tags: 5199, ethical issues in technology design, ethics, values
# MSTU 4504: Ethical Issues in Technology Design
### 3 credits - Summer B online
(NOTE: An in-person version of this course is also offered Fall 2020 semester with a different CRN number).
**July 6 - August 8**
This online course is convenient in that it is mostly self-paced and asynchronous in nature; however, at the following times, we will meet synchronously online using Zoom videoconferencing for discussions, debates and other activities at the following times. (You are expected to attend at least 4 of these online sessions.)
* July 11 11 am-12 pm EST
* July 18 11 am-12 pm EST
* July 25 11 am-12 pm EST
* Aug 1 11 am-12 pm EST
* Aug 8 11 am-12 pm EST
This course addresses a wide range of issues regarding ethics and values in technology design, and their unintended or intended effects on cognition, behavior and society. Focuses especially on social media, virtual reality, games, robotics, artificial intelligence, interactive media, interaction design and related areas.
## Technology is not neutral: what are its impacts?
> “It is a mistake to suppose that any technological innovation has a one-sided effect. Every technology is both a burden and a blessing; not either-or, but this-and that.”
― *Neil Postman, in Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology*
We may readily embrace technology’s seemingly promising benefits to society, such as its conveniences and affordances that can improve efficiency or create new possibilities. But too often the possible consequences go unchecked, not thoughtfully or critically considered. There is often a cost. Emergent technologies can cause unanticipated ethical dilemmas or unexpected impacts for consumers, businesses, organizations, governments, and society.
>“Technology is not neutral. The choices that get made in building technology then have social ramifications.”
*― Mehran Sahami, former research scientist at Google*
For example, recent controversies in the news include:
* highly addictive mechanics in games to promote compulsive spending behavior (e.g. Loot Boxes and other gambling-like designs (Wiltshire, 2017)
* “dark patterns” in the user experience design of mobile apps and websites that deceive or exploit the user (Tollady, 2016)
* fake news on Facebook (Isaac & Shane, 2007)
* objectionable content found in games or lewd children’s videos on YouTube (Maheshwari, 2017)
* inaction on widespread user data theft of up to 87 million users’ Facebook data and exploitation for selling its users’ private data (Lapowsky, 2018)
* addiction, social isolation (Shakya & Christakis, 2017) as well as narcissism, comparison, envy, depression (Appel, Helmut, Gerlach & Crusius, 2016), and the “social feedback validation loop” from social media
Technology is not neutral; there are always impacts. Some of the impacts can be considered ethical, while others might be deemed unethical.
## The Course
**Goals of the course**
This course has several goals:
* Gain an understanding of theoretical and conceptual issues and frameworks to analyze technology designs
* Discuss and debate timely topics, examples and case studies pertaining to ethics, values and technology design
* Critically analyze technology designs and their impacts using multiple perspectives, including: cognitive, societal, critical, ethical and value-centric design
## How do technologies affect our relationships, our society, even our happiness?
**Some Questions We Will Address**
Questions that we will cover include, but are not limited to:
* What is the difference between ethics and morals (individual principles regarding right and wrong)? Where do these come from? What do you believe?
* What is value-centered design? Why is this perspective important for understanding how technology affects stakeholders?
* What does it mean to be human? Does technology lessen that?
* How important is presence? How important is autonomy? How important is agentivity?
* What is the hedonic treadmill and how does it affect us? Are designs that rely heavily on short term dopamine hits/hedonic design harmful? How does it relates to longer term happiness?
* What responsibility does a consumer, designer, business, government, organization or society have on the impacts of technology?
* How does the design of a technology affect equitable access / opportunities to succeed?
* What are some ways “dark patterns” of user experience (UX), variable ratio rewards, or other exploitative mechanics affect technology users in negative ways?
* Is it exploitative for a designer to create characters in video games or robots that a user may fall in love with?
* How does technology affect privacy and other risks to one’s personal information?
* How does freedom of speech relate to some of unprecedented risks of emergent technology, such as objectionable content or behaviors in virtual reality or cyberspace?
* How might artificial intelligence (AI) or robotics affect our relationships?
* Who is most impacted by a new technology? What problem does the technological solution solve? What new problems do we create by solving this problem? Which shifts in economic and political power might result when this technology is adopted? What alternative (and unintended) uses might be made of this technology?
>“Designs that are intentionally created to trick and deceive users are called dark patterns. Designers have crafted these ingenious, yet ethically questionable patterns to trick users into doing something they don’t want to do.”
