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Writing Across the Curriculum: Social Impact Statements

Writing Across the Curriculum: Social Impact Statements

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Writing Across the Curriculum: Social Impact Statements

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  1. Writing Across the Curriculum: Social Impact Statements William J. Frey Center for Ethics in the Professions

  2. Agenda • Democracy and Computing • Social Impact Statement Exercise • Results • Challenges

  3. Professional societies in computing want projects to respond to ethical concerns • Contractual relation with society • Carry out professional activities for the public’s benefit • Computers do not create new kinds of problems; they do alter the nature of existing problems • Johnson—new species of familiar problems • privacy, intellectual property, responsibility • Johnson—computers instrument human action • they create new ways to invade privacy invasion and allow for more intrusive invasions; responsibility and the problem of many hands

  4. Technology is not ethically neutral; but neither is determinism the case • Andrew Feenberg: adopting a new technology is a social process where the technology and the receiving society mutually adapt • Not Technological Determinism: the technology is changed to fit social needs • Not Technological Neutrality: offers established groups and individuals the means of intensifying and fortifying political and social power • Indeterminism: the final form and uses of a technology are the unpredictable outcomes of social processes (cell phones) • Anti-democratic and democratic technologies are polar possibilities • Thoughtful social action can push the eventual consequences away from the former toward the latter

  5. Consequently we need to find ways to democratically adopt new technologies • Social Impact Statements play a vital role in this process • A new technology (a computing system) is examined in terms of its possible social and ethical impacts • Should these technologies offer anti-democratic possibilities, these possibilities are uncovered and remedial measures are developed • Prevention and remedy are introduced upstream in the designing process rather than added on downstream when modification and response becomes more difficult

  6. Computing specialists need to include social impact statements with new computing projects • Social Impact Statements are modeled on environmental impact statements • Social Impact Statements have three general goals • To uncover ethical and social surprises embedded in computing systems • To open the designing process to client and user participation • To learn to communicate effectively with client and public

  7. A SIS is a report on the social and ethical impacts of a computing project • Students choose a system that is available for study and within their technical competence • They study the system using empirical and normative tools • They uncover potential ethical and social problems • They make recommendations to prevent and solve these problems • They write this report for the client (designer and user of the system)

  8. The methodology of a SIS has a normative component • Normative • Uses ethics tests to uncover ethical surprises • Reversibility between stakeholder groups (designer, client, user, public) • Harm/beneficence including distribution among stakeholder groups • Publicity (impact on professional’s character/integrity) • Uses intermediate moral concepts to uncover further ethical surprises • Quality of life, use of power, risk & reliability, property rights, privacy, equity & access, honesty and deception

  9. The SIS includes empirical methodology • Empirical • Interviews • Students interview designers, implementers, users, and the involved public to gage social and ethical impact • Surveys and questionnaires • DIL Scenarios • Students observe system at use; from this they construct a record of a typical day of use to uncover possible problems

  10. The format of the report combines these two elements • Executive Summary • Description of the System • Includes descriptions of physical components of system and its logical aspects along with procedural, social and ethical aspects • Analysis of results • Goal is to anticipate problems • Recommendations • Students make specific, often technical, recommendations to prevent problems from arising • Discussion of ethical and social problems • Appendixes • Reader’s Guide for further research • Appendix on method used • Group Self-Evaluation • Students identify goals at beginning of research and carry out a self evaluation in light of these goals

  11. Students tackle their SIS projects in small groups • The ideal number is 4 or 5 • The group should be interdisciplinary • Each group should begin by identifying overall goals • Students use checklists to help them identify goals and anticipate problems • Groups reflect on the process through a structured group self-evaluation • Group members hold one another responsible by means of individual member evaluations • Each member evaluates the other members in terms of percent of contribution to total effort

  12. The task should be broken down into realizable components • Topic Selection • The topic should be a computing system that is assessable to empirical and normative study • The system should be in the design stage or early stages of implementation • The system should have the potential for harboring ethical and social problems • The system should be within the technical competence of the group members • Students present their topics to the class for questions and comments

  13. There are other discrete steps to the SIS exercise • Empirical tools report • This would include presenting questionnaires, surveys, interview questions to the class • Preliminary ethical and social audit • Examining computing system in terms of ethics tests and intermediate computing ethical concepts • Preliminary recommendation evaluation report • Solutions will be compared and ranked in terms of solution evaluation matrix

  14. Sample solution evaluation matrix

  15. A focus group activity helps when students have an intractable problem • Students present their problem to the rest of the class • Then they listen as the rest of the class analyzes their problems and brainstorms solutions • Students must listen; they cannot defend their position • This helps bring the class together into generates a collaborative environment

  16. Students write the report for a client • The goal of a SIS is to uncover potential problems associated with the design, implementation and use of computing systems • After uncovering these, they solve them • The students learn to communicate bad news to the client • They learn to be proactive: when they uncover problems they offer feasible solutions • Students gain experience in developing their persuasive, communicative skills

  17. Students write their final report on the basis of a rubric evaluation of their class presentation • Students present their SIS at the end of the semester • Students ask questions and make comments • Teacher fills out an SIS rubric • A rubric is a device that spells out both the standards used to evaluate student work and the degrees to which students can carry out these standards

  18. The results have been exciting • Digital IDs • Monitoreo y uso en los Centros de Computos del Recinto universitario de Mayaguez • Social Impact Statement for a Commercially Available Facial Recognition Security System • Investigacion sobre el Tecnoestres • Social Impact Statement: Elecronical Student Aid Center • Camaras de vigilancia en los laboratorios del edificion Stefani, UPRM

  19. The students have made viable recommendations to improve campus computing systems • Improved layout of computer laboratories with surveillance cameras • Modifications of layout and equipment in labs to reduce computer related stress • Suggestions to mitigate the harm produced by monitoring computer accounts in a lab • Concrete suggestions on how to make course readings readily available online

  20. The SIS exercise gives students a concrete experience in technical writing • Writing for the client • Constructively communicating bad news • Writing executive summaries • Preparing annotated biographies and summarize technical information

  21. Thank you • Questions? • Comments? • Suggestions? • w_frey@rumac.uprm.edu • www.uprm.edu/ethics