FAccT 2023
Conference paper

Towards Labor Transparency in Situated Computational Systems Impact Research

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Researchers seeking to examine and prevent technology-mediated harms have emphasized the importance of directly engaging with community stakeholders through participatory approaches to computational systems research. However, recent transformations in strategies of corporate capture within the tech industry pose significant challenges to established participatory practices. In this paper we extend existing critical participatory design scholarship to highlight the exploitative potential of labor relationships in community collaborations between researchers and participants. Drawing on a reflexive approach to our own experiences conducting agonistic participatory research on emerging technologies at a large technology company, we highlight the limitations of doing participatory work within such contexts by empirically illustrating how and when these relationships threaten to appropriate and alienate participant labor. We argue that a labor-conscious approach to computational systems impact research is critical for countering the commodification of inclusion and invite fellow researchers to more actively investigate such dynamics. To this end, we provide (1) a framework for documenting divisions of labor within participatory research, design, and data practices, and (2) a series of short provocations that help locate and inventory sites of extraction within participatory engagements.