Protecting the Public

Session Overview

Date and Time: Tuesday, August 20, 11am – 12:30 pm

Location: Broad Theater, Santa Monica College Performing Arts Center, Los Angeles

Livestream: Free for EPIC Members

Ethnographers often work as activists in their roles, assuming a moral responsibility to enable and affect positive change. These sessions take up trust and safety, equity, ecosystems health, and well being, exploring ethnography’s role in helping people and organizations make better choices.


Cybersafety in Conversation: Unifying People and Policy


Colin MacArthur, Engagement Manager, Bloom Works
Mel Banyard, Senior UX Researcher, Mozilla

Cybersecurity needs a systems update. How leaders identify and secure against virtual threats has fallen out of sync with how everyday people experience the dangers of the internet. Decision makers frame cybersecurity in dollars and cents lost, while advocates labor to humanize victims of online violence. This space lacks a common definition of safety, and this is evident in the growing erosion of public trust in platforms and tech policy makers alike. In this paper, researchers from complementary ends of cybersecurity space explore the potential of mixed methods research to lay the groundwork for improved unity between policy and people.

Colin MacArthur is a leader in user experience research and design for public sector services. He is currently an engagement manager at Bloom Works, a public benefit corporation dedicated to building better digital public services.. Previously, he was the first Director of Digital Practice and Head of Design Research at the Canadian Digital Service. He was also an early team member at 18F and the Center for Civic Design.

Mel Banyard is a researcher in tech with a focus on privacy, cybercrime, and digital violence. She’s passionate about creating sustainable change within the organizations that shape our online lives. At Mozilla, she studied the growing rate of doxxing and online harassment against professionals in the United States & Mexico. Prior to that, Mel led mixed-methods research for the Government of Canada’s COVID Alert App and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police’s Cybercrime Reporting Platform.

Forget Nature, Forget Humans: Redefining our Approach Toward Biodiversity


Marc Antoine Morier, Service and Research Designer, frog

While human-centered approaches have enabled considerable progress to be made in the design of innovative and socially responsible solutions, they fail to take account of a decisive factor in maintaining our societies. Medicine, food, drinking water and breathable air…Biodiversity underpins many of the “services” that “nature” provides free of charge, and on which we are largely dependent. With biodiversity collapsing, how is it that we take so little account of it in our work? How can we include living non-humans in our investigations and creations?

Marc-Antoine is a trained anthropologist working at the intersection of design, social sciences and fiction.

Saving (Tattoo) Clients from Themselves


Dustin Kiskaddon, VP, User Experience Research Lead, JPMorgan Chase

Drawing on direct experience with professional tattooing, Dustin explores the art and strategy of saving clients from their own bad ideas. Dustin argues ethnographers are uniquely positioned and skilled to practice an “ethic of refusal.” In this, it turns out that doing well for others means doing well for yourself.

Dustin Kiskaddon is an applied sociologist who studies the intersection of culture, bodies, and money. His ethnographic memoir, Blood and Lightning: On Becoming a Tattooer explains how tattooers think, feel, and act at work. It’s based on Dustin’s experience working as a professional tattooer, and it was published by Stanford University Press. Learn more at

The Shipt Calculator


Danny Spitzberg, Visiting Researcher, Georgia Tech

As AI systems and black-box algorithms direct ridehail and delivery work, imagine if we worked for users, not companies. This is a video is a case study of that possibility. As the pandemic began in 2020, Shipt workers partnered with an academic researcher and nonprofits to independently evaluate a new black-box algorithm. They designed an SMS chat bot to collect and analyze 200 worker’s pay histories, showing a 40% pay cut and fueling a campaign that made headlines. The lesson: researchers can partner with and work for workers who are most effected by automated systems.

The Shipt Calculator project is a worker-led organizing and research collaboration. It was initiated by Willy Solis (Lead Organizer at Gig Workers Collective), with support from Drew Ambrogi (Digital Organizer at, Dan Calacci (PhD student at MIT), and Vanessa Bain (Co-founder of Gig Workers Collective), with input and feedback from over 600 Shipt shoppers across the USA.

The film was initiated by Danny Spitzberg (former Lead Researcher at Turning Basin Labs, cofounder of The Workers’ Algorithm Observatory) in collaboration with Willy, Drew, and Dan. The film was shot, edited, and produced by Donald Borenstein (independent filmmaker) and Jimmy Day (video producer at MIT), with narrative support from Barry Lam (Professor of Philosophy, Vassar College). It was funded by the inaugural ACM FAccT 2022 Community Keynote program coordinated by Seth Lazar (Professor of Philosophy at the Australian National University).

Danny Spitzberg is a sociologist and UX researcher in Oakland, California. He is lead author for the POWER Act study on work and ownership for the state of California, and UX Researcher for The Workers’ Algorithm Observatory, a community science clinic to audit black-box algorithms and AI systems. Most recently, he was Lead Researcher at Turning Basin Labs, a staffing co-op, where he trained teams of first-time researchers to collect, analyze, and decide how to use their own data and stories.