Books  |  ,   |  December 10, 2015

Ethical IT Innovation: A Value-Based System Design Approach

Book by Sarah Spiekermann.
Published by Auerbach Publications.
257 pages.

Explaining how ubiquitous computing is rapidly changing our private and professional lives, Ethical IT Innovation: A Value-Based System Design Approach stands at the intersection of computer science, philosophy, and management and integrates theories and frameworks from all three domains.

The book explores the latest thinking on computer ethics, including the normative ethical theories currently shaping the debate over the good and bad consequences of technology. It begins by making the case as to why IT professionals, managers, and engineers must consider the ethical issues when designing IT systems, and then uses a recognized system development process model as the structural baseline for subsequent chapters.

For each system development phase, the author discusses: the ethical issues that must be considered, who must consider them, and how that thought process can be most productive. In this way, an ‘Ethical SDLC’ (System Development Life Cycle) is created.

The book presents an extensive case study that applies the “Ethical SDLC” to the example of privacy protection in RFID enabled environments. It explains how privacy can be built into systems and illustrates how ethical decisions can be consciously made at each stage of development. The final chapter revisits the old debate of engineers’ ethical accountability as well as the role of management.

Explaining the normative theories of computer ethics, the book explores the ethical accountability of developers as well as stakeholders. It also provides questions at the end of each chapter that examine the ethical dimensions of the various development activities.

  • Introduces the Ethical System Development Life Cycle
  • Explains normative theories of computer ethics
  • Explores the ethical accountability of developers and stakeholders
  • Contains questions at the end of each chapter that explore the ethical dimensions of development activities
  • Includes a detailed case study of the ethical design of a system using RFID

Table of Contents


  • How This Book Frames Computer Ethics
  • Ethical System Development Life Cycle (E-SDLC)
  • Value-Based IT Design: A Positive Message for IT Markets
  • Engineers, Managers, and “Ethical Machines”

IT Innovation

  • Human Growth and Eudemonia through IT
  • Human Nightmares Caused by IT and a Short Reflection on Good and Bad
  • End of IT Innovation Based on Functionality
  • Questioning “Function Hypes”
  • True Cost of Hype Cycles
  • Post-Function Hype: Catering to Higher Human Values
  • Values in IT Design
  • Necessity for Value-Based Design
  • Envisioning the Value of IT Services

Future IT Environments: Five Scenarios

  • Personas Used in the Scenarios
  • Scenario 1: Future of Gaming
  • Scenario 2: Future of Work
  • Scenario 3: Future of Retail
  • Scenario 4: Future of University Education
  • Scenario 5: Future of Robotics
  • IT Innovation Lying Ahead
  • Positive Potential Outcomes of IT Innovation
  • Negative Potential Outcomes of IT Innovation

Value Ethics and IT

  • An Introduction to Values
  • What Is a Value?
  • Intrinsic versus Extrinsic Values
  • Intrinsic Values in Philosophy and Psychology

Ethical Knowledge for Ethical IT Innovation

  • What Is Knowledge?
  • Ethical Challenges in IT-Driven Knowledge Creation
  • Ethical Challenges in Data Collection
  • Ethical Challenges in Information Aggregation and Knowledge Creation
  • Ethical Challenges for Accessing Knowledge
  • Ethical Uses of Information and Knowledge, a Privacy Issue
  • Summing Up: Ethical Knowledge Management

Preserving Freedom in Future IT Environments

  • Negative Liberty and Machines
  • Positive Liberty and Machines
  • Technology Paternalism and Controllability
  • Autonomy vis-à-vis Machines
  • Attention-Sensitive Machines
  • Summing Up: Freedom and Liberty in Future IT Environments

Health and Strength in the Machine Age

  • Direct Effect of Machines on Physical Health and Strength
  • Long-Term Effects of Machines on Physical Health and Strength
  • Direct Effects of Machines on Mental Health and Strength
  • Indirect Effect of Machines on Mental Health
  • Indirect Effect of Machines on Physical Health

Safety, Security, and Privacy in Future IT Environments

  • Safety versus Security
  • Safety, Cyberwar, and Cybercrime
  • Security Principles in Machine Engineering
  • Privacy and Surveillance

Trust in Future IT Environments

  • What Is Trust?
  • Distinguishing Trust from Confidence and Reliance
  • Trust Mechanisms in Machines
  • How Computer Scientists Understand Trust
  • Reputation Systems

Friendship in Future IT Environments

  • What Is Philia (Friendship)?
  • Machines as Mediator of Friendship
  • Shared Life and Learning in Virtual Worlds
  • Empathy in Virtual Worlds
  • Intimacy and Disinhibition in Online Environments
  • Intimacy with Artificial Beings
  • Final Thoughts on Friendship in Future IT Environments

Dignity and Respect in the Machine Age

  • Dignity and Respect
  • Respectful Machines
  • Polite Machines
  • Psychological Ownership in Future IT Environments
  • Self-Esteem through Open and Free Software
  • Influence of Patents and Copyrights on Human and Economic Growth
  • Outlook on Human “Doing”: Impact of Machines on Work

Privacy and a Summary of the Value Fabric

  • Privacy and Ethical Knowledge
  • Privacy and Freedom
  • Privacy Trade-Offs at All Levels of the Value Pyramid
  • Summing Up: Values in Future IT Environments

Ethical Value-Based IT System Design: An Overview

  • Management View on New Product Development
  • Engineering View on New IT Product Development
  • Computer Ethics and IT System Design
  • Value-Sensitive Design
  • Stakeholder Involvement in Ethical IT System Design

Value Discovery for IT Project Selection

  • Envisioning with Cards
  • Envisioning with Scenarios
  • Critical Information Systems and Reflective Design

Wise Leadership in the IT Project Selection Phase

  • Why Should Leaders Care About the Ethical Design of IT?
  • Why Many Executives Still Ignore Ethics
  • Tough Decisions for Wise Leaders
  • Utilitarian Reasoning
  • What Makes a Wise Leader?
  • Deontological Philosophical Reasoning
  • Rawls’s Theory of Justice and the Veil of Ignorance
  • Classical Virtue Ethics
  • Ethical Decision Making in the IT Selection Phase
  • Challenges for Leaders in the IT Selection Phase

Ethical IT Planning

  • Conceptual Value Analysis
  • Feasibility Analysis

Ethical IT System Analysis

  • Context Analysis
  • From Value Dams and Flows to Development Goals
  • Analyzing Ethical Priorities for System Design
  • Operationalizing Development Goals

Ethical IT System Design

  • Threat and Control Analysis
  • Modeling and Understanding System Design Alternatives
  • System Implementation

Machine Ethics and Value-Based IT Design

  • Explicit Ethical Agents
  • Full Ethical Agents?

About the Author

Sarah Spiekermann chairs the Institute for Management Information Systems at Vienna University of Economics and Business (WU Vienna). She is co-chair of IEEE’s first ever standard on ethics in IT design. In addition to this work, she has published almost a hundred scientific articles on the social and ethical implications of computer systems and given many presentations and talks about her work around the world. Her main research interest is electronic privacy, disclosure behavior and ethical system design.