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camille nebeker ucsd design lab contact tracing

Design Fictions: Imagining the ethical, legal and social implications of digital contact tracing

Future Epidemiologies, Ethical Responses, Public Health
A Studio Sessions Series

Speaker: Camille Nebeker

Date: Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Time: 1:00 P.M. – 3:00 P.M.

Space is limited!

This session will explore the digital symptom tracking and contact tracing solutions being considered for deployment in San Diego and factors that will impact adoption by various community stakeholders. States, municipalities, and employers are, to varying degrees, considering how to manage and mitigate the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. Contact tracing is one strategy used to identify how and where the virus is spreading. It is commonly used in public health to identify and notify people who have been exposed to an infected person. Traditional contact tracing involves a workforce of trained investigators who contact people who test positive, in our case for COVID-19, to narrow down the scope of viral exposure. No doubt this surveillance process takes time and resources yet can be very effective in mitigating the spread of disease. Digital solutions are being developed and deployed to augment and/or replace the traditional method of contact tracing.


Dr. Camille Nebeker is an Associate Professor in the School of Medicine at the University of California, San Diego. Dr. Nebeker is affiliated with the Divisions of Behavioral Medicine and Global Health in the Department of Family Medicine and Public Health. Her research focuses on the design of research/bioethics educational initiatives designed for traditional and non-traditional learners with a goal of trainee’s understanding and appreciation of factors that influence the ethical and responsible conduct of research.


Design Fictions are a critical design tool for thinking otherwise about the past, present and future. Sci-fi author Bruce Sterling says that design fictions “suspend disbelief about change.” Constructing fictional narratives in various media (from films to texts, from data graphics to powerpoints, from prototypes to maps) helps designers think through complex phenomena and explore how various systems might interact. Design fictions shape design paths by investigating and inspiring possible worlds. 

This series of studio sessions will use design fiction methods to consider ethical responses for epidemiological futures. It invites participation from those who want to learn about design fictions and/ or those interested in exploring outcomes of the current pandemic.

This workshop series is open all, with first priority given to Design Lab members and students in the Speculative Design and Visual Arts program. No previous experience with Design Fictions or epidemiology studies is required. 

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