New publication on the Ethics of IT-Security

A new German language article, co-authored with Kaya Cassing, was published on “Forschende in der Angriffsrolle: Zum besonderen forschungsethischen Bedarf in der IT-Sicherheit”. Kaya Cassing is part of the EDMT research team and her contribution is part of a PhD thesis. The was published as open access in Zeitschrift für Praktische Philosophie The abstract reads like this:

As a result of the proliferation of digital technology in our lifeworld, a societal need for protection of computer systems against ever new forms of attacks has emerged. In this contribution, we show that IT security research plays a central role in addressing this need, but also that this role raises certain problems from a research ethical perspective. IT security risks raise structurally new challenges for the societal production of security, which imply that researchers take on the role of attackers. When researchers make their findings on viable forms of attacks public, this increases the threat to IT systems. At the same time, the scientific publishing is normatively guided by the goal of strengthening societal security: the vulnerabilities are meant to be closed and the robustness of IT systems strengthened.

What becomes visible here are conflicts in dealing with IT security risks that imply a need for ethical orientation. In our contribution, we explore the beginnings of systematic ethical reflection that have emerged in the field and been institutionalized in an effort to answer this need. However, since the challenges have not been adequately addressed so far, we propose that IT security research should become a new field in applied ethics so as to provide more adequate orientation to researchers and to discuss its socio-political role at large.

Weydner-Volkmann, Sebastian; Kaya Cassing (2023): “Forschende in der Angriffsrolle: Zum besonderen forschungsethischen Bedarf in der IT-Sicherheit.” In: Zeitschrift für Praktische Philosophie 10 (1): 79–104.
DOI: 10.22613/zfpp/10.1.3. (Open access)

Meeting report for the workshop “Mensch-Maschine-Interaktion und Informationsdarstellung”

On 20–21 April 2023, Martina Philippi and I have organized a philosophical workshop on the topic „Mensch-Maschine-Interaktion und Informationsdarstellung – Philosophische Perspektiven auf KI-Anwendungen”. The conference program (German) can be found here.

After the workshop, Philipp Zimmermann, Sarah Becker and Isabel Wrobel have written a meeting report for the Journal for Technology Assessment in Theory and Practice (TATuP). The German language report has been published open access and can be found here.

Podcast on Ethics of Artificial Intelligence

As part of the student podcasting project “Hömma KI” at the Ruhr University Bochum, I was approached to be interviewed on Ethics of AI. The German language interview discussed some of my background, but mostly my current research on Ethics of AI in Higher Education.

The interview is number 4 of the series: #4 Ethik – Stark oder schwach? Zwischen Subjekt und Objekt.

This was my first podcasting experience and it was quite interesting to peek into the creation process, which is a lot more involved as it seems at first glance. I am impressed by the work done in this student project and am happy and proud to see such projects exist at the RUB.

Thanks to Chiara Oppedisano and Joana Koczy for the kind invitation and for hosting me on the podcast!

Two recent articles published

Two new articles were published in the last months, one is an English language contribution on the same set of topics a previous article and is titled “Filter Bubbles, Echo Chambers and Shared Experience.” The article resulted from a presentation on an international Pragmatism conference in Warsaw and was published in the Polish philosophy journal Ruch Filozoficzny. The abstract reads like this:

This article explores what John Dewey’s political philosophy can offer in regard to the current crisis in digital democracy. It focuses on two digital mechanisms, the “filter bubble” and the “echo chamber”. While there is a prominent, Dewey-inspired debate on “digital publics” in the literature, a reconstruction of the Deweyan concepts of the public and of shared experience shows that it does not adequately reflect the aspect of situated and embodied experience. Based on this, it is shown that digital media offerings must also be rooted in local contexts of experience in order to answer the challenge of those two problematic mechanisms.

The article was published as open access here: Weydner-Volkmann, Sebastian (2023) “Filter Bubbles, Echo Chambers and Shared Experience.” In: Ruch Filozoficzny 79 (4): 29–47. DOI: 10.12775/RF.2022.029.

