Card-based Tools

Ethics and responsibility may not be conventional topics of conversation for software engineers and computer scientists. Within Responsible Innovation, the utility of cards as tools to instigate, nourish, and structure discussions has long been recognized. Providing inspiration by articulating engaging questions or viewpoints, they stimulate technologists’ capacity to reflect on the social and ethical dimensions of their work, challenging the perception that ethics is distant from their roles and reserved for specialists. Moreover, their physical form leverages familiar aspects of card games, allowing for sliding, organizing, rearranging, and laying out. In deliberation and discussion, these cards serve as anchoring points, prompting consideration of ethical issues and pondering actions to design more responsible systems.

Here, we introduce two card decks: the ‘Imagine EBD’ deck and the ‘Moral-IT’ deck. The former focuses on self-reflection regarding the respective responsibilities of software developers and ethicists in the pursuit of Ethics by Design (EBD). The latter is designed to brainstorm ethical questions at different stages of the design process. We encourage teams, particularly ethics owners in agile projects, to experiment with these card decks. The provided rules are merely one way to use the cards. As a versatile platform, they lend themselves to creative reinterpretation.


This card deck is inspired by IMAGINE RRI, originally designed by Ulrike Felt, Maximilian Fochler and Lisa Sigl in the context of life sciences. Informed by our research findings, we have developed a specific set of cards aimed at fostering reflection and discussion on the societal responsibility inherent in IT design and the roles that ethicists and developers can assume. Primarily intended for interdisciplinary teams at the onset of collaboration, the cards prompt contemplation and discussion on respective responsibilities in shaping ethically sound IT.

The Moral-IT Deck

Designed by Lachlan Urquhart and Peter Craigon, the Moral-IT deck poses a diverse range of critical ethical questions that designers should consider for their new technology. Themed around privacy, ethics, law, and security, these cards, when coupled with an Impact Assessment Board, aid technologists in reflecting on emerging ethical risks and implementing appropriate safeguards. Utilizing the Moral-IT deck helps visualize and chart discussions, streamlining collective deliberation on how to effectively navigate and tackle ethical challenges. While especially effective for brainstorming ethical questions in the early design phases, the card deck, even without the impact assessment board, remains valuable for addressing specific issues at later stages.