Participatory Design for Whom?

Designing Conversational User Interfaces for Sensitive Settings and Vulnerable Populations​​​​​​​​​​​​​​
WORKSHOP at CUI 2023 conference
Conversational User Interfaces (CUIs) are becoming increasingly applied in a broad range of sensitive settings to address the needs and struggles of vulnerable or marginalized users. Sensitive settings include, for instance, CUIs mediating the communication difficulties of people with dementia or supporting refugees to cope with new cultural practices as a chatbot on a government website. While researchers are increasingly designing CUIs for such sensitive settings, methods and participatory design approaches to address vulnerable user groups' highly sensitive needs and struggles are sparse in research thus far. This workshop aims to explore how we can design CUIs for and in sensitive settings with vulnerable users in mind through the participatory design process. We aim to establish a working definition of vulnerability, sensitive settings, and how practice-oriented design of CUIs can be inclusive of diverse users. 
Important dates
Submission Deadline: 
Extended to June 12, 2023 (AoE)

Notification of acceptance: 
June 19, 2023 (AoE)

Workshop date and time:
July 19, 2023, 9:00 - 12:30 (CEST)

Accepted position papers and statements of interest: Link to PDF

Full workshop description is available here: Link to PDF

For more info or questions, please contact Maarten Houben:
What are suitable participatory design practices for CUI development in sensitive settings?
With this workshop, we aim to explore the ethical dimensions and boundaries of engaging vulnerable users in the design process of CUIs in sensitive settings. In particular, we will focus on identifying suitable participatory design practices for CUI development in sensitive settings.

With this workshop, we aim to engage participants to collectively:
1) create workable definitions of vulnerability, inclusion, and sensitive settings relevant to the design of CUIs;
2) identify processes and challenges that can facilitate meaningful design of CUIs for sensitive settings;
3) establish best practices as part of a manifesto to inform future research, design, and development of CUIs by academia, industry, and public sector stakeholders.

As vulnerability is often present regardless of field or industry, we invite researchers and practitioners from all disciplines to participate in the workshop to ensure the interdisciplinary applicability of the workshop outcomes.  

Format and schedule
We host a half-day workshop in a hybrid format with participants attending in person and online. We will blend presentations by invited speakers with interactive sessions, stimulating engagement between the workshop participants and workshop organizers. The tentative program is as follows:

(1) Introduction to vulnerability. We will provide a brief  scoping of vulnerability in HCI research for the participants to work with. The participants are also invited to give a 5-minute pitch or presentation to introduce themselves, using their position paper in case they submitted one, and to share their perspectives or experiences on vulnerability in HCI research.

(2) Participatory methods. The workshop will address participatory design approaches in general, and how such approaches are applicable in the context of CUI research and development - specifically with regards to sensitive situations. The participants are asked to reflect on their own research approaches to discover potential cases or situations during which vulnerability can arise and to share this with the group to feed the discussion.

(3) Case studies. Building on the input of the participants, the workshop dives into the context of vulnerable settings by focusing on multiple concrete cases. For example, one case can address the context of dementia, while another case can focus on immigration. With these cases, we aim to provoke reflection and thoughts on different dimensions of vulnerability that will be further discussed during an interactive session.

(4) Future research directions and challenges. At the end of the workshop, we discuss how the insights from the different cases are translatable to other contexts, also based on the participants' own experiences. By doing this, we aim to define the different dimensions of vulnerability and sketch an overview of the scope and different meanings of sensitive settings. Moreover, we aim to bring together this definition and participatory design processes into a workable manifesto, to be used as guidance for both research and industry in the creation of inclusive CUIs.
What aspects of sensitive situations warrant one feature over another?
If you are interested in participating in this workshop, we ask you to submit a 'statement of interest' (e.g., name, affiliation, bio/background, what you expect from the workshop, interested discussion topics etc.). 
Please click the button below to the online form to submit your statement of interest by June 12, 2023.

In addition to a statement of interest, we encourage participants to submit a position paper in which they briefly describe their work with CUIs and, if possible, how they think vulnerability may play a role in their particular research question or application (up to 2 pages, no preferred format). These examples may be used both for guiding the workshop and as scenarios against which to test any resulting definitions and procedures. However, position papers are not required for this workshop attendance as we want to be accessible to a broad audience.

We invite the participants to share their experiences and expertise in various topics concerning CUIs and vulnerability. As CUIs permeate all layers of society, it becomes ever more important to ensure no one is left out. Sensitive situations arise in many variants and contexts, and CUIs will always be used by vulnerable users regardless of the application domain. At the same time, CUIs provide opportunities to reach parts of society that would otherwise be left out - but only if we manage to identify these groups. However, it remains challenging to identify or assess such situations properly for researchers and industry. As a consequence, vulnerable users may be insufficiently involved in the design and development of a CUI. Access to vulnerable users may be difficult, yet categorizing groups of people without their explicit involvement or consent is undesirable on its own. Such issues raise multiple ethical questions, such as should "group membership" be made visible and editable to these users, and if so, in what shape or form? How can designers of CUIs prevent belittlement and ensure the explainability of decisions to users? Should "membership" be opt-in or opt-out? What aspects of sensitive situations warrant one feature over another, and how can we ensure we test the correct ones?

Position papers can be submitted to by June 12, 2023.
Please include "CUI23 Sensitive Settings workshop" in your email subject line. We will notify the acceptances by June 19, 2023.
ORGANISERS background

Maarten Houben is an Assistant Professor at the Eindhoven University of Technology in the Department of Industrial Design. His PhD research focused on the beneficial effects of everyday sounds and soundscapes in technologies for dementia. Maarten adopts a design approach for introducing and evaluating novel technologies in everyday care environments by involving key stakeholders such as people with dementia, their relatives, and care practitioners.
Nena van As is the Conversational UX Researcher at, a company that offers a low-code platform to create conversational AI. She has a background in HTI and gets to combine academia with industry in the current role at boost. As a result, she works with industry specific questions - what do we define as success for a bot? How do we measure and analyse this? - as well as more academic investigations into the effect of human likeness on trust in the face of conversational breakdown.
Nitin Sawhney is a Professor of Practice in the Department of Computer Science at Aalto University and leads the CRAI-CIS (CRitical AI and Crisis Interrogatives) research group. Working at the intersection of Human Computer Interaction (HCI), responsible AI, and participatory design research, he examines the critical role of technology, civic agency, and social justice in society and crisis contexts. Prof. Sawhney has previously conducted research in speech/audio interaction, wearable computing, distributed open source collaboration, civic/participatory media at the MIT Media Lab and The New School.
David Unbehaun is a Deputy Professor of Human-centered Information Systems in the Department of Informatics at the Technical University Claustahl and Research Group Leader at University of Siegen. He wrote his PhD about assistive technologies in the context of People with Dementia and their care-ecosystem. His research focus lies on the field of digital health care research, practice- and user-oriented assistance technology design in the intersection of Human Computer Interaction, Human Robotic Interaction, and participatory design research.
Minha Lee is an Assistant Professor at Eindhoven University of Technology at the Department of Industrial Design. Her research interests include moral conflicts and emotions in relation to technology; she conducts mixed, qualitative, and quantitative research in a multidisciplinary manner. Minha Lee received her doctoral degree from the University of Eindhoven's Human-Technology Interaction and Philosophy and Ethics groups in 2021 on interactional morality.