Skip to main content
To KTH's start page To KTH's start page

FFF Seminar: Worker-Centered Design

Time: Fri 2024-05-03 15.00

Location: 4618

Video link: Online

Language: English

Participating: Sarah Fox (Carnegie Mellon University)

Export to calendar

Work is transforming rapidly. While some might suggest labor is in a perpetual state of change, the accelerated development and deployment of artificially intelligent (AI) systems within workplaces is set to meaningfully reshape the livelihoods of millions of workers across industries for decades to come. Though proponents see potential in automation as a means to rid work of monotony and boost productivity, many workers and worker advocates view AI as an existential threat to “good jobs” or those that provide meaningful employment, adequate pay, and necessary health benefits. This disconnect is rooted in a fundamental distance between those whose interests are prioritized in the development process and those who end up using the technology. Although the fields of computer-supported cooperative work (CSCW) and human-computer interaction (HCI) have a legacy of exploring methods of promoting worker participation in the design of particular workplace systems, less is understood about how participatory research approaches could be applied across the technology lifecycle—from procurement and integration to governenace—to increase value for those on the frontlines.In this talk, I outline the concept of “worker-centered design,” an approach that emphasizes the well-being and input of employees, aiming to enhance not only productivity but also cooperation, autonomy, and fulfillment. Drawing on ongoing ethnographic and design research, I discuss three distinct cases in sectors facing different forms of technological change: 1) waste management, which is seeing a rise in robotics for sorting and disinfection; 2) public transportation, for which autonomous vehicle technologies are being developed; and 3) hospitality, which regularly employs algorithmic management. Across these sites, I describe labor-aligned efforts to evaluate the impacts of AI technologies on work practices and to develop methods and tools to ensure that working people have a voice in the creation, implementation, and governance of technologies in their workplaces.

Sarah Fox is an Assistant Professor at Carnegie Mellon University in the Human Computer Interaction Institute, where she directs the Tech Solidarity Lab. Her work examines the impacts of AI and automation on essential work sectors, with a focus on developing systems that center workers’ needs and expertise. She holds a Ph.D. in Human Centered Design & Engineering from the University of Washington