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Communication, Culture and Technology
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Rhonda Mc Ewen

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CCT 110 TUTORIAL SECTION: T0301 WINTER 2013 NEW TECHNOLOGIES CHANGE THE CULTURAL AND ETHICAL NORMS 19 MARCH 2013 Name: Siddiqui, Neha Email: [email protected] ID: 999091138 1. Introduction: Facebook and eBooks Change is either progressive or regressive but it is an inevitable aspect of society. Change brings along new trends in society and people sooner or later adapt towards it. A lot of these trends are triggered by the advancements in technology. Contemporary communication technologies such as Facebook and eBooks have catapulted a huge change in the cultural and ethical norms of society. The social networking site, Facebook has given the word “friend” an obligatory tag (Light and McGrath, 2010, p.304) and the concept of privacy ceases to exist. On the contrary the rise in eBooks is eliminating the norm of paper books (Hanna, 2010, p.1) and it is also encouraging a greener environment and more opportunities for learning. 2. The impact of Facebook Facebook’s emergence has vastly impacted the ethical norms of society. The program’s function is to interact with others, find old friends or make new ones. However, the definition of the word “friend” has evolved since the dawning of Facebook. Generally speaking, a friend is someone who is attached to one with regard or care. However, due to the high number of registrants on Facebook, the word “friend” now has an obligatory feel attached to it (Light and McGrath, 2010, p.304). Many institutions, universities or organizations have started using Facebook as a marketing tool. It is a brilliant strategy but it is resulting in people adding each other on their friends list (on Facebook) simply because they work together or attend the same institution. Those who use Facebook for personal reasons rather than work purposes find themselves feeling pressurized to accept a co-worker’s friend request (Light and McGrath, 2010, p.304). Eventually one has an endless friends list that does not consist of legitimate friends but mere acquaintances. Such sort of a situation invites a whole new conflict of perception. The number of names on people’s friend’s lists determines or forms a public perception of their social status. If one has an incredibly long friends list, others perceive that person as someone who is highly connected or extremely popular. Many begin to add random or casual acquaintances as friends simply to form a specific (false) public perception. Virtual relationships made through internet or social networking sites are looked at with a biased view, in that they are not considered to be as substantial as real relationships (Eisenstein, 1983). Page 1 of 5 Therefore, this weakens the concept of Facebook friends even more. One would notice this is completely different from the original definition of a friend. One may argue that not everyone who owns a Facebook account adds random people in their friends list. A survey conducted at MIT, Harvard, NYU and OU showed results that two thirds of the surveyed users do not add strangers on their friends list. However this also means that one third of the surveyed users have no inhibitions in sharing personal information with mere acquaintances or strangers (Jones & Soltren, 2005). Social networking sites encourage people to express themselves and through this wave of socializing online with sites like Facebook, the word privacy has lost its relevance. A case study of Peter in June 2007 conducted by professors at Ohio University explains the complications of having an infinite list of acquaintances as friends on Facebook. In Peter’s case, he had an argument with another member on a Facebook group. They battled out their own perspectives through mails and wall posts. The opponent posted the whole argument on his group profile, making it public. Peter wanted to restrict and remove comments and in order to do so he ended up deleting his account and creating a new one with a reviewed list of friends. His original list consisted of 500 friends, whereas his revised list was condensed to 26 friends. Peter’s reason in reducing the number of friends on his list was that he wanted to express freely, without being judged by strangers (Debatin, Horn, Hughes, & Lovejoy, 2009). This study proves that people forget how crucial privacy is, until it is exploited. Facebook is playing an integral role in making privacy seem like a minor concern, where the user does not realise the consequences of exposing themselves on the web. Furthermore, there is an option to make one’s Facebook profile private and exclusive to the friends list, but some government agencies do have access to privatized profiles. In the USA, the Patriot Act allows state agencies to bypass privacy settings on Facebook in order to look up potential employees (NACE Spotlight Online, 2006) . Many prospective employees have been penalised based on their Facebook profiles. Employers use Facebook profiles as a tool to judge and determine if a candidate is qualified for the career opportunity. The nature of social networking websites is to interact and step out of one’s private zone (Ibrahim, 2008). However, users should realize that there will be consequences if they Page 2 of 5 are not responsible and careful about the content on their Facebook profiles (Debatin et al., 2009). 2.1 The emergence of eBooks The rise in eBooks has overturned the tradition of reading and publishing paperback books; this has resulted in a decline in business for the print book publishers (Hanna, 2010, p.1). The publishers are increasing the costs to garner more revenue or they are pricing eBooks to equal the price of the hard covers or paperbacks. This is causing a greater decline in the print book sales (Hanna, 2010, p.1). One can spot many passengers on a bus with iPads or kindles using eBooks rather than print books because of its convenience. Rather than carrying the weight of print books, people prefer to carry a light weight gadget which can store several books and provide additional features that assist with the reading. Also, eBooks are long lasting where as print books wear out with time. As Peter Olson says “We're not generally attached to our textbooks. If they go, nobody but the textbook publishers will cry." (Guernsey, 2011). The decline in the library visits and book collections may be upsetting to many readers in the society. However, this evolving society gradually accepts such cultural changes and includes them in thei
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