Ethical decision making in technology development: a case study of participation in a large-scale information systems development project

Abstract

Advanced systems engineering has traditionally paid little attention to ethical concerns relative to other technical and non-technical issues. This is particularly evident in systems analysis, design, and development methodologies. This paper asks if it is possible that the lack of emphasis upon ethical considerations in development methodologies can result in the failure of advanced technology development projects? In order to explore this contention, the paper sets out the findings of a case study of a large-scale advanced technology project in a multinational engineering company involving the implementation of an enterprise resource planning system. The research examined the extent to which ethical issues emerged in the project and assesses the impact of ethical considerations upon the technology development process and its outcomes. Evidence is presented which shows how ethical concerns clearly impacted upon the outcome of the project, supporting the contention that ethics was a success factor in the case presented. However, it was also clear that the kinds of ethical considerations that emerged were highly complex, and associated with an “ethics of care”. The findings suggested that researchers should examine the potential of an “ethics of care” as a way of complimenting the “ethics of rights” currently dominant within engineering ethics.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    This is reminiscent of the “personal”, “organisational” and “technological” conceptualisation of human-centred systems in Brandt and Cernetic (1998).

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Acknowledgments

The author is most grateful to the reviewers and to Dr. Gabriel Byrne for their comments and critique in the preparation of this paper.

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Correspondence to Larry Stapleton.

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Stapleton, L. Ethical decision making in technology development: a case study of participation in a large-scale information systems development project. AI & Soc 22, 405–429 (2008). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00146-007-0150-1

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Keywords

  • Project Team
  • Ethical Analysis
  • Soft System Methodology
  • Information System Development
  • Project Team Member