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Designing Socio-Technical Systems of Truth

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In a society now frequently labeled “post-factual,” how can we create social technologies that support the pursuit of facts and encourage trustworthy institutions? What designs and design processes can prevent these technologies from becoming fonts of vigilantism, harassment, destructive rumors, and systemic bias?

The two-day workshop, held March-1-2, 2018 at Virginia Tech’s Center for Human-Computer Interaction (CHCI) in Blacksburg, Virginia, explored interdisciplinary perspectives on designing socio-technical systems of truth. We advocated for human-centered systems of truth that acknowledge the role of belief, testing, and trust in the accretion of knowledge. We focused on processes of questioning and accountability that enable a deeper understanding of the world through the careful, comprehensive gathering and analysis of evidence. We considered the entire investigative pipeline, from ethical information gathering and archiving, to balanced and insightful analysis, to responsible content authoring and dissemination, to productive reflection and discourse about its implications.

The workshop brought to campus four accomplished speakers from diverse disciplines, including computer science, communication, design, and science and technology studies, to present their cutting-edge work on systems of truth, and engage in interactive discussions with Virginia Tech faculty and graduate students. Break-out sessions focused on identifying broad, cross-disciplinary open challenges, and generating promising solution paths in research, education, and practice. The workshop outcomes included system designs, policy proposals, and research publications and agendas for social technologies that promote truth.