Handbook of Critical Information Systems Research
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Handbook of Critical Information Systems Research

Theory and Application

Edited by Debra Howcroft and Eileen M. Trauth

This important Handbook provides a unique overview of information systems (IS) research by focusing on the increasing interest in critical-related issues.
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Chapter 6: Against Rules: The Ethical Turn in Information Systems

Alison Adam


Alison Adam Introduction This chapter offers a discussion of an important issue relating to the separation of information systems (IS) and information or computer ethics, namely the implications for the development of the nascent discipline of critical IS and the question of whether it is possible to develop a critical IS ethics to bridge the gap between IS and computer ethics. In this discussion, the argument against rule-focused ethics, and their encapsulation in professional codes of ethics, is paramount in developing a more situated, phenomenological approach towards ethics for critical IS. Both information systems and computer ethics are young disciplines which address the social and ethical contexts of IS, information and communication technologies. Given such a large overlap of interest it is perhaps surprising that the two disciplines have grown up quite so separately. Walsham (1996) notes that while papers in IS journals often mention ethical issues, they rarely focus on such topics in terms of explicit ethical concepts and systems of ethics, nor do they tend to cite computer ethics research overtly, although there are some attempts to integrate ethical reasoning into systems methodologies. Similarly, computer ethics research does not often cite mainstream IS research. Some of the reasons for this split may reside in the way that computer ethics arose separately from IS, where the former has more links to philosophy, the latter to management and organizational studies. Whatever the reasons, a number of implications follow from this apparent separation. Importantly, it is difficult to see how...

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