Journal papers program

Understanding Nomadic Practices of Social Activist Networks Through the Lens of Infrastructuring: The Case of the European Social Forum

Aparecido Fabiano Pinatti de Carvalho, University of Siegen, Germany.
Saqib Saeed, Imam Abdulrahman Bin Faisal University, Saudi Arabia.
Christian Reuter, Technical University of Darmstadt, Germany.
Markus Rohde, University of Siegen, Germany.
David Randall, University of Siegen, Germany.
Volkmar Pipek, University of Sieben, Germany.
Volker Wulf, University of Siegen, Germany.

Within CSCW and HCI, an increasing body of literature has been demonstrating the essential relevance of infrastructures and infrastructuring to the work of people engaging in technologically mediated nomadicity. Tech Nomads – or T-Nomads, as they are sometimes called – not only rely on technological, human, and environmental infrastructural components – such as Wi-Fi, technical support, space, and basic resources such as light and power outlets – but they also have to engage in infrastructuring to mobilise their workplaces and effectively accomplish work in and across different locations. In this article, we bring an infrastructuring perspective to understanding nomadic practices concerning the organisation of complex collaborative events. We introduce findings from a long-term investigation focusing on how infrastructures are re-instantiated with the help of digital technologies, according to emerging demands from T-Nomads. Our findings demonstrate the need for a ‘non-essentialist’ approach to nomadicity, one which recognises the character of nomadic work and its varied aspects in different contexts. We extend the infrastructuring literature by demonstrating how infrastructuring work is done in a complex collaborative initiative, as the organisation of the annual European Social Forum.

Revisiting the Digital Plumber: Modifying the Installation Process of an Established Commercial IoT Alarm System

Teresa Castle-Green, University of Nottingham, UK.
Stuart Reeves, University of Nottingham, UK.
Joel E Fischer, University of Nottingham, UK.
Boriana Koleva, University of Nottingham, UK.

The ‘digital plumber’ is a conceptualisation in ubicomp research that describes the work of installing and maintaining IoT devices. But an important and often understated element of commercial IoT solutions is their long-term socio-technical infrastructural nature, and therefore long-term installation and maintenance needs. This adds complexity to both the practice of digital plumbing and to the work of design that supports it. In this paper we study a commercial company producing and installing IoT alarm systems. We examine video recordings that capture how a digital plumbing representative and software development team members make changes to both the installation process and supporting technology. Our data enables us to critically reflect on concepts of infrastructuring, and uncover the ways in which the team methodically foreground hidden elements of the infrastructure to address a point of failure experienced during field trials of a new version of their product. The contributions from this paper are twofold. Firstly, our findings build on previous examples of infrastructuring in practice by demonstrating the use of notions of elemental states to support design reasoning through the continual foregrounding and assessment of tensions identified as key factors at the point of failure. Secondly, we build on current notions of digital plumbing work. We argue that additional responsibilities of ‘reporting failure’ and ‘facilitation of change’ are part of the professional digital plumbing role and that commercial teams should support these additional responsibilities through collaborative troubleshooting and design sessions alongside solid communication channels with related stakeholders within the product team.

Becoming a Guest: On Proximity and Distance in Mental Health Home Treatment

Stefan Hochwarter, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Norway.
Julian Schwarz, Brandenburg Medical School, Germany.
Felix Mühlensiepen, Brandenburg Medical School, Germany.
Eric Monteiro, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Norway.

Mental health home treatment is a service where patients with severe mental illnesses are visited by a multiprofessional psychiatric care team at their homes. In Germany, inpatient-equivalent home treatment as a specialized form of home treatment has been offered by hospitals since 2018. In its early stage, the shift of care activities out of the hospital toward the patient’s home opened up a new set of problems and blurred the existing boundaries. This ethnographic study follows two home treatment teams and provides an in-depth description of their work. The findings are presented by three themes from our data analysis: (i) closeness and familiarity; (ii) bridging the distance; and (iii) tensions of proximity and distance. We then discuss the findings with the guiding lens of Becoming a Guest, which refers to the ambiguity of proximity and distance. The contribution for computer-supported cooperative work (CSCW) is twofold; on the one hand, we provide a detailed account of mental health home treatment, and on the other hand, we outline a conceptual model that helps to describe and analyze similar cases. We conclude the paper with directions for further research.

Green IT Meaning in Energy Monitoring Practices: The case of Danish Households

Nadine Tchatchoua, Roskilde University, Denmark.
Nina Boulus-Rødje, Roskilde University, Denmark.
Val Mitchell, Loughborough University, UK.

