Public Philosophy Network

Encouraging and Supporting Publicly Engaged Philosophical Research and Practices


Ethics and Social Media

The goal of this group is to foster discussion between philosophers and designers and users of social media about the ethical values that inform the implementation of social media technologies.


Members: 20
Latest Activity: Jul 7, 2014

Discussion Forum

On Defining 'Social Media'

Started by Mark Fisher Jan 27, 2012. 0 Replies

Thanks to Michael for suggesting that the attempt to define our terms would be a worthwhile endeavor here. (And thanks to Vance for welcoming Michael while my attention was being diverted by the…Continue

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Comment by Patrick F. Sullivan on July 7, 2014 at 7:24pm

So, any thoughts on Facebook's recent experiment involving manipulations of news feeds to manipulate emotional states? 

Comment by Sharon M. Meagher on October 8, 2013 at 11:35pm


Comment by Mark Fisher on October 4, 2013 at 2:03pm
It's a big day for the @PubPhilJ:

Thanks to all who have helped make this happen, and we look forward to continuing this important work together.
Comment by Ike Sharpless on November 26, 2011 at 10:34am

I agree that it's important to define our terms, but also agree that this particular discussion may be better suited for a separate thread...I don't really have much to add there.

I also thought some of you might be interested in a lecture I just prepared on technology and society, with a focus on social media (I had my political theory students vote for two free sessions at the end of the semester, and this, along with religion and politics, won out).


Here are the (very general) readings, which are mostly meant as an introduction to the 5 authors:


And here are some links I've gathered on the topic:

Technology and society (focus on social media and information technology)

Comment by Michael T Stowers on November 25, 2011 at 11:42pm

Thank you, @V,


One of the major problems with any serious use of "social media," whatever they turn out to be, has been the attenuation of ease-of-access with time.  Discourse is linear, at least presentationally, which leads to a temporal 'distancing' of contributions and the corollary of unnecessary repetition.  If, say, trying to iron out minutiae in a theoretical model, once all wrinkles have been smoothed, the model itself is often lost.  The speed of 'architectural' change worsens this effect as the discussants are not able to insist on a stable architecture.  Has anyone else found this?  


My personal motivation is urgency.  If "social networks" are qualitatively dissimilar to what might be considered an alternative means of social communication / coordination / connectedness, then it is surely necessary to understand as many of their characteristics as possible in as short a time as possible.  Does this make sense?

The definition issue is important for purposes of clarity (how can discussion of the ethical implications of X be coherent when the nature of X is undefined?).  Perhaps a separate discussion / document should seek to achieve concurrency on this issue.  Thoughts? 

Comment by Vance A Ricks on November 21, 2011 at 8:15pm

Hello, Michael (if I may), and welcome.  I wouldn't dare speak for other participants, but I, too, regret the post-conference "droop" that frequently occurs when participants return to the rest of their lives and find it hard to maintain the energy and focus that they took away from the conference.  Have you had success in keeping and channeling that energy from other conferences/workshops you've attended?  If so, then please let us know what has worked well!


I do like the idea of producing a document, or series of documents, as first steps towards.... wherever we take them.


Different people have offered their own definitions of "social media".  We didn't actually wrestle with that particular question during the workshop!  Instead I think we mostly took for granted that we knew the kind of thing(s) we were talking about.  But it couldn't hurt to look more carefully at that assumption.

Comment by Michael T Stowers on November 19, 2011 at 2:19pm

Hello all,


A document-centered approach would be a good model for most affinity groups and is something sadly lacking on most 'social networks.'  


Is there yet a clear definition of "social media"?  The term seems to be used in curious ways in the broadcast media.


The potential of the PPN is considerable and it is a shame it is - perhaps - less active than it has been.

Comment by Mark Fisher on October 18, 2011 at 3:00pm

Thanks to everyone for the great conversation in Washington and for subsequent suggestions, references, and links, and welcome to those of you who are just joining us.

I am in the process of following up on our discussion about the annotated bibliography of materials by:

a) getting a preliminary (as-yet-unannotated) bibliography posted

b) taking volunteers to help get the crowd sourcing of the annotations going


I think I will take George's advice about creating a new page and promoting those interested to administrators. If you happen to be among those interested, let me know and I will make the necessary changes.

Comment by Ike Sharpless on October 14, 2011 at 6:49pm

Hi all - sorry to lat a bit on posting the things I mentioned...I've been playing catch up with my classes until now! (I also didn't realize that I had to follow this group to get updates...which I've now done.)


I mentioned a few books that might be of particular interest to everyone, some of which I've read and some of which I've mearly seen TED-type videos about.


Douglas Rushkoff's Program or Be Programmed falls in the latter category:


I really enjoyed Tim Wu's The Master Switch, though, and I think it provides a solid overview of information theory (although I can't judge some of its potential biases, as I'd never read anything in the field before...I've since read Gleick's The Information, which I enjoyed but thought was too much of a series of mini-biographies.) Here's a link to a blog post of mine on the topic:


Thanks again for a great discussion - I've talked to my students about privacy standards on my wikis (at and, and I'd love to keep this discussion going.

Comment by Ronald Sundstrom on October 13, 2011 at 1:04am
That's great. It goes to show the many connections between social media + philosophy, and beyond ethical theory too. It'd be great if this affinity group created a google docs folder, of something similar, to share resources and syllabi. I've collected several articles and have a syllabus, which I'd like to share, and I'd appreciate learning about the resources of the folks in this group. FYI: my students and I are blogging about social media + philosophy at:

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