Social networking technology and the virtues
- 1.3k Downloads
This paper argues in favor of more widespread and systematic applications of a virtue-based normative framework to questions about the ethical impact of information technologies, and social networking technologies in particular. The first stage of the argument identifies several distinctive features of virtue ethics that make it uniquely suited to the domain of IT ethics, while remaining complementary to other normative approaches. I also note its potential to reconcile a number of significant methodological conflicts and debates in the existing literature, including tensions between phenomenological and constructivist perspectives. Finally, I claim that a virtue-based perspective is needed to correct for a strong utilitarian bias in the research methodologies of existing empirical studies on the social and ethical impact of IT. The second part of the paper offers an abbreviated demonstration of the merits of virtue ethics by showing how it might usefully illuminate the moral dimension of emerging social networking technologies. I focus here on the potential impact of such technologies on three virtues typically honed in communicative practices: patience, honesty and empathy.
KeywordsVirtue ethics Social networking technology Aristotle Empirical turn Social capital Well-being Communicative virtues
Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.
I am greatly indebted to the participants and organizers of the 2008 GLITA workshop at the University of Twente, Enschede, Netherlands, from whom I received many insightful comments and critiques on an earlier version of this paper, and in particular to Charles Ess, whose helpful guidance and general encouragement of this project have been invaluable. This project has also been supported by the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics at Santa Clara University, through the generosity of a Hackworth Grant. Finally, I would like to thank Erin Berkenmeier for her considerable efforts as my research assistant on this project.
- Achterhuis, H. (2001). American philosophy of technology: The empirical turn (R. Crease, Trans.). Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press.Google Scholar
- Aristotle (1976). The ethics of Aristotle: Nicomachean ethics (J. A. K. Thomson, Trans.). London: Penguin Group.Google Scholar
- Becker, L. C. (1986). Reciprocity. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
- Borgmann, A. (1984). Technology and the character of contemporary life. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
- Borgmann, A. (1999). Holding on to reality: The nature of information at the turn of the millenium. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
- Borgmann, A. (2004). Is the internet the solution to the problem of community? In A. Feenberg & D. Barney (Eds.), Community in the digital age: Philosophy and practice (pp. 53–67). Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield.Google Scholar
- Boyd, D. (2008). Why youth (Heart) social network sites: The role of networked publics in teenage social life. In D. Buckingham (Ed.), Youth, identity and digital media (pp. 119–142). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
- Brey, P. (2007). Is information ethics culture-relative? International Journal of Technology and Human Interaction, 3(3), 12–25.Google Scholar
- Cates, D. F. (1997). Choosing to feel virtue friendship and compassion for friends. Indiana: University of Notre Dame Press.Google Scholar
- Dreyfus, H. (2001). On the internet. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
- Ellison, N. B., Steinfeld, C., & Lampe, C. (2007). The benefits of facebook “friends”: Social capital and college students’ use of online social network sites. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 12(4): article 1. http://jcmc.indiana.edu/vol12/issue4/ellison.html.
- Ess, C. (2009). Digital media ethics. Cambridge (UK): Polity.Google Scholar
- Feenberg, A. (1999). Questioning technology. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
- Feenberg, A., & Bakardjieva, M. (2004). Consumers or citizens? The online community debate. In A. Feenberg & D. Barney (Eds.), Community in the digital age: Philosophy and practice (pp. 1–28). Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield.Google Scholar
- Habermas, J. (1990). Moral consciousness and communicative action (C. Lenhardt & S. W. Nicholsen, Trans.). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
- Hongladaram, S., & Ess, C. (Eds.). (2007). Information technology ethics: Cultural perspectives. Hershey, PA: Idea Group.Google Scholar
- Immordino-Yang, M. H., McColl, A., Damasio, H., & Damasio, A. (2009). Neural correlates of admiration and compassion. Proceedings of the national academy of sciences, early edition, pub. online April 20.Google Scholar
- Introna, L. D. (2005). Phenomenological approaches to ethics and information technology. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. From http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/ethics-it-phenomenology/. Accessed on 10 September 2008.
- Ito, M., et al. (2009). Living and learning with new media: Summary of findings from the digital youth project. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
- Lenhart, A., Madden, M., Macgill, A. R., & Smith, A. (2007). Teens and social media. Pew Internet & American Life Project. From http://www.pewinternet.org. Accessed on 9 April 2009.
- Lenhart, A., Rainie, L., & Lewis, O. (2001). Teenage life online. Pew Internet & American Life Project. From http://www.pewinternet.org. Accessed on 9 April 2009.
- Louden, R. B. (1997). On some vices of virtue ethics. In R. Crisp & M. Slote (Eds.), Virtue ethics (pp. 201–216). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- MacIntyre, A. (1997). The nature of the virtues. In R. Crisp & M. Slote (Eds.), Virtue ethics (pp. 118–140). Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
- Mitcham, C., Kroes, P., & Meijers, A. (Eds.). (2000). The empirical turn in the philosophy of technology. Amsterdam: JAI/Elsevier Science.Google Scholar
- Rainie, L., Wellman, B., Horrigan, J. B., & Boase, J. (2006). The strength of internet ties. Pew Internet and American Life Project. From http://www.pewinternet.org. Accessed on 9 April 2009.
- Stern, S. (2008). Producing sites, exploring identities: Youth online authorship. In D. Buckingham (Ed.), Youth, identity and digital media (pp. 95–117). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
- Subrahmanyam, K., & Lin, G. (2007). Adolescents on the net: Internet use and well-being. Adolescence, 42(168), 659–677.Google Scholar
- Tavani, H. T. (2005). The impact of the internet on our moral condition: Do we need a new framework of ethics? In R. J. Cavalier (Ed.), The impact of the internet on our moral lives (pp.␣215–237). Albany, NY: SUNY Press.Google Scholar
- Turkle, S. (1995). Life on the screen: Identity in the age of the internet. New York: Simon & Schuster.Google Scholar