Text by: Chaudhary Muhammad Aqdus Ilyas – University of Cambridge

The 24th ACM Conference on Computer-Supported Cooperative Work and Social Computing (CSCW 21) was held virtually from 23 October – 27 October 2021.  This conference is the premier venue for research in the design and use of technologies that affect groups, organizations, communities, and networks. Bringing together top researchers and practitioners, CSCW explores the technical, social, material, and theoretical challenges of designing technology to support collaborative work and life activities. Under this conference, many workshops have been arranged to present their work in the related fields as mentioned below:

  1. Addressing Challenges and Opportunities in Online Extremism Research: An Interdisciplinary Perspective
  2. CUI@CSCW: Inclusive and Collaborative Child-facing Voice Technologies
  3. Social Computing and Collaborative Work in Latin America and Beyond
  4. The Future of Care Work: Towards a Radical Politics of Care in CSCW Research and Practice
  5. Investigating and Mitigating Biases in Crowdsourced Data
  6. Human-Machine Partnerships in the Future of Work: Exploring the Role of Emerging Technologies in Future Workplaces
  7. From Alinsky to Zoom: Understanding Relational, Structure-Based Organizing in 2021
  8. arttech: Performance and Embodiment in Technology for Resilience and Mental Health
  9. MOSafely: Building an Open-Source HCAI Community to Make the Internet a Safer Place for Youth
  10. Subtle CSCW Traits: Tensions Around Identity Formation and Online Activism in the Asian Diaspora
  11. The Future of Research on Online Health Communities: Discussing Membership, Structure, and Support
  12. The Global Labours of AI and Data-Intensive Systems

In one of the workshops titled “Human-Machine Partnerships in the Future of Work:  Exploring the Role of Emerging Technologies in Future Workplaces” the University of Cambridge (UCAM) has presented its work related to the WorkingAge project. This workshop focuses on technologies in the workplace, including studies that investigate technologies for collaborative work, explore new work environments, and address the importance of political and organizational aspects of technologies in workplaces. Emerging technologies, such as AI and robotics, have been successfully deployed in various workplaces, and their proliferation is rapidly expanding. These technologies have not only changed the nature of work but also reinforced the power and social dynamics within workplaces, requiring us to rethink the legitimate relationship between emerging technologies and human workers.

At this platform, UCAM has presented its work titled “Inferring User Facial Affect in Work-Like Tasks and Environment”. In this article, we explored the development of an affect analysis system in a work-like environment considering the challenges of cognitive load, worker’s performance and physiological activities. For this purpose, we simulated the work-like environment and collected the facial data from twelve participants performing work-like tasks. Our results showed that people in working environments display subtle emotional states than in non-working environments.  This work is of great importance for affect recognition in terms of valence and arousal: with mapping of predictions to a user being in a positive, neutral or negative as well as inactive, neutral or inactive affective states.

Researchers from other universities and organizations also presented their findings to investigate the studies to shape a future of work around robots, AI, machine learning, and the psychological well-being of the workforce that is both meaningful and productive. Overall, participants from various backgrounds emphasized the importance of the development of equitable future work arrangements to identify how these emerging technologies will develop relationships with human workers and How can these emerging technologies develop mutually beneficial partnerships with human workers? Through this platform, stakeholders from industries and academia tried to illustrate the meaning of human-machine partnerships (HMP) by highlighting that how we define HMP may shape the design of the future working environment. Thus this forum encouraged interdisciplinary perspectives to develop a taxonomy of HMP that can strengthen our relationship with embodied agents, machines but also evaluate and reconsider existing theoretical, methodological, and design approaches in HMP research considering psychological and physiological aspects of the workforce.