Earlier this year the UnBias team ran its first Ethicon. An Ethicon is a new kind of event developed by members of the Human Centred Computing theme at Oxford. It works as a twist on the traditional hackathon; it is geared towards forefronting ethical issues alongside design issues in the completion of a task.
In an Ethicon teams work together to carry out a competitive design task. In addition to thinking about technical features of design they are required to address the social and ethical implications of the particular technology involved. They are challenged to identify novel and creative solutions that embed ethical considerations into their design. Teams are interdisciplinary so that they can share expertise and learn from each other in a fun environment. They are then assessed by a panel of experts who judge the technical quality of their work alongside how well they have worked together to identify and address ethical concerns.
June was a month of conferences and workshops for UnBias. The 3rd UnBias project meeting on June 1st, hosted by our Edinburgh partners this time, was quickly followed by the Ethicomp and EuroDIG conferences which both took place from June 5th to 8th.
The workshop took place on February 3rd 2017 at the Digital Catapult centre in London, UK. It brought together participants from academia, education, NGOs and enterprises to discuss fairness in relation to algorithmic practice and design. At the heart of the discussion were four case studies highlighting fake news, personalisation, gaming the system, and transparency.
On February 3rd a group of twenty five stakeholders joined us at the Digital Catapult in London for our first discussion workshop.
The User Engagement workpackage of the project focuses on gathering together professionals from industry, academia, education, NGOs and research institutes in order to discuss societal and ethical issues surrounding the design, development and use of algorithms on the internet. We aim to create a space where these stakeholders can come together and discuss their various concerns and perspectives. This includes finding differences of opinion. For example, participants from industry often view algorithms as proprietary and commercially sensitive whereas those from NGOs frequently call for greater transparency in algorithmic design. It is important for us to draw out these kinds of varying perspectives and understand in detail the reasoning that lies behind them. Then, combined with the outcomes of the other project workpackages, we can identify points of resolution and produce outputs that seek to advance responsibility on algorithm driven internet platforms.
The UnBias team is pleased to announce the launch of a ground-breaking report that articulates the voice of children and young people, and their relationship to the internet and digital technologies.
This report is titled ‘The Internet on our Own Term: How Children and Young People Deliberated about their Digital Rights’ and describes the work carried since April 2015 in which young people aged between 12 and 17 gathered together in the cities of Leeds, London and Nottingham to participate in a series of jury-styled focus groups designed to ‘put the internet on trial’. In total, nine juries took place which included 108 young people, approximately 12 participants per jury.
The first youth jury sessions of the UnBias project took place last weekend and were highly interesting and thought provoking. Despite the cold and rainy weather, we had a great turnout with nearly 30 young people choosing to attend. Our youth jurors mostly ranged in age from 13 to 18 and took part in two interactive activities.
We invite stakeholders from academia, education, government/regulatory oversight organizations, civil society, media, industry and entrepreneurs to contribute to our ongoing research study by taking part in a small number of stakeholder engagement workshops. These workshops will explore the implications of algorithm-mediated interactions on online platforms. They provide an opportunity for relevant stakeholders to put forward their perspectives and discuss the ways in which algorithms shape online behaviours, in particular in relation to access and the dissemination of information to users. The workshops will provide an excellent opportunity for participants to exchange ideas and explore solutions with perspectives from a wide range of stakeholders. Following each workshop the participants will receive an anonymized report of the outcomes, which will contribute to the production of policy recommendations as well as the design of a ‘fairness toolkit’ for users, online providers and other stakeholders.
In an age of ubiquitous data collecting, analysis and processing, how can citizens judge the trustworthiness and fairness of systems that heavily rely on algorithms? News feeds, search engine results and product recommendations increasingly use personalization algorithms to help us cut through the mountains of available information and find those bits that are most relevant, but how can we know if the information we get really is the best match for our interests?