Emergency Ethics, Law, Policy & IT Innovation in Crises

Emergency Ethics, Law, Policy & IT Innovation in Crises

Xaroula Kerasidou, Monika Buscher, Michael Liegl, Rachel Oliphant
DOI: 10.4018/IJISCRAM.2016010101
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Ethics, law, and policy are cornerstones for effective IT innovation in crisis response and management. While many researchers and practitioners recognise this, it can be hard to find good resources for circumspect innovation approaches. This paper reviews The Library of Essays on Emergency Ethics, Law and Policy (2013), a four Volume series edited by Tom D. Campbell, that presents a collection of 113 seminal articles and chapters on emergency ethics, law and policy, and emergency research ethics. Building on a selective summary overview of each volume, the authors draw out core themes and discuss their relevance to research concerned with the design and use of intelligent systems for crisis response and management. The series brings together important insights for information system design and organizational innovation, but there is a lack of attention to socio-technical dimensions of emergency response and management. The authors conclude by discussing research within ISCRAM and the related fields of science and technology studies and IT Ethics, showing that entering into a conversation would be highly productive.
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Emergency Ethics

The first volume of the series on Emergency Ethics is edited by A.M. Viens and Michael J. Selgelid and includes 25 journal articles and book chapters which are organised in five parts: Part I, The Nature and Significance of Emergency; Part II, Ethical Issues in Emergency; Part III, Ethical Issues in Emergency Public Policy and Law; Part IV, War, Terrorism and Supreme Emergencies; Part V, Public Health and Humanitarian Emergencies. Contributions explore the nature and significance of emergencies, normative implications and a range of perspectives on the ethics of emergency response.

The volume opens with a deeply philosophical and political debate, which is well worth patient consideration in relation to IT innovation, as we will show. Carl Schmitt’s famous statement ‘Sovereign is he who decides on the exception’ sets the scene, referencing his classic book Political Theology: Four chapters on the concept of Sovereignty, first published in 1922. Schmitt couples the concept of sovereignty with that of exception. According to him, exceptions require decisions to be made outside of the law, because:

The exception, which is not codified in the existing legal order, can at best be characterized as a case of extreme peril, a danger to the existence of the state, … it cannot be circumscribed factually and made to conform to a preformed law (Schmitt, 1985, p. 61).

For Schmitt, only the sovereign, defined as ‘he who stands outside the normally valid legal system’, can declare an exception: ‘He decides whether there is an extreme emergency as well as what must be done to eliminate it’ (p. 7). An influential but also controversial figure in emergency ethics scholarship whose work underpinned the spread of National Socialism in Germany, Schmitt sets off one of the key debates that runs through the whole series.

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