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Towards the Ethical Governance of Smart Society

Part of the Computational Social Sciences book series (CSS)


This chapter is concerned with how social order is established within collectives and the ethical problems that arise when we attempt to create and direct collectives towards particular ends. It draws on our work to establish governance principles for Smart Society—an EU project aiming to engineer Collective Adaptive Systems comprised of people and machines with diverse capabilities and goals that are able to tackle societal grand challenges. We examine how social values are implicated in and transformed by Collective Adaptive Systems, and suggest approaches to multilevel governance design that are responsive to emergent capabilities and sensitive to conflicting perspectives. Finally we illustrate our approach with a worked example of a sensor-based system in a care setting.


  • Governance Mechanism
  • Smart City
  • Road User
  • Reflective Practice
  • Governance Regime

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Fig. 1
Fig. 2


  1. 1.

    Smart Society (FP7/2007–2013) Grant agreement n. 600854.

  2. 2.

    Although this might be seen as a tale of improved matchmaking, there are also important nuances in the ways that social computing transforms the sorts of demands, goods and services that are in play. Thus, for example, social platforms can make visible the “hidden” care demands of elders, and also the “hidden” skills of neighbors, and create a market place in which these may be traded (e.g.

  3. 3.

    On the occasions in this chapter when we refer to CASs we are considering Collective Adaptive Systems more generally and not only the Hybrid, Diversity-Aware sort.

  4. 4. mashes up #UKSnow tweets and Google Maps to show geographical patterns of reported snowfall, thus providing a sustaining focus for the collective and a mechanism to propagate snow reporting practices through example and a weak obligation to reciprocity.

  5. 5.

    In collaboration with our Smart Society partners at Ben Gurion University.

  6. 6.

    “Couch Surfing”—taking advantage of casual services provided by locals such as offers of accommodation in private homes.

  7. 7.

    Schemes that allows drivers and commuters to offer and accept lifts and share costs by utilising spare capacity in the cars of those already intending to travel.

  8. 8.

    “In a similar fashion to herding sheep, the goal is to steer a group of living individuals to comply with our goals.” [2]

  9. 9.

    By a member of the Smart Society project during a project meeting when the conversation turned to types of ethical concern raised by the project.

  10. 10.

  11. 11.

    A serious game used to generate image metadata such as descriptive tags

  12. 12.

    A concern voiced about raising the official limit to 80 MPH is that the de-facto limit will then become 90 MPH. The difference arises due to cultural expectations about how regulations are policed. In the UK there is an expectation that the police will not enforce the rule rigidly, but instead allow some leeway, which for all practical purposes leads to raised limit.

  13. 13.

    Admittedly speed bumps are somewhat peripheral to polycentric modes of governance. But as we argue below, all the forms of governance presented here are interrelated. Thus how the driving environment is organised (including the presence or absence of speed bumps) shapes the sort of polycentric responses that are possible.

  14. 14.

  15. 15.

    Benkler suggests there are three classes of reward that people are motivated by: Money, Pleasure (“Intrinsic hedonistic rewords”) and Social (“Social-psychological rewards”) [4].

  16. 16.

    There are a whole series of ethical issues attached to playing off accountability arrangements, particularly how they can create pressure that vulnerable people may be particularly susceptible to, shape behavior in unwanted ways and encourage “gaming” of the system. The worked example at the end of this chapter shows some of these properties for a technology of accountability operating in a care domain.

  17. 17.

    An article on the history of Speed “Humps” in Berkley on the City Authority’s web page ( tells of how speed humps became contentious and how opposition to them led to shaping how humps are used as an adaptive regulatory measure (“speed hump locations chosen must provide clear safety benefits to balance any potential negative impact”).

  18. 18.

    Assuming the Collective Adaptive System doesn’t emerge “spontaneously” as an effect of integrating existing infrastructures and regulatory functions.

  19. 19.

    The EU Mirror project aims to create a series of applications to support reflective professional practice.


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The research leading to these results has received funding from the European Community’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007–2013) under grant agreement no. 321480 (GREAT) and no. 600854 (Smart Society). We would also like to thank the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) for funding the Framework for Responsible Research and Innovation project Grant No. EP/J000019/1.

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Hartswood, M., Grimpe, B., Jirotka, M., Anderson, S. (2014). Towards the Ethical Governance of Smart Society. In: Miorandi, D., Maltese, V., Rovatsos, M., Nijholt, A., Stewart, J. (eds) Social Collective Intelligence. Computational Social Sciences. Springer, Cham.

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