Toward Human-Centered Algorithm Design

Eric P. S. Baumer. (2017). Toward Human-Centered Algorithm Design. Big Data & Society, 4(2).


As algorithms pervade numerous facets of daily life, they are incorporated into systems for increasingly diverse purposes. These systems’ results are often interpreted differently by the designers who created them than by the lay persons who interact with them. This paper offers a proposal for human-centered algorithm design, which incorporates human and social interpretations into the design process for algorithmically based systems. It articulates three specific strategies for doing so: theoretical, participatory, and speculative. Drawing on the author’s work designing and deploying multiple related systems, the paper provides a detailed example of using a theoretical approach. It also discusses findings pertinent to participatory and speculative design approaches. The paper addresses both strengths and challenges for each strategy in helping to center the process of designing algorithmically based systems around humans.


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