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 (approximately) 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. An earlier instalment happened previously in Winter 2020/2021.

Next!

April 15th, 2021 – 4pm (CEST, Vienna) – Gopinaath Kannabiran (ITU Copenhagen, Denmark)

More Than Teledildonics and Porn: Looking back at a decade of sexuality research in HCI

Sketch of two hands caressing a metallic egg with talk info on the left.

Abstract

When I introduce myself as a human sexuality researcher in the field of Human Computer Interaction (HCI), I often get asked ‘Is your research on teledildonics or porn?’  The increasing rise in high-tech designer sex toys and staggering billions of revenue generated by porn industry are good reasons for explaining why teledildonics and porn have taken center stage in public perception of sex and technology. In 2011, my co-authors and I published a research paper analyzing 70 existing works on how HCI talks about sexuality exploring discursive strategies, blind spots, and opportunities for future research. In this talk, I will present a retrospective personal reflection on how sexuality related work has progressed in HCI based on research published in the past decade (2011-2021). I will highlight major themes, draw attention to recent advancements, and discuss some of the current challenges faced by HCI researchers interested in studying design for sexual wellbeing (D4SW)· I will draw upon my personal experiences as a queer person of color, sexual rights activist, sexuality educator, and feminist researcher in HCI with the goal of dialoging with the audience by inviting questions and opinions.

Bio

Gopinaath Kannabiran is a design educator, HCI researcher, and sexual rights activist currently working as a postdoc at Computer Science Department, IT University of Copenhagen, Denmark. Details about his work can be found at: https://gopikann.wordpress.com/

with Ekaterina Osipova and Azadeh BadieiJaryani (University of Vienna) as conversation partners

Upcoming

May 6th — Ashley Shew (Virginia Tech, USA) with Jillian Weise

June 10th — Laura Forlano (Illinois Institute of Technology, USA)

June 24th — Reem Talhook (Northumbria University, UK)

more to be confirmed.

Previously

March 25th, 2021 – 4pm (CET, Vienna) – Christina Harrington (DePaul University, USA)

The Future is Collectivism: Exploring Technology Co-Design from a Lens of Critical Design

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Abstract

The question of who gets to contribute to design futures and technology innovation is an important topic across design and computing fields. This conversation has grave implications for communities that often find themselves an afterthought in technology design, and who coincidentally could benefit most from technological interventions in response to societal oppression. As human-computer interaction continues to frame the intersection of people and technology through a lens of access and humanity, it’s important to consider methods and approaches to computing that are inclusive and equitable, and consider culture and identity as components of interactions. Community-based participatory design allows us to engage those at the margins in design and also considers collectivism as a meaningful approach to speculating community and technology futures. I explore concepts of community collectivism as a way to address challenges of health and racial equity, employing critical theory and frameworks that may better engage marginalized groups. From this talk I hope to build upon the conversation of Who Gets to Future?, and explore recommendations for more equitable technology futures.

Bio

As a designer and qualitative researcher, Dr. Christina Harrington focuses on understanding and conceptualizing technology experiences that support health and racial equity among marginalized groups. Her research as the Director of the Equity and Health Innovations Design Research Lab explores ways to employ design as a catalyst for health equity and socially responsible technology experiences. She explores concepts such as health, social acceptance, and collectivism through community-based participatory design and co-creation, engaging critical design and sociotechnical computing. Through participatory research methods she explores constructs of empowerment and access in design among vulnerable communities that have been marginalized along multiple dimensions of identity (age, race, ethnicity, income, class). Dr. Harrington is an Assistant Professor in the College of Computing and Digital Media at DePaul University and received her PhD from Georgia Tech’s College of Design.

with Nana Kesewaa Dankwa (University of Kassel) as conversation partner.

March 4th, 2021 – 4pm (CET, Vienna) – Sabine Harrer (Uppsala University, Sweden)

Performing Whiteness through Play

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Abstract

This talk investigates how games can be understood as a contemporary media form sustaining racist, colonial legacies through their mechanical design and supported player performances. This investigation is rooted in two case studies, the classical Finnish board game Star of Africa (1951) and the US American digital deck building game Ascension: Dawn of Champions (2015). Both games exemplify in different ways how whiteness as an ideological baseline gets to pervade play through mechanical rituals coded as white supremacist. In Star of Africa, players perform in the role of white perpetration, staging a historical revisionist version of the European ’Scramble for Africa’. In Ascension, the game’s deck building rituals encourage players to invest in stereotyping and ownership of ‘diverse’ bodies through identity tourism. By reflecting on these examples as emblematic of wider trends in game design, the talk aims to highlight persistent challenges for critical playful technology design arising from white structural biases. It also looks at how these foundations of whiteness might be challenged, following critiques from Black, Indigenous, and Postcolonial game studies.

Bio

Sabine Harrer works as a faculty member at the Department of Game Design at Uppsala University, Sweden. In their artistic and teaching praxis, as well as in their writing, they use videogames as a thing to reframe, challenge, and queer norms around desire and intimacy. They have recently published the article “We Are the Champions? Performing whiteness in ASCENSION: DAWN OF CHAMPIONS” in the journal ’Simulation and Gaming’. 

with Kay Kender (TU Wien) as conversation partner.