Bartleby Ethics Software Named One of the World’s Best Student DesignsSeptember, 2022
Celebrating more than a decade of Innovation by Design, the 2022 honorees include nearly 600 projects, products, and services from Nike, Verizon, Microsoft, and others.
Ithaca, NY, September 15, 2022 — Bartleby, a project by the Citizens and Technology Lab at Cornell, was honored in Fast Company’s Innovation by Design Awards for 2022 in the student category. The Innovation by Design Awards, which can be found in the October 2022 issue of Fast Company, honor the designers and businesses solving the most crucial problems of today and anticipating the pressing issues of tomorrow. The competition, now in its 11th year, features a range of blue-chip companies, emerging startups, and emerging talents. It is one of the most sought-after design awards in the industry.
Bartleby is software that helps researchers implement data ethics procedures for large-scale social media research. Using Bartleby, researchers can automatically send each of their study participants a message directing them to a website where they can learn about their involvement in research, view what data researchers collected about them, and give feedback. Most importantly, participants can use the website to opt out and request to delete their data. Designed in response to high-profile data scandals where people were included in data collection without their knowledge, the system is named after the titular character in Herman Melville’s short story “Bartleby, the Scrivener.” Over the course of the story, Bartleby opts out of completing various requests. Instead, he states simply that he “would prefer not to.”
“Bartleby puts ethics theories into practice in a way that matters to people’s everyday lives,” said Jonathan Zong, a Ph.D. Candidate at MIT CSAIL who led the creation of Bartleby. “Receiving this recognition helps show that design can both create useful artifacts that improve lives, and also tackle some of society’s most pressing social and political questions.” Zong brought the project to MIT after starting it in 2017 as undergraduate at Princeton University.
The Citizens and Technology Lab is a two-time Innovation By Design honoree. Lab director J. Nathan Matias received Fast Company’s Linda Tischler Award, named after the magazine’s founder, in 2017.
“A common theme among this year’s Innovation by Design honorees, which range from healthcare interfaces to autonomous driving technology, is permanence,” said Brendan Vaughan, editor-in-chief of Fast Company. “The products that leaped out to our editors and judges went against our quick-fix consumer culture, while also manifesting a more inclusive vision of design.”
The judges include renowned designers from a variety of disciplines, business leaders from some of the most innovative companies in the world, and Fast Company’s own writers and editors. Entries are judged on the key ingredients of innovation: functionality, originality, beauty, sustainability, user insight, cultural impact, and business impact.
Winners, finalists, and honorable mentions are featured online and in the October issue of Fast Company magazine, on newsstands September 27, 2022. To see the complete list, go to https://www.fastcompany.com/innovation-by-design/list.