Ethics for a Digital Age, Vol. II

by Bastiaan Vanacker (Volume editor) Don Heider (Volume editor)
©2018 Textbook X, 224 Pages
Series: Digital Formations, Volume 118


The second volume of Ethics for a Digital Age contains a selection of research presented at the fifth and sixth Annual International Symposia on Digital Ethics hosted by the Center for Digital Ethics and Policy at Loyola University Chicago’s School of Communication. Thematically organized around the most pressing ethical issues of the digital age from a professional (parts one and two) and a philosophical perspective (part three), the chapters of this volume offer the reader a window into some of the hot-button ethical issues facing a society where digital has become the new normal. Just as was the case in the first volume, this collection attempts to bridge applied and theoretical approaches to digital ethics. The case studies in this work are grounded in theory and the theoretical pieces are linked back to specific cases, reflecting the multi-methodological and multi-disciplinarian approach espoused by Loyola’s Center of Digital Ethics and Policy during its eight years of existence. With contributions by experts from a variety of academic disciplines, this work will appeal to philosophers, communication scientists, and moral philosophers alike.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of Contents
  • Foreword (Don Heider)
  • Part I: Trust, Privacy, and Corporate Responsibility
  • Introduction to Part I (David Kamerer)
  • 1. Media That Know How You Feel: The Ethics of Emotion Analytics in Consumer Media (Susan Currie Sivek)
  • 2. The Intersection of Trust and Privacy in the Sharing Economy (Joseph W. Jerome / Bénédicte Dambrine)
  • 3. Corporate Response to Employee Social Media Missteps: A Rhetorical and Ethical Lens (Heidi A. Mckee / James E. Porter)
  • Part II: Technology, Ethics, and the Shifting Role of Journalism
  • Introduction to Part II (Jill Geisler)
  • 4. Drones in the National Airspace (Kathleen Bartzen Culver)
  • 5. Normative Journalistic Roles in the Digital Age (Chad Painter / Patrick Ferrucci)
  • 6. Radical Journalism Ethics: Constructing an Ethic for Digital, Global Media (Stephen J. A. Ward)
  • Part III: Ethics and Ontology
  • Introduction to Part III (Bastiaan Vanacker)
  • 7. Vigilantism or Outrage: An Exploration of Policing Social Norms through Social Media (Mathias Klang / Nora Madison)
  • 8. The Machine Question: Can or Should Machines Have Rights? (David J. Gunkel)
  • 9. Making and Managing Bodies: The Computational Turn, Ethics, and Governance (Timothy H. Engström)
  • 10. Spatial Ethics and the Public Forum: Protecting the Process of Creating Public Space and Meaning (David S. Allen)
  • Concluding Remarks: Digital Ethics: Where to Go from Here? (Bastiaan Vanacker)
  • Contributors
  • Series index

← vi | vii →




Increasingly technology surrounds us, no longer as a tool or an aid, but as a way of life. As Luciano Floridi argues, we are experiencing a fourth revolution in human development, as we are becoming informational organisms living in a cocoon of technology (Floridi, 2014).

All this is happening without a full understanding or discussion of the ethical implications of this revolution. Evidence of this can be found now almost weekly, if not daily. People livestream murders and other unspeakable acts on Facebook and other platforms as the technology providers deny their role as media companies. Instead, the companies race to get a handle on how to control unruly and objectionable posts and ask for crowdsourcing help to police their sites. YouTube ads appear on anything from cute cat videos to clips of terrorists beheading hostages. Apparently the company never considered the implications of letting computers place ads.

When we founded the Center for Digital and Ethics & Policy in 2008, the idea was to help foster discussions and research about ethics involving new technology. We have found a community of scholars and professionals who are deeply concerned about issues such as privacy, access, piracy, behavior online, and more. Though scholars from many different disciplines have been engaging in research in this area, we have a void when it comes to the tech companies themselves. Not that these companies are filled with people with no moral grounding. But there is a deafening silence from the leaders of these organizations when it comes to ethics.

Some have described a bubble of arrogance surrounding Silicon Valley, where CEOs often equate financial success to moral superiority (Edwards, 2013). Add that to a lack, thus far, of serious regulation and you begin to see the scope of the problem. We have now begun calling on tech companies to consider hiring trained ethicists; people who, if given the chance, might ← vii | viii → help leaders make better decisions about the technology they unleash upon us on a regular basis (Heider, 2017). In the meantime, we will continue to gather excellent research and hold yearly symposia in an effort to spur on rich discussions of the issues at hand.

In this volume we offer 10 chapters, all with important research regarding digital ethics. Susan Currie Sivek discusses emotion analytics tools, used increasingly to not only record what we are thinking about but also to sense, record, and respond to emotional information. This is especially important information to advertisers, who have known for years that appealing to our emotions is often more effective than appealing to our intellect. The data that now can be collected includes not only our facial expressions, but also things like blood pressure, voice stress, perspiration rate, and body temperature. This raises new and important questions about privacy and who controls our data.

