Social Media And Morality: Losing Our Self Control [1st Edition] 1107164931, 9781107164932, 1316616576, 9781316616574, 1316691357, 9781316691359

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Social Media And Morality: Losing Our Self Control [1st Edition]
 1107164931, 9781107164932, 1316616576, 9781316616574, 1316691357, 9781316691359

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Table of contents :
Cover......Page 1
Title......Page 2
Title - Complete......Page 4
Copyright......Page 5
Contents......Page 6
Introduction......Page 8
1 - The Political Significance of Social Media and the Limits of Our Understanding......Page 34
2 - The Moral Significance of Social Networking Technologies......Page 69
3 - Why We Do What We Do......Page 97
4 - Time Consciousness and the Specious Present of Social Media......Page 129
5 - Pretty Is as Pretty Does......Page 162
6 - Revealing the Moral Self in the Context of Us......Page 191
Bibliography......Page 218
Index......Page 230

Citation preview

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Social Media and Morality

Is social media changing who we are? We assume social media is only a tool for our modern-day communications and interactions, but is it quietly changing who we are and how we see the world and one another? Our current debate about the human behaviors behind social media misses the important effects these social networking technologies are having on our sense of shared morality and investigates the reasons behind it. This book reconsiders our usual regulatory and developmental approach and suggests a new methodological inquiry to inform a new direction in our understanding for these increasingly important technologies. Lisa S. Nelson is an associate professor at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, and is a former appointee with the Department of Homeland Security’s Data Privacy and Integrity Advisory Committee. Professor Nelson is a National Science Foundation award recipient, a MacArthur grant recipient, and is the author of America Identified: Biometric Technology and Society (2011).

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Social Media and Morality Losing Our Self Control

LISA S. NELSON University of Pittsburgh

University Printing House, Cambridge CB2 8BS, United Kingdom One Liberty Plaza, 20th Floor, New York, NY 10006, USA 477 Williamstown Road, Port Melbourne, VIC 3207, Australia 314–321, 3rd Floor, Plot 3, Splendor Forum, Jasola District Centre, New Delhi – 110025, India 79 Anson Road, #06-04/06, Singapore 079906 Cambridge University Press is part of the University of Cambridge. It furthers the University’s mission by disseminating knowledge in the pursuit of education, learning, and research at the highest international levels of excellence. www.cambridge.org Information on this title: www.cambridge.org/9781316616574 DOI: 10.1017/9781316691359 © Lisa S. Nelson 2018 This publication is in copyright. Subject to statutory exception and to the provisions of relevant collective licensing agreements, no reproduction of any part may take place without the written permission of Cambridge University Press. First published 2018 Printed in the United States of America by Sheridan Books, Inc. A catalogue record for this publication is available from the British Library. Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Names: Nelson, Lisa S., author. Title: Social media and morality: losing our self control / Lisa S. Nelson, University of Pittsburgh. Description: New York: Cambridge University Press, 2018. | Includes bibliographical references and index. Identifiers: LCCN 2017061277 | ISBN 9781107164932 (hardback) | ISBN 9781316616574 (paperback) Subjects: LCSH: Social media – Moral and ethical aspects. Classification: LCC HM741.N45 2018 | DDC 302.23/1–dc23 LC record available at https://lccn.loc.gov/2017061277 ISBN 978-1-107-16493-2 Hardback ISBN 978-1-316-61657-4 Paperback Cambridge University Press has no responsibility for the persistence or accuracy of URLs for external or third-party internet websites referred to in this publication and does not guarantee that any content on such websites is, or will remain, accurate or appropriate.

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Contents

1 2 3 4 5 6

Introduction The Political Significance of Social Media and the Limits of Our Understanding The Moral Significance of Social Networking Technologies Why We Do What We Do Time Consciousness and the Specious Present of Social Media Pretty Is as Pretty Does Revealing the Moral Self in the Context of Us

Bibliography Index

page 1 27 62 90 122 155 184 211 223

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Introduction

The arrival of social networking technologies such as Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, and YouTube is altering the fabric of our lives and changing the ethical implications of our social and political practices. Social media is at the center of many of our greatest public policy debates, but the role it plays in relation to human behavior is far from settled. Consider the shooting attack on Republicans at a baseball field during a charity event. The gunman was described “as a Bernie Sanders supporter and campaign volunteer virulently opposed to President Trump. He posted many antiTrump messages on social media, including one in March that said ‘Time to Destroy Trump & Co.’ ” (Board, 2017). A look at his Facebook posts confirmed the antipathy James T. Hodgkinson had for President Trump and the Republican Party. The question not clearly answered, however, was whether social media contributed to his intentions to shoot Republicans. And in the 2016 elections, Hillary Clinton placed some responsibility for her loss on the social media network Facebook. According to Clinton, the “fake stories” that spread on social media influenced the voters in the election. The solution she suggested? Content regulation by the social media giant. She said of Facebook, “They’ve got to get back to trying to curate it more effectively, they’ve got to help prevent fake news from creating a new reality” (Staff, 2017). In response, Facebook and Google began shutting down “fake news” sites, but without a clear understanding of how or why these social media sources played a role in swaying the American voter and without a clear path to avoid the potential regulatory pitfalls that come along with content regulation. Social media and its potentially radicalizing effect also figures into our domestic and international efforts against the threat of terrorism. The Obama administration 1

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justified the drone strike on American citizen Anwar al-Awlaki, in part because of the radicalizing influence of al-Awlaki’s blogs, Facebook page, YouTube videos, and contributions to the online al-Qaeda magazine, Inspire. Even after his death, the Congress believed the influence of social media was so powerful that it had to be taken down to prevent further terrorist acts. A  New  York Times article affirmed this view, suggesting that al-Awlaki’s public statements and videos continued to inspire acts of terrorism in the wake of his assassination (Shane, 2015). Still, the assertion that social media is a source of influence in radicalization does not answer the question of why its influence might be so powerful. Last, but certainly not least, social media is at the center of heart-wrenching circumstances of individuals such as Amanda Todd. Amanda was a young girl who, like many others her age, found an anonymous friend online. After gaining her confidence, this online “friend” convinced her to send a topless picture to him. When the picture went viral, Amanda was bullied and teased to such an extent she was forced to change schools. As the abuse continued, Amanda became more and more despondent and could find no way out of the situation except to commit suicide. Before her death, she made a disturbing YouTube video about cyber bullying that went viral. While many people were shocked and dismayed by what she had experienced, others went on the attack even after her death, suggesting she deserved what had happened to her. The growing occurrence of diverse incidents such as those described assert a connection with social media, but understanding the reasons for its influence or methods of countering it are far from settled. This is because the approach to the moral problems we encounter in our use of social networking technologies is founded on familiar fault lines that continue to limit our inquiry. The potential mediating effects of social media on us, the choices we make, and the actions we take is not fully interrogated because, despite the disagreement about the ethical concerns of social networking technologies for society, there is one assumption that has been generally accepted by those engaged in the debate: social networking technologies lack moral significance. The moral significance of technologies generally – not only social networking technologies  – is difficult to explore because technologies are typically considered objects and we are human, and the province of morality has long been ours. We viewed technology as only a tool capable of freeing us from our human limits, providing us with an increased ease in communication, commerce, or transportation. With this view in mind, we have addressed the morality of our machines, working to limit their

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Introduction

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detrimental effects on the existence of humanity to ensure our morality is not destroyed. We have developed disciplines to address our ethical concerns, such as bioethics, nanoethics, cyberethics, and hackerethics, to guarantee that technology is under our moral direction and control. Not surprisingly, the narrative about social networking technologies and the types of human interactions they engender is focused on how we employ the technologies and the moral consequences we cause rather than the moral significance of the technology on our existence, experience, and perception. These technologies are at one and the same time portrayed as a threat to our privacy and anonymity and protective of them; essential and destructive of our interpersonal relationships; and simultaneously constructive of a global civil society and debilitating to it. Social media is often intimately connected to the expansion of our freedom and liberty in cyberspace just as often as they are designated threats, as reports of surveillance, data mining, and information sharing continue to escalate. Those like Gabriella Coleman defend a broad range of human activities on the Internet– even those considered harmful by many  – as morally and politically consistent with a Western tradition of freedom of expression and protest, no matter how damaging or offensive the consequences. She wrote: A decade-plus of anthropological fieldwork among hackers and like-minded geeks has led me to the firm conviction that these people are building one of the most vibrant civil liberties movements we’ve ever seen. It is a culture committed to freeing information, insisting on privacy, and fighting censorship, which in turn propels wide-ranging political activity. In the last year alone, hackers have been behind some of the most powerful political currents out there (Coleman, 2013).

Others focus on the harmful human behavior behind the technology. Citron, for example, points to the fact that the “Internet has contributed to the rise of bigoted mobs. People are more inclined to join antisocial groups when they do not have to disclose their identities” (Citron, 2014, p. 62). The present work provides a new perspective by offering a new approach for conceptualizing the moral significance of social networking technologies and so that we can develop a new trajectory for future research. The central premise is that mediation of social networking technologies possesses phenomenological effects significant to the actions we take and the decisions we make in a morally significant way. The phenomenological effects are of no small consequence, raising questions about how and under what circumstances we are shaped by social media,

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which ultimately changes the perspective we take on moral responsibility for online behavior and challenges our current approach to regulation and technological development. At a time when our communications, interactions, and transactions increasingly rely upon the medium of technology, it is essential to begin to understand whether and in what ways our technological tools might affect our own sensibilities about morality. Consideration of the moral significance of technological artifacts requires defining an alternative to the modernist subject–object dichotomy upon which our relationship with technology has long been premised. This does not necessitate attributing animism to technology, but instead requires us to evaluate how and under what conditions and to what effect technology mediates the reality we encounter online. Although technology lacks consciousness, rationality, freedom, and intentionality, it does not follow that technology does not have an important moral dimension in influencing “human actions and experiences” and shaping our moral choices even in the most innocuous ways (Verbeek, 2011). Instead of a classical phenomenologist account that seeks to describe preexisting subjects and objects, a postphenonmenological viewpoint, like that taken here, analyzes technology as constructive of human behavior and engages a more contextualized approach to technology through which subjectivity and objectivity are constituted (Ihde, 1993). To evaluate the mediating effect of communication technologies on our perception of reality, it is necessary to view the relationship not as unidirectional, but instead as one in which technology acts upon us as we act with it. As Verbeek explains, “technological artifacts are not neutral intermediaries but actively coshape people’s being in the world:  their perceptions and actions, experience and existence” (Verbeek, 2011, p. 8). Technologies mediate not only our perceptions, but also our praxis, introducing a novel set of considerations to the question of means, ends, and morality that has animated the study of technology and its effect on our lives. The chapters that follow provide a foundation for rethinking the moral significance of social networking technologies with the intention of establishing the basis for reconsidering the technological influences on our own morality. Methodological Approach Chapter  1 considers how and under what circumstances the political significance of communication technologies has so far dominated our ethical concerns associated with social networking technologies. While

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the political significance of communication technologies in general is obvious, this singular approach clouds our ability to engage in alternative methodological inquiries. Coming to terms with the moral significance of technologies has been difficult to explore primarily because these same technologies are at the center of existing cultural, political, and social debates that draw our attention to the political rather than moral significance of communication technologies. The political significance of any given technology is found in the social and material conditions necessary for the operating environment of the system and in the social and political relationships constructed around it. As Winner explains, “if we examine social patterns that characterize the environment of technical systems, we find certain devices and systems almost invariably linked to specific ways of organizing power and authority” (Winner, 1986, p.  33). Some of these social and political patterns are longstanding. The practice of coupling technology and the power of the state occurred as far back as Plato:  “a pivotal theme in the Republic is Plato’s quest to borrow the authority of techne and employ it by analogy to buttress his argument in favor of authority in the state” (Winner, 1986, p. 30). Decoupling technology from its political significance, however, is not a simple matter because it is often intricately intertwined with patterns of social and political authority vested in it which, in turn, influences our understanding and praxis. Likely, we may not even recognize the entrenched ways in which we attach political significance, taking it to be part and parcel of the technology rather than something that is constructed around it: Histories of architecture, city planning, and public works contain many examples of physical arrangements with explicit or implicit political purposes. One can point to Baron Haussmann’s broad Parisian thoroughfares, engineered at Louis Napolean’s direction to prevent any recurrence of street fighting of the kind that took place during the revolution of 1848. (Winner, 1989, p. 24).

Early communication technologies such as the telephone, for example, served existing patterns of political authority by providing new tools to law enforcement to ferret out illegal activity during the Prohibition era and to investigate allegations of espionage during both of the Red Scares. The political significance of communication technologies was not only a matter of state authority. The same technology also enabled new societal patterns of associational life that evoked the political significance of First Amendment freedoms and Fourth Amendment privacy protections. Modern social networking technologies evidence some of the same forms

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of political significance attributed to the telephone, but the arrival of Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, and Instagram also introduced new patterns of social and political authority as the private sector increasingly plays an important role in the information revolution. Communication companies and Internet service providers develop a never-ending supply of social networking platforms and apps for the anxious consumer, who willingly trades his or her data for access, leading to information harvesting and mining for the benefit of the private sector, but also for the public sector as incidences of clandestine information sharing with the government are uncovered. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of California, for example, recently discovered that Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram provided user data access to Geofeedia, a developer of a social media monitoring technology put to use by law enforcement to track protesters and their associational networks. Individuals, however, are not entirely powerless in this new information economy and are creating their own solutions for protecting their privacy and associational rights by ironically using the very same technological tools to obfuscate identity and communicate anonymously. Anonymous communication technologies, including such things as web-based redirectors, protocol dependent proxies, and Tor or virtual private network (VPN) tunneling are increasingly used as a technological panacea to the erosion of privacy on the Internet. By some accounts, there has been a sixfold increase in the demand for VPNs, especially in light of the rollback of congressional protections for privacy. This trend continues despite the fact that the privacy protections gained are not always as protective as they are represented (Silverman, 2017). While social networking technologies are rightly viewed through the prism of the past because they are vested with some of the same political significance of their antecedents, our present and future relationship with these technologies should not be limited to only this perspective. The focus on the political significance of the past for understanding social networking technologies of the present is not necessarily incorrect, but it does have the parallel effect of diminishing our consideration of the moral significance of these more modern forms of communication technologies. To pave the way for a newly conceived approach to social networking technologies, the old must be reconsidered, and this first chapter is intended to set the stage for a reconsideration of the moral significance of social networking technologies. Chapter 2 develops a theoretical approach for evaluating the moral significance of our new forms of communication technologies. Works such as Latour and Woolgar’s Laboratory Life (1986) or Michael Lynch’s Art

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and Artifact in Laboratory Science (1985) establish the basic assumptions of the approach taken here, which is built on the premise that technology cannot be isolated from methods, interests, materials, and institutions influencing its constitution; rather, technology is an artifact arising from the complex interaction of these processes and interests and should not be separated from the intentionality of users, policy, methods of adaptation, and existing institutional practices that influence its constitution. The first step in constructing a framework to understand the mediating influences of technology on our experience, perception, and existence is to dismantle the modernist subject–object dichotomy upon which our relationship with technology has long been premised. This process formally begins with a consideration of Heidegger, who establishes a philosophical basis for understanding the relationship between human beings and their technological tools as something more complex than subject– object dichotomy. In his essay on The Question of Technology, he warns that an instrumental conception of technology is a limitation on our understanding of technology’s essence. Heidegger explains his reasoning: We are delivered over to it in the worse possible way when we regard it as something neutral; for this conception of it, to which, today we are particularly likely to do homage, makes us utterly blind to the essence of technology (Heidegger, 1977, p. 288).

