A year or so ago I was involved in the Ethics of Web 2.0 roadshow, led by John Traxler, which we took to ALT-C, Educa and one or two other places. Steve Wheeler attended those too, and today we got to revisit some of those issues in the final session at the seminar. The plan was that the people who attended the session get into groups of three, identify the top three ethical issue of using social media, then report back to the group. We went round the table and each group came up with their top one that hadn’t already been taken. This is what we got:
1. Code of conduct or legislation – People felt exposed as educators without guidelines for how to use social media. With a code of conduct then, even if problems occurred then they would have the safety net of a code of conduct to point to and say, well we abided by that, so it’s not really our fault. Steve brought up the idea of a digital tattoo, rather than a digital footprint, since our digital trail is something we’re stuck with and are inscribed with, it’s not something that just washes away next time there’s a high tide. I suppose we could have digital laser treatment to remove it, or is that over-extending the metaphor? The potential of being permanently tagged with our digital trace is the reason why some people resist the use of social media, and therefore is it fair to impose interaction with social media on our students, as there is the risk of them being exposed. I raised the possibility that society will respond to repeated exposure by social media, and that we will be more accepting of behaviour that we all commit, but prefer to pretend that society doesn’t. The teaching profession is particularly bad at this, primary school teachers are supposedly not allowed to fall down drunk on a Saturday night, as if this out of school behaviour reflects badly on their ability to do their job. My suggestion that we may see a reduction in hypocrisy was deemed to be optimistic (although everyone was kind enough not to point out my inability to spell it). The other suggestion was that actually if we become more accepting of outlier behaviour, then people may respond by becoming more extreme, and so perpetuate the issue, a sort of conservation of deviancy. Alternatively, as technology becomes better at tailoring our social networks and our internet searches to the types of things it’s already identified us as being interested in, we become more and more subject to a filter bubble, and anything that doesn’t adhere to our very select peer group as far as behaviour goes, is considered to be inappropriate. These issues therefore raise the importance of pseudonymity in online interactions and presents the importance of balancing our representations of professional identities versus authentic identities.