Paternalism, Nudging, and the Digital Sphere

Call for Papers for a Special Issue of "Moral Philosophy and Politics". Deadline: January 15, 2020

Information technologies (broadly construed) provide corporations and governmental institutions with tools that enable them to push the behavior of their citizens/users into directions they consider “right”. For example, E-health-applications or smart homes might promote healthier or more sustainable lifestyles while the Chinese government currently experiments with implementing the so called digitally administered ‘Social Credit System’ with the aim of improving behavioral regulation of both, their citizens and businesses. In a similar vein, the information-architecture of e.g. Google’s search algorithms or of social media sites, such as Facebook, are suspected of influencing the formation of political opinions (i.e. ‘group-polarization’ as a negative example).

New information technologies might also change the way in which paternalistically motivated interferences are induced. In this context, the concept of ‘nudging’ has come to increased prominence in public policy circles ever since the Nobel Prize in economics was awarded to Richard Thaler in 2017. ‘Nudging’ is defined as the attempt to influence an individual’s or collective’s behavior by altering choice-architecture using basic cognitive biases. New information technologies allow for a way more potent kind of nudges: by means of big data analysis, corporations or governmental institutions are able to obtain ever more broad and fine-grained sets of information about persons and groups so that nudges can be more efficiently customized, often by AI-based bots. As a consequence, it becomes much easier to track and dynamically adjust the effectiveness of a particular choice-architecture as the relevant algorithm learns from its user`s behavior.

Moral Philosophy and Politics invites contributions on the ethical and political ramifications of digital technologies. Suitable research questions include, but are not limited to:

  • What kind of paternalistically motivated interferences are justified on moral and political grounds?
  • How can we ensure that a digital nudge still qualifies as an instance of morally acceptable libertarian paternalism?
  • When, if ever, are corporations justified to exhibit paternalistically motivated behavior? How should conflicts of interest between different paternalistic or non-paternalistic stakeholders be evaluated and resolved (such as between corporations and states)?
  • Do the ethical and political principles ‘autonomy’ or ‘informed consent’ still apply to behavior in the new digital sphere?
  • What challenges does digital paternalism pose for civic education (e.g., debates about digital literacy) and for the ethos of democratic debate more generally (e.g., debates about echo chambers; hate speech)?

The abovementioned questions are far from being exhaustive. For the purposes of the special issue, we are seeking a wide range of contributions that discuss topics related to digital paternalism on either the institutional or the moral psychological level.

Papers should be submitted before January 15th, 2020 and should generally be around 6000-8000 (maximum length) words.

All submissions will undergo MOPP’s double-blind refereeing process.

Please note that this process is not organized by the guest editors but by the journal’s founding editors who will also have the final word on publication decisions.

The journal’s manuscript submission site can accessed here: http://mc.manuscriptcentral.com/mopp

Guest editors:
Johannes Drerup (Free University of Amsterdam/University of Koblenz-Landau)
Sebastian Stein (University of Heidelberg)
Thomas Grote (University of Tübingen)

For further questions, feel free to contact: thomas.grote(at)uni-tuebingen(dot)de

Further Information (Link)