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Power, Politics, Values, Responsibilities: 1st Critical Requirements Engineering Workshop (CREW2020)

Christoph Becker, University of Toronto, Canada
Stefanie Betz, Furtwangen University, Germany
Fabian Fagerholm, Aalto University, Finland
Doris Allhutter, Austrian Academy of Sciences, Austria

Software-based socio-technical systems are reshaping our world, and in doing so, they are never neutral elements of it. Requirements have long been recognized as a pivotal point where social perspectives get translated into technical specifications. This places unique responsibilities on those active in this space: Their choices have often farther-reaching consequences than the technical choices made in development. Requirements are specified in a social context, so requirements engineering needs a critical understanding of the role that power relations, coercive dynamics, marginalization and politics play in the negotiation of human values, preferences, needs and aspirations. Without it, RE cannot hope to be a force for justice, sustainability, ethics, and other goals that are now central to the computing agenda.

The first Critical Requirements Engineering Workshop brings together the analytic and modelling strengths of requirements engineering with the critical and social theories that can help our community better reckon with the social forces that shape technology design through requirements.

CREW’2020 will take place in late August, before (and co-located with) the IEEE RE Conference. CREW is a two-day online workshop with a phase of upfront preparation. It follows a new format that is not yet common in RE. We will create a space for an emerging community not by scheduling a series of presentations, but by facilitating a discussion using a structured approach. Using different methods of collaboration, the workshop poses four questions.

  1. How can RE activities be augmented to uncover and negotiate implicit value positions in balanced and fair ways?
  2. How can RE critically interrogate the fact that RE professionals must always make selections and choices that are ultimately political and partial, without becoming paralyzed?
  3. How should RE as a role, a profession and a scientific community deal with the political nature of what it does?
  4. What active role can RE as a community take to speak up about questions of professional responsibility at a time when computing technologies such as ML/AI are more than before reshaping human life and the structures of our societies?

Additional information will be available soon.

CREW 2020 is co-located with the 28th IEEE International Requirements Engineering Conference, RE’2020.

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