Call for Papers on "Information and Communication Technology for Sustainability and Ethics: Cross-national Comparative Studies"

Please select “Yes” for the question “Is this manuscript intended for a special feature?” and then select the special feature “ICT for Sustainability and Ethics” during the submission stage.

Guest Editors: Hiroshi Koga (Kansai University), Thomas Taro Lennerfors (Uppsala University) and Kiyoshi Murata (Meiji University)

30 June 31 August 2020: Submission deadline
July – August 2020: Review and revision of papers submitted
September – December 2020: Review and minor revision of revised paper submitted
January 2021: First proof received and proofreading
April 2021: Special issue publication

For the last decades, people's lives, public and private organizations, and societies have been increasingly intertwined with developments in information and communication technologies (ICT). From the early beginnings of ICT, as is shown in the 2011 BBC documentary All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace, there were positive visions embedded in ICT that human beings would be able to relate to each other in an ethical way and lead environmentally sustainable lives. ICT could assist democracy, equal treatment, access to resources, and not the least it could help us plan for a resource-efficient society.

Today, the view of ICT is more nuanced. ICT is seen as a perfectly malleable, in other words multi-purpose technology (Moor 1985; Imamichi 2009), which can be used to promote positive values (democracy, equal treatment etc), as well as support less socially accepted values (crime, digital divide, environmental pollution). Thus, since the 1980s there is a lively debate about ICT development and usage, where ICT is assessed from an ethical perspective and where it is discussed how we can make more ethical ICT. A current debate concerns whether ICT should be as transparent as possible, in other words promote the autonomy and decision-making capacities of the user, or whether it should nudge users into socially accepted behaviours. Furthermore, since the 2000s, peripheral questions about the environmental sustainability of ICT have become more central, since the energy consumption of ICT is significant and that the waste flow of ICT equipment is hazardous and growing. Most of the research within sustainable ICT is technical, while there are exceptions. The recent advancement of ICT centred on big data, Internet of Things, robotics and Artificial Intelligence has compelled us to reconsider the meaning of human existence, autonomy, freedom and dignity.

However, what is shared amongst the state-of-the-art research in the ethics and sustainability of ICT is that it is often abstracted from the particular characteristics of the countries in which the studies are conducted. Moreover, there is often a tacit presumption that ICT will be implemented in a “Western” country, sharing Greco-Roman and Judaeo-Christian traditions. There are certainly exceptions, for example Murata’s studies on attitudes towards Edward Snowden, which compared youngsters’ attitudes towards privacy and surveillance in eight countries (Murata, Adams and Palma 2017, Murata, Fukuta, Orito and Adams 2017, Murata, Fukuta, Adams and Ronghua 2017), and Murayama, Lennerfors and Murata (2010) which compared peer-to-peer software usage in Japan and Sweden. Furthermore, Fors and Lennerfors (2013) and Majima, Udagawa, Yotsumoto and Lennerfors (2017) studied the way (environmentally) Sustainable ICT has been interpreted in Sweden and Japan respectively, and comparing those two papers, the interpretations are markedly different. For example, Sustainable ICT was in Japan primarily constructed as an energy-saving technology, while in Sweden there was also discussions about ethical and environmentally sustainable manufacturing and disposal of ICT.

The purpose of this special issue is to increase the knowledge of cross-national differences between a variety of countries with a central focus on ethical and sustainability aspects of ICT. The basis for comparison could focus on cultural differences between countries, both concerning philosophical and ethical traditions, but also focusing on the current cultural, empirical context. We also invite papers who pay attention to differences concerning other contextual factors such as political institutions industrial and organizational structure and social systems.

The special issue is open to comparisons between any countries, within the broad topic of ICT for Sustainability and Ethics. For inspiration, a list of potential topics is provided:

  • The resource-efficient sharing economy: What are the ethical challenges of sharing ecomony, circular economy, gig economy, or platform economy applications and how are they resolved?
  • The development and use of ethical ICT applications: How is software that promotes ethical and sustainable behaviour developed? Are gamification, nudging and nagging useful for this purpose? How are such applications used in different countries?
  • Robot and AI ethics: Ethical issues occurring between robots and humans, for example whether they are a threat to humanity, and if they should be designed to follow human ethical rules, or autonomously learn ethics.
  • Virtual currencies: Ethical issues of virtual currencies, cryptocurrencies, for example the risk of money laundering, tax evasion, purchases of illegal goods, and the risk of hacking into virtual wallets.
  • Augmented realities, virtual realities in the experience economy: Ethical issues concerning attention- and experience-based applications. How they function, how they are used and experienced in different countries?
  • Theoretical foundations: What is the base for a cross-national study of ICT for ethics and sustainability? Theories of culture, for example, provides a good perspective.

References

Imamichi, T. (2009). An Introduction of Eco-ethica. University Press of America, Lanham, MD.
Moor, J. H. (1985). What Is Computer Ethics? Metaphilosophy, 16(4), 266-275.