14.0541 ethics & IT; children teaching IT

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Date: 12/04/00

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                   Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 14, No. 541.
           Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
       [1]   From:    Arun-Kumar Tripathi <tripathi@statistik.uni-       (255)
             Subject: [Editorial]Ethics and Information Technology --an
                     important issue
       [2]   From:    Arun-Kumar Tripathi <tripathi@statistik.uni-        (51)
             Subject: [Israel-Report]Children teaching internet Skills to
                     Seniors by Prof. Edna Aphek
             Date: Mon, 04 Dec 2000 17:37:45 +0000
             From: Arun-Kumar Tripathi <tripathi@statistik.uni-dortmund.de>
             Subject: [Editorial]Ethics and Information Technology --an 
    important issue
    Dear humanists scholars,
    ((In the Journal "Ethics and Information Technology"--Volume 1, Issue 1
    Philip Brey discussed on virtual reality, and most important --In his
    paper on the Internet and education, Hubert Dreyfus, drawing on
    Kierkegaard's work on the Press, challenges the popular view of the
    Internet as a global classroom in which anybody and everybody can
    participate in a process of so called `hyperlearning.' Kathleen Wallace's
    paper serves as an interesting counterpoint to Dreyfus's because she
    defends the positive values of anonymity even in the face of its risks.
    I hope, you will enjoy this challenging issue. Thanks. Best.-Arun))
    Date: Wed, 16 Jun 1999 11:16:31 -0700 (PDT)
    From: Phil Agre <pagre@alpha.oac.ucla.edu>
    To: Red Rock Eater News Service <rre@lists.gseis.ucla.edu>
    [Forwarded with permission and reformatted.]
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    Date: Wed, 16 Jun 1999 11:08:29 -0400 (EDT)
    From: Helen Nissenbaum <helen@Princeton.EDU>
    Ethics and Information Technology
    Volume 1, Issue 1
    In a world where we are all faced with more information than we can
    possibly handle, a new journal will, and should, provoke the question,
    why?  Why is yet another journal needed?  The truisms that information
    technology is changing the world in profound ways and that these
    changes need to be identified, understood, evaluated and, where
    possible, influenced for the good, does not fully or adequately answer
    the question since a fair number of journals focused on information
    technology already exists.
    We believe that there is a serious gap in what is currently available.
    None of the journals focused on information technology explicitly
    addresses the ethical and value dimensions of information technology.
    Yet, information technology is profoundly affecting the opportunities
    and capacities of individuals to act in morally and socially
    responsible ways.  Information technology is profoundly changing the
    character of social, political, and economic institutions, as well
    as social arrangements that aspire to the ideals of justice and human
    well-being.  The permeation of information technology throughout
    our world is challenging and changing fundamental moral concepts and
    social values such as freedom, democracy, privacy, responsibility, and
    so on.  We think the changes in moral concepts and social values are
    so important as to be worthy of a new journal.
    Why, some may still ask, *ethics* and information technology?  Is
    this not a topic covered in ethics journals?  What is the connection
    between technology and ethics?  And, why ethics and information
    technology when we did not seem to need a new journal or field
    of study for automobile, microwave, laser, washing machine, or
    telephone ethics?  These questions all seem to call for an account
    of information technology ethics that explains not just why attention
    should be given to the topic but what is special about information
    technology.  Indeed, a major controversy in the field is whether
    the ethical issues arising around information technology are special.
    At one extreme are those who believe that ethics cannot be about
    technology because it is about moral norms and concepts and since
    these apply to human beings, technology is irrelevant.  At the
    other extreme are those who believe that technology, and especially
    information and communications technologies, are changing the world
    in such profound ways that the ethical issues they raise are unique
    and have moved us into unchartered moral territories.
