These conceptual lenses offer structured ways of thinking about the social and ethical contexts relevant to each stage of the data science lifecycle.

What is a lens?

Conceptual lenses offer structured ways of thinking about the social and ethical contexts relevant to each stage of the data science research process.

Each lens represents a theoretical stance connected to specific ethical problems or questions. Lenses details how, when, and why data is produced, and by whom. They also make visible possible interconnections between infrastructures, institutions, and individuals that impact research question development and the research process.

Four Lenses for Data Science

We have selected four lenses through which to examine the data science research process: Positionality, Sociotechnical Systems, Power, and Narratives. Each lens offers a perspective through which to examine the research and consider its ethical dimensions. Lenses are also interdependent, highlighting the complex nature of interactions between research and society.

An abstracted image of a hexagon that appears to be looking at its mirrored reflected in a squared-shaped plane. The hexagon has a gradient fill that ranges from yellow to green to teal. The mirror is a medium blue, and the reflected hexagon is muted yellow. There is also a partial circle reflection showing above the hexagon in muted teal, and a partial fan-shaped object reflection in muted purple below the hexagon.


Diversity of human experience

A person’s capacity to consider how opportunities and limits of their identity, expertise, or personal situation are shaped by their environments and inform their perspectives and actions.

An abstract illustration of a hexagon in the center of the image with 8

Sociotechnical Systems

Technology interacting with society

The reciprocal influences between technical systems and individuals who design, develop, and operationalize them; the hybrid nature of organizations in which individuals and technological actions are constantly interacting with one another.

An series of evenly-spaced spheres with a bright yellow sphere in the middle, and 2 spheres to both the left and right of the center sphere, and 3 spheres partially visible on the left and right sides of the image. The side spheres are in gradients ranging from yellow to teal to deep blue, becoming more transparent toward the edges of the image. Th background is concentric circles of teal lines set against a deep blue gradient background.


Asymmetries in agency

A person or technology's asymmetric capacity to structure or alter others' behavior. Scientific and technological powers are always intertwined with political and socioeconomic power.

An abstract illustration of fluid shapes in motion, set against a deep blue background. The shapes are a string of geometric images (2 circles, a square and a fan-shape) with gradient colors ranging from blue to green to yellow. The shapes are connected by a dashed teal line and also by a solid white line that flow near each other in a broad s-shape.


Dominant discourse

How we talk about how the world works and what futures are worth pursuing. In science, researchers develop an argument (a claim) supported by pieces of evidence (data) collected in their field world.