Journal of Social Computing

Article Title

Critical Technical Awakenings


critical technical practice, critical consciousness, perspective transformation, education, machine learning


Starting with Philip E. Agre’s 1997 essay on “critical technical practice”, we consider examples of writings from computer science where authors describe “waking up” from a previously narrow technical approach to the world, enabling them to recognize how their previous efforts towards social change had been ineffective. We use these examples first to talk about the underlying assumptions of a technology-centric approach to social problems, and second to theorize these awakenings in terms of Paulo Freire’s idea of critical consciousness. Specifically, understanding these awakenings among technical practitioners as examples of this more general phenomenon gives guidance for how we might encourage and guide critical awakenings in order to get more technologists working effectively towards positive social change.