Let's adopt a value that addresses the role of code/tech itself in the space we work in


I’d like to discuss whether we should adopt a value that addresses the role of code/tech itself in the space we work in. Are we just all about code and software, or are we about providing computing expertise to pluralistic forms of governance?

Government is of and by people, not technology. We can’t tech our way out of a bad social, political, economic, or other human-constructed situation without some contextual or external circumstances to still account for. I’m not saying that CfA’s goal is to bring the US closer to a technocracy, but we use language and icons in common with technocratic themes. Our mission is progressive, and our values and operating principles are humanitarian. But we still do that through hackathons, hack nights, calling ourselves “Code for America/state/city”, crafting tech laws, and declaring software could remedy human-made disaster. We wield these good intentions primarily through tech skills, tech artifacts, and tech policy, but changing governance requires more than tech things.

I feel that we as an organization, or individuals, often assume that good code = good governance = good country. It is false to think that given some civic tech, or any technology, we should expect some social or governmental change. While technology is something that could make people’s actions easier or harder to perform, the context for better or worse is still there and will have a significant say in how that tech is actually used, if at all. Being in the room, whether in code or in person, when a major political or social action is made is not going to change policy on its own.

Do Artifacts Have Politics? (Winner)
Moralizing Technology (Verbeek)
Of Bicycles, Bakelites, and Bulbs (Bijker)
Hearth Surgery (Bilger)