issues associated with digital libraries can only be discussed relative
to the major research achievements that exist in the field of
ethics. The rise of information ethics as a major discipline within
and Information Science is attested in the increasing number of
and public events.
of Library and Information Science edited
Kent has published comprehensive articles in this field, namely Richard
Rubin’s and Thomas Froehlich’s Ethical Aspects of Library and
Science (Rubin/Froehlich 1996) following the one by Lee Finks and
Soekefeld on Professional Ethics (Finks/Soekefeld 1993). There
several articles on special themes like:
by Edward Cline (Cline 1998),
Ethical Computing by Tom Jewett (Jewett 1998),
Issues in Information Systems by Vladimir Zwass (Zwass
Interest Ethics by Bradley Chilton (Chilton 1996),
Ethics by Sarah Sanderson King and Donald Cushman (King/Cushman
Malpractice by Marianne Puckett and James Craig (Puckett/Craig
there is finally Frank Webster’s The Information Society:
and Critique (Webster 1996).
Smith has recently published a state-of-the-art report Information
in the Annual Review of Information Science and Technology (Smith
1997). Thomas Froehlich has published his highly recommended UNESCO
report Survey and Analysis of Legal and Ethical Issues for Library
Services (Froehlich 1997). Robert Hauptman should be particularly
as editor of the Journal of Information Ethics.
like to mention also the contributions in the Encyclopedia of
Ethics edited by Ruth Chadwick which includes articles such
Protocol by Duncan Langford,
Security by Eugene Spafford,
Management by Richard Mason,
and Business Ethics by Harold Langenderfer,
by Mary Armstrong,
Responsibility by Celia Wells,
in Corporations by Francis Aguilar,
of Speech by Larry Alexander,
of the Press in the USA by Stephen Klaidman,
Consent by Jonathan Moreno, Arthur Caplan and Paul
and Engineering Ethics by R. E. Spier,
Publishing by Beth Fischer and Michael Zigmond,
Ethics by Nigel Dower, Privacy by Edmund Byrne
Ethics by Caroline Whitbeck (Chadwick 1998).
schools in our field offer courses on ethical and legal aspects of the
profession. At the Fachhochschule Stuttgart we have integrated
ethics in the undergraduate curriculum both as a general course as well
as a special course (Capurro 1998).
We have organized three workshops on information ethics so far, dealing
rich/information poor (1996), Digital
Libraries (1997) and Cyberculture
1995 Klaus Wiegerling, Andreas Brellochs and I edited a multilingual
reader Informationsethik (Capurro
1995). We have created a website
on information ethics and we will open a web space for
information, interaction and discourse under the heading International
Center for Information Ethics (ICIE). We invite our colleagues to
an active part in this project by creating an international network for
teaching and research on information ethics.
Fachhochschule Stuttgart was one of the partners of the MURIEL-Project
which was a collaborative project
up in the framework of the European Union’s Telematics Libraries (LIB)
Programme (LIB 3-3007). The project included industrial companies like
TELES in Germany and Euromédia Formation in France, and research
centers like Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche in Italy, the FH
in Germany, The British Library in the United Kingdom and the
Maastricht in the Netherlands. The Fachhochschule Stuttgart delivered
contents on information ethics which we will soon make available
the ICIE platform.
recent international event in our field was the UNESCO-Virtual Forum on
Information Ethics which culminated in UNESCO’s Second International
Congress on Ethical,
Legal and Societal Challenges of Cyberspace from 1-3 October 1998 in
Areas such as information in the public domain, multilingualism,
confidentiality and security as well as social, economic and
responsibilities were discussed and some practical recommendations for
an information policy of UNESCO were
libraries are indeed an important field of practice and research in the
growing cyberculture. In the following presentation I will first point
to the general issues of the ethical debate on digital libraries. In a
second step I will explore the notion of space, as a key ethical aspect
of digital libraries. In the conclusion I will refer to the question of
sustainability. All this analysis goes back to simple but not easy
such as: What are we doing when we create, develop and use digital
Do we consider enough the consequences of digital libraries with regard
to local and global cultures? And what are their effects in the long
Is it possible to see this now? How far? What are the challenges with
to human rights? And, finally, who is responsible for what concern(s),
and what is the impact of ethical thinking on such concerns? These
can only be answered through an international and interdisciplinary
My remarks are an invitation to this discourse, and hopefully, an
Digital Libraries as an Ethical Challenge
is an increasing number of international congresses and projects
with digital libraries. A quick review of some of the announcements
that ethical aspects are a pervading question. The ASIS Annual
1997 on Digital Collections was announced with the following
at the intersection of research, scholarship, communication,
entertainment, and commerce, digital collections have the potential to
combine the ideas and methodologies of wide-ranging disciplines in
and creative ways and of effecting technological and social change.
