Anastasia Ostrowski Dissertation Defense

Dissertation Title:  How do we design robots equitably? Engaging design justice, design fictions, and co-design in human-robot interaction design and policymaking processes


Robots are in their infancy engaging in our social spaces and we are faced with new perplexing and complex questions and challenges, such as how will these technologies create or further entrench inequities in society, which stakeholders have a say in technology development or policy development, and whose voices are heard in technology design. There is limited engagement with these questions in human-robot interaction where there is a greater need to understand how human-centered design methodologies and frameworks, such as participatory design, co-design, and Design Justice, can be further developed in the field to promote more equitable robot design and policy design processes. Here, I explore areas that should be considered and incorporated in equitable innovative technology design including who designs the technology, how do we support co-designers in the design of technologies, and how can we leverage participatory design, co-design, and Design Justice principles to support equitable robot design and policy making. Overall, I consider how we can support and create equitable design boundaries, spaces, and processes in the design and policy making of robotics through the presentation of three sets of studies. The first set of studies focuses on empowering users through co-design of robots. The second set turns a reflexive lens onto human-robot interaction roboticists and designers, mapping the context of human-robot interaction design processes and the field’s attention to ethics, equity, and justice. The third set of studies explores ways of creating spaces to support equitable technology design and policy making through design workshops and a design justice pedagogy summit. From this work, I present design guidelines for more equitable co-design practices in human-robot interaction, tools to support roboticists and other innovative technology designers in engaging with equity and justice through their design processes, and further promote discussion around the policy and design ecosystems of innovative technology. While this dissertation specifically focuses on robot design, the methodologies and processes developed are broadly applicable to other innovative and often disruptive technologies.

Committee members:

Cynthia Breazeal, PhD
Professor, Director of the Personal Robots Group
Media Arts and Sciences
MIT Media Lab
Dean for Digital Learning

Maria Yang, PhD
Gail E. Kendall Professor of Mechanical Engineering
Director of the Ideation Laboratory
MIT Morningside Academy for Design Associate Director
D-Lab Faculty Academic Director
Associate Dean of Engineering

Jodi Forlizzi, PhD
Herbert A. Simon Professor
Computer Science & Human-Computer Interaction Institute
Associate Dean of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
Carnegie Mellon University

Christina Harrington, PhD
Assistant Professor, Director of the Equity and Health Innovations Design Research Lab
Human-Computer Interaction Institute
Carnegie Mellon University

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