In a world where Artificial Intelligence (AI) is rapidly growing and influencing the everyday lives of citizens, it is becoming increasingly important for the public to have a say in its development. This has the potential to increase transparency and trust, safeguarding against inherent bias, ensuring ethical use of AI, generating demand-driven AI solutions, and bringing diverse perspectives and ideas to the table.
The SFI ADAPT Research Centre’s #DiscussAI ‘Citizen’s Think-Ins’ initiative is currently at the forefront of fostering conversations around these technological advancements in Ireland. Last week ADAPT’s Think-Ins team held a public engagement workshop in Dublin on the importance of the Citizen Think-Ins model in promoting public engagement with research. The workshop was attended by a diverse group of people from both academic and civil society organisations.
The entities represented at the event include Dublin City University, Maynooth University, Technological University Dublin, the UCD Conway Institute, the Insight Centre for Data Analytics, the ADAPT research Centre, the DCU Anti-Bullying Centre, Trinity College Dublin, the UCD Earth Institute, the Centre for Smart Ageing, Science Foundation Ireland, Webwise, Scivil, Citizen Science Vlaanderen, Smart Docklands, Queen’s University Belfast, Stickydot, Native Events, Saint John of God, Solenis, and Enable Ireland, among others.
Through the various presentations, the attendees were taken through the workings of the Citizens Think-Ins approach in promoting public engagement with research, and observations from the application of the model. They also had the opportunity to share ideas on how they would like the future of the Citizen’s Think-Ins to look like.
Presentations were made by Professor Deiric O’Broin, Professor of Public Policy and Practice in the school of Law and Government at Dublin City University; Declan McKibben, Executive Director at the ADAPT Research Centre;, Dr. Emma Clarke, the ADAPT Centre’s Education and Public Engagement Officer, Micheal Creek from Brussels-based Stickydot collective, Deirdre Fee and Gearoid Kearney from the Centre for Smart Ageing in Kerry, and PhD Researchers from ADAPT, based in TU Dublin, Abdullahi Abubakar Kawu and Fatima Badmos.
“The Citizen’s Think-Ins facilitate informed two-way dialogue about the opportunities, benefits, challenges and concerns regarding AI, privacy, and Ethics. The Think-In format can be used as a tool to explore public perception of topical discussions like Facial Recognition Technology” Dr Clarke said.
She explained that co-creation is the core of the Think-Ins. Through it, the ADAPT Centre actively engages communities in developing ideas for further and wider discussions. Co-creation workshops are always held with the public to co-choose topics to explore and co-develop content for the Citizen Think-Ins.
The ADAPT Centre has used the model to explore how an app to automatically translate between signed and spoken languages might work in practice, and most recently, to explore how the older population in County Kerry is adapting to new technologies. There are also several other projects where the approach has been and is being used, including a move away from AI-related topics to explore how Circular Living might contribute to a more sustainable Ballymun in 2030, with the DCU Centre for Climate and Society and the Rediscovery Centre.
The findings so far
Michael Creek, from Stickydot, presented the findings of the pre and the post Think-In event surveys about people’s perceptions of the model and its topics of discussion. The findings are as follows,
- Motivation to attend the discussions was based on curiosity, desire to share opinion on a topic and make new contacts.
- Think-Ins embolden participants to have their say about AI and other science-based projects that impact their lives.
- Think-Ins expose participants to diverse points of view relating to AI and digital engagement technologies.
- Public engagement in the Think-Ins enhances understanding of artificial intelligence.
- The Think-In established a safe space for dialogue and discussion around AI.
What people say about the #DiscussAI Citizen Think-Ins
Often, technology is developed without insights from older persons. This generation quite often feel like they have been abandoned when it comes to their digital journey. The Citizen Think-Ins framework is a brilliant way of engaging the community and allowing them to share their insights.
The feedback from the participants of this study was extremely positive. None of them had ever heard of ADAPT, and the work being undertaken by them. Each group was very appreciative of the inclusive nature of the think ins on both occasions at the Centre for Smart Ageing Farranfore and felt their experience with technology and their opinion really mattered.
The Think-In is a good opportunity for researchers like me to discuss our research work with the public. It enables us to see some other perspectives to our work and helps us to understand the context for which our work is relevant.
As a researcher working on developing an outdoor physical activity web for the older adults. The Think-In in Kerry gave me the opportunity to interact with the older persons and understand their experiences, needs and barriers in dealing with technology. As a web developer, it is important to know what your target population wants. Otherwise your design will be of no use.
The ADAPT Research Centre working together with the Centre for Engaged Research has organised a follow-up workshop on July 13 at DCU Drumcondra for people and organisations interested in starting and running their own Citizen Think-Ins. Registration is ongoing and can be done through clicking https://bit.ly/HostingAThinkIn
Some of the photos from the #DiscussAI Citizen's Think-Ins public engagement in Dublin