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Charles Ess, Drury University, USA Professor with specific responsibilities (MSO) Information and Media Studies Department Aarhus University, Aarhus, Denmark.

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Presentation on theme: "Charles Ess, Drury University, USA Professor with specific responsibilities (MSO) Information and Media Studies Department Aarhus University, Aarhus, Denmark."— Presentation transcript:

1 Charles Ess, Drury University, USA Professor with specific responsibilities (MSO) Information and Media Studies Department Aarhus University, Aarhus, Denmark

2 Background, resources Recent book: Digital Media Ethics (Polity Press, 2009) Chapters on: Privacy Copyright/Copyleft Global Citizenship Online Pornography, Violence in Videogames Ethical Frameworks 2

3 Background, resources Recent book: (co-edited with Soraj Hongladarom, Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, Thailand) Information Technology Ethics: Cultural Perspectives. IGI Global, (follows on work on privacy in Japan, China, Thailand, the U.S., the E.U., and Scandinavia, ) 3

4 Background, resources Co-chair, with Fay Sudweeks, biennial conference series on “Cultural Attitudes towards Technology and Communication” (CATaC) –

5 Background, resources Recent workshops: PhD/Graduate course and workshop: Philosophy of Virtuality: Deliberation, Trust, Offence and Virtues. Trondheim, NTNU, March 9-13, 2009 Mobile Communication and the Ethics of Social Networking Sept. 25–27, 2008, Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Budapest. The Good Life in a Technological Age. University of Twente, Enschede, The Netherlands. June 12-14,

6 Background, resources Upcoming lectures, publications The Embodied Self in a Digital Age, closing plenary address, The 19 th Nordic Conference for Media and Communication Research. Karlstad, Sweden August Blackwell Handbook of Internet Studies (co-edited with Robert Burnett, Karlstad University, Sweden; Mia Consalvo, Ohio University) Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell. Floridi’s Philosophy of Information and Information Ethics: Current Perspectives, Future Directions. The Information Society 25 (3), 2009:

7 Background, resources Additional Resources Naomi Baron, Always On: Language in an Online and Mobile World. Oxford University Press, (Joint Winner of the 2008 Duke of Edinburgh ESU [English Speaking Union] English Language Book Award.) 7 Anders Albrechtslund Online Social Network as Participatory Surveillance. First Monday, Volume 13, Number March 2008.

8 Where I’d like to go with you today … 1. Mobile phones and a “second wave” of Internet / ICT diffusion - preliminaries 2. Possible ethical perspectives – a “crash course,” “ethical toolkit” 3. Living in the Age of Participatory Surveillance A. positives – “lateral surveillance” and community B. negatives – i) “Always On” and the loss of private selves ‘Privacy’: What it is, why it matters – especially in a modern liberal democracy – vis-à-vis: what kind of selves do we become through immersion in digital communication networks? [OPTIONAL] ii) the affordances of mobile devices vs. the virtues of the communicative/relational self 4. Perhaps overly negative concluding remarks. 8

9 1. Mobile phones and a “second wave” of Internet / ICT diffusion - preliminaries The Second Wave … over 3 billion and counting … A. Ethical / Political positives … Smart mobs (Rheingold (2002)  “texting the vote” (Graff 2008) Developing world: Midwives’ network in Aceh Besar, Indonesia (Ang et al 2008) Non-literate interfaces  preservation of Indigenous languages (Dyson 2007, Brady, Dyson and Asela 2008) 9

10 1. Mobile phones and a “second wave” of Internet / ICT diffusion - preliminaries B. Mixed results: Mobile devices as more personal, intimate in comparison with laptops, desktops  “always on” (Baron 2008) positive / negative … Convergence  new affordances (analogous to anonymity), e.g.,  recording, uploading pictures, video to publicly-accessible sites such as YouTube great for sharing the kids’ birthday parties with the grandparents – but … “happy slapping”? “sexting” 10

11 1. Mobile phones and a “second wave” of Internet / ICT diffusion - preliminaries C. Ethical concerns – the usual suspects … Cell phones as distractions – e.g., laws against talking while driving production / consumption of pornography – Europe, Asia, Africa: not (so much so far) U.S. “sexting” as phenomenon of concern – adolescents as both producers and consumers of child pornography … and, as we will see - privacy 11

