Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Week 1. Reflections, Introduction.

Hello everyone,

My name is Daniel, I'm a second year library school student and am currently working in a campus library as well as with one of the English department's faculty on some digital humanities work. My background in undergraduate was in computer science and sociology, but I threw all that by the wayside and pursued various education related jobs before ending up in library school following the tech track.
I agreed with many of Fallis's points in his article and was particularly pleased to see him state that, “there is frequently too little emphasis on theory in information ethics courses in library science programs.” (27) As this is my first ethics course in library studies I can't speak to it's validity here at UW, but I'm guessing given it is in our opening readings we will see a good balance between the theory and the practice. I do think it is a hard balance to find in other areas of library school as well, as it is a field that tries hard to contain both rigorous academics as well as useful and worthwhile practical skill development.
I also liked his mention of the different theories to use when approaching an ethical question. Ethics can be a sticky enough issue that there is rarely one best way to approach the problem, and having well defined tools at ones disposal is highly valuable. I am curious to know if anyone has an opinion on whether or not any of the theories is overall more useful than any of the others. At first though I the consequence model the most straightforward, but after a few minutes of thoughts it strikes me as potentially the most difficult to figure out. Concepts like duty and rights and virtue often come fairly well defined within the constructs of any given society. However, imagining every possible consequence behind an action can prove to be quite difficult, and this is only the first step. Judging the magnitude of such consequence adds a new layer of difficulty which is then further complicated by the fact that consequences good for one party may be bad for another.
I think Mill makes some good arguments in favor of free speech, basically arguing that if we censor anything we run the risk of censoring the truth at some point. This stance however seems to presume that an infinite number of instances hurtful false statements are worth allowing for the sake of a single truth. I may be overstating this point, but perhaps more balance in this area is prudent. What do you think, group B?

Nice to meet you all class, I look forward to the semester of ethics.


  1. Hello Daniel,

    In regards to your insight into censorship, and the lack there of, I do believe you have touched upon one of the BIG questions of our time (of any time?) (undoubtedly on purpose, you sly classmate!) I myself agree with you that more balance would be sound. Could I dare say such a balance may best come about from editorial oversight rather than from censorship? (though one might argue such oversight is in its very nature censoring). I think that the Internet (or Interweb if you will) illustrates this dilemma beautifully. The web's business, indeed, appears to be in information. But, there are numerous resources provided by access to the internet (thus theoretically available in a library) that could be deemed hurtful and, more importantly, false. It is the false statements that scare me the most, but how indeed could we ethically edit the good from the bad and the ugly? I hence censor myself.

  2. Hi Daniel,

    I liked your thoughts on this, and I agree that the ethical theories proposed by Fallis shift in and out of priority placement in debating which is more useful than the others. I myself thought rights-based theories might be good, but after going back to my notes about Mills and my hesitation to jump on the bandwagon that censorship-free society should reign supreme, I realized that rights-based theories (like the others) are also challenging to articulate, implement, and defend. I'm definitely not advocating for censorship, but I think that it has a definite role in the dialogues happening in spheres of all types - social, personal, business, information, etc.

    I guess I was a little confused by what Mill meant in his third point about the freedom of expression, and I think it relates to your last point about censorship. What does Mill mean when he writes "Even if the received opinion be not only true but the whole truth; unless it is suffered to be and actually is, vigorously and earnestly contested, it will, by most of those who receive it, be held in the manner of a prejudice, with little comprehension or feeling of its rational grounds"?