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Ethics and IA: A Scenario Creation Tool for Ethical Design

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How can we know if we're designing ethically? What unintended consequences could result from our decisions? What can we do to maximize good and minimize harm in digital product design?

These urgent questions were addressed over 4 days at the Academics and Practioners Roundtable at the 2018 IA Summit. One result was the development of a prototype for guiding teams in incorporating ethical design into their products. Stacy Surla walks through the tool and test its usefulness in an interactive session at the September UXDC meetup.

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  • Stacy, this is an excellent presentation. Thanks for sharing it!
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  • Ethics and IA: A Scenario Creation Tool for Ethical Design We Need To Design Ethically Let's face it. Designing information systems means designing for ethical outcomes. Or failing to do so. Information scientists have been talking about this for a while now. As B.J. Fogg said over 10 years ago, “Whether we like it or not, we are all in the business of influencing people's thoughts and behaviors… The stakes are higher now than ever before.” On one hand, your actions in the ethical realm will reflect on you personally. You should be known by the consequences of your designs. But beyond that, designing ethically is just the right thing to do. And it's within your power. The first step is to add tools for ethical design to your toolkit. In this talk I will introduce you to a prototype tool for seeing and solving ethical problems when you design information architectures. We're going to test this tool tonight and I'd love to get your feedback. But because this is a lightning talk, it's going to be a lightning exercise.
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  • We're Working on Tools for Ethical Design We tackled the topic of Ethics and IA at the Academics' and Practitioners' Roundtable in 2018. Over 4 days we did lightning talks, we workshopped, there was a make-a-thon day and a poster session, and we gave a conference talk. The outcomes included a board game, a draft code of ethics, and the Scenario Creation Tool for Ethical Design. As I share this tool with you tonight, I won't be able to give you A survey of philosophical frameworks And you won't get a thorough explanation of the tool and how to use it However, you should get Enough of an overview to start including an ethical design process in your toolkit And you'll get reference materials at the end, to get you grounded and engaged The Scenario Creation Tool for Ethical Design Let's pass out the diagram. The purpose of the tool is to help you design according to an ethical principle, for instance to maximize good and minimize harm. The components are: The Use Case – that's the problem you're solving Values – the ethical standards you'll be applying Actors – the groups of people who will be affected by the design And a Synthesis phase – where you'll make sense of what you've learned and come up with ethical solutions. For Values we'll use Richard Mason's PAPA model – which looks at Privacy, Accuracy, Property, and Access. Here's a pro tip. When you think about Actors, we suggest you start with members of the community or the most vulnerable first, and consider whoever's paying for the system last. In other words, the reverse of what we might normally do. Finally, there are two ways to move through the tool: You can go by Actor, stepping Value-by-Value, or by Value, stepping Actor-by-Actor. Just be consistent.
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  • Building a Scenario Now let's get into the exercise. Your company is tasked with designing the next generation public registry of sex offenders. You're leading the team that will design and deliver the system. A description of the Values is on your worksheet. In practice you could switch these out for another ethical framework. The definition of the Actors is also on your worksheet. This whole exercise ought to take at least 2 hours, plus further work sessions for design and testing. We have 10 minutes, so we're going to get to step 1. Get into pairs. Take a minute to identify a couple of key actors in each of the categories. Just write those down on the worksheet Who would fall into the Community category? (e.g. children, victims, offenders, parents, women) Who would be a Stakeholder? (law enforcement, teachers) What about Shareholders? (city, state, national government) Next, choose one actor and one of the 4 values. Working together, brainstorm potential negative consequences of building the sex offender registry, for that actor, with respect to that value. Here's how the national sex offender registry looks today. What actor and value did you choose? What did you come up with? Who did a different actor and value? As you see, this exploration of actors and values kicks off the rest of the Synthesis phase. As an example, here's the scenario storyboard we did at the Roundtable. New people move into the neighborhood. The bridge club discusses a rumor of a sex offender being among this group. They decide it might be “that Pakistani guy.” They all search the sex offender registry within the same 5 minutes. That's recorded on the server and shared with law enforcement, because there's no smoke without fire. Ahmed is not on the registry. But the officers go to his house and confront him. Bad outcome. The ethical problem was that people might game the system by entering names into the search box. So we made the IA decision that search data cannot be stored. That way you can't build a feature to ping law enforcement based on searches. Running this ethical problem and a potential solution through the tool let us consider the consequences to all actors, including the suspect, the bridge players, law enforcement, and tax payers. It gave us a hypothesis to test, and action items for follow-up, including research. What Did We Learn? I'm hoping you're inspired to add a process to your toolkit that lets you see and solve ethical problems when you design information architectures. I look forward to your feedback on where to take this next.
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Ethics and IA: A Scenario Creation Tool for Ethical Design