Eco-conferences like COP26 in Glasgow (UK) in 2021 have brought the debate on energy consumption and climate change to the fore. Given that a third of the energy produced worldwide is consumed in the home, it is pertinent to investigate how households use emerging technologies that allow households to monitor their energy consumption. This paper investigates how Danish households use green IT to monitor and manage their energy use and studies the related meaning householders attach to the green IT. We present qualitative data collected through interviews with 14 households, electric car owners mostly, who have adopted an application to monitor green energy availability – and its derived consumption. The paper highlights these householders’ green energy monitoring practices with an emphasis on the meaning they make of the green IT application they used. Our study found that households can use more green energy without interacting continuously with the green IT application. This contrasts with a common assumption in the field of green IT design that consumers must continuously engage with the green IT to consume more green energy. We also posit that including householders in future green IT design is paramount for designing successful green IT applications. Finally, this paper calls for household energy consumption studies to view energy consumption as a service where specific practices are matched to energy sources – rather than viewing energy availability as a solitary incident.

An Institutional Perspective: How Gatekeepers on a Higher Education Interact for the Organization of Access

Zeynep Yıldız, Koç University, Turkey.
Özge Subaşı, Koc University, Turkey.

There is growing research on how collaborative systems could support equity in shaping access for marginalized communities in different contexts. Higher education institutions are essential contexts for examining issues around equity-based organization of access for diverse populations, including people with disabilities. However, there is a shortage of research in CSCW investigating equal access in higher education settings. To address this gap, in this case study, we aim to have a closer look at how gatekeepers (people who are responsible for accessibility) in a higher education institution organize access for members with disabilities. Gatekeeping has long been discussed in disability justice to examine systemic and institutional barriers for people with disabilities. We reveal how gatekeepers interact and collaborate around existing institutional communication channels to collect access-related requests and distribute access in the higher education setting. Our data shows that existing practices come with institutional challenges hindering equity and inclusion for members with disabilities. Key issues revealed through our findings are (1) communication tools and non-shared definitions around access, (2) lack of tools for experience documentation, (3) ineffective feedback loops around access requests, (4) impact-based prioritization for access requests. We discuss how our analysis contributes to equity-oriented system design for future collaboration around organizing higher education access at the institutional level.

The Human Infrastructure of Civic Data: A Taxonomy for Participatory Infrastructuring of Civic Data

Firaz Peer, University of Kentucky College of Communication and Information, Kentucky, USA.

As data becomes available online, it often remains inaccessible to marginalized communities where the resources, skills, and knowledge required to access and use such data are unevenly distributed. To make data more accessible to one such marginalized community in Atlanta’s Westside neighborhood, I participated in infrastructuring their civic data using city commons framework developed by Balestrini et al. This process involved three steps: taking a design based ethnographic approach to investigate a data dashboard, organizing data literacy workshops, and reimagining what a community-owned and operated form of data infrastructure would look like. My three-step process led me to identify the human infrastructure, which includes the individuals, organizations, values, needs, resources, and capital needed to do the work of infrastructuring civic data. I organize these elements of the human infrastructure into a taxonomy I call the Human Infrastructure of Civic Data (HICD). The HICD builds on the city commons framework and offers the CSCW community a taxonomy that can be used to identify the human infrastructure within communities and engage them in infrastructuring their civic data.

Caseworkers’ participation in procurement: Infrastructuring Child Welfare Services in Norway

Tangni Cunningham Dahl-Jørgensen, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Norway.
Elena Parmiggiani, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Norway.

Procurement is a widely adopted collaborative approach for acquiring new systems in the public sector. It exemplifies a situation in which the early stages of digital system design define the boundaries and constraints of a new system that must be specified in the tender document (i.e., a binding offer). Researchers and government officials have long recognized the benefit of end-user participation in system design. Given the central role of the pre-tender phases in procurement processes, however, there is a need to better understand what affects user participation in such early stages. In this paper, we research a procurement process for municipal Child Welfare Services in Norway. We focus on caseworkers’ participation in procuring a case management system. We build on the concept of participatory infrastructuring to characterize how the meaning of participation was shaped through three overarching participatory infrastructuring practices of decision-making within a rather rigid procurement process: (i) scaling up the project, (ii) negotiating participation in meetings with potential suppliers and in tender documents, and (iii) positioning caseworkers as subject experts. The analysis of these practices reveals that the definition of user needs in the tender documentation and the creation of knotworks define both the boundary conditions and the modalities of participation. We contribute to the conversation on participatory infrastructuring in Computer-Supported Cooperative Work by discussing how participatory infrastructuring provides a conceptual understanding of participation in the context of municipal systems procurement.

Fostering Research Data Management in Collaborative Research Contexts: Lessons learnt from an ‘Embedded’ Evaluation of ‘Data Story’

Gaia Mosconi, University of Siegen, Germany.
Aparecido Fabiano Pinatti de Carvalho, University of Oslo, Norway.
Hussain Abid Syed, University of Siegen, Germany.
Dave Randall, University of Siegen, Germany.
Helena Karasti
Volkmar Pipek, University of Siegen, Germany.

