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Communication and «The Good Life»

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Edited By Hua Wang

What is a «good life» and how can it be achieved? In this volume, communication scholars and media experts explore these fundamental questions about human existence and aspiration in terms of what a «good life» might look like in a contemporary, mediatized society. While in many ways a mediatized society brings us closer to some version of the «good life», it also leads us away from it. The affordances of new technologies seem to have shifted, for many, from an opportunity to an obligation. Rather than choosing when and where to be connected to these larger networks of information and acquaintances, we feel we must be permanently available, thus losing the luxury of controlling our time and attention.
This volume illuminates the complexity of our modern era, exploring how society can leverage exciting new opportunities whilst recognizing the complex challenges we face in a time of constant change. It helps us understand how we have come to this point and where we may be going so that we may study the opportunities and the dangers, the chances and the risks, that digital media pose in our quest for some version of «the good life».
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Chapter Two: The Good Life: Selfhood and Virtue Ethics in the Digital Age

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← 16 | 17 → CHAPTER TWO

The Good Life

Selfhood and Virtue Ethics in the Digital Age

CHARLES M. ESSUNIVERSITY OF OSLO, NORWAY

“Perhaps it would not be a bad idea for the teams at present creating cybernetics to add to their cadre of technicians, who have come from all horizons of science, some serious anthropologists, and perhaps a philosopher who has some curiosity as to world matters.”

—PÈRE DUBARLE, CITED IN WIENER (1950/1954, P. 180)

I take the conference theme for this year’s ICA—Communication and “the good life”—as a high watermark of a growing interest in the field of communication research in overtly normative approaches. “The good life” is a core focus and hallmark concern of virtue ethics, so I begin this chapter with a brief introduction to virtue ethics. We will see that virtue ethics is well grounded in such ancient figures as Plato and Confucius, and re-emerges in both early and later modernity. I focus on these more recent appearances of virtue ethics—first, within the disciplines of Information and Computing Ethics (ICE) and then within Media and Communication Studies (MCS): In between, I review my own contributions along these lines as a “bridge worker” between these two domains. I argue that these appearances trace out a growing cross-disciplinary interest in appropriating virtue ethics as part of a larger pattern of projects in otherwise largely “value-free” or “value-neutral” disciplines that in fact aim to...

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