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Computers as Ethical Artifacts

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1 Author(s)
Ensmenger, N. ; Univ. of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia

One of the advantages that historians of computing have over their colleagues in other historical disciplines is that our object of study has broad contemporary relevance. It is rare that I meet someone who doesn't know something about, think they know something about, or wish they knew something about the topics about which I regularly teach and write. This is not simply because the history of computing is intrinsically interesting, nor because it is so inextricably linked with so many other important social, technological, and economic developments, such as the rise of the modern nation state, the emergence of industrial and post-industrial capitalism, the great wars of the 20th century, and the emergence of a globally networked economy. As fascinating and important as this larger history can be, the proverbial man or woman on the street is primarily interested in a more local level of social and political development. They are concerned about what are often referred to as the "social impacts" of computing, the ways in which the computer has affected, and seemingly will continue to affect, the ways in which they work, live, consume, recreate, and engage in social and personal relationships.

Published in:

Annals of the History of Computing, IEEE  (Volume:29 ,  Issue: 3 )