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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)

guest speakers take the stage in ethics lab to shine a light on georgetown’s data

data ethics course update

This week in the lab’s data ethics course, students explored Georgetown’s existing data policies by interacting with a raft of guest speakers:

  • Judd Nicholson (Vice President and Chief Information Officer)
  • Melissa Constanzi (Senior Associate Director, Undergraduate Admissions)
  • Annamarie Bianco (Associate Vice President and University Registrar)
  • LeNaya Hezel (Director of the Veterans Office)
  • Carol Day (Director of Health Education Services)

Getting a firm handle on the university’s existing policies, protocols, concerns, hopes and known issues with data handling is an essential step on the way to offering concrete recommendations for changes to that system at the semester’s end. And today’s speakers—described by course design mentor Jesse Flores as “the university’s data stewards and shepherds”—are essential to the course’s overall goal of understanding and working to protect Georgetown’s data.

readings on data privacy in the university setting
design tools personas, context maps