September 28, 2009

Blogging Ethics

Here is an interesting article from Science Daily. It talks about the basic ethical codes that have come about in online blogging communities. Read on:

"Whatever their reason for posting their thoughts online, bloggers have a shared ethical code, according to a recent study published in the journal New Media Society. Key issues in the blogosphere are telling the truth, accountability, minimizing harm and attribution, although the extent to which bloggers follow their own ethical ideals can depend on the context and intended audience."

So there's the ideal ethic. But how did this actually play out in real practice:

"Attribution was paramount for both groups (non-personal bloggers valued truth-telling as much as attribution). Attribution is vitally important among bloggers for building community. But did they put this into practice? Where the non-personal bloggers were concerned, attribution was practised as frequently as truth-telling and minimizing harm. But despite the importance they placed on attribution, personal bloggers were actually better at minimising harm than at attribution."

And what do the authors at Science Daily suggest? Read this:

"Credibility counts. The authors suggest that non-personal bloggers practise [sic] truth telling, attribution and minimizing harm with similar frequency because they want their content taken seriously. As in journalism, offering readers sources and providing links makes for more convincing blogging than just telling the 'truth' alone."

The article ends by noting that there is in fact rigorous self-policing, and suggests that formal ethics codes may not be necessary. Those who do not comply can expect "payback" from a very active community. This is all very interesting, considering the recent issue here at the OAC with attribution and plagiarism. While the informal nature of ethics appears to work elsewhere, for some reason it's not working all that well here? Why is that? I would argue that the diffuse nature of the network has something to do with it, along with the fact that there really is a very low level amount of participation on a larger scale. It seems that most of the 1900 or so members are tucked away in discussion corners here and there, so when these issues do crop up they might never even know it. So, ultimately, it's up to the active part of the community to actually do something, and for those who misstep to correct their ways.

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