Heidegger suggests our relationship with technology is one that orders our understanding of reality and, in doing so, also influences our relationship with Nature and our own sense of Being. Heidegger sets aside the usual starting point of the subject–object dichotomy and instead assumes technology influences our perceived reality, which is continually revealed as we investigate and observe with the use of technology. Heidegger’s insights provide the basis for a phenomenological approach to the study of technology in the tradition of Edmund Husserl and Maurice MerlouPonty, both of whom advocate on behalf of research that “analyzes the relations between human beings and their world rather than a method of describing reality” (Verbeek, 2011, p. 15). These insights are taken one step further in a postphenomenological approach to technology. Not only is reality influenced by the lens of technology, but so too is humankind changed in our day-to-day use of technology. According to this viewpoint, technology is not a mere tool but is also a medium through which subjective perceptual experience is created and mediated, which, as will be discussed, possesses consequences for our moral sensibilities. As Don Ihde describes, whether by a process of embodiment, hermeneutics, or

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alterity, technology can transform our experience of reality and affect our existence in the process. The postphenomenological explanation of our relationship with technology is built on the premise that it is transformative of our perceptions, existence, and experience: From a hermeneutical perspective, artifacts mediate human experience by transforming perceptions and interpretive frameworks, helping to shape the way in which human beings encounter reality. The structure of this kind of mediation involves amplification and reduction; some interpretive possibilities are strengthened while others are weakened. From an existential perspective, artifacts mediate human existence by giving concrete shape to their behavior and the social contexts of their existence. This kind of mediation can be described in terms of translation, whose structure involves invitation and inhibition; some forms of involvement are fostered while others are discouraged. Both kinds of mediation, taken together, describe how artifacts help shape how humans can be present in the world and how the world can be present for them (Verbeek, 2005, p. 196).

The current research suggests the mediating effect of technology also requires rethinking our basic assumptions about the autonomy of the moral subject in any debate about ethics and technology. If technology alters our sense of identity, agency, intention, and consciousness, affecting how we evaluate the actions we take, the phenomena we encounter, and the judgments we make, then there is a consequence for how we conceive of and assign moral responsibility in our online lives. There is some precedent for this way of thinking about technology in the work of Bruno Latour, who considered seriously the moral significance of technologies in the effects exerted on our practices and habits. Latour takes his cue from Heidegger and suggests that our relationship with technology can be better explained with a concept of networked reality to capture the complex ways humans and nonhumans are intertwined and, more importantly, how nonhumans can also be moral agents. According to Latour’s theory, technologies form “scripts” that encourage users to act in particular ways. Though the intention of the user is not overridden by the script of the technology, there exists a network between the two that then allows for the technology to take on moral significance (Latour, 2002). This idea of moral significance is extended further by Verbeek, who, in his consideration of obstetric ultrasound, argues technology constructs “a modern, heteronomous moral subject whose actions are always interwoven with the material environment in which they play out” (Verbeek, 2011, p. 22). Verbeek calls the association between humans and reality the “interpreted reality” and human existence “situated subjectivity.” His example of a sonogram illustrates how and for what reasons

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technological mediation can make moral dilemmas apparent and acute, demanding decisions about genetic defects, such as Down Syndrome and more in the course of a pregnancy, where before technological mediation there might have been none (Verbeek, 2011). His postphenomenological approach “moves beyond the predominating modernist understanding of the relations between subjects and objects in ethics, in which subjects are active and intentional and objects are passive and mute” (Verbeek, 2011, p. 16). The present work takes the insights of Verbeek and Latour to provide the philosophical justification for the morally significant mediating role of social networking technologies on perception, existence, and experience of reality online and for the consideration of the consequences for our own morality. Chapter 3 takes up the issue of human agency online and considers the mediating effect of social networking technologies on the ways in which we form our intentions, beliefs, and reactive attitudes. These technologies may allow us newfound freedom, liberating us from the physical constraints of real time and space, but there also may be unintended consequences for us. This is not to say human agency is destined to be harmful or contentious when mediated by social networking technologies; rather, it is to tease out the differences that might be relevant to the formation of our intentions, beliefs, and reactive attitudes online. Whether human agency can be affected by the circumstances within which it is exercised is not entirely novel. Modern philosophy has long wrestled with the perennial tension between free will and determinism and has struggled to understand when free will has been shown not to be entirely free because of the limiting or enabling effects of its physical reality. Hume, for example, observed that if actions are produced by motives, and motives are linked to the physical phenomenon, then free will, where “liberty which is opposed to necessity,” cannot be used to characterize human action (Hume, 1907, p.  100). A  similar sort of tension exists when evaluating the enabling or limiting effects of social networking technology on human agency. If the mediating role of technologies affects the formation of our intentions, beliefs, and reactive attitudes, how should we account for the moral qualities of the technology and understand its effects on human agency? P.  F. Strawson’s insights in his article “Freedom and Resentment” and some of the many critiques that followed are also helpful to considering how and why our online communications might affect how we form our intentions, beliefs, and reactive attitudes behind collective and individual human agency and how we conceive of moral responsibility. According to Strawson,

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the idea of holding individuals responsible is part of our political and social practices and “neither calls for nor permits, an external ‘rational’ justification” (Strawson, 1992, p.  23). From this point of view, human agency exists in our reactive attitudes and the moral judgments we form about individuals; this “central commonplace” is a helpful basis for understanding how and under what circumstances the capacity for human agency exists even in the face of causal constraints. A  person may hurt us physically or emotionally, for example, but we are more inclined to temper our reactions if the action was not intended or was misdirected (Bennett, 2008). Consider the implications of the “central commonplace” when it forms online. As we shift our interactions to an online forum, our knowledge of individuals and the reasons behind their actions is affected. We may understand little about those with whom we interact and, at the same time, the images or phenomena we encounter online may be presented in a way that engenders intense reactions that lead us to believe there is a widely shared sense of morality when, in fact, there is a relatively narrow perspective generated by the online community with whom we are interacting. Both of these phenomenological effects can influence the kinds of moral judgments we make and the beliefs, intentions, and reactive attitudes we form that we use to inform our actions. We may want to attack an individual online for what we perceive as their moral wrongs, but the judgments we form or the information we use to make them may be, at best, based on distorted information or, at worst, completely misinformed because of the shallowness of our understanding. The nature of our relationships (subjective versus objective, individual versus collective) has an important consequence for the moral judgments we make and the blame or lack thereof we might attribute to our actions, and this is especially true when we move online. How we evaluate the causal responsibility for our actions online is also important to understanding the effects of virtual reality on human agency. Hume, for instance, speaks to the kinds of mistakes we make when we perceive will as a causal mechanism, and this problem is exacerbated in our online actions but perhaps in the inverse way. We may misapprehend the causal mechanism of our behavior online or underestimate its devastating effects on others. We may even attribute will where there is no intention or attach blame to others where there is none. Our own sense of blameworthiness might even be ignored because we do not see ourselves as responsible. The perception of causal connection between our behavior and the effects may be altered in our online communications (one posting exists indefinitely online) or our behavior

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may be only one causal mechanism among many intentions combined (cybermobs), or we may intend to cause one thing but it may result in just the opposite. These usual referents for our agency or the displacement of them by collective action online can divorce our intention from its consequences and separate us into subjectively created communities that may be very different from the real places we inhabit and the real people with whom we interact. Our online communications may also create the conditions of power over others where none existed before, something Locke discussed in his attempt to modify the traditional notion of contracausal freedom with a softer notion of free will that considered the power of an individual to carry out his or her own intentions. In the “Idea of Power,” Locke argues that liberty is not an idea belonging to volition or preference, but to the person having the power to do (Smiley, 1992). He explains that “the idea of liberty is the idea of power in any agent to do or forbear any particular action, according to this determination of thought of mind, whereby either of them is not in the power of the agent to be produced by him according to his own volition, there is not liberty . . . the idea of liberty reaches as far as that power and no further” (Locke, 1856, p. 156). The exertion of our “power” online may have devastating consequences without the restraint we encounter in our offline lives. If social networking technologies mediate our intentions and beliefs and shape our reactive attitudes and beliefs about individuals, phenomena, and causation, then should we think about human agency and its regulation differently when it takes place in cyberspace as opposed to real time and space? These kinds of questions are not only philosophical in nature; they are fundamental to reconsidering how to deal with some of the regulatory challenges in cyberspace instead of treading the same ground on which we continually argue about the morality or immorality of online behavior without considering the mediating role of technology. Chapter  4 considers how networked time affects our perception of past, present, and future in our online interactions and, in doing so, transforms our perceptions, experience, and existence. This chapter represents a continuation of a century-long discussion about time consciousness and its consequences about the reality we perceive and interpret, beginning with Saint Augustine, who struggled with the perception of time and its relationship with eternity. Time and how it is affected by human perception has been an ongoing facet of sociological accounts of postmodern society, but networked time might even be more transformative of our praxis and our morality than ever before. The basic premise is that postphenomenological epistemology is the starting point and

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assumes consciousness plays an active role in constituting the phenomenon it observes and encounters. The issue is whether our consciousness is altered by the asynchrony of virtual reality. The type of context-bound temporal experience we encounter in our online interactions represents a departure from the usual time and space restraints. But where temporality is an unavoidable consequence of experience, does virtual reality represents a significant transition in our thinking about morality? In real time and space, when an individual makes a judgment, whether it is about the consequences of his or her behavior on others or about phenomena encountered, the material constraints of the co-present exist. Online communication organized around temporally isolated and attenuated exposure to phenomena or to the Other may have the hermeneutical effect of narrowing our sense of ethical and social responsibility, affecting the judgments we make and the actions we take or the things that we say while online, putting the emphasis on a temporally isolated present. The implications for morality are important. Time figures significantly in contemporary discussions involving man in meditation upon his destiny and that of humankind because moral responsibility is a function of contemplation of our actions, not temporally isolated in the present, but in consideration of the effect of our actions across a spectrum of time and space. Umberto Eco, for instance, suggests that “the subject situated in a temporal dimension is aware of the gravity and difficulty of his decisions, but at the same time he is aware that he must decide, that it is he who must decide, and that this process is linked to an indefinite series of necessary decision making that involves all other men” (Eco, 1979, p. 113). If networked time represents a transition not only in our consciousness of time but also allows us to focus on an abstracted and temporally isolated present to the exclusion of material co-present reality, the issue is whether our reactions to phenomena, the Other, evaluations of consequences, and ultimately our own sense of morality are also altered. Chapter 5 evaluates some of the ethical consequences of moving our personal identity online and how we might create the conditions for moral responsibility in virtual reality, which, in the end, involves thinking about the source of our normative assumptions. In a virtual world in which human interactions are increasingly performed in the abstract and technology extends our being and presence in ways that are separate from our personal identity grounded in real time and space, there are important assumptions to reconsider about how we conceive of moral responsibility and how a postphenomenological point of view lends perspective. This chapter begins with a historical review of personal identity,

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which has long been connected to discussions about the assignment of moral responsibility. As John Locke wrote, “in this personal identity is founded the right and justice of reward and punishment” (Locke, 1821, p. 341). Locke’s viewpoint on personal identity reflects the tendency in the Western intellectual tradition to ground personal identity in consciousness, which is ontologically separate from the world around us. For Locke, personal identity was defined in terms of memory and the ability to self-reflect on our actions. He explained that personal identity is defined by the qualities of a “thinking intelligent being that has reason and reflection, and can consider itself as itself, the same thinking thing, in different times and places.” (Locke, 1856, p. 286) But what role does this consciousness play in our virtual lives? Some have suggested our virtual lives expand the idea of the social (Fernback, 2007; Rheingold, 1992; Turkle, 1995). The hope was that this new social space would offer the potential to relate to others without the usual physical or time constraints and provide “tools for facilitating all the various ways people have discovered to divide and communicate, group and subgroup and regroup, include and exclude, select and elect” (Rheingold, 1992 p. 62). As human beings, we are self-conscious about the reasons for which we act, and as a result we reflect on the desires we have because of the effects we might have on others and ourselves. Yet, if our online personal identity is a product of our self-conscious creation of it without the usual material constraints of time, space, and proximity around which the relationship between personal identity and moral responsibility have long been constructed, what are the consequences for morality? Social networking technologies allow us to structure our human interactions in ways that differ from our real-time and space existence, but if we are able to isolate our virtual selves from our physical selves, then the assignment of moral responsibility is also complicated. Our online identity is oftentimes contingent and does not possess the same kind of necessity of being a unified agent that characterizes our lives lived in real time and space. The relationship between personal identity and moral responsibility in our material lives may seem straightforward, but where personal identity is muddled by different monikers or displaced by anonymity or aspirational identities that forge a separation between our online and offline selves, how should we conceive of moral responsibility?  The issue of discontinuity of personal identity and moral responsibility is not entirely new. There has been a long and detailed discussion about how and under what circumstances individuals should be held morally responsible for their actions if and when there is discontinuity

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of personal identity. Usually, the concern in philosophical debates is whether or not to hold an individual morally responsible if there is some discontinuity in their personal identity because of factors affecting psychological connectedness and continuity in the form of memories, intentions, or other mental states. The reductionist view maintains that a person persists through time as a function of memories, beliefs, intentions, and other mental states (Radden, 1996). From this perspective, personal identity is considered “slices” of individuals across time and space, where moral responsibility is segmented according to the slices of psychological connectedness and continuity. Nonreductionists, on the other hand, maintain that a person is a separately existing entity, and that personal identity over time cannot be analyzed into disparate pieces and is instead ontologically based. Concerns about psychological continuity and connectedness arise with regard to personal identity because an individual who is impaired should be held to a lower standard of moral responsibility. In some ways, the difference in viewpoint between the reductionists and nonreductionists is analogous to our quandary about personal identity when it comes to online behavior. Online communication allows for a self-conscious disconnect from our personal identity organized around the dictates of real time and space; this only grows more commonplace as the methods of communicating online multiply, enabling our identity to be diced, spliced, and chopped into temporally dislocated pieces. The prospects of anonymous communications introduce even more complex considerations for moral responsibility and personal identity. One of the earliest indications of the consequences of anonymity in our physical lives was the deindividuation effect on individuals, which was demonstrated by Zimbardo (1969) in his electric shock experiment. According to his deindividuation theory, Zimbardo placed strong emphasis on anonymity as the cause of diminished concern for self-evaluation, which enables individuals to act with disregard for following societal norms of behavior. That is, external and internal constraints that would typically regulate questionable behavior are rendered less effective because anonymity allows for the inhibiting effects of the social environment to disappear, attenuating shame, guilt, and fear. While Zimbardo’s research asked individuals to conform to the researcher’s expectation to shock another individual while remaining anonymous, more recent studies about online anonymity have shown it can cause us to engage in more uninhibited behaviors, including violence, aggression, and sexual self-disclosure, when we interact in virtual reality.

