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Online seminar with Andrew Vachss

Nesna University College, October 1-2, 2003

My name is Per Arne Godejord, and I am Assistant Professor in Social Informatics here at Nesna University College, Norway. All of us at the Department of Computer and Information Science believe that we should not send computer professionals out on the streets without a proper understanding of the human side of computers.

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Most computer students dread the course in Social Informatics, and in the words of one of them: "This is just Marx. No practical computer stuff." So what to do?

If the students felt the course unimportant and uninspiring — would they learn anything? My answer was to rebuild the course and make it more practical, and with one topic as the main ethical theme. The topic I chose was child porn on the Internet, and in March 2003 Nesna University College, as the only educational institution in Norway, signed an agreement with the Norwegian Save the Children to work closely with them on this issue.

At the 24th of September 2003 our department hosted a small conference with speakers from the police, lawyers, Save the Children, Telenor, University of Umea and our third year Bachelor students. The title of the conference was "Internet — a hiding ground for paedophiles?" With this conference as a backdrop we hosted an online discussion between our students and Andrew Vachss.

The online discussion was meant to be an experimental example on how to teach ethical topics to computer students. And so far the students have responded with enthusiasm, both regarding the course as such and towards the theme of child porn on the Internet/child abuse. They were especially pleased with the online session with Andrew Vachss, giving them an opportunity to discuss using English. So far as I can tell at this stage all students thought both the experiment and the new course of Social Informatics worthwhile.

Per A. Godejord
Assistant Professor Social Informatics
Nesna University College


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