Finnish Seminar for Human Animal Studies

In April I will be presenting and running a panel at the Finnish seminar for Human Animal Studies in Helsinki (Finland) with Heli Väätäjä from Tampere University.
We would like to invite you to attend, join in and ask lots questions as we explore the ides of participation, consent and empowerment in Animal-Computer Interaction!

You can find out more about the seminar on their website, and register here.

Animal Participation, Consent & Empowerment within Technology Systems

Panel chairs:

Ilyena Hirskyj-Douglas, Computer Science, Aalto University​

Heli Väätäjä, Pervasive Computing, Tampere University of Technologyheli.vaataja[at]

We are holding a panel on animal participation, consent giving, and empowerment at the Finnish Seminar of Human-Animal studies. In this panel, we are interested in how these topics relates to everyday life of the species and individuals living with us and working for us. Whilst animals are a participant in these scenarios, it is not yet clear how they are a participant within technology systems, give consent for these systems or can be empowered by them.

Animal technology systems encapsulates a broad range of purposes where animals take on different roles in technology systems. These machineries span from non-domesticated captive animals kept in zoos and sanctuaries, to domesticated animals that are pets in our homes or on farms, to animals in the wild. However, what it means to refer to the animal(s) involved in the research as participants, and how much can an animal participate within the design of the technology especially in regards towards the concept of consent and empowerment is not yet explored. Whilst this understanding is possible to model in humans, what this means for animals is uncertain. As such, the role that an animal can participate is a subject of debate.

With the animal-technology industry growing, especially within Finland, this topic is not only topical but also relevant towards both industry and academia. The aim of this panel thus is twofold: firstly, to discuss what consent (and giving consent) looks like for animal(s); secondly, how can animal(s) be empowered through the concept of participation. This panel will provide a platform for both animal technology researchers and those involved in animal research.


Tuesday 9th April 2019 10.15 – 11.45

10.15 – 10.30 Introduction into Animal-Computer Interaction including the topics around consent and participation by Heli Väätäjä and Ilyena Hirskyj-Douglas

10.30 – 10.50 Animal Technology Systems: Empowerment through Animal-Driven Systems by Ilyena Hirskyj-Douglas

10.50 – 11.20 Dog-Computer Interaction by Esa Vikberg

11.20 – 11.40  Consenting as communication and empowerment in ACI – Listening to animal’s will to enhance welfare by Heli Väätäjä

11-40 – 11.45 Closing Notes

Each talk will be approx. 10-15 mins long leaving time for questions at the end.

Accepted Abstracts

Animal Technology Systems: Empowerment through Animal-Driven Systems

Ilyena Hirskyj-Douglas, Aalto University, ilyena.hirskyj-douglas[at]

Animals have been using technology for some time: from apes using lexigrams to dolphins using touch screens. Yet the way systems are traditionally developed and built for animals is typically focused around the human needs. Quite often, the design and considerations of the technology are not focused around the animals’ requirements. With the introduction of Animal–Computer Interaction (ACI) as a field, how we look at an animal’s interactions with technologies has changed. Recently researchers have pondered upon ethical issues about an animal’s ability to consent, and tackle questions around what it means for an animal to be a participant within our systems and studies. In this work, we aim to both introduce the concept of consent and what it means to be a participant through the narration of the building of a computer system for dogs coined DoggyVision. This talk covers the theoretical concepts around a dog’s ability to interact and consent towards using devices grounded against real examples of implementing these notions. We aim to question and provoke thought about the interaction between animals and machines reflecting through current practice.

Dog-Computer Interaction

Esa Vikberg, Aalto University, esa.vikberg[at]

I would like to give a talk about computer systems designed to be used by dogs. These systems span from ones designed for working dogs to assist humans, to ones designed for dogs’ own enjoyment. Some of the systems can be used together with humans. Others are used by dogs alone, giving the dogs full control on whether to interact with them.

Many of the systems have been designed using participatory design principles, where the intended users’, dogs’, preferences have been considered. Furthermore, in many cases the users have been given a chance to withdraw their participation from the design process in accordance to Animal-Computer Interaction principles.

Consenting as communication and empowerment in ACI – Listening to animal’s will to enhance welfare

Heli Väätäjä, Tampere University, heli.vaataja[at]

Animal-computer interaction is a field of research which studies the design and use of technology with, for and by animals. In ACI, the question of ethics of animal participation in the studies has been discussed by few researchers by providing issues to consider and guidelines for conducting studies with animals (Väätäjä et al. 2013) and a set of ethical principles (Mancini 2017). Mancini (2017) also discusses two forms of consent – namely, mediated consent and contingent consent of animal participants. The latter is of interest in this talk, as it manifests the empowerment of the animal to willingly engage with or disengage from the research according to its own free will. With animals, the definition for consent relates to agreement to do something or giving permission for something to happen, if the animal is aware of the consequences of the participation, for example, through learning. Ritvo et al. (2014) bring out different research procedures for enabling engagement according to animal’s own free will and choice. This talk will address how consenting is closely linked with animal welfare through ability to communicate animal’s viewpoint, and how engagement and consent is related to animal welfare.

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