And Lead Us (Not) into Persuasion…? Persuasive Technology and the Ethics of Communication

Science and Engineering Ethics 18 (4):633-650 (2012)
Abstract
The paper develops ethical guidelines for the development and usage of persuasive technologies (PT) that can be derived from applying discourse ethics to this type of technologies. The application of discourse ethics is of particular interest for PT, since ‘persuasion’ refers to an act of communication that might be interpreted as holding the middle between ‘manipulation’ and ‘convincing’. One can distinguish two elements of discourse ethics that prove fruitful when applied to PT: the analysis of the inherent normativity of acts of communication (‘speech acts’) and the Habermasian distinction between ‘communicative’ and ‘strategic rationality’ and their broader societal interpretation. This essay investigates what consequences can be drawn if one applies these two elements of discourse ethics to PT.
Keywords Ethics  Persuasive technology  Discourse ethics  Habermas  Speech-act theory  Critical theory  Persuasion
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