As a community, we aim to develop and deploy practical technological solutions that are of benefit to individuals and society. With participation-based methods, we no longer prescribe solutions, but rather co-construct. We seek better representation of society; we welcome diverse sets of stakeholders. We seek to better understand differing and competing positions; we create open dialogue and mutual learning. We share influence and control to achieve more informed and effective solutions –.
In this Special Issue, our peers help us to think more deeply and broadly about the actors of participation. We celebrate researchers who incorporated stakeholder-inclusive methodology; they valued preschoolers as prime sources from whom they could glean tangible solutions and thereby refine methodological approaches. These researchers also modeled duration of participation by embracing end-to-end stakeholder inclusivity.
Our community also addressed an intensifying future state in which non-human actors of participation (e.g., robotics/AI entities) advance in their abilities to match, or exceed, human capacity. As these human and non-human actors enter new realms of interactions, we are duly cautioned to consider gaps relative to ethics and legal aspects.
We traversed a variety of spaces of participation. Contexts ranged from the international legal arena to localized project domains, to personal spheres of home, to organizational workplaces, and into the complex, dynamic virtual spaces of the Internet. Irrespective of the timetabling of technological singularity, we also recognized well that we will be encountering unexplored domains where contexts and conditions will differ from previously researched domains.
We were also reminded to address degrees of participation. Participants should not only hear and be heard, but should also be equipped and empowered to make their own decisions. Our colleagues rightly warned us: digital and algorithmic illiteracy would create significant constraints to empowerment, thus limiting degrees of participation.
As we utilize these methodologies in our world of technological research and development, we allow those who are destined to use the technology to play a critical role in designing the technology. Consequently, we increase our value as a community as we are more likely to translate “good” technological ideas into multidimensional solutions that truly meet the real-world needs of individuals and society.
Christine Perakslis is Associate Professor in the MBA Program, College of Management, Johnson & Wales University, Providence, RI. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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