REFSQ 2022 Workshop

Design Thinking, Design Fiction and Requirements Engineering

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Workshop Topic, Background and Motivation

The design space of conventional RE is bounded by a set of cultural, ethical, legislative, social, etc. constraints that often go largely unquestioned because they are considered out of scope. These constraints are facets of a world that, by some measures, has become increasingly volatile in recent years. This is due to a range of factors, including, but not restricted to, technological disruption. In particular, increased use is being made of machine intelligence, the benefits of which must be weighed against (e.g.) sensitivity to what data sets are used and opacity of operation. Hence, not only is it becoming harder to understand the world in which software will operate, the effect that the software will have on the world is also becoming harder to predict.

We need to find ways of looking over the horizon; of not simply creating the requirements of a system to operate in a probable (near) future world but given that the probable might be subject to significant uncertainty, in plausible future worlds. A number of techniques related to design thinking are designed to explore just these kinds of expanded problem and solution spaces, and it is no coincidence that interest in design thinking has been gaining some traction in RE in recent years. However, design thinking’s focus is on probable futures, while plausible worlds are the domain of speculative practices like design fiction. Perhaps fact and fiction can be combined in useful ways for RE’s goals.

Topics we will explore include, but need not be limited to:

  • What can RE learn from recent examples of systems that have inadvertently harmed business, society or people?
  • What can RE learn from design thinking, design fiction and their speculative strategies?

We will produce a summary of the workshop’s findings based on participants’ experience and critique of the techniques that we will explore through the presentations, discussions and groupwork. We expect that this will serve as an agenda for future research on over-the horizon RE and (hopefully) future instances of the workshop.

Goals of the Workshop

The focus of this workshop will be on how requirements engineers can better anticipate the world in which software systems will be deployed; both to mitigate against unwanted societal or other side-effects and to identify new opportunities for innovation.

The goal of the workshop is to gain a better understanding of how the RE community is responding to technological/societal/political and other forms of volatility that shape some of the wicked problems they address. What can RE learn from recent examples of systems that have inadvertently harmed business, society or people? What can RE learn from design thinking, design fiction and their speculative strategies?

A data obsessed future


The programme for the REFSQ workshop on Monday 21st March at 14:00 runs as follows:

Time Author(s) Title
14:00-14:10 Peter Sawyer, Aston University Introduction
14:10-14:25 Miriam Sturdee, Lancaster University Sketching, Design Fiction and Requirements
14:25-14:40 Joe Lindley, Lancaster University Design Fiction and Worldbuilding
14:40-15:00 Andrew Darby, Durham University Unanticipated Consequences and the Post Office Horizon system
15:00-15:30 Andrew Darby & Peter Sawyer Activities / Discussion
15:30-15:45 Coffee Break
15:45-17:15 Andrew Darby & Peter Sawyer Interactive Session

Important Dates

Timezone AoE (UTC-12h)

  • 17th January 2022 – Abstract submission deadline
  • 7th February 2022 – Notification
  • 21st March 2022 – Workshop day
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Workshop Organizers

Andrew Darby, Durham University, UK

Andy is a PDRA for the Twenty20Insight project working in the Department of Computer Science at Durham University, UK. He is the author of several papers exploring the use of participative, speculative design techniques for future systems and public policy development.

Peter Sawyer, Aston University, UK

Pete is Professor of Computer Science at Aston University, UK. He has been an active researcher in RE since the early 1990s, having a paper at the first IEEE RE Symposium in 1993. He first published at REFSQ in 1998 and was co-chair for three instances in the 2000s. He has also served as chair of the REFSQ steering committee. Like Andy, Pete is a member of the Twenty20Insight project.

Contact the workshop organizers

via email