From Bias to Repair: Error as a Site of Collaboration and Negotiation in Applied Data Science Work

Cindy Kaiying Lin, Steven J. Jackson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Managing error has become an increasingly central and contested arena within data science work. While recent scholarship in artificial intelligence and machine learning has focused on limiting and eliminating error, practitioners have long used error as a site of collaboration and learning vis-à-vis labelers, domain experts, and the worlds data scientists seek to model and understand. Drawing from work in CSCW, STS, HCML, and repair studies, as well as from multi-sited ethnographic fieldwork within a government institution and a non-profit organization, we move beyond the notion of error as an edge case or anomaly to make three basic arguments. First, error discloses or calls to attention existing structures of collaboration unseen or underappreciated under 'working' systems. Second, error calls into being new forms and sites of collaboration (including, sometimes, new actors). Third, error redeploys old sites and actors in new ways, often through restructuring relations of hierarchy and expertise which recenter or devalue the position of different actors. We conclude by discussing how an artful living with error can better support the creative strategies of negotiation and adjustment which data scientists and their collaborators engage in when faced with disruption, breakdown, and friction in their work.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number131
JournalProceedings of the ACM on Human-Computer Interaction
Issue numberCSCW1
StatePublished - Apr 16 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Human-Computer Interaction
  • Computer Networks and Communications


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