The history of media technologies is central to the history of civilization (Gladney, 1991). Media ethics research focuses on developing a comprehensive set of theories and principles for the practice of various actors within the media ecology, including news people, media audience, religion, law, government, media content and media technology. Insights from media ethics researches are utilized to suggest value codes of ethics for the mass media, including TV, radio, newspaper, and magazine. Recently, the increasing popularity of social media has changed the whole media ecology – on the one hand, social media has become a new information source by producing huge amount of user-generated content through blog, facebook, twitter, and other social networks; on the other hand, the sharing and interactive function of social media are also adopted by traditional mass media. With social networks, the twofold effect of media today appears more obvious. It brings public the rapidly expanding opportunities for information exchanges. At the same time, cyber-bullying has become an inconvenient truth in modern society.
Therefore, scholars at the Institute for Advanced Humanistic Studies, Peking University will work together to develop theories to explore the ethical dimensions on the integration of mass media and social media. Besides, we will conduct empirical researches focusing on the ethical practices of different actors within the media ecology (e.g., press freedom and risk society, self-managed media and public, ethical behavior of news people and news officials, government and media control).
Current media ethics theories could be divided into five domains: theory, social philosophy, religious ethics, technology, and truth (Christians, 2008). This project will develop a theoretical foundation for the structuration of various actions between the public and different forms of media.
Besides, this project will link traditional mass media and social media by examining the perceptions of user-generated content by mainstream news people and their related practices. Media ethical codes concerning privacy must be updated in current media ecology. This project will examine the content of blogs, microblogs, and social networks to find out how social media contents shape public opinions. Further, public virtue and ethical code of social media practitioners will be discussed.
Gladney, G. A. (1991). Technologizing of the Word: Toward a Theoretical and Ethical Understanding? Journal of Mass Media Ethics, 6(2), 93-105.
Christians, C. G. (2008). Media Ethics on a Higher Order of Magnitude, Journal of Mass Media Ethics, 23(1), 3-14.