Social Responsibility

The Department of Informatics is committed to social responsibility. We apply a two-pronged approach based on

  • our general strategies for teaching and research in Informatics,
  • specific measures to address key issues in social responsibility.

General Approach

At the Department of Informatics, we take an interdisciplinary approach to computation and Informatics systems in our teaching, research, and development. The technologies we use and develop are not treated in isolation, but in relation to people, organizations, and society at large. First and foremost, social responsibility in Informatics means taking a broad, contextualized perspective of technology and living by it in our work.

Informatics professionals are the architects of computer-based information and communication systems. These systems can have far-reaching impacts – both positive and negative – on humans in their activities and in their lives. Computers have become ubiquitous as tools, media, and infrastructure. They transform the ways in which people learn, work, communicate, create and maintain relationships, and perceive reality. Much as building architects need to understand both the construction of physical structures as well as the needs of the people who will inhabit them, so must Informatics professionals understand the societal contexts in which their computational technologies exist.

Specific Measures

Our approach to Informatics involves the development of methods and techniques to assess and explore potential impacts of technologies in various application contexts, to expose opportunities and minimize risks, and to create safe, secure and sustainable solutions. This includes methods to analyze the requirements of users, to assess the usability of systems,  to analyze and guide a responsible choice, implementation and use of IT, and to make the values embedded in models and software systems transparent to decision-makers.

The faculty at the Department of Informatics perceives these methods as integral parts of the Informatics discipline. In this sense, social responsibility is implicitly embedded in our teaching and research. Additionally, the department also takes a number of explicit measures towards integrating social responsibility into our teaching and research, including:

  • The Chair of Informatics and Sustainability, created in 2010 in cooperation with Empa, to develop and coordinate sustainability-related activities in teaching and research;
  • The People and Computing research lab (ZPAC) started in 2010 to promote teaching and research focused on the reciprocal impact of humans and technology on each other;
  • The integration of social responsibility-focused courses into the regular curriculum, including:
      -   Informatics, Ethics and Society (undergraduate level),
      -   Informatics and Sustainable Development (graduate level),
      -   Sustainable Human-Computer Interaction (graduate level).