Widad Mustafa El Hadi

University of Lille, France

The main objective of this contribution is to clarify the two dimensions which the term information ethics covers. Experience showed that authors who write on Information ethics deal mainly with the impact of Information & Communication Technology ICT and the Internet on information flows even if a few studies have been devoted to the cultural, social and linguistic dimensions of ethics in Information and Knowledge Organization (KO).

The concept of Ethics covers two essential dimensions: the first is related to the move to a largely digital information environment. For example, the use of computerized issuing systems, the availability of many resources in digital form, and the use of RFID identifiers in printed materials falls under that heading. In this respect, the main areas of concern within information ethics as Bawden and Robinson (2012) pointed out include: the contradiction between censorship and intellectual freedom; privacy, confidentiality and data protection; ownership of information, and the possible commercial use of public information; universal access, information poverty and the digital divide; respect for intellectual property combined with fair use; and issues of balance and bias in information provision, collection development and metadata creation. For information science, these ethical issues have been identified and were typically grouped together under the term of ‘information ethics’ (Floridi, 2013).  

The second dimension, which will be at the core of my contribution concerns ethics of information and knowledge organization as an intimate process linked to language and cultures. I will examine ethics under their cultural linguistic and social frames. Considering this, I will first review the question of ethics in the universal classifications, as an early critique of these models and how they evolved through time, namely because of the bias in classifications resulting in the pervasive marginalization and exclusion of topics and groups of people outside the cultural mainstream. I will then consider more recent developments based on Guimaraes et al (2016) and their theoretical dialogs about ethical issues in knowledge organization, I will discuss the concepts of interactive epistemography and transcultural ethics of mediation by A. G. Gutiérrez, multilingualism in knowledge representation by M. Hudon, cultural hospitality by C. Beghtol, and the power to name by H. Olson (Fox, 2016). A whole set of concepts are drawn from these different theoretical stances and it would be interesting to discuss them.



Bawden, D., Robinson, L. (2012). Information Science. London: Facet Publishing.

Floridi, L. (2013). The Ethics of Information. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Fox. M. (2016) “Priorities of Arrangement” or a “Hierarchy of Oppressions?”. Perspectives on Intersectionality in Knowledge Organization. Knowledge Organization, 43, 373-383.

Guimarães, J., Pinho, F., & Milani, S. (2016). Theoretical Dialogs About Ethical Issues in Knowledge Organization: García Gutiérrez, Hudon, Beghtol, and Olson. Knowledge Organization, 43, 338-350.


Keywords: bias in classifications, cultural and social diversity, cultural warrant, cultural hospitality