People who organize information for discovery and use have a responsibility to design ethically, and many have been having discussions about this in past years. It can be easy to pass the buck, stating that it is out of our hands, not our responsibility, or an issue that we can’t influence. However, as information architects, we have a responsibility to facilitate a conversation and outline important issues around ethics and information.
This talk will introduce an Ethics Canvas which can be applied widely within projects, teams, groups and organizations.
Key takeaways from the session:
- Ethics is important in a professional context.
- There’s a tool that can help you start and sustain constructive conversations in your teams and workplaces.
- Where to find the tool and how to use it.
About the speakers
Sarah Rice is an information architect with over two decades of strategy and consulting experience, designing and executing excellent user experiences for companies such as Google, Sony, Sun Microsystems, Microsoft, eBay, Princess Cruises and Yahoo!
She has a master’s degree in Information Science and consults with a number of user experience firms under Seneb Consulting. She served on the Board of Directors of the Information Architecture Institute, is active in the American Society for Information Science and Technology’s Information Architecture Summit. She also speaks regularly at industry conferences.
This talk today is about practicing ethics in information professions and especially targeting anybody who’s designing digital experiences. A little bit about me. My name is Sarah Rice, and I’m an information architect. I’ve been practicing for about 20 years, mainly doing consulting and my own consulting agency. I’ve been very active in the IA community and for the last six years, I’ve been helping to organize the academic and practitioners Information Architecture Roundtable. And two years ago in 2018, we delved into the topic of ethics. So a lot of what I’m showing you here today is a result of that Roundtable. So what I’m going to be showing you today is a tool called the Ethics Canvas and it is a tool that will help you to be able to have the right conversation at the right time with the right people in order to bring ethics into whatever it is the work you’re doing today. Practical ethics. So that whatever it is that you’re working on, if you’re working in a team on a project, on a product, if you’re working in a company, how can you have that conversation about ethics? So I’m going to be reviewing different parts of the ethics canvas and later there’s going to be some resources available for you that you can access.
So first thing that you may want to be focusing on is, is this an ethical dilemma? This also helps if people are wondering why do we want to talk about ethics? This may give you answering these questions may help you to understand and be able to explain to people why it is you might want to be talking about ethics in the first place as it relates to your situation. The second thing that’s important is who might be involved or who can be impacted. So typically, I would use this as part of a project that I’m working on. Typically, you know, for example, I have built data visualization dashboards for analysts. So in this example, people who are involved or impacted would be data analysts, executives who are making decisions based on the data that’s analyzed, people who own the data, other people in the organization who may be accessing the data who may or may not be experts or expert analysts. And this is a time when you can think of not only the primary users but secondary users, tertiary users, or you know people who may be out of your control who might be impacted. So take some time to think about that. That’s going to be pretty important.
Because as we know, as we’re building digital experiences, they tend to exist far longer than a project may last. So number four, what values or frameworks exist? In this canvas, we decided it was important not to build in a specific set of values because there are a lot of different values out there. And different organizations, different professional organizations, different companies may focus on different values. And so there’s a lot of different options for you to choose from. If you’re part of a particular professional organization, typically, there are values associated with that professional organization. If you’re within a company, typically companies have a set of values. You can you can go for that. The ACM has a code of ethics. I have a background in library science. The American Library Association has their own code of ethics. So a variety of values to choose from. Try to list about eight or 10. And then you’re going to take those from three and four. And then you’re going to plug them into this matrix. And this really is the money shot. This is the core part of the canvas. So on the left hand side, what you’re going to be doing is listing each of your audiences down the left hand side, and then across the top, each of your values. You’re gonna be going through and just filling out each square in this matrix. So for group one, whatever it is that you’re working on, whatever you’re focusing on a project, how will it impact this group with respect to this value? So for example, you In my building my data visualization dashboard for analysts, how will this dashboard impact analysts with, one of our values was data quality, high data quality? So if the dashboard does not uphold high data quality or doesn’t deliver high data quality, how are analysts going to be impacted? And then group two would be executives. So how would executives who are making decisions which impact the whole company based on this data, how would they be impacted if they do not have access to high quality data through this dashboard? And, you know, for us that was a pretty big deal, and something that we spent a lot of time on.
So just continue filling out each one of these and as you can see, that’s where a lot of the conversation tends to take place. And it’s a way for people to really articulate exactly what is important. You can start to prioritize things that are important. You can start to, as you’re having a conversation, develop a common language so that you can start talking about ethical considerations and make it explicit instead of having it be implicit all the time. So really, this is your money shot. If nothing else, focus on this. And then once you’ve done that, you’re going to be able to put it all together and figure out what your next steps are. Are there gaps, are there risks? You know, what are the benefits based on what you’re building? And what’s most valuable is that you will have a framework you know, a values framework and you will have a common understanding across you know, your team, if you do this with a team. Or you know, if you do this with the entire organization, there will be a common language and a common framework.
So that is your introduction to the Ethics Canvas. Please feel free to download it at this URL. It’s under a Creative Commons license so it’s available for anybody to use. Please just use the correct attribution. And also, there’s available resources at the IAroundtable.org.website on the page about ethics, a lot of available resources for you. I also wanted to let you know that the next roundtable that we’re having on May 13th, it’s going to be about values. So if you’re interested in this particular topic, you may be interested to show up for a day long roundtable about values. Please feel free to sign up and join us for that really interesting conversation. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me. I would love to talk more about ethics in your work or in information architecture. Thank you very much.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai