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The social and ethical issues of sdd

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The social and ethical issues of sdd

  1. 1. The social and ethical issues of Software Design and Development Ergonomics “Ergonomics is the study of the relationship between human workers and their work environment.” (Davis, 2011). Therefore, it includes all hardware, software and environment that affect how the user and participants interact with the product. However, in software design and development, instead of concentrating with a huge variety of products, we just focus on the software. Ergonomics is one of the three major social and ethical issues of Software development and design. Apart from just being able to serve a wide variety of audience (which is a main element of inclusivity), ergonomics includes how easy the software is to use and what background knowledge is require by the user and participants, among other factors, with a focus on audience from different cultures, economic backgrounds, social groups, gender differences and ways to make the software accessible for the physically and mentally disabled. The actual software development process should also be ergonomically inclusive; it requires a variety of skills. These include “effective communication skills, working in teams, creativity, design skills, problem-solving skills and attention to detail.” (Davis, 2011) Before the invention of Graphical User Interface (GUIs), it used to be very difficult for users and participants to use computers, as these systems were based on command lines, called Command Line Interfaces (CLIs) and didn’t provide a user-friendly interface for the users. However, due to the limited functionality of the GUIs, CLIs remain a preference for specialised or automated computer tasks. Therefore, most software applications were written for large military and business organisations. The hardware and software were so intimately linked that the package solution was bought together as an entire product. The revolution of personal computers has changed our way we think about hardware and software today. Intellectual property All property is protected by law. This means that while a person may own a physical product or a piece of software, he/she might not necessarily own the rights towards the design of that software or product.
  2. 2. Therefore, legally, that certain individual cannot copy the design or use the design of the software/product for their monetary profits. However, they can use the single product/software they own for any purpose they deem fit. However, traditional physical products that were built required specialisation in knowledge of the product and the field, the necessary machinery as well as the workmanship. All these expenses beared by the manufacturer of the product (the individual/organisation which has the rights towards the design of the product) are referred to as manufacturing costs. Therefore, for physical devices even today, this cost barrier acts as a safeguard for illegitimate use of the design by other individuals/organisations to copy for their profits. But software together with books, films and music are easily copied and therefore require extra legal protection and reinforcement. Intellectual property can be defined as “Property resulting from the fruits of mental labour”(Davis, 2011) . Intellectual property laws cover the design/framework of most products. Since copying of software and as such films, books and music is relatively inexpensive compared to physical products and requires almost minimal computing knowledge, they can be made by anyone. Consequently, laws have been passed that in most countries that protect the intellectual property rights of software developers and to ensure that they are financially rewarded for their intellectual efforts. This is made possible today through the use of Software Licence Agreements.These agreements have been created to enforce the intellectual property rights of software developers and other electronic media producers. These Licence agreements hence must use legal jargon and therefore be legally correct, if they are to be used in a case in court. Not only do licence agreements protect software developers’ intellectual rights, they also protect developers from the financial loss or hardships their customer may suffer due to the purchase of their product. Since licence agreements use legal jargon to ensure their validity in court, they are often difficult to understand. To make our understanding of Licence agreements easier, it is possible to break down each component of the legal rights and responsibilities the developer includes in their licence agreement in order to ensure their legal protection against certain anticipated aspects: Licence: the formal permission or authority to use a product. This, however does not mean that the user gets ownership of the software, they are merely granted the right to use it. The same laws apply to other forms of such mass media, including books, films, photographs, music etc.
  3. 3. Agreement: a mutual contract between parties. These agreements can be made in various ways. One of the most common ways is to ask the user to agree to certain conditions of the agreement by clicking “OK” just prior to installing a software package or downloading or installing media. Term: the duration and the commencement date of the agreement. In most cases, the agreement starts as soon as the agreement is made; this needs to be included in the agreement for both parties to refer to and ensure. Warranty: any assurance provided by the software developer – some type of guarantee. This is to be included in the agreement. A warranty gives some sort of assurance by the developer to the user regarding the quality of the software. However, to protect their legal rights even further, developers state that the software is sold “as is” and therefore any standard glitches experienced by the user is not covered by the warranty. Warranties rarely apply to other forms of electronic media (such as films and music), as there is no legal need of “assurance” or “guarantee” from the producers/developers. Limited use: some developers do not provide users unrestricted