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The ethical experience: offline/online


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Michel Puech - Annual Meeting of the
Society for Social Studies of Science (4S)
October 9-12, 2013
San Diego, Calif.

Published in: Business, Technology
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The ethical experience: offline/online

  1. 1. 1 Annual Meeting of the Society for Social Studies of Science (4S) October 9-12, 2013 San Diego, Calif. The ethical experience: offline/online Michel Puech, Paris-Sorbonne University made on a PC with LibreOffice
  2. 2. 2 digital (seamless) ethics  one ethical life, seamless, online and offline  we dramatically underestimate the ethical resources of online experiences immanent education and self care resources re-valuing online ordinary ethical skills unifies the agency of the modern self benefits from a new set of “virtues” (ethical skills)
  3. 3. 3 digital (seamless) ethics resist predigital assumptions “predigital” includes prehistoric as its main period and is sometimes meant as a mild version of “prehistoric” the novelty is not the existence of the digital sphere, as a compartment of our world but the role it plays now, and more precisely: its integration into the existential sphere
  4. 4. 4 digital (seamless) ethics poor predigital assumption: the offline/real must monitor the online/digital online life is not monitored, ruled, or controlled by the ethical virtues acquired offline better vision: seamless = not offline → online: good preventive moral instructions not online → offline: bad influence of online experiences (piracy, violence, pornography) on real life but online ↔ offline
  5. 5. 5 digital (seamless) ethics predigital assumptions → laments for the digital dereliction of morality the moral black matter is no “missing masses of morality” as in Latour the digital is an anti-matter for morality, with an ethical negative value (Böhme 2012: 122) assumption: moral rules are learned in real life the are applied by good (compliant) agents, in real life, but the context of digital technologies disrupts the initial ethical training
  6. 6. 6 digital (seamless) ethics main disruptive factor online: the anonymity (of publication and of access) in “virtual” space a Gyges/invisibility ring in real life: what would happen? → (micro-)experiments, actions and their outcomes, then evaluation, and insertion in an envisioned moral destiny, a self-narrative that constitutes the substrate for ethical self-governing, self-care, self-history how would you “prepare" (offline) someone to have a Gyges/invisibility ring?
  7. 7. 7 digital (seamless) ethics digital ethics assets: state of the art in “virtual” studies : experiences of the virtual are real - and embodied Turkle 1995, Markham 1998, Ihde 2001, Joinson 2003 Danah Boyd's seminal research (2008) seamless experience of teenagers social networking websites / the offline management of relationships with parents, schoolmates, friends, adult strangers = against the “separation” predigital model
  8. 8. 8 digital (seamless) ethics Francesco Varela's approach to ethical know-how ethical learning by micro-acquaintances and micro- experiences ethics = basic behavioral skills, know-how and not know- that an ethical know-how, acquired in ordinary experience, like language (W.V.O. Quine!) “Furthermore, we acquire our ethical behavior in much the same way we acquire all other modes of behavior: they become transparent to us as we grow up in society.” (Varela 1999: 24) now they grow up online too digital literacy as a mother tongue → idem with online and digital ethics
  9. 9. 9 digital (seamless) ethics Lawrence Kohlberg's psychology of moral development ethical “vernacular” education parallel to the natural stages of logical skills in children (Jean Piaget) applies particularly to the idea of justice (Kohlberg 1981) → a seamless online/offline development of the perception of justice?
