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A review of ethical theory in the ‘upper echelons’ of information systems research

Bull, Christopher M. (2009) A review of ethical theory in the ‘upper echelons’ of information systems research. [Conference or Workshop Item] (Unpublished)


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Despite some notable and rare exceptions and after many years of relatively neglect (particularly in the ‘upper echelons’ of IS research), there appears to be some renewed interest in Information Systems Ethics (ISE). This paper reflects on the development of ISE by assessing the use and development of ethical theory in contemporary IS research with a specific focus on the ‘leading’ IS journals (according to the Association of Information Systems). The focus of this research is to evaluate if previous calls for more theoretically informed work are permeating the ‘upper echelons’ of IS research and if so, how (Walsham 1996; Smith and Hasnas 1999; Bell and Adam 2004). For the purposes of scope, this paper follows on from those previous studies and presents a detailed review of the leading IS publications between 2005 to 2007 inclusive. After several processes, a total of 32 papers are evaluated. This review highlights that whilst ethical topics are becoming increasingly popular in such influential media, most of the research continues to neglect considerations of ethical theory with preferences for a range of alternative approaches. Finally, this research focuses on some of the papers produced and considers how the use of ethical theory could contribute.

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