Call: Special issue of Ethics and Information Technology (ETIN) on the Internet of Things (IoT)

Call for Papers for a Special Issue of Ethics and Information Technology (ETIN) on the Internet of Things (IoT)

The vision of the Internet of Things portrays a world where physical objects are connected to the Internet, through technologies such as radio frequency identification (RFID), sensors and smartphones. Internet-enabled objects can share sensor data with web services and applications. As the physical and virtual worlds begin to interact with one another, boundaries between these worlds begin to erode. Our interaction with computers moves away from the desktop and into the environment, and becomes increasingly intertwined with our everyday lives. As this happens, we lose the ability to examine the artifacts we interact with as computing technology. They become invisible and infrastructural.

The sensing and monitoring capabilities of the Internet of Things often raises concerns of privacy. The ubiquitous nature of the Internet of Things raises questions regarding the autonomy of the people that (sometimes unknowingly) interact with it. It raises questions regarding trust. Besides these concerns, the Internet of Things also holds large positive potential. It can help people and monitor their energy consumption (down to individual appliances), encouraging a more sustainable lifestyle. It can help authorities monitor the structural integrity of dikes, benefiting the safety of regions. In short, many of the positive and negative implications of our interactions with the Internet of Things are related to our (moral) values.

Considering these ethical and societal implications, the urge to call for some form of regulatory measures to be taken only seems natural. However, Internet of Things technologies are developing at a rate that policy makers can scarcely keep up with. Moreover, access to means of creating these technologies is no longer limited to large corporations and their research and development departments. Startups with a handful of employees are able to create technologies like Pachube. What’s more, individuals now have the power to make an Internet of Things. Open source hardware projects such as Arduino give individuals the means to create ubiquitous computing technology. Thriving communities such as Instructables.com share information on how to make anything from solar panels to pressure sensors. Fab labs offer means of digital fabrication such as laser cutters, CNC machines, and rapid prototypers to individuals. And with global smartphone penetration at around 10%, a considerable part of the world’s population is carrying around an array of sensors and computing power at any given moment. Tools such as Processing for Android make it easier than ever to write programs for these devices. The Internet of Things is being developed as we speak.

It is during development that many of the ethical issues begin to take shape. Hence, it makes more sense to think about these issues then, rather than once these technologies have been entered widespread use. There is a great opportunity to shape these technologies into what we consider (ethically) desirable during design and development. To take advantage of this opportunity, designers and developers need ways of considering ethics during design.

This special issue will focus on dealing with the ethics of the Internet of Things. The core concern here is not reflecting on the implications Internet of Things, rather it is ways of reflecting on the ethics of the Internet of Things and acting on these reflections. What means do we have to deal with ethics when building the Internet of Things? How can we design for specific values such as trust, autonomy, responsibility and privacy? This is the research focus of ethics in IOT-i (www.iot-i.eu):  Is it possible to address the main questions and issues of Ethics and IoT as a kind of ‘label’, much like an eco label, saying these products, apps, services are privacy friendly, energy neutral, have open standards? Can we create an online checkbox that could show startups how far they are in attaining such a label? We welcome submissions addressing these and related questions.

Submissions will be double-blind refereed for relevance to the theme as well as academic rigor and originality. High quality articles not deemed to be sufficiently relevant to the special issue may be considered for publication in a subsequent non-themed issue of Ethics and Information Technology.

Closing date for submissions: September 1st, 2012

To submit your paper, please use the online submission system, to be found at www.editorialmanager.com/etin

Please contact the managing editor for more information, Noëmi Manders‐Huits at N.L.J.L.Manders‐Huits@tudelft.nl

Ethics and Information Technology (ETIN) is the major journal in the field of moral and political reflection on Information Technology. Its aim is to advance the dialogue between moral philosophy and the field of information technology in a broad sense, and to foster and promote reflection and analysis concerning the ethical, social and political questions associated with the adoption, use, and development of IT.

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