  10. 10. 10 methodological remarks digital / online different but merging, I take them as equivalent games / online different but merging, I take them as equivalent example: World of Warcraft Zagal 2010 suggests a gradual engagement: real moral experiences even in simple games rich moral experiences in recent “'immersive” games rich moral interpersonal experiences in multiplayer online games games are ethical “sandboxes”, in the digital meaning of the term
  11. 11. 11 ordinary praxis and ethics why “seamless” is important in the technoethical approach to online/offline and how it goes with the underestimated significance of the ordinary my point is not: online experiences are ethically significant my point is: online experiences are immersed in the seamless flow of ordinary ethical micro-experiences and thereby produce (seamlessly) ethical skills a new density of moral life caused by the density of connections the fact that a lot of them are frivolous as to their content does not limit their psychological impact and the integral sum of these impacts on an ethical learning curb
  12. 12. 12 ordinary praxis and ethics ordinary online ethical (emotional) experiences emotional investment in digital connections (mails, social networking, smartphone, texting) → the psychological foothold for numerous and deep ethical experiences trust or suspicion ← the design of a web site, the subject line of an email, the neutrality of a Wikipedia article gratitude ← the help received from a forum to solve a small problem (i.e. error code on my phone) disgust ← “graphic” images used to attract attention or to sell online contempt ← “trolls” commenting on honest articles
  13. 13. 13 ordinary praxis and ethics attachment ← being “texted” importance of being reachable and available in attachment bonds and human relations (online → offline) vulnerability ← Google/Facebook leads to something about me that I would prefer to conceal ...
  14. 14. 14 virtue ethics and technology of the self Aristotelian simple argument for a good reason, Aristotle seems to be the most frequent reference for the ethics of online experience Nicomachean Ethics, Book II: ethics is about praxis and acquired in praxis, in real behaviors and habits “virtues” or human excellences are simultaneously acquired in praxis and the means to excel in praxis, in a continual process of self-improvement now this praxis is seamlessly online and offline → primacy and enlargement of Foucault's idea: technologies of the self through praxis, outsmarting the domination system that initially provided access to this praxis
  15. 15. 15 virtue ethics and technology of the self digital media ethics (Charles Ess) a phronēsis problem: making judgments on particular real cases, with very specific parameters ≠ little abstract stories contrived as philosophical traps the question of privacy is central → being a self and being online is the common condition young people now meet online the questions of identity, exposure, authenticity, manipulation, social bonding evident in Ess 2009: privacy problems appear at the online/offline interface
  16. 16. 16 virtue ethics and technology of the self virtue ethics (recent revival) as a resource for technoethics typically: not traditional altruistic moral norms but a common sense morality, practiced and not theorized, in which the agent allows herself more value = rehabilitation of “self-regarding virtues” vs the obsessive others-regarding (religious) norms (Slote 1992) detects a recent “healthy self-assertiveness on the part of moral agents” (Slote 1992: 18) my hypothesis: it comes from the online empowerment of agents
  17. 17. 17 online/offline virtues (ethical skills) ethical pluralism from online realities comes the demand of ethical pluralism (Ess 2009) which is the main task for ethics (offline) today, I think
  18. 18. 18 online/offline virtues (ethical skills) health self care e-health applications (Web and smartphones) diet and weight self-control discreet encouragement for physical activity online community support and comfort for chronic diseases resistance to the over-medicalization of health – by better and independent patients information field study in Luppicini Adell (eds) 2008: chap. 20 “Engaging Youth in Health", a decade of research and action with TeenNet, a youth-focused research group, Toronto (smocking, HIV, gambling)
  19. 19. 19 collaboration – forums and open source initiatives Yochai Benkler's model, examples and actions for social production the Penguin (ref. Linux) / Leviathan (ref. Thomas Hobbes) opposition … is largely an online / offline affair (Benkler 2011) how online ethics influences (for the best) offline realities one step further: how new ethical skills appear in the ordinary hybridization of online and offline ethically significant experiences online/offline virtues (ethical skills)
