Blogger's ethics revisited
Commentary on: Kuhn, M. (2007). Interactivity and prioritizing the human: A code of blogging ethics. Journal of Mass Media Ethics, 22(1), 18-36. DOI:10.1080/08900520701315244
I attended an early BloggerCon and have been blogging for quite a while, but I've never had any desire to be a citizen journalist. Blogging ethics commonly cited are precisely for getting your voice heard in the political or journalistic sphere (e.g., Blood, 2002)-- not a goal of most bloggers, I would say. This article points out that previous efforts have omitted many other functions of blogs, including one to one communication and small group formation (p. 20).
LIS bloggers, science bloggers, and other bloggers have had to craft their personal ethics from trial and error to a certain extent, or through norms of behavior in other communication media. Indeed, one could argue that blogs are merely a format so that any idea of a common code of ethics is misguided and that ethics based on function, place in the information ecosystem, and purpose are appropriate.
The author's purpose in this article is to "suggest a broader code of blogging ethics that recognizes interactivity and maintains a human element in CMC as core values. It is based on a combination of values and duties that have emerged from new communication technology ethics scholarship and an exploratory survey of bloggers" (p. 21). As the blogosphere becomes more crowded, even bloggers with a more narrow focus and targeted audience will be tempted to perhaps do some sketchy things to get noticed.
The author develops some requirements for a code of ethics based on recent scholarship in CMC:
- treatment of transparency and deception
- balance between accountability and anonymity
- importance of "humanness" (building and maintaining human relationships and community)
- inclusivity (so engaging in conversation outside of just white middle class males)
Research methods: the author created a "survey blog" where he received comments on how practicing bloggers view ethics. He received 114 comments from 28 bloggers -- whoa! Very small sample for a survey. The survey was open in December 2004 and January 2005. Questions came from Rawls (views of stakeholders), Ross (values), and Kant (are there certain things bloggers must always do to be good bloggers).
My take: these seem like really good questions, and ones that are worth answering, but the sample size is too small (unjustifiably). The scope should have been narrowed (what do x-type of bloggers think about...?) and/or the number of responses should have been in the thousands -- doing this on a blog must have seemed attractive, but was not appropriate to be able to gather the necessary data and then use it for later analysis. Otherwise, a qualitative study with this many participants (purposively selected), but who were given the opportunity to reflect on and provide more interesting information on ethics could be very informative.
Additionally, inadequate information is given on analysis methods used (oh, and no mention of human subjects protection?). In fact, it appears that the analysis was simply to count responses.
In a nutshell: an interesting idea, with decent grounding in the literature, but with inadequate execution.
Other Works Cited:
Blood, R. (2002). The weblog handbook practical advice on creating and maintaining your blog. Cambridge, MA: Perseus Pub.