Dr Andy MacFarlane

Reader - Centre for HCI Design

A Question of Design: Implementing AI-Driven Tools in Newsrooms

Emerging technologies in journalism have gained momentum with the promises of artificial intelligence (AI) (Beckett 2019; Porlezza 2018). Albeit these tools have become pervasive in journalism practice (Thurman, Lewis & Kunert 2019; Zamith 2019), it is still an open question “how humans and algorithms [should] be blended together in order to efficiently and effectively produce news information” (Diakopoulos 2019, p. 8). While AI offers many opportunities, it also entails challenges in the design of the relation between human judgment and automation (Helberger et al. 2019). How such technologies can be interwoven with journalistic values and routines to ensure an accountable use of algorithms become paramount because “algorithms are judged, made sense of and explained with reference to existing journalistic values and professional ethics” (Bucher 2018, p. 129). In our research project “DMINR” we shed light on how the design of these tools fits with professional epistemology and normative aspects of journalism. Through a mixed-methods approach, using design ethnography and semi-structured interviews, we investigate the design and use of AI technology in news production at the BBC and The Times. The sample included journalists and technologists such as data scientists who were responsible for the design of AI technologies. We found that journalists are open to try new technologies that benefit their work, but they prefer tools they feel comfortable with as a way of retaining control. Technologists instead lament the struggle to embed new technologies into journalistic workflows due to the difficulty to operationalize editorial routines. The consensus among participants is that human judgement is required to make complex decisions in journalism, and the design should thus focus on values and control.

About the speaker:

Andrew MacFarlane is a Reader in Information Retrieval at City, University of London in the Centre for HCI Design. His research interests in information retrieval or search technologies are wide ranging from the technical side of computing (search algorithms) to information science (meta-data for search) and HCI (accessible information retrieval systems). He has developed a particular interest over the years in professional search in various environments such as journalism and advertising and has been an investigator on a number of different projects. including the EU funded SocialSensor project and more recently the Google DNI funded project DMINR both of which had a focus on verification of information using search technologies for journalists

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