Research

Research at PIT is focused on developing design applications, theories and methodologies that foster participatory  interdisciplinary approaches to IT systems design. We aim at enabling scientific and design advances that promote fairness and social justice in the sociocultural transformations brought about by digitalization. Our research is situated in the field of human-computer interaction and adjacent fields, including interactions between human and AI systems, such as user experience (and algorithmic experience) of AI, ease of use, explainability, transparency, literacy, controllability, human-computer task distribution; usable security; accessibility; ethics and values.

The pervasiveness of digital technology in all life domains means that technological development and social change are inextricably interwoven. Increasingly, computer science depends on expertise from the SSH. Because of different theoretical foundations and scientific cultures cooperation between technical sciences and social sciences can be challenging. Research at PIT provides a collaborative and translational space for Social Sciences and Humanities (SSH) and informatics/HCI, oscillating between connectivity, integration, critical analysis, and reflection. The key focus is on interrogating the algorithmic condition with an emphasis on questions of participation and agency, including how and for whom agency and participation are accessible in and through IT systems and digital services. Importantly, our research moves beyond the often purely critical or only commentary role that Social Sciences and Humanities play in the debates around digitalization, towards a more just and inclusive transformation of sociotechnical system design approaches through interdisciplinary perspectives. With this, research at PIT also connects two of University of Kassel’s research foci - socially acceptable IT design and gender research - and it also addresses social sustainability of new technologies and forms of digitalization.

Our research combines theoretically grounded research with design-oriented approaches.

The main foci include:

  1. participation and agency in IT/AI systems through the strengthening of citizen engagement, e.g. by employing research through design and design-for-all approaches;
  2. democratic value-orientation in IT/AI systems, e.g. through value-sensitive design methodology;
  3. models and realizations of interaction, information and interface designs that integrate (1) and (2).

For more information, see also our current research projects and publications.

Ongoing research projects

Artificial intelligence (AI) is being used in more and more areas. However, only a few still understand which data is used and how. An international research project with the participation of the University of Kassel aims to create transparency.

The project "AI Forensics: Accountability through Interpretability in Visual AI Systems" focuses on the use of image systems. "The field of facial recognition in particular continues to grow. For example, in the U.S., AI with facial recognition is being used to detect potential threats. What serves general security is at the same time an intrusion into personal rights. We want to make AI decisions comprehensible," explains project participant Prof. Dr. Claude Draude from the Research Center for Information System Design at the University of Kassel.

The goal is an Internet platform that is freely accessible to the public and makes large data sets accessible. Machine learning models should thus be made analyzable and understandable. "Users can upload an image, for example, and activate an automatic examination. The system checks whether the image is already in a dataset (dataset forensics), how it was used in a model (model forensics), and where and for what purpose (application forensics). The scope of these capabilities varies from model to model, illustrating different degrees of transparency and interpretability across the spectrum of models available for research," Draude explains.

Artificial Intelligence Initiative of the Volkswagen Foundation

The project is funded as part of the Volkswagen Foundation's "Artificial Intelligence" initiative. It will run for three years and is being supported with 1.5 million euros. In addition to the University of Kassel, the Research Group on Artificial Intelligence and Media Philosophy at the Karlsruhe University of Arts and Design, the Department of Computer Science at Durham University in the UK, and the Department of Germanic and Slavic Studies at the University of California in Santa Barbara (USA) are involved. Technical partners are the Steinbuch Centre for Computing at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) and the NVIDIA CUDA Research Center at Durham University.

With its initiative, the Volkswagen Foundation is strengthening cross-disciplinary and cross-national research on the responsible further development of artificial intelligence (AI) systems. It is now funding seven project consortia from the social and technical sciences with a total of 9.8 million euros within this framework.

Contact: Claude Draude & Goda Klumbytė​​​​​​​

Companies that market digital products or services are often faced with the dilemma that their interest in and need for customer data conflicts with their customers' desire for privacy. For consumers, it means an encroachment on their rights of self-determination if they have to disclose too much data or are guided in their behavior unnoticed by digital surveillance. In the project "Fair Digital Services: Co-Evaluation in the Design of Data-Economic Business Models" (FAIRDIENSTE), this structural conflict is taken as an opportunity to explore and relate different ways of fairly communicating values in the course of business model design using sociological and (business) informatics approaches. First, it is investigated to what extent different values can be translated into an economic language of prices and fairly accounted for (accounting). Second, it is elaborated how companies can use their economic design power to channel value conflicts (design). Third, it will be examined to what extent the negotiation of value conflicts can be outsourced via social media elements in order to promote a culture of fairness among users (cultivation). In this way, a multidimensional methodology of "co-evaluation", i.e. cooperative value mediation, is to be developed and tested in practice, which helps companies to harmonize their economic business models with aspects of data-economic fairness.

