Introducing Citizen Technologist, the Blog
What is a Citizen Technologist?
Increasingly, we must accept that technology is not a neutral thing, not developed apart from cultural or political ideas and not deployed in a vacuum. Technology has effects—obvious and subtle, planned and unforeseen—on our daily routines, our well-being, our communities, our jobs, our love lives and our political activities. A citizen technologist is a person who works with the intersecting effects of technical architecture, social norms, and public policy.
We’re starting to hear this term more often, and applied to different things. Here are some examples of what a citizen technologist might be (please share yours in the comments!):
- a software engineer who considers ethical principles in building her new app;
- a designer who volunteers his services to improve the user experience of a local non-profit or government agency website;
- a legislator who works closely with the technical community to design laws and regulations affecting the Internet;
- a researcher who studies the effects of new communication technologies on employment, inequality or happiness;
- a citizen who participates in technical projects to map their neighborhood or advocate for their community
Citizen technologists can vary by personal and professional background, by the work they do and by the values they consider and advocate for. We posit that these types of roles are becoming more common than they used to be, whether it’s integrating usable technology into government services, providing technical advice to legislators and leaders, or advocating within the startup community for product values beyond seeing how quickly we can deliver dinner. Some recent examples of recruiting citizen technologists might be the U.S. Digital Service, 18F, Upturn, TechCongress.io, Code for America, and the FTC’s recent technical and research hiring. But we expect we’ll need many more to answer the coming questions about new technologies and their interactions with society.
What is Citizen Technologist, the blog?
In short, Citizen Technologist is a blog for writings from, for and about citizen technologists.
Every year, starting this year, the Center for Technology, Society & Policy will offer fellowships for graduate students, postdocs, faculty, practitioners and others in this space to collaborate and make advancements in four focus areas where the questions seem profound and the opportunities great. These areas are: engineering ethics; technology and well-being; infrastructure, standards and governance; and digital citizenship.
This blog will host fellows’ ideas and perspectives, but we don’t want to limit this space only to those we’ve funded to take on a collaborative project this year. We invite anyone working in this new category — academics, practitioners, policymakers or ordinary citizens — to apply to write with us. Feel free also to reach out with ideas or questions. What do you have to say or share in this space? Writers will be encouraged to cross-post their work in other places, too, to reach diverse audiences (and we can often help with that).
We see this blog and our new center as an exciting experiment, one that you have an opportunity to shape with your effort. CTSP kicks off our first year with a half-day “Proposal Hackathon” to help people interested in fellowships find collaborators. Learn more about our fellowships/project proposals, apply to write with us, or consider becoming a mentor for our teams of fellows. We’re looking forward to working with you in this growing and essential space.