Co-construction of Information Systems Designs & Social Values: An Ethnographic Study

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Richard Arias-Hernandez: Scholarly work usually characterizes engineers as politically and socially conservative individuals; instruments of the expansion of capitalism and neoliberalism. It also portrays them as supporters of both the State and the big corporations that employ them. This talk reports on an ethnographic study that documented the work of a group of information technology (IT) engineers in Colombia who decided to create a space of exception to neoliberalism in the form of a Non-Governmental Engineering Organization (NGEO). These engineers found that running their own NGEO provided them with some degrees of freedom to pursue social justice goals in their IT work in ways not usually found in the corporate or neoliberal governmental worlds. However, these opportunities do not come without outstanding challenges, such as funding dependencies from a neoliberal government, which create contradictions that hinder the pursue of social justice goals in the construction of information technology.

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