    *Ethics and Information Technology* will not take a position on this
    debate.  Rather, it will provide a forum for it, as well as many
    other ethical issues arising around information and communication
    technology.  We will strive to make this an interdisciplinary forum
    because so many of the important issues are multidimensional, lying
    at the nexus of philosophy, sociology, psychology, policy and public
    affairs, law, science, engineering and system design.  We especially
    hope to create a venue for bringing together information technology
    and moral philosophy, which we believe has much to say about the
    development of information technology but has not been adequately
    heard.  We will also strive for international relevance.  While the
    reach of information and communications technology extends beyond and
    through national boundaries, we recognise that nations may experience
    the technology in a variety of ways.  We hope to be able to represent
    this variety of perspectives.
    We have assembled an outstanding Board of Editors to help steer
    the course.  Reflecting the Journal's commitment to a broad range
    of issues and perspectives they bring expertise from anthropology,
    computer science, the law, management and information systems,
    philosophy, political science, social theory, sociology,
    communications and policy studies.
    In this issue we have gathered papers that sample the range of issues,
    discussions, and debates we believe need to be brought together `under
    one roof'.  Let us introduce them to you.
    In Philip Brey's paper on virtual reality, it is argued that virtual
    reality systems do not merely represent virtual environments but also
    make possible, actions or behaviours within these environments that
    would be judged unethical, even reprehensible, were they performed
    in the real world.  Although Brey makes no general pronouncement
    about the morality of this possibility, he argues that virtual
    reality applications, in the way they structure and represent actions
    and their consequences, and signal internal approval or disapproval,
    have considerable power to influence the way users perceive actions
    and their consequences.  This power is achieved frequently through
    misrepresentation as well as biased representations that selectively
    favour certain values and interests over others.  He charges designers
    of virtual reality applications with a moral responsibility to reflect
    on these moral dimensions of their work.
    In his paper on the Internet and education, Hubert Dreyfus, drawing
    on Kierkegaard's work on the Press, challenges the popular view of
    the Internet as a global classroom in which anybody and everybody can
    participate in a process of so called `hyperlearning.'  As Kierkegaard
    said of the Press, Dreyfus says of the Internet, that it would promote
    risk-free anonymity and idle curiosity, both of which undermine
    responsibility and commitment.  Dreyfus considers how the Net would
    promote Kierkegaard's two nihilistic spheres of existence, the
    aesthetic and the ethical, while repelling the religious sphere.
    In the aesthetic sphere, the aesthete avoids commitments and lives
    in the categories of the interesting and the boring and wants to see
    as many interesting sights (sites) as possible.  In the ethical sphere
    we would reach a `despair of possibility' brought on by the ease of
    making and unmaking commitments on the Net.  Only in the religious
    sphere is nihilism overcome by making a risky, unconditional
    commitment.  Dreyfus concludes that only by working closely with
    students in a shared situation in the real world can teachers with
    strong identities, ready to take risks to preserve their commitments,
    pass on their passion and skill to their students.  In this shared
    context students can turn information into knowledge and practical
    Kathleen Wallace's paper serves as an interesting counterpoint
    to Dreyfus's because she defends the positive values of anonymity
    even in the face of its risks.  Wallace provides a rich and original
    conceptual analysis of anonymity, distinguishing different types
    of anonymity, and reviewing their ethical implications.  She defines
    anonymity as noncoordinatability of traits in and through their social
    relations and locations, which is achievable because people are a
    plurality of traits and these traits are not all related each to every
    other.  In discussing the ethical standing of anonymity she reminds us
    of Plato's parable of the Ring of Gyges.  Although Wallace admits that
    anonymity always involves a degree of risk -- even where the initial
    primary purpose is to protect the anonymous person from the harmful
    actions of others, or to promote positively valued activity -- and
    anonymity always raises the issue of accountability, she defends its
    positive value.  To mitigate against risks like those of the Ring of
    Gyges, she urges caution and various safeguards.
