Friday, November 25, 2011

The InfoEthicist Becomes a Hospice Chaplain

The InfoEthicist Becomes a Hospice Chaplain

Like throwing that famous rabbit into the briar patch, the fates that have tossed me about so that I landed in hospice have given me a rich patch of tough but nourishing new issues to confront.  End of life decisions depend upon having the right information for the right people at the right time. Here information means life or death and how both life and death are experienced by the person and the family.  Join me in my explorations.  

Sunday, January 02, 2011

2011 in Information Ethics

2011 in Information Ethics

Is Access to the Web a Human Right?

Not so long ago, the question was "Is the right to know a human right?"  In the newspaper today the question is:
"Is Access to the Web a Human Right?"


Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Wikileaks: TMI--Too Much Information Sharing

Wikileaks:  TMI--Too Much Information Sharing

After 9/11, the government decided that more information sharing might prevent another 9/11, but now it looks like there was too much access to information.  This is another example of the tension between Access and Security.
Recall my categories from the early years of IE:

  • Access
  • Ownership
  • Privacy
  • Security
  • Community
These five cover most of the issues we deal with today and provide a good structure for discussion of most issues of interest today.  In addition to the Wikileaks, think about
  • Privacy and electronic medical records;
  • Security and genetic testing;
  • Cybercrime
  • Facebook privacy;
  • Digital democracy;
  • Protection of children on the Internet;
  • Internet research ethics;
  • Ethics of information professionals;
  • To be continued;
  • xxxxxxxxxx
  • xxxxxxxxxxxx
  • xxxxxxxxxxxx
  • xxxxxxxxxxxx
  • xxxxxxxxxxxx
  • xxxxxxxxxxxx
  • xxxxxxxxxx

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Information Ethics: What Is It? Sunday School? Journalism?

Information Ethics:  What is it?

Information Ethics?  Certainly not a subject appropriate for a dissertation topic.  A Sunday School subject?  Perhaps journalism; not scholarship! Absolutely not part of information science.  These were the comments of academic colleagues, doctoral committee members, and deans.  

Outside the academy early on, when I was asked why I was doing a second Ph. D. and said that I was interested in information ethics, the response was often, "What is that?"  Or sometimes, what does ethics have to do with information.  Pre-Internet and between computer ethics and cyberethics, I began my serious inquiry into what seemed to me to be the next big thing in professional and consumer ethics.  It seemed to me that Joseph Fletcher was talking about information ethics when he talked about the patient's right to know in his 1954 Morals and Medicine.  In those days, when we still stalked the library stacks for book titles and indexes for support for our hunches, I found several scholarly communities that were new to me.  I was excited to find philosophy of technology and a broader field called by some Science, Technoogy, and Society.  I also found books and even more articles on the history of medical ethics, engineering ethics, and environmental ethics.  Had anyone ever documented the history of a new area of applied ethics as it was emerging, before it was accepted as a term or as a potential area of study? I had so many questions:
  • How had medical ethics begun to be studied as a field?
  • What was the relationship between medical and bioethics?
  • When were the first courses taught?  Where?  Faculty background?
  • How did computer ethics begin?  Where?  Faculty background?  
  • What is the relationship between professional associations, codes, and applied ethics courses?
  • Who first talked about professional ethics? Business ethics?  Engineering ethics? Environmental ethics?
  • What is the relationship between professional ethics and public policy?
  • How do various areas of applied ethics relate to formal philosophical inquiry. 
  • And so many more.
  • NEXT:  What I found in the stacks in the libraries at UNC-Chapel Hill, Duke, and in the Duke Divinity School Library. 


Wednesday, October 06, 2010

The Roots of Information Ethics: Curriculum Development (Working Document)

Curriculum DevelopmentWhat? Where? Who? When?
Is there a record of the first years of courses in computer ethics?
Computer ethics?

  • Philosophy/Ethics faculty?
  • Computer faculty?
  • Business faculty?  
  • Computer Science faculty?
The early history of medical ethics/bioethics and its movement into the main stream of undergraduate education is more than likely documented better than other fields.  Who knows this history?   What about engineering ethics?  Environmental ethics? Feminist ethics?  Reproductive ethics?  Genetic ethics?  Business ethics?  When did business ethics enter the undergraduate curriculum?

The Roots of Information Ethics: Websites (Working Document)

Websites:  Can we trace the history of information ethics through websites?  

Who remembers the earliest website set up by Rafael Capurro using Netscape Composer?  ICIE?

The Roots of Information Ethics: Definitions (Working Document)

       The Roots of Information Ethics:  Definitions  (Working Document)

What are the published definitions of information ethics (with authors, dates, etc.)?

The Roots of Information Ethics: Bibliographies (Working Document)

The Roots of Information Ethics:
  Web Bibliographies (Working Document)

  • Shall we gather a list of bibliographies on information ethics and related areas that are available on the web? 

