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The RESPECT Guidelines: Ethical, Cultural, and Meta-Ethical Considerations Charles Ess Chair, ethics working committee, Association of Internet Researchers; Committee for Scientific Freedom and Responsibility, American Association for the Advancement of Science Interdisciplinary Studies, Drury University [email protected] edu www. drury. edu/ess. html
Philosophical Prelude - Nietzsche It is the Age of comparison! That is its pride – but also what it suffers from. Let us not fear this suffering! On the contrary, we want to understand the task – set before us by the Age – as comprehensively as we can. And so the world following ours (Nachwelt) will bless us. That world will be as much beyond the original but utterly closed off cultures of isolated peoples, as it is also beyond the culture of comparison: but that world will also look back with gratitude on both kinds of culture as honorable antiquities. -Nietzsche, Menschliches, Allzumenschliches, Erstes Hauptstück, 23. In Rolf Elberfeld, “Einleitung. Vom Nutzen komparativer Ethik für die Gegenwart, ” in Rolf Elberfeld and Günter Wohlfart (eds. ), Komparative Ethik: Das gute leben zwischen den Kulturen (Académie du Midi), 12. 2002. Cologne: edition chora.
Philosophical Prelude - Nietzsche Es ist das Zeitalter der Vergleichung! Das ist sein Stolz, - aber billgerweise auch sein leiden. Fürchten wir uns vor diesem Leiden nicht! Vielmehr wollen wir die Aufgabe, welche das Zeitalter uns stellt, so gross verstehen, als wir nur vermögen: so wird uns die Nachwelt darob segnen, - eine Nachwelt, die ebenso sich über die abgeschlossenen originalen Volks. Culturen hinaus weiss, als über die Cultur der Vergleichung, aber auf beide Arten der Cultur als auf verehrungswürdige Alterthümer mit Dankbarkeit zurückblickt. -- Nietzsche, Menschliches, Allzumenschliches, Erstes Hauptstück, 23. In Rolf Elberfeld, “Einleitung. Vom Nutzen komparativer Ethik für die Gegenwart, ” in Rolf Elberfeld and Günter Wohlfart (eds. ), Komparative Ethik: Das gute leben zwischen den Kulturen (Académie du Midi), 12. 2002. Cologne: edition chora.
Outline 1. An ethicist’s approach Preliminary overview Deontology vs. utilitarian approaches + “other”/global ethics Initial overview of Guidelines in terms of deontology [D] / utilitarian [U] bases Where D / U approaches converge: 2 [4, 6, ] Where D / U approaches conflict: 11[ 5] Where D / U approaches are distinct: 1 [U] / 15 -18 [D] possible tensions in Guidelines? 2. Convergences / Divergences in Inter/national law: 2 3. Cultural Perspectives: 3, 5 4. Meta-ethical concluding questions [5. Suggestions for a Global Research Ethics]
1. An Ethicist’s First Perspective The guidelines can be helpfully understood to be divided as follows: Utilitarian starting point: research must balance benefits and costs (1) Professional ethics - especially as oriented towards deontological / basic rights / respects perspectives, 2 - 5 Professional Ethics - especially as concomitant with basic research methodology and the professional ethics codes of specific disciplines (sociology, anthropology, etc. ), 6 - 14 Human Subjects Protections (basic - deontological - values /rights emphasized in post-WWII Western research ethics codes), 15 - 18
1. An Ethicist’s First Perspective Human Subjects Protections: post-WWII Western research ethics codes, e. g. Office for Protection from Research Risks, National Institutes of Health, Department Of Health And Human Services. 1991. Code of Federal Regulations. 1991. Title 45, Part 46, “Protection of Human Subjects. ”
2. Deontology, Utilitarianism, and “other”/global ethics Utilitarianism and Deontology: two interwoven but distinct approaches to ethical decision-making Definitions: UTILITARIANISM … an ethical theory claiming that what makes behavior right or wrong depends wholly on the consequences…. utilitarianism affirms that what is important about human behavior is the outcome or results of the behavior and not the intention a person has when he or she acts” (36: emphasis added, CE). (From: Deborah Johnson, Computer Ethics, 3 rd. ed. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, 2001.
