Diversity Concepts in Computer Science and Technology Development: A Critique
new publication by Laura Schelenz
Diversity has become increasingly relevant in computer science and technology development, both in terms of inclusive design teams and as a concept used to design “diversity-aware” technologies. The latter part has received less attention and notions of diversity leveraged to design technologies remain understudied. This paper critically examines diversity concepts employed by computer scientists and designers by reviewing 120 articles in two subfields of computer science: personalized recommendations and human–computer interaction. Drawing on Black feminism and critical race theory-inspired literature, I offer a critique of demographic and cultural user representations and underscore the shortcomings of diversity as a strategy to increase user satisfaction and fairness. Particularly concerning is the unreflected use of binary, static, and individual-level diversity concepts in the design of technologies. Such concepts render structural inequalities between and within groups of users invisible and thereby risk reinforcing existing injustices. The paper closes with considerations on whether and how diversity concepts can be leveraged by designers in a social justice–oriented manner.