(Please note: This is a ficitional interview that was produced as an assignment for the course session of March 23)
Computer science and its social implications
Timo Bühler is a master student of ‘Science-Technology-Society’ at the University of Vienna. Before this he graduated in business information management, worked at IBM and studied sociology. In addition to his current studies he works as a teaching assistant for the lecture ‘Theory and History of Science’ at the Faculty of Social Sciences at the University of Vienna.
Interviewer: You have been engaging with the relation of computer science and society in different contexts for some years now. Why do you think it is important to do more social science research in this area?
Timo Bühler: In recent years I have been watching closely the way computer science as a discipline but also the people that work in the matching industry have been communicating about what they do and how they do it. For example, when you scroll through the posts, they publish on business networks like LinkedIn you get the feeling that every problem humankind currently has, can and will be solved by them through technological means, most importantly through software applications. Having worked in the IT industry myself I experienced that reflecting one’s own work and its social implications critically is not part of the broader ‘mentality’ of the IT industry. That’s why I’m pushing for social scientists from different disciplines to come together and do more research in this context.
Interviewer: And how would such research look?
Timo Bühler: In general, I think the approaches can and should be diverse. For me the focus is on two things. First, understanding the underlying assumptions that are part of this community and second, finding new methods for engaging students of computer science in discussions around their future work and its effects besides the mere technicalities.
Interviewer: What do you expect to happen in this regard in the next four months?
Timo Bühler: As I said, on one side I hope that computer scientists open up to these new approaches. On the other side, maybe even more important, I hope that social science scholars understand that it is necessary to actually go into the fields one is analysing and criticizing. It is easy – and I would also say correct – to criticize for instance economists for their limited view of human behavior just as it is easy to criticize the missing reflectiveness of computer scientists in their everyday work practices. But these aspects will not change through reading and producing complicated academic texts within our own disciplines. We must start to actually engage with and inside these fields of studies and their spaces of application.