The Ethical Stack

There is a lot of talk about ethics and technology but what can designers and developers actually do? How can we confront the present and future ethical challenges as we create connective tech?

We designed The Ethical Stack to structure and facilitate considering ethics when building new connected technology. It is a series of tools to support creators of new connected technology to reflect on their products ethical and social impacts.

The Journey: How long will this take, people often ask. In the Ethical Stack, we ask people to sit with the ethics of their product, to handle the challenges we will provoke and to reflect upon their work from an ethical and social impact point of view.

Create and share: articipants begin by making an overview of their product's layered impacts; aligning with their team about their ethical values and vision.We encourage the team to break out of the siloes of developer, designer, product manager, CEO, and gather around the Stack.

Connect and question: At the end of the Ethical Stack, participants are ready to receive ethical challenges in relation to their product, to understand and address them in a practical way.

This is one of the paper tools that helps to uncover and solve the ethical challenges they receive at the end of the Ethical Stack. It is based on the "bowtie" risk assessment metaphor combined with futurecasting theories.

The Ethical Stack was created through intensive collaboration across disciplines and industries. For three years, together with our partners in VIRT-EU, we researched ethics, ethical tools and proceses within technology design and development, conducting co-creation, co-design and finally testing sessions with entrepreneurs, developers and designers in Copenhagen, Amsterdam and London. 

Through co-creation with developers across different cities, we uncovered insights that guided our ethical tools' development.

Along with the Ethical Stack, we designed participatory workshops, experiences, and talks. Through these sessions, we developed the interactive interface of the Ethical Stack and its many accompanying materials. Developing the Ethical Stack entailed everything from prototyping and testing to rich graphic and user interface design to programming and user experience tests.

As part of the research, we created a myriad of "offline" experiences - such as an interactive ethics simulation.

Date: 2017-2020
Details: Project site, research notebook

Role: Principal Investigator
Technologies: d3.js, web programming languages

Collaborators: Monika Seyfried, Blair Johnsrude, Calle Nordenskjöld, Peter Kuhberg
Partners: ITU & LSE as part of H2020 VIRT-EU

Awards: Runner up for Strategy & Research, recognised for Design for Social Impact in Core77 Design Awards 2020
Honored in the Experimental category of FastCo Design’s World Changing Ideas 2020