Recent studies suggest that RDM practices are not yet properly integrated into daily research workflows, nor supported by any tools researchers typically use. To help close this gap, we have elaborated a design concept called ‘Data Story’ drawing on ideas from (digital) data storytelling and aiming at facilitating the appropriation of RDM practices, in particular data curation, sharing and reuse. Our focus was on researchers working mainly with qualitative data in their daily workflows. Data Story integrates traditional data curation approaches with a more narrative, contextual, and collaborative organizational layer that can be thought of as a ‘story’. Our findings come from a long-term ‘embedded’ evaluation of the concept and show that: (1) engaging with Data Story has many potential benefits, as for example peer learning opportunities, better data overview, and organization of analytical insights; (2) Data Story can effectively address data curation issues such as standardization and unconformity; and (3) it addresses a broader set of issues and concerns that are less dealt with in the current state of play such as lack of motivation and stylistic choices. Our contribution, based on lessons learnt, is to provide a new design approach for RDM and for new collaborative research data practices, one grounded in narrative structures, capable of negotiating between top-down policies and bottom-up practices, and which supports ‘reflective’ learning opportunities – with and about data – of many kinds.

Who Cares About Data? Ambivalence, Translation, and Attentiveness in Asylum Casework

Trine Rask Nielsen, University of Copenhagen, Denmark.
Maria Menendez-Blanco, Free University of Bozen-Bolzano, Italy.
Naja Holten Møller, University of Copenhagen, Denmark.

Scholars across Computer-Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW) increasingly focus on the topic of care when investigating data-driven technologies in contexts of re-humanizing technology design- and usage. Previous studies have shown how care work eludes complex bureaucratic systems shaped by data, digitalization, and a restrictive political agenda. This research aims to understand how asylum stakeholders enact care as an aspect of asylum casework, while navigating what is largely acknowledged by NGOs, nation states, and the EU to be a broken asylum system (von der Leyen). We investigate care as a relational aspect of casework in which knowledge and technology of the implicated caseworker and asylum seeker are attuned to one another in a way that takes the unaccountable into account (following Mol 2010). We add to studies of care in CSCW by empirically expanding the research sites of care- and data work. In this multi-sited ethnographically informed study, we conducted interviews (n=19) and 160 hours of observational studies amongst: 1) Danish Red Cross care workers; 2) Danish Refugee Council legal counsellors; and 3) Danish Immigration Service case officers. We contribute empirically grounded insights into the meanings of care in a datafied asylum context. We find that care is enacted by caseworkers in moments of ambivalence, translation, and attentiveness to “new substantial information” relevant for asylum decision-making. These relational aspects of care in asylum casework, we find, impact the production of data about the asylum seeker. We end with a discussion of how a care perspective increases our sensitivity as CSCW researchers towards understanding the conditions for producing quality data and documentation in casework.

Learning from Other Communities: Organising Collective Action in a Grassroots Food-sharing Initiative

Katie Berns, Stockholm University, Sweden.
Chiara Rossitto, Stockholm University, Sweden.
Jakob Tholander, Stockholm University, Sweden.

This paper illustrates the work of creating, infrastructuring, and organising a food-sharing community from the ground up. Drawing on Participatory Action Research (PAR) and a three-year engagement with FoodSharing Stockholm, the paper shows how the processes of starting up a grassroots initiative are shaped by participants’ direct experience and knowledge of similar initiatives. The analysis draws attention to: (1) how central activities such as recruiting volunteers, choosing digital tools, and establishing partnerships with food donors are conceived and organised, (2) the concrete challenges of sharing surplus food, such as adopting a distribution model, and negotiating fairness, and (3) how governance and decision-making models are adopted and (re)negotiated over time. The paper introduces the term Collective histories of organising to cap- ture the impact that learning from previous experiences can have on communities’ efforts to set up and run; and re-orient design visions towards the consideration and adoption of existing sociotechnical practices, rather than always aiming at novel digital explorations. We outline three emerg- ing dimensions that can characterise “Collective histories of organising” as a concept, (1) configuring capacities, (2) configuring sociotechnical- cal practices, and (3) configuring participation. The paper contributes practical sensitivities to build, sustain, and infrastructure surplus food- sharing initiatives, where these three dimensions are discussed as central concerns designers and other food-sharing communities could learn from.

Educational Participatory Design in the Crossroads of Histories and Practices – Aiming for Digital Transformation in Language Pedagogy

Marianne Kinnula, University of Oulu, Finland.
Netta Iivari, University of Oulu, Filnand.
Leena Kuure, University of Oulu, Finland.
Tonja Molin-Juustila, University of Oulu, Finland.

Some level of digital technology design skills and competencies is important in any profession but in their education and work life this is often ignored. We explore the potential of Educational Participatory Design (EPD) in transforming work practices within diverse disciplines. This is done through a transdisciplinary case where EPD was used as an approach for transforming language teacher education seen to respond too slowly to technological advancements in society and work life. Based on our findings, we propose EPD as a useful approach for building the design agency of future professionals with various disciplinary and professional backgrounds. In the context of real-life work practice with students as future workers, EPD invites them to act as ‘designers’ envisioning novel practices and technologies for their own work, engaging their ‘users’ in the PD processes. EPD as a novel methodological approach integrates design with work practice learning and education and therefore, we suggest, belongs to the core expertise of CSCW research and design interested in the digital transformation of work practices.