2. Deontology, Utilitarianism, and “other”/global ethics UTILITARIANISM At work in the RESPECT Guidelines, beginning with 1 and throughout. Central utilitarian issues in research ethics: Risks of harm to subjects, including psychological harm, breach of trust, expectations established with research subjects, especially through failure to monitor the consequences of research activities, including, e. g. , appearance of research in mass media vis-à-vis possible research benefits (for whom / over what period of time, etc. )
2. Deontology, Utilitarianism, and “other”/global ethics Definitions: DEONTOLOGY …put[s] the emphasis on the internal character of the act itself, ” and thus focuses instead on “the motives, intentions, principles, values, duties, etc. , that may guide our choices” (Johnson 2001, 42: emphasis added, CE). language of rights – including rights fundamental to Human Subjects Protections, i. e. , autonomy, privacy, confidentiality, informed consent, freedom from unnecessary harm(s), etc. at least some values, principles, or duties require (near) absolute endorsement – no matter the consequences.
2. Deontology, Utilitarianism, and “other”/global ethics Intersects with cultural/national differences: Scandinavian Guidelines (NESH, Swedish Research Council), EU Data Privacy Protection Guidelines deontological emphases on individual rights vs. U. S. law, policy, as more oriented towards “the market, ” stressing corporate/business rights over individuals (e. g. , “shrink-wrap” licenses) utilitarian emphases See aoir ethics document for discussion
2. Deontology, Utilitarianism, and “other”/global ethics But that’s not all… Virtue Ethics …from Plato and Aristotle. The English word “virtue” in this context translates the Greek arete - better translated as “excellence. ” In this tradition, “…ethics was concerned with excellences of human character. A person possessing such qualities exhibited the excellences of human goodness. To have these qualities is to function well as a human being” (Johnson 2001, 51). Contemporary feminist ethics / ethics of care / dialogical ethics / “open source” ethics [Ao. IR, RESPECT processes] [recovery of premodern traditions] [movement towards global dialogue, ethics]
2. Deontology, Utilitarianism, and “other”/global ethics Contemporary feminist ethics / virtue ethics / ethics of care / dialogical ethics / “Good Samaritan ethics, ” etc. : (From Carol Gilligan and others): women as a group tend to emphasize the details of relationships and caring, choosing those acts that best sustain the web of relationships constituting an ethical community – in contrast with men who as a group tend to rely more on general principles and rules. NOT an either / or – but a both / and
2. Deontology, Utilitarianism, and “other”/global ethics Ethics of Care Reinforced especially by Postmodern critiques of Modern rationalism and the Enlightenment (if not Western) project of discerning ethical universals valid for all times / peoples / circumstances (see: Margaret Emerton, Ethical and Methodological Problems in Online Research. Available from the author:
2. Deontology, Utilitarianism, and “other”/global ethics Ethics of Care // Confucian ethics, etc. movement towards global dialogue, ethics, e. g. Chenyang Li. Revisiting Confucian Jen Ethics and Feminist Care Ethics: A Reply. Hypatia: a Journal of Feminist Philosophy. Winter, 2002. 130 -140. Henry Rosemont, Jr. Rationality and Religious Experience: The Continuing Relevance of the World’s Spiritual Traditions. La. Salle, Illinois: Open Court, 2002. Charles Ess. Forthcoming. Computer-Mediated Colonization, the Renaissance, and Educational Imperatives for an Intercultural Global Village. In Robert Cavalier (ed. ), The Internet and our Moral Lives. Albany, NY: SUNY Press.
2. Deontology, Utilitarianism, and “other”/global ethics How do the RESPECT guidelines “fit” these (Western) ethical categories – especially deontology and utilitarianism? Where D / U approaches converge : 2 [also: 4, 6] Where D / U approaches conflict: 11, 5 Where D / U approaches are distinct: 1 [U] / 15 -18 [D] possible tensions in Guidelines?
