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The Ethical Hackathon encapsulates ethics and design challenge


The Ethical hackathon, a novel twist on the hackathon that highlights ethical issues alongside design features, made its debut in February.

An Oxford team ran its first ethical hackathon at the University of Nottingham as part of the ongoing UnBias project, which is examining the responsible and fair use of algorithms. Teams were challenged to consider the design of a new social networking platform that is committed to the responsible use of algorithms. They presented their ideas to a panel of expert judges, who gave prizes for the best designs. 

The concept of the ethical hackathon has been developed by Professor Marina Jirotka, Dr Helena Webb and Dr Menisha Patel in the Human Centred Computing theme.

In an ethical hackathon, teams carry out a design task but in addition to thinking about technical features, as would be the case for a traditional Hackathon, they are also required to identify the ethical implications of the particular technology involved. For instance, does the technology risk causing harm? Will it decrease user autonomy or undermine privacy? Will users have the opportunity to determine for themselves how the technology will fit into their day-to-day lives?

Ethical hackathon participants are challenged to identify novel and creative solutions to these potential problems and to find ways to embed ethical considerations into their designs.