PP - Rafael Capurro

Shapes of Human Interplay
in the Digital Age
Rafael Capurro
International Center for Information Ethics (ICIE)
Tehran University, 29th of September 2014
The following presentation is based on the
text of a keynote at the International
Symposium on Philosophy of Library and
Information Science: Ethics: Theory and
Practice, Kastamonu, Turkey, September
3, 2014.
The full text is available at:
Capurro: Shapes of Freedom
UNESCO report “Renewing the
Knowledge Societies Vision for Peace and
Sustainable Development” (Mansell and
Trembley, 2013
Capurro: Shapes of Freedom
The conceptual difference between
information understood as “signals
measured in bits and their interpretation
upon which knowledge is built, has social
and political consequences.
Capurro: Shapes of Freedom
A knowledge society cannot be reduced to
the creation of a technological
infrastructure but implies learning
processes ingrained in specific cultural
contexts aiming at creating inclusive
societies based on equality of opportunity
as well as on a balance between a
commercial and community oriented
Capurro: Shapes of Freedom
“Tragedy of the commons” (James Garret
Hardin, 1915-2003): excessive and
negative use of a common good
(communty model)
„Tragedy of the anti-commons“ (Michael
Heller): blocking creativity via intellectual
property measures (commercial model)
Capurro: Shapes of Freedom
‘knowledge and information societies’: The
plural form is a mark of human freedom.
Capurro: Shapes of Freedom
On Ethics and Information Ethics
Ethics as a philosophical discipline
achieves a culmination in the Western
tradition – after a complex evolution in the
so-called Presocratics as well as in Plato,
the Sophists, and the Stoa to mention just
a few ‘schools’ of thought – in Aristotle’s
practical philosophy (philosophia praktiké)
Capurro: Shapes of Freedom
On Ethics and Information Ethics
that includes
ethics (ethiké) as a reflection on the moulding
or ‘in-forming’ the individual character (ethos)
economics (oikonomiké), i.e. everything related
with the rules of good life (eu zen) within the
family (oikos),
and politics (politiké) as a reflexion about the
rules of the city-state (polis).
Capurro: Shapes of Freedom
On Ethics and Information Ethics
The difference between ethics or practical
philosophy and morality or social customs
and values is crucial because it allows us
to problematize a given implicit or explicit
morality that includes, as Michel Foucault
remarked, all possible forms of selfconception as a subject in a society.
Capurro: Shapes of Freedom
On Ethics and Information Ethics
 Information ethics deals with norms and values
at stake in information and knowledge societies
dealing, for instance, with ethical issues of
the Internet (cyberethics; information ethics in a
narrower sense),
computer science (computer ethics),
 biological and medical sciences (bioinformation ethics),
mass media (media ethics)
 library and information science field (library ethics)
 business field (business information ethics)
Capurro: Shapes of Freedom
On Ethics and Information Ethics
 IE as a descriptive and emancipatory theory
 Information ethics understood as a problematization of
norms and values on which communicational processes
are based has a long tradition whose origins go back, in
the Western tradition, to, for instance, the Platonic
criticism of writing with regard to oral speech (logos).
 They culminate in the past century with the critical
discourse about the “Gutenberg Galaxy” (McLuhan) and
the cyberspace by authors such as Marshall McLuhan,
Walter Ong and Vilém Flusser. I
Capurro: Shapes of Freedom
II. Ethical Issues of Information and
Knowledge Societies in the Digital Age
Information and communication
professionals have dealt for centuries with
the task of social regulation not only as
they created systems and instruments for
the classification, storage and retrieval of
knowledge based on different media.
Capurro: Shapes of Freedom
II. Ethical Issues of Information and
Knowledge Societies in the Digital Age
Our actions in the cyberworld are subject
to digital codes that influence also our life
in the physical world in such a way that
who has only a limited access to the
cyberworld experiences such limits
negatively in her daily life.