Where D / U approaches converge: 2. Professional integrity must be balanced with respect for national and international law Deontological: both professional ethics standards and inter/national law may codify absolute values - first of all, those basic to Human Subjects Protections codes: Autonomy (freedom) rights to informed consent / confidentiality anonymity / protection against undue risk of harm [These articulated here in Guidelines 15 - 18]
Where D / U approaches converge: 2. Professional integrity must be balanced with respect for national and international law Deontologist: just law – rooted in (quasi- or “soft”) universals of human rights, etc. – cannot be disobeyed. (Cf. Martin Luther King, Letter) Utilitarian: breaking the law has consequences/”costs”. Convergence: the utilitarian and the human rights deontologist might agree that it is best not to break those laws designed to protect basic human rights.
Where D / U approaches conflict: [PROFESSIONAL / METHODOLOGICAL ETHICS (6 - 14)] 11. Researchers and commissioners should reflect on the consequences of research engagement for all participants Utilitarian - we reflect on these consequences in order to determine if the costs outweigh the benefits. Deontological - are there some costs that are so high that no research benefit can justify them? Example: in a chatroom that functions as a support group for incest survivors – both the overt and covert presence of a researcher might destroy the sense of privacy, intimacy, and trust that is crucial for the support group to function. What possible research outcomes are worth this risk / cost to the chatroom participants?
Where D / U approaches conflict: Deontological: In case of a conflict between probable harm to a human being and the outcomes of the study - the harm to a human being is to be avoided, even at the cost of the study. Utilitarian: It is arguable that if great benefit is to be gained from the study, then even high costs to individual human beings ranging from psychological and reputational harms to one’s very life - can be justified.
Where D / U approaches conflict: Utilitarian Analogies: sacrifice of the few for the many in warfare (bombing of Coventry) medicine (Tuskeegee Institute Syphilis Study) Deontological counterpoints: the morality of fascism - including the medical experiments in the Nazi death camps; the morality of racism – as the Tuskeegee study shows.
Where D / U approaches conflict: [PROFESSIONAL / METHODOLOGICAL ETHICS (6 - 14)] 6. Researchers should address the concerns of relevant stakeholders and user groups Utilitarian - such concerns may be undertaken as part of a “costbenefit” analysis Problem for the utilitarian: who are the relevant stakeholders and how is their membership in the “moral community” to be determined? Deontological - in some cases, basic rights may come into play (e. g. , to confidentiality, anonymity, etc. ) that will limit - or, in worst-case scenarios, eliminate a research design. National / International: These rights are construed differently depending on national law and traditions of ethical decisionmaking
Where D / U approaches are distinct: 1. The research aims of any study should both benefit society and minimise social harm Comment: Utilitarian: “cost-benefit” analysis Research which offers no probable benefit to society cannot be justified. Any probable / possible benefits must be balanced by clear and complete awareness of possible / probable costs.
Where D / U approaches are distinct Human Subjects Protections: 15 -18 18. Research participants should be protected from undue intrusion, harm or distress Ethical: 1. This is the “prime directive” of Human Subjects Protections, as rooted in (a) Hippocratic oath - do no harm; (b) reactions against WWII experimentation and (c) U. N. and other declarations of human rights Michelfelder, Diane. 2001. The Moral Value of Informational Privacy in Cyberspace. Ethics and Information Technology 3 (2), 129 -135. Walther, Joseph B. 2002. Research Ethics in Internet-Enabled Research: Human Subjects Issues and Methodological Myopia. Ethics and Information Technology, 4 (3), 205 -216. Available online
Where D / U approaches are distinct Human Subjects Protections: 15 -18 18. Research participants should be protected from undue intrusion, harm or distress Ethical: It is on this primary right that the other rights in these guidelines (15 - 18) are rooted. 2. Whether harm and intrusion are ever justified depends on (a) possible benefits of research, and (b) whether one takes a primarily deontological or utilitarian ethical stance.
