On the last day of summer, August 31st, we had the great pleasure of welcoming four researchers from Aalto University. Professor of Practice Nitin Sawhney, Dr. Minttu Tikka and PhD fellows Kaisla Kajava and Karolina Drobotowicz are all part of the CRAI-CIS (CRitical AI and Crisis Interrogatives) research group in the Department of Computer Science at Aalto University. They are all former colleagues of mine (Henriette, lab manager) from my time at Aalto, and I was excited to see these two worlds collide.

During their visit, the group met with the ETHOS community, the TiP research group as well as the REFLACT research group.

In their session in ETHOS Lab, the team took turns presenting different elements of the group’s work. CRAI-CIS currently has three major projects, all of which Nitin Sawhney is the principal investigator of: ‘Reconstructing Crisis Narratives for Trustworthy Communication and Cooperative Agency’,  ‘Civic Agency in AI? Democratizing Algorithmic Services in the City (CAAI)’ and most recently ‘Designing Inclusive & Trustworthy Digital Public Services for Migrants in Finland (Trust-M)’.

Nitin Sawhney shared how each of the current projects in the CRAI-CIS group was actually born out of pedagogical exercises – such as the course Critical AI & Data Justice in Society, which I taught with Nitin and our colleague Sid Rao.

The team also shared reflections on the terminology around different disciplines working together, which in turn made us reflect about ETHOS. Is the lab in fact multidisciplinary? Cross-disciplinary? Or perhaps transdisciplinary?

Minttu Tikka spoke about creating ‘a symphony’ in collaborative work (in reference to Susan Halford and Mike Savage). She also highlighted the challenges of not “losing” your own discipline, but rather connecting it to others. This prompted a conversation which took this analogy even further. Building on the story of the symphony, perhaps crossdisciplinarity needs a conductor?

This made me wonder: What would be the ideal skills and characteristics of such a conductor? What level of knowledge of each discipline would a conductor need? How can you enable disciplinary expertise, without reinforcing silos? And what narratives are accepted in each different discipline?

You can find out much more about the CRAI-CIS group and their work right here.