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Ethical Issues in the Online World

Welcome to the blog of the Internet Ethics program at the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics, Santa Clara University. Program Director Irina Raicu will be joined by various guests in discussing the ethical issues that arise continuously on the Internet; we hope to host a robust conversation about them, and we look forward to your comments.

The following postings have been filtered by tag mobile. clear filter
  •  Applying Applied Ethics -- on Yik Yak

    Friday, Jun. 26, 2015

    Earlier this week, the associate director of the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics, Miriam Schulman, published a blog post about one of the center's recent campus projects. "If we want to engage with students," she wrote, "we have to go where they are talking, and this year, that has been on Yik Yak." To read more about this controversial app and a creative way to use it in a conversation about applied ethics, see "Yik Yak: The Medium and the Message." (And consider subscribing to the "All About Ethics" blog, as well!)


  •  "Harrison Bergeron" in Silicon Valley -- Part II

    Friday, May. 22, 2015

    A few weeks ago, I wrote about Kurt Vonnegut’s short story “Harrison Bergeron.” In the world of that story the year is 2081, and, in an effort to render all people “equal,” the  government imposes handicaps on all those who are somehow better than average. One of the characters, George, whose intelligence is "way above normal," has "a little mental handicap radio in his ear.”

    As George tries to concentrate on something,

    “[a] buzzer sounded in George's head. His thoughts fled in panic, like bandits from a burglar alarm.

    "That was a real pretty dance, that dance they just did," said Hazel.

    "Huh" said George.

    "That dance-it was nice," said Hazel.

    "Yup," said George. He tried to think a little about the ballerinas. … But he didn't get very far with it before another noise in his ear radio scattered his thoughts.

    George winced. So did two out of the eight ballerinas.

    Hazel saw him wince. Having no mental handicap herself, she had to ask George what the latest sound had been.

    "Sounded like somebody hitting a milk bottle with a ball peen hammer," said George.

    "I'd think it would be real interesting, hearing all the different sounds," said Hazel a little envious. "All the things they think up."

    "Um," said George.

    "Only, if I was Handicapper General, you know what I would do?" said Hazel. … "I'd have chimes on Sunday--just chimes. Kind of in honor of religion."

    "I could think, if it was just chimes," said George.

    Re-reading the story, I thought about the work of the late professor Cliff Nass, whose “pioneering research into how humans interact with technology,” as the New York Times described it, “found that the increasingly screen-saturated, multitasking modern world was not nurturing the ability to concentrate, analyze or feel empathy.”

    If we have little “mental handicap radios” in our ears, these days, it’s usually because we put them there—or on our eyes, or wrists, or just in our hands—ourselves (though some versions are increasingly required by employers or schools). Still, like the ones in the story, they are making it more difficult for all of us to focus on key tasks, to be present for our loved ones, to truly take in and respond to our surroundings.

    In anticipation of the Memorial Day’s weekend, I wish you a few days of lessened technological distractions. And, if you have some extra time, you might want to read some of professor Nass’ research.


  •  Mobile Technology and Social Media: Ethical Implications

    Sunday, May. 12, 2013

    The adoption of mobile devices and the use of social media are both growing quickly around the world.  In emerging markets in particular, mobile devices have become “life tools”—used for telemedicine, banking, education, communication, and more.  These developments give rise to new ethical challenges.  How should the mobile be used for data collection among vulnerable populations?  Can apps that bring great benefits also cause unintended harm?  And who should address these concerns?  In this brief video, tech entrepreneur and professor Radha Basu argues that the debate should include the manufacturers of mobile devices and the app developers, but also the young people who will be most affected by these new developments.