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28-04-2017 | Original Article | Issue 3/2019

AI & SOCIETY 3/2019

In sweet harmony or in bitter discord? How cultural values and stakeholder requirements shape and users read an urban computing technology

Journal:
AI & SOCIETY > Issue 3/2019
Authors:
Leena Ventä-Olkkonen, Netta Iivari, Arto Lanamäki

Abstract

Culture is, in many ways, implicated in and shapes technology design and use. Inspired by Stuart Hall’s conception of encoding/decoding, we maintain that technological artefacts reflect the cultural values of their creators, while users, in their encounters with the technological artefacts, may decode those artefacts in various ways that are shaped by the users’ cultural values. In this article, we apply this lens to study a decade-long urban computing project that took place in the wild. We focus on the project’s development team and on how their cultural values shape technology design. We also acknowledge that such an urban computing project involves many other stakeholder groups that affect the course of events. In our analysis, we examine how these stakeholders shaped and interpreted the technology in question. Although the development project had a seemingly generic “for all” ethos, the various stakeholders pulled the focus in different directions. The trajectory of the project can be characterized as reacting to these competing influences—sometimes achieving fit, while other times resulting in conflicts. The contribution of this paper is a structured analysis and reflections on cultural issues in community technology design in the wild, with a focus on the role of the developers’ cultural values and other stakeholders’ technology-related requirements and interpretations. This study has implications for subsequent studies in the wild by framing them as fluid settings of a great variety of stakeholders with a multiplicity of values, requirements, and interpretations.

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