12 2. Possible ethical perspectives – a “crash course,” “ethical toolkit” Primary ethical frameworks 1. Consequentialisms: (U.S. / U.K.) Ethical egoism –maximize positive consequences for self Utilitarianism – greatest good for the greatest number Spock version: the good of the many outweighs the good of the few  can justify violation of basic human rights … 2. Deontologies: some rights, values, acts are (near-) absolute religious – “divine command” theories (e.g., Ten Commandments, Golden Rule) in Abrahamic religions, Confucian thought, Buddhism, etc. rational – Kantian categorical imperative (Northern Europe) what larger moral order would result from universalizing our choices – and is such a moral order coherent? 12

13 2. Possible ethical perspectives – a “crash course,” “ethical toolkit” 3. Virtue Ethics – East-West Plato, Aristotle … contemporary virtue ethics (from Bennett to feminism - !!) Buddhism and Confucian thought, Indigenous traditions (e.g., African) “Virtue” = excellence: virtue ethics focuses on how we may become better, more excellent human beings. Certain fundamental capacities – e.g., the rational capacity for self- rule, compassion, and ethical judgment (phronesis) – are required for living “the good life,” as marked by individual contentment (eudaimonia – well-being) and harmony in the larger community (both human/political and natural/divine) These capacities are not “given” at birth – but acquired, developed over a lifetime of practice. 13

14 3. Living in the Age of Participatory Surveillance A. Positives – “lateral surveillance” and community Social Networking Sites (Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, etc.); Status updates, Twitter tweets, Google Latitude 14 …  “participatory surveillance”

15 3. Living in the Age of Participatory Surveillance A. Positives – “lateral surveillance” and community Nancy Baym: the early history of the frequent demise of virtual communities that presumed à la 1990s’ Internet libertarianism that no rules were necessary taught us that “Virtual communities still require rules - indeed, surveillance - if they are not to dissolve …” (forthcoming in Blackwell Handbook of Internet Studies) Albrechtslund: “lateral surveillance” as mutual monitoring long characteristic of human relationships, communities 15

16 3. Living in the Age of Participatory Surveillance negatives – e.g. GPS- enabled mobile phones  Big Brother – or at least researchers and the phone company are watching … 16

17 3. Living in the Age of Participatory Surveillance B. negatives – i). “Always On” and the loss of private selves? ii). the virtues of the communicative/relational self vs. the affordances of mobile devices 17

18 3.B.i) Remember ‘privacy’? What it is, why it matters – especially in a modern liberal democracy– vis-à-vis: what kind of selves do we become through immersion in digital communication networks? Primer/reminder: in an age of “participatory surveillance” (Albrechtslund 2008) – what is ‘privacy’ – and who needs it? Privacy (like being, to on) is said in many ways… “The expectation of privacy is grounded in the fear concerning how the information might be used or appropriated to pressure or embarrass one, to damage one’s credibility or economic status, and so on” (DeCew 1997, 75, cited in Meeler 2008, 162) 18

19 Kinds of privacy + Purposes, justification: “perfect privacy” – when one “is completely inaccessible to others.. no one has any information about X, no one pays any attention to X, and no one has physical access to X.” (Gavison 1980, 428, cited in Meeler 2008, 157) expressive privacy – “protects a realm for expressing one’s self- identity or personhood through speech or activity” – without fear of repercussion (DeCew 1986, cited in Meeler 2008, 153)  “expressive privacy sustains an arena within which one can freely select behavior that maximizes one’s expression of self” (Meeler 2008, 157) 19

20 Kinds of privacy + Purposes, justification:  “core space” (my term) in which one (in Kant’s terms, as a rational autonomy) is able to deliberate, reflect, critique alternatives, and thereby freely choose / judge (phronesis) what is to be one’s own conception of the good life, including political, religious, career, and other personal choices / commitments (in Kantian language, one’s ends) and thus the appropriate and necessary means for achieving those ends  Foundational conception of liberal democracies, modern liberal state – cf. Isaiah Berlin's well-known account of positive freedom/liberty – 1969, 131) Deborah Johnson’s account of privacy justifications in the U.S. (2001) 20

21 Kinds of privacy + Purposes, justification: Related notions: access privacy – who has access to us and under what circumstances (DeCew, in Meeler 2008, 153 locational privacy vis-à-vis GPS Fisher and Dobson (2003) González, Hidalgo & Barabási (2008) study All of which may be conceptually rooted in: Informational privacy – insofar as we are our information an informational ontology [that] may help us to understand an individual as constituted by her information is meant to contribute and be complementary to other approaches to e.g. physical or mental/psychological privacy (Floridi 2008) vs. digital information as “greased”: When information is computerised, it is greased to slide easily and quickly to many ports of call” (Moor 1997, p. 27)  protecting information about us = protecting our privacy in its various forms (cf. Meeler 2008) 21

