GUIDING LIGHT – Organisation for Ethics and Sustainability in Technologies has developed several framework conditions for technology projects with a focus on ethics and sustainability in the fields of culture and social affairs for the Department of Culture of the City of Vienna in cooperation with partners from the fields of technology, culture, and social affairs.
Currently, a small group of profit-oriented media and technology conglomerates dominate the resources and intellectual property (IP) for the commercial usage of new technologies, platforms, information and media offerings, as well as user data. Alphabet, Meta, Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, Epic, and Twitter are not merely "technology and media offerings" companies. They are first and foremost the owners and managers of IP in the context of platforms, databases, transactions, and software algorithms, including the large-scale interrelation of personal user data. Their strategies are primarily driven by economic criteria.
Europe would have to play a specific role to offer a counter-narrative to the commercial and profit-oriented US-American companies and the less sustainable Asian technology market.
Among other things, they represent, support, and nurture the democratic processes, social education, social support, and social cohesion, but are merely viewed by technology corporations, if at all, from a commercial point of view (keyword: "greenwashing"). Culture and social affairs are characterized by their heterogeneity and scales of critical thinking (as organizations and as individuals). Both fields work with vulnerable and marginalized groups. Both areas lack resources (financial, know-how, among others) for ethical and sustainable technology projects.
The goal of this project, which has been funded by the City of Vienna, was to evaluate the ethical and sustainable framework conditions for technology projects in the cultural and social sector and, above all, to facilitate future projects. Experts from various disciplines in the fields of social affairs, culture, and technology discussed the strategic benefits and identified possible deficits.
In two workshops, GUIDING LIGHT discussed approaches to solutions with representatives from Vienna's cultural and social sectors including guests from other European countries. The results of the first workshop were used to initiate a representative survey for abount 150 cultural and social institutions in Vienna. The results of the survey, together with another input from our experts, were used to create concrete instructions for action in the form of a white paper for the City of Vienna for ethical and sustainable technology projects.
It was a major ambition of this project to involve as many partners and communities as possible. Since the focus was on culture and social issues, it was clear that it could not be discussed exclusively by a selected group of experts from individual institutions, but that it was also necessary to conduct a broad and representative survey using the online tool Survio. In just under 6 weeks, around 150 Viennese cultural and social institutions were surveyed in compliance with data protection and anonymity (response rate 56%), which made it possible to get a broad overview of the independent scene, independent institutions, as well as small, medium, and larger institutions. The partly open and closed questions have derived from the results of the first expert workshop and served as a basis for the second expert workshop and concrete instructions for action.
Within the framework of the survey, many essential points emerged in the various questions, which were repeatedly emphasized both quantitatively as well as qualitatively for the improvement of the current situation and to position the City of Vienna ethically and sustainably in the field of technology, culture, and social affairs. Three suggestions have been repeatedly mentioned as concrete suggestions.
1. Topic-focused support or calls for tenders
In particular, the cycle of tenders was highlighted in the discussions. Prior to the call for tenders, meaningful matchmaking should be supported among potential partners who focus on ethics and sustainability. Networking options are also useful during the term of a project in order to expand and change the project if necessary - this form of flexibility is particularly appropriate and necessary for broad social issues. After the end of the project, the focus should be more on documentation, sharing and best practice examples so that other projects can learn and build on it. Tenders must also emphasize inclusion more strongly: age, gender, social background, but also the affinity for technology of individual target groups should be taken into account when it comes to sustainability. Ethical guidelines should be a mandatory part of the documents to be submitted for every tender with a focus on technology.
2. Establishing an independent institution with specific contact persons to facilitate technology projects
The importance of an independent institution was not only mentioned as a concrete action proposal to the City of Vienna, but also came up repeatedly in the form of network opportunities and building of technology literacy in other areas. The experts also see a need for action here, especially in view of current developments such as a lack of media and technology literacy in society, and hate speech on the Internet. All experts agree such an independent institution must be free from instructions or political influences. It must not be profit-focused (e.g. not represent or "sell" any specific technologies), but present itself as politically and economically independent, but subordinate itself to a larger social goal together with stakeholders from politics and industry. In particular, it must make its focus as a contact person clear, stand up for the transfer of knowledge and social participation, and set an example for a transparent approach with best practice examples.
3. Establishing digital and hybrid networking opportunities and formats
A digital platform makes also sense in the context of technology projects. However, such a platform must meet high ethical standards, which, among other things, guarantee data protection, but also low-threshold access for different communities of the population, regardless of their age, gender or social status. It must be barrier-free and prevent any form of discrimination. Groups of people who are not tech-savvy also have the democratic right to participate in the discourse on the use of new technologies. Therefore, there also need to be hybrid and physical formats in which people can meet and exchange information about technology. Even when these formats are established, target groups and feedback mechanisms need to be involved at an early stage in order to develop the networking formats further and improve them if necessary.
Virtual Reality Berlin-Brandenburg e.V.
Die Angewandte experimental game cultures
Federal Ministry for Climate Action, Environment, Energy, Mobility, Innovation and Technology (BMK)
Technische Universität Wien
Women in AI Austria