Using drama to introduce ethics to technology students and practitioners

Ferreira, Giselle and Monk, John (2009). Using drama to introduce ethics to technology students and practitioners. In: 10th Annual Conference of the HEA Subject Centre for ICS, 25-27 Aug 2009, Canterbury.



In this poster we describe the use of Joe Penhall's play 'Landscape with Weapon' as a resource to teach ethics to students and practitioners in technology. 'Landscape with Weapon' is a play in three acts that revolve around issues confronting an engineer who works in the weapons industry. The play raises a number of broad questions concerning intellectual property rights, duty and responsibility in professional conduct, amongst other ethical issues. Crucially, however, although the play raises 'big' questions concerning technological development, it is in the portrayal of relationships between individual characters each with their own personal ethical stance, and it is in the development of these relationships through conversations and outbursts that vital ethical questions arise.

Although it is not always clearly recognised, it is in the everyday, routine conversations and dealings of people that ethical questions are refined, developed and, on occasion, answered. Accordingly, such dialogues influence action and guide conduct. Rather than focussing on the formulation of theory, a play can demonstrate how ethical stances fare when placed alongside one another. Also, a play encourages the audience to empathise with characters thus inviting the audience to examine their own ethical positions through their reactions to the dialogue, gesture and action set out in the play script. In short, a suitable play such as 'Landscape with Weapon' can function as an allegory representing issues and questions of relevance to an audience of practitioners in a variety of areas of technology development.

This poster uses 'Landscape with Weapon' as an example of one amongst several plays and dialogues used as resources for teaching ethics in the Unit 'Introducing Ethics in Information and Computer Sciences' (working title), currently under development with the support of a grant from the HEA Subject Centre for ICS. The Unit, a self-contained multi-media course, will be made available, for re-use and re-purposing under a Creative Commons License, on the LabSpace (, the experimentation site of the Open University open content initiative OpenLearn (

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