Thursday, April 28, 2016

Shadow Codes - A space for discussing how codes of ethics can be more expansive and inclusive.

The Shadow Codes website is intended as a multipurpose space for students, educators, professionals, and the general public. Originally conceptualized as a place to host shadow codes of engineering ethics - those codes that bear a variety of merits (they produce critical reflection; they reveal something about the power laden processes by which codes are produced; they have moral merit in and of themselves) but, as of yet, have not found their way into official canons governing professional engineers. The site is now expanding its scope beyond engineering, starting with the sciences. 

In general, it is a place to host ideas and conversations that imagine a future with more expansive, inclusive codes of ethics. The goal of the site is not simply to advocate for the inclusion of these alternative canons into those codes espoused by professional societies; rather, it is to encourage individuals from all walks of life to reflect upon what these codes mean for themselves, their communities, and society writ large. It is an invitation to step outside the confines dictated by historical precedent and envision a more ethical future.

At this point, the site acts as: a place to host conversations; a repository for ideas; and another venue to connect individuals from disparate groups who may not otherwise have occasion to cross paths. In that sense, it's part dialogue medium, part warehouse, part networking space, and part catalyst for students, educators, and engineers to envision what future versions of their codes of ethics might entail. Ideally the activity at the site would facilitate discussions and actions toward changing professional engineering codes in a more inclusive way, but we're trying to forestall tunnel vision that comes from focusing on one singular purpose. If pressed to identify one, the ultimate goal is to encourage more reflection from any and all individuals impacted by science and engineering codes of ethics. That reflection could lead to advocacy for development and change, or it could simply encourage a deeper understanding of the codes' roles in the context of professional practice and society writ large. 

If you have questions about the Shadow Codes Project, please contact Andrew Katz, Graduate Research Assistant at Virginia Tech’s Department of Engineering Education at

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