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The obvious criticism of this line of argument is that most of what we think occurs anonymously is not actually anonymous – there are many means of reconstructing personal identity if necessary, making us not as unknowable as we might want to be. When individuals believed (regardless of the veracity of this belief) their identities were not known to others, there was a greater tendency to send hostile and threatening messages in chat rooms or through instant messaging. This deindividuation effect on individuals might be exacerbated when a group of individuals coalesce around a moral or political position and their positions are affirmed by those with whom they are interacting. But there may be more to the story than simply anonymity. The kind of behavior we see online might also be a function of the kinds of online communities we join and identities we adopt based not on our physical proximity, but instead an imagined community that is not only about a sense of connectedness but exclusion as well. There is evidence that members of a marginalized group can use a group identity to resist a more powerful majority group, for example, by forming attachments as the basis of the group identification, which has a consequence for collective action on the Internet (Postmes, 2005). If individuals create and negotiate their identities through an iterative process of dialogic and symbolic exchange with other individuals while online, it does not always follow that the group dynamics are positive, however. Coffey and  Woolworth (2004) found marked differences in the level of vitriol when they compared the dynamics playing out in a physical town meeting from the kind of online behavior that occurred on an anonymous message board for community members in the wake of a murder spree. Others such as Citron have pointed to the tendency online for group dynamics to take hold, creating a mob mentality and fueling abusive behavior online as competition for recognition and antisocial behavior are encouraged (Citron, 2014). The basic dilemma of our online personal identity is that when we think about moral responsibility we assume a unity of an agent to whom we assign moral responsibility for the choices made and actions taken. But if personal identity is not coherent in its many online forms or can be obfuscated with the use of communication tools or more generally because of the sheer numbers of interactions we have, do we also need to think about the assignment of moral responsibility differently? Chapter  6 considers the traditional regulatory approaches to social networking technologies and posits ways in which we may need to modify our approach to capture the consequences of their moral significance on us. More importantly, however, social media also reveals

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something about us and the normative reasons we construct for our morality. The modernist assumptions about our relationship with technology are mired in a dichotomous approach, ranging from those who champion the highly unregulated space of the Internet to those who argue for the need to rein in human behaviors to which this unregulated space gives rise. The current policy debate is premised upon the autonomous moral subject and is oftentimes dominated by traditional concerns of free speech, anonymity, and our privacy interests in our personal information while trying to temper harmful online behavior such as cyber bullying, digilantism, threats, racism, and terrorism without trampling on these traditional freedoms. It is not surprising that these First Amendment freedoms and our privacy interests in our personal information figure centrally in the debate about social networking technologies. Privacy and First Amendment freedoms are strongholds of a civil society. Free speech and anonymity, for example, were central to our constitutional founding. During discussions about the United States Constitution after the failure of the Articles of Confederation, essays and pamphlets published under pseudonyms were designed to kindle the fires of political deliberations. The Anti-Federalists, fearing retribution from their Federalist counterparts, argued about the future composition of the constitutional framework while remaining under the cover of anonymity. Since then, the right to remain anonymous has been an important aspect of First Amendment jurisprudence, and its preservation has often been used to prevent a chilling effect on democratic participation and speech. Because anonymity protects a sense of liberty to freely associate and protects decisional autonomy, serving an important purpose in preserving some degree of private space for political opposition and the expression of ideas especially during times of political strife, those such as Froomkin continue to make the argument that anonymity is powerful for securing essential aspects of individual freedom even when we move online: The arguments for why untraceable anonymity is a good thing include the idea that it contributes to human flourishing; people want to experiment, and the ability to experiment with less fear contributes to human self-realization. In places that are less free, avoiding retribution for saying the wrong thing may be a matter of life and death. Political dissidents, ethnic minorities, religious splinter groups, people campaigning for women’s rights or gay rights, and many others are, or have been, subject to the risk of genuine and very palpable violence. If they wish to speak or write for their causes they need a means to protect themselves. Anonymity is one such tool (Froomkin, 2015, p. 121).

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These ideals are no less important when it comes to our online lives and are important means of avoiding the self-disciplining effects of surveillance first described by Jeremy Bentham, who proposed the use of a panoptic tower in a reformatory. Bentham, of course, recognized the benefits of surveillance and pointed to the fact that prisoners would never know with certainty if they were being observed by one guard, many, or none at all. As a technique of the modern state, Bentham highlighted the self-disciplinary effects of observation on individual behavior as a benefit of the architecture of surveillance. This concept was later appropriated by Michel Foucault, who described the normalizing and constraining aspects of the power of observation, which served to limit the subjectivity, and thus liberty, of individuals in modern society: He who is subjected to a field of visibility, and who knows it, assumes responsibility for the constraints of power; he makes them play spontaneously upon himself; he inscribes in himself the power relation in which he simultaneously plays both roles; he becomes the principle of his own subjection (Foucault, 1995, pp. 202–3).

In addition to the guarantees of First Amendment freedoms, the right of privacy has long been identified as a key component of human dignity and has been described as a right “older than the Bill of Rights.” (Griswold, 381 U.S. at 486). Under the law, privacy in different forms has received protection under the First Amendment, which protects freedom of conscience; with the guarantees of the Fourth Amendment, which guard against unconstitutional searches and seizures; and with a host of statutory and common law protections. Despite these legal guarantees, the concept of privacy has also long been contested and debated as discontent over existing protections prompted debate and reconsideration of its significance in modern life, broadening its legal protections to include control over information; intimacies of personal identity; physical or sensory access; protection against searches and seizures; solitude; freedom from surveillance; and others (Schoeman, 1984). This evolution of privacy is a result of many discussions of instances where the law as it stood did not entirely protect privacy as society thought it should. Then as now, technological innovations, changing conceptions of personhood, and shifting norms, values, and expectations have all challenged conceptions of privacy and directed changes in legal doctrine, but these do not diminish privacy’s continued importance, especially in the age of information.

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The Internet and social networking technologies introduce another layer of complexity as to how anonymity, free speech, and privacy should continue to matter, however. Those such as Froomkin suggest that anonymity is threatened by the perfect storm of surveillance technologies, national security concerns, and the increase in data harvesting and mining by the private sector, the consequence of which is an erosion of liberty and freedom in our lives if we do not retain the protection of anonymity. In reference to privacy, there are also questions about whether the current regulatory approach should also be changed. Sklanksy, for instance, makes the point that privacy must be reimagined because “a helpful conception of privacy should include, elements that are missing from an account of privacy that focuses only on control over data flows” (Sklansky, 2014, p. 1107). There are ways in which social networking technologies are changing us even as we struggle to control them. Sousveillance, or mob vigilantism or participatory panopticanism, might also be characterized as yet another threat to our online lives that our current approach does not fully address. The novel question presented by sousveillance is whether the constancy of observation and the possibility of online harassment and cyber bullying by others in cyberspace results in a newly conceived chilling of associational life and freedom of speech in virtual reality that is distinct from our usual concerns about governmental surveillance. And, moreover, these phenomena raise the question of whether they may be damaging the associational life upon which a free society depends. Even some of our political philosophers, including John Locke, noted that vigilantism could be considered a legitimate and sacred defense against arbitrary power: Whoever uses force without Right, as everyone does in Society, who does it without law, puts himself into a State of War with those, against whom he so uses it, and in that state all former ties are cancelled, all other Rights cease, and everyone has a Right to defend himself, and to resist the aggressor (Locke, 1821, p. 232).

Still, vigilantism is not always so gallant, and this is especially true in our online digilantism. The protections afforded to us in our online lives also serve the purposes of our attackers, and like its historical predecessor, vigilantism, where our tendency toward human fallibility is apparent in the mistaken moral judgments we make. It is perhaps an unsettling truism to say that a sound cause becomes bad if supported by “bad” men and an unsound cause becomes good if supported by “good” (Commanger,

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1958, p. 98). The “Know Nothing” movement, for example, was organized around the principle of limiting or ending the influence of Irish Catholics and other immigrants on American politics. Lynch mobs, the Vigilance Committee, the Citizens’ Council, and the Klan are just a few examples of vigilantism gone wrong. As Locke warned, “the power that every individual gave the Society, when he entered into it, can never revert to the individual again, as long as the Society lasts, but will always remain in the Community; because without this there can be no Community, no Commonwealth, which is contrary to the original Agreement” (Locke, 1821, p, 147). Suffice it to say that vigilante movements cannot be for personal aggrandizement or private gain – otherwise, damage to the community is the end result. Humans are, unfortunately, all too human, and whether we are online or offline, the damage done can be detrimental. Still, the call to fend off the bad behavior tends to follow a common regulatory approach.  Any regulation of the Internet, however, is to some the greater evil to be avoided. Gabriella Coleman, for example, argues that “the hacker underground demands recognition for their exploits – even anonymous recognition – because transgression is the method of self-assertion.” She frames transgression as a principle consistent with the teachings of John Stuart Mill, whom she describes as defining “the free individual as one who develops, determines, and changes his own desires and interests autonomously through self-expression, debate and reasoned deliberation” (Coleman and Golub, 2008, p. 269). When harm is the consequence of the exercise of individual liberty, one wonders whether Mill would favor this expression of freedom. He writes, “the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others” (Mill, 1865, p.  6). In response, Coleman and Golub  suggest we should not focus our attention on “a putatively homogeneous set of norms, values, and practices.” Instead, we need to consider that those who engage in expression on the Internet, no matter what its harm, evoke broader themes consistent with our political sense of right and good including free speech, meritocracy, privacy, and the power of the individual, all of which represent “reworked liberal ideals which ultimately create a diverse but related set of expressions concerning selfhood, property, privacy, labor, and creativity” (Coleman and Golub, 2008, p. 267). Those like Coleman want to generally avoid any constraint on what they take to be the Internet’s generativity. From this viewpoint, when a technology has the capacity to allow its users to innovate in ways not imagined by its developers, the imposition of any

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regulatory restrictions undermines this process. Jonathan Zittrain, for his part, fears the loss of generativity in the future of the Internet with conscious consideration of how we build and regulate it: Generativity pairs an input consisting of unfiltered contributions from diverse people and groups, who may or may not be working in concert, with the output of unanticipated change. For the inputs, how much the system facilitates audience contribution is a function of both technological design and social behavior. A  system’s generativity describes not only its objective characteristics, but also the ways the system relates to its users and the ways users relate to one another. In turn, these relationships reflect how much the users identify as contributors or participants, rather than as mere consumers (Zittrain, 2008, p. 71).

These regulatory debates are familiar and somewhat comfortable because they are reflective of the approaches we have taken in the past when regulation of technology is pitted against First Amendment concerns and privacy interests, but they do not capture the moral significance of social networking technologies and their effects on us and, further, what we might learn from them. The main intention of the present work is to develop a framework for considering the effects of social networking technologies on our experience, existence, and perception beyond the usual constraints of the current debate. This postphenomenological approach broadens the questions we ask not only about our relationship with social networking technologies but also what drives our search for morality, understanding that currently tends to reference the existing social and political patterns of the past that have so far conditioned our approach to communication technologies legally and morally. To simply argue that we must treat online behavior in the same manner as we have treated First Amendment freedoms and privacy interests in real time and space is to miss the mediating effect of social networking technologies on us and the insights we can gain into our human capacity for morality. There is a reason, of course, that we tend to use existing categories to deal with new phenomena in an evolutionary approach to jurisprudence. Yet, as Easterbrook warned, we should not be drawn into the “law of the horse” approach to answer the sorts of questions the law has already successfully addressed in other subject matter. From this perspective, the metaphor of the “law of the horse” is meant to illustrate that although horses are a unique object in the law, they do not require a distinct set of legal categories. Easterbrook writes: Lots of cases deal with sales of horses; others deal with people kicked by horses; still more deal with the licensing and racing of horses, or with the care

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veterinarians give to horses, or with prizes at horse shows. Any effort to collect these strands into a course on the Law of the Horse is doomed to be shallow and to miss unifying principles (Easterbrook, 1996, p. 207).

As Easterbrook argues, regulation should not struggle to “match an imperfect legal system to an evolving world that we understand poorly.”  This warning should not be taken as a call to set aside a long history of First Amendment or privacy jurisprudence; but it is to advocate instead for thinking critically about the categories we use. While we should not rush to make up a “law of the horse” for social networking technologies, neither should we apply existing categories of First Amendment and privacy doctrine crudely without considering the differences relevant because we may be damaging the very freedoms we hope to protect. Regulation that pits our privacy interests and our First Amendment interests against the mitigation of the bad behavior that occurs when we are using social networking technologies without considering the phenomenological effects on us clouds our consideration of alternative approaches and ignores the insights we might gain into our way of thinking about morality. The ironic outcome of only vesting social networking technologies with the politically significant values of freedom and liberty does not account for the importance of first considering whether they possess moral significance in changing the very ways we think about freedom and responsibility. In the end, we must be critical (and honest) about the current state of morality that is on display in our social media interactions and consider what it reveals about how we conceive of our relationship with technology but also the origins of our moral judgments. The central question is whether the mediating influences of social networking technologies call for a departure from traditional assumptions about moral responsibility that draws upon the theories based in utilitarianism or Kantian ethics. There have been several approaches taken to try to shift the focus. One such approach is disclosive ethics, which tries to analyze the morality embedded in technologies that shape ethical practice in the tradition of Latour. Others have advocated a pluralistic ethics on a global scale with an emphasis on virtue ethics (Vallor, 2012) or feminist ethics (Hamington, 2004). And because social networking technologies allow us to transcend geographical constraints, there is the inevitable problem of national and cultural boundaries that challenge the creation of an applied ethics and contest the idea of a universal moral agent. These insights have caused some to suggest we should consider the effects of virtualization

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on communication and consider how relations of power are represented in online interactions (Turkle, 1997). There have also been those who have attached moral agency to artificial agents. Floridi and Sanders, for example, propose to extend the definition of moral agents to include artificial agents as a way of disconnecting moral agency and moral accountability from the idea of moral responsibility so that artificial agents can be held accountable but not responsible (Floridi and Sanders, 2004). Others have emphasized the moral consequences of the development and deployment of technologies as a means of attributing moral responsibility to the intentionality of developers and designers (Nissenbaum, 2010). Johnson, for instance, argues computer technologies are reflective of the intentionality of their creators and users and leaves no room for the attribution of moral responsibility for what she calls computational artifacts (Johnson, 2006). The perspective taken here does not accept the premise that the only moral agent is human but neither does it adopt a deterministic or monolithic viewpoint of technology as a driver of social, political, or cultural change (Borgmann, 1995. Instead, if the moral subject is coconstituted by the process of technological mediation, then there is not only a consequence for how we conceive of the moral significance of social networking technologies, but how we think about the moral subject and the reasons we give ourselves for our morality. Traditionally, from a Kantian point of view the condition of moral responsibility depends upon the ability to act and to intend. The Kantian connection between intention and moral responsibility runs deep in our philosophical tradition and is also reflected in the Christian ethos that underpins our legal system and institutional and societal organizations. It is tempting and usual to ground moral responsibility in individual intention, but if technology has the effect of mediating and even changing our perceptions, intentions, and experience, then one has to consider the various ways in which technological artifacts take on moral significance and how our moral reasons for deciding and acting are affected. Johnson and Powers have suggested, for instance, that it is not enough to just look at intentions:  “Ascribing more responsibility to persons who act with technology requires coming to grips with the behavior of the technology” (Johnson and Power, 2005, p. 107).  The lack of “ideal liability” in our online lives should not, in other words, translate to a lack of moral responsibility. As more bad behavior occurs online, there may be a need to set aside the distinctly Kantian assumptions that underpin our ideas of moral responsibility to consider

