C. Recent Work in Applied Virtue Theory > Vallor on "Social networking technology and the virtues"

Shannon Valor at Santa Clara University has two recent papers on applied virtue ethics and social networking/information technology, and is working on a book in this same area.

1. "Social Networking and the Virtues," Ethics and Information Technology, 12:2 (2010), pp. 157-170. Here's the Springer Link to it:

Abstract. This paper argues in favor of more widespread and systematic applications of a virtue-based normative framework to questions about the ethical impact of information technologies, and social networking technologies in particular. The first stage of the argument identifies several distinctive features of virtue ethics that make it uniquely suited to the domain of IT ethics, while remaining complementary to other normative approaches. I also note its potential to reconcile a number of significant methodological conflicts and debates in the existing literature, including tensions between phenomenological and constructivist perspectives. Finally, I claim that a virtue-based perspective is needed to correct for a strong utilitarian bias in the research methodologies of existing empirical studies on the social and ethical impact of IT. The second part of the paper offers an abbreviated demonstration of the merits of virtue ethics by showing how it might usefully illuminate the moral dimension of emerging social networking technologies. I focus here on the potential impact of such technologies on three virtues typically honed in communicative practices: patience, honesty and empathy.

Shannon Vallor (2012). Flourishing on Facebook: Virtue Friendship & New Social Media. Ethics and Information Technology 14 (3):185-199.

Abstract. The widespread and growing use of new social media, especially social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter, invites sustained ethical reflection on emerging forms of online friendship. Social scientists and psychologists are gathering a wealth of empirical data on these trends, yet philosophical analysis of their ethical implications remains comparatively impoverished. In particular, there have been few attempts to explore how traditional ethical theories might be brought to bear upon these developments, or what insights they might offer, if any. In attempting to address this lacuna in applied ethical research, this paper investigates the ethical significance of online friendship by means of an Aristotelian theory of the good life, which holds that human flourishing is chiefly realized through ‘complete’ friendships of virtue. Here, four key dimensions of ‘virtue friendship’ are examined in relation to online social media: reciprocity, empathy, self-knowledge and the shared life. Online social media support and strengthen friendship in ways that mirror these four dimensions, particularly when used to supplement rather than substitute for face-to-face interactions. However, deeper reflection on the meaning of the shared life (suzên) for Aristotle raises important and troubling questions about the capacity of online social media to support complete friendships of virtue in the contemporary world, along with significant concerns about the enduring relevance of this Aristotelian ideal for the good life in the 21st century.
December 28, 2012 | Registered CommenterGuy Axtell