Designing and building information technologies involves an ethical component, as designers (consciously or un-) make values choices that influence the uses and impacts of their designs. This talk will discuss how the practices of design affect the social values materialized in emerging technologies, and explore how design practices can encourage ethical reflection and action. The talk will present data from two participant-observation projects. The first observed a laboratory that engineered software for mobile phones to track users’ locations, habits, and behaviors. The second examines the social values considered in the design of a future Internet architecture. In both cases, technical work raised ethical challenges ranging from avoiding surveillance to encouraging equity. The projects suggest that particular activities within design can help engineers agree on social values as important to design. I characterize these activities as values levers: practices that open new conversations about social values, and encourage consensus around those values as design criteria. Laboratory leaders and advocates can enable and strengthen these levers to encourage ethical reflection and action as an explicit part of design practice.
Katie Shilton‘s research focuses on ethics and policy for the design of information technologies, systems, and collections in the College of Information Studies at the University of Maryland. She received a B.A. from Oberlin College in 2003, a Master of Library and Information Science from UCLA in 2007, and a Ph.D. in Information Studies from UCLA in 2011. She teaches courses in information policy, information and technology ethics, and archival studies.