Public Lecture Series: Critical Perspectives on Technology

Technologies invade our everyday lives, take part in constructing our identity, classify (often violently) bodies, and, pushed by recent regulations on social distancing, play an expanding role in connecting families and friends.  The effects of this rapid increase of technological dependency, though, further exacerbate existing inequalities, introduce new ones, but also lead to previously less apparent pockets of freedom. 

In a series of biweekly talks, the project “Exceptional Norms”, part of the HCI Group of the Faculty of Informatics at TU Wien, invites interested audiences to participate in critically engaging with recent scholarship on technology assessment. Our speakers are trailblazing scholars and internationally renowned experts from a range of (inter)disciplinary standpoints in conversation with Austrian researchers as hosts. 

Please register for this free lecture series (held on Zoom) here.

Recordings of selected previous lectures are available on youtube.

This Week!

November 26th, 2020 – 4pm (CET, Vienna) – Angelika Strohmayer (Northumbria University, UK)

Justice, but for whom? – Notes on Designing with Marginalised and Criminalised Populations


In recent years discussions about social justice have become much more mainstream, as have more specific discussions about how we can use or design digital technologies to help support movements towards better worlds. At the same time, there seems to be near-constant talk about digitalisation of our services, including those of third sector and other non-governmental organisations. Of course, like so many things the ongoing covid-19 pandemic is exacerbating these discussions, as well as our needs for digital services and movements towards more hopeful futures. In this talk, I explore what digitalisation of third sector services can look like when brought into conversation with the hopeful praxis of building more socially just futures. I present a framework for designing in Justice-oriented Ecologies where digital interventions are seen as interwoven with non-digital services, ethical standpoints, and wider political debates. I build this framework on over 5 years of working to design creative and digital interventions with services who support people who are made marginal or criminalised in society such as sex workers, addiction peer support workers, or those experiencing homelessness. It is my hope that this framework will be useful for others to think through the need for digital services, but also to help better articulate how design processes and digital artefacts are part of ecologies that we join and participate in when working collaboratively. 


Angelika Strohmayer is a lecturer and researcher at Northumbria University’s School of Design and founding member of, an international network of feminist technology researchers. Inspired by feminist participatory action research, Research through Design, and collective making, she works closely with third sector organisations to creatively integrate digital technologies in service delivery and advocacy work. She aims to work collaboratively on in-the-world projects that engage people at all stages of the research process to engender change towards more just worlds.

with Franziska Tachtler (TU Wien) as conversation partner.


December 17th, 2020 – 4pm (CET, Vienna) – Selma Šabanović (Indiana University Bloomington, USA) 

Robots for us: Participatory and community-centered design of robots


Our visions of having robots present in day to day use in schools, homes, and workplaces are becoming increasingly technically achievable. This brings to the fore concerns about how we can design robots to not only operate in these everyday contexts, but also to fit the needs, practices, values, and preferences of potential users. So far, a majority of user and design research in human-robot interaction has focused on individual responses to robots, which in aggregate represent more generalized attitudes and needs. Robot design, however, rarely takes into account the organizational and community dynamics that robot users, robots, and other stakeholders are a part of. In this talk, we will discuss how organizational and community dynamics and goals affect robot adoption and use, and how we can take them into account in the course of robot design. We will particularly discuss examples of participatory and community-centered design approaches for social robots. 


Selma Šabanović is an Associate Professor of Informatics and Cognitive Science at Indiana University Bloomington. Her research combines the critical study of computing with research on human-robot interaction (HRI). She particularly focuses on the design, use, and consequences of socially interactive robots in different cultural contexts. Her work has explored social robot applications in healthcare, education, and the home, and includes comparative studies of robot design and user perceptions in the US and Japan. She serves as Editor-in-Chief of the ACM Transactions on Human-Robot Interaction. She recently co-authored the book “Human-Robot Interaction: An Introduction”, published by Cambridge University Press.

with Astrid Weiss (TU Wien) as conversation partner.   

