How Computer Systems Embody Values

Nissenbaum, H
Computer (Long Beach, Calif.)

The story of how information technology has radically altered our lives and even ourselves has been told many times, in many versions. The radical effects of the process have extended to institutions, social processes, relationships, power structures, work, play, education, and beyond. Although the changes have been varied, affecting the economy, the shape and functioning of organizations, artistic expression, and even conceptions of identity, some of us have focused on changes with an ethical dimension. I've found it useful to organize this work into two categories according to the distinct ways values factor into it. In one category I place work in which values themselves are not the controversy's central subject. In the other, however, technology's values form part of the controversy.