Situating Privacy in the Technology Supported Collaborative Practices of the Saudi Arabian Workplace: Lessons on Socio-spatial and Socio-technical and Socio-Spatial Design

Restricted (Penn State Only)
Almoaiqel, Sarah
Graduate Program:
Information Sciences and Technology
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
March 02, 2018
Committee Members:
  • John Millar Carroll, Dissertation Advisor
  • John Millar Carroll, Committee Chair
  • Mary Beth Rosson, Committee Member
  • Lynette Marie Yarger, Committee Member
  • Elaine Farndale, Outside Member
  • Human Computer Interaction
  • Value Sensitive Design
  • Socio-Technical
  • Socio-Spatial
  • Privacy
  • Computer Supported Cooperative Work
Saudi Arabia can no longer depend on oil sales as its main economic powerhouse and must diversify its economy. Because of this, Saudi Arabia announced a future Vision for the year 2030. One focus of the Vision is to encourage greater workforce participation in the private sector, especially among women. Saudi women are a wasted resource as they make up only 21.4 percent of the Saudi national labor force and have an unemployment rate of 32.7 percent (GAS, 2017). While the Vision is depending on new partnerships with private companies to increase female employment, it is not addressing the main cause of low female participation in the private sector: workplaces are not designed to accommodate Saudi women. Unlike in the public sector, many workplaces in the private sector enact collaborative practices not in line with Saudi women’s privacy values (i.e. mixed gender workspaces and interactions), which discourage them from applying for those roles (Ministry of Labor, 2016). Therefore, in order to increase female employment in the private sector, the focus should not only be on creating jobs, but also instituting culturally sensitive, privacy aware technology supported collaborative workplace practices. Supporting collaborative practices in the workplace entails an understanding of the interplay between technology, people, and physical space. Researchers in the field of Computer Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW) have been studying socio-technical issues in collaborative work for decades, focusing on combining understandings of social psychology and organizational aspects of group work with collaborative software. Drawing from other fields of research that have also worked towards supporting collaborative practices, I take the position that the socially constructed meanings of space in human interaction (positions and physical distance) and in the physical world (configurations of architecture, furniture, and technology) significantly impact technology supported collaborative practices, and should be considered alongside socio-technical issues. To investigate these issues, I utilized the Value Sensitive Design framework to consider privacy values in every step of my research. I focused on people and the social systems that are affected by and effect technology. I extended the framework by also focusing on how spatial configuration supports or hinders privacy values and supplements technology. I went through three investigations: conceptual, empirical, and technical. Through the conceptual investigation, I was able to define what privacy meant within the Saudi Arabian context. I delved deeper in the empirical and technical investigations by conducting a case study of a local private sector company operating in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. I used observations, interviews, and participatory design sessions to gather my data. My findings indicate that in order to enact value sensitive collaborative practices, the company went through privacy negotiations whereby they adapted and optimized to find what works for the employees. When privacy concerns were met through the design of socio-technical support systems and socio-spatial configuration, the collaboration was optimized; otherwise, employees either felt marginalized, or overcrowded, thus they were unable to function as effectively. Through this research, I discuss privacy concerns and offer insight on socio-spatial configuration and socio-technical design of technology. There are several contributions that I make through this study. First, I propose the extension of the Value Sensitive Design (VSD) framework to contribute more broadly to supporting collaborative activity by supplementing socio-technical design with understandings of socio-spatial configuration. I also contribute to the understandings of privacy in the Arab world. Finally, I provide researchers, technology designers, policy makers, and organizations insight on value sensitive collaborative practices in the Saudi Arabian workplace. These considerations may increase participation in the private sector, diversify the country’s income streams, and lead to economic prosperity.