integration can enrich perspectives and expand our ability to
how the various sectors could benefit from and participate in emerging
global networks. But it can also lead to social, economic, and
isolation, control, and mediocrity." (http://www.asis.org/annual-97/ASIS97.htm)
a description raises all sorts of questions: How will access be
What returns can be expected on the investments? What are the issues of
intellectual access? How can the authenticity, validity, and
of objects be identified and maintained? Theses questions are
technical and ethical. They concern the interests and impacts of
collections on users, fund-providers, developers, and
same can be said with regard to the announcement of the ASIS Annual
1999 dealing with Knowledge: Creation, Organization, Use. Note
Cultural, Social and Behavioral Aspects of Information Acceptance vs.
behavior modifications, policies and politics, value assessments,
and national information cultures, etc. Knowledge-seeking behavior,
needed for effective utilization. Search and browse behavior. How to
the knowledge management within organizations."
of Global Information Management. An official publication of the
Resources Management Association announces its 1997 issue on
Information Technology IT in Library and Information Management
Editor: Patricia Fletcher, University of Maryland) with
role and function of the libraries in a digital world is uncertain and
evolving. How libraries respond to the many implications of the
technologies will have a determining effect on their sustainability.
issues of privacy, intellectual property, censorship, and knowledge
are of major concerns to libraries in today's networked environment.
issues pertaining to first amendment rights, telecommunications and
internet service, and the national information infrastructure will help
shape the digital future for libraries."
An excellent overview on digital libraries research is provided by the
website of the Digital Libraries (D-Lib) Program which is based at the Corporation
for National Research Initiatives and
by the Defense Advances Research Project Agency (DARPA) on
of the Digital Libraries Initiative under Grant No. N66001-98-1-8908 (http://www.dlib.org/dlib.html).
As an example of best practice in this field I would like to highlight
the Cervantes Project 2001. The Cervantes Project 2001 housed
Texas A&M University is a joint collaboration of the Department of
Modern and Classical Languages, the Centro de Estudios Cervantinos
de Henares), the Center for the Study of Digital Libraries (CSDL) and
Fred Jehle of Indiana-Purdue University (http://csdl.tamu.edu/cervantes/).
respect to such projects, we can ask the following questions. Why are
or legal issues particularly relevant in relation to the Internet in
and to digital libraries in particular? The answer lies in the
that in a global environment, the national legal regulations are,
to their nature, a weak tool for shaping human action. Local
or moralities and their political, religious and/or military
tend to feel endangered by an anonymous, global and non-controllable
system. This is a kind of second order paradox if we consider that freedom
of the press was one of the key achievements of modernity. In a
step of its evolution, the technical written word became also a
spoken word through mass media and a major force within democracy. This
process has reached a new turn in the sense that the local political
are now more objects than subjects of a potentially universal access to
a global and decentralized information and communication structure.
of speech, freedom of the press and freedom of access become now, at
end of modernity, simultaneous rights (Capurro 1996a).
new turn has consequences for individuals as well as organizations and
societies as a whole. We have arrived at a rather unique historical
where traditional hierarchies of expertise between elder and younger
in families and educational institutions are being undermined or
by digital forms of knowledge production, access and distribution. This
is no less the case in companies, where the change from hierarchical to
networked organizational structures leads to new forms of knowledge
and access. Knowledge becomes a key asset to be shared and protected in
different ways by stakeholders and shareholders. To what extent this
can be compared to the ones brought about by other media revolutions is
an interesting question for research. Optimists and pessimists are
right insofar as the questioning of knowledge monopolies, including
censorship and selection practices on the basis of networked storage,
new opportunities for overcoming space and time barriers but also new
of power and control.
