Communication Ethics Conference: Social Media vs. Privacy

by Brandon Wong '10

This year's David C. Bicker Communications Ethics Conference, hosted by the Department of Communication Studies, examined one of the most talked about topics in the communication and marketing world: social and new media. People are inundated with new media left and right, and social media is now on the frontlines of marketing, advertising, public relations, and social communications. With such a paradigm shift, APU students, professors, and guest speakers gathered to discuss an ethical response to this change.

The conference was split into five main sections: panel and paper presentations, scholar-to scholar lunch session, plenary, round table discussion, and a new media workshop.

Session one began with three separate presentations in which conference participants could choose between panels discussing New Media Ethics in Public Relations, Ethics in Social Media and Popular Culture, and New Media and Emerging Trends. Students presented papers ranging from the media's influence on women's body image and self perception, to ethical critiques of social and popular media such as Facebook and television commercials. At the same time, a panel of public relations specialists hosted a panel discussion to share current ethical issues in the public relations sphere. Various APU professors presented papers detailing the convergence trends in journalism, a case study of, and a critique of online representation of third culture kids.

The plenary session featured keynote speaker Pauline Cheong, Ph.D., associate professor at the Hugh Downs School of Communications at Arizona State University. Presenting on Ethical Tension and Challenges in an Ambient Transmedia Culture, Cheong detailed the ethical concerns we face as we move from Web 2.0 to Web 3.0. Web 2.0 was called the "participatory web," characterized by dynamic content, collective intelligence and user participation. Web 3.0 brings new ethical concerns to the table as social media becomes even more widespread. The biggest concerns lay in access and privacy challenges.

These same concerns dominated the round table discussion, where students were led by discussion leaders through a number of questions about the day's events and about social and new media. Time and time again, the conversation returned to privacy and information, especially related to speech being taken out of context.

The round table discussion was followed by the New Media Workshop, where specialists from APU's Office of University Relations shared with new media tools and strategies to market oneself using new media. Once again the notion of privacy and discretion in regards to what one posts to their social media web pages was discussed, which could potentially impact future employment or even current employment situations.

The conference was well attended throughout the day with at least 30 students at each session or presentation. With social and new media sweeping its way across the world, it is important to remember that this new media enables eyes and ears everywhere.