Understanding Human-Machine Networks through a survey

…The main objective of the HUMANE survey was to engage practitioners, such as policy makers, domain professionals, user groups, IT experts and researchers in the development of the roadmaps in the domains of sharing economy, eHealth and citizen participation, to collect their feedback and input, as well as to validate or challenge the work that has done for the HUMANE roadmaps so far…

In the course of the HUMANE project we examine important social domains, where human-machine interaction is expected to be significant in the future, and studied in more detail the type of interactions, the roles of humans and machines, and the challenges that must be addressed to ensure the successful integration of machines in a way that is beneficial for society. In order to overcome these challenges, there is a need for a concerted effort between different stakeholders. Building on this work, we have developed a preliminary version of roadmaps for future HMNs in different social domains focusing on the goals to reach in each domain and the steps needed by the different stakeholders to achieve these goals.

The focus of the roadmaps has been on three domains: the sharing economy, eHealth and citizen participation. These are domains embracing exciting technological applications, which promise to bring great benefits to the economy and society. The roadmaps are a systematic effort towards understanding the goals for HMNs in various domains, proposing concrete solutions, and aiding stakeholders in recognizing shared goals and their roles in reaching them.

A roadmap is a product of a collaborative process and it would be optimal to arrive at a consensus on all issues, or at least to represent and try to incorporate all different opinions. The stakeholders’ involvement helps to identify more detailed objectives, other appropriate design strategies or examples of design strategies that have already been applied in specific products or use cases.  As such the feedback of stakeholders was crucial, particularly in determining in more detail the tasks that need to be performed, the timeline and resources.

The inclusion of stakeholders was important in the work of the HUMANE project as they have a central role in the development of roadmaps for HMNs in these social domains. The main objective of the HUMANE survey was to engage practitioners, such as policy makers, domain professionals, user groups, IT experts and researchers in the development of the roadmaps in the domains of sharing economy, eHealth and citizen participation, to collect their feedback and input, as well as to validate or challenge the work that has done for the HUMANE roadmaps so far.

Overall 75 people have participated in our online survey. Below, we summarize the major conclusions for each of the examined social domains.

The sharing economy has emerged as a new way of accessing goods and services, and the respondents expect this trend to be strengthened in the next 12 months. Among identified motivational factors for consumers in sharing economy services, financial gains are considered to be the most important. This is in line with previous studies on sharing economy services (Hamari et al. , 2016).

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The most interesting expectation of the respondents for the near future seems to be that sharing economy services will challenge and directly compete with traditional service providers. This may either lead to sharing economy service providers growing to dominate a sector (such as Uber seems to be doing in ride sharing in many locations) or existing players acquiring successful start-ups and then raising barriers to new entrants in the market so as to protect their own position and investments.

Another interesting expectation which was considered important according to the respondents is the need for substantial changes in public policy and regulation to accommodate sharing economy services. This has also been acknowledged on European level and was addressed in the European Agenda for the collaborative economy.[1]

To change consumer behaviour patterns towards sharing and collaborative consumption was considered as a key challenge. This is due to the fact that it concerns the discontinuity of habit (such as moving from buying new to buying second-hand, moving from individual ownership to shared ownership). Another key challenge according to the respondents was to strengthen security and privacy in sharing economy services. Thus solutions in such services must guarantee the security and integrity of their users’ personal data.

Infrastructure and technology providers (providing the equipment for machine agency) as well as consumers (representing human agency) seem to be important groups in shaping sharing economy services in the future. This confirms the HUMANE’s objectives of analysing HMNs in terms of human agency and machine agency among the other identified layers. The importance attributed to regulation in order to ensure for that services are in line with consumer and employee rights is in the obvious sense of recognizing that emergent socio-technical systems inevitably require some sort of standards and responsible bodies if they are to function and grow in the long term.

In the domain of eHealth, the most interesting topic to the respondents who participated in the survey was medical devices, followed by mHealth apps. It is to be noted, however, that medical devices can have embedded mHealth apps, and in the future more and more of these devices will be devices connected to the Internet. Therefore we may consider that these topics form a wider topic. The importance attributed to such devices was expected, as they can be used by the patients themselves, and therefore have a larger chance to become part of everyday life for many people, and not just medical professionals.

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The large importance attributed by the participants in the survey to such devices also confirms the HUMANE consortium’s decision to focus on such devices for the eHealth roadmap, rather than other eHealth topics. The importance attributed to privacy and confidentiality of medical information can also be attributed to the fact that this topic directly concerns individuals, who fear that their sensitive medical information can fall into the wrong hands. This is in line with the greater awareness that people now have about online privacy risks, following the publicity that the topic has recently acquired (allegations for mass surveillance programs, publication of cases of selling medical data, etc.) On the other hand, the fact that security is considered a less important issue can be due to the fact that it is often confused with privacy, although the terms have a separate meaning.

 

On the level of difficulty and expected duration of each proposed action, we get some counter-intuitive results. What we considered as one of the most difficult tasks, developing eHealth services with guaranteed QoS, is not shared by the majority of participants. On the other hand, they considered as demanding tasks to perform clinical validations and updating the regulatory framework. It is also worth noting that only very few of the actions were considered to require the highest implementation period (between one and two years). We will come back to this issue as we report the focus groups results in the next section.

The results also attributed the leading role for the implementation of most actions to researchers. The fact that the majority of the survey participants so far comes from the academia, may also bias these results. On the other hand, all the respondents recognised the collaborative work that must be done for all actions, since they considered all stakeholders necessary for all actions.

In the domain of citizen participation, public discussion is the most frequently reported form of citizen participation. Such discussion should take place at early stages of policy making, so that ideas can be formulated from the people themselves. The majority of the respondents reported to use social media channels to discuss issues of public participation with other citizens and mostly blogs and social networks (Twitter, Facebook, etc.).

Among identified barriers towards a citizen participation network, the lack of interest from both politicians and citizens about the process and the final results was considered to be the most important. It may be speculated that this, perhaps, is due to the fear of technology amongst some of the older generation of politicians and citizens.  Also, the kind of discussion that goes on at the level of social media is seen by many to be totally removed from the type of policy discussions that are essential at the level of governance. Thus citizen proposals may be viewed by policy makers as ‘superficial’ and not ‘adequately grounded’. Another reason for not taking into account citizen input can be the delays incurred, since citizen ideas and requirements may be hard to implement.

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The openness and transparency was considered as the most important opportunity created in this domain. Among the challenges identified, trust was considered very important for an effective citizen participation network. This is also related to the lack of openness and transparency and confirms the large importance for this opportunity to be taken into account.

In regard to stakeholders, interestingly it is the citizens themselves who are regarded as most important: they and non-governmental agencies presumably provide the impetus for debate, of course. So their engagement is crucial. Equally, that policy makers are seen as the least important – even less than the technical system designers – suggest that the overall objective of such citizen participation networks is public debate, not shaping policy.

The document with all the detailed results will be made available on https://humane2020.eu/publications/  in July 2017.  Prior to this, please contact m.klitsi@atc.g  for an individual copy.

Notes

[1] European Commission (2016). A European agenda for the collaborative economy. Available at: http://ec.europa.eu/DocsRoom/documents/16881

References

Hamari, J., Sjøklint, M., & Ukkonen, A. (2016). The sharing economy: Why people participate in collaborative consumption. Journal of the Association for Information Science and Technology, 67(9), 2047–2059. http://doi.org/10.1002/asi.23552