To the general public, the word “justice” may connote assigning fair punishment to a criminal. However, the Belmont report expresses justice as a requirement that people who are equal to each other should in fact be treated equally. In other words, even though the general understanding of “justice” brings to mind punishing a criminal to a proper extent, the Belmont report goes into more detail of determining how to apply justice by distinguishing the burdens and benefits of a situation and explains injustice as the act of denying someone who is entitled to a service or opportunity without good reason.
Justice can be difficult to define because it requires the question of “Who is equal and who is unequal?” to be answered accurately (The Belmont Report). In addition to this, creating the “criteria” of justice with distinctions including but not limited to age, race, or position could also be difficult when attempting to explain how different people can be treated equally. For example, a deaf student in a class may need extra resources to obtain the same level of comprehension of the material that other students who are not disabled can obtain without needing a sign language translator. To provide a sign language translator to the deaf student would allow for all of the students to have an equal opportunity to learn, even though none of the other students have a sign language translator. Perhaps some students would complain that the deaf student has an unfair advantage because they are given more time to finish their assignments or are provided with a private tutor. However, it would be necessary to provide this deaf student with more resources in order for it to be equal. When the definition of equality needs to be clarified in other scenarios to determine how justice should be delivered, it could potentially be difficult to discern.
In the paper, “Designing within a Highly Politicized Environment: The Case of Voices from the Rwanda Tribunal”, the situation involves a group of researchers attempting to gather information on how to design for Rwanda, a place that is so highly politicized that the western notions of free speech and safety do not apply in the same way there. In this case, the burden of research falls upon the researchers conducting the study as well as the people of Rwanda that would participate in studies, since the punishment could be very severe if they somehow violated one of the strict laws set there. For example, the researchers wanted to set up an online discussion forum, but was told that there would be high risks to doing so due to the strict 2008 Genocide Ideology Law on a forum that was not heavily moderated. If anyone posted anything offensive or violating this law onto the forum, the Rwandan government could see the researchers as responsible for the act itself. If this law was violated, the punishment could be up to 25 years in prison, so the stakes were very high. Due to the severity of the punishment, the Rwandan people themselves may not want to participate on the forum in fear of being involved in a risky operation such as the study. However, the benefits of the study include new knowledge on how to provide a safe and comfortable online option in a place that is highly politicized and volatile. While the benefit of understanding how to design for a place like Rwanda is important, the issue of a participant or researcher potentially being imprisoned for up to 25 years is an undue burden. In this case, to apply “justice”, it would not be fair to place both researchers and participants under a highly dangerous and risky study like the one mentioned in the study.
A design example that I believe has both heavy burdens as well as benefits distributed across groups would be the carpooling service, Uber. The burdens of Uber, which is similar to a taxi service, would be that there is a huge risk for the drivers to constantly be on unfamiliar roads as well as being in cars with complete strangers. While the stranger risk extends both ways, Uber drivers are constantly driving and therefore allow people that they do not know at all to enter their cars. The benefits, however, are impactful because Uber provides an efficient and quick way for anyone that has the app to travel. The burdens are distributed unfairly because people who are unemployed and potentially have lower skills and/or education are often times the ones who drive for Uber. Many of these people could be minorities that have just arrived in the United States, and are struggling to find a job. Since a large population of the Uber driver demographic is much less wealthy and educated, the burdens of being an Uber driver are disproportionately placed on them. On the other hand, Ubers can be expensive in comparison to other options such as public transportation, so the benefits may only apply to people who are wealthy enough to be able to afford Ubers on a regular basis. Uber as a service is interesting to analyze in terms of justice, benefits, and burdens because although it is an app that makes many people’s lives easier and provides benefits for people who need a way to travel quickly, it also places an undue burden on people who are of lower economic status, uneducated, or are minorities that are struggling to find a position in the United States.