Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Ethics and morality in software development: A developer's perspective
by Stephenson, James H., Ph.D., Capella University, 2010, 232; 3426701
Abstract (Summary)

Computers and other digital devices have become ubiquitous in our lives. Almost all aspects of our lives are in part or wholly impacted by computers and the software that runs on them. Unknowingly, we are placing our livelihoods and even our lives in the hands unknown software developers. Ethical and moral decisions made during software development projects may impact how lives are lived and businesses conducted.

Traditional studies of ethics in information technology (IT) have primarily centered on the ethical uses of computers and software; issues such as privacy, piracy, copyright protection, hacking, and so forth. These are in reality, “after-the-fact” issues in that the processes or capabilities used in each of these examples were designed into the system before any ethical or moral behavioral issues occurred. Little research has been done on how IT professionals, specifically software developers, make ethical and moral decisions, or if they even believe that they encounter ethical or moral decision making opportunities, during software development projects.

Many theories for explaining and predicting ethical and moral behavior have been developed. Traditional theories ranging from deontology to virtue ethics have helped researchers and social scientists categorize human behavior in relation to ethical and moral judgments. Another theory, proposed by Forsyth (A taxonomy of ethical ideologies, 1980), called ethics position theory (EPT), calls for categorizing human behavior and thinking into four categories labeled situationism, absolutism, subjectivism, and exceptionism.

EPT suggests ethical characteristics and tendencies can be determined, based on where a person falls in relation to the four categories identified. This study examined the application of EPT in relation to decisions made by software designers and developers during software development projects. The initial hypotheses proposed were; (1) Software developers and designers do not believe they encounter ethical or moral decision making opportunities during their software development projects; (2) the ethical and moral beliefs of software developers and designers fall primarily into the situationism or subjectivism categories; (3) and that factors such as age, gender, career experience, and culture are mitigating factors in determining where on the EPT scale software developers and designers fall.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Richards, Tom
Commitee: Hunt, Richard, Walsh, Vicky
School: Capella University
Department: School of Business
School Location: United States -- Minnesota
Source: DAI-A 71/12, Dissertation Abstracts International
Source Type: DISSERTATION
Subjects: Ethics, Information Technology, Computer science
Keywords: Applications, Ethics, Morality, Software, Software development, Software engineering
Publication Number: 3426701
ISBN: 9781124287843
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