Danny Spitzberg

The Workers’ Algorithm Observatory and Lead Researcher at Turning Basin Labs, Oakland, California, USA


Who Knows the User? Strategic Research, Standards, and Platform Audits

The vast majority of user experience researchers feel a sincere urge to advocate for users and push for “ethics.” Why do their efforts continue to fall short of their ambition? In this talk, I discuss why research projects fail to deliver on their promise to influence software production and company practices. Then, I make the case for researchers to focus instead on creating standards – normative infrastructure that shapes collaboration with engineers, regulators, and other stakeholders.

To show the value of strategic research and standards in the digital economy, I introduce several years of emerging work on worker-led audits of platform algorithms and AI systems.


Danny Spitzberg, is part of a team of applied and academic researchers supporting workers and allies at The Workers’ Algorithm Observatory. He is a user researcher for a cooperative economy and facilitates worker-led research with Turning Basin Labs, a staffing and training co-op based in Oakland, California.

Danny is trained as an economic sociologist and co-op business developer. His speciality is connecting worker co-design and digital product development. The process starts with worker-led research studies where community members collect, analyze, and decide how to use their data and insights. It ends with that group developing an ownership model for a business they value and depend on.

Previously, he did UX research for various member-led, community-oriented digital products with groups ranging from Up & Go and Rideshare Drivers United to the Lean Startup Co. and the Harvard Berkman Center. Danny organizes with Exit to Community, a new ownership strategy for startups we value, and with, Danny created the Ownership Model Canvas, a tool for designing effective member-ownership.

Over the last few years, Danny created a model for user- and worker-led co-design, an efficient and durable approach distinct from mainstream inclusive design. He does this by combining social research, marketing, and co-design skills. His background is in economic sociology, cooperative development, and 6+ years of building digital tools and platforms with cross-functional agile teams.