The Ethics of Web 2.0
Good Practices on the Social Web
Department of Media Study
Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0
A Few Historical Snapshots
becoming human involves
culture, morals, civilization
each action must be driven by
the categorical imperative of
the moral argument
Ethical life (Hegel)
norms followed in everyday
Ethics was used to tame the appetites
repression of spontaneous behavior, passions and desires
affect-control, overcoming “vices” like unpunctuality and laziness
Technologies often served in the process
of drive-control the training of human
faculties overcoming immaturity (Kant)
Resisting temptations, demands
Seeing one's own rights in relation to others
Mutual respect of each other- independence, magnanimity,
level-headedness, common welfare as reference
the value of fatherland (patria)
beauty- relationship between virtue and beauty was seen
Love thy neighbor
Willingness to help, solidarity
(this is always at danger of being
limited to a small circle of friends)
Idea of reconciliation/forgiveness
Family as value
Protestant work ethics enforced capitalist
modes of production and optimization
Work becomes a value in itself
Christian recommendation of abstinence from premarital sex
Valorization of work increased
Other values include tolerance and self-awareness.
What does it mean to be ethical today?
Being affected by what affects the other.
Moral existence means to act independently
of demands and temptations.
The ability to act without being pushed along-
but rather act authentically based on reflection.
Morality gets rarely applauded.
Customary behavior is dangerous.
In Nazi Germany, not frequenting stores run
by Jews was a customary behavior.
striving to be good presupposes
an idea of what is humanely proper
virtues such as self-mastery, chastity, bravery
are instrumental to enforce the authority
of the state or prevailing authority
Striving for heightened humanism is often accompanied
by a tendency for hubris (i.e., Nietzsche's Übermensch)
Nazis ideology formulated the idea of the subhuman.
Human ideals are dangerous as they suppose the idea
of the good person.
Moral arguments are
virtuous- bashful young girl (tugendhaft)
social conventions are used to evaluate the
moral value of one’s everyday actions...
an ethics of the multitude
What can desire
raise up in us?
Sigmund Freud: psychological functions attributed to taboos
but Georges Bataille argued that suppressed desires lead to
Ethics is also part of allowing oneself
to be affected by desires and temptations but
involvement must be selective.
Customary behavior: I do what people do. It is a custom to be polite.
Hannah Arendt on Eichmann --
did not think he did evil acts but was
convinced that he simply fulfilled
Otto Adolf Eichmann (known as Adolf Eichmann; March 19, 1906 – June 1, 1962) was a high-
ranking Nazi who was charged with the task of facilitating and managing the logistics of
mass deportation to ghettos and extermination camps in Nazi-occupied Eastern Europe. After
the war, he traveled to Argentina using a fraudulently obtained laissez-passer issued by the
International Red Cross and lived there under a false identity. He was captured by Israeli
Mossad agents in Argentina and tried in Israeli court on fifteen criminal charges, including
crimes against humanity and war crimes. He was convicted and hanged.
Extermination Camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau, Poland
Context & Consequences
What are ethical standards on both, the side
of the users and the corporate platform
Social Networking Sites
- protection of minors
- transparency of the rules
- privacy in relation to submitted data
- content ownership
- community lockup (i.e., how easy is it to move data?)
- respect for the social contract
What is the role of sns in accessing
the world? Morality gets rarely
Morality as practicing to be part of a
community, a loose group ...
What does it mean to politicize
your own life project?
Taking everyday life seriously from time to time.
Today morality often requires one to depart from common life:
the ability to say 'no' is where it all starts.
Today a moral life and a straightforwardly
successful one are not the same...
Today, morality means to be better, it begins with
skepticism and it means to resist.
One possibility: to lead an exemplary life
Context, Intentions, and Consequences
The language around morals and ethics is often vague.
Moral questions are most valuable when addressed in relation
to real situations, and I suggest to only deal with them in
relation to specifics contexts.
Does talk about ethics mean that we
can’t have any more fun?
By looking at the Internet as a specific instance of the
fundamental role played by free labor, this essay also tries
to highlight the connections between the “digital
economy” and what the Italian autonomists have called
the “social factory.” The “social factory” describes a process
whereby “work processes have shifted from the factory to
society, thereby setting in motion a truly complex
In early communities (The Well) labor was really free:
not imposed, free cooperation, and pleasurable.