  20. 20. 20 online/offline virtues (ethical skills) self-reliance ethics, from online to offline resistance to marketing products, consumption habits the Web and ordinary people online give advice and testimony about ordinary life (with potentially strong economic impact) coooking, laundry (using inexpensive white vinegar instead of commercial tablets as water softener), car sharing, couch surfing, second hand market between private individuals (“Le Bon Coin“ in France is a massive social tool - new forms of political resistance from Indignados to Occupy movements they are typically seamless online/offline (Castells 2012) the growing social importance of indignation ← the resistive "moral sensitivity" of the Web e.g. "Streisand effect"
  21. 21. 21 online/offline virtues (ethical skills) confrontation with deviance sex, violence, irrational behaviors online: imaginary exploration of deviance can develop the skills necessary to deal with these components of human nature Gyges/invisibility ring paradigm
  22. 22. 22 online/offline virtues (ethical skills) confrontation with non-human agency online: ordinary confrontation with the agency of non-humans (Google's algorithm) the mixed and hybrid agencies of humans and non- humans (amazon) in typical hybrid uses online/offline = field experiment with new skills in ethics, challenging but necessary for the future
  23. 23. 23 online/offline virtues (ethical skills) new acceptability or legitimation for transnational whistle-blowing and radical transparency Julian Assange and Wikileaks, Bradley Manning, Edward Snowden: intense conversation online on the moral aspects of their behavior a new ethical configuration is forming online, with heavy consequences offline
  24. 24. 24 online/offline virtues (ethical skills) global justice and sustainability issues digital ↔ global: an underestimated resource Jeremy Rifkin's hypothesis about global empathy, a decisive but neglected resource (Rifkin 2009) to be connected with Kohlberg's analysis of moral development, applied to online/offline experiences constructive but just wishful thinking?
  25. 25. 25 reconnecting global justice perception, a showcase for seamless online/offline ethics? constructive approach: the perception of justice in global issues as a theme for post-indignation ethics digital moral sensibility reconnected with action potentials (online/offline) ↔ a new framework for the issues of global justice environmental NGO are playing this card in their own way action characteristics: non-institutional and post-political a new mediation, not through the media-institutional (discredited) filter Briggle and Mitcham 2009 digital online information corrects the experiential gaps = what is “disembedded” and disconnected offline reconnects online
  26. 26. 26 references BÖHME Gernot, Invasive technification: Critical essays in the philosophy of technology, transl. C. Shingleton, London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2012 BOYD Danah Michele, Taken out of context: American teen sociality in networked publics, PhD, University of California, Berkeley,, 2008 BRIGGLE Adam, MITCHAM Carl, “Embedding and networking: Conceptualizing experience in a technosociety”, Technology in Society 31(4): 374–83 CASTELLS Manuel, Networks of outrage and hope: Social movements in the Internet age, Cambridge: Polity Press, 2012 ESS Charles, Digital media ethics, Cambridge: Polity Press, 2009 IHDE Don, Bodies in technology, Minneapolis, Mn: University of Minnesota Press, 2001 JOINSON Adam N., Understanding the psychology of Internet behaviour: Virtual worlds, real lives, New York: MacMillan, 2003 KOHLBERG Lawrence, The philosophy of moral development: Moral stages and the idea of justice, San Francisco, Calif.: Harper & Row, 1981 LUPPICINI Rocci, ADELL Rebecca (ed), Handbook of research on technoethics, 2 vol., Hershey, Pa.: Information Science Reference, 2008 MARKHAM Annette N., Life on line: Researching real experience in virtual space, Walnut Creek: Altamira, 1998 PUECH Michel, "Ordinary technoethics", International Journal of Technoethics, 4(2), 36-45, July-December 2013 RIFKIN Jeremy, The empathic civilization: The race to global consciousness in a world in crisis, Cambridge, UK: Polity Press, 2009 SLOTE Michael, From morality to virtue, Oxford U.P., 1992 TURKLE Sherry, Life on the screen: Identity in the age of the Internet, New York: Simon & Schuster, 1995 VARELA Francisco J., Ethical know-how: Action, wisdom, and cognition, Stanford U.P., 1999 ZAGAL José P., "Encouraging ethical reflection with videogames", in The videogame ethics reader, Zagal J.P. (ed), San Diego, Calif.: Cognella, 2010, 67-82, 2010
  27. 27. 27 more online contact: this presentation and other (free) stuff: