Mass data collection is now “designed in” to everyday life as we rely on technologies capable of monitoring, storing and distributing information about us. As citizens and researchers, we are not faced with a binary between privacy and surveillance, but must make sense of complex situations where ex post regulation of data use is necessary but not sufficient for addressing ethical and social concerns.
This talk asks what might be implied in making a claim for using virtue ethics – a form of ethics focused on the development of individual qualities that are socially good. It provides some key features of the virtue ethics approach and questions how these could be investigated and applied in the context of Internet of Things development – a research area already coming under ethical scrutiny.
The talk continues by outlining the research approach of the Virt-EU project, a three-year project investigating using quantitative, qualitative and design methods to examine ethical processes in IoT development.
The talk will finish with a set of questions for designers, teachers and researchers to consider:
Alison Powell is Assistant Professor in Media and Communications at the London School of Economics and Programme Director of the MSc in Media and Communication (Data & Society). Her research examines how people’s values influence the way technology is built, and how discourses, practices and governance structures are produced in relation to new technological systems. She has held posts at Telecom ParisTech and the Oxford Internet Institute, and has a PhD from Concordia University in Montreal Canada.
Her most recent collaborative funded research is VIRT-EU, a Horizon 2020 project examining ethics in practice among Internet of Things developer communities. Other funded research has considered the role of civic technology advocates in developing WiFi networks in cities around the world, and examined knowledge cultures and governance processes of hardware hackers and citizen scientists.
She is currently working on several projects related to citizenship, cities, data and ethics, and is fascinated by how we think of machines in terms of ethics, morals and values. Along with Nick Couldry, she recently published “Big Data From the Bottom Up” in Big Data and Society, as well as many articles discussing information policy, activism, and open source culture.