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Teaching Ethics

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published on April 1, 2021

Rodrigo Ferreira, Moshe Y. Vardi

Computer Ethics and Care
An Activity for Practicing “Deep” Attention

Following increasing public concern over the ethical and social implications of contemporary technology, computer science departments around the world have recently increased their efforts to incorporate ethics into their educational curriculum. For our redesigned undergraduate course on Computer Ethics at Rice University, in addition to teaching variety of fundamental ethical theories and approaches to technology, we also sought to emphasize the role of “social” technologies in mediating moral relations and to encourage students to consider moral decision-making, rather than as an abstract rational process, as matter of affective care. To help us achieve this educational objective and inspired by the work of artist Jenny Odell, we designed an activity for students to practice focusing “deep” attention both on themselves and others. In this article, we describe in detail our rationale for this activity, report on lessons learned, and discuss potential applications for this activity in regard to the ongoing online teaching environment following the Covid-19 pandemic.

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