The project is a cooperation between the departments of Sociological Theory (Prof. Dr. Jörn Lamla, coordinator), Participatory IT Design (Prof. Dr. Claude Draude) and Knowledge & Data Engineering (Prof. Dr. Gerd Stumme) at the University of Kassel, the Institute for Digital Management and New Media at the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich (Prof. Dr. Thomas Hess), the company BurdaForward (Dr. Richard Weber, Munich) and the Institute for Technology and Journalism (Miriam Ruhenstroth, Berlin). Further information on the project can be found on the ITeG website.

Subproject Participative ITDesign

The subproject of PIT focuses in particular on the design level. It investigates to what extent a fair coexistence of different value systems can be realized by using economic organizational and design power with technical means of separation and coupling. For this purpose, the potentials of IT-based tools are explored, which can be supportive in the development of fair digital services. Fairness and democratic value orientation in the context of digital services not only touch on issues of mediation and regulation, but also pose a challenge for information technology design itself. In computer science, there are various design methods that aim at value-oriented development or, as in participatory design, for which democratization of digital artifacts and empowerment of users are fundamental. The aim of the sub-project is to tie in with these design directions and to make them usable and applicable to the subject of the overall project. This means that existing methods of participatory IT development must be updated with regard to fair business models, and existing IT tools must be tested and, if necessary, further developed. The special focus of the sub-project is on the trans-shipment point of technical development and social, normative values.

The participating persons of the Department of Participatory IT Design are Claude Draude, Viktoria Horn and formerly Nana Kesewaa Dankwa and Nils Knoth.

The interdisciplinary project of the Faculty of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and the Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences as well as the Equality Unit aims to develop the integration of gender aspects in the teaching of STEM subjects as well as a gender-just scientific and university culture. From an intersectional perspective, the project also explores how teaching in and about STEM can be made inclusive and accessible.

The project is funded by the Professorinnenprogramm III of the German federal and state governments.

Cooperation

Participatory IT Design (FB 16 Electrical Engineering and Computer Science)

Prof. Dr. Claude Draude Lisa Marie Bläsing, M.A.

Didactics of Physics (FB 10 Mathematics and Natural Sciences)

Prof. Dr. Rita Wodzinski

Equality Unit

Dr. Sylke Ernst

Completed research projects

The research project "Re:Coding Algorithmic Culture" funded by the VW Foundation was a collaborative project between the departments of Gender/Diversity in Computer Science Systems (University of Kassel), Sociology of Diversity (University of Kassel) and Visual Communication (Kunsthochschule Kassel). The project, originally funded until February 2021, was extended by the VW Foundation until November 2021 with its extended module "Re:Coding Algorithmic Cultures of the Pandemic - The Example of Social Distancing".

Project Description

The project participants investigate questions of how algorithmically based collections, classifications and interpretations of data can perpetuate existing social inequalities/discrimination – and also challenge, if not redefine them. Research formats are hackathons, game jams, coding workshops, participatory design labs, design noir experiments, performances, exhibitions as well as video and text analyses. These interdisciplinary labs are meant to be critical, queer-feminist, anti-racist and work with decolonial knowledge in digital-real space.

Website: r-calc.net

Contact: Loren Britton

The joint project UPdATE was funded by the Future program line of the University of Kassel.

Project Description

Why are there still clearly unequal preferences of women and men in the choice of subjects for teaching or social work and in the technical and natural sciences despite enormous social change and numerous educational policy measures? In order to answer this leading question about a solidified inequality relation, the research project, conceived as a cooperation between social and technical sciences, is doing theoretical and empirical preliminary work for the application of a DFG research group. For the first time, disciplines from research fields that have so far taken little notice of each other (sociology of gender, empirical education research, gender-theoretical technology research) are cooperating in this project, which aims to focus on the interfaces between education and higher education research, gender research and technology research.

In the joint project, previously scattered international research findings will be bundled and - on the basis of the main areas of work of the participating disciplines - empirical data on the above-mentioned courses of study (teaching, social work, technical and natural sciences) will be generated. A qualitative and a quantitative survey of students and teachers, a sociological document analysis on measures to increase the proportion of the underrepresented gender, as well as an actor network analysis and participant observation on gender-related activity references and materialization processes of subject cultures are planned. The aim of the research project is to develop a gender-theoretically and empirically grounded research approach that for the first time systematically examines social and technical science fields of study in a comparative manner. All subprojects of the subsequently planned network (interdisciplinary DFG research group) refer to this approach in order to explain causes and backgrounds for unequal preferences in the choice of study subjects.

