v. 22 #2 Legally Speaking — Why Talk About Legal & Ethical Issues?

Section Editors: Bruce Strauch (The Citadel), Bryan M. Carson, J.D., M.I.L.S. (Western Kentucky University), Jack Montgomery (Western Kentucky University)

by Bryan M. Carson, J.D., M.I.L.S. (Associate Professor, Coordinator of Reference and Instructional Services, Associated Faculty — Library Media Education Program, Western Kentucky University Libraries, 1906 College Heights Blvd. #11067, Bowling Green, Kentucky 42101-1067; Phone: 270-745-5007; Fax: 270-745-2275) and Herbert L. Carson (Retired Professor of Humanities and Classics, Ferris State University)

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In Plato’s dialogue “Meno,” Socrates is quoted as asserting that only knowledge can be taught. Since conduct (that is right or wrong conduct) may not be knowledge, can it be taught (or even discussed)? Perhaps not. But methods and vocabulary for thinking about conduct, about ethical behavior, can be taught. Learning such methods can increase our ability to make rational and intelligent decisions.

Those who use technology need to be aware of legal and ethical issues that underlie our use of modern equipment. But, isn’t that the province of philosophers, lawyers, and scholars? Why is it important for technology professionals in the field to understand these issues? There are really two answers to this question. First, laws impact us on a daily basis, and ignorance of the law is no excuse. As a result, it is vital for those of us who work with technology, instructional design, and librarianship to think about these issues before they arise. The second answer relates to the interaction among — and difference among — law, morality, and ethics. These three areas are often confused or used interchangeably, but in reality they are very different from one another. Defining these three terms might seem to be unrelated to technology, but they are the essence of how we use modern technological resources in legal and ethical ways.

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