“This paper presents details of a content analysis study that analyzed definitions of computer ethics,” because consensus is lacking on the meaning of the term. The research began with 30 “explicit definitions” of the term and synonyms taken from literature. These definitions fit a hierarchy of orientations, ranging from descriptions, such as a guideline on privacy, to the nature of computer ethics, such as an inquiry into the meaning of moral computing.
The definitions were decomposed into phrases, and the phrases were merged into five groupings: attributes, foundation, method, actions, and recommendations. The definitions were then read in the context of the groupings and “codes” emerged, reflective of the content. Interconnections and deeper meanings between and within the codes became apparent, creating themes. The synthesized definition was built from these themes.
“Computing ethics is the interdisciplinary and collaborative efforts of scholars and professionals to methodically study and practically affect the contributions and costs of computing artifacts in global society.” It is surprising that the developed definition does not include terms such a “good,” “bad,” “right,” or “wrong.” The created definition was verified by comparison with three other published definitions, including one from Norbert Weiner. A second verification was through a quantitative frequency analysis, comparing the terms in the developed definition with the 30 basic definitions. In both cases, the verification was positive.
This review omits much of the detail in the paper, including helpful figures and tables. The paper deals with a complex idea and is necessarily complex.