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alternative approaches (Smiley, 2010). Collective action in our online lives adds another layer of complexity. The intentions and consequences of collective action are even more difficult to know online and blameworthiness difficult to assign when harm has occurred. It might be possible to simply adopt a consequentialist approach that hinges upon the moral assessment of the consequences rather than the intentions, and from this point of view, a different set of considerations is possible, including whether the consequences are productive of a good or contribute to harm. Here the primacy of intention and causation is not the driver of moral responsibility; instead, the harmful consequences figure more centrally and, importantly, engender different solutions. All of this speaks to the possibilities portended by a postphenomenological approach that also opens up the possibility of questioning the modern subject. But there is an irony here too that our relationship with social media reveals about us. We must also be aware that the ways we attempt to escape the confines of the moral subject with a postmodern critique might not always be true to its philosophical origins. The deconstruction of postmodernism allowed us to contest our modernist assumptions about the transcendental subject. Yet, the current trend of politicizing perspectivialism into unassailable moral truths leads us to a new found isolationism because of the normative reasons it presents for who we are and our reasons for doing and action. A postphenomenological approach goes hand in hand with a postmodern approach, and it is with the latter that we have lost our direction. Here social media and the insights it provides for our current ontological state of being can provide a different set of normative questions to ask that refocus our morality on “what I am” in relation to others. The phenomenological influences on our understanding of causation, intention, time consciousness, and personal identity not only speak to ways in which technological development and deployment might be altered and adjusted, but also show us the error of our ways in our current approach to morality. Yet, in order to develop these insights, there first needs to be redirection of the research to better capture and define the phenomenological effects of technology on our consciousness and the consequences it can have on us. These phenomenological effects on us, however, also introduce new questions about the source of our morality. While our modernist approach had us focused on the ethics and morality of our machines, the postphenomenological and postmodern approach should have us focus on finding a new basis for our morality, and this is the intended purpose of this work. So far, there are some troubling aspects to the assumptions we make about global connectivity and morality, for

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instance. While social networking technologies are often heralded as liberating us from our physical limits and enabling connectivity on a global scale, the end result hoped for by some is the development of a sense of multicultural citizenship that transcends the contingencies of geographical place. Missing in this assertion of a newfound sense of global community and a multicultural citizenship is the moral question of what binds us together and guides our human behavior. If we are lifted from physical constraints when we are online, is there a moral consequence for the “contingent connections without which we would not be coming together to construct communities in the first place” (Yack, 2012, p. 27). Although protecting the global reach of the Internet is lauded as essential to the moral imperative of freedom and expressive of a universal human right, it might also be accused of ignoring “the role of contingency in our political and moral life for which we are responsible (Yack, 2012, p. 24). A  recent report issued by the United Nations’ Special Rapporteur, for example, advocates a continuing expansion of our online communications and defends anonymous communications and an unregulated Internet as fundamental to the protection of human rights globally. But the universal theory of morality upon which this human rights rhetoric is based and the cyberactivism organized around it disregards a fundamental question about the theory of morality we are promoting with the use of social networking technologies and ignores the fact that assertions of universal freedoms and liberties made under the aegis of a universal concept of morality can also ironically be a tool of oppression and dismissive of localized social and political practices by those who have the power of the technology behind them. The same is true with regard to the distorted postmodernism we assert in our own claims to moral righteousness. As will be addressed, postmodernism and its methodology of deconstruction were not intended to give rise to unassailable truth based on our own moral perspective.  We need to rethink, in other words, the assumptions we make about morality – its substance as well as its origin – in light of social networking technologies. Not only do we need to question whether social networking technologies are inherently moral or immoral because of the political significance we attach to them, but we also need to reconsider how we understand and define our own moral sensibilities. Work is being done to flesh out the moral approach we take when it comes to technology more generally. Verbeek, for example, uses Foucault to formulate an ethical approach that moves beyond the moral subject. Foucault is not generally considered a philosopher of technology, but it is his recognition

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that the structures of power are at work in “concrete practices, objects, and ideas” that Verbeek takes to be important in rethinking morality and the nature of human subjectivity. Verbeek uses Foucault’s insight about disciplinary power and the role that it plays in regulating behavior to consider how technology influences the constitution of human subjectivity. In this way, Verbeek suggests that “ethics should not position itself in opposition to power but incorporate power into its approach to morality and moral agency” (Verbeek, 2006, p.  73). This approach inspired by Foucault introduces an aesthetic dimension into the realm of ethics and does not style morality in terms of moral obligations but frames it as “self practices” reflective of the Greek conception of good and the beautiful. Here Verbeek believes technologies need not be destructive of humanity but should be explicitly fashioned to help shape the morality of subjects. There remains the thornier question of exactly what this morality might look like. If we take postphenomenology seriously, then the development and deployment of technology are not our only concerns in shaping the moral subject. We must also consider whether we need a theory of morality to guide us generally and, if so, its normative substance and origin, and right now we are impeding this process by a politicized version of postmodernism that eschews its postmodern promise. Social media can help reveal the mistakes of our current understanding of postmodernism and the morality (or immorality) to which it gives rise. This approach to social media is informed by Heidegger, who speaks about the “saving power” within the danger of technology. Heidegger uses Friedrich Hölderlin’s poem “In lieblicher Blaue,” or “In Lovely Blue,” to explain that Enframing is the danger of technology because it can tempt us not to look further for primal truth. The danger, however, is also the saving power if we are willing to keep searching beyond what we initially are able to know through our praxis with technology. Heidegger explains: Let us think carefully about these words of Hölderlin. What does it mean to “save”? Usually we think that it means only to seize hold of a thing threatened by ruin, in order to secure it in its former continuance. But the verb “to save” says more. “To save” is to fetch something home into its essence, or order to bring the essence for the first time into its genuine appearing. If the essence of technology, Enframing, is the extreme danger, and if there is truth in Holderlin’s words then the rule of Enframing cannot exhaust itself solely with blocking all lighting-up of every revealing all appearing truth. Rather, precisely the essence of technology must harbor in itself the growth of saving power (Heidegger, 1993, p. 297).

Hölderlin writes, “where danger is, grows the saving power also.” The dangers of our use of social media are obvious. Whether it is cyber

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bullying, revenge porn, or harassment, many have pointed to the danger of who we have become online. It is not, in other words, only about designing technology to shape our moral choices. We may also have to consider what technology has revealed about us to find the saving power in the rethinking of our own morality, and this is the directive of the work that follows.

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1 The Political Significance of Social Media and the Limits of Our Understanding

The moral significance of social networking technologies can only be understood once they are uncoupled from the political significance with which they have long been described. The focus on the political significance of social networking technologies is not surprising. Social networking technologies are viewed as fundamental to the expression of our First Amendment rights and liberties in cyberspace just as often as they are characterized as a threat to them. There is support for both contentions. On the one hand, incidences of cyber harassment, cyber stalking, revenge porn, and cyber bullying are on the increase as the pace of our online interactions escalates. Citron describes one such instance with long-lasting consequences In 2012, a case unfolded in Maryland when strange men began showing up at a woman’s doorstep, claiming they had been emailing with her and were there to have sex. Her ex-husband had posted Craiglist ads in her name that expressed a desire for sexual encounters with titles like “Rape me and my Daughters.” Other ads offered to sell the sexual services of her then-twelve and thirteen year old daughters and twelve year old son; the children’s photos appeared next to the family’s address (Citron, 2014, p. 6).

There is little disagreement over the fact that our use of social networking technologies results in some harmful behavior. The conflict is how to best regulate against the more damaging online activities without undermining the principles of the First Amendment, including free speech, freedom of association, and anonymity. This is the contention of those like Gabriella Coleman, for example, who defend any online behavior, even if harmful or disruptive, as the continuation of

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an American tradition in cyberspace. She suggests those who are critical of some of the more injurious communications should not focus our attention on “a putatively homogeneous set of norms, values, and practices” to judge the activities. She encourages us to instead consider that these online activities evoke broader themes consistent with our political sense of right and good, including free speech, meritocracy, privacy, and the power of the individual, all of which represent “reworked liberal ideals which ultimately create a diverse but related set of expressions concerning selfhood, property, privacy, labor, and creativity” (Coleman and Golub, 2008, p. 267). Obviously, however, these “reworked” liberal ideas do not always achieve liberal goals. The release of information through Wikileaks triggered concerns by a wide-ranging group of critics. When Wikileaks rose to notoriety with its release of classified information in 2010 obtained by then Bradley Manning (now Chelsea Manning), there was a backlash because of the potential danger it posed to national security. In response, VISA, MasterCard, and PayPal restricted payments to Wikileaks, which then resulted in a counterprotest that was organized by groups associated with Anonymous and a splinter group, LulzSec. The difficulty of justifying any of this activity according to liberal ideas is that there is harm that can occur despite the assertion of the normative ideals that are pursued. The release of the sensitive information revealed during the 2016 elections was not without controversy either and generated contentious debate about the source of the release.  The political significance of social networking technologies is clear, but understanding their influence through this lens is limiting. Because social networking technologies tap into strong, if not contradictory, reference points in our political and legal tradition, their use can easily be described as anything from Nietszchean to Tocquevillian if we pick and choose our philosophical principles carefully. More problematic is the assumption we are able to influence and control the consequences of social networking technologies and the social and political patterns that develop around them. While the political significance we attach to these technologies is not necessarily incorrect, it may limit our understanding of how they are changing us and our morality too. Political Significance and the Enlightenment The narrative of political significance springs from our longstanding Enlightenment belief that Reason is capable of harnessing technological

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tools to achieve “our quest for intellectual and cultural liberation” (Borgmann, 1984, p. 35). Central to this narrative is the premise we also control the intention behind technology, enabling us to create the desired social and political patterns of the society we envision. Communication technologies are a case in point. Historically, communication technologies have been seen as politically significant to our First Amendment freedoms of speech and association and fundamental to a vibrant civil society; but at other times during our past, wiretapping and surveillance of these same communication technologies have been used to combat threats to society in the form of criminal activity, espionage, and, more recently, terrorism. It is not surprising, then, our more modern social networking technologies such as Snapchat, Twitter, and Facebook are seen through the lens of these antecedents, triggering a similar set of concerns. But while the narrative of political significance is a familiar one, but it may also be incomplete, causing us to ignore how and under what circumstances social networking technologies also possess moral significance. The Enlightenment ideal that we should influence technology to achieve the social and political outcomes we desire is characterized by the work of those like Langdon Winner. In his discussion of the lowhanging overpasses built in Long Island, New York, under the direction of Robert Moses, for example, Winner suggests the overpasses were not low hanging for just any reason; they were built with the explicit intention to discourage people who were more likely to use public transportation from traveling to Jones Beach (Winner, 1986, p.  22). From Winner’s perspective, the political significance behind the low-hanging overpasses was classist and racist if we consider the individuals who were excluded from using public transportation to travel to Jones Beach. Yet this narrative of the political significance of the overpasses was not without its critics, who generated counterfactual evidence to contest Winner’s analysis and the political motivations behind it. Joerges, for instance, demonstrated that even at the time of the construction of the overpasses, there were plenty of alternative routes for both cars and public transportation that allowed access to Jones Beach, making it difficult to so easily characterize Moses’ intention as either classist or racist (Joerges, 1999). Others have suggested when we attribute political significance to the intention behind a technology, it is not necessarily about the comparison of facts. Woolgar and Cooper argue political significance has little to do with whether the facts are correct or not and more to do with our identities and

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expectations. The importance of these “urban legends” is their political salience rather than truth: We suggest the key is to recognize how the text of the Moses’ bridges story performs a community of readers. By this we mean, in brief, that the structure of the story makes available an arrangement of identities and expectations, and it is these characteristics to which readers can orient in making sense of the text. Reading, in this version of textual analysis, primarily involves attention to the configuration of actions and interpretations performed by the text. This approach extends the observation that the appeal of these stories depends on contrast, and on revelatory figures of speech (most decidedly, contra Joerges, including irony), by populating the community of those responding to the story. Our proposal is that the story of Moses’ bridges can best be understood as a form of “urban legend” (Woolgar and Cooper, 1999, p. 439).

The point here is that the stories we tell about our technologies define our relationship to them. Winner was very aware of the importance of the story he was telling, and it had little to do with whether it is true or not. The value of attaching political significance to any technology, Winner would argue, is to create the societal and political good we hope to achieve. Technology, according to this Enlightenment belief, is “the promise of liberation and enrichment, and to refuse the promise would be to choose confinement, misery, and poverty” (Borgmann, 1984, p. 103). Winner’s story about Robert Moses and the racist and classist character of his intentions is important not for its factual validity, but for the functional properties of the story and the political message it communicates about our motivations in designing and implementing technology. When Winner characterizes Robert Moses’ intention behind the low-hanging overpasses as being racist and classist, he is developing a narrative that suggests technology is a political tool with which we can do harm and good. But as Woolgar and Cooper explain, sometimes Winner’s intention to do “good” actually creates an obstacle to other stories that might be told because Winner’s approach limits what is morally permissible and, in the process, reduplicates the very discrimination and exclusion he seeks to repudiate: For it turns out that Winner’s bridges are also artefacts constructed with the intention of not letting certain arguments past. They are deliberately designed to prevent the passage of interpretivist arguments. Winner [cited in BJ, 421, note 521] says: “I am not interested in theories, I am interested in moral issues. My point is not explanatory, it is about political choices.” He thereby makes a claim for the high ground, simultaneously performing a distinction between those with the correct credentials (interested in moral issues and political choices) and those without (interested in theories and explanation). Winner

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implies that even theories per se may be morally unsuitable objects for passage along the S&TS freeway. He suggests that all these social phenomena should be subject to discrimination or exclusion: but he fails to recognize that, through his dismissal of reflexive considerations, he inadvertently produces in (what might be called) his “textual politics” some of the very practices and processes that he wishes to criticize. In true urban legend fashion, Winner’s very attempt to prevent boundary violation actually ends up reduplicating discrimination and exclusion at the core of his practice (Woolgar and Cooper, 1999, p. 444).

While Woolgar and Cooper criticize Winner for limiting the purview of a disciplinary discussion, I argue that the narrow focus on the political significance of technology similarly obscures our consideration of its moral significance for us. We may, in other words, be missing how technology is exacting a mediating influence on our experience, existence, and perception because of the emphasis on political significance that is a holdover of our Enlightenment beliefs. The “urban legend” we tell about the political significance of technology assumes that we are in control of the intention behind the technology and that we can control the ideological direction of its development and implementation, but this approach has the consequence of causing us to discount its moral significance to our own detriment. Pinpointing the moral significance of technologies requires we first deconstruct the political significance we have long relied upon to define our relationship with technology and, more importantly, which we believe we control. The Long View A consideration of the political significance of modern-day social networking technologies begins with a discussion of its antecedents in older forms of communication technologies such as the telephone. It may be difficult at first to view the telephone as a politically significant technology, but at the time it arrived many thought it possessed potentially far-reaching consequences for the social and political fabric of America. The possibility of widespread access to the telephone evoked a host of hopes and apprehensions that played out in the social and political debates of the time, triggering both hopes and fears (Fischer, 1992). For some, the telephone would isolate us because it “brought people into close contact but obliged them to live at wider distances and created a palpable emptiness across which voices seemed uniquely disembodied and remote” (Kern, 1983). For others, the telephone promised increased human interaction. A  1921 advertisement described the telephone as an essential tool for bringing family and community life together. “It’s

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a weekly affair now, those fond intimate talks. Distance rolls away and for a few minutes every Thursday night the familiar voices tell the little family gossip that both are so eager to hear” (Fischer, 1992, p. 76). Even more than transforming societal patterns, the telephone was attributed with even greater political significance as the Prohibition Era took hold and we worked to control the immorality we thought was destroying our society with new technological tools that took advantage of the telephone, such as wiretapping. The Prohibition era reflected a moral and political conflict growing between the “wicked” city, which was a product of industrialization, and the threat it posed to the morality encapsulated in rural life. The Prohibition movement was not only an attack on alcohol but also a fight against a host of other evils that threatened America. An editorial written by Alphonso Alva Hopkins in 1908, a Prohibition Party supporter, described the dire situation in this way: Besodden Europe, worse bescourged than by war, famine and pestilence, sends here her drink-makers, her drunkard-makers, and her drunkards, or her more temperate but habitual drinkers, with all their un-American and anti-American ideas of morality and government; they are absorbed into our national life, but not assimilated; with no liberty whence they came, they demand unrestricted liberty among us, even to license for the things we loathe; and through the ballot-box, flung wide open to them by foolish statesmanship that covets power, their foreign control or conquest has become largely an appalling fact; they dominate our Sabbath, over large areas of country; they have set up for us their own moral standards, which are grossly immoral; they govern our great cities, until even Reform candidates accept their authority and pledge themselves to obey it; the great cities govern the nation; and foreign control or conquest could gain little more, though secured by foreign armies and fleets ((Hopkins, 1909, p. 234).