  1. 1. Scenario Creation Tool for Ethical Design A Lightning Talk Information Architecture Meetup | UXDC 9/20/18 Washington, D.C. Stacy Merrill Surla stacysurla@metametrics.com
  2. 2. 1We Need to Design Ethically
  3. 3. Getty Images
  4. 4. Peter Morville B.J. FoggTerence Fenn & Jason Hobbs Vladimir Zwass The Ethics of Information Architecture (2000) As information architects, we are shaping the collaborative work spaces and social environments of tomorrow. Are we willing to take responsibility for the shapes we shape? Keynote, IA Summit (2005) Whether we like it or not, we are all in the business of influencing people's thoughts and behaviors… The stakes are higher now than ever before. Wicked Ethics in Design (2015) [I]s it possible that a design could be successful but not good? Ethical Issues in Information Systems (2010) [W]e should use ethical principles and codes of ethics to avoid and prevent deleterious effects of technology.
  5. 5. The creation will always carry its maker’s name. And outlive him [or her]. Mike Monteiro Design’s Lost Generation (2018) 1931 Frankenstein
  6. 6. [W]e should use ethical principles and codes of ethics to avoid and prevent deleterious effects of technology. Vladimir Zwass Ethical Issues in Information Systems (2010) Thomas Hawk
  7. 7. 2We’re Working on Tools for Ethical Design
  8. 8. Academics’ and Practitioners’ Roundtable reframe-ia.org Ren Pope
  9. 9. Academics’ and Practitioners’ Roundtable reframe-ia.org Stacy Surla
  10. 10. NO Survey of philosophical frameworks and ethical principles Thorough explanation of the tool and how to apply it YES What you will and won’t get at tonight’s talk Enough of an overview to start including ethical design in your toolkit Reference materials to get you grounded and engaged
  11. 11. 3The Scenario Creation Tool for Ethical Design
  12. 12. Use Case Value Value Value Value Scenario Creation Tool for Ethical Design Arturo Pérez, Jackie Wolf, Shelley Cook, Jeff Pass, Stacy Surla Synthesis Maximize good Minimize harm PURPOSE Outcomes integrated into the solution Synthesis A problem requiring a design solution Use Case "How do I know if I’m designing ethically?” An output of the 2018 Ethics & IA Academics’ and Practitioners’ Roundtable reframe-ia.org Standards that guide us in action Values All entities affected by the Use Case Actors Actor Actor Actor
  13. 13. Use Case Privacy Accuracy Property Access Community Stakeholders Shareholders Scenario Creation Tool for Ethical Design Arturo Pérez, Jackie Wolf, Shelley Cook, Jeff Pass, Stacy Surla Synthesis Maximize good Minimize harm PURPOSE WHAT IF? • Hypothesize • Design • Test A problem requiring a design solution Use Case "How do I know if I’m designing ethically?” IDENTIFY • Harms • Goods • Research Needs Standards that guide us in action Values The example uses Richard Mason’s PAPA model. You can use any appropriate value set. All entities affected by the Use Case Actors To design ethically, consider impact to the most vulnerable first, the client last. Community Stakeholders Shareholders Outcomes integrated into the solution Synthesis An output of the 2018 Ethics & IA Academics’ and Practitioners’ Roundtable reframe-ia.org
  14. 14. Use Case Privacy Accuracy Property Access Community Stakeholders Shareholders Scenario Creation Tool for Ethical Design Arturo Pérez, Jackie Wolf, Shelley Cook, Jeff Pass, Stacy Surla Synthesis Maximize good Minimize harm PURPOSE A problem requiring a design solution Use Case "How do I know if I’m designing ethically?” Standards that guide us in action Values The example uses Richard Mason’s PAPA model. You can use any appropriate value set. All entities affected by the Use Case Actors To design ethically, consider impact to the most vulnerable first, the client last. Community Stakeholders Shareholders WHAT IF? • Hypothesize • Design • Test IDENTIFY • Harms • Goods • Research Needs Outcomes integrated into the solution Synthesis An output of the 2018 Ethics & IA Academics’ and Practitioners’ Roundtable reframe-ia.org
  15. 15. 4Building a Scenario
  16. 16. Your company is tasked with designing the next generation public registry of sex offenders. You're leading the team that will design and deliver the system. Use Case - Sex Offender Registry
  17. 17. Definitions ACTORS Privacy What info must one reveal, and what can be kept to oneself? Who's responsible? How will an injured party be made whole? Who owns the info? What are the rights of access? Consumers, and those directly and indirectly affected by the design Those who perform the work, were consulted, or have a stake in it Whoever paid for the work or owns the output VALUES Accuracy Access Property Shareholders Stakeholders Community
  18. 18. 1. Brainstorm potential negative consequences of building the system for each of the actors. 2. Consider ways to address the consequences – for instance to maximize good, minimize harm. 3. Outline a scenario that reflects one or more consequences for the actors. 4. Storyboard and present your scenario. 5. Repeat for multiple scenarios. How-To (The Full Instructions)
  19. 19. Lightning Exercise - 5 mins Identify key actors in each category Community Stakeholders Shareholders Get into pairs
  20. 20. Lightning Exercise - 5 mins Choose an actor and one of the values Actor Value Brainstorm negative consequences of the system for that actor with respect to that value
  21. 21. Lightning Exercise - 5 mins Choose an actor and one of the values Actor Value Brainstorm negative consequences of the system for that actor with respect to that value
  22. 22. 1. Brainstorm potential negative consequences of building the system for each of the actors. 2. Consider ways to address the consequences – for instance to maximize good, minimize harm. 3. Outline a scenario that reflects one or more consequences for the actors. 4. Storyboard and present your scenario. 5. Repeat for multiple scenarios. The Next Steps Would Be…
  23. 23. 5What Did We Learn?
  24. 24. References Ethics and Information Architecture, http://reframe-ia.org/ Four Ethical Issues of the Information Age, Richard Mason, http:// moodle.ncku.edu.tw/pluginfile.php/848770/mod_resource/content/1/ mason_PAPA.pdf The Ethics and Politics of Information Architecture, Andrea Resmini, https:// www.slideshare.net/resmini/the-ethics-and-politics-of-information-architecture Ethical Issues in Information Systems, Vladimir Zwass, http://reframe-ia.org/ EthicalIssuesinInformationSystems-Zwass.pdf Stacy Merrill Surla stacysurla@metametrics.com

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