Good and Evil in the Garden of Emerging Information Technologies

Good and Evil in the Garden of Emerging Information Technologies

Kenneth E. Kendall (Rutgers University, USA) and Julie E. Kendall (Rutgers University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-264-0.ch053
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This chapter explores the social, organizational, and individual impacts of emerging information technologies using the advent of recent technologies including push and pull technologies; DSS dashboards for decision makers complete with widgets and gadgets; and mashups that join together preprogrammed Web-based applications in new ways as examples to explore the question of good and evil as it applies to technology. The design, purchase, and use of emerging information technologies offers a double-edged sword; in that they can be deliberately designed and used for either good or evil purposes, however sometimes their use provokes unintended consequences. While many emerging technologies purport to improve the lives of workers, the quality of their work, and the overall productiveness of society, there are other consequences that belie grimmer, multifaceted impacts that can create malevolent outcomes or even disastrous consequences for their users. Our practical contribution is to formulate a series of questions to assist designers, users, and managers who purchase IT in considering the helpful or harmful consequences of emerging technology design decisions.
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Good and evil are essential differences of the act of the will. For good and evil pertain essentially to the will; just as truth and falsehood pertain to the reason, the act of which is distinguished essentially by the difference of truth and falsehood (according as we say that an opinion is true or false.) Consequently, good and evil volition are acts differing in species.

—Thomas Aquinas (c. 1225-1274).

Summa Theologiae, I-II

[i.e., “First Part of the Second Part.”]

q. 19, art. 1 (c. 1077-1078).



In this chapter we explore ideas of good and evil as they play out in the arena of several emerging information technologies; we explore their intended applications and uses, as well as their unintended uses and consequences, and we compare and contrast potential good and malevolent impacts of innovations on individuals, organizations, and societies.

Many new technologies have been introduced in the last decade. To begin, we take the example of pull technology, or seeking out information on the Web. The term pull technology can simply indicate surfing the Internet or it can refer to an advanced technology that permits an ever changing, independent evolutionary agent to explore the Web for you. Push technology describes a range of information activities that send or push information to the user ranging from well-understood models such as broadcasting to selective content delivery via sophisticated evolutionary filtering using data mining techniques.

We will also detail the emerging information technology of dashboards, which are often designed to support individuals. A dashboard displays information in the form of metrics to help support a decision maker. We consider the deliberately designed uses and impacts of dashboards on individual decision makers, as well as the consequences of bias and unintended consequences of other display deficiencies on the organization and society. With the advent of customizability for many DSS dashboard displays, the potential for good as well as evil influences from these new technologies are increasingly unpredictable, but bear exploration.

New software innovations often termed “widgets” or “gadgets,” are now available to systems designers for designing desktops and dashboards. They can be user-customized, or they can be placed on a desktop without any user intervention. While the usefulness of calculators, clocks, “sticky notes,” weather forecasters and so on are superficially apparent, the discovery of how these items are useful, whether they serve as distractions to organizational goals, or slip by unnoticed as hosts of spyware, will also be explored.

Mashups are applications that take one preprogrammed Web-based application and join it with another to create a new application. There are five key areas that hold potential for good or evil in the design and use of mashups. They include reliability, legal concerns, the dynamic nature of the Web itself, the availability of user support for mashups, and the way in which development occurs (spontaneously versus systematically).

This paper is practically grounded by examining specific examples of emerging information technology design, use, and evolution. While we believe that emerging information technology is similar to other types of technology, there are two compelling views of what the future holds for designers and users of technology. The British author George Orwell feared that what we hate will ruin us. But his compatriot, Aldous Huxley, believed that what we love will be our ruin (Postman, 1985). This chapter explores the paradoxical possibility of negative and positive consequences, as well as deliberate and unintended consequences of the use of emerging information technologies. We offer questions for designers, users, and those who purchase IT for organizations to assist them in mindfully confronting the larger questions of good and evil precipitated by new technologies.

We take an approach labeled by Graber (1976) as the intuitive method of verbal analysis. (Verbal here refers to both oral and written material.) Our steps in analysis include establishing a goal for the investigation, sampling written and oral material for relevant clues, piecing together a picture and then interpreting what emerges. The complexity of this approach is evident when one considers that it demands a simultaneous analysis of the context afforded by the society along with the interactions of a multiplicity of writers, their opinions, and their objectives for the present and the future.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Design: Design is the process in which a person, often called a systems analyst or systems designer considers the needs and wants, opportunities and problems, balanced with technical and economic feasibility limits to describe or model a new system.

Widgets: These are small programs (sometimes called gadgets), usually written in JavaScipt or VBScript. They reside in a special layer on the user’s desktop. They provide a graphical user interface between the desktop and application. Some require user actions to function, while others, such as clocks or stock tickers, do not.

