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REVIEW: "Handbook of Research on Technoethics", Rocci Luppicini/Rebecca Adell

Rob Slade, doting grandpa of Ryan and Trevor
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"Handbook of Research on Technoethics", Rocci Luppicini/Rebecca Adell,
2009, 978-160566022-6, U$495.00
%E Rocci Luppicini
%E Rebecca Adell
%C Suite 200 701 E. Chocolate Ave., Hershey, PA 17033-1117
%D 2009
%G 978-160566022-6
%I IRM Press/Idea Group/IGI Global
%O U$495.00 800-345-432 717-533-8845 Removed)
%O Audience n Tech 1 Writing 1 (see revfaq.htm for explanation)
%P 1028 p. (2 volumes)
%T "Handbook of Research on Technoethics"

The (very brief) preface states that the work is for students,
instructors, researchers, ethicists, technology scholars, and just
about everybody. Unfortunately, all it has to say about the topic is
that it is broad. Ultimately, this is a compendium of papers related
to ethics related to technology (sometimes).

Even in the more detailed attempt to define technoethics, in the first
article, the authors have to admit that there is little agreement on
the term: that some see it as the special responsibility of
technologists and engineers, while others extend it to behavioural
standards for the new global community. A "conceptual map" of the
topic is presented at one point. In some attempt to be cute the
topics are overlaid on a map of Europe, but the specific subjects are
laid out in almost random fashion, primarily covering computer ethics
and related ideas, but extending somewhat into biomedical areas. (One
of the more interesting papers examines the ethics of performance
enhancement technologies in sports.)

The essays are divided into broad categories: theoretical frameworks,
areas of research, case studies, emerging trends, and further reading.
The titles of the sections do little to differentiate the contents of
the pieces. In the section on theoretical frameworks, for example,
one paper describes Lawrence Kohlberg's theory of moral development,
while another briefly notes John Rawls' theory of social justice: the
other five essays are generic introductions to ethics in technical
arenas. (The article looking at Kohlberg is merely an overview of his
philosophy, without any real relation to technology. Similarly, a
later treatise is simply an explanation of podcasting, without any
relevance to ethics at all.) There does not appear to have been any
attempt to structure topics in advance, but rather to attempt to
arbitrarily impose some kind of organization after the fact.
Therefore, while some of the treatises are detailed and well written,
most are vague and simplistic. There are different examples and focus
in various papers, but there is an enormous amount of duplicate
content, particularly in terms of basic concepts.

The range of examples might be interesting or useful for broad
discussions of ethics in a technical environment. However, it is hard
to imagine an audience that would benefit from this work, rather than
a number of others that would be more valuable at less cost (even when
considered in total). Deborah Johnson's "Computer Ethics" (cf.
BKCMPETH.RVW) is limited to information technology, true, but it is
more complete in that field. Herman Tavani's "Ethics and Technology"
(cf. BKETHTCH.RVW) is more structured and foundational. The addition
of a decent text on bioethics would equal or exceed the content of
these volumes, and be easier on the pocketbook. (Or is it immoral to
contemplate such base considerations?)

copyright Robert M. Slade, 2008 BKHRTCET.RVW 20081002

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