Beyond Good and Evil: Rethinking the Social Components in our Computing Curricula

Paper published in the Journal of Information, Communication and Ethics in Society. Earlier version presented at ITiCSE 2011 in Darmstadt, Germany

Paper Details

  • PUBLISHED:2015
  • JOURNAL:Journal of Information, Communication and Ethics in Society 13 (3/4) 2015
  • PUBLISHED:2011
  • JOURNAL:Proceedings of the 16th annual joint conference on Innovation and technology in computer science education
  • Won Best Paper Award

It is by now widely accepted that social and professional issues are an important part of any computer science curriculum. The approach taken in most social issues courses is to articulate the social impacts of different computer technologies and then apply macro-ethical theories to those impacts. This paper argues that this approach has a number of drawbacks. First, it is based on a technological deterministic style of social explanation that has been in disrepute in the academic social sciences for decades. Second, it uses an algorithmic approach to ethics that simplifies the social complexity and the uncertainty that is the reality of socio-technological change. It concludes by suggesting that the alternative to the ethical evaluation of impacts is to focus the course instead on the social context; that is, on clarifying and unpacking the complexity involved in the relationship between technology and society.

A significantly revised version of this paper was published in the Journal of Information, Communication and Ethics in Society

Read Paper