Emerging Information Technologies: Emerging information technologies are those innovations in computing, MIS, and ecommerce that are becoming recognized as beneficial and practical. They are technologies that are not yet generally accepted or in use. In the emerging stage, technologies may be carefully studied and shaped to be more reliable, practical, and helpful.

Pull Technologies: Pull technologies involve the seeking process of a user trying to get information. Pulling a piece of information from the Web is akin to pulling a book off the shelf of a library. The word pull connotes grabbing and yanking something from the Internet. Pull technologies can be simple or complex.

Decision Support System (DSS): An interactive information system that supports the decision-making process through the presentation of information designed specifically for the decision maker’s problem solving approach and application needs. A DSS does not make the decision for the user.

Dashboard: A dashboard is a display for decisionmakers including a variety of visual displays of relevant performance measurements. Dashboards often include dials or gauges.

Application Programmable Interface (API): Application Programmable Interface (APIs) are the essential building blocks for application developers to rapidly develop a software application. They are composed of sets of tools, protocols, and routines, that aid designers in developing software applications.

Mashups: A new application crated by combining two or more Web-based APIs, or application programming interfaces, together.

Push Technologies: Push technology describes a range of information activities that send or push information to the user ranging from well-understood models such as broadcasting to selective content delivery via sophisticated evolutionary filtering using data mining techniques with electronic media such as the Web or email.

Socio-Technical Design: Sociotechnical design is the representation and modeling of the interrelatedness of the social aspects of people, organizations, and society along with the technical aspects of machines, computers, and other technologies. It is argued that taking into consideration both the social and technical aspects allows for meaningful design that promotes efficiency, productivity, individual well being, and a benefit to society as a whole.

