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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

What I emphasized to students is, no matter what you’re creating—an app, a prescription drug—you need to consider the human perspective of the end-user to be successful.

—Nico Staple, on the lab team's recent visit to a local high school STEAM conference

data ethics course update

This week in the lab’s data ethics course, students explored whether or not there might be an approach to data privacy and data management drawn from Georgetown’s identity as a Catholic, Jesuit university.

The bulk of class was dedicated to a graded presentation or “crit” of ongoing student work drawn from research-based personas or concept maps.

Jurors included:


readings on jesuit values + student data
design tools crit

Cool opportunity: Make for the Planet, April 21-23, Washington, D.C.

Got the head’s up on this neat upcoming opportunity from our friends at Georgetown’s Maker Hub:

If you are you a hacker, coder, maker, engineer, designer, entrepreneur, creative thinker or tinkerer, come celebrate Earth Day weekend 2017 by creating solutions to challenging conservation problems in front of a global audience! Multidisciplinary teams will compete in an on-site event called Make for the Planet over three days of the Smithsonian’s Earth Optimism Summit in Washington, D.C. (April 21-23, 2017). Equipment will be available to create prototypes and models of hardware and/or software solutions to specific conservation problems. Space and registration is limited! Visit the Make for the Planet website to apply for participation no later than March 1, 2017 (11:59 pm, EST).

data ethics course update

This week in the lab’s data ethics course, students learned about how Georgetown’s financial services office uses and stores student data, dove into some shocking stories about the so-called “right to be forgotten,” and learned that Barbie(TM) can’t keep a secret…

Guest speakers included:

  • Patricia McWade (Dean of Student Financial Services)
  • Robert Brokaw (Associate Dean of Student Financial Services)
  • Meg Jones (Assistant Professor, Communication, Culture, and Technology)

Hello Barbie was the class’s last visitor: a wired version of the classic children’s toy with the capacity to tell stories, play games, and engage in two-way conversations. When a child speaks to the doll, the conversation is recorded, transmitted via wifi, and converted into text via speech recognition software, whereupon artificial intelligence software extracts keywords from the child’s responses and triggers the doll to reply with one of thousands of pre-written lines. The doll, who has earned the moniker “surveillance Barbie” from critics, remains in Ethics Lab for casual conversation with students willing to risk a chat.

readings on consent + fair usage
design tools personas, context maps (work continued)