Where D / U approaches are distinct Human Subjects Protections: 15 -18 15. Participation in research should be voluntary Ethical: rests on the basic right of human beings to autonomy / free choice, respect for that free choice (Enlightenment / Kant) – deontology Alternatives: Habermasian / feminist perspective-taking and an “ethic of care” would apply empathy, “Golden Rule, ” principle of non-alienation: would the researcher, if in the position of the research subject, wish to have his/her freedom and sense of autonomy curtailed – for any reason? (see Berry, 2003; cf. M. Barkardjiava and A. Feenberg, 2001. Involving the Virtual Subject: Conceptual, Methodological and Ethical Dimensions. Ethics and Information Technology 2 (4), 233 -240. )
Where D / U approaches are distinct Human Subjects Protections: 15 -18 15. Participation in research should be voluntary Cultural / communicative: Modern Western notions of freedom and autonomy tend towards atomistic individualism; but Pre-modern / non-Western notions of the human person emphasize greater role of the community in shaping decisions - an important consideration especially with immigrant groups; appearance and voice of “authority” vary from culture to culture - what might not seem coercive in one context may be experienced as such in another; Hence: for some peoples / cultures, the community will play the equivalent of a “gatekeeper “role, whose authority and permission will also be crucial. Examples: Asian, Indigenous cultures (see Ess
2. Convergences / Divergences in Inter/national Law 2. Professional integrity must be balanced with respect for national and international law Which laws apply to internet research? E. U. Data Privacy Protection acts: more deontological, favoring the individual citizen’s protections over other interests
2. Convergences / Divergences in Inter/national Law 2. Professional integrity must be balanced with respect for national and international law Which laws apply to internet research? Further complications: are there strong analogies vs. disanalogies between offline / online research – and thus between the laws / policies / practices of offline human subjects protections and Online research?
3. Cultural: where relevant (especially guidelines 3 -5) - what differences in foundational cultural values are important for researchers to note?
Does Culture Make a Difference? (see
“CULTURAL CLUSTER”: GUIDELINES 3 -5 3. Research must be commissioned and conducted with respect for and awareness of gender differences Deontological or utilitarian? Where significant gender differences exist, will these be overridden for the sake of a study - or respected, even at the cost of sacrificing the study? Comment: understanding of what constitutes harm may have a gendered component U. S. example of “rape in cyberspace” in which words constituted harm for the female victim - vs. legal definitions of harm as physical harm (“real rape”)
“CULTURAL CLUSTER”: GUIDELINES 3 -5 3. Research must be commissioned and conducted with respect for and awareness of gender differences Cultural issues - Contrasts between Gender-based access to CMC technologies, in terms of “cultural capital” - education, language facility, etc. - needed for successfully utilizing CMC technologies, and socio-economic / infrastructure differences (crudely: white middleclass male technology/communication style vis-à-vis “everyone else”) See: Stewart, Concetta M. , Stella F. Shields, and Nandini Sen. 2001. Diversity in On -Line Discussions: A Study of Cultural and Gender Differences in Listservs. In Ess (ed. ), Culture, Technology, Communication: Towards an Intercultural Global Village, 161 -186. Albany, NY: SUNY Press.
“CULTURAL CLUSTER”: GUIDELINES 3 -5 5. Research must be commissioned and conducted with respect for under-represented social groups and the avoidance of marginalisation or exclusion of these Cultural contrasts – different cultural groups use / respond to media, including new media, in diverse ways: the choice of media for research thus itself may contain biases, “affordances” that inadvertently exclude specific groups. Applies as well to immigrant communities: Mary Wilson. 2002. Communication, organizations and diverse populations. In F. Sudweeks & C. Ess (eds. ), Cultural Attitudes towards Technology and Communication 2002, 69 -88. Murdoch, Western Australia: School of Information Technology, Murdoch University.
“CULTURAL CLUSTER”: GUIDELINES 3 -5 Cultural contrasts – different cultural groups use / respond to media, including new media, in diverse ways: the choice of media for research thus itself may contain biases, “affordances” that inadvertently exclude specific groups. “. . . IT tends to be instrumental in Western hegemonic encroachment into the Filipino lifeworld…” (Peter Sy, 2001) “Most Internet sites pose a danger to our education system and our culture, in particular pornography sites and sites that promote consumerism to our students. ” -- Sardjiman (in de Kloet, 2002) “The Internet is profoundly disrespectful of tradition, established order and hierarchy, and that is very American. ” -- Fareed Zakaria, managing editor of Foreign Affairs
“CULTURAL CLUSTER”: GUIDELINES 3 -5 5. Research must be commissioned and conducted with respect for under-represented social groups and the avoidance of marginalisation or exclusion of these Cultural - Contrasts between Acceptability of public / private communication between sexes (Islamic countries/Muslim populations): unsolicited e-mail from a male researcher to a female subject could be very problematic - especially if discovered by the family! Research on male-female online communication must be undertaken with recognition that “cultural conservatives” see such communication itself as undermining traditional cultural morés.