Cooperation

Sociology of Social Differentiation and Socioculture (FB 01 Human Sciences)

Prof. Dr. Mechthild Bereswill (Coordination)
Gabriele Lumpp, M.A.

Gender/Diversity in Informatics Systems (FB 16 Electrical Engineering/Computer Science)

Prof. Dr. Claude Draude
Lisa Marie Bläsing, M.A.

Empirical Research in Education (FB 01 Human Sciences)

Prof. Dr. Hans Peter Kuhn
Josefine Spitzner, M.A.

The research project AG SoMa was funded by the Future program line of the University of Kassel.

Project Description

Social machines describe technologies which fuse digital, often web-based techniques with the multifaceted dynamics of social interaction and organization. The amalgamation of algorithmic calculus and social intelligence as well as ongoing attempts to identify social contexts and dynamics by the means of data analysis lead to social machines being important discursive objects and agents regarding contemporary and future societal change by the means of digital technologies. Reports about the reproduction of social inequalities through the ongoing data-based algorithmization of day-to-day decisions with sweeping consequences for already marginalized communities foreshadow the negative potentials of this technology.

In cooperation with groups from the departments Social Sciences, Economics and Management, and Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, this sub-project aims at gaining a deeper understanding of this technologies, estimating their potential outcomes as well as normative implications and conclusively is geared towards the development of societal desirable alternatives.

Contact: Phillip Lücking, M.Sc.

The research project INTeGER was funded by the University of Kassel.

Project Description

INTeGER focuses on interrogating the role that gender intersectionality plays in producing innovation in the field of computing. Precisely because gender bias in computing has been identified as preventing innovation and socially responsible IT design (examples abound in research spanning from algorithms and machine learning, to speech recognition technologies), more interdisciplinary research that bridges gender studies, science and technology studies and computer science is needed.

The project is designed to develop along two directions (or a combination of both):

  • Innovations in computer science and its gendered aspects: what is the process of innovation in computing, what is understood as innovation in computing, and how this idea and process is affected by gender.
  • Gendered methodologies in computing: what are the methods and methodologies that are most prominent in computer sciences and how they interlink with intersectional notions of gender.

Contact: Nana Kesewaa Dankwa

INTeGER User Case Study

This project was supported by the grant from the Hessian Ministry of Science and the Arts (HMWK) and specifically the research focus on "Dimensionen der Kategorie Geschlecht – Frauen- und Geschlechterforschung in Hessen".

Project Description

The main objective of this research project is to revisit the dominant modes and practices of knowledge and artifact production in computer science through cyberfeminist and feminist new materialist lenses, and to produce innovative theoretical and methodological approaches in computing based on this revision. This will entail interrogating the power differentials embedded in computing technologies, and critically examining the epistemological frameworks that underpin computer science. Namely, it asks: what are the underlying conceptual notions in computer science and how do they (re)produce power dynamics? How are computer science theories gendered? How can insights from feminist new materialist and cyberfeminist perspectives help re-contextualize the methodologies and theories that are commonplace in computing?

The project will look at three bodies of thought as sources for methodological and theoretical innovation in computing: theoretical premises and practices of cyberfeminism; the new developments in feminist science and technology studies and feminist philosophy, namely the research that has been clustering under the banner of "new materialism"; and critical and feminist computing. This will entail investigating cyberfeminist activist and theoretical work as well as their historiographies, analyzing how it reflects and relates to the critical computing and feminist computing practices today, and drawing up propositions for developing theories and methodologies in computer science that are rooted in feminist theory and new materialism.

The main outcome of the project will be to produce the state of the art overview of these developments in a form of a white paper and to consolidate a network of local scholars and practitioners working at the intersection of feminist theory and computing. The project also entails organising at least four research lab meetings with guest speakers. The findings and discussions of those meetings will serve both as a basis for a white paper as well as a means to bring together scholars that are interested in critical and feminist computation. This is building on the idea that in order to construct sustainable imaginaries for and of the (technologically mediated) future, one needs first to form a collective subject capable of and invested in such a creative, theoretically informed and practice-driven imagination.

Critical research foci:

  • Theoretical premises and suggestions of cyberfeminism, including cyberfeminist historiographies and history of computing (such as alternative conceptualisations of information and activist approaches that utilise art and computer technology design for emancipation);
  • New materialist theoretical premises to an extent as they relate to digital technologies and alternative material-discursive methodological approaches;
  • Theoretical claims stemming from critical and feminist computing practices and methodologies;
  • Methodological innovations in computing that can be synthesized from the aforementioned bodies of thought.

Project convenor: Goda Klumbytė

CF+ Lab Meetings