WILL NOT BE OFFERED DURING THE ACADEMIC YEAR 2018/19
Historical, philosophical, ethical and governance aspects of ICT and emerging technologies
A specialisation at the Laboratory for ethical governance of information technology (LEGIT) – FUNDP – Namur
In looking at how we can define a new reflective, deliberative, and ethical governance, we seek to specify a theoretical framework for improved governance mechanisms that identify and address potential ethical issues arising from new and emerging ICTs (In particular, the emerging technologies that have been identified by the European Project ETICA : affective computing, ambient intelligence, artificial intelligence, bioelectronics, cloud computing, cognitive systems, the future internet, human-machine symbiosis, nano-ICT, neuroelectronics, quantum computing, robotics, synthetic biology, and virtual augmented reality.
ICT are technologies of coordination because they support at the same time exchanges and rules embedded in information systems. It’s important to understand how ICT contributes to change regulation’s model of collectives. Indeed, ICT allow passing round some of the pre-existent social regulation device. They also open new ways for regulation. This research orientation questions the foundation of collective’s regulation, innovations permitted by the ICT in this field and the interaction between these new and traditional regulations. More concretely, this field of research is interested in governance models and wondering about the impact of ICT on governance. It questions organizational governance models as political governance models.
Considering the fact that the social and technical contexts are in a permanent evolution, norms always need to be reviewed and reworked. But in the technical sphere this operation is generally an expert or politics prerogative. Shouldn’t the users take part actively to this reviewing process? The notion of “civil society” is more and more mentioned within the governance field of ICT, in front of the business sphere and of the political and legal institutions. But how is it possible to program the discussion and the debate between those three realities? Which kind of governance should we try to establish and through which kind of mechanisms? One of the most important ways to think this problem can be found within the reflexive governance theories.
Another domain of philosophical reflection about new technologies of information and communication concerns the history and epistemic status of these technologies and of the technology in general. Is the technical development autonomous and automatic, or is it connected with the social sphere, and if yes, in which ways? This questioning refers also to the scientific status of ICT and informatics. How are the working hypothesis established, and how does technical progress function? Informatics creates a new paradigmatical conception of the man and of his link to the nature. There’s then a need to analyse historically and epistemologically the genesis of ICT, computers, artificial intelligence, and so on.
An important field of research is the ethical dimensions of ICT. If there’s an overlapping between the technical and the social spheres, there’s then an influence of the technological development on the every day life, which opens the question of the value sensitive design of technical artefacts. What is the social value inscribed within ICT? What is the responsibility of the technical objects creators? Through an interrogation of the social and cultural signification of the informatics emerge the question of its ethical value. This field relies on an analysis of the legal and technical norms in place, of the way they should be, and of their social impacts.
The Laboratory’s main approaches involve:
1) A specific research field: the scientific practice of ethical thinking.
2) An epistemological approach to ethics.
This approach to the question of the determination of norms to the application of them requires to reach a full understanding of the steps of the process for the production and conditions for application of a norm within a social context.
Ethics is part of a social context in evolution, yet lacks a theoretical framework to address this evolution and to determine its consequences for orienting ethical social practices. Thus ethics is diluted in the fragmentation of practice through ad hoc responses to specific, artificially isolated, contexts. This sectoral approach to ethics has always been popular in technological and scientific development since it responds to the needs of the ethical and social “markets” and demands. However, it reinforces the social differentiation characteristics of modernity by proposing internal and specific framings for moral problems. These run the risk of stifling the possibility for genuine ethical reflexivity, an imposition of technological and scientific value systems, and exclusion of alternate framings (e.g. points of view, approaches, etc.). Here, ethics is disconnected from technological design and development, without a solid framework for embedding ethics (and assessing this) in the development process. Thus, and as is currently often the case, ethics is reduced to determination of “ethical issues” in a specific context. It ignores the problem of, firstly, the background and justification of why these issues are ethical issues, and secondly, how to resolve the issues once they have been identified. These tow issues are the two key items that the Laboratory is a) seeking to research b) hoping to develop a method that enables the facilitation and resolution of these concerns.
Even worse, the mechanisms used to determine the ethical issues (such as guidelines, expert advice, etc.) are never questioned, since the justified context becomes itself the justification of the social function of ethics. This situation is not just a set of hazardous consequences, however, but undermines ethics itself, since if ethics is perceived as a simple justificatory tool, it ignores the validity of its own application to the extent that it is no longer ethics but a practical rational approach that is restricted to prudence and teleological calculus.
