The normative structure of information and its communication

Publication Date04 May 2010
AuthorEdward Howlett Spence
SubjectInformation & knowledge management
The normative structure
of information and its
Edward Howlett Spence
Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics (CAPPE),
Charles Sturt University, Canberra, Australia
Department of Philosophy, University of Twente, Enschede,
The Netherlands and
3TU Ethics Centre for Ethics of Technology,
The Hague, The Netherlands
Purpose – Beginning with the initial premise that the internet has a global character, the purpose of
this paper is to argue that the normative evaluation of digital information on the internet necessitates
an evaluative model that is itself universal and global in character. To this end, the paper aims to
demonstrate and support a universal model for the normative evaluation of information on the
Design/methodology/approach – The design and application of a dual normative model of
information show how such a model commits all disseminators of information to universal
epistemological and ethical norms.
Findings – Based on the dual normative characterization of information, the paper demonstrates that
information and internet information specifically, have an inherent normative structure that commits
its disseminators to certain mandatory epistemological and ethical commitments; and that the
negligent or purposeful abuse of information in violation of those commitments is also a violation of
universal rights to freedom and wellbeing to which all agents are entitled by virtue of being agents,
and in particular informational agents.
Research limitations/implications – Owing to space constraints it is impractical to provide in
this paper a detailed account of how the argument for informational universal rights can deal with
other competing moral obligations.
Originality/value – The findings based on an innovative dual normative model of information
demonstrate and support the initial thesis of the paper, namely, that the dissemination of internet
information due to its global nature commits all informational agents to universal epistemological and
ethical principles.
Keywords Internet, Information media, Communication, Communicationtechnologies
Paper type Research paper
1. Introduction
The overall primary objective of this paper is to describe and propose a meta-ethical as
well as normative model for the theoretical and practical evaluation of the quality of
digital information on the internet. This model I shall argue must of necessity be
universal and objective in its mode of justification and motivation and global in its
reach. It has to be able to transcend cultural borders[1] so as to be able to objectively
evaluate the quality of information that is in its essence borderless and global.
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available at
Received 22 August 2008
Revised 28 March 2009
Accepted 1 June 2009
Journal of Information,
Communication & Ethics in Society
Vol. 8 No. 2, 2010
pp. 150-163
qEmerald Group Publishing Limited
DOI 10.1108/14779961011040569

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