*― Benjamin Tollady, User Experience Designer*
## Units, Dates and Topics
(RESPOND to discussion questions in Canvas by the end of this period)
| Unit and Dates | Topic |
| -------- | -------- | -------- |
| July 6-13 |***UNIT 1***
| |**Overview of Ethics: Theories and frameworks pertaining to ethical design** - Ethical frameworks: Utilitarianism (consequence based - act vs. rule utilitarianism - focuses on results and consequences rather than rules), vs. Duty-based (deontology - Kant), vs. Virtue-based (Aristotle); Eudaimonia (virtuous) vs. hedonia (vicious)
| | **Tech as Both Socially Shaped and Shaping Society** - Overview articles on technology as socially shaped and its impacts; tech as not neutral
| July 14-20 |***UNIT 2***
| | **Value-Sensitive Design** - Embedded values, designer goals of technology, direct/indirect stakeholders, conflicts and tensions between stakeholder values and the values embedded within the design |
| |**Dark Patterns in UX Design** - how user experience designers can manipulate or exploit user behavior |
| |**Research studies on psychological effects** - how technology like Facebook can lead to addiction, depression, anxiety |
| July 21-27 |***UNIT 3***
| | **Unethical Game Design** - Gamification, addiction, variable ratio rewards, skinner boxes, hedonic/vicious game design vs. eudaimonic/virtuous game design, compulsive mechanics
| |**Virtual Reality and the Boundaries of Virtuality/Meatspace** - Escapism, loss of control, constraints on autonomy, correspondences to real world consequences (Proteus Effect), implications of human-agent interaction in VR.
| July 28-Aug 3 |***UNIT 4***
| | **AI/Robotics/Human-Machine Relationships** - Ethical issues pertaining to artificial intelligence.
||**Self-Driving Cars** - How to weigh human life.
||**Romantic Relationships between Robot and Human** - Ethical issues of machine - human relationships.|
| Aug 4-10 |***UNIT 5***
| | **Free speech in Cyberspace** - Hate Speech, Cyberbullying, Pornography, Wikileaks
| |**Race, Gender: Bias, Absent Voices** - Marginalized voices, bias, lack of representation -- and implications on student identities
| Aug 11-14 | **Wrap up**
## Course Deliverables
| Assignment/Task | Percent of Grade |
| -------- | -------- |
|READ, DISCUSS AND DEBATE
|**Big Theme Discussant (Canvas/Google Hangouts)** - Select a “big theme” from the approved list and facilitate an online discussion online via Google Hangouts/Canvas. You are asked to plan and lead this class session, either individually or with up to two partners. These will follow a schedule. By the dates indicated on the calendar, post a few questions in Canvas for others to debate and/or respond to. | 20%
|**Participate in Reading Discussions (Canvas) -** Read and write in the discussion board actively throughout the semester. Comment on at least 1 post for each reading. |15%
| **Case-Study/Design Critique and Re-Design -** Select a technology design of your choice and analyze it for its ethics/values and any ethical dilemma that it may cause. Propose a new web or interactive media-based technology design (or redesign of an existing technology) and argue for its design rationale, and why it is both ethical and successful as a design. This should be about 500-1000 words. | 15%
|**Film/Video Response -** Watch a film or TV excerpt that depicts an issue pertaining to technology design and ethics and write a short response with your insights about this issue. This should be about 500 words in length. | 10%
| FINAL PAPER
| **Final paper -** Write about a particular ethical topic and its implications for ethical technology design. Also include a literature review of at least 5-10 relevant citations (can be psychology studies, research articles, papers describing theoretical frameworks, book chapters, etc.). This should be at least 1000 words in length, following APA format. Post this to the Canvas discussion board. | 40%
- Register for the Summer B online course with CRN 22551.
- Contact Prof. Joey Lee via: **<a href="mailto:email@example.com?subject=Ethical Issues in Tech Design: MSTU5199">firstname.lastname@example.org</a>** if you have any questions.
## TECHNOLOGIES USED
We will use a wide range of different technologies in this course, including Zoom and Canvas.
## Syllabus and Readings
For the reading list and additional information on course expectations and policies, please see the link below.
| Link | Syllabus | |
| --- | --- | --- |
| **[Link to Syllabus]** | Ethical Issues of Technology Design - MSTU4504 | Summer 2020 |
- Please contact **<a href="mailto:email@example.com?subject=MSTU5199">Prof. Joey J. Lee</a>** for registration and more information