Forget what you’ve seen in sci-fi movies: Sarah Auvil ’14 warns that artificial intelligence can only be as mindful as its architects.
Auvil, who works as senior user experience (UX) strategist for Cardinal Solutions, addressed this point during her talk, "Software for Humans: Anticipating User Needs," at the international 2017 Information Architecture Summit held March 22-26 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
"Technology and, by extension, A.I., only cares about privacy, ethics, diversity and equality as much as the people who make it, and there's huge weight to these decisions that can affect millions of people," said Auvil. "We're always talking about the possibilities of all the cool stuff we can do, but products can mirror the tendencies and beliefs--good or bad--of the people who make them."
In Vancouver, Auvil had a rare opportunity to meet influential figures in the field of information architecture from Google, Apple, Pinterest, Amazon and other tech-savvy companies.
“I met people working in UX from all over the world. Many of the speakers addressed the ethical challenges of technology and human factors,” said Auvil. “User experience professionals play a huge role in the mobile apps, websites, interfaces and software all of us use and are often the ones who have to say ‘just because we can doesn't mean we should.’”
The Rock Hill native felt welcome at the summit, noting that “the UX community is very inclusive and wants to hear new perspectives.” She addressed her experiences taking cultural anthropology at Winthrop and focused on the human factors that go into designing software.
“As a UX consultant, I help clients turn their business needs into a cohesive digital experience and consider the human factors,” said Auvil, explaining that her work involves research, organization, design, asking “why?” and facilitation. “Many people think making software is just taking a laundry list of items and writing some code. It’s a much bigger responsibility than that.”
Now pursuing a master’s degree in UX design at Kent State University, Auvil first learned about user experience in Winthrop’s Digital Information Design program. Through the DIFD class and her work with The Johnsonian, Winthrop’s student newspaper, she realized that she could combine her journalistic skills—researching, interviewing, writing, design and technical knowledge—with her technical skills—graphic design, photography and web design—and turn them into a career she loved..
In fact, Auvil's skills as an interviewer and writer prove extremely useful in her work as a UX professional. Providing the "human perspective" on IT projects is a crucial part of her job.
“Technology is, at its core, always for humans and should strive to prioritize equal access as a right," said Auvil.
Last Updated: 4/13/2017