Joseph Jerome and Bénédicte Dambrine discuss our new sharing economy, which is also by the way, data driven. Who controls that data, and with whom it is shared is an important question. Most of us might not expect that our ride-sharing history might end up in the hands of the F.B.I. or some other state security agency. Jerome and Dambrine endorse more transparency, so we know when our information is being recorded, stored, and transmitted and why. How companies respond when an employee has a social media mistake is the subject for study by Heidi McKee and James Porter. The two scholars use rhetorical analysis and a network perspective to shed light on the subject. When using social media, when is a person speaking as a representative of the company whom they work for and when are they speaking for themselves as individuals? What policies do companies have in regard to employees’ use of social media? Does the culture of a company influence employee behavior? These are all questions companies need to think through, as well as what an appropriate response is when there is a misstep.

Digital technology has raised an interesting new set of questions for journalists, as Kathleen Bartzen Culver found out, including some ideas about when, where, and how drones should be used. Drones in the United States do fall under regulations set by the Federal Aviation Administration, but beyond laws, Culver explores the ethical concerns, not just from journalists but also by citizens for whom journalists are producing their work.

Chad Painter and Patrick Ferrucci wondered how digital journalists who do not work for legacy media organizations conceive of themselves as journalists, and how that might be different from traditional practitioners. Meanwhile, Stephen Ward believes the digital shift calls for a form of radical journalism ethics. He calls for a new global journalism ethics which is “discursive in method, ← viii | ix → imperfectionist and non-dualistic in epistemology, integrationist in structure, and globally open in criticism.”

As digital technology has developed, there are some new behaviors that have emerged or behaviors that have morphed in some way due to the technology. One of these is the idea of public shaming, also sometimes labeled cybervigilantism. Mathias Klang and Nora Madison compare acts of cybervigilantism to the concept of vigilantism to see how accurate this label may be. It’s an interesting discussion, especially given that this behavior continues to be prevalent in the online community.

Philosopher David Gunkel contributes an outstanding and thought- provoking piece on whether machines, in this case robots, can and should have rights. It’s a much thornier issue than it may seem at first blush. In a chapter that has some interesting common ground with Gunkel, Timothy Engström looks at our physical bodies and how the digital devices often used in diagnostics and treatment raise a myriad of questions about consent.

We wrap up the volume with a look at space, as David Allen discusses the importance of public space in the vitality of a democracy, and questions whether digital media can provide a meaningful public space for citizens.

As we approach having four billion people on the Internet, with Americans spending an average of ten hours a day engaged in Internet media, the ubiquitous nature of digital technology in addition to the reluctance of CEOs of silicon valley firms (and others) to take real responsibility in even discussing ethical concerns demonstrate the need for the research found here, and much more research to come. We offer this volume as a small effort to get the world to engage seriously in some very important questions about privacy, access, behavior, and more that are not going away, but in fact, will increase with time.


Edwards, J. (2013). Silicon Valley is living inside a bubble of tone-deaf arrogance. Business Insider. Retrieved from http://www.businessinsider.com/silicon-valley-arrogance-bubble-2013-12

Floridi, L. (2014). The 4th revolution; How the Infosphere is reshaping human reality. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Heider, D. (2017). Why Facebook should hire a chief ethicist. USA Today. Retrieved from https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2017/01/08/facebook-ethics-fake-news-social-media-column/96212172/ ← ix | x →

← x | 1 →


Part I: Trust, Privacy, and Corporate Responsibility

← 1 | 2 →

← 2 | 3 →


Introduction to Part I


Perhaps the most visible digital ethics issues are connected to business. Technological innovations allow businesses to know their audiences better, interact with them through social media, and facilitate transactions. However, these opportunities also carry substantial risks if executed without ethical forethought.

A student once bragged that he had figured out how to get rid of the ads on Google’s Gmail service. “Just send a fake note to someone, and in it, express grief over a suicide. The ads will just stop—for a while, anyway.”

If this scenario is true, it’s an example of the emerging technology of emotion analytics. You might think emotion analytics are only found in a research lab, but no. They’re here today. Susan Currie Sivek presents a series of applications and companies working in this area and asks some important questions about the technology.

What kind of data lies at the core of emotion analytics? Think of the Microsoft Kinect camera, perhaps the most common facial recognition tool. When you use a Kinect, you know you’re being tracked. It’s just for fun. But some retail stores use a similar technology to watch customers. This presents very different ethical issues. While no “killer app” has yet emerged, and while people will likely push back once they’re made aware of it, it’s not hard to imagine ethical issues arising by the broad diffusion of facial recognition software.

And faces are just the beginning of emotion analytics. Think of what your phone knows about you: your location, how much exercise you’re getting, and social artifacts such as self-reported moods on a social network. Throw in some external sensors (Fitbit, anyone?), and you can measure physiological responses. So many possibilities. ← 3 | 4 →


X, 224
ISBN (Hardcover)
ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2018 (July)
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Vienna, Oxford, Wien, 2018. X, 224 pp.

Biographical notes

Bastiaan Vanacker (Volume editor) Don Heider (Volume editor)

Bastiaan Vanacker is an associate professor at the School of Communication at Loyola University Chicago, where he also serves as Program Director of the Center for Digital Ethics and Policy. His research focuses on journalism ethics and law. Don Heider is the founding dean of the School of Communication at Loyola University Chicago. He also helped found the Center for Digital Ethics and Policy. He is the author or editor of six books, as well as a former journalist who has won five Emmy awards for his work.


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236 pages