The claims of moral turpitude resulted in the passage of the Eighteenth Amendment, ending the legal sale of alcohol, but doing nothing to curb the desire for it. Bootleggers such as Roy Olmstead filled the void. The infamous 1928 Supreme Court case, which involved the prosecution of Roy Olmstead with the use of evidence gathered by wiretapping, underscores the social and political patterns that would come to influence the political significance of communication technologies, pitting liberty interests against looming social and political imperatives. Olmstead was unlikely bootlegger. He was hard working and well liked and, even more surprising, he began his career as a police officer. As a young man in 1906, Olmstead joined local law enforcement in Seattle and then rose through the ranks to become a lieutenant by 1916. When

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Washington State began its own prohibition movement, Olmstead was a police officer fighting against the crime of bootlegging, which, ironically, wetted his appetite for the profits that could be made doing it. When violent competitions between the two rival gangs involved in rum-running broke out in Seattle, their weaknesses were exposed. Olmstead was on the front lines in the investigations and evidence gathering, leading to the eventual arrest, prosecution, and jailing of the gang members. But for Roy Olmstead, the mistakes made by the gangs were also an education into how to run a better bootlegging operation, which is exactly what he did after their prosecution (Clark, 1963, pp. 89–90). The consequences for Olmstead were, at first, not grave. When Roy Olmstead was first caught unloading liquor from a tugboat in Brown’s Bay in 1920, he was fined and let go from the police department, which actually enabled him to pursue bootlegging fulltime. Roy Olmstead soon became a notorious bootlegger and was known as “the king of the rumrunners,” a “booze baron,” and even as a “good bootlegger” who “had served a social purpose” (Sinclair, 1962). As his notoriety and bootlegging business increased, so did the desire to prosecute him for his crimes by law enforcement. At the time, any evidence gathered with wiretapping was against state law, a fact Olmstead was aware of and used to his advantage. Further infuriating law enforcement, Olmstead used the monitored telephone calls to thwart law enforcement, often sending investigators on a wild goose chase while he went about committing his crimes by using a public telephone booth to communicate with his fellow bootleggers (Clark, 1963). Olmstead’s evasion of law enforcement came to an end when Canadian officials seized his boat along with more than seven hundred bottles of liquor and arrested Olmstead for a customs violation. When three of the men on board the ship began to cooperate with law enforcement and agreed to the wiretapping of their conversations with Olmstead, federal investigators thought they finally had enough evidence to hold a grand jury hearing. The investigators were correct. An indictment against Olmstead and ninety others was issued for conspiracy to violate the National Prohibition Act, and the evidence gathered through wiretapping was used in the prosecutions for the federal offense. Olmstead and his lawyers challenged the inclusion of the evidence gathered with the wiretapping by citing the Washington State statute that made wiretapping illegal, but the Supreme Court saw wiretapping differently. The Supreme Court granted certiorari to answer the constitutional question of whether the Fourth Amendment protected against the use of

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evidence gathered in this way. The question was a novel one at the constitutional level and would dictate whether wiretapping was a violation of the privacy vested in the Fourth Amendment. The decision hinged on the type of privacy being transgressed. Because wiretapping of the telephone did not require any form of physical trespass into the home, there was a lack of jurisprudential clarity on whether the privacy protections in the Fourth Amendment even applied to evidence gathered in this way. Up until Olmstead’s challenge, the constitutional protections of the Fourth Amendment only applied when there was a physical invasion of privacy of a person, place, and effects. According to this interpretive framework, the wiretapping of Olmstead’s telephone did not violate the literal meaning of the Fourth Amendment because no law enforcement officer ever entered into his home to gain access to the conversations. The novel constitutional question was whether wiretapping violated the normative guarantees of privacy protection enshrined in the Fourth Amendment because Olmstead’s private conversations had still been heard. The political and societal significance of wiretapping was obvious. If the state was given enhanced technological capability to intrude upon private conversations, it could better enable law enforcement to combat criminal activity. The liberty interests of a free society, however, could be threatened by such a broad use of technology to invade privacy. Tension between these two outcomes was evident in the majority opinion of Chief Justice William Howard Taft. While he recognized there was a potentially undesirable societal and political consequence of allowing law enforcement the power to wiretap, he cited what he took to be an even higher purpose. He wrote “a standard which would forbid the reception of evidence if obtained by other than nice ethical conduct by government officials would make society suffer and give criminals greater immunity than has been known heretofore . . .” (Olmstead v.  United States, 277 U.S. 438, 468). In his dissent, Brandeis echoed the concerns about technology and the dangers it posed to privacy he had first expressed in a law review article written more than three decades before Olmstead with his friend, classmate, and colleague Samuel Warren. The technology at the center of what would become an infamous article was not the telephone, however. Instead, the camera and the sensational photojournalism it inspired was behind the article published in the Harvard Law Review, entitled “A Right to Privacy” (Warren and Brandeis, 1890). One might wonder why two relatively unknown jurists were worried about the intrusions

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of photojournalism on privacy. There was, in fact, nothing in particular that made either Brandeis or Warren the subject of interest to photojournalists until Warren married the daughter of Senator Thomas Francis Bayard Sr. in 1883. The marriage, from the perspective of many scholars, was the main reason for the interest of the authors in privacy. Prosser, for instance, tied the “highly personal and embarrassing coverage” of Warren’s wedding in Boston’s Saturday Evening Gazette as the formative event leading to the article (Prosser, 1960). While the wedding was covered in the “Washington Society World” and guests were named in the story along with a description of the party, very little attention was paid to Warren and his new wife, which has led some to question whether the coverage of the wedding was really behind Brandeis’ interest in the right to privacy (Solove, 2001). More likely, the explanation is found in the intrusive journalism coverage that occurred after Mrs. Warren lost both her sister and her mother within fifteen days. Speculation and curiosity were in fact spiked when these two events occurred so close together in time and the journalists filled the need for information with descriptions of the deaths and the subsequent funerals, a fact that more likely gave rise to Brandeis’s interest in the right to privacy (Gadja, 2007). Despite the disagreement about the genesis of the interest in privacy, it was true both Warren and Brandeis were concerned about the consequences of technology and, apropos to the political significance attached to technologies, feared the law was not keeping pace to protect us from their vagaries. The solution, Warren and Brandeis suggested, was found in the expansion of the right to privacy, just as the right to property before it was forced to change to reflect the political, social, and economic forces at play: Political, social, and economic changes entail the recognition of new rights, and the common law, in its eternal youth, grows to meet the demands of society. Thus, in very early times, the law gave a remedy only for physical interference with life and property, for trespasses vi et armis. Then the “right to life” served only to protect the subject from battery in its various forms; liberty meant freedom from actual restraint; and the right to property secured to the individual his lands and his cattle. Later, there came a recognition of man’s spiritual nature, of his feelings and his intellect. Gradually the scope of these legal rights broadened; and now the right to life has come to mean the right to enjoy life – the right to be let alone; the right to liberty secures the exercise of extensive civil privileges; and the term “property” has grown to comprise every form of possession – intangible, as well as tangible (Warren and Brandeis, 1890, p. 193).

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Brandeis and Warren believed the meaning of the law had to be continually adjusted and reconsidered to ensure the “individual the right of determining, ordinarily, to what extent his thoughts, sentiments, and emotions shall be communicated to others” (Warren and Brandeis, 1890, p. 198). This warning was reiterated in Brandeis’ dissent in Olmstead: The makers of our Constitution undertook to secure conditions favorable to the pursuit of happiness . . . They conferred, as against the government, the right to be left alone – the most comprehensive of rights and the right most valued by civilized men. To protect that right, every unjustifiable intrusion by the government upon the privacy of the individual, whatever the means employed, must be deemed in violation of the 4th Amendment (Olmstead v. United States 277 U.S. 438, 471).

Despite his appeal to the importance of privacy to society, Brandeis’ logic did not prevail in Olmstead and the government was empowered to use wiretapping as a tool to combat crime. The political and societal significance of this decision did not go entirely unnoticed. The telephone, which had been important technological tool for the expression of First Amendment freedoms and associational life, was now also a potential threat to the privacy of individuals with the constitutional allowance of widespread wiretapping. The editors of The Outlook described the holding of the case as cataclysmic to liberty, warning it was “The New Dred Scott Decision”: It is not too much to say that the decision in the wire· tapping case will probably become the Dred Scott decision of prohibition . . . The popular mind will regard it as an infringement of liberty growing out of prohibition . . . we must weather the devastating effects of a decision that outrages a people’s sense of a security which they thought they had under their Constitution (Clark, 1963, p. 99).

At the time of the decision, however, there was little public outcry. Potential public concern was overshadowed by the rampant crime that had come to characterize the Prohibition era. Although Prohibition was designed to temper the moral turpitude of the time, it contributed to a culture of lawlessness that only seemed to become more prevalent as media coverage devoted to it expanded. The gangsters behind these criminal activities became notorious as they garnered dramatic coverage in print media into the 1930s. The sensational media coverage generated the perception a crisis was afoot, and society, as in other times in our political and social history, had to be willing to cede some of their liberty interests to fight it with the technological tools of wiretapping and surveillance. John Dillinger and his many exploits was just one example

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of the criminals who were portrayed by the media as running roughshod over society: The foremost of these was “Handsome” John Dillinger, dubbed by bureau officials “Public Enemy Number One.” Between May 1933 and July 1934, Dillinger robbed ten banks in five states. On one occasion he even robbed a police station of guns and ammunition and, on another, brazenly escaped from Crown Point, Indiana, jail after having been photographed at the time of his incarceration with the local sheriff, Lillian Holley, and prosecutor, Robert Estill. Dillinger added insult to injury by sending a photograph of himself holding the wooden gun that he had used in his escape to an Indiana newspaper (Theoharis, 2004, p. 40).

The political significance of wiretapping and the societal need for federal law enforcement to use it was also cultivated by the public’s fascination of the G-man image being promoted in Hollywood. The FBI director at the time, Hoover, worked closely with the film industry to convey the brutality of gangsters and to generate public support for the need for law enforcement to use all means necessary in the fight between good and evil, leading to the enactment by President Roosevelt and Congress of a Twelve Point Crime Program in defense of “the safety of our country” (Theoharis, 2004, p. 42). Another imperative for the use of wiretapping was found in the beginnings of the second Red Scare. The Great Depression paved the way for radical political movements to emerge and the support given to them by Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union only contributed to the perception of a growing internal threat that had to be conquered (Theoharis, 2004, p. 44). Our involvement in World War II justified the expansion of intelligence gathering and domestic surveillance in order to quell the communist infiltration that many thought was overtaking the West. To Winner’s point about technology serving political intentions, the goal of countering radical resistance was a primary goal of the government agencies and congressional committees, and the use of wiretapping was at the center of the effort to monitor known socialist and communist activists. Congress justified this and other broad investigations of individual citizens in the interest of national self-preservation, and the public support for the expansion of surveillance and government authority to fight the communist threat was secured with media coverage of events such as the Palmer Raids that took place in 1930. In one night, more than four thousand communists were arrested, and the press coverage that followed was overwhelmingly positive. As Theoharis explains, “the New York Times headlined an article on the raids ‘Revolution Smashed,’

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and its reporter praised the ‘clarity, resolute will and fruitful intelligence of those who had planned the raid’ (Theoharis, 2004, p. 26). Also during this time, domestic surveillance was widened and the first centralized United States intelligence organization, the Office of Strategic Services, was created, employing wiretaps to broadly monitor known socialist activists. (Schmidt, 2000, p.  168). The Red Scare peaked with the proceedings of the actions of the House Un-American Activities Committee from 1947 to 1954 leading the attorney general to put nearly two hundred groups on a list of communist and other subversive organizations who would be called in to question. The growing breadth of the surveillance program would also, however, be its downfall. As the abuses of wiretapping became apparent, the political significance of communication technology shifted toward a societal concern for protections for First Amendment freedoms and privacy. The political authority of the government and its use of wiretapping, which had once been seen as legitimate to deal the internal communist threat and the rise of criminal activity, began to wane as the net of government surveillance was cast more widely. When wiretapping and surveillance were used against other organizations such as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the National Maritime Union, and the United Automobile Workers Union, questions were raised about the legitimacy of the governmental authority to spy on broad segments of society (Theoharis, 2004, p.  59). The prosecution of individuals for their memberships, affiliations, and associations ignited concerns about the consequences of restricting First Amendment freedoms and undermining privacy in society, ultimately causing the Supreme Court to issue restrictions, declaring this type of surveillance to be “alien to the traditions of a free society and to the First Amendment itself.” For example, in Scales v.  United States, the Court ended prosecutions for Communist Party membership under the Smith Act: In our jurisprudence, guilt is personal, and when the imposition of punishment on a status or on conduct can only be justified by reference to the relationship of that status or conduct to other concededly criminal activity . . . that relationship must be sufficiently substantial to satisfy the concept of personal guilt in order to withstand attack under the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment (367 U.S. 203 [1961]).

In this case and others that followed, the Court drew an important distinction between abstract advocacy and the advocacy of illegal conduct, requiring the government to show speech was intended and likely to

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produce imminent illegal conduct before it could be prohibited under First Amendment doctrine. Calls to protect privacy and associational rights were also stoked by a widening societal discussion about its importance and the threats against it. As Sklansky describes: Americans saw assaults on privacy in many places in the 1960s: not just in government surveillance and in regulations of intimate association, but in employment screening, both public and private; in workplace monitoring; in loyalty oaths and polygraphs; in personality testing of schoolchildren; in investigations by insurance companies and credit bureaus; in the encroaching noise and commotion of urban life; and even in the introduction of additives to foods and drinking water (Sklansky, 2014, p. 1077).

