New Collaboration Grant with Tokyo University

As the Swedih autumn gets darker and darker, we have receivded the very good news that our project proposal “Sketching with Frictions: Designing Mixed-Reality Experiences with VR”, lead by Asreen Rostami, got  funded by Stockholm University. We have received 100 000 SEK  to start a research collaboration between DSV/SU and Rekimoto Lab and VR research centre at the University of Tokyo. Looking forward to this new adventure.



Automating Inequality: How High-Tech Tools Profile, Police, and Punish the Poor, by Virginia Eubanks

Today I finished reading this very intesting book on the effects of policy-algorithms on vulnerable people and social justice.

A powerful investigative look at data-based discrimination—and how technology affects civil and human rights and economic equity

The State of Indiana denies one million applications for healthcare, foodstamps and cash benefits in three years—because a new computer system interprets any mistake as “failure to cooperate.” In Los Angeles, an algorithm calculates the comparative vulnerability of tens of thousands of homeless people in order to prioritize them for an inadequate pool of housing resources. In Pittsburgh, a child welfare agency uses a statistical model to try to predict which children might be future victims of abuse or neglect.

Since the dawn of the digital age, decision-making in finance, employment, politics, health and human services has undergone revolutionary change. Today, automated systems—rather than humans—control which neighborhoods get policed, which families attain needed resources, and who is investigated for fraud. While we all live under this new regime of data, the most invasive and punitive systems are aimed at the poor.

In Automating Inequality, Virginia Eubanks systematically investigates the impacts of data mining, policy algorithms, and predictive risk models on poor and working-class people in America. The book is full of heart-wrenching and eye-opening stories, from a woman in Indiana whose benefits are literally cut off as she lays dying to a family in Pennsylvania in daily fear of losing their daughter because they fit a certain statistical profile.

The U.S. has always used its most cutting-edge science and technology to contain, investigate, discipline and punish the destitute. Like the county poorhouse and scientific charity before them, digital tracking and automated decision-making hide poverty from the middle-class public and give the nation the ethical distance it needs to make inhumane choices: which families get food and which starve, who has housing and who remains homeless, and which families are broken up by the state. In the process, they weaken democracy and betray our most cherished national values.


On writing in a second language and unpleasant reviews

CHI reviews were out last week and, as usual, they were the topic of extended dicussion until rebuttals were submitted. My reviews were quite split, and I had the bitter feeling I had submitted my article to the wrong sub-committe. Actually I almost felt stupid about it, stupid for spending a lot of effort on a piece of work and then giving it to people who obviously work with different topics – yes, always check out the names on the list, even if that commiittee has alwys been your confort zone. Writing the rebuttal was good to answer to what I felt were misunderstandings of my work and of reflective essays more in general. But it isn’t those misunderstandings I’m still annoyed about, not at all. It is R2’s tone (for real this time) that still bugs me. The review was really unpleasant in every single point raised, and it culminated with something that read like: “in fact one of the major weaknesses of this paper is the language and the many errors and typos”. This point was brought up, almost verbatim, by the AC. Now, I know my English is not perfect, but I also know it’s not broken and I’m sure it has never been a MAIN weakness of my writing. So in a growing, international, scientific community that only speaks English, why can’t we find a nice way to say that a certain paper needs (careful) proofreading? Why aren’t ACs more sensitive towards these issues?  Can these issues be pointed out in a rebuttal without compromising your work, once and for all? Why aren’t expert and novice external reviewers asked to be kind with their collegagues?