use of the product. For example, the product may be limited to be installed on only a limited number of computer systems, or could be only valid or legally usable for a certain period of time. Reverse engineer: many agreements today prohibit users to break down the purchased software, in order to reinforce the intellectual property rights of the developers. These laws also apply to other forms of media such as music and videos, where the purchaser is not legally allowed to break down the final product into primitive or simpler components. Backup copy: some agreements allow copying the software package for archival purposes. However, these copies can only be legally used if their original software (or media) files are damaged when in term of the agreement. When the terms of the agreement are over, the backup copies should be destroyed. There are 7 types of use of software and media covered by a licence agreement: Commercial: covered by copyright. One archival copy can be made as a backup. The product cannot be modified, distributed or reverse engineered. Shareware: proprietary software that is provided to users on a limited basis and only for a certain limited trial bases and pursuant to a licence
  4. 4. which restricts any commercial benefit, use or exploitation of the software. Shareware is also covered by copyright Freeware:copies of freeware can be made; freeware can be distributed and altered. However, freeware is still protected by a weak reinforcement of copyright. The source code of the freeware application may or may not be available to the public Public Domain:Copies of this form of software application can be made with or without restriction. Hence, public domain software applications are not covered by copyright laws. Open source licence: although open source applications are still covered by copyright laws, these types of applications remove most of the traditions laws and rights of the (original/primary) developer/s. the development of open source applications is largely based on collaboration from the public, and the resulting modified product is also released based on the same open source licence. Site licence: these are covered by copyright laws. These type of applications restrict the users/purchasers as to how many computer systems can an application be installed on. Creative commons licence: although software and media work under this licence is still copyrighted, its use for software applications is rare. However, they are widely used in media forms such as photographs, music, video files, etc. Under the conditions of the Creative Commons licence, the user is generally permitted to freely copy and distribute the work, as long as the original developer/producer is acknowledged. Inclusivity Inclusive can be defined as: containing, embracing or comprising everything concerned. Comprehensively includes and takes account of stated concerns. (Davis, 2011) Inclusivity is one of the three main social and ethical issues of Software Design and Development. Inclusive software should take into account the different users who are going to likely use a developer’s product. It is a responsibility of a developer to determine the types of users that are going to use their product. Moreover, developers that ignore inclusivity are likely to lose a fair market share from their product, resulting in lower sales and reduced profit. There are 4 main factors developers should think of when anticipating the inclusivity of their products: Cultural background: “The culture of a people can be described as the set of ways of living built up over a period of time and passed from generation to generation.” (Davis, 2011).
  5. 5. To be inclusive of the various cultural backgrounds in the usability of their product, developers must firstly understand or at least be empathetic to their needs and beliefs. Although it is not possible to be aware of all the cultures, we can easily include users from a variety of dominant cultures as part of the testing process occurring during development. This includes the subordinates of language (including writing scripts), numbers, religion, superstition, currency, time, dates, just to name a few. The dominant language of a country should be used in the interface of the solution. Many software developers today manage to translate the content of their applications into different languages, by asking the user themselves their preferred language of installation. This allows their applications to have greater inclusivity as the application can also be used by people who are unfamiliar with the language in which the developer originally developed the software. Apart from this graphics and symbols used in a software application are also pivotal to the inclusivity of the software. Different images can be interpreted in different ways by users from different cultural background. A graphic that may be humorous for a user could be offensive to another, especially due to their religious beliefs. Economic background “Economic characteristics relate to the generation, distribution and use of income and wealth” (Davis, 2011). The economic background factor can be examined at a local, national, global or even an industry specific scale. It is a responsibility for software developers to know the economic capacity of their targeted users, as this assists in increased the inclusivity of their software applications, causing increased sales and larger profit margins. The most successful applications in the market are those with costs that are accessible by the widest variety of audience. The recent shift towards the development of open source applications has helped in this regard. Gender Disability Bibliography Davis, S., 2011. Intellectual Property. In: Software Design and Development - The Preliminary Course. Sydney: Parramatta Education Centre, p. 17.
  6. 6. Davis, S., 2011. Software Design and Development - The Preliminary Course. 2nd ed. Sydney: Parramatta Education Centre. http://sdd-hsc.wikispaces.com/1-Social+and+Ethical+Issues http://sddhsc.wordpress.com/hsc/9-1-development-and-impact-of-software- solutions/9-1-1-social-and-ethical-issues/ http://sddsta.wikifoundry.com/page/8.1.1+Social+%26+Ethical+Issues

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