EU Horizon 2020: VIRT-EU

VIRT-EU: “Values and Ethics in Innovation for Responsible Technology in Europe.”


The project includes five European research partners besides ITU: London School of Economics (UK), Open Rights Group (UK), Uppsala University (SE), Politechnico di Torino (IT) and Copenhagen Institute of Interaction Design (DK). The goal of the project is to analyze and map the ethical practices of European hardware and software entrepreneurs, maker and hacker spaces, and community innovators in order to: (1) understand how IoT innovators enact ethics as they design future devices, (2) generate a new framework for Privacy, Ethical and Social Impact Assessment (PESIA) and (3) develop tools to support ethical reflection and self-assessment as part the design and development process for IoT technologies.



Project Abstract

The networked future promises new relationships between people and artifacts, the private and the public, the individual and the collective. The increased networking capabilities of pervasive technologies mean that of personal data are being produced, analyzed, monetized and connected to other data streams in ways that hold both enormous potential and pose profound challenges for European society. Recent policy, such as the EU General Data Protection Regulation, reflects mounting public concerns around emerging data practices, RRI, data ethics and privacy. VIRT-EU addresses these concerns at the point of design through researching and intervening upon the development cultures and ethics of the next- generation IoT innovators. We ask how do European IoT innovators and developers make ethically consequential decisions – about code, hardware and data – for new connective devices? What assumptions about human behavior, privacy and freedom underpin European cultures of IoT innovation? VIRT-EU will analyze and map the ethical practices of European hardware and software entrepreneurs, maker and hacker spaces, and community innovators. Leveraging state of the art collaborative SSH and ICT methodological innovations, our goals are to (1) understand how IoT innovators enact ethics as they design future devices and (2) generate a new framework for Privacy, Ethical and Social Impact Assessment (PESIA), which will proactively position ethical self-assessments in the development process of IoT technologies. These tools, informed by legal approaches, data mining, quantitative and qualitative social science and design research serve to secure a place for societal concerns in the generation of new technologies, engaging societal stakeholders in ensuring a digital future which is populated by innovative devices and services that are explicitly aligned with, and conscious of, the ethical and social values held by EU citizens.

ITU Researchers

Irina Shklovski is an Associate Professor at ITU in the Technologies in Practice and Interaction Design (IxD) groups. She is the PI of VIRT-EU. Her research is positioned at the intersection of human computer interaction, information sciences, sociology and communication, largely focusing on the topics of privacy, big data, interpersonal communication, social networks, the role of technology in organizational practice and in coping with disruptions. She is interested in how people relate to and manage information about themselves and others as they negotiate the tensions ever-present in their personal relationships. In her research she applies a relational lens to socio-technical practices as a way to reconsider notions of privacy and data in everyday life. Her website is here, and you can read her latest work here. Email her at irsh [at) itu dot dk

Rachel Douglas-Jones is an Assistant Professor at ITU in the Technologies in Practice group. She is trained in Anthropology and STS, and she researches ethics as a form of bureaucratic and personal governance, data infrastructures for biomedical information, and ethical deliberation and decision making.  This is her website.

Luca Rossi is an Associate Professor at the IT University of Copenhagen in the Culture and Communication research group. His latest publications are available here. He tweets under the handle @LR


Does the PhD position involve teaching?

Yes, you have “Duty hours” to fulfill as a PhD student, and most students fulfill them through teaching. A general guide is that there are a maximum of 850hrs, of which a maximum of 550 can be spent on teaching. You would not be responsible for a course, rather an assistant to a course. “Duty hours” are also a way to be involved in the research life of the university to ensure you are integrated into ITU life in other ways. 

What’s the expected format for the dissertation -articles? monograph?

ITU accommodates both monograph and article based, it will be up to you in collaboration with your supervisor to decide.

Is there coursework or compulsory courses?

Yes, you need to complete 30 ECTS during your PhD. There are no courses which are compulsory (e.g. methods, theory etc) but you will have advice from your peers and supervisor about which courses would be most beneficial. 

What is the team set-up at ITU? Will I be amongst other PhD students?

Yes, you will. The VIRT-EU team consists of 3 faculty and 2 PhD students, and depending on additional funding, another PhD. The project will be running in parallel with other projects at ITU, including Data as Relation, so there will be 10+ researchers working on shared topics in the broader, Technologies in Practice research group. We will also integrate MA students working on similar things.