This Thing Called Fairness: Disciplinary Confusion Realizing a Value in Technology

Deirdre K. Mulligan, Joshua A. Kroll, Nitin Kohli, and Richmond Y. Wong. 2019. This Thing Called Fairness: Disciplinary Confusion Realizing a Value in Technology. Proc. ACM Hum.-Comput. Interact. 3, CSCW, Article 119 (November 2019), 36 pages. DOI/10.1145/3359221

36 Pages Posted: 9 Oct 2019

See all articles by Deirdre K. Mulligan

Deirdre K. Mulligan

University of California, Berkeley - School of Information

Joshua A. Kroll

Naval Postgraduate School

Nitin Kohli

UC Berkeley School of Information

Richmond Wong

University of California, Berkeley - School of Information

Date Written: September 25, 2019

Abstract

The explosion in the use of software in important sociotechnical systems has renewed focus on the study of the way technical constructs reflect policies, norms, and human values. This effort requires the engagement of scholars and practitioners from many disciplines. And yet, these disciplines often conceptualize the operative values very differently while referring to them using the same vocabulary. The resulting conflation of ideas confuses discussions about values in technology at disciplinary boundaries. In the service of improving this situation, this paper examines the value of shared vocabularies, analytics, and other tools that facilitate conversations about values in light of these disciplinary specific conceptualizations, the role such tools play in furthering research and practice, outlines different conceptions of "fairness" deployed in discussions about computer systems, and provides an analytic tool for interdisciplinary discussions and collaborations around the concept of fairness. We use a case study of risk assessments in criminal justice applications to both motivate our effort--describing how conflation of different concepts under the banner of "fairness" led to unproductive confusion - and illustrate the value of the fairness analytic by demonstrating how the rigorous analysis it enables can assist in identifying key areas of theoretical, political, and practical misunderstanding or disagreement, and where desired support alignment or collaboration in the absence of consensus.

Keywords: analytic, fairness, values, infrastructure, interdisciplinary

Suggested Citation

Mulligan, Deirdre K. and Kroll, Joshua A. and Kohli, Nitin and Wong, Richmond, This Thing Called Fairness: Disciplinary Confusion Realizing a Value in Technology (September 25, 2019). Deirdre K. Mulligan, Joshua A. Kroll, Nitin Kohli, and Richmond Y. Wong. 2019. This Thing Called Fairness: Disciplinary Confusion Realizing a Value in Technology. Proc. ACM Hum.-Comput. Interact. 3, CSCW, Article 119 (November 2019), 36 pages. DOI/10.1145/3359221, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3459247

Deirdre K. Mulligan

University of California, Berkeley - School of Information ( email )

102 South Hall
Berkeley, CA 94720-4600
United States

Joshua A. Kroll (Contact Author)

Naval Postgraduate School ( email )

1411 Cunningham Road
Glasgow Hall, Building 305
Monterey, CA 93943
United States

Nitin Kohli

UC Berkeley School of Information ( email )

Richmond Wong

University of California, Berkeley - School of Information ( email )

102 South Hall
Berkeley, CA 94720-4600
United States

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