Yes, but … our response to: “professional ethics in the information age”

Date13 November 2017
Published date13 November 2017
AuthorDonald Gotterbarn,Keith W. Miller
Yes, but ... our response to:
professional ethics in the
information age
Donald Gotterbarn
East Tennessee State University, Johnson City, Tennessee, USA, and
Keith W. Miller
University of Missouri, St. Louis, Missouri, USA
Purpose This short viewpoint is a responseto a lead paper on professional ethics in the information age.
This paper aims to draw upon the authorsexperience of professional bodies such as the ACM over many
years. Pointsof agreement and disagreement are highlighted with the aim of promoting widerdebate.
Design/methodology/approach An analysis of the lead paper is undertaken using a binary agree/
disagreeapproach. This highlights the conicting views which canthen be considered in more detail.
Findings Four major agreements and four major disagreementsare identied. There is an emphasis on
aculturalprofessionalismto promote moral behaviorrather than amoral behavior.
Originality/value This is an original viewpointwhich draws from the authorspractical experienceand
Keywords Culture, Globalization, Computer ethics, Professionalism, Codes of ethics
Paper type Viewpoint
As we read Professional Ethics in the Information Age, we found ourselves nodding in
agreement with many of the ideas expressed.However, there were several places where the
nodding agreement suddenly transformed into a desire to object. In this short response, we
will identify four important agreements and a matching disagreement for each agreement.
Each agreement and disagreementis labeled with a quote from the article. We conclude our
comments with a recommendation.
Agreement #1: [...] professionsare dened in terms of shared values and projects.
Both in general and for specic professions, virtues and virtue ethics offer important
insights. Citing Volkman (2013), the author mentions shared values and projects. For
example, for information and communication technology (ICT) professionals, surely
honestyis highly valued, both within the profession itself and in interactions between
professionals and the outside world. We agree that identifying such values, and
explaining why they are vital to ethical practice, are both necessary emphases in
encouraging professionalismin ICT.
Disagreement #1: There have been many,failed, attempts at creating a global ICT code
of professional conduct.
There have been attempts, but we disagreethat all of them should be labeled as failures.
The author at rst seems convinced of the signicance of sharedvalues within a profession,
but seems to abandon this enthusiasmlater in the article when faced with the challenges of
rapid technological change and of cultural diversity. Despite IFIPs lack of enthusiasm for
attempting a code for its members, many organizations have attempted such things. And
ethics in the
Received23 February 2017
Revised23 February 2017
Accepted23 February 2017
Journalof Information,
Communicationand Ethics in
Vol.15 No. 4, 2017
pp. 357-361
© Emerald Publishing Limited
DOI 10.1108/JICES-02-2017-0015
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