AI Seminar

Bringing Ethics and Justice into CS Courses: The Social and Political Factors at Play in Entry-Level CS Concepts

Johanna OkerlundPostdoctoral FellowUniversity of Michigan


Zoom(Password if needed: MichiganAI)


While computer scientists often create technologies that have significant social and political implications, computer science students are typically not trained to think about these dimensions. A growing number of CS educators are developing assignments and lessons for students that help them see the ethics and justice dimensions of computing. In this talk, I will discuss our own recent efforts to reframe entry-level CS concepts in a way that makes it clear that they are entangled with values and inseparable from the real world. Specifically, I will discuss ways that we draw on literature in Science and Technology studies and connect it with low-level decisions computer scientists make while they are programming. This series of examples illustrate what shifting a purely technical practice of computing to a critical technical practice could look like.


Johanna is a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, where she is developing curricular updates for Computer Science education to integrate ethics and justice learning goals with the technical content. She also work on the Technology Assessment Project at the Ford School of Public Policy, where she is using an analogic case study methodology to understand the implications of emerging technologies by drawing parallels to implications of technology of the past.

She completed her PhD at UNCC in Computing and Information Systems with a research area of HCI. Her dissertation research considered the growing impact of the Maker phenomenon on society and asks what values or practices we should be embedding into Makerspaces to ensure a humane future. This involves using AI to look at trends in the corpus of stuff created by makers and using techniques from HCI to design local interventions that prompt new practices and mindsets. Much of her research work has been driven by the needs, goals, and alongside the people of the local maker community, followed up with a reflective and critical research lens.



AI Lab

Faculty Host

Hosagrahar Visvesvaraya Jagadish ProfessorUniversity of Michigan