Digitization is changing the way society and organizations work

Under the supervision of Prof. Dr. Daniel Mendez (Head of the Competence Field Requirements Engineering) fortiss scientist Oleksandr Kosenkov worked on the research project Coding Public Value (CPV) for more than three years and successfully completed it in summer. In the interview, he describes why the project makes an important contribution to the public good.

Could you briefly summarize the Coding Public Value project? What was the focus of this project?

Coding public value was an interdisciplinary research project focused on the research of methods for embedding public value in software systems operated by public service media companies. The project involved 4 disciplines software engineering, legal research, communication science, and society and technology studies.

What is the background to CPV and why was it important to consider public value?

Public value and public interest are getting more and more attention for two reasons. First, digitization is changing the way society as a whole and how different organizations operate. Public media is no exception, as it must respond to changes in the media landscape to remain competitive with private media companies. However, public value is not inherently embedded in these digital technologies used in public service media companies, so it requires special attention in this context. Another reason is novel forms of threats to information, such as misinformation and political influence campaigns. These clearly threaten public value.

What were the biggest challenges in your project?

The biggest challenge was to bridge the gap between the disciplines involved in the project and to consider public value as a requirement for software systems that is feasible from the perspective of all disciplines. Even though it looks like a simple requirements engineering process at first glance, numerous subtleties have to be taken into account. For example, the requirements formulated by stakeholders are not only embedded in software systems, but also transformed. For example, recommender systems change the way audiences are reached and the way we think about public value. So it's important to provide information about recommender systems or other technologies that are being used so that responsible roles can understand how public value is being shaped by them and refine their requirements. So, in essence, we see that requirements engineering for public value becomes a two-way interactive process.

You keep talking about public value. How can this "public value" be described?

That was another challenge we had to face. Even in the social sciences, public value is hard to define. The contribution of our software engineering package was an attempt to make this more concrete. We see Public Value as the result of negotiations between all stakeholders about the socially desirable behavior and values to be followed in society. For media organizations, it is a consensus between what audiences want to see, what regulators think is relevant from their overall societal perspective, what media organizations can provide in their offerings, and what technologies can propose.

Public value is dynamic and evolving. It can be difficult to determine its specific content as each of the above aspects changes. The contribution of software requirements engineering as research and practice is to enable the effective engagement of stakeholders so that they can formulate requirements in a consensual manner that we can use to develop multiple software systems.

How can this be implemented in practice?

We have focused on developing a model that can be operationalized in several ways. There are few use cases for operationalizing the artifact model. The basic case is the use of the model to support interaction between different stakeholders in collaborative workshops. During workshops, stakeholders with different functions can use the artifact model to first identify the written sources of artifacts. For example, these may be different types of regulations from a legal perspective or journalistic and editorial guidelines. These sources of information are processed together in a way that explains the regulatory and media perspectives on public value. The results of such domain artifacts are captured in software requirements artifacts. Another and somewhat advanced use case, that we envision, is the use of the model to develop artifact management tools that support the conceptual integration of the content of various artifacts, e.g., regulations, internal policies, and software requirements.

Are your findings applicable in areas other than the media?

We see that our findings can potentially be useful for private media organizations, as they also bear part of the responsibility for implementing public value in the modern media landscape. We also anticipate that our findings are applicable to a wide range of organizations to address the value creation challenges that have changed as a result of digitization. Digitization as a whole brings with it the challenge of developing software systems that meet the needs of multiple stakeholders simultaneously, and all should be considered in order to make software systems as effective as possible.

We also see the emergence of concepts of trustworthiness and transparency, which, like the concept of public value, do not have a specific content, but rather an idea or form that needs to be addressed. And this is where we can contribute from a requirements engineering research perspective. We therefore invite interested companies to explore and address these challenges together with us.

Learn more about the Coding Public Value (CPV) project closure.