The making of an undergraduate Sociotechnical Ethics Society

Jennifer Terrell, Indiana University

Boston 2017: Pedagogy

In the spring semester of 2017, the Sociotechnical Ethics Society (SES) became an official student organization on the campus of Indiana University. This presentation offers insights into in the making of a group of undergraduate students organized to “educate students and promote the growth of ethical thought, particularly in regards to Sociotechnical developments” (SES Constitution). The SES intends to accomplish this through: coordination of a speaker series; events such as film nights wherein films that provoke the discussion of sociotechnical ethical dilemmas are viewed and discussed; and the construction of special interest reading groups. While this group is new, it shows great promise for engaging students in issues of society and technology outside of the classroom. It gives them the space to practice the “doing” of ethics by investigating and analyzing various topics of their own interest. Students majoring in informatics at the School of Informatics and Computing at IU have the option of taking courses in computer and information ethics and these courses are in high demand. The founding members of the SES have excelled in these courses and describe the SES as a way for them to continue to explore this area of study. The activities of the organization promote continued education in sociotechnical issues through self-learning as the students are wholly responsible for selecting topics and coordinating activities. The presentation will detail the history of how the group was started and will outline the plans cultivated by the current student board of directors. Education in ethics is critical for undergraduate programs that focus on computation and digital technologies; the creation of a thriving student organization that promotes self-learning in this arena is quite valuable to our students’ development. As such, the presentation will also seek to generate conversation about strategies to foster undergraduate interest in sociotechnical issues even further.

Published: 01/30/2023