Information Ethics Pioneers: Survey and Suggested Questions

Information Ethics Pioneers:
  Survey and Suggested Questions     
          (Please answer those that best apply to you.)
  • Describe the context of your interest in ethics and information and communications technologies broadly speaking no matter what the specifics.  Please give dates, people, books, articles, etc.???
  • Do you consider yourself a pioneer?  Describe.  Please brag, be expansive, and include influences. Do you have unpublished documentation of your involvement?  Course syllabi? Conference abstracts?  PowerPoints? 
  • If you do not consider yourself a pioneer, would you suggest others who are or should be considered pioneers?
  • What prompted your first interest in information ethics or related areas?  Be as specific as possible.  Include readings, conferences, colleagues, and dates.
  • If you became acquainted with information ethics as the result of work in another field, please explain. 
  • What was your first contribution to the field of information ethics and related fields?  Took a course? Taught a course?  Attended a conference?  Wrote a paper?
  • When you think of information ethics as a scholarly field, how would you describe the field? 
  • Among the people and papers that have influenced you, please list the top five or ten.
  • Is your research agenda related to information ethics or a related area?  If so, please explain.
  • What other questions or areas of inquiry would you suggest for us to explore?
  • Have you considered leaving your papers and other materials for future research?
  • Email to Marti Smith, email:  

The Roots of Information Ethics: STS (Working Document)

The Roots of Information Ethics:  Science, Technology, and Society             (Working Document)

What is the contribution of the STS movement to the history of information ethics and the whole project of addressing the impact of all kinds of technology on society, decision making, governance?  Remember the rise of government involvement in university research?  Who knows the background on MIT and other university faculty members who were concerned early on?  Who was involved as a student back then and went on to follow these issues?

The Roots of Information Ethics: Terminology (Working Document)

The Roots of Information Ethics:  Terminology  (Working Document)

Please suggest early terminology that we don't want to lose.  If possible, note the source and the context.  In what context did the term, Internet Ethics, emerge?  When we it first used?  Where?  For example, I have found that a term like information ethics can be found in searching news and magazine databases used long before we would identify them in our scholarly journals.  Lots of good work here for doctoral students.  
Can we document the first uses of key terms-- computer ethics, information ethics, information technology ethics, Internet ethics, cyberethics-- in full text databases?
Going beyond:  Can we track the use of terminology by various scholarly groups?  For example, Floridi's use of the term information ethics is a turning point that I would explore in understanding the relationships between computer ethics and information ethics.  Earlier, the use of the term information ethics as a way to talk about the concerns of high-tech librarians.  Some of us who were active in the early years may remember key shifts that would not be evident to others.  Let's record these now.

The Roots of Information Ethics: Chronology (Working Document)

The Roots of Information Ethics:  Chronology  (Working Document)
Where should we start?  I'd start with World War II but highlight Joseph Fletcher's Morals and Medicine (1954) with the patients' right to know.  But there is also a starting point with Robert Hauptman and Rafael Capurro in 1988 and their use of the term "information ethics"  in print.  I identify this use in the published literature with the library science side of the story, but these uses are more as we look back.  Here are some publications and events of note.  Please add your suggestions.
Allerton Conference

The Roots of Information Ethics: People (Working Document)

The Roots of Information Ethics:  People (Working Document)

Please share your name or the names of other people who should be contacted or included in the history of information ethics.  Please be expansive.  Here are some of the people I think of immediately.

Rafael Capurro
Robert Hauptman
Diana Woodward
Toni Carbo
Father xxxxx (University of Pittsburgh)  There are many streams of influence, so please add any institution, association, or other indications of the stream(s) that should be included.    

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Roots of Information Ethics: Authors, Books, Articles, Fiction, Film (Working Document)

Roots of Information Ethics:  Authors, Books, Articles, Fiction, Film, Poetry, Music, Etc.
(Please add your influences.)

The first eight:  (From dissertation, Marti Smith, UNC-Chapel Hill
  •  xxxx
  • xxxx
  • xxxx
  • xxxx
  • xxxx
  • xxxx
  • xxx
  • xxx

Hans Jonas:  From Gnosticism to Responsibility
     Jonas changed his academic focus after World War II.  





The Roots of Information Ethics: Movies (Working Document)

The Roots of Information Ethics:  Movies (Working Document)

  • The Ugly Little Boy (19??)
  • The Electronic Grandmother (19??)
  • Gattica (19??)
  • Tron (19??)
  • Blade Runner (19??)

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Joseph Fletcher: Morals and Medicine (1954) and Situation Ethics (1966)

Joseph Fletcher:
Morals and Medicine (1954)
Situation Ethics (1966)
Joseph Fletcher's two books illustrate an important trend in applied ethics--the public interest in practical ethics, the ethics of daily life, the work place, and public policy.  I see Fletcher as a populizer rather than a philosophical ethicist.  While I am not familiar with the more technical aspects of philosophy and ethics or with place that Fletcher holds in academic philosophy, I would like to reflect on the way his work influenced my interest in information ethics.  From my perspective, it would be valuable to explore the emergence of medical ethics after World War II as a patient-centered enterprise and the way medical ethics and bioethics have exploded as a field.  Fletcher's Morals and Medicine (1954) focuses on the patient's right to know. Note too that Fletcher wrote an early book on reproductive and genetics ethics.  I will comment more on these matters.  


