Project Details

Description (abstract)

The multidisciplinary and empirical research project DARE focuses on technical interfaces as the digital gate to law. Technologies (e.g. chatbots, webpages, online forms) are increasingly the first step towards accessing justice. Much of justice and the experience of it is nowadays mediated by computers. The fact that technological design is not and cannot be free from human situatedness of its creators brings with it new legal challenges. When the citizen interacts with the digital public administration, this human-computer interaction may in worst cases lead to inaccessibility and injustice.

Although digitalisation of administration is largely positive and, in many ways, necessary in late modern society, it also raises questions of algorithmic fairness, such as equality and accessibility. DARE shows that solutions can be found by combined efforts of regulatory and technological frameworks, through “law by design” (Motzfeldt 2017) and “transparency of design” (Koulu 2021) put into action by including the end-users’ – i.e. the citizens’ – perspectives in design processes.

Technological design always incorporates values and ideologies of the designers and others involved in the design process. People design technology and people have finite imagination, which inevitably makes them biased. That bias may in turn be reflected on the design, making the digital world accessible for some while also excluding others. Such structural practices often remain implicit despite policy and legal action (McCluskey 1988; Crenshaw 1989). The usability indicators (Hornbaek 2006) are a key tool for implementing the principle of good administration into technological design. Thus, measurable usability becomes a prerequisite for digitalisation of administration.

The technological interfaces with which citizens increasingly interact when dealing with public administration should comply with and manifest the law. However, what law, how so, and what does this in actual practice mean? Legal questions of this interplay between technology and law remain under-researched and this is exactly where DARE comes into play. The project takes a closer look at the impact technological design has on legal rights, and equally, the impact law has on the design process of these technologies. Furthermore, it dives into whether law should inform technological design in administration and if so, how.

In order to empirically research (design experiments, surveys, interviews) and meaningfully engage with these questions, the multidisciplinary DARE project brings together socio-legal studies, social sciences and computer science. Its social impact aims to unearth new knowledge on how technological design puts law into action and develop implementable practices to improve technology design. The major scientific impact of DARE is to ultimately establish legal interface design (law-by-design) as an independent interdisciplinary research field.

DARE is led by Riikka Koulu (Faculties of Law and Social Sciences); managed by Suvi Sankari (Law Faculty); and other core participants are Ida Koivisto (Law Faculty); Matti Nelimarkka (CSDS / Faculty of Social Sciences); Tuomas Ojanen (Law Faculty); Kati Rantala (KRIMO / Faculty of Social Sciences); Hanne Hirvonen (Law Faculty); and Daria Gritsenko (Aleksanteri Institute / Faculty of Arts).

Layman's description

In digital public administration, citizen no longer encounters a human administrator. Instead, she encounters a computer interface such as a chatbot or a webpage. As these interfaces are a product of human design, they cannot be neutral. Instead, they often include bias, which may further lead to unequal or even discriminatory practices and structures. This is the problem that DARE aims to resolve: technological interfaces should comply with the law, but we often remain ignorant of that compliance. DARE examines the interconnections between law and technological design. It addresses the problem of law compliance of technology design both descriptively (what is the status quo?) and normatively (what should be done?). To achieve its goals, DARE builds on socio-legal studies, social sciences and computer science. Most importantly, DARE aims at stablishing legal interface design as an interdisciplinary research field.
Effective start/end date01/09/202130/08/2025