The Human Contexts and Ethics (HCE) Toolkit helps students identify where human power structures and value choices get built into technical work, empowering them to figure out how, when, where they can responsibly and effectively intervene.
The toolkit draws from concepts and strategies from the social sciences, particularly Science, Technology & Society (STS) and history. It provides a set of tools that point students to what’s at stake ethically and suggest what they can do.
Looking at co-production, students learn how technologies have developed hand-in-hand with the expression and institutionalization of social values. This perspective lets students recognize how the design of data models and algorithms embed the values of the engineers and societies in which they are made, and ask what alternatives they would want to see to realize a different social order.
Looking at classification, students learn to look for how the processes of data collection, cleaning, and inference depend upon and reinforce social categories like race and gender. This approach lets students see the consequences of classification choices for their computing models as well as for people's identities and social order, and judge whether these are fair.
Our assignments invite students to apply these social science tools to new situations, revealing patterns. They prepare them not just to analyze past cases, but to respond to changing socio-technical landscapes.