Future Talks

Thursday 14.01. — Bo Ruberg (University of Irvine, USA)

Thursday 28.01. — Kishonna Gray (University of Illinois at Chicago, USA)


November 12th, 2020 – 4pm (CET, Vienna) – Alex Ahmed (Carnegie Mellon University, USA)

Community-based design of open source software for transgender people

Sketch of two people handling a number of cables largely focused on hands with pink background paint indicating all information for the talk.


From the surveillance of undocumented people to the algorithmic management and exploitation of gig economy workers, people are increasingly alienated from how technologies are designed and how they impact our lives. These systematic denials of agency predominantly target Black, Brown, working-class, and LGBTQ people. In this talk, I review the social and political contexts surrounding gender self-determination, which existing interactive systems often fail to support or actively deny. I then describe a community-based, human-centered design project to build open source software with and for transgender people. By centering the needs, experiences, and expertise of our community members, we created a customizable voice training app that prioritizes playfulness, affirmation, and care. My work has important implications for how computer science researchers can challenge harmful power dynamics in technology design and implementation through equitable, community-engaged partnerships.


Alex A. Ahmed is a postdoc at Carnegie Mellon’s Human Computer Interaction Institute, advised by Sarah Fox and Ken Holstein. Guided by feminist and queer theory, her work involves a combination of qualitative and quantitative methods, community-based design, and open source software frameworks. Her research has been supported by the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship, the NIH Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award, and the CRA/NIH Computing Innovation Fellowship. In her spare time, she sings in an a capella group called the Kinsey Scales, plays guitar and board games, and obsesses about Star Trek.

with Juliana Gleeson (University of Vienna, TU Dresden) as conversation partner

October 29th, 2020 – 4pm (CET, Vienna) – Neha Kumar (Georgia Institute of Technology) and Naveena Karusala (University of Washington)

Neha Kumar (Georgia Institute of Technology) and Naveena Karusala (University of Washington)

Braving Citational Justice within Human-Computer Interaction

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Central to the sharing of knowledge are citations, and how, why, and where citations are used has been an intense subject of study across disciplines. We discuss the politics of knowledge production within HCI, drawing on parallels from related fields, as well as reflecting on our own experiences of being cited and not cited, citing and not citing. We also present recommendations for making concrete changes across the individual and structural in HCI, related to how we view citations, and how we might move ourselves towards the idea of citational justice.


Neha Kumar is an assistant professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology, where she conducts research at the intersection of human-centered computing and global development. She is learning to cite justly.
Naveena Karusala is a fourth year PhD student in the ICTD lab at University of Washington. Her work is at the intersection of HCI, global development, and health messaging. Her ideal world is one in which we do not value a work or individual by citation count.

with DI Marlene Wagner and Dr. Nima TaheriNejad (both TU Wien) as conversation partners.

October 15th, 2020 – 4pm (CEST, Vienna) – Roos Hopman (University of Amsterdam)

Roos Hopman (University of Amsterdam)

The face as folded object: race and the problems with ‘progress’ in forensic DNA phenotyping


Forensic DNA phenotyping (FDP) encompasses an emerging set of technologies aimed at predicting phenotypic characteristics from DNA in order to help identify unknown suspects. Advocates of FDP present it as the future of forensics, the ultimate goal of these techniques being the production of complete, individualized facial composites based on DNA. With the promise of individuality and the advancement of technology comes the assumption that modern methods are steadily moving away from racial science. Yet in the quantification of physical differences, FDP practices build upon particular nineteenth and twentieth century scientific practices that measured and categorized human variation in terms of race. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork conducted in various genetic laboratories, in this talk I therefore complicate a linear temporal approach to scientific progress. Building on the notion of the folded object as developed by Amade M’charek, I bring into focus how race comes about in these practices as a consequence of temporal folds.


Roos Hopman is a researcher at the anthropology department of the University of Amsterdam. Her research interests are in (population) genetics, forensics, and race. Currently she is a PhD candidate in the ERC-funded RaceFaceID project, which ethnographically studies the ir/relevance of race in forensic identification technologies. Her particular focus is on forensic DNA phenotyping, a set of technologies used to infer physical characteristics from biological traces.

with Dr. Simone Kriglstein (Universität Wien) as conversation partner.