Charting Ethical Tensions in Multispecies Technology Research through Beneficiary-Epistemology Space

Benford, Steve; Mancini, Clara; Chamberlain, Alan; Schneiders, Eike; Castle-Green, Simon; Fischer, Joel; Kucukyilmaz, Ayse; Salimbeni, Guido; Ngo, Victor; Barnard, Pepita and Adams, Matt (2024). Charting Ethical Tensions in Multispecies Technology Research through Beneficiary-Epistemology Space. In: Proceedings of the CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI '24), 11-16 May 2024, Honolulu, HI, USA, ACM, (Early access).

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1145/3613904.3641994

Abstract

While ethical challenges are widely discussed in HCI, far less is reported about the ethical processes that researchers routinely navigate. We reflect on a multispecies project that negotiated an especially complex ethical approval process. Cat Royale was an artist-led exploration of creating an artwork to engage audiences in exploring trust in autonomous systems. The artwork took the form of a robot that played with three cats. Gaining ethical approval required an extensive dialogue with three Institutional Review Boards (IRBs) covering computer science, veterinary science and animal welfare, raising tensions around the welfare of the cats, perceived benefits and appropriate methods, and reputational risk to the University. To reveal these tensions we introduce beneficiary-epistemology space, that makes explicit who benefits from research (humans or animals) and underlying epistemologies. Positioning projects and IRBs in this space can help clarify tensions and highlight opportunities to recruit additional expertise.

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