This paper aims to demonstrate that computing social issues courses are often being taught by articulating the social impacts of different computer technologies and then…
This paper aims to demonstrate that computing social issues courses are often being taught by articulating the social impacts of different computer technologies and then applying moral theories to those impacts. It then argues that that approach has a number of serious drawbacks.
A bibliometric analysis of ETHICOMP papers is carried out. Papers from early in the history of ETHICOMP are compared to recent years, so as to determine if papers are more or less focused on social scientific examinations of issues or on ethical evaluations of impacts of technology. The literature is examined to argue the drawbacks of the impact approach.
Over time, ETHICOMP papers have moved away from social scientific examinations of computing to more philosophic and ethical evaluations of perceived impacts of computing. The impact 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 uncertainty that is the reality of socio-technological change.
The methodology used in this paper is limited in several ways. The bibliometric analysis only examined five years of ETHICOMP papers, while the literature review focused on published computing education research. It is possible that neither of these forms of evidence reflects actual common teaching practice.
It is hoped that the arguments in this paper will convince teaching practitioners to modify the way they are teaching computing social issues courses: that is, the authors hope to convince educators to add more focus on the social context of computing.
The use of bibliometric analysis in this area is unique. The paper’s argument is perhaps unusual as well.