Contestable Camera Cars concept video.

Contestable AI by Design

To ensure artificial intelligence (AI) systems respect human rights to autonomy and dignity, they must allow human intervention throughout their lifecycle.

This Ph.D. research project aims to develop new knowledge for the design of mechanisms that (1) enable people to contest individual algorithmic decisions made by AI systems; and (2) enable people to collectively contest the design and development of AI systems, particularly as it pertains to datasets and models.

AI system fairness, accountability, and transparency are not problems that can be solved by technical means alone. Effective solutions require careful consideration of technological and social factors together and should take local contexts into account. These are challenges that design research is uniquely equipped to meet.

The project takes a practice-based, action-oriented approach. The main research activity is prototyping mechanisms for contestation in new and existing AI systems in the lab and the field, focusing on local governments using AI for algorithmic decision-making in urban public administration.

We aim to present a portfolio of examples of contestable AI in context and generative, intermediate-level design knowledge that aids others in researching and designing AI systems that respect human rights.


Contestable Camera Cars: A Speculative Design Exploration of Public AI That Is Open and Responsive to Dispute

Local governments increasingly use artificial intelligence (AI) for automated decision-making. Contestability, making systems responsive to dispute, is a way to ensure they respect human rights to autonomy and dignity. We investigate the design of public urban AI systems for contestability through the example of camera cars: human-driven vehicles equipped with image sensors. Applying a provisional framework for contestable AI, we use speculative design to create a concept video of a contestable camera car. Using this concept video, we then conduct semi-structured interviews with 17 civil servants who work with AI employed by a large northwestern European city. The resulting data is analyzed using reflexive thematic analysis to identify the main challenges facing the implementation of contestability in public AI. We describe how civic participation faces issues of representation, public AI systems should integrate with existing democratic practices, and cities must expand capacities for responsible AI development and operation.

Alfrink, K., Keller, I., Doorn, N., & Kortuem, G. (2023). Contestable Camera Cars: A Speculative Design Exploration of Public AI That Is Open and Responsive to Dispute.

Kars Alfrink presenting on contestable AI at Responsible Sensing Lab anniversary event 2023-02-16 (recording by Pakhuis de Zwijger).

Contestable AI by Design: Towards a Framework


Practices contributing to contestable AI

During business and use-case development, ex-ante safeguards are put in place to protect against potential harms. During design and procurement of training and test data, agonistic development approaches enable stakeholder participation, making room for and leveraging conflict towards continuous improvement. During building and testing quality assurance measures are used to ensure stakeholder interests are centered and progress towards shared goals is tracked. During deployment and monitoring, further quality assurance measures ensure system performance is tracked on an ongoing basis, and the feedback loop with future system development is closed. Finally, throughout, risk mitigation intervenes in the system context to reduce the odds of failure, and third party oversight strengthens the role of external reviewers to enable ongoing outside scrutiny.


Features contributing to contestable AI

System developers create built-in safeguards to constrain the behavior of AI systems. Human controllers use interactive controls to correct or override AI system decisions. Decision subjects use interactive controls, explanations, intervention requests, and tools for scrutiny to contest AI system decisions. Third parties also use tools for scrutiny and intervention requests for oversight and contestation on behalf of individuals and groups.

Alfrink, K., Keller, I., Kortuem, G., & Doorn, N. (2022). Contestable AI by Design: Towards a Framework. Minds and Machines