The Criticality of an ICT Ethics Backbone for Transformation and Social Equality in E-Learning

The Criticality of an ICT Ethics Backbone for Transformation and Social Equality in E-Learning

Shalin Hai-Jew (Kansas State University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60960-046-4.ch025


The ethics backbone for information and communications technologies (ICT) guides the evolution of the socio-technical spaces and technologies on the WWW and Internet. This backbone directs the ways people harness information for education and social betterment; how they create virtual communities, and what digital contents they share. There are numerous stakeholders to transformative e-learning throughout the world, both now and in the future. To achieve the realities of transformative e-learning that leads to social equality, it helps to first understand the guiding ethical values underpinning these technologies; in addition, it will be important to engage these ethics and to shape them in ways that would optimize e-learning as a force for the greater good. In an information society, e-learning educators need a solid grasp of ICT-based ethical reasoning and practice.
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“Machine Ethics”

Several arguments have been deployed to suggest that a computer system cannot be held accountable ethically because it’s not human (the a priori argument), is a “dumb instrument” with no “free will” and no larger sense of the context (known as “the right mind” argument), and because it is one part of a larger technological system, has only dilute “responsibility” (Arnold & Pearce, 2008, p. 46). People have moved past the debate over whether (computing) “machine ethics” should be pursued, and it’s clear that some affordances for ethical and unethical actions have been coded into the hard wiring of the machines and socio-technical systems. Computing machines function in the human context and cannot be considered in a sui generis, non-contextualized way (Schmalz & Conway, 2008, p. 23).

The fact that there are laws written into the machines that shape, structure, and constrain human behaviors suggests that there should be moral debates (Brey, 2000). Information technologies change “the way we perceive ourselves and the way we can discharge our responsibilities” (Stahl, 2002, n.p.). Whatever has been created has always been multi-use, with intended and unintended consequences, some of them patently unforeseen at the time of creation. The transformative potential of technologies (Muñoz, 2008, p. 45) argues for the need for ethical considerations.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Axiom: A universally accepted rule

E-Learning: Electronic learning

Privacy: Being free from observation or intrusion

Autonomy: Independence, self-directedness

Integrity: The wholeness and content

Distributive Justice: Fair access to resources

Socio-technical: Related to human relationships mediated by technology

Personally Identifiable Information (PII): Data that may incontrovertibly link a person to particular online interactions

Assurance: Certainty, freedom from doubt

Surveillance: Monitoring, observations of

Forensics: In-depth investigation (using science and technology) to find facts linked to a potential criminal case

Panopticon: A structure in which all actions may be observed

Case: An instance, a particular situation which is an exemplar of sorts.

Principle: A guiding concept or rule of conduct

Parasocial: A one-sided interpersonal relationship, sometimes between a person and a media figure

Ethics: Values of right and wrong

Metadata: Information describing data

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