“CULTURAL CLUSTER”: GUIDELINES 3 -5 5. Research must be commissioned and conducted with respect for under-represented social groups and the avoidance of marginalisation or exclusion of these Cultural – Contrasts See: Technologies of Despair and Hope: CMC in the Middle East, Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, Vol. 8, issue 2, 2003,
4. Meta-ethical Concluding Considerations? A. What to do in the face of diverse ethical judgments on the part of Individual researchers / participants Oversight bodies (IRB’s in the U. S. ; Research Ethics Boards in Canada; National Health and Medical Research Council in Australia; UK) National laws /policies / practices? Diverse cultural value systems and ethical decision-making traditions?
4. Metaethical Concluding Considerations? A. What to do in the face of diverse ethical judgments? Prevailing strategy: ethical pluralism as a middle ground between ethical relativism: “anything goes” – because (it is argued / assumed) there are no universally valid values, etc. [Problem: cannot distinguish between Hitler and Mother Teresa, fascism and democracy, etc. ] ethical dogmatism: only a single view / value / belief is valid – and thus must be imposed monolithically / homogenously upon all peoples / times / places / circumstances Ethical pluralism: some views are arguably better than others – and application of ethical norms in praxis is always contextual and multi-valent.
4. Metaethical Concluding Considerations? A. What to do in the face of diverse ethical judgments? Ethical pluralism: shared values/norms diverse interpretations / applications / judgments (phronesis). Example 1: normative value of expectations of privacy vis-à-vis is informed consent for recording (audio/video) public spaces? U. S. context: no expectations of privacy (vs. psychologist’s office, etc. ) Therefore, no informed consent required (Walther, 2002) Norway: people do not expect to be recorded in public without consent. Therefore, informed consent required (Elgesem, 2002)
4. Metaethical Concluding Considerations? Example 2: Divergences in U. S. / E. U. privacy law? Joel Reidenberg: while there is global convergence on what he calls the First Principles of data protection - there are clear differences in how these First Principles are implemented, i. e. , through "either liberal, market-based governance or socially-protective, rights-based governance. " (Resolving Conflicting International Data Privacy Rules in Cyberspace, STANFORD LAW REVIEW [Vol. 52 (2000): 1315 -1376], 1315)
4. Metaethical Concluding Considerations? Example 2: Divergences in U. S. / E. U. privacy law? First Principles: 1) Data quality (accuracy) 2) Transparency / openness of processing (purposes) 3) Treatment of sensitive data, including data re. Health, race, religious beliefs, sexual life 4) Enforcement mechanisms
4. Metaethical Concluding Considerations? Example 2: Divergences in U. S. / E. U. privacy law? First Principles U. S. : liberal, marketbased governance E. U. : socially-protective, rights-based governance
4. Metaethical Concluding Considerations? Example 2: Divergences in U. S. / E. U. privacy law? First Principles: exemplified in U. K. Younger Committee, 1972 (!) – organizations 1. Are accountable for personal information they obtain; 2. Should identify the purposes for which the information is processed at or before the time of collection; 3. Should only collect personal information with the knowledge and consent of the individual (with exceptions); 4. Should limit the collection of personal information for purposes other than those identified, except with the consent of the individual; 5. Should retain information only as long as necessary;
4. Metaethical Concluding Considerations? Example 2: Divergences in U. S. / E. U. privacy law? First Principles: exemplified in U. K. Younger Committee, 1972 (!) – organizations 6. Should ensure that personal information is kept accurate, complete, and up to date; 7. Should protect personal information with appropriate security safeguards; 8. Should be open about its policies and practices and maintain no secret information systems 9. Should allow data subjects access to their personal information, with an ability to amend if necessary. (Riedenberg, 1327)
E. U. citizens enjoy a priority on individual privacy vis-avis business interests -i. e. , a deontological emphasis on respect for persons in the form of privacy protections -vs. U. S. favoring business interests over individual privacy: no such privacy protections: rather, businesses are allowed to establish their own privacy policies, requiring the consumer to (a) inform him/herself of the policy and then (b) decide whether to agree or “opt-out” - i. e. , a utilitarian emphasis on the good of the many (minimal state intervention greater economic efficiency) over possible violations of individual rights
