Using Foucault to examine value sensitive design concerns

One of the great benefits in multi-disciplinary ways of working is the exposure to other ways of examining problems. Last week, a paper submitted to CAISE 2018 (a top-ranked IS conference) was accepted for publication. The paper: Human and Value Sensitive Aspects of Mobile App Design: A Foucauldian Perspective examines the use of Michael Foucault’s writing on governmentality to view requirements engineering problems on how to reflect value sensitive concerns in systems design.

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Value sensitive concerns remain relatively neglected by soft- ware design processes leading to potential failure of technology acceptance. By drawing upon an inter-disciplinary study that employed par- ticipatory design methods to develop mobile apps in the domain of youth justice, this paper examines a critical example of an unintended consequence that created user concerns around Focauldian concepts including power, authority, surveillance and governmentality. The primary aim of this study was to design, deploy and evaluate social technology that may help to promote better engagement between case workers and young people to help reduce recidivism, and support young people’s transition towards social inclusion in society. A total of 140 participants including practitioners (n=79), and young people (n=61) contributed to the data collection via surveys, focus groups and one-one interviews. The paper contributes an important theoretically located discussion around both how co-design is helpful in giving ‘voice’ to key stakeholders in the research process and observing the risk that competing voices may lead to tensions and unintended outcomes. In doing so, software developers are exposed to theories from social science that have significant impact on their products.

The paper will be available soon on the Middlesex University Repository but is available here in the meantime.