talk, I argue for an alternative perspective on the design of computational systems. We should incorporate the interdependence of joint human-machine activities into the design - fostering co-adaptation. Thus, I emphasize the concept of human-machine collaboration across a spectrum that runs between the poles of interactive systems on one side and intelligent systems on the other. This human-machine collaboration would follow a mixed-initiative interaction approach in which humans and machines interact and negotiate their actions. However, collaboration is complex in such a setting. All partners need to agree on their goals, to coordinate their activities, and communicate them, as well as to adapt their activities accordingly. Such hybrid workflows cause a qualitative change regarding how people perceive a technical system. We need, therefore, methods for the design and evaluation of these systems that allow for investigating the mode of action of these hybrid activities side by side. Based on my research and by incorporating existing approaches, I discuss challenges and gaps in current research. I conclude this talk with a proposition on how human-centered methods can be integrated into computer science education to support a critical reflection.

Date: 10.03.2020, 5pm
Location: Rechbauerstraße 12, 8010 Graz, Aula Alte Technik

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