Just Code Symposium

Korean plant

About Just Code

On October 23 and 24, 2020, the Charles Babbage Institute (CBI) hosted Just Code, a day and a half symposium on how code—construed broadly, from software routines to bodies of law and policy—structures and reinforces power relations. It explored the often invisible ways that individuals and institutions use software, algorithms, and computerized systems to establish, legitimize, and reinforce widespread social, material, commercial, and cultural inequalities and power imbalances.

The event examined how individuals, unions, political organizations, and other institutions use code to fight for equality and justice. Other major themes included the (pre-) history of code/algorithmic thinking; code as means of concealment or secret communications; codes of conduct in business, governance, and culture related to IT and its institutions (local and global exploitation through imperialism, human rights violations, and environmental degradation); and codes of ethics in information technology. The presentations drew from across the humanities and qualitative social sciences, including disciplines such as anthropology, sociology, science and technology studies, geography, and communications.

A book volume for revised papers of Just Code is under contract with Johns Hopkins University Press. Please email CBI for updates. 

Jeffrey R. Yost, Ph.D., CBI Director & Research Professor in History of Science, Technology & Medicine, Univ. of Minnesota
Gerardo Con Diaz, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Science and Technology Studies, Univ. of California-Davis  

Please note: The photograph above is a Control Data Korea plant where workers appear to be protesting against the religious-based union (Urban Industrial Mission), a labor organization that was heroically fighting the company and the authoritarian government. The 1982 photograph is from CBI's Control Data Corporate Records. It might have been staged and may have involved just a smaller subset of (likely coerced) employees. US computing multinationals--CDC, Burroughs, and others--often perpetuated inequality, labor exploitation, and oppression around the world. It highlights power, inequality, and probably coercion, some of the themes central to the Just Code Symposium.

CBI is grateful to Dongwon Jo, a Postdoc at Korean National Research Foundation, for correspondence discussing the photo with us. This, in major part, influenced us to offer explication of the photo (to the extent possible, which we initially left to the viewer, given some--the banners on the face of the building--but incomplete, information on its full contexts).