During this time period, attention to privacy also began to increase. The absence of privacy became a touchstone for discussions about totalitarianism and the loss of freedom, causing George Orwell’s Nineteen EightyFour to spring to life if attacks on privacy were not resisted (Sklansky, 2014). And as Alan Westin’s 1967 book Privacy and Freedom described, the political and societal significance of privacy was necessary in a variety of societal practices. At a fundamental level, Westin described privacy as “the claim of individuals, groups, or institutions to determine for themselves when, how, and to what extent information about them is communicated to others” (Westin, 1967, p. 7). In the 1968 decision of Katz v.  United, the Court reflected these political and societal concerns, speaking to the overextension of governmental authority with the use of technological intrusions and citing the consequences it had for the rights of privacy and First Amendment freedoms. The opportunity to change the political significance of wiretapping and surveillance came in a case not entirely different from the factual circumstances involving Roy Olmstead decades before it. Katz was not a bootlegger, but a basketball handicapper; however, the telephone was at the center of the criminal activity of both. Katz was suspected of transmitting gambling information over the phone to clients in other states using a public telephone booth. Largely based upon the recordings of his public telephone booth conversations, Katz was convicted. The Supreme Court took the opportunity in Katz to depart from the logic in Olmstead and established new standard of evaluating whether wiretapping communication technologies could be a violation of the right to privacy even if there had not been a physical intrusion of person, place, or effects. In his concurrence, Justice Harlan described the need to

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protect privacy from technological invasions by formulating a “twofold requirement” that included a test of whether “a person has exhibited an actual (subjective) expectation of privacy and, second, whether the expectation is one society is prepared to recognize as ‘reasonable.’ ” By shifting the political focus back to the expectation of privacy and away from a definition of a physical definition of privacy, the Court hoped to provide a basis for legitimating individual privacy against technological intrusions of the government. The decision also marked a change in the political significance of the telephone and the communications it supported, reasserting the importance of individual rights of privacy as well as associational rights of civil society. The decision in Katz marked a turning point, but the emergence of new technologies and shifting political attitudes pointed to some obvious weaknesses in the Katz framework as time went on, complicating the political significance that the Court hoped to attach to privacy and associational rights. Even though the Court intended to craft a standard for privacy protection that could adjust with technological innovation, potential problems were endemic to this new balancing test, especially when it came to the emergence of new forms technologies. At the time of the decision, the technological landscape was not complex and the ability of individuals to form an expectation of privacy against its intrusions was not difficult either. Ironically, as technology became more common in its public usage, it became more difficult to form a reasonable expectation of privacy against its intrusion. This fault in the logic was acknowledged by the dissent in Kyllo v. United States, 533 U.S. 27, 28 (2001), and is analogous to the problem we face with trying to retain privacy in light of our use of social networking technology. When the Court considered the issue of “whether the use of a thermal-imaging device aimed at a private home from a public street to detect relative amounts of heat within the home constituted a ‘search’ within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment,” the majority opinion reasoned that evidence obtained “by sense-enhancing technology . . . constitutes a search  – at least where the technology in question is not in general public use.” Because the thermal imaging technology used to scan Kyllo’s house was not in public use, a reasonable expectation of privacy could be formed. This analysis worked to protect Kyllo, but when a technology was more commonly in public use, a reasonable expectation of privacy was increasingly impossible to form. The dissenting opinion of Justice Stevens in Kyllo anticipated the difficulty that would eventually undermine a reasonable expectation of privacy in light of technological innovation. Stevens rightly suggested the protection

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afforded by the Court’s interpretation of the Fourth Amendment would be eliminated as soon as the relevant technology was “in general public use” and no one could form a reasonable expectation of privacy against it. Stevens’ dissent would prove true in more ways than he originally anticipated. Our exposure to the ever-increasing number of technologies would not always be equal, and this would ultimately undermine the balancing test between individual expectations of privacy and those of society. Differences of age, geography, or economic conditions affect individual exposure or access to technologies, making it difficult, if not impossible, for the balancing test to work. Then there is the problem of knowing how to keep our information associated with our online lives private because of the breadth of technological innovation, especially as social networking technologies took hold. Because so much information does not exist in physical form, individuals may have an expectation of privacy in their conversations, emails, or other types of information, but they may also have no tangible way to demonstrate their intent to keep them private. Also challenging is the shifting political context behind the societal assessment of a reasonable expectation of privacy. Politically charged events such as the War on Terror, much like the Prohibition era before it, and the interest in society has in protecting against the perceived harms persuade us that society technological surveillance is necessary to curb the threats we face. September 11 and subsequent terror attacks influence how we view the increasingly sophisticated surveillance technologies used to monitor us, whether in real time and space or in cyberspace. Before the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the idea that Americans would subject themselves and others to widespread surveillance was the stuff of fiction. But as Sklansky explains, “In June 2013, when a former government contractor disclosed that the National Security Agency was collecting and storing massive amounts of data about telephone calls between United States citizens and Internet communications by foreign targets, the immediate response in many quarters was ‘something of a collective national shrug.’ There is a downward creep in what strikes us as creepy” (Sklansky, 2014, p. 1087). The ongoing War on Terror has affected our lagging concerns about the cost to our First Amendment freedoms and privacy in our communications, transactions, and online interactions, but the political significance of social networking technologies is also influenced by other trends. These trends challenge the assumptions that we continue to control their influence on us. First, there is the problem of who we are and

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what we want and how this, in turn, affects our desires for privacy. There has been a generational shift in the propensity of sharing information, which, in turn, has translated into a different set of imperatives. Simply keeping our personal information private is no longer the primary concern for the growing number of digital natives. The Pew Internet & American Life Project explored questions of teen online privacy “by looking at the choices that teens make to share or not to share information online and by examining what they share, by probing for the context in which they share it and by asking teens for their own assessment of their vulnerability.” The results demonstrated that many youth actively use their personal information, balancing confidentiality of important pieces of information with the process of creating content for their profiles and making new friends at their discretion. Peter Swire has described this generational trend as an emergent ideology of “data empowerment,” where people control information about themselves through online social networking and other sites (Swire, 2012). Other surveys indicate that although we are aware of increasing surveillance and data harvesting and its impact on our privacy, it does not tend to make us more proactive in protecting against it. Ninety-one percent of survey respondents in a poll taken in 2015 indicated they had not made any changes to their Internet or cell phone use to avoid having their activities tracked or noticed despite being aware of surveillance and data harvesting (Pew Research Center, 2015). The consequence of a generational shift toward data empowerment and a certain resignation to surveillance and data harvesting means privacy and anonymity are important but is relative to the need for access to our online lives. Sklansky describes our own surrender of privacy: People expect less privacy and do less to preserve it. We carry smart phones that track our locations; we let retailers track our purchases; we broadcast our movements and activities on social media; we communicate with technologies that never forget what we have said (Sklansky, 2014, p. 1086).

Protections for anonymity fare no better. There are a number of different forces at work that are eating away at protections for anonymity. As Froomkin explains: In the early days of the Internet, strong cryptography, anonymous remailers, and a relative lack of surveillance created an environment conducive to anonymous communication. Today, the outlook for online anonymity is poor. Several forces combine against it: ideologies that hold that anonymity is dangerous, or that identifying evil-doers is more important than ensuring a safe mechanism for

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unpopular speech; the profitability of identification in commerce; government surveillance; the influence of intellectual property interests and in requiring hardware and other tools that enforce identification; and the law at both national and supranational levels. As a result of these forces, online anonymity is now much more difficult than previously, and looks to become less and less possible (Froomkin, 2015, p. 121).

Our increased reliance on and acceptance of social networking technologies undermine the prospects of blanket protections for privacy and anonymity; instead, we want to be able to have the power to choose when and under what circumstances we want to be private or anonymous. A recent study, in fact, found most Americans view privacy as contingent and context-dependent in commercial settings. There are a variety of circumstances under which many Americans would share personal information for getting something of perceived value, especially when it is access. In their online worlds, individuals were generally willing to disclose personal information if it made the transactions they desired possible (Rainie and Duggan, 2016). There is no question, then, our privacy, free speech, and anonymity concerns are offset by the access to all of what cyberspace can offer us – social networking, communications, transactions – but in order to gain the access we crave, we are dependent on the help of the service providers for the expression of our online content. But this reliance also represents a threat to our privacy and associational life over which we have little influence and control. Even though the Supreme Court held decades ago in Smith v. Maryland, 442 U.S. 735, 742–4 (1979) an individual has no reasonable expectation of privacy in the numbers dialed from a telephone because the information was voluntarily provided to the telephone company, today the consequences of the Third Party Doctrine are also potentially consequential, although increasing state vigilance on the issue might counter its effect. The cell phone provides access to our email, the Internet, and global positioning system (GPS) technology, and, as a result, there is a treasure trove of information that we voluntarily surrender and make available. This change marks a trend in the political significance of social networking technologies and a shift in the patterns of social and political authority that we continue to believe we influence. While we like to think of ourselves as the agents in our social networking activities, reliance on third-party providers leads to a counterintuitive outcome when it comes to maintaining our privacy and anonymity in cyberspace. The autonomy we want to protect in the form of our privacy and anonymity may be undermined by the method by which we attempt to protect

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it:  liberty of contract. On the one hand, we preserve one aspect of our autonomy with our use of liberty of contract, picking and choosing our service options; but at the same time, we allow service providers access to the valuable data we create with little mechanism of control because of the service agreements to which we are subject. The end result is we may be sacrificing our privacy and anonymity for access without even knowing it. This point might be a difficult one to accept. Historically, we have assumed we are the best arbiters of our interests and our online lives should be no different. We decide with whom we will interact, communicate, and transact and with which service providers and apps we choose. But when it comes to cyberspace, the intermediaries that facilitate and manage the technology on which we depend exact a price on our privacy and anonymity; and the price we pay is not only the fee for using their service but also the discretion they exercise over the control of our information independent of and sometimes in contradiction with our moral autonomy in the form of privacy and anonymity. The idea behind liberty of contract and market regulation, of course, is just the opposite. According to this market model of regulation, an individual’s interest is preserved by the consent upon which the contract is premised; yet, it is this same consent that is less than ideal when it is implemented in cyberspace because the consent might not so obvious or we may not clearly understand exactly what our consent implies. The element of choice and its relationship to the protection of our interests are not as clear as we would think. The central problem is there are competing interests of the service providers or app suppliers that undermine the protection of consumers’ interest in privacy and anonymity and that, more importantly, are not well protected with the use of liberty of contract. As described by Cohen, the Internet is an infrastructure for commercial communications, interactions, and transactions, but it is also access to the marketplace and not only in reference to the needs and wants of consumers but actually creative of them. Cohen calls this market built upon the raw data of consumers’ information a form of bioprospecting: The presumptively raw material extracted from crowds plays an increasingly important role as raw material in the political economy of informational capitalism. Personal information processing has become the newest form of bioprospecting, as entities of all sizes compete to discover new patterns and extract their marketplace value (Cohen, 2017; emphasis in the original).

Our need for access also facilitates the harvesting of our valuable consumer information by these providers to meet a continually expanding set

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of commercial objectives over which the individual exercises little control and oftentimes cares little about, except to purchase devises, and apps and gain access to the Internet. Enter the mobile phone, and even more information is being collected and shared with social networking, text messaging, personalized news, and entertainment feeds than ever before. Personal information has in fact been made more and more available with the help of the very consumers who desire the more access and devices sold to them by the very commercial interests who harvest the data, building a synergistic relationship between the consumer trends, preferences, and desires and the technology that can then be developed and sold, making regulation an unattractive option to all involved. At first glance, it would appear that privacy and anonymity are being protected by the user, who is actively purchasing and installing these technological fixes and tools, but undermining consent are powerful incentives that make the enrollment of the user effortless and, probably more important, attractive as they purchase more technological power and access. Cohen considers this attenuated form of consent as Kabuki theater: As a practical matter, though, information businesses have powerful incentives to configure the world of networked digital artifacts in ways that make enrollment seamless and near-automatic. The conception of consent emerging from the default condition is unprecedented in the law of contracts or any other body of law. Consent is being sublimated into the coded environment, and along the way it is being effectively redefined. In the contemporary networked marketplace, consent flows from status, not conduct, and attaches at the moment of marketplace entry. Under those circumstances, the lawyerly emphasis on such things as disclosure, privacy dashboards, and competition over terms becomes a form of Kabuki theatre that distracts both users and regulators from what is really going on (Cohen, 2017).

The metaphor of the Kabuki theater is meant to highlight the shortcomings of consent in the way information is gathered in today’s market. The usual connection among self-interest, liberty, and consent, in other words, may not be as true in our online lives as we would like it to be. We have long believed in our liberal political tradition individuals are best able to protect their liberty because they possess the particularized knowledge to pursue the course of action as it protects their selfinterest. Mill described the connection between self-interest and liberty as fundamental:  “with respect to his own feelings and circumstances, the most ordinary man or woman has means of knowledge immeasurably surpassing those that can be possessed by anyone else” (Mill, 1859, p. 207). The liberal political tradition assumes individuals are best able

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to protect their liberty because they possess the particularized knowledge to pursue the best course of action as it comports with their selfinterest. This ethical mandate runs deep in our philosophical and legal history. For instance, Mill asserted “with respect to his own feelings and circumstances, the most ordinary man or woman has means of knowledge immeasurably surpassing those that can be possessed by anyone else” (Mill, 1859, p.  207). In the philosophical context of liberalism, then, consent is favored as an alternative to paternalistic intervention because the state cannot know as well as the individual the best course of action. The end result is a judgment leveled against paternalistic regulation because of the venerable principles of self-sufficiency and autonomy. As Judith Shklar points out: Paternalism is usually faulted for limiting our freedom by forcing us to act for our own good. It is also, and possibly more significantly, unjust and bound to arouse a sense of injustice. Paternalistic laws may have as much consent as any other, but what makes their implementation objectionable is the refusal to explain to their purported beneficiaries why they must alter their conduct or comply with protective regulations. People are assumed to be incompetent without any proof (Shklar, 1990, p. 119).

There is not only the concern that paternalistic regulation will hurt the consumer. There is also worry that any regulation will also hurt the Internet and undermine its evolution. Jonathan Zittrain, for instance, has warned against tinkering with what he calls the Internet’s “generativity,” a quality he defines as “a system’s capacity to produce unanticipated change through unfiltered contributions from broad and varied audiences.” Any regulations we impose on the Internet must “be made where they will do the least harm to generative possibilities” (Zittrain, 2008 p. 119). This point is as persuasive as it is vague, painting any form of regulation as detrimental to an evolution that is presumed to be inherently good for democracy, freedom, and liberty. On the other side of the debate, cyber-paternalists have argued that the lack of traditional regulatory control systems does not necessarily translate into freedom in cyberspace. To the contrary, the cyber-paternalists contend regulation of the Internet by the market interests of those who occupy the cyber commons – the design of the technology and those actors who implement it – affects human behavior with what Lawrence Lessig has described as “code,” or the hardware and software, either explicitly or implicitly. We cannot always be sure the “generativity” will generate the liberty and freedom we assume. This is also true as the digitally

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networked public sphere is increasingly controlled by a relatively small number of privately financed platforms. Entities such as Facebook and Google structure our online experience, and the design and control of users have little to do with the tenets of First Amendment freedoms and associational life and more to do with our algorithms for the purposes of marketing or political influence (Tufekci, 2016). Despite all of the contrary evidence, we continue to rely on our self-interest as the best defining principle for regulating social networking technologies, which may be doing more to influence us than we are willing to admit or even realize. This point is demonstrated by Fourcade and Healy, who paint a picture of information dragnets that are not necessarily responsive to our interests and preferences, but creative of them (Fourcade and Kieran, 2017). The consequences of this information capitalism are potentially far-reaching. Zuboff, for example, makes the case that surveillance capitalism is a systemic threat to our democratic norms and departs in key ways from other forms of market capitalism (Zuboff, 2015). Langdon Winner reminds us that a similar kind of laissez-faire approach was justified during the Industrial Revolution because it was assumed industrialization was thought to be dispositive of the principles of democratic freedom. Just as the Industrial Revolution was associated with democratic growth and accessibility, the information revolution has been described similarly, leading to reluctance to limit what has been viewed as a natural evolution built upon unlimited resources, in this case, consumer data. In each case, to regulate against liberty of contract and a laissez-faire philosophy of economic growth is to undermine the very essence of liberty. Winner describes the depth of philosophical agreement during the period of the Industrial Revolution about the nexus between economic growth and political freedom. “Moral and political thinkers from Machiavelli to Montesquieu and Adam Smith had argued, contrary to the ancient wisdom that the pursuit of economic advantage is actually a civilizing, moderating influence in society and the very basis of a stable government” (Winner, 1986, p.  44). The Industrial Revolution exacted political influence in gaining control in “large business corporations, bureaucracies, and the military . . . produced its own distinctive form of hierarchical authority . . . influenced other forms of human activity and control the social and political influences that ostensibly control them” (Winner, 1986, p.  48). The America of the Industrial Revolution promoted the idea that “material abundance would make it possible for everybody to have enough to be perfectly happy” (Winner, 1986, p. 45).

