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Technoethics and the Evolving Knowledge Society: Ethical Issues in Technological Design, Research, Development, and Innovation

Technoethics and the Evolving Knowledge Society: Ethical Issues in Technological Design, Research, Development, and Innovation
Author(s)/Editor(s): Rocci Luppicini (University of Ottawa, Canada)
Copyright: ©2010
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-952-6
ISBN13: 9781605669526
ISBN10: 1605669520
EISBN13: 9781605669533



Recently, there has been a major push to rediscover the ethical dimension of technology across the sciences, social sciences, and humanities.

Technoethics and the Evolving Knowledge Society: Ethical Issues in Technological Design, Research, Development, and Innovation examines human processes and practices connected to technology embedded within social, political, and moral spheres of life. This innovative publication engages readers in critical debates connected to the ethical dimensions of a technological society through insightful examinations, theories, and research findings not covered by any other text to date.



The purpose of Technoethics in an Evolving Knowledge Society is to introduce the reader to the key concepts and issues that comprise the emerging field of Technoethics. Following from the Handbook of Research on Technoethics, the term “Technoethics” is used in this book to define the interdisciplinary field concerned with all ethical aspects of technology within a society shaped by technology. It deals with human processes and practices connected to technology which are becoming embedded within social, political, and moral spheres of life. It also examines social policies and interventions occurring in response to issues generated by technology development and use. This includes critical debates on the responsible use of technology for advancing human interests in society. To this end, it attempts to provide conceptual grounding to clarify the role of technology in relation to those affected by it and to help guide ethical problem-solving and decision making in areas of activity that rely on technology (Luppicini, 2008).

Regarding the scope of the field, Technoethics, denotes a broad range of ethical issues revolving around technology—from specific areas of focus affecting professionals working with technology to broader social, ethical, and legal issues concerning the role of technology in society and everyday life. Specific areas of focus connected to Technoethics form the following branches: Computer and Engineering Ethics, Educational Technoethics, Information and Communication Technoethics, Technoethics and Society, Technoethics and Cognition, and Biotech Ethics. Broader issues concerning social, ethical, and legal implications role of technology are addressed under topic areas such as intellectual property, legal rights and responsibilities, codes of conduct, digital divide, access, privacy issues, ethical dilemmas, free speech, criminal activities, security, regulations, policy planning, equity, risk management, etc. Because of the interdisciplinary nature of Technoethics, this book attempts to integrate the core topics of interest concerning ethics and technology into a comprehensive whole.


This book is about Technoethics. The overall goal of the book is to provide theoretical and practical explanations of how to use Technoethics in technology design, development, research, innovation, and application. It focuses on technoethical inquiry within multiple disciplines and fields by To this end, the objectives are threefold: (1) provide readers with a comprehensive overview of key developments and guiding principles driving the field of Technoethics to inform technoethical inquiry, (2) to delve into core niche areas of Technoethics derived from multiple fields and disciplines where social and ethical aspects of technology are of concern, and (3) to advance theoretical perspectives and model to help guide technoethical decision-making within a technologically advances knowledge society. Given the rapid growth of technology in society, this book provides an invaluable set of tools to deal with a broad range of ‘new’ ethical concerns possible within a knowledge society defined by technological progress and human innovation.


The transforming power of science and technology within the evolving knowledge society is linked to growing ethical problems Moor’s Law asserts that ethical problems in society increase as the influence technology increases (Moor, 2005, pg. 117). Moor argued that the rise of powerful technologies provides new opportunities for action which require the development of well thought out ethical policies. In this sense, the study of technology has a double importance because it is both a major catalyst in the evolving knowledge society and an intricate part of societal development affected by social and ethical values. This places the field of Technoethics and the various forms of technoethical inquiry at the nexus of progress within the evolving knowledge society.

Because technology has such a massive influence on human life, it is crucial to understand the relevant ethical questions in early stages in scientific and technological developments. This book serves a vital function in helping to offer explanations and engage the reader in critical debates connected to the ethical dimensions of technology in society. It helps readers from multiple fields and disciplines engage with ethical dilemmas posing serious challenges for researchers and practitioners affected by technology.

This is book dedicated to the study of technology and ethics. There is a growing demand for such a text to help guide technology designers, information specialists, researchers, engineers, managers, and administrators in areas where social concern over technology is highlighted. Current research and theory in Technoethics is useful for assessing the ethical use of technology, guarding against the misuse of technology, and formulating common principles to guide new advances in technological development and application to benefit society. To this end, Technoethics is important and indispensable aspect of technological development that helps to clarify its role in meeting the demands of those affected by it.