Applied Ethics (1945-1990)
Beginning Dates?
What do we know about the emergence of the various fields of applied ethics after World War II to the present?
  • Medical Ethics
  • Engineering Ethics
  • Earth Ethics
  • Environmental Ethics
  • Bioethics
  • Computer Ethics
  • Information Technology Ethics
  • Information Ethics
  • Cyberethics
  • Bioethics
  • Reproductive Ethics
  • Nursing Ethics
  • Genetic Ethics
  • Health Care Ethics
  • ???

Information Ethics: Of Course

Information Ethics:  Of Course

Time can be a wonderful perspective enhancer.  When I was younger, I took the slights in my early years in academic institutions very personally.  I couldn't see beyond myself into the workings of a turbulent system struggling with change and threats to the professional and personal stakes of others.  Enjoying my student years in the enthusiasm surrounding huge educational expenditures in the sixties and early seventies,  I never imagined that it would end.  But it did, and those of us who put our trust in the liberal arts and the promises of democracy reborn faced challenges that would unfold in the midst of diminishing funds and historic global shifts.  For sure, we could not have imagined the Internet.  Or could we?

Personal Experience:  Why Information Ethics?
If I look back into my academic career and what issues first captured my mind and finally lead me to see information ethics as an important part of my future, I'd point to two different experiences.  The first one chronologically happened in seminary around 1968.  I was taking the first and only formal ethics course I'd ever had and needed a term project.  For some reason I'd become interested in computers.  I sent a letter (by mail) to IBM and asked for some information and received an envelope with two or three booklets about the way computers would change the world.  I have no idea what I finally wrote about, but I do remember that the fears of the day were around automation and how computers would replace humans in the workplace.  The second influence is harder to describe because it less concrete and occurred over a period of years. In the sixties when I was in college and seminary (1963-1967; 1967-1970),  there was an intellectual ferment around religion and ethics.  A time when authority was being questioned, college students were reading about the death of God and an ethic guided by love not rules. Then there was "Make love, not war."  Several books circulated among college students.  There was Situation Ethics by Joseph Fletcher (1966) and The Death of God by Gabriel Vahanian (1961). In one of my religion courses, we were assigned The Secular City by Harvey Cox (1966) and my seminary classes were full of guys who came to seminary to escape the draft.  Vietnam was dividing families, and Woodstock was over by the time I graduated.  Universities were reeling with challenges that set the stage for many of the questions and conflicts that continue to unsettle.  If we were to go back in history to World War II, we could follow the promises and perils of the war as well.  In particular, the uses and misuses of computers, 
the technologies of war, and medicine herald the themes of information ethics today.   

"Make love not war." (as early as 1966?)

Joseph Fletcher and Situation Ethics (1966)
Joseph Fletcher and Morals and Medicine (1954)
(Next Time)


Research Agenda for the History of Information Ethics---Research Agenda

Research Agenda for the History of Information Ethics

Now is the time to do the interviews and gather the letters, the papers, and the memories of the earliest years of information ethics.  Those of us who were there have time now to share the influences that lead us to envision the need for scholarly reflection on the emerging new technologies.  What influenced us?  What were we reading?  How did our colleagues respond?  What were we teaching and writing about then?  How did our deans and directors react?  What about tenure?  Was our research accepted?  Encouraged?
Where shall we start? 
  • First, let's make sure we contact those who have been involved?
  • We should make sure we make a public list and plot the relationships among the people.  
  • We should not shy away from the conflicts and political dynamics, from the struggles about terminology and the historical "facts."   For example, I'd be glad to talk about my side of the story about the "information ethics" article on Wikipedia.  
  • Collect course syllabi and make sure we have bibliographies from the early days.
  • Use bibliometric tools to begin tracing patterns of influence.
  • Identify the various threads of literature.
  • Identify and examine the records of academic associations,  listservs, newsletters, meetings, informal collaborations, etc.
  •  Identify the influence of the Internet and its predecessors.
  •  Firsts?
  • Collect the formal and informal documents on the history of information ethics as a discipline and discussions of the relationships among the various other fields related to information ethics and information technology.  I'd suggest being expansive so that the roots of current research can be connected.  
  • On informal documents:  During the decades of focus, there are lots of information buried in PowerPoints.  We should search for these and make sure that they are available for use.  
  •  Finally for now, I encourage you to talk to your colleagues about finding a way to preserve our history.  We will probably want both a print and an electronic repository.   I have some print materials stored at a university library and would be glad to donate the remaining in the next few years as I move toward retirement from active scholarship.  Other than contributing to the history, I'm bringing my involvement to an end.  I look forward to seeing what happens.
  • Blog Post on October 2, 2010.  The Infoethicist on