Netflix’s The Social Dilemma builds on a conversation that’s growing globally: what are we trading when we use technology for free, and what can we do about it? With a viewership of 38 million, the documentary reached an impressive audience. But despite its scale, it failed to address some important topics…

Lines of code streaming down laptop screen
Lines of code streaming down laptop screen
Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

I work as a consultant in Digital Ethics, so having an opinion on Netflix’s The Social Dilemma feels like part of the job description. To be honest, my judgement was a little clouded before I started watching — I’d already heard criticisms of the show over-dramatising aspects of technology development, and I’m always wary of hearing the same people who developed this technology telling us how to fix it. But I tried to put this aside. Many people were discussing the issues I talk about every day at work — surely that’s a good thing?

It’s necessary to acknowledge the documentary’s positives. I think it’s great to critically analyse the technological tools we (increasingly) use every day, and the documentary has clearly encouraged many people to start doing this. This type of analysis helps us to surface the exploitative patterns that Big Tech has been benefiting from for decades, and which we’ve already seen industry responses to. Growing awareness of the addictive dynamics of social media has already led major device manufacturers such as Apple, Google and Huawei to develop screen-time management tools. Perhaps The Social Dilemma will force industry to take these changes even further. So yes, the documentary did generate an important conversation, but it missed some essential…

As UX Designers, it’s easy to blame technical complexity on developers. Designers work with coders, but code isn’t our job — our job is to provide users with a seamless experience, helping them to achieve their goals efficiently. We forget to ask: is efficiency good for us? Is it moral? What might we be hiding from the user?

A UX designer’s sketch of three different screens for apps or websites
A UX designer’s sketch of three different screens for apps or websites
Photo by Halacious on Unsplash

“As the world around us increases in technological complexity, our understanding of this diminishes.” — James Bridle

From the 2018 Cambridge Analytica scandal to Shoshana Zuboff’s ground-breaking book, The Age of Surveillance Capitalism, we’ve seen an increasing focus on the exploitation of personal data in Big Tech. A lot of attention is given to the decisions made by CEOs, the code written by developers, and the reactions of users. …

Issues with the A-Level results algorithm have already been detailed across traditional and social media. But what does this mean for the technology sector? And what can we learn from the response?

child in library
child in library
Photo by bantersnaps on Unsplash

On the 13th August, A-Level students received their 2020 results. This year would be like no other. In the midst of a global pandemic, exams were cancelled, leaving a huge question: ‘How should A-Level grades be calculated?’

This is, unsurprisingly, a complex question to answer. Predicted grades have historically exacerbated discrimination in education: studies show that BAME and working-class students are disproportionately impacted by predicted grades from teachers whose views often reflect societal biases. On the other hand, the cancellation of exams put unprecedented weight on students’ prior work, which raised two problems. Firstly, major changes to the curriculum over the last few years mean that students’ final grades are largely weighted towards their final exams, in contrast with the prior modular approach. Secondly, it’s hard to get a sense of how students might perform in final exams based on previous assessments; different learning styles mean that students’ exam grades may not align with their assessment grades, and different teachers or schools will vary in the support they provide in formative assessments. …


Sophie Taylor

Sophie is a Senior Digital Ethics and Innovation Consultant at Sopra Steria.

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