Presentation at the Symposium "Future Perspectives in Shaping the Field of ICT&S (Information and Communication Technology & Society) Research and Teaching." University of Salzburg ICT&S Center, 25.6.2005.




Rafael Capurro


Having studied philosophy and done practical work in the ICT field for more than thirty years, my interests are on both sides.

As a theoretician I am devoted to questions related to the foundations of information science as well as to ethical theories in the ICT&S field.

As a practitioner I am interested in the impact of the internet particularly in the “Third World” as well as in intercultural questions of ICT&S. Information ethics is a primary topic of my research and teaching.

I do this research particularly within the framework of the International Center for Information Ethics (ICIE) a network that I created in 1999 and that includes now some 200 members world wide (

The activities of this network have grown in the last years. We edit an ICIE series at Fink Verlag Munich as well as an online journal, the International Review of Information Ethics (IRIE) (

In 2004 the ICIE organized an international symposium sponsored by VolkswagenStiftung (

My teaching at the Hochschule der Medien (HdM) ( in Stuttgart has mainly to do with information ethics as well as with intercultural aspects of the internet.

Selected Topics of Research and Teaching

The following topics on ICT&S reflect the focus of my research and teaching. They are by no means exhaustive.

Information Science

Different concepts of information pervade today many disciplines but there is no clear idea of how they are related and how an interdisciplinary information science that connects the natural sciences with modern information technology and society can be conceived.

See: Rafael Capurro, Birger Hjørland: The Concept of Information. 
In: Annual Review of Information Science and Technology (ARIST)  
Ed. Blaise Cronin, Vol. 37 (2003) Chapter 8,  343-411. 

In my view the concept of information is related but not identical to the concept of message. I have suggested to develop a  ‘message theory.’

At the societal level this theory should particularly devote itself to the analysis of postmodern societies conceived as message societies in which the process of message production, exchange, storage and retrieval has become a key social technology.

See: IRIE 1/2005 (Ethical Aspects of Search Engines)

This societal change on ICT basis makes a fundamental difference with regard to the hierarchical one-to-many structure of message distribution and consumption as the dominating paradigm of mass media societies in the 20th century.

Information Ethics

The ongoing discussions on the societal impact of ICT at the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) show clearly the importance of ethical reflection. Information ethics understood as an interdisciplinary field which includes questions of computer ethics, mass media, internet research and practice and ongoing applications such as ubiquitous computing and robotics deserves special attention of the academic community, and of ethic-political bodies such as national and international ethic committees as well as of NGOs.

Particular emphasis should be devoted to intercultural aspects of ICT&S within ethical theory and practice as well as to the impact of ICT in the “Third World.”

:: IRIE 2/2004
Proceedings of the ICIE Symposium "Localizing the Internet. Ethical Issues in Intercultural Perspective" (October 2004)

:: Rafael Capurro, Johannes Frühbauer, Thomas Hausmanninger (Eds.): Localizing the Internet. Ethical Issues in Intercultural Perspective. Schriftenreihe des ICIE Bd. 4, München: Fink Verlag (2005) (in preparation)


I would like to suggest that the ICT & S focuses its research and teaching activities having as framework the following question:

What does it mean for a society, a firm, a group... to exist within a digitally networked world?

This is a transdisciplinary question, i.e., it should be answered from different perspectives allowing not only an interdisciplinary but also an intercultural dialogue. 

The transdisciplinary character of the question may be addressed itself as a philosophical one which implies ontological, epistemological, anthropological and ethical dimensions.

Last update: June 30, 2005

Copyright © 2005 by Rafael Capurro, all rights reserved. This text may be used and shared in accordance with the fair-use provisions of U.S. and international copyright law, and it may be archived and redistributed in electronic form, provided that the author is notified and no fee is charged for access. Archiving, redistribution, or republication of this text on other terms, in any medium, requires the consent of the author. 

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