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Editorial Advisory Board
Table of Contents
Ben Shneiderman
Brian Whitworth, Aldo de Moor
Brian Whitworth, Aldo de Moor
List of Reviewers
Prologue: General Socio-Technical Theory
Chapter 1
Brian Whitworth
A socio-technical system (STS) is a social system built upon a technical base. An STS adds social requirements to human-computer interaction (HCI)... Sample PDF
The Social Requirements of Technical Systems
Chapter 2
Matti Tedre
This chapter introduces the reader to some social research characteristics that are central to the social study of computer science. It introduces... Sample PDF
The Social Study of Computer Science
Chapter 3
Ann Borda, Jonathan P. Bowen
This chapter introduces the concept of a Virtual Organization (VO), using the Internet to link geographically separated participants in an efficient... Sample PDF
Virtual Collaboration and Community
Chapter 4
David Davenport
This chapter analyses the effect that social values have on the design of technical systems. Beginning with an examination of the role technology... Sample PDF
The Social Derivation of Technical Systems
Chapter 5
Ken Eason, José Abdelnour-Nocera
This chapter sets the traditional focus of socio-technical systems theory on primary work systems in a modern context where information and... Sample PDF
Socio-Technical Theory and Work Systems in the Information Age
Chapter 6
Peter Day
This chapter introduces the community engagement strategy of the Community Network Analysis (CNA) project and considers its significance to research... Sample PDF
An Engagement Strategy for Community Network Research and Design
Chapter 7
Cleidson R.B. de Souza, David F. Redmiles
This chapter reviews the socio-technical relationship between organizational and software structure. It describes the early theoretical work about... Sample PDF
On the Alignment of Organizational and Software Structure
Ronald K. Stamper
Prologue: Socio-Technical Perspectives
Chapter 8
Catherine Heeney
The chapter discusses the traditional expectations about privacy protection and argues that current models for the governance of data do not... Sample PDF
Privacy and the Identity Gap in Socio-Technical Systems
Chapter 9
Ronald Leenes
Second Life can be seen as a social microcosmos in which fairly normal people lead a social life and where social needs develop. Privacy is one of... Sample PDF
Privacy Regulation in the Metaverse
Chapter 10
David Tuffley
This chapter introduces a process reference model of leadership for integrated teams operating in virtual environments. Geographically dispersed... Sample PDF
Leadership of Integrated Teams in Virtual Environments
Chapter 11
Monique Janneck
For a technology use to be successful, the circumstance of its introduction into a use context—or recontextualization— is crucial. The users of a... Sample PDF
Recontextualising Technology in Appropriation Processes
Chapter 12
Petter Bae Brandtzæg, Jan Heim
The last few years have seen a substantial growth in online communities such as MySpace and Facebook. In order to survive and increase in size... Sample PDF
Explaining Participation in Online Communities
Chapter 13
Malcolm Shore
This chapter is about the way in which computer hackers invoke social networking paradigms to support and encourage their activities. It reviews the... Sample PDF
Cyber Security and Anti-Social Networking
Chapter 14
Wilson Huang, Shun-Yung Kevin Wang
This chapter examines the gaps that arise between reactive social control systems and proactive technology systems. The authors further link these... Sample PDF
Emerging Cybercrime Variants in the Socio-Technical Space
Chapter 15
Elayne W. Coakes, Peter Smith, Dee Alwis
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Developing Innovative Practice in Service Industries
Mark Aakhus
Prologue: Socio-Technical Analysis
Chapter 16
Hans Weigand
Often socio-technical systems are designed simply on the basis of what the user asks, and without considering explicitly whether the required... Sample PDF
Using Communication Norms in Socio-Technical Systems
Chapter 17
Jonas Sjöström, Göran Goldkuhl
This chapter introduces the theoretical framework of Socio-Instrumental Pragmatism (SIP) and illustrates how it has been used as an analytic... Sample PDF
Socio-Instrumental Pragmatism in Action
Chapter 18
Paul J. Bracewell
Analytics provides evidence for objective corporate decision-making. Lack of understanding of analytical techniques can create confusion amongst... Sample PDF
A Framework for Using Analytics to Make Decisions
Chapter 19
Mikael Lind, Peter Rittgen
Setting up co-design processes involving several stakeholders is a complex task. In this chapter the authors have looked upon experiences from... Sample PDF
The Challenges of Co-Design and the Case of e-Me
Chapter 20
Harry S. Delugach
Automated tools are often used to support software development workflows. Many of these tools are aimed toward a development workflow that relies... Sample PDF
Formal Analysis of Workflows in Software Development
Chapter 21
Dorit Nevo, Brent Furneaux
This chapter reviews the significance of expectations to information systems development with particular emphasis on the process of requirements... Sample PDF
The Role of Expectations in Information Systems Development
Chapter 22
Jeff Axup
With mobile technologies increasingly weaving themselves into the fabric of our communities, it would be beneficial to increase our understanding of... Sample PDF
Building a Path for Future Communities
Thomas Erickson
Prologue: Socio-Technical Design
Chapter 23
Thomas Herrmann
Socio-technical systems integrate technical and organizational structures and are related to various stakeholders and their perspectives. The design... Sample PDF
Systems Design with the Socio-Technical Walkthrough
Chapter 24
Anders I. Mørch
This chapter presents a translational approach to socio-technical design, as a new approach to the theorybased design of user interfaces, supported... Sample PDF
Applied Pragmatism and Interaction Design
Chapter 25
Manuel Kolp, Yves Wautelet
Information systems are deeply linked to human activities. Unfortunately, development methodologies have been traditionally inspired by programming... Sample PDF
A Social Framework for Software Architectural Design
Chapter 26
Designing for Trust  (pages 388-401)
Piotr Cofta
Designing for trust is a methodology that attempts to design our perception of trust in information systems, in the long-term expectation that such... Sample PDF
Designing for Trust
Chapter 27
Dan Dixon
Three decades ago the concept of pattern languages were introduced in the field of architecture and they have since become widely used in... Sample PDF
Pattern Languages for CMC Design
Chapter 28
Anton Nijholt, Dirk Heylen, Rutger Rienks
