Over the past couple of weeks – at the V&A Digital Design Weekend and the UnBias Showcase at Digital Catapult – I’ve been sharing and demonstrating the UnBias Fairness Toolkit to people from all kinds of walks of life. The response has been enormously enthusiastic as people have immediately imagined using it in the contexts of their own working lives and interests. They have instantly grasped its power to stimulate critical thinking, find and share people’s voices on these issues (bias, trust and fairness in algorithmic systems) and see how this can contribute to a public civic dialogue that involves industry, government, the public sector and civil society too.
What the Toolkit Offers
- A pragmatic and practical way to raise awareness and stimulate dialogue about bias, trust and fairness in algorithms and digital technologies.
- It is designed to make complex and often abstract ideas tangible and accessible to young people and to non-experts across society.
- It supports critical thinking skills that can help people feel empowered to make better informed choices and decisions about how they interact with algorithmic systems.
- It helps collect evidence of how people feel about the issues and what motivates them to share their concerns by contributing to a public civic dialogue.
- It provides a communication channel for stakeholders in industry, policy, regulation and civil society to respond to public concerns about these issues.
- It can also be used by developers of algorithms and digital systems to reflect on ethical issues and as a practical method for implementing Responsible Research and Innovation.
The next stage is slowly becoming clear – what I believe we need is a national programme to train people, especially those working with young people, in using the toolkit, and to inspire people working in industry, regulation and policy to understand how to use it as an applied responsible research and innovation tool. We want to get the toolkit into as many schools, libraries and other places where young people, and others of all ages, can enhance their awareness, their critical thinking skills and understanding of the issues we face for digital literacy and the profound effects on our society and democracy that digital technologies are having.
Over the coming months I will be sounding out potential partners and sponsors/funders to make this possible.
This would be the first step in a more expansive programme on enabling agency, building on this, and much of my and Proboscis’s previous work. Its not something I expect to achieve alone – so I am hoping to bring like-minded collaborators together under the umbrella of this concept of civic agency to grow our capabilities and capacities for engaging people in new forms of critical thinking, autonomous and collective action to address the challenges we face as communities and as a society today and for the future.
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