Toward Equitable Participatory Design: Data Feminism for CSCW amidst Multiple Pandemics

Catherine D’Ignazio*, Erhardt Graeff, Christina N. Harrington, Daniela K. Rosner
(*All authors contributed equally to this proposal.)

Call for Participation

CSCW, like many other academic communities, is reckoning with its roles, responsibilities, and practices amidst 2020’s multiple pandemics of COVID-19, anti-Black racism, and a global economic crisis. Together, these pandemics plague the year 2020—exposing (and sometimes exacerbating) deep disparities and inequities worldwide. Strict lockdowns crippling tourism, service, and informal industries have impacted people along existing lines of race, gender, and immigration status. Curfews and mandatory face coverings outdoors further threaten over-policed communities such as Black and brown Americans who are almost three times more likely to be killed by police than white Americans. Concurrently, the computing industry is booming, with rising demands for internet platforms that support knowledge industry work and virtual connections between people unable to leave their homes. Current events have prompted a range of targeted computing developments such as contact tracing apps, police body cameras, crime data tools, and increased opportunities for gig work. At the center of these interrelated injustices and purported solutions is the collection, interpretation, and use of data about people. Such data practices emerge out of the long and disturbing history of oppressive data science, a history continually met with liberatory tactics such as data refusal, counter-data collection, and counter-visualization in support of Black liberation. Although computing’s awareness of historical and structural inequalities and its repertoire of tools for anti-oppressive data science and technology design have grown, the pace of society’s datafication and the demand for solutionism have seemed to move even faster.

In this workshop, we address these serious challenges related to data practices among the theoretical frameworks of data feminism and equitable participatory design. Data feminism describes a framework for dismantling power asymmetries undergirding data science, and equitable participatory design serves as a set of community-driven methods for approaching computing research with marginalized and vulnerable groups. Together, this framework and approach suggest that we address harms from overexposure caused by surveillance or algorithmic bias and from underexposure caused by design that is insufficiently participatory and equitable. This workshop will elicit narratives of good and bad design and data work with communities, apply the lenses of equitable participatory design and data feminism to current CSCW projects and our global context, and develop practical outputs for supporting academics and practitioners in pursuit of democratic and just partnerships in this moment and into the future.

The centrality of data to our techno-social reality and ongoing inequalities in agency and representation through data collection, interpretation, and use demand that the CSCW community continually interrogate its data and design practices. Data feminism, equitable PD, and the politics of accountability help us dive into relevant questions to be explored during this workshop:

  • Who are you? In what ways do you hold privilege? What harmful data practices has your privilege protected you from?
  • Who gets to frame challenges for data and design? How is the problem framing stage part of participatory design?
  • What does it mean to engage in data collection and interpretation practices as care work?
  • How are marginalized groups currently excluded from each phase of data-centric efforts?
  • How do we honor bodies and eliminate trauma to those bodies in our data practices?
  • How can identifying missing data, collecting counterdata, doing intersectional analysis and creating counter-hegemonic algorithms be incorporated into more projects?
  • What is the larger responsibility of computing professionals with their individual and institutional power when it comes to data work during these multiple pandemics, and what should public scholarship in HCI look like as it increasingly engages such questions of public interest?

Current models of how researchers use data are exploitative and further push researched people to the margins.

Who should attend

We welcome community organizers, designers, design researchers, journalists, scholars and more. If you have any questions about whether your work is relevant, feel free to reach out: dignazio@mit.edu.


The cost of participation will be $20 (US). You do not have to pay the CSCW conference fee in order to attend. If this represents a burden, please reach out and we can likely figure out some fee-waivers: dignazio@mit.edu.

How to Submit

We welcome submissions from researchers and from community-based organizers and organizations. We are soliciting:

  1. Name, organization and contact information
  2. A 500-word-max personal statement from each applicant that introduces yourself to the workshop group by answering the following questions: “Who are you and who are you accountable to? What perspective or experience do you want to share with the workshop? What perspective or experience do you hope to gain at the workshop?” Note that we will share these personal statements with the workshop group prior to the event, so please write for the wider group.
  3. Links to related work (or uploaded files) that you would like to share with the organizers and with the group. Links may include campaigns, art & poetry, personal or organizational websites, videos, zines, essays, blog posts or scholarly papers on related topics. Academics – if of interest, links may include a position paper written in response to the workshop theme.

To make a submission, please fill out this Google Form by Sept 14, 2020.

Questions? Email Catherine – dignazio@mit.edu – or any of the organizers.

Important Dates

Aug 1, 2020: Call for submissions opens
Sept 14, 2020: Deadline for submissions
Sept 25, 2020: Notification of acceptance
Oct 17 or Oct 18, 2020: Workshop date


Catherine D’Ignazio
Erhardt Graeff
Christina N. Harrington
Daniela K. Rosner

More about the Organizers


CSCW 2020 Workshops will take
place during the weekend of
October 17–18, 2020.

All activities will be virtual.

More about our Proposed Schedule


We endeavor to make our workshop accessible to all participants, and especially invite non-academics to join us.

More about our Accessibility Commitments

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