In the article “Data Rhetoric and Uneasy Alliances: Data Advocacy in US Labor History”, Khovanskya and Sengers argue that, “In absence of a well-organized worker coalition to facilitate training and participation in data techniques among workers, data-driven techniques are likely to rely too heavily on outside expertise to be practical” (1400). In this statement, they both want to ensure that workers are able to have the utmost agency in their pursuit of suitable working conditions and having a third-party process and advocate on their behalf via data could compensate the effectiveness opposed to the workers carrying it out themselves.
The Intelidesk is a type of chair that people in a large lecture class sit in while it records their heartrate, body temperature, movements, and quietness. In addition to these measurements, the desk also has two buttons at the top of the desk - a thumbs up and a thumbs down. When students agree with the professor or are having a good time in class, they push the thumbs up, otherwise they press thumbs down. These records are then overlapped with the professor’s live recording of the lecture to see where it is that they could improve or applaud themselves. The physical data the chair measures allows the professor and teaching staff to identify the sentiment of the room (e.g. Are students talking? Are people asleep? Are students excited about the material?). This information provides the instructor with information about how to improve the class.
This technology would exist in a world where students still attend college and a professor is still needed to teach a course. In addition, the physical measurements that the chair records would need to be researched thoroughly to ensure that a high heart rate means someone is excited and a low heart rate means someone is sleeping. There needs to be a shared understanding of the biological information that the chair collects for it to mean anything to the professors. As for the thumbs up and thumbs down buttons, these buttons must be understood to mean positive emotion and negative emotion respectively. These buttons are also to be used justly and not without reason, meaning that students must be not press these buttons for a reason.
Khovanskya and Sengers state, “In absence of a well-organized worker coalition to facilitate training and participation in data techniques among workers, data-driven techniques are likely to rely too heavily on outside expertise to be practical” (1400). With the Intelidesk, students may or may not belong to a well-organized student coalition, but their input and feedback on the experience they all partake still has an impact on everyone. As long as students have a vested interest in improving their experience, they are still bound to improve the experience of others in pursuit of their own. Also, there may be no need for a third-party information app to collect the information if there is a good line of communication. If there is a third-party app that dos collect information, it would not matter if the third-party application collects information that is objective (e.g. the physical measurements that Intelidesk collects). If the information collected is subjective, then subjects would be at a disadvantage when it comes articulating what the data means (e.g. the thumbs up and thumbs down information Intelidesk collects). Being a part of a well-organized coalition is not a key to improving working conditions, if pursuing a better working condition for oneself is going to improve the working conditions for others as a result.
Khovanskaya, Vera, and Phoebe Sengers. Data Rhetoric and Uneasy Alliances: Data Advocacy in US Labor History. In Proceedings of the 2019 Conference on Designing Interactive Systems, 1391-1403. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1145/3322276.3323691