II. INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY AS AN ETHICAL CHALLENGE
we ensure that the benefits of information technology are not only
equitably, but that they can also be used by the people to shape their
own lives? The first part of the question refers to legal and
aspects. The second part goes further, and asks not only for living
but also for living forms. All three aspects include questions of
power and desire, that is, they include individual and social options
these questions (Capurro 1992a). Under these premises we can ask How
we ensure that institutional, normative and "life-forming" options
open? My answer is that a legal control of information technology is
enough, but that these normative aspects should rest not only on a
but also on a "self-oriented" morality.
distinction between code-oriented and self-oriented morality does not
a contradiction between moral rules on the one hand and individual
on the other. It stresses, on the contrary, their complementarity. In
to become moral subjects, it is not enough to have a code of ethics and
to act according to it. There is another aspect concerning the
options through which we can put rules into practice within the context
of our personal lives and within the cultural and historical context of
different kinds of communities. In this case we are not simply agents
we become, as individuals and as communities, moral subjects of our
are not an unchangeable "I" or "we," but an intersection
choices in a process of becoming, individually and socially, ourselves
within a field of linguistic and institutional practices [Dreyfus and
1983]. The "self" is not the abstract subject invented by
theories but a dynamic intersection of traditions and life projects
which individual and social identity is permanently created and
But the ethical quest for authenticity is not only a process through
we become different by mutually recognizing our differences. It means,
more radically, to be interpellated by the other, "face to face," as
Lévinas (1961) says, particularly by the have-nots. The quest
our "selves" is ethically preceded by the questioning through the
and the care of the self would be completely misunderstood if it were
interpreted as the intersection where we take care of our mutual
in the face of anonymous rules, practices, and institutions.
this basis we can ask once again: How can we ensure that the benefits
information technologies are not only distributed equitably, but that
can also be used by people to shape their own lives? At the
level, this may be done not only through "National and Regional
for Information Democracy" as Ronald Doctor (1991) suggests, but also
global activities such as an International Institute for Information
Institutions and codes of morality are indeed a necessary condition for
the construction of social reality (Dahlbom 1991).
both should be
to our possibilities of questioning them. Otherwise they may become an
instrument of oppression. In other words, it is through institutions as
well as through moral and legal codes that we can ensure the right to
and to work for more equitable distribution in order to bridge the
gap between the "information poor" and the "information rich." But this
can degenerate into a purely bureaucratic process if we do not insert
institutional and code-oriented activities in the framework of
of the self. This is not a plea for anarchy as it does not negate the
and necessity of norms and institutions, but it is a plea for ethical
of the uniqueness of our individual and social being.
I have suggested (Capurro, 1990) that we need something like an
ecology" in order to cope with the disastrous impact of information
on individuals and society such us:
gap between the "information rich" and the "information poor"
colonialization of the life-world
alienation of groups inside societies as well as of societies (and
of societies) as a whole
control of information resources.
be a misunderstanding to interpret the ecology metaphor as an intent to
apply categories of nature to the social field. We dwell ("oikos" =
originally (but not identically) in language as well as in nature. The
impact of information technology on our "logos" is at least as
as the impact of our technological "logos" on nature.
computer scientist Christiane Floyd (1992a) has suggested that in order
to assume ethical responsibility, scientists and engineers have to
silence, i.e., they have to speak in public about values. She
an "authority-mode" with an "authenticity-mode" of dealing with values.
Whereas the former is based on hierarchy, authority, law, universality,
command, obedience, and control, the latter encompasses networks,
situatedness, invitation, commitment, and mutual support. Floyd
what she calls a "healing vision" based on the following concepts:
which presupposes self-limitation; variety, which presupposes respect;
relatedness, which aims at reconciliation; and balance, which she
with the healing attitude of care. This paradigm shift from the
to the authenticity-mode is very similar to Foucault's distinction
code-oriented and self-oriented morality. I think it would be wrong to
interpret this distinction as a disjunction.
understood as the
of living is not an alternative to universalistic code-oriented
It takes up the classical question of goals of practice again and
moral questions within different life projects. It is not a
but a deliberative ethics (Krämer, 1992). It is a challenge to
society to be able to see information as belonging to the heart of an
as an essential part of the deliberative process of human practical
and of the creative process of human imagination. I believe that it is
therefore possible and sensible to develop an information science as a
rhetorical discipline, with ethical, aesthetic and political aspects as
basic parameters (Capurro 1992).
