How to make IT good? Developing digital ethics as an engine for innovation through collaborative research with disaster risk management practitioners

To realise the potential of big data and IT effectively and responsibly, we must design, use, and govern IT research and innovation with more respect for human rights. This need is accentuated in the field of disaster management and response since it is during disasters and crises that the “disruptive” momentum of data can become stark; both enabling a richer operational picture and understanding of crises with potentially life-saving effects, while at the same time engendering far-reaching effects on human rights and social values such as trust, equality, privacy, justice. Indeed, sharing disaster information and data through digital infrastructures and across borders, institutions and new and digital public(s) puts into tension social and regulatory practices and makes visible the complex ways in which data produces power in society.

In this presentation I reflect upon a digital ethics design research project, where production of a community knowledge exchange platform has generated momentum for collaborative research and innovation in disaster risk management. I will present the platform and a specially designed table-top game along with various tools we have developed for creative ethical impact assessment as part of our isITethical? Exchange. I will contextualise our initiative in relation to efforts of Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) and explore with you the generative and disruptive power of data and the situated, socio-technical nature of data sharing practices.

Monika Büscher is Professor of Sociology at Lancaster University, Director of the Centre for Mobilities Research. She is the academic lead for the Lancaster University Social Research Impact Acceleration Account and leads research on social practices of mobility and risk governance in a range of projects, e.g. isITethical? (2017-2018), SecInCoRe (2014-2017), BRIDGE (2011-2015). Monika initiated the platform, which develops guidance for digital ethics and responsible innovation in collaboration with the Public Safety Communications Europe Network. She received an honorary doctorate from Roskilde University, Denmark for her work on participatory design. She edits the book series Changing Mobilities (Routledge) with Peter Adey.