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Julie Cohen describes a similar sort of optimism associated with the information revolution: The information revolution has a similar political dynamic, making use of a newly conceived sense of abundance in the form raw data harvested from the consumers in a never ending new supply of apps, technologies and secret  algorithms. Contemporary descriptions of the commercial future of personal data processing contain numerous examples of framing in terms of abundance and infinite possibility. In marketing brochures and prospectus statements, information businesses of all sorts describe in glowing terms the ways that processing of personal information will open new and profitable lines of exploration. Data broker Intelius boasts:  “Our robust technology enables us to gather billions of public records annually from a multitude of government and professional entities and assign them to more than 225 million unique people.” TowerData (formerly Rapleaf) promises “data on 80% of U.S. email addresses instantly,” and CoreLogic touts its access to “more than 3.5 billion records” and its focus on “turning mountains of data into valuable insights,” while according to Recorded Future, “The web, updated constantly by millions of people every day, provides the richest, realtime awareness about what’s happening around the globe.” These optimistic pronouncements, which herald the dawn of a new age of data science, constitute the ever-expanding universe of personal information as a terra nullius for enterprising data developers, an unexplored frontier to be staked out, mapped, and colonized (Cohen, 2017).

While liberty of contract and a laissez-faire approach to economic growth was undermined during the Great Depression, there are no such signs in the information revolution. Consent even in its weak form continues to predominate as consumer preference for access and devices continues to grow and, as a result, it has not served as a constraint on commercial use of consumer data (Friedman, 2013). As Cohen reports, in January 2012, for example, Apple’s online App Store reported that downloads had reached 25 billion; in May 2013, it passed the 50 billion download mark (Cohen, 2017). The consequences of this “sensing net” mark unlimited economic potential: Personal information also flows through sensors embedded in ordinary artifacts and dispersed widely throughout the built environment. Transit passes and highway toll transponders record daily travels; smart home thermostats, alarm systems, and building access cards create digital traces of comings and goings; special-purpose “wearables” collect and upload biometric data to mobile apps that sync with cloud-based services. Fingerprint readers and facial recognition systems collect and process biometric information to authenticate access to devices, places, and services. Still other sensing systems, such as license plate readers and facial recognition technologies embedded in visual surveillance systems, are operated by the state (Cohen, 2017).

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The shortcomings of liberty of contract, a fear of paternalistic regulation, and an escalating reliance on our apps and devices are not the only factors undermining our privacy and anonymity online. These individual rights of privacy and anonymity are also threatened by the sharing of information between the public and private sectors of which consumers were and continue to be largely unaware, or, if aware, powerless (or uninterested) to prevent. The initial extension of surveillance capability via cookie technology exploded into surveillance capacity generated by the marketplace availability of smart mobile devices, wearable computing, and the Internet of things. These same commercial interests are also cooperating with government, and this means the legal protections that were designed to restrain governmental intrusions into our privacy and association lives are skirted by the access to consumer information given to the public sector. Commercial entities have had the strange effect of weakening privacy and anonymity protections against governmental intrusions by harvesting consumer data and then sharing it with the government without having to answer to the constitutional and statutory guarantees that are only designed to regulate public rather than private entities. One notable case raised this question explicitly in 2005, when The New York Times broke the story of the surveillance program that whistleblower Mark Klein revealed, describing AT&T’s cooperation with the National Security Agency (NSA) to intercept and analyze the content of the phone calls, emails, instant messages, text messages, and web communications of its subscribers. In Hepting v.  AT&T, the Electronic Frontier Foundation sued the telecommunication provider for violating privacy that was supposedly guaranteed according protections against search and seizure under the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution. The argument was not a winning one. The Court held first that the Fourth Amendment only protects citizens against governmental intrusion and does not protect us against private entities with which we freely share information through our terms of service agreements even though they might take the information and give it to the government. Second, the Court found that the statutory protections in the form of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 (FISA) are limited to the collection of information by governmental agencies, not by private entities that might end up in the hands of government. Third, and most importantly, when dealing with private entities, the consumer consents to divulge his or her personal information in exchange for the services provided in the negotiation of the contract.

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This holding essentially ensures that once the company obtains consent to its contract by consumers, the obligation ends and so does, for all intents and purposes, consumer privacy and anonymity. Setting the precedent for the future, in June of 2009, a federal judge dismissed dozens of lawsuits against telecoms, ruling that the companies had immunity from liability under the controversial FISA Amendments Act (FISAAA), enacted after the fact. The FISAAA allows the attorney general to require the dismissal of the lawsuits over the telecoms’ participation in the warrantless surveillance program if the government secretly certifies to the court that the surveillance did not occur, was legal, or was authorized by the president. The fight continues in Jewel v. NSA, a 2008 suit filed that seeks to end the dragnet surveillance of AT&T customers’ communications and communications records by the NSA. The other irony of expanded cooperation between communication providers and government may be that it is difficult to know when it is occurring, but it may also be even more difficult to challenge it because of lack of standing. The influence we might wield if we cared is undermined by this legal standard. The harm required to demonstrate standing is difficult to prove when the claim is surreptitious surveillance. In Clapper v.  Amnesty International (2012), for instance, the Supreme Court held that a case brought by lawyers, journalists, and human rights activists to challenge the 2008 amendments to the FISA, which expanded the ability of the NSA to monitor international communications by United States citizens, should be dismissed. The Court determined the plaintiffs lacked “standing, or the right to challenge the amendments at all because they did not suffer any real harm if their communications were being monitored.” The outcome of this decision is potentially harmful to our ability to influence or control social networking technologies. If our ability to communicate, transact, and interact online takes place on the platforms provided to use by service providers, it is a conduit to government surveillance without constitutional protections. The harm is erosive of our associational rights and liberties, which are largely left to the discretion of the communication providers, who do not have to extend constitutional protection. The ability to share consumer information with governmental entities is not the only form of discretion exercised by communication providers that may undermine the political significance of constitutional rights and liberties over which we exercise influence or control. The Internet has been called the new town square by some, a place where political views can be aired and discussed without a governmental gaze. The town

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square of cyberspace, however, does not exist on the street or in the park, it is on our computer networks, which are managed by private entities put in the position of monitoring its content and policing its boundaries using only their discretion. The privacy of our information is not the only thing we stand to lose. Anonymity, a constitutionally protected right designed to undergird our associational life, is put in the hands of private companies, which decide under what circumstances to protect it or not without any constitutional oversight. For example, when the New Jersey Township of Manalapan filed a malpractice suit against its former attorney Stuart Moskovitz, alleging misconduct regarding the township’s purchase of polluted land in 2005, the decision to file suit was met by a lively debate in the regional press and among local bloggers. One blogger who was particularly critical of the township, of this and other decisions, was Blogspot blogger “datruthsquad.” When the township issued a subpoena to Google (owner of Blogspot) demanding that the identity of this anonymous critic be turned over, along with datruthsquad’s contact information, blog drafts, emails, and “any and all information related to the blog,” Google, a private corporation, was put in the position of determining to reveal the identity of the blogger or not and argued against the release of the identity. On December 21, 2007, the Superior Court judge agreed and did not force the revelation of the identity of datruthsquad, finding that the request was “an unjust infringement on the blogger’s First Amendment rights” and that the blogger “has a right not to be drawn into the litigation.” On other occasions, however, Google has been criticized for not doing enough to protect anonymity. In August 2008, Port, a user of Google-owned Blogger.com, created “Skanks in NYC.” The site took aim at a model who had appeared in Vogue and other fashion magazines. After the model, Nizkula Cohen, took legal action to reveal the identity of the blogger, Google handed over her email address to the lawyers. Even though in the Cohen case there was a viable legal issue of defamation that justified the release of the name of the anonymous blogger, in other cases the discretion exercised by the service providers is oftentimes defined by a sense of right and wrong that lacks coherency and recourse. The blogosphere is not above the discretion of the service providers, either. As seen in some recent high profile cases, access can be denied by the service providers if they deem someone is engaging in bad behavior that rises to an unacceptable level. But this judgment is also one made by the service providers with no recourse for those who are exiled from the platform. When Yiannopoulos, a tech editor for Breitbart.com, was accused of posting racist and sexist messages on the Twitter account of

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Ghostbusters and Saturday Night Live actor and comedian Leslie Jones, Twitter suspended his account for good and left him little recourse. The end result of these divergent outcomes and lack of coherency translates into a public square in cyberspace that is unsettled and uncertain. And then there is the increasingly real possibility that Google Analytics might reveal the identity of bloggers despite their best efforts to conceal their identity, leading to a chilling effect on those who fear putting their ideas out into the world of cyberspace. One “civic hacker” writes as follows on his website: In about 30 minutes of searching, using only Google and eWhois, I was able to discover the identities of seven of the anonymous or pseudonymous bloggers, and in two cases, their employers. One blog about Anonymous’ hacking operations could easily be tracked to the founder’s consulting firm, while another tracking Mexican cartels was tied to a second domain with the name and address of a San Diego man (Tigas, 2011).

It would seem we have lost our command over the political significance of social networking technologies, and by a growing number of accounts, this problem is only going to become worse. We and the information we provide are the raw material for the information revolution, and the obvious founts of power and authority are located in the private and public sector, which are able to harvest, mine, and share our information. This characterization is in keeping with Winner’s insight into the political significance of nuclear reactors whereby artifacts are invested with politics in the design or arrangement of them. “In the first instance we notice ways in which specific features in the design or arrangement of a device or system could provide a convenient means of establishing power or authority in a given setting” (Winner, 1986, p. 37). Not only do we consistently crave the new devices and apps being marketed to us, but we are surrendering our privacy and anonymity to our demands of access. The political significance of the operational requirements of a technical system for nuclear reactors worked to establish authority over those who worked in and around the reactors by subjecting them “to background security checks, covert surveillance, wiretapping, informers, and even emergency measures under martial law – all justified by the need to safeguard plutonium” (Winner, 1986, p. 38). We are also subjected to surveillance in the new age of social networking technologies, but it is sold to us (literally) as a product. The private sector promises to produce more of what we want by harvesting our information, and we keep buying. Whether it is for the purposes of consumer satisfaction or for

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the betterment of fighting the war on terror, there has been a cost to our privacy and anonymity, and some of us do not like it. Still, we are not likely to eschew our iPhones, quit installing apps, or swear off the use of the Internet of things anytime soon. The hope that the market will account for the preference of individuals to protect their information and subsequently commercial entities will build in greater protections, both technological and policy, to match consumer preferences might also be a pie-in-the-sky idea. We are left, ironically, to our own devices and it is not surprising we have turned to technology for a solution when it comes to our use of social networking technology and its impact on our privacy and anonymity. Still, are we protecting ourselves with technology, or is technology changing us? The very technologies that threaten our anonymity, free speech, and privacy have also been framed as a potential panacea where law and policy have not, and this phenomenon has changed the political significance we have attached to them. We have tried to use these same social networking technologies to pick and choose how and under what circumstances we reveal our personal identities and to whom. Whether we are concealing our IP address or obfuscating our identity with technological tools such as Tor, 12P, and the use of a proxy or simple monikers, we have tried to gain back some of the privacy and anonymity we might have lost in cyberspace. This is not to say the privacy and anonymity that we secure with our communication technologies are failsafe. It is important to recognize, for example, anonymous communication technologies do not guarantee us absolute anonymity or result in complete privacy. Most Internet users can be identified if and when the need arises. The Stored Communications Act, for example, has provisions for the required disclosure of customer communications or records when they are in the possession of the service provider (18 U.S.C. §2703[c] [2006]). And our anonymous communications and monikers might be easily deciphered. But more important to the consideration of the effect of communication technologies on our experiences and perceptions is the belief on the part of users who see the practical reality of identification as too burdensome in most cases, which, in turn, ensures a functional anonymity and secures a degree of privacy in our networking. Privacy, free speech, and anonymity are important to consumers and citizens whose data have been the fodder for exponential growth of the technological market, and communication technologies have provided ways to regain what we have lost by allowing us to obfuscate our identity as we continue to live our online lives. But this is not the only way

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anonymous communication technologies and social networking technologies have taken on political significance; they have also become a powerful tool against the powers that be. These technologies have become increasingly emblematic of the political battle of the individual against more the powerful corporations and panoptical government, stepping in where law does not and securing the essential qualities of our First Amendment freedoms, privacy, and our online associational life. This shift in the political significance of technology is a point made by Winner too. The political significance of technology is not always as straightforward as it would first appear and can be subject to change, giving a shifting political landscape. He describes that the presence of “factories, railroads, steamboats, telegraphs, and the like were greeted as if they were the very essence of democratic freedoms for the ways they rendered, as one mid-nineteenth century writer explained, ‘the conveniences and elegancies of life accessible to the many instead of the few’ ” (Winner, 1986, p. 45). These technologies, which were at first connected with economic freedom and self-determination, took on wholly different political significance as political power was established with them. Other forms of human activity were edged out. Monopolies were created. “Human needs, markets, and political institutions that might regulate technologybased systems are often subject to manipulation by those very systems” (Winner, 1986, p. 48). To Winner’s point, social networking technologies have given rise to a whole host of activities that have changed the social and political patterns of authority and swayed the political significance of earlier forms of communication technologies with which we were once familiar. But some of the communication technologies that have helped us regain some of our privacy and anonymity, unfortunately, have served to also make us into cybermobs, encouraged hacking, and facilitated sexual harassment and revenge porn. The harmful qualities of these online behaviors have once again shifted the political significance of social networking technologies. From Trolling to Cyber Activism These technological tools are not only useful to those who want to obscure their identities on the Internet from the private and public sectors interested in their personal information and interactions; these technologies have also been used create novel patterns of authority in the form of “trolling,” considered by some as deleterious and counterproductive

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to the very First Amendment freedoms they were meant to preserve. Gabriella Coleman describes “trolling” as follows: . . . the targeting of people and organizations, the desecration of reputations, and the spreading of humiliating information. Despite the fame Anonymous accrued in its mass trolling campaigns, it was certainly not the only one playing in the game; the trolling pantheon was then, and remains today, both large and diverse (Coleman, 2014, p. 19).

