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Ethics for a Digital Age, Vol. II

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Edited By Bastiaan Vanacker and Don Heider

The second volume of Ethics for a Digital Age contains a selection of research presented at the fifth and sixth Annual International Symposia on Digital Ethics hosted by the Center for Digital Ethics and Policy at Loyola University Chicago’s School of Communication. Thematically organized around the most pressing ethical issues of the digital age from a professional (parts one and two) and a philosophical perspective (part three), the chapters of this volume offer the reader a window into some of the hot-button ethical issues facing a society where digital has become the new normal. Just as was the case in the first volume, this collection attempts to bridge applied and theoretical approaches to digital ethics. The case studies in this work are grounded in theory and the theoretical pieces are linked back to specific cases, reflecting the multi-methodological and multi-disciplinarian approach espoused by Loyola’s Center of Digital Ethics and Policy during its eight years of existence. With contributions by experts from a variety of academic disciplines, this work will appeal to philosophers, communication scientists, and moral philosophers alike.

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9. Making and Managing Bodies: The Computational Turn, Ethics, and Governance (Timothy H. Engström)

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9.  Making and Managing Bodies: The Computational Turn, Ethics, and Governance

TIMOTHY H. ENGSTRÖM

Introduction

It has become commonplace to think of digital technologies as permitting us to see what lies beyond normal thresholds of sight. Furthermore, computation allows us not only to capture but also to construct properties of the “real” that are otherwise not available. As an extension of these technological possibilities, it has become normal to think of medicine as permitting us not only to penetrate bodies but to see brains, and, through a series of ontological and epistemological assumptions, translations and inferences, to see “where” properties of consciousness and identity reside within the brain.

Such imaging and inferential practices have encouraged medicine to adopt a computational and visibility paradigm that has, in turn, become associated with a device-driven economy and, thus, with commercially encouraged opportunities for prosthetic and networked enhancements that go beyond traditional conceptions of medical–biological normalization. In effect, medicine is increasingly dependent upon a series of informational and translation assumptions regarding the functions and meanings of embodiment and biology that are available only as a result of the production of data (and the related production of statistical maps and models of bodies and brains), and which have been made possible by algorithmic coding and the (proprietary) devices that convert such code into visibility. Identity has thus become increasingly understood as a distributed function of what computation can confirm...

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