Jan 10, 2022
International Journal of Technology and Design Education
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Discussions around the unethical use of emerging technology have become increasingly common in our society. Despite previous research acknowledging the importance of including societal level discussions in engineering and technology undergraduate curricula, there is a lack of research around college students’ understanding of and engagement with the ethics of new and emerging technology. In this qualitative study, we present the results from 17 interviews with students from a range of engineering and technology fields, describing how they reason as both designers and consumers of new technology. Our goal is to characterize students’ patterns of reasoning about the ethics of new technology, and, in this paper, we describe how this reasoning is argued from multiple stakeholder perspectives (corporations, government, professionals, users and society). Our findings indicate privacy, security and balance of power as the most relevant ethical issues to respondents, and that participants consider several stakeholders in their reasoning, often shifting among multiple perspectives. Furthermore, interviewed students often concluded their reasoning by either resigning themselves to the pervasiveness of technology or by pushing the liability concerns to one stakeholder while diminishing the responsibility of others. In each case, respondents frequently avoided entering societal level discussions related to ethical issues of emerging technology. Our results offer relevant insights that can facilitate further work related to the research and teaching of ethics to college students, as well as suggest areas for future research particularly building upon participants’ feelings of resignation in relation to unethical use of new technology.

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