What is your role and what does it involve?
I’m a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Edinburgh’s Design Informatics department looking at intelligible AI systems in the context of news production. I’m also a journalist, so this research is the perfect combination of my two main interests. My research involves modelling journalistic workflows, as well as journalists’ experiences and understandings of AI, in order to create design interventions that foster responsible, ethical and secure development and use of these systems for news production.
How long have you been with PETRAS and what was your previous role?
I’ve been with PETRAS since August 2019 but Edinburgh Uni has been involved since it began. Before this, I split my time between working as a BBC journalist and conducting independent research into the nexus of emerging technologies and news production.
Tell us about a project you have been working on
Right now I’m in the early stages of exploring the social, conceptual and experiential understandings of algorithmic systems amongst BBC journalists in an attempt to move beyond the current technical discussions of ‘transparent’ or ‘explainable’ AI. I’m interviewing and observing editors and journalists in the newsroom while also modelling workflows and data flows. System ‘intelligibility’ has become a pressing issue in journalism amid the proliferation of disinformation and opinion manipulation and a greater recognition of the risks that complex and opaque systems pose to established mechanisms of accountability, decision-making, and professional judgment. I am working towards developing recommendations and design interventions to open up connected and ML-driven systems to the scrutiny of domain experts in order to foster purposeful (re-)shaping for public service news production.
What is your favourite album, film and novel?
Hard to choose… but Stop Making Sense by Talking Heads is permanently on my playlists, I loved watching Labyrinth as a kid and still do now, and enjoyed The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy so much that I’m still recommending it twenty years on.
Who would be your dream dinner guests?
Let’s get these round the table for a chat: Virginia Woolf, Seamus Heaney, George Orwell, Margaret Atwood, Noamh Chomsky, Christopher Hitchens… and maybe Eddie Izzard could join for some after dinner jokes… and then Fleetwood Mac could do a live set… and, oh, I think it’s turning into a party…
What advice would you give your younger self?
I’d say don’t stress out too much – a little bit of perspective is a wonderful thing… but I’m pretty sure my younger self wouldn’t listen.
What would it surprise people to know about you?
I passed my driving test first time… and have never driven since.