Information Technology, the Good and Modernity

Information Technology, the Good and Modernity

Pak-Hang Wong (University of Twente, The Netherlands)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61692-014-2.ch014

Abstract

In Information and Computer Ethics (ICE), and, in fact, in the normative and evaluative research of Information Technology (IT) in general, analyses of the prudential values of IT are often neglected by the researchers. Yet, these analyses contain important insights for answering normative questions about people’s well-being. In this paper, I urge researchers in ICE to take these analyses of IT seriously. A serious study of these analyses will broaden the scope of ICE. But, what are these analyses? I will distinguish the analyses of the prudential values of IT from other types of normative and evaluative analysis of IT by noting their unique guiding ideal, i.e. the Well-being. Then, I will explain why these analyses are not taken seriously by researchers in ICE, and argue why they should not be neglected. After that, I will outline a framework to analyse and evaluate these analyses, and I will apply the framework to analyse and evaluate an actual prudential analysis, i.e. Nicholas Carr’s “Is Google Making Us Stupid”. Finally, I will briefly conclude this paper by outlining the limits of the framework proposed in this paper, and then to identify the further research that that to be done.
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Prudential Analysis Of Information Technology

I have pointed out that the aim of Carr’s appraisal of the Internet and other appraisals similar to his are normative. Yet, an important question remains, that is – what distinguish the appraisals from other normative analyses of IT? According to Brey (2007), the current normative and evaluative research of IT can generally be divided into four types, namely ethical analysis, normative political analysis, aesthetic analysis and epistemological analysis. Brey's division is based on the observation that these analyses are guided by different ideals. For example, ethical analyses of IT are generally grounded in ethical theories such as deontology, utilitarianism and virtue-based theories, and IT-related ethical issues, e.g. issues on privacy and anonymity, intellectual property, etc. are scrutinised using these ethical theories.2 Accordingly, the guiding ideal for ethical analyses of IT is the Right. Similarly, for their specific domains of inquiry, the guiding ideals for normative political analyses, aesthetic analyses and epistemological analyses are the Just, the Beauty and the True respectively. (Brey 2007)

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