(Review) Designing Enabling Economies & Policies – DEEP 2015
“What does the Internet of Things (IoT) mean for self-knowledge, privacy and inclusion for: individuals, research, government, learning, health and communities?”
Growing concerns for consumer safety, security and privacy were a focal point of the conference as was identifying and designing new policies and tools to cope with accelerated change in a digital ecosystem on the cusp of the IoT.
On October 14th and 15th I attended the DEEP 2015 conference organized by Inclusive Design Research Centre (IDRC) at the Ontario College of Art and Design (University) OCADU. What does IDRC mean by inclusive design? It’s “design that considers the full range of human diversity with respect to ability, language, culture, gender, age and other forms of human difference.”
The conference was organized into working groups on four themes: 1) Privacy & Identity Management, 2) Inclusion Standards, 3) Self-Knowledge & Self-Guidance, and 4) Evidence & Outliers. Most participants attended two sessions; I attended: Self-Knowledge & Self-Guidance and Evidence & Outliers. The working group sessions were interspaced by presentations by thought leaders from the academic, public and private sectors. As an online media consultant with a special interest in #Accessibility and #Creativity I wanted to learn more about the issues surrounding the development of the IoT and better understand how these technologies will impact public and private life.
Over the two days of DEEP 2015 I was impressed by the warmth, openness, and sharing that went on between participants. This is not always the case at hi tech conferences or meetings. DEEP 2015 was certainly not like being in a shark tank – it was a far friendlier environment. Conference attendees – no matter what their professional background were passionately engaged in the potential of digital technology and its meaningful integration into every aspect of life from e-commerce to healthcare. Some were motivated by personal reasons while others were inclined by academic or work interests. My groups consisted of teachers (primary to university), provincial and federal government leaders and workers, academics including many IDRC Graduate Students, physio, speech & language therapists, software developers and designers to name a few.
The struggle for inclusiveness was addressed from a local to international perspective by: Michael Bach (Canadian Association for Community Living) in: Safe and Inclusive Communities Online; David Lepofsky (Chair of AODA Alliance) in his presentation Towards a Barrier-Free Canada; and Marcia Rioux (Co-director of Disability Rights Promotion International) and Jutta Treviranus (Director of the IDRC) who discussed the topic Evidence-based Policy for Diverse Populations.
Michael Bach’s talk resonated with me personally because of my son James’ challenge with not being able to use social media. James who is 31-years-old and has Down syndrome has had a hard time learning to speak (dyspraxia). He has just started to be able to text very simple phrases and is left out of the social media equation because he does not write well. As a mother, I am concerned about his needs for independence while at the same time his vulnerability online.
Bach spoke about safe and inclusive online communities, from local to international. He stressed the importance of including invisible communities of outliers, those who are being cared for by others – advocates and legal guardians. Integration of individuals with special needs without adequate supports is not true integration. He also made some very thought-provoking points about the power of guardianship and how it can take basic rights away from individuals. I am still grappling with this point – because every situation is different.
Many individuals and groups are not supported or protected in the current digital ecosystem – hence the term “outliers” – which means an outlying person or outsider. There was a concern amongst some participants at the conference, that this term did not adequately describe this group of individuals who are generally left out of the equation when designing for accessibility. Perhaps the term “outliers” should have been defined more specifically? But, the mandate of the IDRC is general with the thought of bringing many under one umbrella.
There are visible and invisible challenges that people face. This can be in the form of: cognitive, intellectual or psycho-social or physical disabilities; age-related conditions; sexual orientation; under and unemployment; immigration status; etc. As the North American population ages it is obvious that “we” as in me will need to be served and protected in the near future This huge demographic group is, as of now, underserved.
By the end of Day 2 sessions it became apparent that a proven method to communicate our needs was to share “personal stories”. The complexity of individuals was discussed in both sessions – Self-Knowledge & Self-Guidance and Evidence & Outliers. There was a shared awareness that “we are them” when we tried to identify who the “outliers” are. We are multi-dimensional beings who have many different passions, preferences and needs at various times in our lives.
Polarizing consumer groups into “them and us” is an unrealistic method of identifying outliers when personal preferences such as food and exercise choices and the resulting data are being culled (without our informed consent) for different interests. This personal information is being collected, bought and sold by public and private interests – who follow our trends through Google analytics, etc. and who fine focus their advertising, social media marketing campaigns, policy development initiatives directly at us. We are all targets. One could get paranoid.
As our environments become imbedded with sensors for tracking our daily activities in the IoT we have to be aware of the repercussions of this type of surveillance and be educated on how we can opt in or out. For example: Bill C-51 anti-terrorism legislation, now law, will have deep repercussions on our personal privacy. Our new Liberal government has promised a review. But, how do we advocate for privacy yet still take advantages of the “protective” services we need in this type of legislation? We are all vulnerable to this type of scrutiny. These types of issues were presented by Andrew Clement co-founder of the Identity, Privacy and Security Institute at the University of Toronto who tracks the sharing of personal data and advocates for Canadian laws that protect our information. These types of issues were discussed more fully at the Privacy & Identity Management group sessions.
Changing language and industry terminologies and overuse of cryptic acronyms threatens to isolate us all unless there is a consensus to use “plain language”. This is especially true when speaking about new digital technologies, trends and legislation. For example: specialized terminologies must be simplified to help clarify the current consent model. You know – the little buttons we press before we can gain access to online resources. The consent model as it stands allows individuals to opt in with a simple “Yes I Agree” binary click. This insinuates that the signatory understands the legal contract they are agreeing to. The other option is no access. No access is no option.
Individuals must have basic digital access tools such as: accurate (not automatic) closed captions and transcriptions on YouTube and other videos; access to EULAs on screen-readers; accessible PDFs; etc. if needed. Yes, there is legislation in place through the Accessibility for Ontarians Disabilities Act, 2005 AODA and other provincial legislation across Canada. But, they do not go far enough to enforce accessibility for all.
Privacy measures should, in a perfect world, go hand-in-hand with technological implementation and access. But, the current situation does not work this way. Policy is playing catch-up to technology. How do we get the policy people to work hand-in-hand with developers and designers and other multi-disciplinary groups?
The DEEP 2015 conference and brainstorming sessions was a very positive experience. The spirit of ethical and transformative change was clearly evident in the community of participants. “Recognizing the other person as you” or “love your neighbour as yourself” or however you want to word it – is the first step in “walking in the other person’s shoes” or, empathizing. Our empathy, creativity and emotion will help us design a better IoT. The key lies in continuing to share ideas and information across disciplines, industries and sectors.