Capurro: Shapes of Freedom
II. Ethical Issues of Information and
Knowledge Societies in the Digital Age
The cyberworld hybridizes with cultures
and different individual and social ways of
living. We are at the beginning of an
interdisciplinary and intercultural reflection
dealing with digital information and
communication from the perspectives of
practical philosophy, political science,
sociology, jurisprudence and cultural
Capurro: Shapes of Freedom
II. Ethical Issues of Information and
Knowledge Societies in the Digital Age
This interdisciplinary discourse should
learn how to evaluate the gains and losses
of different social interplays in information
and knowledge societies,
Capurro: Shapes of Freedom
II. Ethical Issues of Information and
Knowledge Societies in the Digital Age
particularly analyzing who is excluded
from what benefits and what are the
negatives and positives ways, with a lot of
possibilities in-between, of appropriation of
such possibilities or, what is more
common, of becoming appropriated by
Capurro: Shapes of Freedom
II. Ethical Issues of Information and
Knowledge Societies in the Digital Age
What is a smart phone?
At a personal level it gives a lot of freedom of
communication and exchange of information.
Within the context of the cyberworld and
together with other digital devices it is a tool for
physical and digital control and surveillance
Capurro: Shapes of Freedom
III. The Ethical Challenge of Global
Different societal groups have reacted with
open letters and declarations that are
worth being documented.
Capurro: Shapes of Freedom
III. The Ethical Challenge of Global
 2013: AOL, Apple, Facebook, Google, LinkedIn,
Microsoft, Twitter and Yahoo
 2013: Privacy International, Access, and the
Electronic Frontier Foundation and co-signed by
over three hundred and sixty organizations from
more than seventy countries
 2013: Access, Amnesty International, Electronic
Frontier Foundation, Human Rights Watch,
Privacy International.
Capurro: Shapes of Freedom
III. The Ethical Challenge of Global
On December 10, 2013, at the
International Human Rights Day, 562
authors, including 5 Nobel Prize laureates
(Orhan Pamuk, J.M. Coetzee, Elfride
Jelinek, Günter Grass, Thomas
Tranströmer), from over 80 countries
launched the following appeal in defense
of civil liberties.
Capurro: Shapes of Freedom
III. The Ethical Challenge of Global
January 2014: a great number of
academics from all over the world have
signed a declaration “Academics Against
Mass Surveillance” following the initiative
by Nico van Eijk, Beate Roessler, Frederik
Zuiderveen Borgesius and Manon
Oostveen from the University of
Capurro: Shapes of Freedom
These letters and declarations are a clear
testimony that when dealing with the issue
of privacy we are dealing with the future of
freedom in the digital age.
Capurro: Shapes of Freedom
Information ethics should make critically
explicit new realities and possibilities of
human interplay generated by new tools in
the physical as well as in the digital world.
Capurro: Shapes of Freedom
The cyberworld creates new forms of
authenticity as well as of deformation and
even annihilation of the human interplay
with a lot of possibilities in between.
Capurro: Shapes of Freedom
It is about empowering citizens to manage
better their lives as well as about creating
structures of local and global social
cooperation and support
Capurro: Shapes of Freedom
without using such structures as
instruments of control and surveillance
that transform individuals and societies
into puppets of state power or of big
commercial enterprises that follow
paradoxically the paths of 20th century
mass media transforming the early dreams
of the internet into a nightmare.
Capurro: Shapes of Freedom
Information and communication
commercial and state monopolists exert a
sometimes hidden sometimes explicit
control on individuals by bypassing not
only their privacy, i.e., their own decision
about concealing and revealing who they
are, but also legal and political
agreements at national and international
Capurro: Shapes of Freedom
By doing so they undermine the
foundation upon which they are built,
namely trust among free players sharing a
common world.
Capurro: Shapes of Freedom
The Declaration of Principles proclaimed
in December 2003 at the World Summit on
the Information Society was a good but
weak start compared with today’s urgency
of an International Charta of Digital Rights
establishing global rules of fair play for
shapes of human interplay in the digital
Capurro: Shapes of Freedom
Capurro: Shapes of Freedom
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