Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Web 2.0 Untangled: Ethics and law

Eric Davies talked about Web 2.0: Weaving ethics and law at the #web2entangled conference in Oxford that I am attending today. This presentation identified how may issues there were, and how few of them were really resolved. He started by asking us to talk amongst ourselves about what ethics meant. He defined it as "moral coices and the values that lie behind them", whilst laws were "agreed principles established by law and society".
Meanwhile, Web 2.0 is enabler of creative change - enabling distributed co-creation and so forth. He cited Shoshana Zuboff (Creating value in the age of distributed capitalism): with the focus now on individual creation. Eric characterised this as a mutation in the producion/creation process. This brings empowerment, but also responsibility, to the individual. However, the implications for organisations, as well as individuals, have not really yet been explored properly.
In terms of education he saw the mutation manifesting as e-scholarship, and changes in approach to learning and teaching. Eric mentioned Badrul Khan's framework for e-learning does include ethical aspects, which concern "social and political influence, cultural diversity, bias, geographical diversity, learner diversity, information accessibility, etiquette, and the legal issues." (quoted here). He also mentioned other studies which have revealed the concerns about Web 2.0 (such as identity, authority and security) and ways in which Web 2.0 has been used in education (e.g. building relationships, showcasing work). In the latter context, problems that have emerged include ownership issues, disruptive interaction, illegitimate use of content, protecting the anonymity of students and generally protecting their space.
Therefore key issues are: trust, privacy, data protection, copyright, plagiarism, unacceptable use (in terms of content and activity) and diversity (cultural diversity, accessibility etc.). In terms of unacceptable use, there are all sorts of ways in whichthe law could be broken, or local acceptable use guidelines could be breached, from statements that could be seen as inciting terrorism or were libelous, through to unacceptable advertising. Eric identified the great tension between enabling and regulating, with monitoring bringing its own concerns (e.g. privacy and censorship). This was seen as a big problem area that was not really being grappled with adequately.
Photo by Sheila Webber: Iced leaves in the grounds of Wolfson College, Oxford, this morning.

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