Ethical Dimensions of New Technology/Media

Authored by: Charles Ess

The Handbook of Communication Ethics

Print publication date:  December  2010
Online publication date:  January  2011

Print ISBN: 9780415994644
eBook ISBN: 9780203890400
Adobe ISBN: 9781135846671


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The emergence of new digital technologies—including computers and computer networks as communication media, as well as Internet-enabled mobile phones—has evoked an extensive range of ethical issues and challenges. Many of these are familiar from earlier technologies; for example, privacy, copyright, pornography, and violence in (computer) games. At the same time, two characteristics of new digital media evoke distinctive ethical difficulties. First, digital devices conjoin or converge diverse technologies in a single device, thereby issuing in new combinations of technological possibilities and affordances (Jenkins, 2006). For example, with a standard smartphone, someone may record—with or without others’ knowing—either still photographs or motion video, and then upload the photos or video to a publicly accessible site such as YouTube or a moderately restricted social networking site such as Facebook. The device thereby confronts us with a collective of what were once distinct ethical issues surrounding distinct media; that is, questions of permission and consent in connection with photography or videorecording; questions of permission, consent, and copyright in connection with print publication; and questions of harm, including libel and defamation of character following such publication (Ess, 2009a, pp. 9–11; for more critical discussion of convergence and new media, see Nyíri, 2007; Storsul & Studedahl, 2007).

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