    In a very dense and provocative paper Luciano Floridi proposes
    a framework for information ethics to serve as the much needed
    conceptual foundation for computer ethics.  According to Floridi
    the problems of computer ethics strain the conceptual resources
    of standard ethical theories.  To augment them, he proffers, and
    elaborates, information ethics as a particular case of `environmental'
    ethics -- an ethics of the infosphere.  Information ethics proposes
    that there is something more elementary and fundamental than life and
    pain, namely, being -- understood as information, and entropy.  From
    the perspective of information ethics, information has an intrinsic
    worthiness, and information ethics substantiates this position,
    by recognising that any information entity has a `Spinozian' right
    to persist in its own status, and a `constructionist' right to
    flourish, i.e. to improve and enrich its existence and essence.  As
    a consequence of such `rights', information ethics evaluates the duty
    of any rational being in terms of the contribution to the growth of
    the infosphere.  Floridi argues that information ethics constitutes
    a valuable perspective from which to approach not only moral problems
    in computer ethics, but also a range of conceptual and moral phenomena
    within ethical discourse.  This paper is sure to draw a lot of
    comment, criticism, and debate -- all of which we encourage.
    Bernard Gert, in his paper argues that the understandable, but rather
    misleading, concentration on controversial issues in moral philosophy
    leads people to believe that there is no substantial agreement on
    moral matters.  Such a focus on controversial issues, he argues,
    clouds the fact that for a preponderance of day to day moral decisions
    and judgments there is much agreement and certainty.  Building upon
    this substantial moral agreement, Gert has developed a system of
    `common morality,' described comprehensively in his book *Morality:
    Its Nature and Justification*, OUP, 1998.  In his paper, Gert
    exaplains how his system of common morality may help us understand,
    and sometimes even resolve, controversial moral problems emerging in
    the field of computing.  The virtue of common morality, according to
    Gert, is that it provides a method for distinguishing between morally
    acceptable and morally unacceptable alternatives.  Although common
    morality does not always yield a unique best solution, it can draw
    clear boundaries around what is morally acceptable.  He illustrates
    this in the case of copying software for a friend.
    James Moor's paper develops Gert's theory of morality into a practical
    framework for dealing with the policy vacuums created by computing
    technology.  Moor insists that any new policies we propose must meet
    the ethical criteria of Gert's system.  When considering the ethical
    import of new policies in light of traditional ethical theories we
    frequently discover a strong rivalry between the leading contenders
    -- consequentialist theories that emphasise the consequences of
    actions and deontological theories that stress rights and duties.
    Especially where consequentialist theories and deontological theories
    offer hopelessly incompatible solutions, applied ethicists, searching
    for practical guidance, find themselves immersed in an ad hoc
    deliberation, scrounging for solutions from an inconsistent pile of
    principles.  From Gert's theory Moor develops the conceptual scheme of
    `just consequentialism,' whose efficacy he demonstrates on some of the
    traditional dilemmas in computer ethics.
    Reviews of books and new media will occur as a regular feature of
    the journal.  This issue includes Gert-Jan C. Lokhorst review of
    *The Digital Phoenix: How Computers are Changing Philosophy* edited
    by Terrell Ward Bynum and James H. Moor and Leslie R. Shade's review
    of *Morality and Machines: Perspectives on Computer Ethics* by
    Stacey L. Edgar.  We also include Peter Danielson's review of *Lego's
    Mindstorms* robot kits.  We have included, as well, an annotated
    bibliography by our book review editor Herman Tavani.  As a service
    to our readers, we plan to offer this list at least once per volume.