can summarize these challenges by saying that the question of
its selection, storage and accessibility, is a key ethical and legal
in a society which predicates for itself the attributes of information
and knowledge. In contrast to paper libraries, digital libraries
are obviously not accessible in the same way. The global character of
Internet would give the opportunity, one may hope, to a higher degree
freedom of information and communication as was the case with paper
in their inception and evolution in light of their geographical and
constraints. Are we going to take a step further towards the
of Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
has the right to freedom of opinion and expression, this right includes
freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and
impart information and ideas to any media and regardless of
are digital libraries a new and even a more subtle form of knowledge
and colonialism? Will digital libraries On the Threshold of the
Century become Gateways to an Enlightened World quoting
topic of the 65th IFLA General Conference in 1999? These are
global questions indeed. But they are also local
Digital libraries are located in the kind of global space we use to
cyberspace. But their access is always local. It seems as if the
of space should play a major role in ethical thinking.
From interface design to interspace design
seem prima facie odd to explore the question of space under an
viewpoint. This impression vanishes as soon as we think about the
of public spaces in people’s lives and particularly about the
of the public spaces we call libraries. But what is space? We usually
about space in Cartesian terms. We dissociate the way we live in space,
our life-space, from the neutral and objective measurable space that we
could call scientific or metrical space. We do the same with
In addition, under the domination of the scientific viewpoint, we also
tend to assort that space and time in the first sense are purely
Phenomenology - Husserl’s lifeworld and Heidegger’s being-in-the-world
- has taught us to see more clearly this difference and to think the
between both views in a non-usual or non-cartesian manner by inverting
his commentary on Heidegger’s Being and Time Hubert Dreyfus
the point of spatiality as an existential concern and stresses the
of public space over individual ways of structuring space (Dreyfus
pp. 128ss). As social beings our life is always entangled in a network
of relationships with the lives of the others, i.e. with the ways the
take care of things in space and time. Individual and social concern
space are not separable. Existential concern about space means
or to maintaining in different ways and degrees the distance between
other and between ourselves and other beings or tools in everyday life.
The very possibility of being able to ‘dis-tance’ other beings,
them into nearness or leaving them in remoteness, is a function of this
specific human way of being involved in space, by articulating it in
ways. Dreyfus uses the word de-severance for translating Heidegger’s Ent-fernung.
In both cases the hyphen stresses the meaning of overcoming or
a distance. What is near or what is far depends on the kind of
we give to beings. Although my glasses in physical measurement are very
near to my eyes, with my attention I may be absorbed in, say, the
Cervantes-website and the possibilities opened by its digital library.
In this case, the website is thus closer existentially or
to me than my glasses.
are we when we are in cyberspace? In what kind of space are
libraries supposed to be? If we take a Cartesian viewpoint we split
where we physically are, from a kind of pure symbolic or knowledge
separated from the individual minds. It makes no fundamental difference
if we connect this world of ‘knowledge in itself’ or World 3 as
Karl Popper called it, with the physical and the psychic worlds. This
may be useful for other purposes but it does not allow to grasp our
under an existential viewpoint. The counterpart to this is looking to
as subjects having an internal world of mental states which they manage
to change according to new representations that may come to their minds
through their interaction with computer devices. This is, indeed, the
Cartesian way to look at ourselves (and our selves!) as well as at our
knowledge and at the physical world ‘out there’. For a detailed
of this view see my (Capurro1992) and (Capurro 1986). It takes little
to conceive not only the autonomous world of ‘knowledge in itself’ but
also of its technical infrastructure as having its own life, building a
kind of super intelligence. This is, of course, nothing but
us consider the phenomenological approach. What happens with distances
in cyberspace? What kind of spatiality is being instantiated? How do
become present to or remain far from our attention? Of course there is
the computer device itself which, as in the case of my glasses, is
not primarily the object of my care and attention, at least as long as
there is no system breakdown! In contrast to the ways we take our bodily
distances to things, say, in a room, the Internet allows us
distances to things and people in a way similar to the telephone or the
TV. In which way? By eliminating distances to digital things located in
different places and bringing them to the same place i.e. to
interface. But the cyberspace is not a separate space with regard to
life-space. We are still dis-tancing and orientation is given
our attention to what we get on the screen, for instance, in the form
frames and hyperlinks. What are the existential or, as we could also
say, ethical consequences of this?
his contribution to the workshop on Cyberculture
at Stuttgart in 1998 the Australian philosopher Michael Eldred
reminded us of the origin of the word ethics coming from the Greek word
ethos which means habit or way of dwelling, depending on
it is written with a short or a long E, respectively. The Latin word
ethos is habitare , which is the source of the word inhabitants as
of a country. To dwell has to do with the ways we create common living
places through customs. We call this activity a culture.
