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Playing in the loop: New Human-Software Relations in Human Computation Systems and their Impacts on the Spheres of Everyday Life” (DFG/ German Research Foundation, 11/2021–10/2024)

Principal investigator: Prof. Dr. Johannes Moser

Researcher: Libuše Hannah Vepřek, M.A.

Student assistant: Julia Leitert, B.A.


Today, algorithms are found to outperform humans in various fields, with their speed and accuracy far exceeding human abilities in incomparable manners. However, algorithms still fail on many comparatively basic problems that are easily solved by humans. Moreover, most of the algorithmic approaches to solving these problems are based on machine learning and require people “in the loop” to generate large amounts of training data for the algorithms. An approach in which humans and algorithms work together to tackle problems that neither of them can easily solve on their own is known as Human Computation. Within the realm of human computation, Human Computation Systems (HCS) delegate particular computational steps or tasks to humans. This emerging and increasingly important research area in computer science is especially successful in the area of citizen science (CS). Here, projects are usually conceived as computer games in which participants playfully generate surplus value both for a specific research project and for the algorithms. While HCS raise numerous social questions, as field of research they are almost unexplored in cultural anthropology.
The proposed project is dedicated to this new research field and focuses on two aspects: On the one hand, it focuses on the investigation of HCS from a subject-related and moral perspective. This includes questions about how the systems are formed and what role human actors play within them. On the other hand, the project focuses on the impacts that HCS in CS-projects have on our understandings of the daily spheres of play, work and science, that function as important frames of reference for our self-understanding. The project draws on theoretical and conceptual perspectives from the field of digital anthropology and technology, the examination of (digital) ethics and the role of the subject, and the exploration of the meanings of the aforementioned spheres of the everyday life. Three case studies form the core of the project and will be investigated microanalytically. In order to investigate the interplay and mutual dependencies of the actors involved in HCS – developers, researchers, users and code – and thus the systems they have jointly formed, the approach is based on method triangulation and is multi-perspectival. By combining the perspectives of cultural anthropology and computer science this project aims at gaining an in-depth understanding of HCS and their implications on everyday life. The objective of the project is to contribute to the exploration of emerging human-machine interactions in the field of AI and also to further opening cultural anthropology for interdisciplinary research about these cross-thematic and interdisciplinary phenomena.


DFG-Workshop 2023 Call for lightning talks

Perspectives on hybrid human-AI systems. Bringing together interdisciplinary approaches

The research fields of “Human Computation” and “Hybrid Intelligence” investigate how the capabilities of humans and computers can be combined in novel ways, thereby overcoming the limitations of today’s strictly computational “Artificial Intelligence” systems, and yielding the ability to address problems that neither can solve on their own.
Such hybrid human-AI systems are of interest to various scientific disciplines, including, but not limited to, computer science, philosophy, media studies, design, and cultural anthropology, since they have not only the capability to enable new computational and engineering capabilities while posing interesting new problems on their own, but just as much to impact societies on structural levels and our everyday life on microlevels. They elicit questions on the human-AI relations in such hybrid systems that are ethical, judicial, social, cultural, logical, algorithmic, practical, and material in nature.

This workshop brings together scholars, experts, and interested parties with an interest in hybrid human-AI systems to learn how different disciplines understand and approach these systems. The aim is to discuss how each discipline can contribute to an interdisciplinary understanding of the collaboration of humans and machines in such hybrid systems. With this workshop, we want to spark new conversations between different disciplines, addressing, among others, the following questions:
- How does human computation and hybrid intelligence relate to pursuits of and discourses on “Artificial General Intelligence” / “strong AI”?
- How can we grasp human-technology and societal relations unfolding within these systems?
- How is trust established and (re)negotiated in such systems?
- What forms of ethics arise in and with hybrid human-AI systems?
- What are the unique perspectives of the different disciplines, and how can these inform one another?
- How can we arrive at understandings that consider the disciplines’ different approaches and modes of reasoning?
- How can we work together on these topics?

The workshop is organized as part of the research project “Playing in the loop: New Human-Software Relations in Human Computation Systems and their Impacts on the Spheres of Everyday Life” funded by the German Research Foundation. It takes place from April 10–12, 2024 in Munich, Germany.

The workshop will comprise talks from invited speakers and will also feature time slots for lightning talks in which we invite participants to share their research projects, ongoing work, or emerging ideas in brief presentations (time limit around 10 minutes, tbd). We welcome submissions from researchers of all career stages and different fields. If you are interested in giving a lightning talk, please submit title and abstract of your proposal by email ( before July 15, 2023.