    That covers our first issue.  But what about the future?  What
    are the topics or themes that we see as important and in need of
    consideration?  We decided to list some of the themes and issues that
    we envisage the journal covering.  This is by no means an exhaustive
    list, merely some indicators of topics on our minds:
         Information technology and human values (including ethical,
    economic and aesthetic)
         The ethics of artificial intelligence, artificial life, virtual
    reality, robotics
         Moral theory (applicability, role, future)
         Ethics and electronic mediation (conceptions of self, identity,
    democracy, and communities)
         Privacy, surveillance and cryptology
         Intellectual property rights and new media
         Information technology, reliability, and accountability
         The information society, rights and obligations (property, freedom
    of speech, access)
         The information society and justice (crime, inequality, access)
         The ethical implications of the global information infrastructure
         The ethics of patient records and virtual medicine
         The use of information technology in the workplace (surveillance,
    deskilling, decision making, empowerment)
         The ethical issues of information technology in the home (on family
    and children in particular)
         The ethical issues of information technology use in education
         Values embedded in the design of information systems and technology
         Governance and sovereignty in the digital electronic realm
         The Internet and public law
    Clearly, there is much to be said, argued and debated and, with the
    explosion of information technology in our late modern society, this
    is the time to do it.  We offer our journal as a `place' that welcomes
    these discussions, arguments and debates -- a place that heretofor has
    been in the margins of various fields of inquiry, including applied
    moral philosophy, sociology, computing, and science and technology
    studies.  Our policy, already reflected in this first issue, is that
    *Ethics and Information Technology* will publish work of high quality
    regardless of the discipline, school of thought, or philosophical
    With this introduction we welcome you to the first issue of the first
    volume of *Ethics and Information Technology*!
    The Editors:
    Jeroen van den Hoven
    Lucas D. Introna
    Deborah G. Johnson
    Helen Nissenbaum
    Helen Nissenbaum, University Center for Human Values
    5 Ivy Lane, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ 08544-1013
    609 258-2879(tel) 609 258-6082 (fax)
    Co-editor, Journal of Ethics and Information Technology
             Date: Mon, 04 Dec 2000 17:38:32 +0000
             From: Arun-Kumar Tripathi <tripathi@statistik.uni-dortmund.de>
             Subject: [Israel-Report]Children teaching internet Skills to 
    Seniors by Prof. Edna Aphek
    Dear Humanists,
    ((Hello, I thought..this might interest you..-Arun))
    Date: Mon, 1 Jan 1996 01:25:05 +0200
    From: Pr. Aphek <aphekdr@netvision.net.il>
    Dear Arun,
    Thought the following might interest you and may be the group.
    Please forward at your discretion.
    With best wishes
    Prof. Edna Aphek,Tel-Hi Networks, 42 Hatayassim St.
    Jerusalem, Israel.
    David Yellin Teachers College, Jerusalem, Israel.
    Children Tutoring Seniors at internet Skills: An Experiment
    Conducted at one Israeli Elementary School.
    The internet which connects about 200 million people and
    millions  of pages, voice , sound, image and video files has
    become a most powerful tool in the hands of those who know
    how to navigate it.
    The opportunity to use this powerful tool exists and is open to
    most strata of the population, regardless of the limitations of age,
    education, etc.  Though the  opportunity exists what actually
    happens is that the gap between internet surfers and those who
    are not knowledgeable in internet skills, is ever growing.
    The gap is widening between youngsters, the primary internet
    user population , and adults and mostly seniors ,who are not
    skilled at using a computer or the internet.
    In the new Hi-Tech world, where children speak the new
    language of the internet as their mother tongue, it would be most
    fitting to put their mastery to good use and train them to teach
    this new language to Senior Citizens, those unacquainted with
    the language of the internet.
    This latter age group might find much interest and relevant, useful
    information via the net; they can study on-line, meet new people via the
    internet, find useful information, participate in on-line interest groups,
    and contribute from their experience and knowledge and most importantly
    feel connected.
    An experiment was conducted in one elementary school in Israel,
    the Alon School in 1999, where ten Seniors were tutored by ten
    children aged 11-14.
    For documentation of the process as well as an evaluation of the
    project, please write to:
    Prof. Edna Aphek
    E-mail: <aphekdr@netvision.net.il>
    Pr. Edna Aphek
    Tel-Hi Networks Ltd.
    Tel - 97225633951
    Fax - 97225665902

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