Empowered and Embedded: Ethics and Agile Processes

07/15/2021
by   Niina Zuber, et al.
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In this article we focus on the structural aspects of the development of ethical software, and argue that ethical considerations need to be embedded into the (agile) software development process. In fact, we claim that agile processes of software development lend themselves specifically well for this endeavour. First, we contend that ethical evaluations need to go beyond the use of software products and include an evaluation of the software itself. This implies that software engineers influence peoples' lives through the features of their designed products. Embedded values are thus approached best by software engineers themselves. Therefore, we put emphasis on the possibility to implement ethical deliberations in already existing and well established agile software development processes. Our approach relies on software engineers making their own judgments throughout the entire development process to ensure that technical features and ethical evaluation can be addressed adequately to transport and foster desirable values and norms. We argue that agile software development processes may help the implementation of ethical deliberation for five reasons: 1) agile methods are widely spread, 2) their emphasis on flat hierarchies promotes independent thinking, 3) their reliance on existing team structures serve as an incubator for deliberation, 4) agile development enhances object-focused techno-ethical realism, and, finally, 5) agile structures provide a salient endpoint to deliberation.

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