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data ethics course update

This week in the lab’s data ethics course, Kobbi Nissim, Professor of Computer Science at Georgetown, joined students for a guest lecture on big data.

Nissim spoke about the importance of establishing rigorous practices for privacy in computation: identifying problems that result from the collection, sharing, and processing of information, formalizing these problems and studying them with the goal of creating solid practices and technological solutions. These ideas were then applied to health research and the implications privacy and consent have specific to health. Discussions centered on how guidance boards could mitigate present risks or better respond to crises spread across a wide network.

Toward the end, class got meta–the semester’s course work was split into five categories: writing assignments, design assignments, speakers, readings, and lectures. The students spent time dividing their class experiences into these categories, tagging particularly enjoyable or useful moments to generate data influential for designing future iterations of the course. Last, students broke to consult the final project rubric and guidelines for final crits of projects next week!


readings on big data + health

data ethics course update

This week in the lab’s data ethics course, students were treated to a guest lecture and project critique from GU alum Bill Erickson (BSFS, Georgetown University School of Foreign Service & JD, Northwestern University), who spoke about some of the hard tradeoffs in data security that technology industry leaders face, as well as his belief in the danger of decision-making about novel technology in the absence of a considered moral framework for action guidance.

Today’s session, billed as a “project intensive,” was primarily dedicated to an intensive mentoring session for team projects. Take a peek at some of the works-in-progress below! (Georgetown login required.)

Mark your calendars! Government innovation with Alexis Bonnell of USAID

On April 27 at 3:30pm, Georgetown Library’s Gelardin New Media Center and Science, Technology, and International Affairs (STIA) Program will welcome Alexis Bonnell, Division Chief of Applied Innovation of the U.S. Global Development Lab of USAID, to lead a discussion on “How Innovation Occurs In Government.”

data ethics course update

This week in the lab’s data ethics course, students explored information bubbles, social media’s role in reinforcing them, and what our increasingly polarized and fact-free public discourse means for the future of democracy. Heavy stuff!

Levity was added via an interactive exercise inspired by the Wall Street Journal’s “Red Feed, Blue Feed” feature demonstrating parallel information universes. Individual students “skewed the news” themselves prior to class, and the results were refined, aggregated, and presented as a formal feed interspersed with “skewed” stories from actual sources. Students voted on which stories they thought were student-authored, and which had appeared “in the wild” … with surprising results. Get out your smartphone and take the quiz to see for yourself!

Or, take a look directly at the full feed here and then review the key to check your score the old-fashioned way.


readings on autonomony + liberty
design tools crit

“this is the first time I’ve ended a lecture like this on a positive note…”

data ethics course update

This week in the lab’s data ethics course, students talked about the 4th amendment, and how it protects (or fails to protect) email and other materials saved on smartphones from search and seizure. Positive and negative liberty, tradeoffs, and the so-called “third party doctrine” were all covered in a free-ranging discussion with guest speaker Paul Ohm of the Georgetown University Law Center. A recent court ruling about privacy offered a glimmer of hope to individual liberty promoters, in Ohm’s view, joking that this was the first time he’d given a lecture on the topic and managed to end on a hopeful note.


readings on autonomony + liberty

Ethics Lab was excited to host a collaborative session with representatives from Georgetown’s McDonough School of Business and across the broader university system for a live demo of some of the lab’s creative design education methods.

Faculty and administrators were led through persona-building and empathy-mapping exercises drawn from the world of human-centered design and adapted to the setting of the collaborative social impact projects Georgetown business students will be beginning later this year — in collaboration with the lab team.

This session was a ton of fun as well as an inspiring opportunity to engage in open-ended dialogue with university faculty and leadership about the distinctly world-oriented, reflective, Jesuit approach to ethics that has always been a Georgetown signature — and the role that the lab plays in embodying, supporting, and expanding that approach for all of our students.

Have you seen the new “street ethics” installation one floor down from the lab? Weigh in on what you see as the most important issue facing our generation… if you can find any room, that is! The board was basically packed 24 hours after installation. Looking forward to seeing what’s next!

episte-what?

data ethics course update

This week in the lab’s data ethics course, students explored epistemological issues (having to do with knowledge, truth, and accuracy) in access to data and information in today’s society. Topics included social media bubbles, parallel information universes, and the nature of truth in a world where so much public discourse takes place in digital and social media spaces.

Students were also given a prompt for a project on “skewed news” that will be explored in full in two weeks time… stay tuned!


readings on transparency + consent

data ethics course goes deep theory

data ethics course update

This week in the lab’s data ethics course, students pulled back to ask some big questions about the nature of consent, the value (and limits) of transparency, and the role of data management in civil, democratic society.

After a free-wheeling philosophical discussion, the class dedicated the remainder of its time to a review and analysis of student project proposals, helping teams to refine and sharpen the problems their projects — which range from a board game to a manifesto to focus group design — aim to make progress on.


readings on transparency + consent
design tools problem-finding