„Thinking about what you are doing, changes what you are doing. And vice versa.“
Disrupt culturally entrenched narratives that hinder ethical engagement in software development. Acknowledge that these narratives give shape to the role of developers and ethicists in society. More specifically:
Challenge stereotypes aboout developers and ethicists. Some assume that developers are narrow-mindedly focused on functionality and can only be fed ethics through an ‘ethics toolbox’, while others portray ethicists as armchair critics, operating in isolation from practical and economic reality as well as using abstract concepts.
Undercut the fallacy of ‘technological solutionism’, which assumes that innovation is the a priori solution to all problems, including the ethical and social impact of technology, leading to the relentless pursuit of innovation.
Deconstruct the myth that technology is neutral. Embrace Social Sciences and Humanities vocabularies that highlight the inherently social nature of technology and explore concepts that emphasize power dynamics, competing interests, and ideology.
Foster open-ended collaboration
Build context-specific practices within innovation settings instead of importing generic approaches. Societal responsibility in innovation contexts should be an ongoing empirical exploration, involving all project members and external stakeholders. More specifically, we recommend to:
Foster sustained socio-technical collaboration between software developers and ethicists based on equivalence. Acknowledge and address affective tensions in interdisciplinary collaboration. Understand that moments of discomfort and frustration can be productive for transcending disciplinary boundaries.
Employ existing Ethics by Design and Responsible Innovation tools for mapping out responsibilities rather than shrugging them off. While cautioning against relying on tools as shortcuts for ethical decision-making, we advocate using them as aids for mapping ethical and social concerns on which decisions impinge, sharpening the ethical awareness of everyone involved.
Consider embedding iterative reflexive exercises into agile processes like scrum. Scrum ceremonies such as sprint planning and reviews are particulary apt to foster ethical deliberation and monitor design choices. In the absence of an embedded ethicist, consider assigning an ‘ehics owner’ role, alternating between team members.
Cultivate virtous attitudes
In navigating the intricate social implications of their actions, Ethics by Design Practitioners should adopt a virtous attitude characterized by a clear sense of direction and determination. In particular, we recommend to:
Foster self-reflexity: There is an essential portion of ethics that is indispensably personal, in that it cannot be delegated. Allocate time for introspection, delving in the narratives and beliefs guiding your work. Analyze the origins and motivations behind your practices, organizational structures, and routines.
Facilitate collective sensitivity: Establish dedicated spaces and allocate time for team-wide reflection, discussions, and debates. Implement methodological approaches for group reflection to cultivate sensitivity and awareness of diverse perspectives.
Embrace courageous determination: Understand that ethics is not a one-time task, but an enduring commitment to navigating the intricate web of societal impact within one´s actions. Challege the status quo by transcending routine narratives and practices, willing to adapt to envolving ethical challenges.