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Data ethics: intro

Data ethics: intro

Introductory slidedeck for one-credit LIS 640 "[Big] Data Ethics."


Dorothea Salo

June 10, 2019


  1. WELCOME TO (BIG) DATA ETHICS! Dorothea Salo

  2. WHERE AM I IN THIS? •Former academic librarian •(and librarianship,

    at least theoretically, has strong ethics) •Scholarly communication, research-data management, metadata, some systems/web work •Data Doubles co-investigator • •Investigating undergrads’ sense of privacy, how that plays out vis-a- vis learning analytics and libraries •I, personally? Am a sworn (seriously, I swear a lot about this) enemy of learning analytics and the “Library Value Agenda.” •Not an ethicist! Almost no training/education in formal ethics! But someone who tries to do the right thing. •I don’t always succeed. That’s not a reasonable goal for anyone. I try.
  3. WHERE AM I IN THIS? •White, cis female, heterosexual, ethnically

    though not religiously Jewish, divorced, comfortably-well-off. •Have dealt, well or badly, with plenty of sexism from IT and librarianship (and even, it must be said, from students) •Have also dealt with plenty of unscrupulous people and organizations •and been called unscrupulous/unethical myself, once or twice •Why does this matter? Because power and privilege matter —they create extra ethical responsibilities—and I have some, so.
  4. ABOUT THE COURSE •My goals: •to help you see ethical

    errors and dilemmas in Big Data about people •to help you make ethical decisions, about Big Data and more generally •to turn you into ethics activists! (I’m not going to hide this; I care a lot about it! But you are under no obligation to respond to my nudging.) •My beliefs: •Passive or performative ethics are useless. You cannot “be good;” you can only “do good.” •Being ethical is frequently not the easy road. It can hurt. Your family, friends, coworkers, co-professionals… will not always help you and may even hurt you. •Words matter. Use good ones well and wisely. (Where I fall down, it’s often here. I know this about myself. I keep trying!) •“It’s hopeless” is no excuse for inaction.
  5. WEEKLY WORK •Readings •Choosing these was awful. There’s so much

    more I wish we all had time to read. If something interests you, ask for more to read! I likely have it. •I will often drop hints in the reading list or in Canvas about what I think you should be reading for, and concepts to ask about if the readings don’t sufficiently explain them (which is possible). •A lot of what you’ll read is pretty depressing. (Sorry!) At the end of most modules’ reading list, I put something a little more hopepunky. •Weekly responses/reflections •To get you actually using the ethics backgrounders from Module 1 to think through real-life writings/situations touching on Big Data ethics •To confront you with bad ethics, so you know it when you see it… and can strategize how to counter it
  6. FINAL REFLECTION •Like the weeklies, but more choose-your-own-adventure. •Gives you

    a chance to investigate your own reactions to things. •This is an important skill (she said, ruefully), because your reactions are often wise and worth heeding… but they can also cloud your response. •I encourage you to pick something where you can (eventually, likely with revision/expansion) publish what you write. •You don’t need my permission! It’s your writing; you own its copyright! •(And I am emphatically not the kind of unethical academic creep who steals students’ work to publish under their own name. SO GROSS.) •If it’s the kind of venue where acknowledgments are okay, you can acknowledge me if you like. I won’t be salty if you don’t, though.
  7. THAT “WESTERN SCHOOLS OF ETHICS” THING •Yeah, so. Europe doesn’t

    have a monopoly on ethics knowledge. •And all schools of ethics start from sets of presuppositions… no two sets being necessarily the same. •The problem is, I don’t have enough knowledge of non-European cultures’ ethics frameworks to find good introductory readings. •I was really happy to find the one reading on Confucian ethics! •Such ethics education as I’ve had has been on Jewish and Christian philosophy… and even that ain’t much. •If this is someplace you can help me out, I WOULD BE SO GRATEFUL. Thank you in advance! •So I qualified the learning objective with “Western.” Not doing so would have felt inappropriate to me.
  8. THANKS! There are discussion forums on Canvas if you have

    questions or comments!