3) An applied approach. Ethical thinking requires an understanding of what is at threat, so as to be able to analyse and understand ethical problems raised in the field of information technology research and development. ICTs involve a specific representation of the world, so the epistemological issues we need to address are the legitimacy and limitations of the rational approaches ICT development takes (such as formalisation and modelisation). This applied approach will include: an historical approach, an epistemological approach, a political approach and a pedagogical approach.
The context of this specialization are European projects. Those European projects are:
Important: The work of the student will be part of those project allowing the student to have access to a fantastic network of researcher and laboratories (around 30 laboratories) internationally known. This context will also allow the student to have access to real up to date knowledge and theory, contribute to ongoing researches and allow them to publish at the European level. However, it implies that thesis topics are limited and often pre-defined.
The specificity of Namur is to give an individual formation to the student connected with the subject of his thesis. This formation is specifically designed for ESST-students (20 hours). The individual formation consists of an overall introduction to the field selected and we will have workshops concentrating on the connections between literature and the selected specialization topics. We offered a selection of main references in connection with the selected specialization topics.
Students have also the possibilities to follow the international research workshop and international conference organised each year by the Legit in the context of European projects. Examples of previous workshops and conferences:
Language of instruction
Important! To be in Namur doesn’t presuppose to speak French! The staff and the supervisors interact with the student in English and the literature proposed is in English… All the staff of the faculty speaks English.
Some examples of thesis topics
(Of course those topics are only given as examples – student is free to propose other subject. However, the definitive subject is the result of a negotiation between the student and the supervising professors)
I. Examples of general topics:
affective computing, ambient intelligence, artificial intelligence, bioelectronics, cloud computing, cognitive systems, the future internet, human-machine symbiosis, nano-ICT, neuroelectronics, quantum computing, robotics, synthetic biology, and virtual augmented reality
2. E-Democracy and E-Administration Assessment
University of Namur has progressively gained knowledge and experience in researches assessing IT projects in the field of administration, government and citizenship. The assessment is related to:
– Ex ante: analysis regarding the political, ethical, legal or organizational issues of IT projects in the concerned fields;
– Ex post: analysis on political, ethical, legal or organizational impacts of implemented projects in the concerned fields.
This topic should interest ESST students who want to assess (ex ante or ex post) a particular IT project in the concerned fields.
University of Namur has progressively gained knowledge and experience in researches regarding the governance of ICT (Internet). Different topics have been studied in Namur University as, for instance:
The global debate on Internet governance is in a testing state. There is a total lack of consensus about how to define Internet governance, and about which issues and institutions are and should be involved in what manner. Similarly, there is a lack of agreement as to whether there are significant problems with existing governance mechanisms, and whether there are any pressing but unresolved issues that need to be tackled through international cooperation. The goal of this proposed thesis is to develop an analysis of the Internet Governance issues facing society and to focus on the technical standardization problem. The aim would be to analyze the network of expert politics and association which are connecting with the management of domain names, IP numbers and protocols, today under the coordination of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN.) How these technical standards have been, and are still, developed? The study will seek to develop and extensive analysis of the different component of the complicated network which managed the internet normalization, to understand the relation between the different bodies of that network and to treat of the normative problem of the conditions of a real democratic governance of the internet. In this regard, we believe that the focus of the ongoing discussions on “Internet Governance” should be on how the issues that have been identified, for example, Domain Names (DNS) and Internet Protocol (IP) address technical coordination, network security, and SPAM, can be addressed in the processes by which decisions related to the Internet are made, recognizing that there may some gaps and proposing some possible alternatives.
This thesis will try to define a socio-technical frame to analyse the importance of ethics in the international discourse surrounding internet governance. The thesis will first make an extensive state of the art on existing studies regarding internet regulation in order to identify how the ethical dimensions are explored in the literature. Secondly, the thesis will move towards an analysis of the international reports concerning internet regulation. The thesis will seek to determine how the ethical problems are taken in account and from a normative perspective how they should be taken in account. The thesis will try to propose a reflection concerning the democratic and epistemological conditions that are necessary to allow ethical perspective to be taken in account.
The first step of this analysis will proceed to an extensive review of the literature dedicated to the ethical and sociological problems raised by intelligent system. Three main questions will structure this analysis of intelligent environment:
– The third question is more pragmatic and regards the ethical norms and the moral responsibilities principles that should guide the designer and the owner/user of those intelligent environments. It regards also the social acceptability of this type of system. The issues regarding potential manipulation and abuse of control should be addressed and correctly analysed in order to draw the ethical lines to follow in the design and in the ownership of this system.
