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

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

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

This weekend at Georgetown’s Lauinger Library, datarescueDC will help to seed, sort, harvest, and store valuable and at-risk federal government data. Organizers say: “Whether you are a researcher who actively uses federal datasets, someone who values the data publishing work of the federal government, a software developer, designer, or writer, we’ve got work for you to do, and would love for you to be involved.” Learn more »

take a “data selfie”

This new Chrome browser extension tracks you on Facebook to show you your own data traces and reveal how machine learning algorithms use your data to gain insights about your personality. According to its developers, the tool “explores our relationship to the online data we leave behind as a result of media consumption and social networks – the information you share consciously and unconsciously.” Definitely a hot topic in our classroom these days!

data ethics course update

This week in the lab’s data ethics course, students continued their crash course in user-centered design methods: conducting mock interviews, experimenting with methods such as personas and affinity mapping to aggregate and sort the information that was generated.

Students experimented with these tools in the lab to prepare for the genuine stakeholder interviews and information analysis they will be doing with end-users as the semester progresses.

readings on the challenges of privacy in the digital age
design tools personas, context maps

data ethics course update

This week in the lab’s data ethics course, students dove into the conceptual foundations of the right to privacy, paired with some time spent on the user-centered design method of stakeholder mapping, which designers use to understand and empathize with their end-users.

readings on the foundations of privacy
design tools stakeholder mapping

data ethics course update

This week in the lab’s data ethics course, students presented their work from a mapping exercise introduced in last week’s introductory class. Students were presented with a prompt to “create a map of how you spend your time from now through Sunday.”

Course staff describe the purpose of this exercise as giving students “the experience of working to create an artifact in an unfamiliar medium and format… Your final product may take many forms and you should take inspiration from data visualizations, infographics, and other interesting presentations of data.”

Students began the exercise during the first class, facilitated by Ethics Lab design staff, and worked collaboratively throughout the rest of the week for today’s presentation.

readings on the perils and promises of big data
design tools mapping, self-ethnography, data visualization