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Thomas AquinasPhilosophy of the Web - Foresight Research - ICT Ethics - Digital Philosophy

Here you will find elements of Brandt's philosophical work. Some of this material is reasonably mature, while other items are fairly rough. This page is new and will be frequently updated.

Philosophical papers

Brandt's philosophical focus is in Experimental and Applied Philosophy oriented towards a digital metaphysics, ICT Ethics and the application of classical Natural Law theory to Cyberlaw.

Natural Law of the Internet

FULL TITLE: "What Can a Medieval Friar Teach Us About the Internet? Deriving Criteria of Justice for Cyberlaw from Thomist Natural Law Theory"

PUBLISHED: Philosophy & Technology (110), 2013.
DOI: 10.1007/s13347-013-0110-2


This paper applies a very traditional position within Natural Law Theory to Cyberspace. I shall first justify a Natural Law approach to Cyberspace by exploring the difficulties raised by the Internet to traditional principles of jurisprudence and the difficulties this presents for a Positive Law Theory account of legislation of Cyberspace. This will focus on issues relating to geography. I shall then explicate the paradigm of Natural Law accounts, the Treatise on Law, by Thomas Aquinas. From this account will emerge the structure of law and the metaphysics of justice. I shall explore those aspects of Cyberspace which cause geography to be problematic for Positive Law Theory and show how these are essential, unavoidable and beneficial. I will then apply Aquinas’s structure of law and metaphysics of justice to these characteristics. From this will emerge an alternative approach to cyberlaw which has no problem with the nature of Cyberspace as it is but treats it as a positive foundation for new legal developments.


Digital Alienation

FULL TITLE: "Digital Alienation as the Foundation of Online Privacy Concerns"

PUBLISHED: Computers & Society ETHICOMP Special Issue: 109-17. 2015.
DOI: 10.1145/2874239.2874255


The term 'digital alienation' is used in critical IS research to refer to manifestations of alienation online. This paper explores the difficulties of using a traditional Marxist analysis to account for digital alienation. The problem is that the activity people undertake online does not look coerced or estranged from the creator's individuality, both of which are typically seen as necessary for the production of alienation. As a result of this apparent difficulty, much of the research has focused on the relationship between digital alienation and digital labour.

This paper attempts to overcome these difficulties by discarding the traditional approach. We argue one can better understand digital alienation by focusing on the relationship between user intent and technical infrastructure, rather than concerns with labour. Under the existing economic model dominating the internet, free services are financed by recording user activity and then using the products of this commercial surveillance to sell information about people to others. We show how the real harm in current online business models is that commercial surveillance is being used to commodify private life.

Seeking to define personal data in more precise terms, we will introduce two new concepts necessary for a detailed discussion of any ethical issues regarding personal data - the digital shadow and the digital persona. We will then show how affordances in current online systems are tuned to commodification of the user's personality. We will then explore the nature of online surveillance and show how affordances combine with the surveillance economy to produce digital alienation.


Cloud Dialectics

FULL TITLE: "Digital Alienation as the Foundation of Online Privacy Concerns"

PUBLISHED:Computers & Society ETHICOMP Special Issue: 52-59. 2015.
DOI: 10.1145/2874239.2874247


This paper explores dialectics within debates over key ethical issues pertaining to cloud services. These issues concern privacy, responsibility for the actions of systems, and the development of monopoly service providers. Between them these concerns largely dictate the shape and capabilities of current and future cloud-based services. We shall show how the current state of affairs is dominated by a sense of lack of agency in terms of doing things differently from the current reflexive practice, an assumption that no alternatives to current practice are possible. This paper will attempt to organise the key concerns with cloud services by organising them into three dialectical axes:
- The nature of the relationship between personal privacy and service provision.
- The degree to which people who build or operate cloud-based services are ethically responsible for the actions or effects of those services.
- The nature of the marketplace for those services.



Cited Commercial Articles

Most of Brandt Dainow's articles are located in the Articles section or in the iMedia website, but some are occasionally cited in peer-reviewed journals, and so are also offered here for the convenience of researchers.

Necessary Inaccuracies in Web Analytics

The epistemic basis of all our deliberations regarding digital phenomena is the recording and reporting of what occurs via web analytics technology. However, this technology is unreliable. Recording what happens on websites is NEVER 100% accurate. These two articles explain where the errors occur and why.
Inaccuracies in Website Measurement Caused by Internet Technology
Inaccuracies in Website Measurement in Software


Impact of cookie deletion practices on the accuracy of web analytics

This article examines the impact of "cookie cutting" (deleting web cookies) on the accuracy of web analytics. This is a little dated now in terms of social practice (it was published in 2005), but is listed here because it is still being cited and still contains some points valid today.

The Implications of Cookie Cutting


Web Analytics Standards & Terminology

This article aggregates the various web analytics standards and their terminology and contextualises them within the web analytics process. Even though published in 2004, the standards have not changed and this article remains valid.

Web Analytics 101




Pierre BourdieuBrandt Dainow's academic focus is applied philosophy within the context of ICT future studies. His central methodology is philosophical, but he incorporates empirical research to determine the "what is" from which to draw philosophical conclusions. More details of Brandt's philosophical activity can be found in his ResearchGate pages.


Current research

Brandt is currently engaged in research towards a PhD at the National University of Ireland Maynooth's department of Computer Science. This research examines the ethical issues raised for human autonomy by emerging IC technologies. As such it is a mixture of Foresight Research (or Future Studies) and ICT ethics, making heavy use of sociology and psychology.


This research is based on the work of the ETICA project, which identified ethical issues raised by socially important emerging IC technologies.  ETICA’s research identified, but did not investigate, issues relating to human autonomy across all the technologies studied.  Brandt's research will use the methodologies developed by ETICA to explore these issues in depth and determine common elements spanning the technology groups.  He will position these issues within a combined framework of Floridi’s Theory of Information Ethics and Aquinas’s Natural Law Theory, which are highly compatible with each other, as his research will demonstrate.  Finally, he will use this analysis to derive a set of ethical precepts which resolve these issues in a format suited to use within public policy debates.

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