22 Privacy  Self/community? Briefly: these conceptions of privacy – especially as centering on “core space” (my term) in which one (in Kant’s terms, as a rational autonomy) is able to deliberate, reflect, critique alternatives, and thereby freely choose / judge (phronesis) what is to be one’s own conception of the good life, thereby foreground a modern Western “atomic” sense of self – at the extreme, an isolate. BUT: as we shift towards more feminist / ecological / embodied understandings of the human being – we thereby shift towards models emphasizing interconnection (first of all, between self and body) and relationships with “the Other” – the relational self 22

23 Privacy  Self/community? We can think of this as a transition to “post-postmodern” conceptions of a relational self: Susan Stuart: from cognitivism (isolated Cartesian rationality) to enactivism: the person as a mind-body whose knowledge and navigation of the world is only as physically enmeshed with situation and context Hongladarom – Buddhist-Western hybrid Floridi – information / philosophical naturalism (cf. Becker, LeibSubjekt – “body-subject” [2002], Zsuzsanna Kondor embeddedness, role of the body, emotions in reasoning; Giuseppina Pellegrino 2008; Kurt Röttgers’ use of Merleau-Ponty, lifeworld?) 23

24 Privacy  Self/community? As I have argued elsewhere – Western relational, embodied self (Stuart et al) and an Eastern relational (Buddhist-empirical) self (Hongladarom) / Chinese, Japanese young people represent a pluralistic convergence (not an identity) towards a shared understanding of a relational self that a) requires some suite of privacy protections (originally, modern Western), while further functioning as b) “a networked self” – i.e., a relational self interwoven with larger social and environmental communities, in part, precisely as these are mediated by global computer networks 24

25 Privacy  Self/community?  conception of the person in Plato and Aristotle – and of the phronesis that only an embodied being can practice and acquire through long experience  further resonant with feminist, ecological ethics + Confucian thought, African thought (Paterson 2007), etc.  global and pluralistic intercultural Information and Computing Ethics (Ess 2007, Hongladarom & Ess 2007)  “new” (old) ethical imperatives, e.g. virtue ethics, e.g. cultivation of compassion (Hongladarom), patience (Vallor), dilige, at quod vis fac (love/respect and do what you wish) (Augustine / Floridi – Ess 2009) [/Zsuzsanna Kondor’s Sellarsian Ethics? [/Giuseppina Pellegrino’s attention to phronesis, “electronic body”] 25

26 Privacy  Self/community? Given such a hybrid relational self, oriented towards development of phronesis, cultivation of compassion and other virtues necessary to engage with the Other and foster the irreducible differences defining individual and cultural identities  More benign evaluation “voluntary surveillance” possible, e.g. Albrechtslund, “lateral surveillance” as mutual monitoring long characteristic of human relationships, communities - resonates with notions of “distributed selves,” “distributed morality,” etc. (e.g., Actor-Network Theory) made possible by and embodied in communication networks. BUT: predicated on preservation of some remnant of the conception of self foundational to democratic polity – the self taught to practice and (ideally) acquire the virtues of patience, perseverance, and freedom itself as the practice of deliberation and judgment (phronesis) 26

27 patience, honesty, empathy, fidelity, reciprocity and tolerance, … as communicative virtues, for the practices through which they develop are primarily (though not exclusively) communicative practices virtues are characteristically difficult to acquire, as Aristotle repeatedly emphasizes, especially in the beginning when our existing motivations and dispositions often pull us in the opposite direction. One therefore requires, in addition to our existing motives, situational opportunities that exert some pressure upon us to move in the virtuous direction, and the social strains and burdens of face to face conversation have historically, and across cultures, often been rich sources of such pressure B.ii) New Media and Virtue (Vallor)

28 Virtue ethics –mobile phones and the virtue of patience Patience is without a doubt one of the most important virtues for sustaining close relationships. It develops through communicative activities such as listening, for example, listening to a friend tell a story or recount a lengthy anecdote without jumping in and finishing the story oneself or interrupting with ‘hey, that reminds me of this thing that happened to me yesterday!’ Patience, [once it becomes not just a momentary indulgence of the other but an enduring and habitual element of one’s own character, that is, a virtue,] allows one’s relationships with others to manifest deeper mutual understanding, greater and more lasting commitments, and a feeling on the part of others that you are willing to connect with them on their terms and not just yours, that your interest in them does not end with their ability to keep you constantly pleased or fascinated. 28

