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Making the place better

I was supposed to give an opening talk at the 9th annual Ethics & Publishing conference put on by George Washington Uinversity. Unfortunately, a family emergency kept me from going, so I sent a very homemade video of the presentation that I recorded at my desk with my monitor raised to head height.

The theme of my talk was a change in how we make the place better — “the place” being where we live — in the networked age. It’s part of what I’ve been thinking about as I prepare to write a book about the change in our paradigm of the future. So, these are thoughts-in-progress. And I know I could have stuck the landing better. In any case, here it is.

2 Responses to “Making the place better”

  1. I’m a staunch “feminist” but I still prefer PANDORA to Philosophers for Peace or whatever precisely it was changed into.

    In vein of Hegelian Dialectic.

    I realize there is a lot of fine grain in what you have to say about “interoperability”. And I wonder if some of what you say doesn’t bring to mind something of a distinction between anticipatory and participatory “concern” or maybe better “intervention”.

    You mention that possible futures are not necessarily benign and that this may well be the most difficult dimension in attempting to discern the “normative” structure of internet interaction.

    The world is a wild and dangerous place, I’ll be the first to admit it. But I think the current fear mongering of “security” first is somewhat impoverished. Nevertheless. What place does anticipation in an’ effort to institute structures for “prevention” as opposed to”opportunity” and “novelty” come into play.

    To be honest, I really don’t much participate in the digitalized social world. I don’t even have a facebook account, though I did open a twitter account about a year ago (i mentioned it to you at the time.) But about 2 years ago I became interested in trying to understand just what difference there is in the moral expectations of oneself in the more anonymous world of the internet as opposed to the more immediate world of, let us say, face to face, flesh to flesh, recognition/encounter. I suspect a lot of if might have to do with “accountability”.

    I realize that I am probably talking about morality in internet social interaction as opposed to your more global topic of, for lack of a better way to describe it, regulating internet content to mitigate potential harm. It’s all pretty difficult stuff.

    I think for myself. One of the fundamental questions is “how does internet socialization” translate into the more personal interactions that take place in that other world of social intercourse. I realize that you were addressing the question of “instituting norms” and the vagaries of trying to anticipate outcomes against the background of “emergent consequences grounded in un-knowable connections/dynamics”.

    When it’s all said and done, I suspect I’m still in a quandry stuck somewhere between Kantian deontology and Mill/Sidgwickian Utilitarianism. And I do think that the interjection of “happiness” into a teological paradigm ala “virtue” ethics is important.

    In the second formulation of the “categorical imperative”, (I think), Kant evokes treating others with the “dignity” they deserve as end’s in themselves. While I suspect this may be more a matter of sociology or perhaps moral anthropology, I seems to me that the implicit anonomity of the internet can seem to work against treating others with dignity simply because again, of the digital wall that hides the sort of identity that one can’t simply “delete”.

    Maybe there is a dialectic not simply, how do we moralize the internet, but too how does the internet moralize us.

    Sorry if this is too long and to brief and to confused and too not to the point you were making. If you want me to try to make sense of this send me an email and I’ll do better than simply write off the top of my head.


    Eric Ronshausen (PS. Knew you during your year at Portland State.)

  2. Eric, nice call-back to PANDORA…or is it more like shibboleth since there’s only a tiny tiny handful of people who would understand it? Anyway, I am one of those and appreciate it.

    Your point about potential differences in anticipating danger vs. opportunity is interesting. I’ll have to think about that.

    Likewise, anonymity can depersonalize people. Affording anonymous people their proper dignity requires us to be better people on the Net. I don’t know how likely that is. Often it’s obviously not happening since people can be incredibly shitty to others on the Net, especially when all that’s known about the anonymous stranger is her gender or race. Over the years I’ve come to consider treating people with dignity to be an ever more important virtue.

    There is certainly the dialectic you point to. How it works — particularly how tech can shape us at all — is a topic of lively disagreement.

    Thanks for the comments and thoughts.

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