to Eldred the English word haunting means originally something
usually do or the place we usually go to. It also refers to the
of beings we call ghosts, particularly when they disturb the places
we usually live! Cyberspace is not a kind of separate space, as the
view would suggest. We are still in a room or, say, in a
when we surf on the net which is a metaphor that real surfers, who are
exposed to the risks and fascinations of this sport, do not like very
But at the same time our actions in this medium allow us to have a kind
of ghostly feeling or a haunting experience as Eldred says. There are
of places on the net and there will probably soon be hundreds of
libraries, but their common place is the interface, i.e. the place
we eliminate the distance from our life-world. In other words, the
is not the door to a kind of mythical or objective space of ‘knowledge
in itself’, but, on the contrary, it is just another part of the tools
of our everyday life. Through it cyberspace becomes a part of our
we are in cyberspace, at the website of the Cervantes digital library
instance, we have indeed a kind of haunting experience. But it
be a Cartesian split to dissociate the ‘ghostly feeling’ from the very
familiar experience of being in a place of everyday dwelling. In the
of digital libraries the ethical challenge is, on the one hand, to
them in such a way that we can feel at home in their homepage. Not just
that we can use their devices in a way that they have a tendency to
when we manipulate them in order to get what we want, but that they
part of a worldly structure of public interrelations, i.e. that they
be considered and used as belonging to the public life-space. This
produces, on the other hand, dramatic changes in our local
as far as it becomes part of the cyberspace’s referential grid. But it
would be, again, a mystification to consider the cyberspace separate
the life-world. The life-world is not merely the local world of
life but the world-space itself, open to everybody and to every body.
We would never become astonished about our haunting experiences if we
not be able to regard them as a specific form of our original spatial di-stancing
important difference between our spatiality in a symbolic medium like
Internet and the printing medium is the fact that in cyberspace we can
do things with words. I call this digital doing actio digitalis in
This possibility of our digital being questions the modern
between linguistic symbols and actions. The Enlightenment conceived the
printing medium as a free space for information and communication. The
classic medium was, of course, oral speech. The classic public space
for instance, the oral space of the Greek marketplace (agorá)
but also the theatre. The cynical school was fond of their freedom of
(parrhesía). For Kant the freedom of thought depends on
freedom of communicating our thoughts. Thinking is nothing that happens
in an isolated spirit, which is either pure speculation or madness.
is the product of receiving and communicating messages according to
own judgement. This would imply that there should be a space or medium
free of censorship. This space was for Kant the Gutenberg marketplace,
the communication of printed thoughts. The price for this was not only
the split between thinking and action but the renunciation of directly
interfering in the political sphere through the printing medium
1995, pp. 110-112, Capurro 1996a and Capurro 1996b).
Australian philosopher Alec McHoul argues in his Internet article
and -space that cyber devices are part of our being-in-the-world but
we are involved with them in a different way than with real devices.
real devices is of the kind of a practical use or skill, a knowing
we uses them as the real devices they are. When we operate with
cyber devices, however, for instance, when we play golf with an
glove, there is a switch to an as if it were a real golf ball. He
understand cyberbeing "as" would be to over-normalise it; to understand
it purely "as if" would be to over-virtualise it. Instead, because
rapidly fluctuate between these actual and virtual understandings, they
may be said to have the characteristics once ascribed to ghosts. (...)
Cyberbeing is (...) to use Derrida’s term "spectral" (Specters). (...)
There is no just one cyberpractice but many; though each is held
by a loose kind of family resemblance; and that resemblance is the
or fuzzy space between the virtual and actual." (McHoul)
of hyperlinks is a potential constituent of the "spectral" or cyber
cyber performances, MUDs and MOOs or dildonics (coupling of devices and
human-body movements). E-mail and hypertext, -links, media retain
pre-spectral forms of equipmentality, leaving open such possibilities
being-here-and-being-there, virtual-actual transitions, etc. Both
the real and the cyber, give rise to different, negative and positive,
moral perspectives, as we know it from the history of other media
like the change from orality to writing in Ancient Greece or the
of the printing press. One morality will see in, say, digital
the loss of real public library spaces. Another will only see the
of universal access or instant global sharing. A spectral library would
be one of unpredictable capabilities on the basis of hard- and software
combinations. But there is, of course, also an ethical dimension of
for the possible and potential in this case.
