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ND TEC launches series of animated videos explaining tech ethics concepts

Tech Ethics Animated is a series of short animated videos unpacking central concepts and concerns in the field in a manner intended for a broad audience without an extensive background in technology ethics.

A working definition of tech ethics might go something like:

A framework that recognizes the inadequacy of simply considering whether a new technology can be developed and instead places heightened emphasis on what types of technologies should be developed, how, and for what reasons

But what does that mean in the context of our daily lives? How can a tech ethics orientation help us better understand both the promises and the perils of the myriad websites, apps and other connected systems we interact with all the time?

The Notre Dame Technology Ethics Center (ND TEC) has launched a project meant to animate — quite literally — the real-world impact of these issues.

Tech Ethics Animated is a series of short animated videos unpacking central concepts and concerns in the field in a manner intended for a broad audience without an extensive background in technology ethics.

The first video in the series, which discusses privacy and the ways our expected norms around it are routinely violated by the prevalent approaches to how our data is collected and managed, was released Wednesday (March 1). New videos — on surveillance, AI and discrimination, the big data industry, fairness and justice in algorithms, and the ethics of care — will be posted each Wednesday for the next five weeks.

Based on leading research and journalism in tech ethics, the animations are presented with links to associated readings. Written transcripts are also provided.

All animation work was done by 2022 University of Notre Dame graduate Josiah Broughton and current senior Michael Simon, with junior Brooke Anquillare focusing on the scripts. They collaborated closely with Carolina Villegas-Galaviz, one of ND TEC’s postdoctoral fellows, who serves as the team’s faculty adviser.

“This project aims to make accessible concepts that firms sometimes purposely present as complex but are not,” Villegas-Galaviz said. “Currently, ethical issues regarding technology are part of our everyday life. These videos are a great way to start a conversation about technology ethics, specifically for those without a background in the field. These technologies impact us all, so we all deserve to understand what is happening in these industries.

“Also, these animations can be an incredible tool for tech ethics education. Videos can make the theory more appealing to students and might serve as a way to summarize the issues we study in technology classes.”

The video series is the second set of online learning tools ND TEC has debuted since the start of the spring semester, joining a teaching resource library that houses course descriptions, syllabuses and other information for seven undergraduate classes designated as fulfilling a requirement for the minor in tech ethics. Created to serve faculty from a variety of disciplines who may be looking for ideas on how to design their own tech ethics course or incorporate tech ethics readings into one they already teach, the library includes offerings at the 20000, 30000 and 40000 levels.

“The tech ethics animations and the teaching resource library really do complement each other well,” said Kirsten Martin, the center’s director as well as the William P. and Hazel B. White Center Professor of Technology Ethics and a professor of information technology, analytics and operations in Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business. “Both are tailored to helping tech ethics ideas reach more people, whether through the formal structure of a course or casual exploration of the ND TEC website. We also hope that the videos themselves might become something faculty use in their teaching. I am grateful to Carolina, Josiah, Michael and Brooke for all the great work they have put into the animation project.”

All Tech Ethics Animated videos will be available at and through ND TEC’s YouTube channel. The team plans to begin work on more videos beyond the initial six later this semester.

Originally published by Notre Dame Technology Ethics Center at on March 1.

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