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2020-21 Curriculum Development

Whose Ethics?: Integrating Diverse Cultural Perspectives into Ethics Training for Global Technologies

Project Leads: MarYam Hamedani, Hazel Rose Markus, Jeanne Tsai, and Jennifer Eberhardt (Psychology and Stanford SPARQ)

Technologies are cultural products. They are developed and designed by humans. They also shape the beliefs and behaviors of the humans who use them. Technologies therefore not only reflect designers’ values, beliefs, and normative understandings, but also have the potential to shape and even disrupt the values, beliefs, and norms of users. As digital technologies increasingly structure and connect people’s daily lives across the globe, it is imperative that developers and designers consider: how their own values and biases shape their products, how their values and biases may differ from those of their users, and how the technologies they create may be used—intentionally or unintentionally—to promote, disrupt, or undermine cultural values.

Our project seeks to expand how cultural perspectives are considered and taught in ethics courses. Our team will survey and synthesize approaches from ethics and society courses currently offered at Stanford, and will suggest content, exercises, demonstrations, and case studies to consider the question: “Whose Ethics?” We will bring together scholars whose courses and research focus on ethics for global technologies with those who focus on culture, race, and inequality in society. Our goals are to promote interdisciplinary collaboration and develop materials for an educator toolkit.

Race in Science, Technology, and Medicine (Race in STM)

course lead: Paul Edwards (Science, Technology, & Society)


The current moment in our national and global history calls for deep, lasting, and ongoing listening, introspection, and action on the role of race and racism in our society. This project will create three 1-credit undergraduate courses (STS 51A, B, C; one per quarter) in which leading scholars from across the country will speak to how scientific knowledge and practice; technology design and use; and medical research and treatment both affect and are affected by conceptions of race, racial bias, and structural racism.

Speakers will include scientists, engineers, and medical professionals as well as anthropogists, sociologists, historians, and STS scholars. Formats will include interviews, panels, and conversations in addition to full-length lectures. Organized by the Program in Science, Technology & Society, Race in STM is co-sponsored by 18 other campus units. All talks will be online and open to the entire Stanford community.

We hope to help cement Stanford’s commitment to an anti-racist, positive environment of equality, respect, and opportunity for all, especially in STEM fields historically dominated by white practitioners. STS also intends momentum from this series to catalyze a permanent STS course on Race in Science, Technology, and Medicine.

Digital Civil Society: The Risks and Opportunities Digital Technologies Present to Civil Society

Course lead: Toussaint Nothias (Political Science; Digital Civil Society Lab)

Collaborators: Lucy Bernholz (Digital Civil Society Lab), Ashley Lee (Digital Civil Society Lab), Samantha Bradshaw (Digital Civil Society Lab; Stanford Internet Observatory), Soojong Kim (Digital Civil Society Lab; Program on Democracy and the Internet)


A multidisciplinary teaching team will design, develop, and implement a new version of the Digital Civil Society seminar, which explores the risks and opportunities digital technologies present to civil society. ‘Civil society’ includes social movements, grassroots activism, philanthropists, unions, nonprofits, NGOs, charities, and cooperatives, among others.

How do digital technologies affect their work, strategies, values, and independence?  This new version of the seminar will respond to the challenge of remote learning and to our current global reckoning with racial injustice. The new syllabus will center the scholarship, expertise, and voices of historically marginalized communities and include authors and case studies from across the globe.

The teaching team will draw on diverse backgrounds in history, philosophy, communication, computational social science, African and African-American Studies, education and computer science in creating a curriculum designed to bring students together across majors and disciplines.  New content will include asynchronous video resources created in collaboration with civil society leaders on a range of topics, such as the links between digital rights and racial justice advocacy, activist resistance to digital surveillance and community-owned networks. The syllabus and asynchronous content of the class will be made publicly accessible. Overall, the class will support campus-wide engagement with the societal impact of technologies by developing the next generation of community advocates, technologists, policy makers, and scholars.

