Marturano, A. and D’Atri, A. (2010), "Ethics, organizations and information systems", Journal of Information, Communication and Ethics in Society, Vol. 8 No. 2. https://doi.org/10.1108/jices.2010.36408baa.001Download as .RIS
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Ethics, organizations and information systems
Article Type: Guest editorial From: Journal of Information, Communication & Ethics in Society, Volume 8, Issue 2
ItAIS (www.itais.org) was established in 2003 as the Italian Chapter of the Association For Information Systems ((AIS) www.aisnet.org) and has since been promoting the exchange of ideas, experience, and knowledge among both academics and professionals committed to the development, management, organization, and use of information systems (IS). This Chapter is an international organization that seeks to identify, extend, unify, and communicate knowledge in information technology (IT), IS, and information management (IM).
The specific purposes of the ItAIS Chapter are to:
create and maintain a professional identity for the IS researchers, teachers, and professionals across the country;
present the country’s IS research in all international IS conferences such as ICIS, AMCIS, HICS, ECIS, SAIS, PACIS, and others;
create a vision for the future of the IS field and profession in the country;
establish standards of research, practice, ethics, and education where appropriate;
promote communications and interaction among country members;
include professionals across the country; and
create and implement a modern, technologically sophisticated professional society for the country.
To these ends, the ItAIS Chapter intends to conduct meetings, to publish books, journals, and other materials; to cooperate with other organizations interested in the advancement and practice of IS, to stimulate research; to promote high professional standards, and in general, to promote the growth of IS, and to improve the profession’s quality through the promotion of communications and interaction among the profession.
The annual ItAIS conference is the major annual event of the Italian Information System community and is thought of as a forum to enable discussions and experience exchanges among researchers in the field, from both academy and industry.
The fifth edition (ItAIS 2008) has been held in Paris – the previous editions took place in Venice on 2007, in Milan on 2006, in Verona on 2005 and in Naples on 2004.
ItAIS 2008 gave the possibility to bring together researchers, scientists, engineers, and scholar students to exchange and share their experiences, new ideas, and research results about all aspects of intelligent systems, and discuss the practical challenges encountered and the solutions adopted. The conference included ten tracks:
e-services in public and private sectors;
governance, metrics and economics of IT;
information and knowledge management;
IS development and design methodologies;
IS theory and research methodologies;
legal and ethical aspects of IS;
new themes and frontiers in IS studies;
organizational change and impact of IT;
human computer interaction; and
strategic role of IS.
The successful level of participation that had been registered in the previous editions has been repeated at ItAIS 2008, which attracted 113 submissions from Italian and foreign researchers. Among them, 87 contributions were accepted for presentation at the conference. The conference took place at the European School of Management in Paris on December 13-14, 2008 and was organized in five parallel sessions, held in the afternoon of first day and in the morning of second one.
The following three contributions we are offering in this special section were selected as ItAIS 2008 best papers for the track “Legal and ethical aspects of IS.”
Ugo Pagallo’s paper “Ethics among peers: file sharing on the internet between openness and precaution” deals with file sharing over the net within P2P systems. Starting from a multidisciplinary approach (including network theory, law, and ethics), Pagallo suggests to overcome the polarization of today’s debate on P2P systems by defining a fair balance between the principle of precaution and the principle of openness. Indeed, from one side (i.e. censors), there are some serious problems afflicting this technology as with copyright claims, threats to creativity and innovation, issues of connectivity, or the free riding phenomenon. On the other side (i.e. supporters of this new paradigm), there are the many ways in which these systems promote free participation and collaboration, and support new forms of producing goods cooperatively through highly decentralized or distributed forms of networks. According to the author, application of a “fair balance” among the various fundamental interests involved in the evolution of these systems suggests checking the principle of precaution in connection with the principle of openness and the “levels of evidence” required by the former principle. Pagallo concludes that threats arising from these file sharing applications-systems should not be a pretext to limit freedom of research, speech, or the right “freely to participate in the cultural life of the community,” as granted by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights from 1948.
Edward Howlett Spence’s “The normative structure of information and its communication” starts with the premise that the internet has a global character; the paper thus argues that the normative evaluation of digital information on the internet necessitates an evaluative model that is itself universal and global in character. To this end, the paper demonstrates and supports a universal model for the normative evaluation of information on the internet. Such a universal model comprises two main parts that together seek to show that information is doubly normative:
information and internet information specifically, has an inherent normative structure that commits its disseminators to certain mandatory epistemological and ethical commitments; and
the negligent or purposeful abuse of information in violation of those commitments is also a violation of universal rights to freedom and wellbeing to which all agents are entitled by virtue of being agents, and in particular informational agents.
Spence finally claims that according to this dual normative model of information it is possible to demonstrate and support the initial thesis of his paper, namely, that the dissemination of internet information due to its global nature commits all informational agents to epistemological and ethical principles which are universally binding.
“Customer relationship management information systems (CRM-IS) and the realisation of moral agency” by Christopher Bull and Alison Adam deals with the problem of ethical design of IS. The paper particularly examines how the design of characteristics and use of practices incorporated in CRM-IS impact on the expression and realisation of moral agency within organisations. Bull and Adam found that some characteristics and practices within CRM-IS can restrict the expression and realisation of moral agency in organisational life, resulting in a number of problems. They finally argue for a greater consideration of MacIntyre’s virtue ethics approach which emphasizes the importance of moral goods defined with respect to a community engaged in a “practice;” – which he calls “internal goods” or “goods of excellence” – rather than focusing on practice – independent obligation of a moral agent (deontological ethics) or the consequences of a particular act (utilitarianism). Bull and Adams claim that MacIntyre’s ethical approach would effectively respond to such challenges provided by CRM-IS.
We believe that these three papers provide a fresh approach and a novel standpoint in the growing legal and ethical problems rising from using IS in organizations. In fact, as IS tend to be applied to an ever-increasing number of human activities, more ethical and legal problems for users, IS practitioners and professionals, and policy makers will unfold. In our opinion, these papers rightly argue that these problems need to be dealt with through social cooperativeness, organisational openness, universality of values, and sense of communality.
Finally, we are grateful to the chairs of the ten tracks and the external referees, for their thorough work in reviewing submissions with expertise and patience, and the president and the members of the ItAIS steering committee for their strong support and encouragement in the organization of ItAIS 2008.
Antonio Marturano, Alessandro D’AtriThemed Section Editors