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Utrecht Data School

Digital Ethics

As more and more aspects of our lives – including research in the humanities – become digitalized, there is an urgent need for careful reflection on the ethical issues raised by digitalization, informed both by an understanding of central ethical concepts and knowledge of how various technologies are deployed. This course is devoted to understanding the methods, principles, procedures, and institutions that govern the appropriate use of digital technology. Central ethical concepts addressed in the course include privacy, autonomy, nondiscrimination, transparency, responsibility, authenticity, and social justice. Central concepts form digital technology include datafication, algorithms, visualization, and access management.

The course will make central use of the Digital Ethics Decision Aid (DEDA)” developed by the Utrecht Data School. Using this tool as a guide, we will examine several pivotal cases that raise fundamental issues regarding the responsible use of digital technology, such as the unintentional discovery of confidential information in medical scans or database searches, or disputed claims to authenticity or ownership related to digital reproduction.

In addition, the field of ethics is itself subject to transformation to the extent to which a variety of digital methods are increasingly used to assist, automate, or even replace decision-making. Central here are questions regarding of the implications of Big Data processing, “smart” search bots, automated decision supports, and techniques of data visualization for ethical judgments.

Informed by the lectures, readings, seminar discussions, and hands-on use of the DEDA, students form research teams to work jointly in developing and presenting their own ethical analyses of a concrete case. Building on the experience of a concrete analysis, students then each write a research paper on a digital ethics topic of their own choosing.

Interested M.A. students without a background in philosophy, ethics, or digital humanities may qualify to take the course; however, they should first contact the course coordinator: j.h.anderson@uu.nl.

The entrance requirements for Exchange Students will be checked by International Office and the Programme coordinator. Therefore, you do not have to contact the Programme coördinator yourself.