Cara Stitzlein talks about Something Digital . . .

October 20th, 2022

We spoke to the RI FSP's Cara Stitzlein to get across the program at this year's 'Something Digital' festival.

Dr Cara Stitzlein will be moderating three panels at the Something Digital conference.

How is CSIRO involved in the Something Digital event?
CSIRO’s Responsible Innovation Future Science Platform is a proud partner of the Something Digital conference, to be held on 25 and 26 October.

Something Digital focuses on the very latest in digital innovation trends. This year the program is centred around the theme of Reality Bites, and presentations will be delivered by 90+ local, national and international digital legends focusing on the very latest in digital innovation trends. Up to 500 delegates are expected to attend the festival.

How did you get involved in Something Digital?
Through Dr Justine Lacey I met the Something Digital organisers, and this year I have been invited to moderate the CSIRO sponsored blocks, which include three panels that I’m most excited about contributing to. I have a background in ‘User Experience,’ so the concept of responsible innovation resonates with me as something that affects an individual’s experience in a digital world. In the pursuit of delivering advanced science, I believe the concept of responsible innovation needs to be talked about in order to be practised. The Something Digital Festival provides the space to do that. I’m grateful for the opportunity to be part of it.
For my moderated panels, I’m aiming to hold a balanced conversation and ensure some of the takeaways are relatable to the audience.

Which speakers are you most interested in listening to?
The Something Digital program is littered with words I’ve never seen written next to each other: For example, cyborg ethics, orbital debris, and biological heritage. This signals to me new research, fresh conversations and important ethical debates.
I’m most excited about meeting Dr Iadine Chades, Principal Research Scientist, Conservation Decisions, Land & Water, in person. There are conceptual overlaps with my own research related to responding to biodiversity loss and I’m excited to learn more from her approach to influence conservation efforts.
I’m also keen to learn about ‘cyborgs,’ given that my only prior experience is by watching Dr Who. There’s a lot of promise in this technology to assist people who have a disadvantage or disability via solution such as prosthetics, neural implants or RFID chips. But there is an ethical debate surfacing – with the notion of ‘human enhancements’ contributing to the divide between the haves and the have nots. The ‘haves’ have the ability to dominate the use of the technology, raising important issues around equity of access.
Finally, I’m keen to see how topics of Indigenous values and culture is integrated with the digitally themed program. There’s a lot of work to be done regarding reconciliation, and it would be great to explore opportunities where digital technology can support and not inhibit this goal.

What are the most common themes in this year’s presentations?
One of the common themes is around the speed of technology becoming available – before having the space and time to get into the ethics behind new technology and get it right. Taking the time to consider things like ethics and unintended consequences often goes against the grain of moving fast to develop new technology and get it to market.

Another theme addresses the embeddedness of digital within our day-to-day life. For example, so much of our life is connected to our handheld smart phones. The use of applications, geospatial tracking, the ease of ‘sharing’ are some of the new realities included in the program. We will hear about how COVID has influenced our daily use of technology. For example, ‘check-in’ apps didn’t exist before COVID, and their rollout was far from perfect. They typically had lots of bugs and accessibility was an issue. One message needs to be: when we have to move quickly to introduce new technology, there needs to be permission to make mistakes, as long as there is a way to learn from them.

Another topical issue is misuse of information and I’ll be asking panelists to help unpack how much information is being collected about us and how can we pragmatically protect ourselves? I feel like we need a survival book in today’s world of digital tech.

CSIRO’s sponsorship of the event sends an important message on where we need to be seen and how we can include responsibility in conversations around technology. It’s a tricky space. With CSIRO’s brand, we have the power to create and hold that space – and that’s worth fighting for!