There are ethical concerns on the side of users
and others on the side of companies who provide
the platforms on which all of this happens.
The Social Web Makes People Easier To Use
You make all the content-- they get all the revenue.
Labor is almost like leisure
Life itself is put to work (Virno)
Emotions created through social
relations when a social object
enters a corporate platform
On the Social Web pleasure produces wealth.
free labor does not equal exploitation (Terranova)
WSJ: Lawrence Lessig discusses
the exploitation of Star Wars fans
The key is managing the marriage of money and
nonmoney without making nonmoney feel like a
The scale and degree of utilization of immaterial
labor plays out most with highest traffic sites (rather than the
mom and pop stores of the Web).
www.sina.com.cn, www.baidu.com, www.yahoo.com,
www.msn.com, www.google.com, www.youtube.com,
www.myspace.com, www.live.com, www.orkut.com, and
$15 billion for Facebook doesn’t sound so crazy when you
consider this: A Deutsche Bank analyst says that a newspaper
reader in 2004 was worth $964 a year. Today, that’s $500.
Facebook’s 50 million active users translates to $300 per year at
that valuation. And newspapers are shrinking while Facebook
is growing by 200,000 new users a day. A day. And those users
spend an average of 20 minutes each day inside the site vs.
41 minutes a month on newspaper sites, says DB.
Production of value through utilization/exploitation.
Example Myspace: $580 Mio to $15 Billion
SNS: It is not useful to merely define new social regulations.
Are users used? Most definitely. Do they mind it? Not yet.
People are being used and empowered at the same
time. It is too early to say how effective new types
of content licensing will be, or in fact are, in
preventing (commercial) appropriation. Being
used is one thing; not knowing that your attention
is monetized is another.
Cut & Paste Ethics:
Is it good practice to copy a text from a blog and post it
on a mailing list?
Is it good practice to take a nude photo of a theorist
(available online) and add it to his Wikipedia entry?
Is it good practice to forward your email to other people?
Data provided in Facebook profiles
What happens with our data?
Which decisions about are
made based on these data?
relation to friends
Some of my friends have MySpace parties. Basically, a
bunch of kids get together with their laptops and all
sign on to MySpace and start surfing it together. The
party takes off when they start surfing kids' profiles
who aren't present. You can imagine what a gossip
scene it is.
The MySpace Generation
Pleasure of creation Intrusion into the personal
They gain friendships Market research
Ads, unwanted content
Share their life experience
Commodification of intimacy (dating sites)
Archive their memories
They are getting jobs
Breach of social contract
Find dates and contribute to the
Society of control
Amazon.com helps people to find books and
music but may erode valuable processes by
Maximum convenience which people discover new authors or artists.
Constraints and accidents of everyday life are
Trebor Scholz 07
the basis for enjoyable and meaningful
activities, even if they are less efficient.
Struggle Over Moral Authority
Social Contract-- Level of Distrust
users and producers cast themselves
as victims of change
Voluntary participation Involuntary participation
tweak MySpace design of Filling in profiles
update Facebook (FB) status
FB Wall posts
create, upload, embed,
watch media (photos, videos)
breach of social contract
update profiles (Do people know that they are
friending/ unfriending creating wealth?)
install one of the 400 FB
applications Society of control (Deleuze)
chat (IM, messaging on FB) Content (advertising)
Trebor Scholz 07
upload, listen, buy music
Our identity is defined by our consumptive activity.
A crucial phenomenon of the Web is that of
captive community. Users contribute their content to social
environments and are not able to take it with them if they
wish to leave (e.g., when you have uploaded years of your
home videos on YouTube and photos on Flickr).
User's friends are concentrated in only a few places, which is a
key motivating factor for people to congregate there. Content,
therefore, is also concentrated, which makes these sites more
attractive. This captivity is not accidental but is rather central
to startup business strategies.
In September 2006 communal negotiating power
was made apparent when 741,000 users joined the
group against the introduction of the RSS feed on
Facebook. The company withdrew the feature. In
the past, such joint action of consumers was not as
easy. Today's information flows make it simpler to
organize such a quot;rebellion.quot;
- end -
please direct comments, additions, etc