RESEARCH TRACK

AI on the Ground

We use social science to develop robust analyses of AI systems; effectively assess the impact of AI systems; and inform future design, use, and governance.

Team Members

About This Track

We use social science research to develop robust analyses of AI systems that can effectively inform their design, use, and governance.

To realize AI’s social benefits, it is necessary to understand its risks and potential harms to people, communities, and institutions through empirically grounded research rather than speculation. We argue that the impact of AI systems and policies can only be fully understood by observing, listening, and speaking with people on the ground–from government and business leaders, to scientists and engineers, to community activists and vulnerable groups.

Our ethnographically-oriented research explores new processes of integrating and governing AI within diverse social contexts; including medical, governmental, and humanitarian sectors, among others. We seek to complement critical analyses with pragmatic governance and design approaches that speak to multiple stakeholders.

To this end, we are focused not only on articulating emerging issues but also on developing guidelines, best practices, and recommendations for regulatory approaches. We will examine effective ethical, human rights, regulatory, and other governance frameworks to help policymakers and ethics bodies better understand what they should demand of AI development, procurement, and assessment processes. With a sociotechnical foundation of understanding, society will be better equipped to plan for, and govern, beneficial and human-centered AI.

Focus Areas

FRAMEWORKS OF ACCOUNTABILITY

Evaluating and developing new ways to hold creators and users of AI–and algorithmic systems–accountable in practice across varied contexts. These include business and consumer technologies, governmental use of AI, and “AI for good.”

 

SOCIAL DYNAMICS OF INTEGRATION

Researching how organizations and cultures change when AI systems are introduced, with a focus on ethical practices and local reconfigurations of power and responsibility.

 

NARRATIVES AND DISCOURSE

Tracking and reframing popular rhetoric and discourse around what AI is, how it is used, and why, with the goal of advancing public understanding of AI’s emerging role in society.

All Work

  • Book or Chapter
    Data & Society
    D&S researchers Madeleine Clare Elish and Tim Hwang discuss the social challenges of AI in their collection of essays, An AI Pattern Language. From the authors: How are practitioners grappling with the social impacts ... Read more
    September 2016
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