In terms of intended audience, this book is written for undergraduate and graduate level students in social and technical studies, along with researchers and other professionals working in the field of Technoethics. The combination of pertinent theoretical/philosophical perspectives, comprehensive reviews of core literature, and practical tools (I.e., technology assessment and design strategies) discussed in this book provide a balanced reading on contemporary work on ethics of technology for technical students and students studying ethics and technology within the social sciences. The addition of selected case studies at the end of this book will be of particular interest to students and researchers interested in conducting research in the field of Technoethics. These case oriented chapters offer the reader relevant studies of selected topic areas on ethics and technology which go beyond the literature review aspect and offer some direction on technoethical inquiry to guide current and future work. Moreover, the appendices include several interviews from leading experts working in controversial areas of technology and ethics. This will be of special interest to technology experts and other professionals working closely with new technologies. It is hoped that all readers will gain a thorough understanding of the scope and importance of ethics and technology in society which drives the field of Technoethics.


This book is organized into five parts with a total of fourteen chapters. The five parts help to organize the book into logical areas of focus. Section I, Introduction to the Knowledge Society and Technoethics, introduces the reader to the conceptualization of the knowledge society with an emphasis on technology and ethical considerations entrenched within human activity and culture at its core. Section II, Historical and Conceptual Framing of Technoethics, provides key theoretical and historical grounding for Technoethics. It traces out the multiple knowledge bases which helped shape Technoethics today. Section III, Applied Technoethics and its Deployment, provides chapters dealing with Technoethics in core areas of work, life, and society affected by new technology. Section IV, Globalization and Technoethics, provides sample studies in selected areas to help demonstrate how Technoethics is currently being applied . Finally, Section V, Future Trends - Shaping The Future of Technoethics, provides a look ahead at selected challenges and opportunities for advancing Technoethics and the ethical use of technology in society.

The chapters are arranged within each part of the book to provide readers with essential background information before engaging in specific issues in Technoethics. Given the converging trends in many areas of technology (I.e., computing, information sciences, communications) some repetition that flows from chapter to chapter is unavoidable. However, the book attempts to minimize repetition and focus on areas of Technoethics that are the most relevant to students in social and technical studies. The specific focus of each chapter is as follows:

  • Chapter I provides an overview of the knowledge society with an emphasis on the role of technology in today’s knowledge society marked by powerful technologies that reshape the economy, culture, politics, laws, and ways of living. It provides a review of key developments driving the knowledge society while attempting to demonstrate how technology is interwoven within the context of societal changes that highlight the centrality of technology and knowledge building in work and life.

  • Chapter II connects the field of Technoethics with its philosophical and historical context. It sketches out the rise of Applied Ethics which brought philosophical inquiry into the realm of real world human practices and the pursuit of science and technology. It then reviews pivotal work from the Philosophy of Technology and technocritical writings to demonstrate how scholars were became more aware of the need to connect technological development to human social and ethical entrenched in how people live, work, and play. This placed ethical questions related to technology on new ground requiring special status, which led to the emergence of Technoethics.

  • Chapter III explains technological consciousness and moral agency (human and artificial). To this end, it discusses the conceptualization of technology that has become narrowed through recent conceptualizations of the term. In doing so, it presents a more comprehensive view of technology deeply entrenched in human history, society, and mind. In doing so, it attempts to expel common myths about technology and consciousness to provide more suitable base for scholarly inquiry and debate in technology studies and its ethical aspects. In addition, it discusses moral agency and the possibility of artificial moral agency.

  • Chapter IV frames technoethical inquiry as a social systems theory and methodology. It explains how systems methodology provides powerful tools to help integrate interdisciplinary expertise (and experts) and deal with competing values and ethical issues connected to the actual and potential influences of technology in society. The chapter applies principles of technoethical inquiry to applications in technology assessment and technology design in an effort to highlight the practical’s implications of adapting Technoethics.

  • Chapter V discusses the nature of technological systems in society and how the success of technoethical inquiry depends, in part, on appreciating the multi-faceted nature created of a technological system at different levels of technological system operations. It does so by providing a comprehensive overview of key concepts and guiding principles driving the field of Technoethics to inform technoethical inquiry. The chapter also provided a breakdown of core branches of Technoethics, namely, Computer and Engineering Technoethics, Technoethics and cognition, Information and Communication Technoethics, Educational Technoethics, Biotech Ethics, and Technoethics and Society.

  • Chapter VI deals with the emergence of Information and Communication Technoethics as an interdisciplinary research that focuses on ethical and social aspects of advancing information and commu¬nication technologies in all areas of life and society. It begins with a background sketch of Information and Communication Technoethics rooted in technological developments in contemporary society, along with key academic developments within information ethics, technology studies, interdisciplinary studies, and philosophy. Then, it reviews current work on ethical aspects of information and communication technology that increasingly mediates important aspects of how individuals live and interact.

