Computers, Information Technology, the Internet, Ethics, Society and Human Values

Philip Pecorino, Ph.D.

Queensborough Community College,  CUNY

Chapter 11 Social Change


What are the major ways in which the technologies associated with computers and information networks and systems and the Internet have changed how humans think of themselves in relation to other humans?  Changed the ideas we have of community?  Changed the ways in which we interact with others for many purposes?


CASE: The YouTube Associations Living in a Age of YouTube

Please view this very nice (but long 53 minutes) presentation of a lecture Michael Wesch recently gave at the Library of Congress, "An Anthropological Introduction to You Tube" July 26, 2008:

What does this suggest about how we form associations and how we view ourselves in an Age of YouTube?

CASE:   Fun and Fulfillment: Travel and Sex

As there develops more forms of virtual reality consider the implications for how humans relate to one another when there are available the virtual reality programs and experiences that provide for all forms of entertainment.  Consider the virtual reality escapes and vacations as featured in the Arnold Schwarzenegger movie Total Recall (1990) from a story by Philip K. Dick .

Or even more focused consider the “amusement machine” used by a character in the movie The 6th Day (2000) (another Arnold movie!) that provided sexual companionship. Are the experiences provided through virtual reality furthering the realization of basic human values or are they threatening to them and even to the social nature of human beings?

What is the impact on humans and on human relationships of virtual reality environments that are created to offer humans not simply entertainment but opportunities for emotional experiences heretofore found only in relationships with actual human being?

What is the impact of humans who spend a good deal of time in simulations or virtual reality environments in which they experience forms of violence, including perpetrating violent acts on others?

CASE:  Dead No MoreVisiting With the Departed

 Imagine what the consequences might be a a company offering a service for those who have recently experienced the death of a loved one.  The service is offered through the internet through funeral directors.  It is offered to assist those who are grieving.  What is that service?  Those who are grieving may send photos or videos of their loved one and supply information about them and the desired location(s) in which they wish to meet and speak with their loved one.  The service creates a virtual reality in which the grieving can meet and speak with their dead loved one.  The grievers place helmets with visors and microphones on their heads and watch the virtual environment appear and then some actor with the face and voice of their loved one appears and calls out to them and provides some information (previously supplied by the client) and "interacts" with the bereaved.  Those in the first stages of the grief process long for contact with the dead and find it hard to separate their emotional attachment.  If offered this service enough of the grieving families might just subscribe to the service to make it profitable.  The issues with this include the delay of the natural grief process and its healthy outcomes, the prolongation of the emotional attachments and the disruption of the lives of the grieving who do not use the service caused by those who do.  Will this development of a computer technology producing virtual reality visits with the dead be a service to humankind or disturbance to the healthy process of working through grief to an acceptance of a world without the loved one in it and an adjustment in the emotional attachments of the survivors?

Virtual Reality

READ  Peter Horsfield, The ethics of virtual reality: the digital and its predecessors:

Blay Whitby,  The Virtual Sky is not the Limit: Ethics in Virtual Reality

Colin Beardon The Ethics of Virtual Reality First published in: Intelligent Tutoring Media. 3(1), 23-28, 1992.

Creating and Using Virtual Reality: a Guide for the Arts and Humanities edited by Kate Fernie and Julian D. Richards

turn to next section

Web Surfer's Caveat: These are class notes, intended to comment on readings and amplify class discussion. They should be read as such. They are not intended for publication or general distribution.                @copyright 2006 Philip A. Pecorino                       

Last updated 8-2006                                                              Return to Table of Contents