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Design a Feminist Chatbot

Learn how to design and prototype a chatbot that doesn't reinforce harmful gender stereotypes.

4,693 enrolled on this course

Design a Feminist Chatbot

Explore how ideas from feminism can help you design chatbots for good

We live in an age of conversations powered by artificial intelligence. From customer service chatbots to bots that help you meditate, conversational interfaces are becoming part of our everyday lives – some helping us to automate human work, and others aiming to improve wellbeing.

Yet chatbots can easily reinforce harmful gender stereotypes or promote discriminatory behaviour if their designers aren’t careful.

On this course, you’ll study feminism and its relationship to technology in order to help you build a feminist chatbot. You’ll learn feminist design tools and basic coding skills, before applying them to designing and programming a chatbot of your own.

Skip to 0 minutes and 6 seconds Chatbots are big business. Global brands are increasingly using them for digital marketing and to sell products. So why do we need to design feminist chatbots? I care about feminist chatbots because they are our day to day interaction with artificial intelligence, and if we are engaging with chatbots that have bias in their design or gender stereotypes, then those stereotypes become influential. Chatbots, like any other artificially intelligent system, can reinforce negative biases and stereotypes, or they can promote discriminatory behaviour if their designers don’t explicitly and consciously work to avoid this.

Skip to 0 minutes and 47 seconds By applying ideas from feminism to technology development, we can help people create products and services that promote equality and positive social change rather than making social problems like inequality or prejudice worse. So much of pre-existing bias in society can already be amplified in machine learning systems. So it’s important to think about what kind of conversational bias gets amplified more and more in conversational automation systems like chatbots. We’ve designed this course to help you become an ethically conscious and responsible chatbot designer and to create your own chatbot that has a really beneficial impact on its users and on society.

Skip to 1 minute and 27 seconds You’ll be learning from me and Alex Fefegha, the Head of Making at Comuzi Labs, and you’ll meet some other really interesting contributors along the way. By the end of the course, you’ll know a lot more about chatbots and how they work, as well as how they can reinforce bias and promote discriminatory behaviours. You’ll have learned a set of feminist design tools that can help you avoid all these problems. You will also have prototyped your own chatbot. It doesn’t matter if you’re starting with no experience of coding, because we’ll walk you through the whole process step by step. So we really hope that you enjoy the course, and we can’t wait to get started on the creative journey.

Syllabus

  • Week 1

    Chatbots and the problem of bias

    • Getting started

      This is your chance to meet the contributors who'll guide you through the course and hear why they believe feminist approaches to technology design are important.

    • What can chatbots do?

      In this activity, you’ll see some examples of real-world chatbots, and have a chance to share your own experiences of using similar services.

    • How do chatbots work?

      You’ll now look at how chatbots work, focusing on the difference between scripted chatbots and those powered by artificial intelligence (AI).

    • How chatbots become biased

      In this activity, you’ll explore the concept of bias and learn how an AI chatbot service from Microsoft quickly developed extreme views.

    • Why does AI bias matter?

      You’ll now examine the issue of AI bias in more detail and learn about the ways it can impact people’s lives.

    • Wrapping up Week 1

      You’ve reached the end of the first week of the course! In this activity, we’ll sum up what you’ve learned, and look ahead to Week 2.

  • Week 2

    Applying feminist design principles

    • Introduction to Week 2

      This activity provides an overview of what we'll cover in the second week of the course.

    • Introducing feminism

      This activity summarises key developments in the history of feminism. It also explores how our social understanding of gender shapes the technology we use.

    • Developing feminist design processes

      You'll now look at how feminist principles can be applied to the design of digital products and read about the Feminist Design Tool that you'll use when designing your own chatbot.

    • Understanding your stakeholders

      In this activity, you'll put the principles from the Feminist Design Tool into practice by identifying who your chatbot is aimed at and learning how to find out what this group really thinks and feels.

    • Wrapping up Week 2

      Well done for reaching the end of Week 2! This activity summarises what you've learned and looks ahead to Week 3.

  • Week 3

    Designing chatbot conversations

    • Introduction to Week 3

      This activity gives a brief summary of the topics we'll cover this week and explains how you'll apply these principles to your own chatbot design.

    • How can conversation design be feminist?

      In this activity, you'll explore how feminist principles can be applied to conversation design and have the chance to interact with a real-world feminist chatbot.

    • Visualising stakeholders' experiences

      This activity shows how storyboarding can help you to better understand your stakeholders' needs and experiences, and gives you the opportunity to create your own storyboard.

    • Choosing what your chatbot will say

      This activity asks you to consider what kind of personality your chatbot will have. You'll then produce both an offline and a digital version of your chatbot's script.

    • Wrapping up Week 3

      You've now reached the end of Week 3. It's time to review what you've learned and look ahead to the final week of the course.

  • Week 4

    Developing your prototyping skills

    • Introduction to Week 4

      Congratulations on reaching this stage of the course! This activity provides an overview of what you'll cover in the final week.

    • Using prototypes to test ideas

      In this activity, you'll discover two different ways to create a prototype. We'll also introduce you to the programming languages and environment that you'll use to create your own prototype.

    • Creating your chatbot prototype

      In the final part of your chatbot design task, you're going to use simple coding to create and personalise a prototype of your chatbot, using the script you developed in Week 3.

    • Wrapping up the course

      It's nearly the end of the course, so it's now time to reflect on what you've learned and think about how you can continue to develop your skills in the areas we've covered.

When would you like to start?

Start straight away and learn at your own pace. If the course hasn’t started yet you’ll see the future date listed below.

  • Available now

Learning on this course

You can take this self-guided course and learn at your own pace. On every step of the course you can meet other learners, share your ideas and join in with active discussions in the comments.

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you‘ll be able to...

  • Explore current uses of chatbots and how they work
  • Interpret concepts of feminism and their relationship to technology
  • Explore feminist design tools and how they can be applied to chatbot development
  • Design a chatbot conversation using Whimsical flowcharts
  • Produce a prototype of a chatbot using Glitch, a community programming environment

Who is the course for?

This course is for anyone interested in the social implications of technology, specifically the ethical issues surrounding chatbot design.

People curious about coding would benefit from this course, as would academics in the feminist or tech communities.

You might also be interested in the other courses in the Essential Creative Technologies collection from UAL Creative Computing Institute, Lancaster University and the Institute of Coding.

What software or tools do you need?

We’ll be asking you to use some other online tools and platforms such as Glitch during the course.

Who will you learn with?

I am co-founder of Feminist Internet, a non-profit that aims to make the Internet more equal by combining feminism, technology, art and design.

Co founder at COMUZI, a design studio.

Associate Lecturer at University of Arts London Creative Computing Institute.

Who developed the course?

UAL Creative Computing Institute

The UAL Creative Computing Institute (CCI) offers innovative new courses, research opportunities and a public platform to explore computer science and creative practice.

Institute of Coding

The Institute of Coding is a family of learners, businesses and educators creating a new way to develop the digital skills needed at work and beyond.

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Available until 22 November 2021 at 23:59 (UTC). T&Cs apply.

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Available until 22 November 2021 at 23:59 (UTC). T&Cs apply.

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