29 Virtue ethics –mobile phones and the virtue of patience Patience is closely related to another virtue, perseverance. No human project of any substance can survive long without perseverance, and close relationships are no different. In communication, perseverance manifests the willingness to push through conflict or misunderstanding to reconnect with one’s partner on the other side of the breach. But to be effective in maintaining the intimacy of the communication, such perseverance must be coupled with patience, the habit of ‘riding out’ moments of irritation, boredom, or incomprehension rather than abruptly changing the subject in an attempt to force the conversation into a more satisfactory state. Indeed, the richest joys of communication often come from being patient enough to actually grasp what is being said, to finally get the joke, or to hear a challenging truth. 29

30 Virtue ethics –mobile phones and the virtue of patience the formats most privileged by social networking sites today obviate the need for patience: the comment, the testimonial, the ‘poke’, the status update. The instant digestibility of such transactions are among the features driving the technology’s appeal, as the success of Twitter indicates; but given this, what will drive new generations of digital natives to ford across communicative breaches and experience the rewards that the virtue of patience brings? (Ess)  Albert Borgmann: technology as affordances reinforced by ease, convenience  “de-skilling”  worst-case: immersion in convenience turns us away from the situations, opportunities, difficult contexts and requirements in which we learn the virtues of patience, perseverance, etc. 30

31 4. Perhaps overly negative concluding remarks. 31 what self/selves + virtue(s) are fostered by contemporary digital media? What we are discovering is that we need an augmented ethics for a theory of augmented moral agency. -- Luciano Floridi 2008 Will the “secondary orality of cyberspace” – including its affiliated technologies such as mobile phones - provide the affordances that tend to preserve or diminish the self, virtues necessary for a liberal democratic society? Or, more completely …

32 (what self/selves + virtue(s) are fostered by contemporary digital media?) Key questions: a) maintaining privacy as the “core space” in which one develops one’s capacity for autonomy, choices for the good life is a necessary condition for developing and practicing being the kind of autonomous self presupposed by modern liberal democracies Question: what will happen to privacy – and thus to such a self – as we (freely) engage more and more in the technologies of “participatory surveillance”? 32

33 (what self/selves + virtue(s) are fostered by contemporary digital media?) Key questions b) if specific virtues – patience, perseverance – are necessary to the development and flourishing of friendship question: do the affordances of contemporary digital media foster and/or hinder our acquiring and practicing such virtues? 33

34 Final worries? Networked Digital Media as Weapons of Mass Distraction? Neil Postman, Amusing Ourselves to Death (1984) Two dystopias – Orwell / Huxley Orwell warns that we will be overcome by an externally imposed oppression. But in Huxley’s vision, no Big Brother is required to deprive people of their autonomy, maturity and history. As he saw it, people will come to love their oppression, to adore the technologies that undo their capacities to think. (1984, vii) 34

35 Final worries? Networked Digital Media as Weapons of Mass Distraction? Neil Postman, Amusing Ourselves to Death (1984): Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture, preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelies, the orgy porgy, and the centrifugal bumblepuppy. […] 35

36 Final worries? Networked Digital Media as Weapons of Mass Distraction? As Huxley remarked in Brave New World Revisited, the civil libertarians and rationalists who are ever on the alert to oppose tyranny “failed to take into account man’s almost infinite appetite for distractions.” In 1984, Huxley added, people are controlled by inflicting pain. In Brave New World, they are controlled by inflicting pleasure. In short, Orwell feared that what we hate will ruin us. Huxley feared that what we love will ruin us. (1984, vii f.). 36

37 In sum: perhaps our increasing immersion into the cyberspace of networked communications – made ever easier, more comprehensive, more pervasive in a state of being “always on” in an age of “participatory surveillance” - hybrid self/selves will emerge that will conjoin (a) some “core space” of privacy  the “virtuous self” immersed in the life project of practicing / acquiring autonomy, phronesis, the virtues of patience, perseverance, as communicative virtues necessary for (b) the relational self – one widely distributed via network technologies that further foster “distributed morality” along with the pleasures, conveniences, (and: infinite distractions) of being “always on” OR: following Borgmann and Huxley, will we be happily drawn into a web of infinite distractions, and simply fall in love with the technologies of our enslavement? 37

38 Questions, Comments, Tomatoes? 38


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