A special issue of Interacting With Computers - the Interdisciplinary Journal of Human-Computer Interaction - turns the spotlight on the ethical questions and considerations that practitioners face as they work towards best practice. Martin Cooper AMBCS reports.

Ethical inquiry has long been part of human computer interaction (HCI) design research. For decades, scholars have articulated the importance of investigating the ethical implications of designing interactive technologies.

For some, the ethical focus is on developing methods and approaches for identifying and applying values to products. For others, it is the design research process itself that is the subject of the ethical inquiry. Whether you focus on products or processes, this special issue serves as a contribution to the growing body of scholarship. It is intended to keep the dialogue on ethics vibrant, self-reflective and generative.

In Issue 29, Volume 1 there are seven papers including the paper A Framework for Negotiating Ethics in Sensitive Settings: Hospice as a Case Study. It explores the ethical obligations of HCI researchers who operate in and design for sensitive settings.

The framework developed in the paper emerged from the context of HCI work in end-of-life care, but the paper’s writers believe their work will be relevant to people working in other sensitive areas. Their tool, they hope, will help when reviewing previous ethical work and also when preparing for future projects.

‘Our Year With the Glass: Expectations, Letdowns and Ethical Dilemmas of Technology Trials With Vulnerable People’ reviewed the ethical dilemmas faced when trialling Google Glass as a self-care technology for people with Parkinson’s.

The team’s project had two phases: an initial study that explored the overall acceptability and the responses of people with Parkinson’s; and a follow-up study that examined more deeply people’s experiences with the technology. The latter embraces trials and co-designed activities.

The paper offers an open and honest account of how a set of ethical dilemmas emerged while conducting technology trials in a potentially vulnerable group.

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