– Ipektsidis Charalampos
Prof. Philippe Goujon
Phone: +32 81725260 or +32 497035012
Laurence Masclet and Stephen Rainey : +32 81725260
The scientific ESST team of Namur consists of 3 senior and junior researchers of the legit centre and is supported by a network of 30 european leading laboratories in the field of ethics and governance with which the legit work. The working language of the centre is either English or French. A scientific meeting is organised every 15 days. The objectives of this meeting are:
– to present the working progress of each thesis
– to discuss the scientific orientations taken (or to take)
– to receive the advice of the academics
– to set up the objectives of the work to be achieved for the following term
Between these meetings, my offices is open for you for any other advice that you would wish. During each meeting, the student is invited to present the progress of his (her) thesis during 15 to 30 minutes. This presentation should be supported either by a text or by a slides collection.
References are only provided as sample and mustn’t be considered as and exhaustive list of reference – the Namur staff will give to student a precise list in function of his/her subject
– Technology & Democracy. The use and impact of technology assessment in Europe (1992). Kandrup, Copenhagen
Previous ESST thesis in Namur
1. Ethics and Governance Aspects in the Technology Projects of the European Union Framework Program: Implications within EU Research Policy
2. Exploring E- democracy: The internet and the empowerment of civil society groups
Abstract: The civil society, one of the stakes of democracy, faces critical problems, threatening it as an actor in local and international arenas. Technology has been one of the solutions for socio-political problems. So, information technology, and specifically Internet, is adopted strongly, and in a determinist way, by many governments and civil society groups to confront these problems. The study shows that the relation between civil society and Internet is not a linear one, i.e. Internet does not empower civil society as such. This relation depends on the nature of the political regime where civil society groups are working, and the extent of freedoms and political rights they enjoy, which affect how the group conceives Internet and how it benefits from it.
Testimony: My name is Rehab Sakr.
When we were asked to choose one of the Universities of the ESST network, I chose Namur for two reasons: firstly it is very close to the University of Maastricht (the mother University for the ESST), and the university where I spent the first semester which gave me a good chance to keep a kind of interaction with Maastricht. The second reason was to develop my French although the study there is completely in English, living in Namur helps really in developing the level of my French. When I went to Namur I found very warm welcome and very well-designed program prepared for me and my colleague, each of us had her/his own office with computer and all facilities for the work were provided. Madame Lobet also helped me to find a room in the students’ house. The staff at the Institute was all one family and I had good relations with all of them. The most important was the way of supervision, both Mrs. Claire-Lobet Maris and Mr. Philippe Goujon were available all the time, we had a weekly meeting to present my work, moreover, we were having the lunch every day together and during the lunch time we could discuss many of the ideas of the thesis. In addition, both supervisors were always willing to provide their students with references, books and other materials needed for conducting the work.
3. Beyond expert regulation for democratic technology: The case of Radio Frequency Identification Technology
Abstract: In this thesis, the way in which the process of governance of new technologies is addressed by different states is examined and the framing of this process is analyzed. To achieve it the answers to the following questions are sought and provided: how can the perception of technology influence the governance process? What is the role of scientific experts and civil society in this process? The research is based on the analysis of three reports of RFID technology. These are the study on Security Aspects and Prospective Applications of RFID Systems conducted by the German Federal Office for Information Security, RFID Radio Frequency Identification: Applications and Implications for Consumers report from the American Federal Trade Commission, and Radio Frequency Identification report issued by the British Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology. By analyzing these reports I intend to identify the differences and similarities in the RFID technology vision and the process of its evaluation which might influence the respective policy. It should be emphasized; the number of the reports concerning RFID technology is still very limited. However, the careful and detailed evaluation of the three main reports should provide an ample source for the analysis. In addition, the institutional conditions which must be satisfied to open the debate about technology and for democratic, deliberative governance to take place are explored.
Testimony: My name is Natalia Zborovska.
The University of Namur offers a wide range of specialization topics. There are no formal lectures organized for the ESST students at the beginning of the semester, however the private meetings with the university professors and researchers not only largely compensate for that, but also greatly facilitate the rather difficult task of writing a thesis. The times and the frequency of the meetings are agreed with the university staff, but students can have as many meetings as they consider necessary for the progress of their study. The supervisors are really available whenever needed and are always ready to support, guide, and teach in function of the precise needs of the student. However, at the same time a lot of freedom is given to students to make their own choice of a subject, literature, case studies and even work organization. Students can write their thesis, do the research and study at the university or, if they prefer, can come only for weekly meetings. Moreover, students are provided with their own desk, computer with the access to the Internet, and cards for free photocopies at the university. This facilitates contact with the supervisors and reduces the costs of stay. Professional, friendly and supportive staff of University of Namur will without any doubt do their best to encourage and help ESST students to obtain their Master degree with good results. Namur city is really a pleasant city.
