Maja van der velden | Research


with a creative commons license

My research interest focuses on cognitive justice and technology, the relations between humans, technology design, knowledge, gender, and democracy. In a trans-disciplinary approach, I combine ecological approaches found in science and technology studies, feminist and postcolonial theories, ethical pluralism, and practical experiences and politics as an activist.

I am at the moment working on five projects:

Another Design is Possible
This small research project builds on my PhD thesis "Another Design is Possible: Looking for ethical agency in global information and communication technologies" and focuses on two threads I started in my thesis: 1) a post-colonial perspective on databases and database designs; and (2) the conceptualisation of the database as authoring tool.

Autonomy and Automation
A key challenge in an inclusive Information Society is to understand the relationship between autonomy and automation: Does the automatic system increase human dependency on technology and decrease human autonomy or does it strengthen human agency and human autonomy? Can we design systems that support an equilibrium or balance between autonomy and automation? We argue that the focus on finding an equilibrium may conceal the complex and multiple interactions between autonomy and automation. An relational perspective on autonomy, autonomy-in-relation, helps us to explore human autonomy as an enactment in different configurations of people and things. In my case study I investigate how patients enact their privacy within the wider network of technology, markets, laws, and social norms. I will explore the regulatory ecology of patient privacy in Norway, Canada, and on the Internet.
See Autonomy and Automation in an Information Society for All (2009) by Maja van der Velden, Tone Bratteteig, Sisse Finken, Christina Mörtberg. Paper [pdf]

Cognitive Justice
My understanding of cognitive justice is inspired by the work by Shiv Visvanathan and Boaventura de Sousa Santos. Cognitive justice is the recognition of the diversity of knowledges. Such recognition is not based on western science as the final arbiter or on the widespread understanding of indigenous knowledge as a complete, static body of practices and beliefs. Cognitive justice is not a flight into relativism, but a recognition that no knowledge community is privileged in producing true or good knowledge. I use figurations, such as palimpsest and contact zone, to explore the meeting of knowledges.
See Design for a Common World: On ethical agency and cognitive justice (2008)
Pre-print paper [pdf]

Gender and Design
Can we design for gender without essentialising gender in design? With colleague Christina Mörtberg I published a rough draft of an initial approach at the gender and IT conference in Bremen. We have split that draft in two. One part is developed into a full paper, which is under review. We are now working on the second paper.
See Tensions in Design (2009)
by Maja van der Velden and Christina Mörtberg. Rough draft [pdf].

Public space
Do materials help create public space? I am following 'life' at a metro station in Oslo. In this research I use photography as my method. By documenting and analysing how people use materials to communicate, I try to understand the role of materials in performing public space. This research is a small contribution to a larger research project in which we look in different ways at Blindern Station, the metro station of the University of Oslo.
See Entangled matter: Thinking differently about materials in design (2009)
by Maja van der Velden, Tone Bratteteig, and Sisse Finken. Paper [pdf]. I have made a presentation of 37 photos of the station, which tells the story of how public space is performed by the intermingling of people, materials, law, and markets.

Creative Commons License 2010 Maja van der Velden
Programming for Cognitive Justice
The importance of cognitive justice for the design and development of information systems is that it provides a framework that challenges the assumed neutrality of the technology and the technology designer. With cognitive justice there is no objective ‘expert’ position from which to design and develop technology. Cognitive justice focuses information systems design on the knowers and the environments in which their knowledge is situated. As a result, the design process itself becomes a dialogue of diverse interests and values. The importance of this dialogue is that it takes place during the design of the "technical arrangements that precede the use of the technology in question”.
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