Ethical Issues Affiliated with Web 2.0 Technologies and Venues

More recently, Pak-hang Wong has applied Confucian thought to a range of ethical issues affiliated with Web 2.0 technologies and venues, including Social Networking Sites (SNSs). His “Confucian Social Media: An Oxymoron?” addresses conflicts between Confucian values and those ostensibly embedded in the design of the contemporary internet and Web. Endorsing a Confucian virtue ethics approach, Wong provides three recommendations for practices (or virtues), beginning with “A skilful engagement with social media” that includes careful use of privacy settings and techniques such as “social steganography” for sustaining a strong sense of who one’s audience is. His further recommendations – a “reinvigoration of rites in the online world” and “prioritisation of the offline world” – likewise seek to sustain Confucian virtues in our use of social media.

In this direction, Wong’s point that “social media can only be viewed as a supplement of the offline world” (ibid., 294) is a comparatively early argument in the direction of a postdigital era – and in keeping with the now very extensive chorus of voices arguing precisely for a ratcheting down of our screen and online time in favor of more real- world engagements and relationships. Finally, Wong further adds two (re)design recommendations, namely “Designing contextual awareness into social media” and “(re)introduction of role responsibility into social media”.

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Subsequently, the literature of Confucian approaches to contemporary technologies has developed considerably. For example, Wong’s analyses are somewhat countered by Tom Wang. Specifically, Wang argues that a (re)design of SNSs as guided by tian xia, “a basic structuring principle of Confucian philosophy,” would thereby bring SNS into alignment with Confucian thought – that is, as they would then offer and foster a “moral space in which all inhabitants of the world are thought to participate as members – as different individuals– who are moral equals”.

To date, the most extensive application of Confucian thought to life in a technological era is Shannon Vallor’s review of Confucian tradition and virtues and then their synthesis within the more global technomoral virtues: as we have seen, these are then applied to an array of digital media, including SNSs and carebots.

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