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ICT ethics-related cognition among undergraduate students: A grounded theory study from a social constructivist perspective

Maryam Nasser Al-Nuaimi (Department of Information Studies, Sultan Qaboos University, Muscat, Oman)
AbdelMajid Bouazza (Department of Information Studies, Sultan Qaboos University, Muscat, Oman)
Maher M. Abu-Hilal (Department of Psychology, Sultan Qaboos University, Muscat, Oman)

Journal of Information, Communication and Ethics in Society

ISSN: 1477-996X

Article publication date: 28 April 2020

Issue publication date: 20 October 2020

Abstract

Purpose

Moor (1985) designated two major problem sources typifying the social and ethical implications of computer technologies, namely, “policy vacuum” and “conceptual muddles.” Motivated by Moor’s seminal definition and Floridi’s (2013) conceptualization of information and communication technologies (ICTs) as re-ontologizing technologies, this study aims to explore Omani undergraduates’ cognition regarding ICT ethics.

Design/methodology/approach

Adopting a grounded theory approach for the constant comparative thematic analysis, the constituents of ICT ethics-related cognition among undergraduates and influencing factors were scrutinized. Qualitative data were gathered via focus group discussions with undergraduates and interviews with academics and information systems professionals at Sultan Qaboos University.

Findings

In total, 10 thematic categories revolving around a core category, constructing conceptual perceptions of and attitudes toward the realms constituting ICT ethics using an ontological, object-oriented approach, emerged from the comparative analysis. Undergraduates were found to adopt an applied approach when defining professional ICT ethics codes and policies, with a particular focus on information privacy and integrity.

Research limitations/implications

This qualitative study was conducted at a single research site. This may restrict the generalizability of the findings. Postgraduates were not considered when designing this qualitative inquiry.

Originality/value

The findings of the study hold theoretical and methodological significance with regard to ICT ethics-related cognition in the era following the fourth industrial revolution by sustaining feminist ethics in this research. Ultimately, the study developed a substantive theory scrutinizing the constitutive elements of ICT ethics-related cognition among Generation Z.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

The authors wish to thank the undergraduates, academic faculty members and IS professionals at SQU who participated in this qualitative study. The authors are also grateful to the academic faculty members who revised the qualitative semi-structured interview and FGD session protocols.

Citation

Al-Nuaimi, M.N., Bouazza, A. and Abu-Hilal, M.M. (2020), "ICT ethics-related cognition among undergraduate students: A grounded theory study from a social constructivist perspective", Journal of Information, Communication and Ethics in Society, Vol. 18 No. 4, pp. 589-607. https://doi.org/10.1108/JICES-08-2019-0097

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2020, Emerald Publishing Limited