In this chapter the authors discuss a particular approach to the creation of socio-technical systems for the meeting domain. Besides presenting a... Sample PDF
Creating Social Technologies to Assist and Understand Social Interactions
Chapter 29
Jos Benders, Ronald Batenburg, Paul Hoeken, Roel Schouteten
This chapter sketches an Organization Design perspective called “Modern Socio-technical Design”, and subsequently discusses the implementation of... Sample PDF
A Modern Socio-Technical View on ERP-Systems
Chapter 30
Mary Allan, David Thorns
The chapter introduces the Bourdieuean habitus and field theory as a framework for an alternative way of investigating how perceptions of Media Rich... Sample PDF
Being Face to Face: A State of Mind or Technological Design?
Chapter 31
Rebecca M. Ellis
This chapter introduces the work of sociologist Pierre Bourdieu and his concepts of “the field” and “capital” in relation to eBay. In any given... Sample PDF
Applying Bourdieu to eBay's Success and Socio-Technical Design
Chapter 32
Christopher A. Miller
This chapter focuses not on technology mediation of human relationships, but rather on human-like relationships with technology itself. The author... Sample PDF
Relationships and Etiquette with Technical Systems
Anton Nijholt
Prologue: Socio-Technical Implementation
Chapter 33
Laura Anna Ripamonti, Ines Di Loreto, Dario Maggiorini
The necessity of supporting more and more social interaction (and not only mere information sharing) in online environments is the disruptive force... Sample PDF
Augmenting Actual Life Through MUVEs
Chapter 34
Mohamed Ben Ammar, Mahmoud Neji, Adel M. Alimi
Affective computing is a new artificial intelligence area that deals with the possibility of making computers able to recognize human emotions in... Sample PDF
The Role of Affect in an Agent-Based Collaborative E-Learning System Used for Engineering Education
Chapter 35
Pernilla Qvarfordt, Shumin Zhai
Eye-gaze plays an important role in face-to-face communication. This chapter presents research on exploiting the rich information contained in human... Sample PDF
Gaze-Aided Human-Computer and Human-Human Dialogue
Chapter 36
Licia Calvi
The chapter presents and combines the results of two case studies dealing with online communities1 in order to understand under which conditions... Sample PDF
How to Engage Users in Online Sociability
Chapter 37
Ivan Launders
The UK National Health Service (NHS) provides the opportunity to undertake local socio-technical system design to help staff maximize the... Sample PDF
Socio-Technical Systems and Knowledge Representation
Chapter 38
Claire de la Varre, Julie Keane, Matthew J. Irvin, Wallace Hannum
This chapter describes the design of a sociotechnical system to support rural high school students in an online distance education (ODE) course. The... Sample PDF
Social Support for Online Learning
Chapter 39
Jeremy Birnholtz, Emilee J. Rader, Daniel B. Horn, Thomas Finholt
This chapter uses the theoretical notion of common ground to explore remote participation in experimental research. On one hand, there is a desire... Sample PDF
Enabling Remote Participation in Research
Starr Roxanne Hiltz
Prologue: Socio-Technical Evaluation
Chapter 40
John M. Carroll, Mary Beth Rosson, Umer Farooq, Jamika D. Burge
Socio-technical systems are social systems that incorporate technological infrastructures. At the group level of analysis, the most important... Sample PDF
Community Collective Efficacy
Chapter 41
Tanguy Coenen, Wouter Van den Bosch, Veerle Van der Sluys
This chapter views social networking sites as supporting social capital and the advantages which derive from it, namely emotional support... Sample PDF
An Analysis of the Socio-Technical Gap in Social Networking Sites
Chapter 42
Olga Kulyk, Betsy van Dijk, Paul van der Vet, Anton Nijholt, Gerrit van der Veer
This chapter addresses awareness support to enhance teamwork in co-located collaborative environments. In particular, the authors focus on the... Sample PDF
Situational Awareness In Collaborative Work Environments
Chapter 43
Janet L. Holland
This chapter deals with research on the development and use of an assessment instrument for measuring affective satisfaction in online learning. The... Sample PDF
A Scale of Affective Satisfaction in Online Learning Communities
Chapter 44
David Hinds, Ronald M. Lee
In this chapter, the authors suggest how measures of “social network health” can be used to evaluate the status and progress of a virtual community.... Sample PDF
Assessing the Social Network Health of Virtual Communities
Chapter 45
Bertram C. Bruce, Andee Rubin, Junghyun An
This chapter introduces situated evaluation as an approach for evaluating socio-technical innovation and change. Many current evaluations simply... Sample PDF
Situated Evaluation of Socio-Technical Systems
Chapter 46
Heike Winschiers-Theophilus
Communities all over the world have established their own value systems which do not necessarily correlate with the intrinsic values of technology.... Sample PDF
Cultural Appropriation of Software Design and Evaluation
Charles Steinfield
Prologue: The Future of Socio-Technical Systems
Chapter 47
Peter J. Denning
Wicked problems (messes) are tangled social situations that are too costly to stay in and too intransigent to get out of. Collaboration is essential... Sample PDF
Resolving Wicked Problems through Collaboration
Chapter 48
Rachel McLean
As a social activity, the shopping experience can not be recreated or improved through technical design alone. This chapter proposes that there is... Sample PDF
The Myth of the e-Commerce Serf to Sovereign Powershift
Chapter 49
Theresa Dirndorfer Anderson
This chapter explores the challenges associated with teaching the principles of socio-technical systems in the dynamic climate that characterizes... Sample PDF
Teaching the Socio-Technical Practices of Tomorrow Today
Chapter 50
Isa Jahnke
The chapter describes an empirical study of a socio-technical community—as an extended part of an institution— with the aim of revealing its... Sample PDF
Socio-Technical Communities: From Informal to Formal?
Chapter 51
Laurence Claeys, Johan Criel
This chapter introduces the concept of critical user participation as a means to see the socio-technical gap in context aware applications as an... Sample PDF
Future Living in a Participatory Way
Chapter 52
Paul Hodgson
This chapter analyses the formation and generation of social trust through communications technology in postmodern society, and presents some... Sample PDF
The Impact of Communications Technology on Trust
Chapter 53
Kenneth E. Kendall, Julie E. Kendall
This chapter explores the social, organizational, and individual impacts of emerging information technologies using the advent of recent... Sample PDF
Good and Evil in the Garden of Emerging Information Technologies
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