digital dimension is a kind of overlap between the real and the cyber
spectral in the sense that things can be done in cyberspace which are
purely of the kind of the real ‘as’ nor of the spectral ‘as if’. We can
do real things with digital symbols at a distance in a quasi spectral
Documents in a digital library have a kind of ‘haunting presence’. The ethical
question is then, how do we manage to bring
existentially near to people? Who will use them and who not and why?
means the awareness that the cyberspace as a whole and digital
as part of it is not a kind of separate space but that it belongs to
life-space and to their possibilities of being. We do not just
or socially interact first in a separate world called cyberspace
an interface, but rather, this interaction is embedded or situated in a
life-space from the very beginning. This is also the case with regard
all kinds of spectral possibilities. Quoting a term coined by
Winograd, interface design should be regarded as belonging to the
interspace. In his article From Computing Machinery to Interaction
Design Terry Winograd explains the shift from interface
seriously that the design role is the construction of the "interspace"
in which people live, rather than an "interface" with which they
the interaction designer needs to take a broader view that includes
how people and societies adapt to new technologies. To continue with
automotive analogy, imagine that on the fiftieth anniversary of the
for Automotive Machinery" a group of experts had been asked to
on the "the next fifty years of driving." They might well have
new kinds of engines, automatic braking, and active suspension systems.
But what about interstate freeways, drive-in movies, and the decline of
the inner city? These are not exactly changes in "driving," but in the
end they are the most significant consequences of automotive
Successful interaction design requires a shift from seeing the
to seeing the lives of the people using it. In this human dimension,
relevant factors become hard to quantify, hard to even identify. This
is magnified when we try to look at social consequences." (Winograd
to the Stanford Digital Libraries Project the following services should
be provided by digital libraries: resource discovery, retrieving
interpreting information, managing information and sharing information.
Each service is technical and ethical at the same time. Under an
perspective, tool design means helping people to master their lives.
to Winograd interspace design should be as practical and rigorous as
engineering disciplines, it should place human concerns and needs at
center like the design disciplines, and it should take a broad view of
social possibilities and responsibilities like the social
do we manage to bring digital libraries existentially close to people?
Or, better, how do people manage by themselves to bring digital
near to themselves? This question cannot be isolated from the following
question: How do we learn to become citizens of cyberspace? How do we
cyberspace in general and digital libraries in particular into everyday
public space? This is a question that concerns the growing gap between
the information poor and the information rich at a global and local
Cyberspace is in fact a space shared mainly by rich countries and by
users in poor countries. We discussed this in the UNESCO Virtual Forum.
As a chair of this topic I summarized the discussion by making the
net access to poor countries by putting existing resources to sensible
use in order to promote the development of global and local information
cultures and economies.
the development of a World Information Ethos
concrete projects in information poor countries in order to create
public awareness on these matters through virtual forums, publications,
permanent, specific, and detailed knowledge of existing information
in information poor countries
should promote the rights of non-English-speaking-countries and their
should promote topics in information ethics to be included in curricula
at all levels.
activities through international organizations should be based on
efforts as well as on a decentralized and well-coordinated basis.
recommendations were emphasized by the statements of the participants
the Second UNESCO
International Congress on the Ethical, Legal and
Challenges of Cyberspace.
only UNESCO but also other UN organizations such as the World Bank with
the Information for Development Program and the UNDP, and
Organizations (NGOs), particularly the Internet Society, are engaged in
different developing projects for which digital libraries are already
or of which they should become a part. Digital libraries as public
for the developed countries should be shared as the public space of the
information poor. But this is, of course, only half the challenge. The
other more important half is how information poor countries can create
and use their own digital knowledge.
