Saturday, February 05, 2005

Basics: New Development on the IE Stage: Information Technology Ethics

New Developments: Information Technology Ethics--
What's in a Name?
Information Ethics or Information Technology Ethics
Remember computer ethics? Well it seems that now the computer ethics people are using the therm Information Technology Ethics. Does it matter? Why the change? Throughout these years one of my major interests has been in all of the term used to talk about ethics and all these new technologies as they impinge on our lives. So what do changes in terms mean? What does it mean when groups change their names, start new journal or newsletter, use new terminology for conferences? Here are some of the most popular terms:
How many terms can be used to describe information, technology; ethics or information and communication technology ethics; science, technology, and ethics-- (note that more specific documentation would show very unclear patterns of use with specific terms; this is not any kind of definitive pronouncement--here intended to encourage more thinking)
Pre-newtech terms (a small sample):
Engineering Ethics, Medical Ethics, Bioethics, Land ethic,
Business Ethics, Professional Ethics, Legal Ethics, Journalism ethics
Early newtech terms (a small sample):
Computer ethics, Information technology ethics, Communication ethics, Media ethics, Information ethics, Archival ethics, Enviromental ethics, Reproductive ethics Genetic ethics, and
Most recent terminology[(Some post-Internet?] (a small sample):
Internet ethics, Cyberethics, Healthcare and technology ethics.
So what does all this mean? Terminology can mean territory--claiming a piece of the discourse pie. Terminology can invite others to share in the discussion or can exclude those whose preferred terminology is different. I've always liked the term Information ethics because it seems to me to be a wide gate inviting in all who would enter. I've called IE an umbrella term. To me this is more important than claiming a small piece of what is a very important pie. I want to chew on the whole pie and not just a small piece. Seems like there are such serious and important issues--intellectual property, privacy, socially responsible Internet use, dealing with information poverty, with censorship, and with challenges to civil rights through information control-- that we don't need to spend too much time promoting our terms if it takes away from our making the important intellectual and social progress so needed today. I'd suggest that you pay attention to the terminology as a way to understand the many voices singing in the chorus. But mostly look at the issues underneath and what all this means to you.

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