In this article we give an overview of the range and characteristics of intercultural information ethics (IIE) focusing on the public/private debate in the so-called information age. IIE is a relatively newly emerging field which addresses a variety of issues such as similarities and differences of views on the public/private spheres in different cultural and social traditions, the comparative analysis of moral norms of communication in global information network(s) or the Seken-Shakai-Ikai trichotomy as a specific typology of structures underlying today’s Japanese information society. We examine these problems, in particular the public/private debate, from a perspective in which cultural differences arise from the underlying dimension of sharing with others a common world and with special reference to the differences between Japanese and Western culture(s).
Intercultural Information Ethics (IIE) deals with the impact of information and communication technology (ICT) on different cultures as well as on how specific ICT issues are understood from different cultural traditions. The main purpose of this chapter is to consider the range and characteristics of IIE focusing on the public/private debate as one of the most crucial issues in the so-called information age. IIE is a relatively newly emerging field which includes a variety of problems such as similarities and differences of views on the public and private spheres in different cultural and social traditions, the comparative analysis of moral norms of communication in global information network(s) (Capurro, 2006a; Capurro, Frühbauer, & Hausmanninger, 2007; Hongladarom & Ess, 2007; Sudweeks & Ess, 2004), differences of justifications of privacy as an intrinsic good in Western countries and as an instrumental good in Asian countries (Ess, 2005), cultural and historical backgrounds behind the difference between direct speech and indirect speech in the ‘Far East’ and the ‘Far West’ (Jullien, 1982, 1985, 1995; Capurro, 2006a), ‘Seken-Shakai-Ikai’ trichotomy as a different typology of structures of the life-world in Japan of the information age depending on different perspectives on values and meanings of this world (Nakada & Tamura, 2005). According to the authors these problems are crucial for our lives in a common world where we are facing a danger reflecting split attitudes towards universalism and cultural relativism. We also believe that the consideration of these problems is tightly related with the understanding of our own existence, self-identity and mutual human relations. Therefore the analysis of cultural differences concerning for instance the public/private debate should not be divided from our attention to the perspective of a common shared world. In this respect, Heidegger’s ontological conception of ‘being-in-the-world’ (‘In-der-Welt-sein’) (Heidegger, 1976) seems to us crucial for a transcultural understanding of what being public means in an ontological or structural sense as a basis for an intercultural dialogue on ethical issues of the information society (Nakada & Capurro, 2007). In this chapter we explore various conditions affecting people’s understanding of public/private related problems on the basis of the world as a shared world openness with special regard of the differences between Japanese and Western culture(s).
Key Terms in this Chapter
Ontological Perspective of IIE: The perspective on intercultural information ethics as arising from our common being in the world with others sharing the world-openness.
Shakai: The modernized aspect of Japanese culture strongly influenced by ‘Western’ culture(s) of modern era.
Seken: The indigenous aspect of Japanese culture reflecting Japanese attitudes towards nature, denial of material desires, destiny, purity of minds, denial of selfishness.
The IIE Public/Private Debate: The debate about different interpretations of the relations between the public and the private spheres as arising from different cultural perspectives particularly with regard to individualism and collectivism.
IIE (Intercultural Information Ethics): Problematization of topics such as the relations between the public and the private in the information era from the ontological viewpoints and also from the views motivated by comparison of people’s ways of life in different cultures.
Ikai: The hidden or forgotten aspect of Japanese culture from which negative meanings tied with evils, disasters, crimes, and impurity emerge – along with freedom and the sources of energy related to art and spiritual meanings.