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Towards Tools

While the VIRT-EU complete set of tools is slated to be released in December 2019, we are releasing a first, alpha prototype of just one variation, of one tool, this week. It is designed to support a phase that we, along with our partners, have identified as part of the combined forces of co-creation workshops, ethnographic research, ethical theory frameworks and mapping the field of tools for ethical IoT development (more on that soon).

Perhaps this phase seems to be the most obvious: articulate your values. Because in order to work through whether you align with “Ethical” values as you create your product, you first need to state those ethical values. What’s your “North Star”, we ask?

But in fact, the process of figuring out what your values are - as an individual, working on a product, with other individuals, as part of a company, in relation to other companies and concepts of ethics in your field - is quite soul-searching and long. And, without us as facilitators, that process can be quite challenging. To some extent, in this variation, we have “Exported” ourselves into a set of instructions and prompts.


There are many other variations on what this tool could be. The medium could be purely digital - and a chatbot, or a voice-activated assistant - purely analog, mix of digital-analog. The information could either be spoon-fed from our research or to some extent independently contributed from the participants. How should you determine values as a group? Does someone get more “votes” than another? How do you even start talking about such abstract concepts as “transparency”?

This first tool variation is just one possibility and in making it and releasing it we hope to learn and iterate throughout the months of Summer of 2019. One of the most challenging aspects of developing it is the fact of ourselves, as researchers, not being able to be there physically to support, facilitate, and create situations for this tool to be used. But we like challenges :) and will spend the summer in said remote testing situations with IoT start-ups.

Importantly, this prototype exists in a context of several other tools that we are developing to a digital prototype level by the end of June.

Further tools will support other aspects of ethics in IoT that are 1) similarly crucial and 2) need more work than what’s already been done.

Here’s the short version:

  1. Map: describing your product and how it affects its environs

  2. State: articulate your values in relation to your product

  3. Gaps: finding gaps between your values and your product’s design

  4. Steer: making decisions that steer you towards your stated values

  5. Shift: engage a “moral imagination” around unforeseeable issues

  6. Steer: making decisions with values, options and imagination in mind

    Constant: redesigning the product and evolution of values as the product evolves.

Though the list is presented linearly, in the diagram you also see that the sequence can be crossed, mixed, and spun as the creation and development process requires.

Ethical Tools Review