Invoking politics and ethics in the design of information technology: Undesigning the design [Book Review]

It is a truism that the design and deployment of information and communication technologies is vital to everyday life, the conduct of work and to social order. But how are individual, organisational and societal choices made? What might it mean to invoke a politics and an ethics of information technology design and use? This editorial paper situates these questions within the trajectory of preoccupations and approaches to the design and deployment of information technology since computerisation began in the 1940s. Focusing upon the dominant concerns over the last three decades, the paper delineates an interest in design and use in relation to socio-technical theories, situated practices and actor-network theory. It is argued that each of these approaches is concerned with a particular form of politics that does not explicitly engage with ethics. In order to introduce ethics into contemporary debates about information technology, and to frame the papers in the special issue, it is argued that Levinas’ ethics is particularly valuable in problematising the relationship between politics and ethics. Levinas provides a critique of modernity’s emphasis on politics and the egocentric self. It is from a Levinasian concern with the Other and the primacy of the ethical that a general rethinking of the relationship between politics, ethics and justice in relation to information and communication technologies can be invoked.
Keywords Levinas   design   ethics   information technology   justice   other   politics   undesigning
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DOI 10.1007/s10676-006-9131-1
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Emmanuel Levinas (1979). Totality and Infinity: An Essay on Exteriority. Distribution for the U.S. And Canada, Kluwer Boston.

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