  • Chapter VII explores Biotech Ethics and reviews key technoethical speciality areas guiding the ethical use of technology within the context of modern healthcare and medicine. By examining key developments, public concerns, and the role of ethics committees, this chapter provides information on key areas of concern and possible applications. By drawing on a technoethical framework, this chapter makes suggestions to help protect the public while guiding new developments in biotechnology that ensure mutual benefit-sharing.

  • Chapter VIII discusses key developments in Engineering and Computer Ethics. It focuses on the establishment of various engineering professional bodies to ensure that engineers were responsible for potentially harmful constructions and the subsequent creation of codes of engineering ethics to help guide professional conduct. It explores major industrial developments in the 20th century and the rise of ethical implications and demand for improved codes of ethics in response to controversial technological practices (E.g., human caused environmental disasters, military weapons, nanotechnology advances, etc.)

  • Chapter IX dealswith Educational Technoethics as an important branch of technoethics dedicated to social and ethical aspects of technology within traditional educational settings as well as professional educational contexts. The chapter discusses general educational aspects (concerned with ethical use of technology to promote the aims of education) and professional aspects (a specialized area focusing on the development and evaluation of ethical codes and standards) to guide decision-making and training about technology in education and professional life.

  • Chapter X introduced Technoethics and Society as an important area of inquiry focused on the ethical use of technology to promote the aims of individuals, organizations, and global development trends. It provides a spotlight on technology within a global context of human activity shaped by a variety of interconnected influences. In articulating global technoethics, this chapter places technology and human activity at the core of globalization.

  • Chapter XI is a case oriented chapter which presents a research study exploring the abuse of electronic technologies in the workplace and use of counter measure electronic technologies within organizations. Findings highlighted how many students entering the workforce openly admitted to electronic technology abuse at work and did not believe there to be an ethical problem unless it interferes with work productivity. This view was supported by research scholarship on increasing technological convergence within contemporary culture and the presence of social values which link power and prestige to technology connectedness and constant information access. Findings suggest that an ethical dilemma created by the conflict of ethical beliefs and social norms with organization rules and regulations prohibiting personal electronic technology use in the workplace.

  • Chapter XII is another case oriented chapter which presents a case study of ICT development in South Africa. The case explores how technoethical considerations are intertwined with historical, political, and social factors that have impeded progress in ICT development initiatives. The chapter argues that globalization efforts in areas where technology and ethical considerations are key must invest greater attention to developing multidimensional theoretical frameworks such as technoethical models to help explain key drivers, processes, players, and consequences of globalization.

  • Chapter XIII is a case oriented chapter which focuses on the cultural tensions that arise when a technology rich culture threaten the sustainability of a technology poor culture. A technoethical study of cultural tensions between aboriginal people and dominent French and English Canadian populations. This study explores how technoethical considerations are intertwined with historical, political, and social factors that have threatened the sustainability of aboriginal culture in Canada. Findings suggest that more attention must be invested to ensure that that globalization efforts by technology rich dominant cultures do not lead to the demise of technology poor marginalized cultures.

  • Chapter XIV culminates the book with an epilogue discussing the new world of technoethics and the challenges of creating and managing scientific and technological knowledge for an evolving knowledge society

    Given the rapid growth of technology book provided a glimpse at the latest developments in Technoethics to deal with a broad range of ‘new’ technology advances possible The fourteen chapters delve into the broad array of technoethical concerns faced by individuals within an evolving knowledge society. As an added resource, several invited experts in Technoethics from around the globe were interviewed to provide insider information on key challenges and opportunities in a variety of areas where new technologies are debated. These interviews, which can be found in the appendices of this book, are intended to provide useful insight into what works and what does not work when dealing with controversial technology.

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    Reviews and Testimonials

    This book serves a vital function in helping to offer explanations and engage the reader in critical debates connected to the ethical dimensions of technology in society. It helps readers from multiple fields and disciplines engage with ethical dilemmas posing serious challenges for researchers and practitioners affected by technology.

    – Rocci Luppicini, University of Ottawa, Canada

    Author's/Editor's Biography

    Rocci Luppicini
    Rocci Luppicini is the Immediate Past Director (Arts), Tri-Faculty Graduate E-Business Technologies (EBT) Program and an Associate Professor in the Department of Communication at the University of Ottawa, Canada. He is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of the International Journal of Technoethics(2010-2020) and a leading expert in Technology Studies (TS) and Technoethics. Main research areas include: Ethical dilemmas with new technology (media ethics, cybercrime, hacking, cyber espionage, cyberbullying), Digital Transformation (digital aesthetics, online communities, technofeminism, social media, e-trust, social responsibility), Identity and Technology (human-computer interaction, e-identity management, human enhancement, post-human society, social robotics, cyberculture), Educational Technology (program planning and development, distance education, blended education, instructional design, technology integration) and Organizational Studies (systems theory, virtual organizations, organizational communications, organizational change, socio-technical change).


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