News Release

Developing public interest technology by engaging with and empowering communities

Meeting Announcement

Arizona State University

When it comes to the design and development of socio-technical systems, the public interest isn't always a priority. A human-centered approach that includes input from the public is needed to build sustainable solutions. 

"You don't build for the public, you build with them," said Katina Michael, an Arizona State University professor at the School for the Future of Innovation in Society in the College of Global Futures and the School of Computing and Augmented Intelligence in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering. "You need to acknowledge all stakeholders in the process because you're designing and delivering solutions together within an existing ecosystem."

Michael is an expert in public interest technology and is researching how to use it as a philosophy for design. She will present her evidence during a scientific session at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). 

"What we're trying to do is build the bridge between creating public interest technology using socio-technical design," said Michael, who is the co-organizer of the session. "What I'm advocating for is leading with evidence. We are constantly building without providing the underlying elements or proof for why we do what we do. The aim is to create robust socio-technical systems based on evidence that we've collected from the field that yields maximum value to people. We want to empower communities to play an integral role in the design process."

During the scientific session, presenters will demonstrate the steps needed to operationalize and implement public interest technology in practice. The scientific session will also feature talks from Professor of Intelligent and Self-Organizing Systems Jeremy Pitt of Imperial College London and Roba Abbas, a senior lecturer and academic program director at the University of Wollongong, Australia and visiting professor in the School of the Future of Innovation in Society.

"We will explore the key to successful operationalization through a process of socio-technical co-design that emphasizes stakeholder engagement and empowerment, and the embedding of principles and values in the design process, in a manner that allows for traceability and accountability toward sustainable socio-technical systems," said session organizer Abbas.

In order to build sustainable socio-technical systems, all stakeholders need to be involved in the process. Through her session, Michael will demonstrate why everyone matters in design. 

"We need to change the way we design things," said Michael. "We need to have the public interest at heart. What is the public interest? The public will tell us. Let them tell their stories and share their values. And what you might get at the end is not only innovative solutions that integrate those values in a design but also diverse stakeholders cooperating toward serving the public interest."

Michael will present "Leading With Evidence: Operationalizing Public Interest Technology in Practice" during the session "Socio-Technical Systems Design for Public Interest Technologies" on February 19 at 10 a.m. MST.

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