4. The development of e-Health in Europe: Moving from an economic approach to a patient oriented focus?
Abstract: In the last years, the discussion about the future of healthcare systems has revived. It is nowadays acknowledged that health care is a major issue for a country’s welfare status in all levels, either economically and socially, or demographically. We live in an age that the health care sector demands on reducing costs and simultaneously on improving his quality and access to all. The challenges that the health care systems have to face include the rising demand for health and social services, the management of huge amounts of health information that need to be available securely, accessibly, and in a timely manner at the point of need and finally the need to provide the best possible healthcare under limited budgetary conditions.
The appearance of information technology into society, and consequently into healthcare, has led to the fact that the term e-health is increasingly used and is promoted as a solution to some of the above-mentioned problems. Interestingly enough, although the problems of the healthcare systems are acknowledged and also the introduction of technology is thought to be the solution to the problems; mere attention has been directed to investigating the development of e-health in the European Union and the premises on which this development took place.
Nonetheless, examining how the concept has changed is important as it helps us to understand the general developments in the field and it gives an overview on which premises the future policies in the field could be based on. Thus, this thesis discusses the development of e-health in Europe and the premises on which is it based. Consequently, it examines among others, how e-health is developed in a policy level, which are the actors that can be identified in the policy level, and it examines how this policy level is implemented in reality through some best cases. The thesis tries, by focusing in the European area, to answer questions as: who are acknowledged as relevant actors of e-health both in a policy level and in a real life case level? Thus, a relevant question, which is discussed, is if the patients for whom the technology is intended, involved.
Furthermore, in an undersized abstract/theoretical level, the thesis discusses the changes in the concepts of health as a change in power and examines the development of e-health as part of a more systemic change. This more general change highlights the movement from a predominantly centralised system towards a more individualised/personalised system. Additionally, in trying to explain this change, the thesis introduces the concept of governmentality, which is very important as a general question that arises in all aspects of our life when we use new information technologies is: How in a state so complex can we have a democratic control of so complicated systems?
Testimony: My name is Charalampos Ipektsidis.
As you probably already know the ESST programme is a very interesting programme, which provides you with an added value according to the specialization you will choose for your 2nd semester. In the first semester you will learn important things about technology, governance and how to analyse things, but the real added value to your professional career stems from your specialization. I do not know what your initial background is, but for me ESST has proved very useful both in an academic but also in a professional/pragmatic level.
I was very interested in European matters and policy analysis. Therefore, I choose as my thesis subject a field where I could combine these interests I had. I opted for Namur and e-health, as it was a relatively new subject and there I could combine the interests I had. I wrote my thesis in the area of e-health where I analyzed the policies and actions of the European Union in the field for the last 15 years.
The experience of doing my second semester specialization in Namur was a very pleasant one. First of all, academics are very skilled in their fields and have a good ear for problems that you may encounter during the writing phase of your thesis. Secondly, a very important fact for me was that every 1 to 2 weeks a group meeting took place between the supervisors, and the students writing their thesis where progress on their drafts was discussed, potential problems and questions were analysed and also some remarks for further exploration of ideas in the one or the other dimension were provided.
Additionally, the students among themselves could in these meetings exchange ideas and if familiar with the subject propose also some points that could be interesting. Moreover, these group meetings were not the only opportunity to meet with the professors but we had also individual appointments and since we could do our research in offices of the PhD students, we were integrated in the faculty and the academic personnel and thus could discuss ideas with the researchers working in the faculty. Finally, based on your thesis subject the professors may be able to help you gain access to knowledge that otherwise would be very difficult to find.
Another interesting point in order to select Namur is the fact that the city is very close to the heart of Europe, Brussels and near France, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Germany. This is very important as you have the opportunity to visit places you may have not visited before and to learn also other cultures.
I believe that ESST and the second semester specialization in Namur was very useful as I learned new approaches and I had the opportunity to better combine my previous knowledge with my interests. Furthermore, I learned more about how to approach topics combining technology and society, also by using some philosophy techniques to structure analysis of topics, which is linked also to my current professional activities.
Short description of the university
Founded in 1831, University of Namur is one of the largest higher education and research organization in Belgium, and has a long standing reputation of solid knowledge production and dissemination on society, science and technology. The university is located in the French speaking city of Namur, capital of the Walloon Region. University of Namur is a middle-size university (4.500 students) and one of the big actors of the new “Académie Universitaire de Louvain” that offers the most extensive study opportunities in the French-speaking community of Belgium.
The main library of the University is the Moretus Plantin Library. A specific library in Science, Technology and Society does exist in the Pr. Ph. Goujon office (concerning in particular governance concept and theory, epistemology of ICT, history of ICT, societal analysis, etc.)