Stephen Fisher - Designer and Developer Stephen Fisher - Designer and Developer

The ethical morality of audience aware systems and GPS devices

The modern day person is typically never far away from an electronic device with some form of internet access and an increasing number of users are engaging in more location based and audience aware systems. Today I am going to essentially write about audience aware systems, these are systems that are designed to detect audience groups and display content that is deemed suitable to them and interact based on either there actions or sensory values. It can be argued that to some degree devices such as the Kinect are audience aware but in regards to this post I am speaking about audience aware systems in regards to marketing and direct communication displays.

As part of my 4th year Industry project I am exploring and developing a proof of concept based around the idea of audience awareness and screen content targeting based on a percentage of users sharing a common set of values to display content deemed of interest to this market group as such is dealing with people on a value basis rather than a one to one direct detection, in order to achieve this the system is going to read and filter users based on logins in an environment filtering via course and interest to display content that meets the highest percentage within that area content including room changes and updates from external sources. Ethically dealing with people as values i.e. numbers means that data wise they are not seen as individuals rather values however in order for system to work the system needs to know who’s on-line and as such this raises an ethical moral question: How comfortable are we in having people aware of where we are and what we are in essence doing?

GPS devices are increasingly common with games and social media tracking users without users typically giving much forethought, morally treating people as values is essentially safer and technically better but at same time its impersonal and to some degree questions the audience aware nature they tend to follow, these are in essence tools and are used mainly in the field of Marketing. Remotely changing content, making content relevant and making the user feel that they are appreciated tends to be the goals perceived but to be honest the real goals tend to be more for record purposes and to reduce wastage and create a positive outlook upon the developers themselves. Are audience aware systems really that aware? Are they considering the emotional and ethical unease some users may feel being ‘monitored’. I would argue that if done correctly audience participation and awareness is a source of good and can encourage involvement and expression of feelings and technological prowess but sometimes at the back of my mind that suspicious side of me thinks what is my data being used for and am I being monitored and for what end. I know this sounds silly, but can any system really be fully aware of is it making presumptions based on programming constraints, I may revisit this topic in future as I work further into audience aware system development as a student atm all that really concerns me is whether or not I will get a job and when my next meal is landing.

As always post your thoughts and feelings, do you feel monitored, do you mind being treated as a number or do you prefer the more personal approach and finally is remotely delivered content always for the right audience. Thank you.