Information Systems Frontiers

, Volume 12, Issue 4, pp 379–387 | Cite as

Expanding ethical vistas of IT professionals



In this paper we argue for an experientially grounded view of IT professionals’ ethical formation and support. We propose that for such formation and support to be effectual, it should challenge professionals’ conceptualisations of their field and of ethics, and it should do so with the aim of changing their experience. To this end, we present a Model of Ethical IT, which is based on an examination of the nature of ethics and on empirical findings concerning IT professionals’ experience of ethics. We argue that for IT professionals to be enabled to become more ethical in their practice: the purpose of IT must be primarily understood to be user-oriented; the nature of professional ethics must be primarily understood to be other-centred; and the goal of ethics education must be understood as primarily promoting a change in awareness.


Information technology Professional ethics Professional formation 



This article draws on research supported financially through a Queensland University of Technology Capacity Building Award.


  1. Alter, S. (2003). 18 reasons why IT-reliant work systems should replace “The IT artifact” as the core subject matter of the IS field. Communications of AIS, 12, 365–394.Google Scholar
  2. Brigham, M., & Introna, L. D. (2007). Invoking politics and ethics in the design of information technology: undesigning the design. Ethics and Information Technology, 9(1), 1–10.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bruce, C., Pham, B., & Stoodley, I. (2004). Constituting the significance and value of research: views from information technology academics and industry professionals. Studies in Higher Education, 29(2), 219–238.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Burnett, K., & Subramaniam, M. M. (2004). Defining the information technology workforce from the educational perspectives: a pilot study. Paper presented at 5th Conference on Information Technology Education, Salt Lake City, UT, USA.Google Scholar
  5. Bynum, T. W., & Rogerson, S. (2004). Codes of ethics: Editors’ introduction. In T. W. Bynum & S. Rogerson (Eds.), Computer ethics and professional responsibility (pp. 135–141). Malden: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  6. Cronan, T. P., & Douglas, D. E. (2006). Toward a comprehensive ethical behavior model for information technology. Journal of Organizational and End User Computing, 18(1), i–xi.Google Scholar
  7. Davis, C. (1996). Levinas: An introduction. Cambridge: Polity.Google Scholar
  8. Denning, P. J. (2004). The field of programmers myth. Communications of the ACM, 47(7), 15–20.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Denning, P. J., & Dunham, R. (2003). The missing customer. Communications of the ACM, 46(3), 19–23.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Dertouzos, M. (2002). The unfinished revolution: Human-centred computers and what they can do for us. New York: HarperCollins.Google Scholar
  11. Dreyfus, H., & Dreyfus, S. (1990). What is morality? A phenomenological account of ethical experience. In D. Rasmussen (Ed.), Universalism vs. Communitarianism: Contemporary debates in ethics (pp. 237–264). Cambridge: MIT.Google Scholar
  12. Edwards, S. L., & Bruce, C. (2004). The assignment that triggered change: assessment and the relational learning model for generic capabilities. Assessment & Evaluation in Higher Education, 29(2), 141–157.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Ellis, R., & Lowell, B. L. (1999). Core occupations of the U.S. information technology workforce. Accessed May 1, 2009.
  14. Finkelstein, L., & Hafner, C. (2002). The evolving discipline(s) of IT (and their relation to computer science): A framework for discussion. Accessed May 1, 2009.
  15. Floridi, L., & Sanders, J. W. (2002). Mapping the foundationalist debate in computer ethics. Ethics and Information Technology, 4(1), 1–9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Floridi, L., & Sanders, J. W. (2004). On the morality of artificial agents. Minds and Machines, 14(3), 349–379.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Gilligan, C. (1982). In a different voice: Psychological theory and women’s development. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  18. Grodzinsky, F. S. (2000). The development of the ‘ethical’ ICT professional: and the vision of an ethical on-line society: how far have we come and where are we going? Computers and Society, 30(1), 3–7.Google Scholar
  19. Grodzinsky, F. S., Miller, K. W., & Wolf, M. J. (2008). The ethics of designing artificial agents. Ethics and Information Technology, 10(2–3), 115–121.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Kaarst-Brown, M. L., & Guzman, I. R. (2005). The IT professional: Who is “the IT workforce”?: Challenges facing policy makers, educators, management, and research. Paper presented at ACM SIGMIS Conference on Computer Personnel Research, Atlanta, Georgia, USA.Google Scholar
  21. Koehn, D. (1994). The ground of professional ethics. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  22. Kohlberg, L. (1981). Essays on moral development, Volume 1: The philosophy of moral development. San Francisco: Harper & Row.Google Scholar
  23. Levinas, E. (1998). Entre nous: On thinking-of-the-other. London: Athlone.Google Scholar
  24. Marton, F., & Booth, S. (1997). Learning and awareness. Mahwah: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  25. Marton, F., & Pang, M. F. (2006). On some necessary conditions of learning. The Journal of the Learning Sciences, 15(2), 193–220.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Munro, K. I., & Cohen, J. F. (2004). Ethical behaviour and information systems codes: The effects of code communication, awareness, understanding, and enforcement. Paper presented at 25th International Conference on Information Systems, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia, USA.Google Scholar
  27. Orlikowski, W. J., & Iacono, C. S. (2001). Research commentary: desperately seeking “IT” in IT research—a call to theorizing the IT artifact. Information Systems Research, 12(2), 121–134.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Pang, M. F., & Marton, F. (2003). Beyond “lesson study”: comparing two ways of facilitating the grasp of some economic concepts. Instructional Science, 31, 175–194.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Schweiker, W. (2004). The Blackwell companion to religious ethics. Oxford: Blackwell.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Stahl, B. C., Wood, C., & Howley, R. (2004). Teaching professional issues in computing through the development of a student code of conduct. Ethicomp 2(1). Accessed May 1, 2009.
  31. Stoodley, I. (2009). IT professionals’ experience of ethics and its implications for IT education. Doctor of Philosophy Thesis. Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Australia.Google Scholar
  32. Tavani, H. T. (2004). Ethics and technology: Ethical issues in an age of information and communication technology. Hoboken: Wiley.Google Scholar
  33. Vartiainen, T. (2005). Moral conflicts in a project course in information systems education. Doctor of Philosophy Thesis. University of Jyväskylä, Department of Computer Science and Information Systems, Jyväskylä, Finland.Google Scholar
  34. Volkman, R. (2004). Being a good computer professional: The advantages of virtue ethics in computing. Ethicomp 2(1). Accessed May 1, 2009.

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Queensland University of TechnologyFaculty of Science and TechnologyBrisbaneAustralia

Personalised recommendations