is also a vital question between the information poor and rich within a
country. How do we allow the cyberspace to become a part of people’s
Vincent Bosco suggests in his UNESCO contribution the establishment of
freenets and the installation of terminals in public life-spaces. He
establishment of community nets or freenets which bring together people
in a city, town or neighbourhood, providing essential information about
public services, in addition to all of the material normally found on
Internet. Freenets provide two essential elements missing in most of
commercial networks. First because they make use of servers provided by
educational non-profit or other donor organizations, freenets offer low
cost access for users. This is particularly important for low income
who, even in the most developed societies, have little chance of making
use of the net. Secondly, they locate terminals in public spaces like
offices, libraries, schools, and markets, enabling people to make use
the net without having to purchase a computer." (Bosco 1998)
words, Bosco suggests that cyberspace be treated as a constituent of
life-space. Developing an ethics of care with regard to digital
libraries means acknowledging the ethical imperative or, to say it in a
less Kantian manner, the ethical indicative to integrate digital space
within the life-space and, particularly, within the existing network of
paper libraries (Capurro 1996c). This should be seen as
aspect to the possibility of sharing digital libraries within private
But in both cases the challenge of democratic accessibility remains.
symbiotic relation will change the character of both spaces, the local
and the global. The question is, how far? How fast? And who will be the
beneficiaries? The sense of community in general and of the research
in particularly will change as it did with printing technology and
Due to the specific spatial and, of course, temporal character
of digital libraries they have a higher potential of universality than
in the case of books. They bring us potentially near, on the one hand,
to the ideals of Enlightenment. But there is, on the other hand, no
in this process. We have to locally shape this potentiality.
finally, the character of European Enlightenment changes at the end of
modernity. The Internet is not the completion of the French
or an embodiment of the ideal of a global transparency. But it does
local communities to global access and it creates new kinds of global
both on the basis of digital libraries, particularly in the fields of
culture, scientific research and economy but also, although not visible
at present, in various fields of everyday life.
1935 the Spanish philosopher José Ortega y Gasset spoke at the
library congress. He said that the contents of books need to be
and shared within a situation or a circunstancia as they contain
decontextualized propositions. In order to understand what they say the
reader must bring, as the theory of interpretation or hermeneutics
a pre-understanding. He writes (my translation):
writing by fixating a narrative is able to preserve only the words, not
the living intuitions that make up its meaning. The vital situation
which they have grown evaporates irremediably: time, in its constant
takes it up on the back. The book, preserving only the words, preserves
only the ash of real thinking. In order for it to be reborn and to live
further, the book is not enough. It is necessary that another human
reproduces in his (her) person the vital situation to which that
was an answer. Only then is it possible to say that the sentences of a
book have been understood and that the telling of the past has been
Plato says this when he states that only the thoughts of the book are
sons (‘huieis gnesíous’ Phaidr. 278 a) because only then
are they really thought and can recuperate their native evidence (‘enargés’).
But this is something that can be done only by someone who is following
the same track as the author (‘to tauton ichnos metiónti’
Phaidr. 276d) and who therefore has thought by himself before reading
book and knows its subject as well as its courses. If this is not done,
when one reads a lot and thinks little, the book is a terribly
device for the falsification of human life." (Ortega 1962, p. 88-89)
true with regard to both kinds of libraries, the paper and the digital
ones. Both need a living context of access as well as of
The public accessibility as I have been discussing it in this paper, is
a necessary but not a sufficient condition for the process of creative
reading and thinking. This is by no way a plea for traditionalist paper
thinking. Neither was it Ortega’s intention. In the Preface to the Diccionario
Enciclopédico Abreviado bearing the title The
("El libro-máquina"), Ortega writes in 1939 that human memory
be relieved on the basis of "book machines" or "cultural machines" ("máquinas
culturales"), but encyclopedias do not aspire any more to a global
(Greek: ‘enkyklos’) and definite knowledge. Knowledge is and will
fragmentary. This is not vulgar Postmodernism but it is Ortega’s
of the knowledge situation in the 20th century in contrast
the encyclopedic spirit of 18th century Enlightenment.
is not something we can master as a whole. Culture and wisdom are not a
key that would allow us to dominate chaos but are themselves "a forest
where we get lost". Ortega writes in 1939:
we want to or not, we have to manage our knowledge" (Ortega 1962, p.
basis of global knowledge accessibility, thinking is apparently easier
than it was with Gutenberg technology. The new kind of
digital globalism suggests, on the one hand, that with good retrieval
and a comfortable text processing system, the question of
i.e. the question of asking oneself what is the unspoken situation to
the text is a possible answer as well as the question of application,
the question of asking oneself what is the situational relevance of
knowledge resources become easier. This is not the case. Both practices
are not easier, they are different with regard to the problems of
and lack of intermediation.
