Ethical Foundations of Knowledge as a Commons

  • Kuhlen, Rainer (Department of Computer and Information Science, University of Konstanz)
  • Received : 2010.09.04
  • Accepted : 2011.05.23
  • Published : 2011.05.30


We consider information ethics the reflection on beliefs, rules and values in electronic environments, in particular with respect to producing, exchanging, sharing and using knowledge and information. This paper will provide an overview of information ethics in the context of the UNESCO from the first INFOethics conference in Monte Carlo 1998, to the UNESCO contribution to the two United Nations WSIS conferences(World Summit on the Information Society) in Geneva and Tunis and to the information ethical aspects of the UNESCO Information for All Programme. As a result of this debate we conclude that there is need for a new approach to achieve the goal of people-centered, inclusive and sustainable knowledge societies. We propose to consider knowledge a commons. Commons is thus the central concept of knowledge ecology and the centerpiece of information ethics. In the commons paradigm, a new consensus needs to be achieved concerning traditional concepts such as freedom of information and science, intellectual property, authorship and the nature of knowledge objects in general. Information ethics can contribute to this discussion by providing an open discourse about these transformation processes.


Information Ethics;UNESCO;World Summit on the Information Society;Knowledge Ecology;UNESCO Information for All Programme