Roleplaying Workshops for “Principled Entrepreneurial Decisions” and Other School of Engineering Courses

Course lead: JACK FUCHS (MS&E) 

Collaborators:  Amanda Brown (MS&E), Stefan Faistenauer (MS&E), Vikram Shanker (CS), Raban von Spiegel (MS&E), Tom Byers (MS&E), Toby Corey (MS&E), Riitta Katila (MS&E), Anne Newman (Center for Ethics in Society), Valerie Red-Horse Mohl (CCSRE), Hemant Taneja (General Catalyst)


In 2019, Management Science & Engineering lecturer Jack Fuchs debuted a new Stanford Technology Ventures Program-affiliated course titled “Principled Entrepreneurial Decisions” (ENGR 148/248). Students in this class develop a set of personal and organizational values and principles designed to guide future decision-making in their careers and lives. The course proposes that if entrepreneurs are thoughtful about developing, refining and communicating their values and principles, they will make better decisions. Debates about what decision to make become principled-based discussions.

The course relies on a series of new case studies, focusing on how leaders in entrepreneurial ventures define and use principles in their decision making. The case protagonists discuss both the decisions they made and how their values and principles drove their decisions. There is tremendous demand to develop materials that will allow students to stress-test their principles against difficult situations in a workshop format – both in ENGR 148/248 as well as in other classes across various School of Engineering departments. The EST Hub grant will provide funding for graduate students to develop and test new interactive workshops that will be used in ENGR 148/248, in other School of Engineering classes, and by organizations throughout the university.

Developing an Online, Self-Paced Version of the Stanford Future Bay Initiative’s Ethical Urban Data Analytics Curriculum

Course Lead: Derek Ouyang (Geophysics)

Collaborators: Jenny Suckale (Geophysics), Gabrielle Wong-Parodi (Earth System Science), Esther Conrad (Haas Center)

The Stanford Future Bay Initiative offers a three-quarter, interdisciplinary, community-engaged practicum course sequence entitled “Shaping the Future of the Bay Area”. Traditionally, students take the Autumn skills course, then participate in projects in Winter and Spring. This past Spring, the Initiative’s experience pivoting to COVID-19 rapid response projects highlighted the need for a more flexible curricular structure that would allow the program to respond swiftly to shifting stakeholder priorities and engage new students who are inspired to contribute to urban problem-solving but did not take the Autumn skills course. The pandemic itself, and its continued impact on in-person teaching in the 2020-2021 AY, only further exacerbates the need for flexibility.

Future Bay will use grant funding to support the development of a self-paced, online version of key curricular components from the Autumn course, namely the instruction on data analytics in R and accompanying data exercises that include written responses focusing on ethical reasoning. These components will be packaged into online programming tutorials, videos, starter code, and discussion forums, and will specifically empower students who enroll in Winter or Spring with more equitable access to core ethical and technical training material that elevate their achievements in the projects. 

Chocolates Heads: The Ethics of Using Digital Ecosystems for Training Performance Artists

Course Leads: Samer Al-Saber (Theater and Performance Studies), Aleta Hayes (Theater and Performance Studies)

Collaborators: Daniel Cadigan (Theater and Performance Studies), Jamie Lyons (Videographer/Photographer)

In the world of Peloton, exercise-at-home apps, and dance classes on zoom, is physical co-location necessary? We suggest that co-presence is increasingly a “truth test” for human connection. As the body becomes subjugated by technologies in service of commerce on TikTok and YouTube, does the mass mediated instruction of dance become limited by a need for popularity? Our hunch is that dance and performance continue to hold technology accountable to the human spirit.

The curricular innovation in this fall’s TAPS class, The Chocolate Heads Performance Project, is to create a visceral reality on a virtual platform. As we investigate the translation of visceral dance choreographies into mediated environments, we ask: how is performance impoverished and to what degree is quality sacrificed? What are the ethical implications of using remote technologies that are quickly becoming the standard in universities? What are the consequences of digitally communicating a physically, intellectually, and emotionally complex performance art such as dance? 

In the outcome of this experiment, students will be able to accomplish two key competencies. First, they will create and perform dance choreographies for the digital age in remote collaboration across distant places without co-location. Second, they will reflect on the effects of digital practices on the well-being of performers.