An Open letter to the PDC Advisory board (on CPSR)

An Open letter to the PDC Advisory board (on CPSR)

An Open letter to the PDC Advisory board (on CPSR)


At the workshop «Computing Professionals for Social Responsibility: The Past, Present and Future Values of Participatory Design», 35 participants from different backgrounds and generations spent two half-days discussing critical questions of values, responsibility and collective action in computing, starting from 16 contributed papers (

The workshop was framed by three guiding questions:

First, who has what responsibilities related to values in computing today?  Where are the boundaries, connections and overlaps in value responsibilities  across designers, academic researchers, tech workers, community  organizers and other stakeholders? Whose values are marginalized how?

Second, how do we handle values critically in PD research and practice? Beyond  a call to be sensitive, and methods to support sensitivity, PD must  also face how marginalization, coercion and false consensus play out on  the level of values. How do existing approaches to PD account for this?  Does this present a challenge to PD practice and research? How can  computing professionals and academics support those affected by  computing in emancipating themselves from the values embedded in  computing?

Third, What should a CPSR for the 21st century look like?  The  CPSR – Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility – wound down over a decade ago, but today, organizations like it are  more needed than ever. What could such an organization achieve? What should it be like? How could it come to be?  What can we learn from CPSR? Many organizations,  initiatives, collectives and individuals already speak to these  concerns. How can they connect and cooperate more effectively?

During the workshop, we reflected on the founding and closing of the CPSR and discussed collective organizing today. Much has changed since the 1990s, and a plenitude of organizations now speaks up against computing’s role in environmental destruction, inequality, racism, and many other blights of our planet. But central issues are unchanged – computing is more implicated in our life than ever, there are still tensions between research, practice and activism, and the need for collective action is just as urgent as it was when CPSR was founded.

All agree there is a need to better connect the voices of those who speak responsibly and critically to the role that computing plays in shaping our lives, within and outside of computing. There was debate around whether a new organization is best to fill this role, or whether the most effective frame would be a venue, a network or a coalition to bring together activists, scholars, professionals, critics, and students of participatory design. In any case, a continued space for conversation is needed to help facilitate this collective organizing and coalition building. We propose that PDC responds to this need by establishing such a space within the PDC series to facilitate the continuation of these conversations in a sustainable forum. The workshop organizers offer their continued involvement in shaping and supporting this.


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