In another article, I reviewed some of my research conducted in the TRESSPASS project on Open Source Intelligence in the context of EU border control. The abstract reads like this:

This article explores the use of open-source intelligence (OSINT) techniques as part of data-driven border checks in the EU. While the idea to group travelers into risk categories in order to differentiate the intensity of border checks has been criticized for its likely impact on privacy and other fundamental rights, the exclusive use of “open,” “public” data was proposed as an alternative that mitigates these issues. However, OSINT remains a rather vague term, as it is unclear what constitutes “open” or “public” data, how the use of such techniques would contribute to the production of security, and whether its use actually mitigates most ethical issues. The goal of this article is to contribute toward a situated answer to these questions. It will provide groundwork by clarifying what OSINT practices could entail in the context of the European border checks regime and by developing an ethical perspective on these practices. I will show that the impact depends not so much on the public availability of the analyzed data, but on the specifics of the implementation of OSINT techniques. Thus, certain uses of OSINT continue to raise severe privacy and fundamental rights issues.

This article, too, was published as open access and can be found here: Weydner-Volkmann, Sebastian (2023): “Using Open, Public Data for Security Provision: Ethical Perspectives on Risk-Based Border Checks in the EU.” In: European Journal for Security Research, June. DOI: 10.1007/s41125-023-00092-4.

Intermediate Evaluation Successful

After a challenging year in which, mostly out of neglect, I didn’t post anything to this blog, I am happy to announce that the intermediate evaluation of my junior professorship has been completed successfully. The process started directly after my second parental leave – my daughter was born the year before – and it involved a lot of time intensive reporting against, both, my official target agreement as well as my own plans and ambitions in teaching and research for the intermediate tenure track evaluation. This also gave me a strong incentive to reflect thoroughly on my role as an academic researcher, university teacher and team supervisor.

I am looking forward to the next three years on the long road of academic philosophy and I’m happy to have the chance to tackle the challenges ahead, both personal and academic.

Journal article on a Deweyan take on the digital crisis of democracy

A new German language journal article has been published open access in Zeitschrift für Praktische Philosophie 9 (1). It presents a Deweyan take on digital democracy in the light of the recent debate on a crisis of democracy due to dis- and misinformation online. This is the Englisch abstract:

Based on the digital mechanisms “filter bubble” and “echo chamber” in digital media, this article investigates to what extent Dewey’s functional conception of the public can offer productive perspectives for dealing with the current crisis in democracy. Through a reconstruction of the Deweyan concepts of the public and of shared experience, it is shown that the (Dewey inspired) debate on “digital publics” does not adequately reflect the aspect of situated and embodied experience. In contrast to some findings in the debate, it is shown that digital media offerings must be rooted in local contexts of experience in order to answer the challenge of those problematic mechanisms.

Weydner-Volkmann, Sebastian. 2022. “Digitally Shared Experience? Deweys Demokratieverständnis im digitalen Zeitalter.” Zeitschrift für Praktische Philosophie 9 (1): 115–40. DOI: 10.22613/zfpp/9.1.4 (open access).

Article on self-tracking and habitualization

A new article – co-authored with Selin Gerlek – was published open-access as part of the edited volume Von Menschen und Maschinen: Mensch-Maschine-Interaktionen in digitalen Kulturen. The article reflects on how self-tracking practices can be used as a way to transform habits. The empirical starting point for this was based on interviews, in which self-trackers professed to have developed capabilities that were interpreted as changed attentive practices and tacit knowledge: they reported that, after a certain period of using the ST devices, they were surprised to experience something akin to a “new sense”.

Using conceptions from phenomenology and postphenomenology, the surprising emergence of this “new sense” could be explicated as resulting from a digital embodied practice. They were shown to have the potential to transform the user’s self-relationship by forming a habit of attention to certain feelings and experiences of our body. These attentive practices were habitualized so that, in the end, the original self-tracking devices were no longer needed. By revisiting the Deweyan roots of postphenomenology, we were able to offer an interpretation of this as overcoming (unreflected or bad) routine by establishing deliberately chosen alternatives, intelligent habits, over time. For this, a deliberate and controlled attention to routine is a necessary prerequisite. Through self-tracking practices, a habitualization of attention to existing habits can take place and this, in turn, may form the basis for deliberate change of these habits as part of a transformation towards reflective or intelligent habit.

Gerlek, Selin, and Sebastian Weydner-Volkmann. 2022. “Self-Tracking and Habitualization. (Post)-Phenomenological and Pragmatist Perspectives on Reflecting Habits with the Help of Digital Technologies.” In: Selin Gerlek, Sarah Kissler, Thorben Mämecke, and Dennis Möbus (eds.): Von Menschen und Maschinen: Mensch-Maschine-Interaktionen in digitalen Kulturen, 136–149. DOI: 10.57813/20220623-152405-0 (open access).