There are some aspects of orality, like e-mail
interactivity, that are integrated in cyberspace on a global basis and
that can be connected to the services of digital libraries, in order to
help, for instance, with the interpretation of Don Quijote. We
differently since we have paper libraries and particularly public ones.
But, obviously, a new ethos of sharing digital knowledge and
is not something we can create with ethical imperatives. We should be
in the face of moral diversity and propose ethical indicatives i.e.
indicating possible alternatives, open to revision according to
kinds of arguments and situations. Declarations, like the ones of
should be followed by programs as well as by a continuing debate.
and digital libraries are not necessarily a uniform outcome of the
cultural program but they should be seen within a wide range of
for contamination with other media traditions. This is a big
challenge for design and use. The answer to it is a question of
as well as of interspace design. We should do this on the basis of the
World Information Ethos as expressed in the Universal
of Human Rights. But, as every written word, these rights need
and application. This is the task of information ethics. UNESCO has
an Observatory on the Information Society that might become a
source of practical critical appraisal in our field: together
with the Infoethics website.
her paper for the UNESCO Congress Nancy John, Vice-President of the
Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA) stressed two
critical roles of libraries in modern society: the access role and the
preservation role (John 1998). The preservation of local and global
heritage is indeed, together with the issue I have discussed, the
big ethical issue with regard to digital libraries. It is not my
now to present the opportunities and constraints of this medium with
to the responsibility of knowledge preservation for future generations.
I have made a small contribution to this subject at the international
conference Knowledge for the Future organized by the Institute
and History of Technology of the University of Cottbus (Capurro 1999
Kornwachs 1999). As my colleague Wolfgang von Keitz remarks, the
of long-term digital archiving should be stated and discussed,
it could become like the situation with nuclear energy and its lack of
social acceptance due to the unsolved question of waste management
question includes not only the preservation of paper heritage in paper
and/or digital form but the one of digital heritage as well. The last
was discussed at the seminar Convergence in the Digital Age:
for Libraries, Museums and Archives sponsored by the European
and a satellite event of the IFLA General conference 1998.
The challenge of archiving, restoration and communication practices in
the digital environment will be a major theme of the Joint Technical
(JTS) to be organized in the year 2000 by the International Federation
of Film Archives (FIAF), the International Federation of Television
(FIAT) and the International Association of Sound and Audiovisual
(IASA), three Non Governmental Organizations whose prime responsibility
is the preservation and restoration of original image and sound
Memory of the World Programme is an important
effort to solve this problem.
problems of digital libraries are of both a global and local nature.
are closely related to fundamental human rights and, at the same time,
they are of major influence at the local level. The question of
of access due to various kinds of constraints (economic, cultural,
is a major ethical and legal issue along with the question of knowledge
preservation and its transmission to future generations. In this paper
I have considered the question of access as a spatial problem
more precisely, as a problem of integrating cyberspace into life-space.
The ethical problems of cyberspace and, consequently, the ethical
of digital libraries concern the question of how to create a culture of
sharing and preserving digital knowledge. I call this kind of ethical
an ethics of care.
do we manage to bring digital libraries existentially close to people?
I have mentioned some possibilities of dealing with the challenge of
accessibility such as integrating digital libraries through community
and terminals set up in public spaces, particularly in public
There is, of course, the economic problem at the local level,
in the case of developing countries. International governmental and
organizations have a special responsibility in this regard. Digital
should be considered under the democratic premise of basic information
provision or "informationelle Grundversorgung" as we call it in German.
From this ethical perspective the question of interface design should
considered as a question of democratic interspace design. This means,
considering cyberspace in general and digital libraries in particular,
as belonging to people’s life-space. The management of information and
knowledge becomes an ethical imperative in a world of growing inequity
and, at the same time, of growing superabundance of digital information
and knowledge resources: 'Manage knowledge and information in order to
reduce inequity of access and support cultural diversity'.
to the cultural complexity of human life-spaces and media traditions,
imperative must be translated into ethical indicatives, i.e. into
for practice and research. It is not possible to decide a priori
how this medium for sharing knowledge can be integrated within existing
media environments, legal, economic and political constraints, and
milieus. We need various kinds of international digital and real forums
in order to further discuss the growing ethical and legal challenges of
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to Thomas J. Froehlich, Michael Eldred and Wolfgang von Keitz for
questions and necessary corrections.
update: January 7, 2014