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??)