the European model is one in which …omnibus legislation strives to create a complete set of rights and responsibilities for the processing of personal information, whether by the public or private sector. First Principles become statutory rights and these statutes create data protection supervisory agencies to assure oversight and enforcement of those rights. Within this framework, additional precision and flexibility may also be achieved through codes of conduct and other devices. Overall, this implementation approach treats data privacy as a political right anchored among the panoply of fundamental human rights and the rights are attributed to “data subjects” or citizens. (1331 f. )
By contrast, the United States is distinctive in its approach, in which … the primary source for the terms and conditions of information privacy is self-regulation. Instead of relying on governmental regulation, this approach seeks to protect privacy through practices developed by industry norms, codes of conduct, and contracts rather than statutory legal rights. Data privacy becomes a market issue rather than a basic political question, and the rhetoric casts the debate in terms of “consumers” and users rather than “citizens. ” (1332) - i. e. , a consequentialist position, one that emphasizes economic benefit at large over possible risks to individual privacy.
4. Metaethical Concluding Considerations? See: D. Elgesem. 2002. What is Special about the Ethical Issues in Online Research? Ethics and Information Technology, 4(3). 195203.
4. Metaethical Concluding Considerations? B. Global Ethical Perspectives? Information Ethics Resources: U. K. : Luciano Floridi, Jeff Sanders. Information Ethics Group, Oxford Computing Laboratory
5. Suggestions for a global research ethics A. Coherencies between Confucian / Aristotelian / feminist conceptions of human excellence (arete / junzi) as virtue ethics syntheses of both utilitarian and deontological approaches
5. Suggestions for a global research ethics B. An ethical starting point: the Golden Rule of perspective-taking? i) Never treat a research subject online in a way that you would not be comfortable explaining to that person face-to-face. ii) (Habermasian/feminist perspective taking - or: love your neighbor as yourself): Before deciding on a research design and the specific ethical elements you will follow (e. g. , either to ask for informed consent or not, whether to use pseudonyms or not, etc. ) ask: if you were the research subject, how would you want to be treated?
5. Suggestions for a global research ethics B. An ethical starting point: the Golden Rule of perspective-taking? Critique: the researcher cannot place himself/herself in the place of the subject - in part because of the diversity of (rapidly changing) venues. Allen, Christina. 1996. What’s Wrong with the “Golden Rule”? Conundrums of Conducting Ethical Research in Cyberspace. The Information Society 12 (2), 175 – 187.
5. Suggestions for a global research ethics B. An ethical starting point: the Golden Rule of perspective-taking? My critique of the critique: perhaps - but taken to the logical extreme, this becomes a relativism that would also mean that whatever we learn from the subjects as different from the observer/scientist may have no relevance to any other subjects!
5. Suggestions for a global research ethics Such guidelines, finally, are not ethically "homogenous" or univocal but pluralist – or, in Michael Walzer's term, "thin": these can be interpreted and applied in different ways through the diverse "lenses" of defining cultural beliefs, practices, traditions, etc. (Aristotle’s pros hen and analogical equivocals pluralist traditions of ethics in both East (Confucius) and West (Socrates / Plato / Aristotle)
5. Suggestions for a global research ethics moral arguments are “thin” when they are shorn of their particular histories and other cultural embodiments which make them integral parts of a cultural entity. These are the parts that make the arguments “thick. ” …. when Americans watched Czechs carry placards bearing words like ‘Truth’ and ‘Justice, ’ they could relate immediately to the situation and sympathized with the marchers. However, when the arguments are at the local level, as to which version of distributive justice should be in place, there might well be disagreements, and Americans may find themselves disagreeing with the particular conception of justice which is eventually adopted. The sympathetic feeling one feels across the Ocean is part of the “thin” morality, but the localized and contextualized working of those moral concepts is part of the “thick” (Walzer 1994, 1 -19, in Hongladarom, 2001).