You are here

Helena Webb

Coloured block

Senior Researcher in Human Centred Computing

I am a social scientist by background and I am interested in interaction and organisation in different kinds of settings. As part of Human Centred Computing at Oxford, I work on projects that investigate the social impacts of new technologies and that seek to identify mechanisms for the improved design, responsible development and effective regulation of innovation. I previously worked on a project called UnBias, which explored the user experience of algorithm driven online platforms and the processes of algorithm design. We developed co-designed recommendations and materials for design, regulation and education to promote ‘fairness’ in algorithmic systems. We also spent a lot of time engaging with members of the public to help them understand what algorithms are and how they can shape the online experience in both positive and negative ways – as explained in our project video. We also developed a ‘fairness toolkit’ comprised of different activities that encourage users to reflect on bias, rights and fairness online. The toolkit materials can be downloaded for free from the UnBias website.

I am currently working on the RoboTIPS project, which seeks to advance responsibility in robotics. We focus in particular on social robots, those that interact with humans as part of their day-to-day function. We ask how robots can be developed responsibly in the contemporary digital economy so that they produce benefits across society. In particular we are developing and testing an innovative design feature for use in the case of accidents involving robots. The Ethical Black Box (EBB) functions similarly to flight data recorders used in aviation. When an incident occurs in which a human is harmed and a robot is present, data from the robot’s EBB can be used to help work out what caused the incident. Steps can then be put into place to ensure the same accident doesn’t happen again. These may involve changes to the design of the robot and/or organisational changes in the way it is used. You can find out more information about the project on the RoboTIPS website.

Wednesday 23rd Jun 2021, 12.30pm

Should all robots have an ethical black box?

"The year was 2041..."

Should all robots have an ethical black box?
Wednesday 12th Dec 2018, 09.00am

Can a machine pick a perfect Christmas gift?

It is that time a year again where our relationships are tested to find that perfect Christmas gift! Wouldn’t it be nice if there was an algorithm that could do it for you? In this episode of the Big Questions podcast we ask the question: Can a machine pick a perfect Christmas gift?


To find out we went to the Department of Computer Science to speak to Senior Researcher Helena...

Can a machine pick a perfect Christmas gift?
Monday 17th Oct 2016, 08.00am

Keeping Social Media Social

Social media has become a huge part of many of our lives. But do we really know where all that information goes? In this animation we look at the ways that research can help us understand the world on and offline through the lens of social media, and some of the questions it raises.