As a core text for undergraduate courses in new media, media ethics, and global communication, Ethics in the Digital Domain helps students explore the big questions surrounding the impact of the digital domain on our daily lives.
There are those who promise an enhanced human future through adoption and acceptance of digital culture, and those who condemn this shift in no uncertain terms. What are the positions taken by futurists and technology inventors and adopters on these issues? Through a series of case studies, this groundbreaking text challenges students to consider the future they will inhabit. Should they fear such changes or embrace them? What ethical systems will help provide guidance in this new world? What role will they have to play in this ecosystem? Will their humanity survive? Does it matter?
Presented in a format designed to initiate debate and discussion, Ethics in the Digital Domain covers enduring debates in ethics such as privacy, copyright, libel, consent, surveillance and the necessity for truthful discourse. It also looks at new dimensions introduced by media practices in digital media, including:
Regardless of where students stand on the different issues raised here, they will find themselves in ethical conundrums because the tensions raised are both ordinary and profound in the new world of digital media ethics.
Robert S. Fortner is a research professor of communication at the University of Illinois. He has published widely on international communication, global public diplomacy, the history of international media, media ethics, and media theory. He has extensive experience teaching, lecturing, and interacting with media practitioners in various countries around the world from Moscow to Nairobi and Abidjan to Ulan Bator.
1. Introduction—Why Ethics?
2. Ethics in the Digital Domain
3. Is Truth Truth in the Online World?
4. Who’s Who in the Online World
5. Are Social Media Activities Actually Social?
6. Are Digital Media Good for Democracy?
7. Will Digital Systems Replace Workers in the “Real World”?
8. Do Digital Systems Enhance Human Life?
9. Robots and Humanity
10. What Do People Learn about Identity and Society from Digital Media?
11. Conclusion—Why Bother?
Appendix 1: Cases for Discussion
Appendix 2: Protecting Yourself in the Digital World
Fortner provides an engaging survey of applied ethics, presenting 16 case studies for classroom discussion that explore individual culpability for the consequences of "mindless" use of digital technology. Novel situations raised by accelerated workplace automation, harm caused by the digital spread of disinformation, and weakened trust in regulating big tech illustrate the need to distill several ethical systems into a workable foundation for logical decision-making. Against this challenge, Fortner offers six diagnostic questions: Does the difference between right and wrong matter in this case? Are people being treated as agents in their own right? Do those who are worst off gain anything from the decision? Are people taking responsibility for each other’s welfare? Do those benefiting in number and degree outweigh those who aren't? Is the decision made likely to lead to human flourishing? As Fortner argues, centralized media hegemony, maintained in prior eras by unknown gatekeepers and officials, has atomized; more authority today rests with listeners, viewers, and users, each bearing ethical responsibility for maintaining a humane society by "policing" their own and others' digital behavior. Overall, this important text, including steps to limit online privacy invasion, provides a practical framework that deserves a place in courses emphasizing ethical decision-making for a better world. Essential.
Fortner provides an engaging survey of applied ethics, presenting 16 case studies for classroom discussion that explore individual culpability for the consequences of "mindless" use of digital technology.... Overall, this important text, including steps to limit online privacy invasion, provides a practical framework that deserves a place in courses emphasizing ethical decision-making for a better world. Essential.
For a long time, I have believed we need ethics taught across the curriculum of the liberal arts and professional programs. This book is excellent for that purpose. It presents the important issues chapter by chapter, and includes many pedagogical strategies for helping students come to competent decisions about them.