ah teaches web design and development: 09 The Dark Side

ah teaches web design and development: 09 The Dark Side — A slide deck

The Dark Side

Lecture outline

Covered this week:

  • Ethics online
  • Pre-processing

Lecture slides will be made available on the day of the lecture.

The Dark Side

The Dark Side

Today's lecture is a bit different. We spend some time talking about some of the messy issues on the web that we frequently do not talk about.

Web Ethics

We are considering the ethics — the morality, or duty and obligations — associated with different issues on the web, and how they might relate to our work as designers or developers.

Many of the questions today are not binaries of right or wrong. They are complex, and we want to make sure we understand how others may perceive these issues as much as we understand how we perceive them.

Today's Guidelines

Given we will be talking about topics that you may feel passionately about, we have a couple guidelines to ensure our discussion does not veer off course too much:

  • Please focus on the issues: Please try to avoid personal opinion.
  • Avoid rights and wrongs: You may personally view something as right/wrong, but we want to unpack more than our personal views.
  • Have empathy: While you may not agree with, or understand how an issue is presented, try to take time to understand why that issue exists or has been presented that way.

Today's Format

We will work with a bit of a different format today. Please form up into groups of three or four to facilitate discussion of the quotes/questions. We will be focusing on four questions regarding the web:

  1. Privacy: How is this understood?
  2. Data & Ownership: How is data 'owned'?
  3. Free Speech: How do we support 'free speech'?
  4. Net Neutrality: How do we balance access?

For Each Prompt

Please do the following for each prompt:

  1. Read the quotes.
  2. Discuss with your group the issue the quotes address.
  3. Clarify any questions you have about the quotes or issue with myself or your TA.
  4. Discuss the question and note some answers to the question.
  5. We will then regroup and discuss together.


How is this understood?

"People have really gotten comfortable not only sharing more information and different kinds, but more openly and with more people ... that social norm is just something that has evolved over time."

"The universe wants us to have secrets. We can encrypt information so thoroughly that if all the hydrogen atoms in the universe were computers and tried nothing but to crack our cyphers until the end of the universe, they wouldn’t be able to."

"As adults, by and large, we think of the home as a very private space ... for young people it's not a private space. They have no control over who comes in and out of their room, or who comes in and out of their house. As a result, the online world feels more private because it feels like it has more control."

How does a shift in the perceived importance of privacy affect designer's or developer's consideration of it?

There are 8 minutes left.

Data & Ownership

How is data 'owned'?

"People do not know how much their data are worth, nor do they really want to deal with the hassle of managing them, but they are also showing symptoms of what is called 'learned helplessness': terms and conditions for services are often impenetrable and users have no choice than to accept them — smartphone apps quit immediately if one does not tap on 'I agree'."

"Facebook's argument and obviously OkCupid's argument is, well, what we're giving you in exchange for your data — very clearly — are these tools. Like on OkCupid you can find dates. On Facebook you can connect with long lost friends. You have an easy platform to collect pictures. To the extent that any of these sites are useful, that's why people use them."

"I reveal my date of birth and hometown on my Facebook profile and an identity thief can reconstruct my Social Security number and steal my identity ... or someone can send me ‘happy birthday’ messages on the day of my birthday, which makes me feel very good."

How do we determine what handing over of personal data is acceptable in exchange for a free service?

There are 8 minutes left.

Free Speech

How do we support this?

"Private corporations certainly have the right to establish rules for speech on their platforms, including restrictions on 'hate speech,' but it is far from a clear-cut term. It covers instigation of violence toward ethnic, racial, national or religious groups, but also incitement of 'hatred', which could mean many things. In Russia, hate-speech laws are routinely used to suppress controversial political speech. Even in Europe, they have been used in this way, for example against critics of oppressive practices in Islam."

"An ominous development for free speech - and not because there is anything at all valuable about The Daily Stormer's message. It's an evil site. Its message is vile. Instead, The Daily Stormer's demise is a reminder that a few major corporations now have far more power than the government to regulate and restrict free speech, and they're hardly neutral or unbiased actors. They have a point of view, and they're under immense pressure to use that point of view to influence public debate."

"My posts get deleted about once a month. I often write about racial issues. Particularly as a black person, we’re always having these discussions about mass incarceration, and then here’s this fiber-optic space where you can express yourself. Then you say something that some anonymous person doesn’t like and then you’re in 'jail'."

How do the interests of free speech challenge the 'social' aspects of the web that many large corporations want to create?

There are 8 minutes left.

Net Neutrality

How do we balance access?

"Without net neutrality the incumbents who provide access to the internet would be able to pick winners or losers in the market. They could impede traffic from our services in order to favor their own services or established competitors. Or they could impose new tolls on us, inhibiting consumer choice."

"Facebook’s Free Basics - free access to basic websites (news, job postings, health and education info, communication tools like Facebook) - is yet another way competitive carriers can improve the lives of rural Americans by increasing access to and adoption of broadband."

"My concern is that by imposing those heavy-handed economic regulations on Internet service providers big and small, we could end up disincentivizing companies from wanting to build out Internet access to a lot of parts of the country, in low-income, urban and rural areas, for example. And that, I think, is something that nobody would benefit from."

How might providing free data for access to specific websites be advantageous or disadvantageous to those who do not have internet access otherwise?

There are 8 minutes left.


Any lingering questions or concerns from our discussion today?

Coding Quiz

For the quiz you will be presented with a difficult web layout to replicate, the solution for which will only require that you use HTML and CSS. There are two parts to this quiz:

  1. Proposing two means of replicating the design (worth 7/10 points)
  2. Annotating how to replicate the design (worth 3/10 points)

Coding Quiz

For proposing a means of replication you will be given 30 minutes in which you are required to propose two means of replicating the design.

You will be graded on quality — would it work, do you use the right terms, do you show an understanding of terms? This will be worth 7 of 10 points.

Coding Quiz

For annotating how to replicate the design you will be given 15 minutes in which you will try to mark down how you would replicate the design itself using CSS. This portion will be graded on code validity and solution completeness (part marks are possible). This will be worth 3 of 10 points.

Only one annotated solution is required.

What do I review for the quiz?

I highly recommend reviewing anything we have covered with regards to web layout — i.e. old float grids, flexbox, positioning, responsiveness, units — in preparation for the quiz.


Stuff happens

Please make sure to install Prepros or another code pre-processor during the break.

Contacting Andrew

Your Lecturer

Reachable at:

  • Office hours — Wednesdays from 11:00-11:50am and Fridays from 8:30-9:20am at the Surrey campus mezzanine.
  • ac.ufs@h_werdna