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.
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 as the Foundation of Online Privacy Concerns
PUBLISHED: Computers & Society ETHICOMP Special Issue: 109-17. 2015.
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.
FULL TITLE: “Digital Alienation as the Foundation of Online Privacy Concerns”
PUBLISHED:Computers & Society ETHICOMP Special Issue: 52-59. 2015.
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.
Smart City Transcendent – Understanding the smart city by transcending ontology
PUBLISHED: Orbit 1 (2017).
This paper provides a conception of the smart city which takes into account what the smart city brings into the world which is new and original. This approach provides a means of dealing with the complex influences humans and digital systems will have on each other in the mature smart cities of the future. I will first review traditional accounts of the smart city and derive from them the essential characteristics common to these visions. I will then show how these characteristics can be best understood through Actornetwork theory and construct an account of the smart city as an autopoietic system in which humans and devices are co-constituting actants. Finally I shall develop this into an original conception of the smart city as a new type of thing – an “integrated domain.”
Magazines & book chapters
- “Performance-Based Advertising”, in Understanding Digital Marketing by Damian Ryan & Calvin Jones, 106-110, (London: Kogan Page) (2009)
- “Ethics in Emerging Technology,” ITNOW 56 (3): 16–18. (London: BCS) (2014).
- “Not an Afterthought – Principles of Value-Sensitive Design”, Digital Leaders (5): 8-9. (London: BCS) (2016)