we conceive information society as a deliberative and an imaginative
where the practice of advising and consulting plays a key role, as
indeed be the case in democracies, information networks could become
artificial marketplace for different kinds of deliberation, dissent and
advice, according to the insight that "in designing tools we are
ways of being" (Winograd and Flores 1986 p. xi). We have to learn not
to store, retrieve, and manage information but to become aware that
we primary do is to handle with biased knowledge, i.e., that
basic ability in an information society should be a hermeneutical one,
which includes such critical arts as interpretation, aesthetic or
design, and responsibility towards our lives. In other words, we need
technology and technologies of the self: the art of friendship, the art
choosing, the art of silence and the art of laughter. Let us try to
about these technologies of the self and about information
Art of Friendship in the Face of Power.
a "healing vision," information technology should be questioned insofar
as structures of power and oppression do not allow its transformation
people who try to help themselves and to help each other in shaping
lives. This transformation means a radical change of perspective:
technology is not just the subject that transforms us and our world,
at the same time, we have to incorporate it within different projects
saving and promoting the variety of life on this planet (Capurro,
We have been developing modern technology under the banner of mastery.
Nature is giving us a last chance to do it under the banner of
Hans Jonas (1984) has shown that we cannot limit friendship to our
world but have to extend it to the generations to come.
Art of Choosing in the Face of Oppression.
technology gives us means for reality construction, but it would be
if we did not make our choices dialogically, that is, through awareness
of and respect of people and other living beings. As Christiane Floyd
writes, "An important aspect of computer science is that it deals with creating
reality: the technical reality of the programs
on the computer, and the conditions for the human reality which unfolds
around the computer in use. Therefore, the conceptual categories 'true'
and 'false' it relies on are not sufficient in themselves. We have to
beyond them by finding categories for expressing the felicity of
choices, for distinguishing 'more or less desirable' as we proceed
in making distinctions and decisions in communal design processes. This
is essential for dealing with quality in software development and use"
Art of Silence in the Face of Verbosity.
technology is a loquacious technology. We have to learn the art of
in order to hear what others say and have to say and to be able to
the art of taboo-silence issuing from the old paradigm of value-free
and technology. We need a universal ethical "logos" for coexistence in
a common world. But this "logos" may remain monologic when it takes the
technological shape of mass media. We have to learn to hear the
between the "logoi" and to respect them. And we have to learn to hear
silent dimensions, namely finitude and suffering. To learn the art of
means, on the one hand, to learn to confront ourselves with
nothingness, i.e., with this nothingness we call our existence
and, on the other hand, to feel responsible for the suffering of
particularly when they are just a picture on the TV-screen.
Art of Laughter in the Face of Fear.
possesses some of the characteristics of religious belief. In his
novel The Name of the Rose, Umberto Eco has shown that the art
laughter is a dangerous art for all dogmatic beliefs. Just as there are
many senses of silence, there are also many kinds of laughter. I am
now to a kind of laughter as an expression of insight into the basic
of all our technological projects. In Antiquity, laughter was
a sign of madness as well as wisdom. The art of laughter means our
to question our personal and social identity.
is a sign of our
or social openness for what we are not, or for what we do not
for the Other. This gives us an opportunity to question our values from
a not just "political" but also "poli-ethical" perspective (Capurro,
An "ethics of care", as Thomas Froehlich (1991, p. 299) remarks, cannot
be blind to the individuality and contextuality of problems and needs,
by using Rawls' technique of a "veil of ignorance". To care is, of
not the same thing as to be fair (Rawls 1971). We should make sure that
the practices of information become part of the practices of
advising, and dissenting; they should become part of our
so that they do not give rise to a new form of power, which strengthens
the discourse of the panopticon into a super-panopticon (Poster, 1990).
tried to show that the impact of information technology on society can
be transformed through the ethical perspective of technologies of the
The "self" is not the "ego" but the intersection of natural and
dimensions through which we shape our identities, I mean, our
I call our being aware of the relationships between man, world and
technology, i.e., being aware of the fallacies of humanism,
naturalism and technicism,
"care of the
self" is synthetic thinking in the
sense that we positively acknowledge our mutual dependencies:
of man on nature and technology, of technology on nature and man, and
nature on man and technology. How can we ensure that the benefits of
technology are not only distributed equitably, but that they can also
used by people to shape their own lives? I think that the technologies
of the self are an essential part of the answer to this question.