Trolling involves diverse and multifarious groups and objectives, but all share the commonality of anonymous communication. Trolling is most often driven by “lulz” as a motivation, which is most broadly defined as “fun, laughter, or amusement, especially that derived at another’s expense.” Coleman describes lulz as running the gamut from lighthearted jokes to “laughter at the expense or misfortune of others” (Coleman, 2014, p. 31). And the targets can also be as difficult to pin down. Trolls can target the families and friends of the recently deceased, target gamers or famous individuals, and engage in a whole host of other activity that is perhaps best characterized as humiliating to its victim (Coleman, 2014). With the advent of trolling, social networking technologies became something more than politically significant in the protection of privacy and anonymity and supportive of our online associational rights; they were supporting individuals who were taking action seen as harmful and vindictive. She writes about one such attack: In 2009, Anonymous sought to “ruin” an eleven-year-old girl named Jessi Slaughter after her homemade video monologues, which had gained some notoriety on tween gossip site StickyDrama, were posted on 4chan. Anonymous was stirred to action by Slaughter’s brazen boasts – she claims in one video that she will “pop a glock in your mouth and make a brain slushie” – and published her phone number, address, and Twitter username, inundating her with hateful emails and threatening prank calls, circulating Photoshopped images of her and satiric remixes of her videos. When her father recorded his own rant, claiming to have “backtraced” Jessi’s tormenters and reported them to the “cyber police,” he also became an object of ridicule (and a meme) (Coleman, 2012, p. 44).

The political significance of social networking technologies began to shift yet again when groups such as Anonymous started to gain notoriety for their political activism. As Coleman describes, trolling for lulz became something more as the group Anonymous took center stage in very public attacks, the first of which was dubbed the “Streisand effect,” named after Barbara Streisand’s attempts to bar aerial photographs of her Malibu home from being published were undermined by the group. The most notorious of Anonymous’ attacks was, however, against the

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Church of Scientology and Tom Cruise in 2008. When a Tom Cruise video, which was initially intended to air on NBC, was pulled from broadcast, critics of Scientology took matters into their own hands and released the video, which Scientology quickly tried to withdraw, threatening lawsuits against those who did not remove the video too. Gawker refused to remove it, and Scientology was furious, threatening legal action. The group Anonymous decided to take action against Scientology and evoked the rhetoric of First Amendment freedoms (Scientology had argued it had intellectual property concerns). Out of the attacks against Tom Cruise, a political online movement was formed. When the influence of Anonymous grew to international proportions when it was portrayed as a defender of democracy after it threatened the Tunisian government and then followed up with denial of service (DDoS) attacks and the distribution of anonymizing software Tor to Tunisian blogger Slim Amamou to fight oppression, defend First Amendment freedoms, and free the Net. The mantra of Anonymous made their intentions clear in its posts, but the justifications for it were also becoming more politically significant in challenging the political authorities that be: A time for truth has come. A time for people to express themselves freely and to be heard from anywhere in the world. The Tunisian government wants to control the present with falsehoods and misinformation in order to impose the future by keeping the truth hidden from its citizens. We will not remain silent while this happens. Anonymous has heard the claim for freedom of the Tunisian people. Anonymous is willing to help the Tunisian people in this fight against oppression. It will be done. It will be done. This is a warning to the Tunisian government: attacks at the freedom of speech and information of its citizens will not be tolerated. Any organization involved in censorship will be targeted and will not be released until the Tunisian government hears the claim for freedom to its people. It’s on the hands of the Tunisian government to stop this situation. Free the net, and attacks will cease, keep on that attitude and this will just be the beginning. We do not forgive, We do not forget, Expect us.

Wikileaks, founded in 2006, added more political significance (and controversy) to social networking technologies when, in 2010, the website released video footage of a Baghdad air strike and called it “Collateral Murder” (Coleman, 2014, p.  82). More information that had not previously been released was soon to follow, leading some to claim that Wikileaks and the information it was providing was dangerous to national security interests. And the information dump

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coinciding with the 2016 election has stirred up new debate about whether this type of cyber activism is a form of sabotage or a constitutional right. Despite the ethical and legal problems associated with social networking technologies, Coleman contends that “the hacker underground demands recognition for their exploits – even anonymous recognition – because transgression is the method of self-assertion.” She frames transgression as a principle consistent with the teachings of John Stuart Mill, whom she describes as defining “the free individual as one who develops, determines, and changes his own desires and interests autonomously through self-expression, debate and reasoned deliberation” (Coleman and Golub, 2008, p.  269). Not surprisingly, when we describe these activities, whether we tend to see them as consistent often coalesces around a variety of different political causes that resonate with our sensibilities. For example, when Anonymous targeted the Church of Scientology for attempting to keep the antics of Tom Cruise from going viral, it was tempting to see it as an attack on a powerful organization that was desperately trying to protect its reputation. Or when an attack was directed at the Westboro Baptist Church, it seemed right to say their antigay message was offensive and they deserved it. And when we realize we have been the subject of surveillance by NSA in cooperation with communication providers, which have been given immunity to cooperate by our Congress and our president even when it is counter to our constitutional guarantees, it strikes us as right and good that the secrecy has been revealed. Not surprisingly, it is difficult to find middle ground in this normative debate centered between traditional First Amendment rights such as free speech and anonymity while tempering harmful online behavior such as cyber bullying, digilantism, sexual harassment, threats, racism, and terrorism. There is also the political significance attributed to cyber activism by virtue of our cultural memes, which tend to influence our acceptance of a certain narrative about social networking technologies and their uses. Our fascination with the anonymous crusader who fights against a corrupt social and political order is a familiar meme found in literary works such as Homer and The Three Musketeers. The allegory of an incontrovertible sense of justice, superheroic self-reliance, and human flaw speaks to our culture’s awareness of the inconsistencies present in even the best governing systems and with surveillance, data mining and information sharing becoming more and more overt, groups such as Anonymous or Wikileaks and the tools of their trade were intertwined in a political struggle that resonated with us. Diane McWhortermarch

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described this phenomenon in her article in The New York Times Sunday Review opinion column on March 8, 2014: The cult of the hacker is the tech-age update of America’s long romance with the outlaw; hence an emerging narrative that casts Guccifer as sort of a Sundance Kid to Edward Snowden’s Butch Cassidy – or, per New York magazine, the hacker’s “Graydon Carter, the host of a fabulous, scandalous party,” to Mr. Snowden’s “geek crusader.”

But as with any political debate, or superhero fight for that matter, there are always two sides to the story, and so it is also true when it comes to political significance of social networking technologies. To some, groups such as Anonymous might be our modern-day superheroes, DDoSing and disabling websites behind the mask of communication technologies for the good of mankind, or they might be a self-aggrandized version of Lex Luthor, fomenting havoc and committing legal and moral wrongs in the name of lulz. Danielle Keats Citron warns, for instance: The Internet extends the life of destructive posts. Harassing letters are eventually thrown away, and memories fade in time. The web, however, can make it impossible to forget about malicious posts. Search Engines index content on the web and produce it instantaneously. Indexed posts have no built-in expiration date; neither does the suffering they cause (Citron, 2014, p. 4).

Those who oppose some of what has occurred under the cover of social networking technologies argue these activities do not exist in a political or social vacuum, and it is necessary to consider their effect on the pluralism within which they coexist. But the rhetoric of pluralism imposes its own limits on our understanding of social networking technologies. Alternatively viewed as an associational space that coexists with a stable and legitimate government to a source of resistance to an arbitrary or oppressive government, the most coherent idea connected to pluralism is that it must exist if civil society is to flourish. Here, activity making use of social networking technologies occupies an important associational space of opposition, offering a commentary on a corrupt social and political order where the good to be achieved is defined by its antithesis. Ironically, however, the pursuit of moral and political goods with the use of social networking technologies may also be destructive of the very thing upon which they base their legitimacy – liberty – because it requires a sacrifice of the liberty interests of others when cyber bullying, cyber harassment, or revenge porn enter the mix. As Isaiah Berlin writes, “one belief, more than any other, is responsible for the slaughter of individuals on the altars of the great historical ideals  – justice or progress or the

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happiness of future generations, or the sacred mission or emancipation of a nation or race or class, or even liberty itself which demands the sacrifice of individuals for the freedom of society” (Berlin, 1969, p. 167). A pluralistic society consists of diverse groups structured around a broad array of political and social interests, including religious, ethnic, and ideological ones, sometimes at odds with one another, engaging in a range of social and political activities and organizations. Yet, some of these same interests, organizations, and their activities have served as targets for cyber activism, who sacrifice the liberty interests of others for the expression of their own. For example, when Anonymous decided to DDoS the Westboro Baptist Church for its antigay message, it ran afoul of the value, not to mention the right, of free speech and religion. Attacks on the Church of Scientology could easily be considered an assault on freedom of religion and speech as well. Similarly, when Anonymous announced plans to shut down the website of the Florida Family Association, which was behind the campaign against the television show All-American Muslim, and leaked the names and credit card numbers of donors, Anonymous disregarded the rights of freedom of association and free speech of those whom it targeted. The question from this perspective is a never-ending normative debate pivoting among First Amendment freedoms, pluralism, and the regulation of the behaviors that cause harm. These questions are just as relevant in cyberspace as they are in real-time and space civil society. The difference is whether the medium of social networking technologies are changing our morality while we are focused on their political significance.  Whether one agrees that the actions taken are at the heart of our political tradition and preservative of First Amendment or destructive of it, an obvious element is missing in this debate about the moral significance of the technologies behind the human interactions. The discussion should not only be about moral and political motives or normative outcomes of the technology but should also consider how and under what circumstances these technologies may also have the effect of mediating our perceptions, actions, experience, and existence and operating on our own morality. The mediating role of social networking technologies is also a matter of understanding the consequences of technology on our lives more generally. As our online lives continue to flourish and expand, we should also reconsider how these technologies may also alter the types of moral judgments we make about our actions and others to better understand the consequences. Our current thinking about moral and legal obligations and responsibility rests on situated and embodied

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practices and institutions, but our online lives are not built on this same time and space continuum, which can also effect change in our ideas about moral and legal responsibility offline and online. The perspective taken here is not to further one side of the debate or the other. Instead, the intention is to reset the inquiry so that the beginning premise is not the subject–object dichotomy that characterizes the analysis of the political significance of technologies. Rather, the purpose here is to consider the mediating effects of technology from a postphenomenological account that takes the moral significance of technology seriously. The exercise is also not meant to accumulate and measure the empirical existence of such activity either. There are examples used throughout to illustrate instead of demonstrate the existence of a phenomenon that we all know exists, but which surely can be countered by those who might disagree. Rather, the hope is to develop a new trajectory for research on the mediating role of technology on our own morality and what it might mean for us. Our current methodological approach, while helpful and instructive, only takes us so far. Social networking technologies, for example, are focused on the concern over privacy and how it should be controlled as our interactions move online and more of our information than ever before is being harvested and data mined (Nissenbaum, 2010). Social networking technologies are also at the center of discussions about our personal identities and communities where virtual selves are created and new virtual communities are constructed online (Parsell, 2010). These same technologies are also generating debate about whether deliberative democracy or fragmentation is encouraged with their use (Ess, 2011). While there is undeniable value in exploring the values and intentions behind the design, development, and deployment of social networking technologies and the resulting social and political patterns they reflect, there is more to be understood when it comes to their moral significance. While there is a need to be cognizant about the effects of technological innovation on the material and social infrastructure of the society we would like to create, it is also necessary to be aware that technology may also be changing us in ways we do not yet fully understand because of our focus on what is familiar. In many ways, it is invariable that we come to understand it in relation to what we already know and recognize when we make sense of new phenomena in our world – not only technology. Wittgenstein explains our tendency to “go on” in the same way with an analogy to a chess game:

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When a man who knows the game watches a game of chess, the experience he has when a move is made usually differs from that of someone else watching without understanding the game. (It differs too from that of a man who doesn’t even know that it’s a game.) We can also say that it’s the knowledge of the rules of chess which makes the difference between the two spectators, and so too it’s the knowledge of the rules which makes the first spectator have the particular experience he has (Wittgenstein, 1949, p. 49).

From a Wittgensteinian viewpoint, we tend to go “on in the same way” despite the introduction of new phenomena or actors, or in this case, technologies, and it is important to take notice of when and under what circumstances we are inclined to do this in order to be cognizant of the effects. This approach to technology and its incumbent social and political patterns has the obvious benefit of promoting a coherency to our understanding, but it may also blind us to the limitations of our own knowledge about the consequences of any given technology, especially as we try to keep abreast with an ever-escalating pace of innovation and the social and political patterns it can create. Social networking technologies and communication technologies are a case in point. The focus on the political significance of these technologies and the assumption we are largely in control of the consequences has directed our focus away from considerations of their moral significance. This is not to say these technologies can be influenced by us toward some vision of the good, but we should not be entirely persuaded our control is complete. When we consider the influence of anonymous communication technologies and social networking technologies on our lives, the propensity is to only consider what we already know. As Wittgenstein reminds us, however, knowledge of how things have been contributes to our understanding of how things will be, serving as the basis of our institutions and relationships and guiding our integration of new knowledge and situations, but this same approach can also thwart our ability to rethink the present because of the past. The chapters that follow will provide a new philosophical basis for considering the moral significance of these technologies on us.

2 The Moral Significance of Social Networking Technologies

On Christmas Day in 2010, Simone Back, a 42-year-old social worker in the United Kingdom, updated her Facebook status: “took all my pills, be dead soon, bye bye everyone.” Simone had 1082 friends on Facebook, but instead of prompting a reaction or response to this cry for help, the message provoked an online debate on Simone’s Facebook wall. Some friends mocked or openly doubted the sincerity of the attempt, and others suggested that previous responders would soon regret their comments if the message was, in fact, sincere. To the observers, the event was seemingly abstracted and objectified. No one called for help or attempted to contact Simone by other means, despite the fact that several friends lived within walking distance of Simone’s apartment. Seventeen hours later, Simone’s mother was informed of the status update via a text message, and police found Simone dead shortly after. Simone’s mother was, of course, left baffled as to why none of her daughter’s “friends” did anything to help. In this case, connectivity did not equate to community, care or responsibility (Miller, 2015).

Are social networking technologies to blame for the death of Simone Back? The easy answer is no, but the possible answer is yes, because of the moral influence social media has on us. But understanding this influence is more difficult than it seems. According to Enlightenment thinking, morality is portrayed as the sole province of the moral subject who, unlike the material object of technology, possesses consciousness, intentionality, and free will, all of which are necessary for the attribution of moral responsibility. This classical framework puts humans squarely in control over the development and deployment of technology and the responsibility for its consequences rests on our shoulders. At every stage of technological evolution, we see ourselves as the cause behind the effects of technology, directing it toward the ends we envision, either 62

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good or bad. The way we think about our relationship with technology, however, also informs and, more importantly, misinforms the solutions we apply to the human behaviors taking shape on the Internet. Despite our best efforts to address it, troubling online behavior such as trolling, cyberbullying, and revenge porn is on the rise. The Pew Research Center (2014) found that 73 percent of us have witnessed abuse online abuse and 65  percent of those in the age range between eighteen and twenty-nine years of age have been the targets of abuse. And nearly all (92  percent) of Internet users indicated that the online environment allows more critical behavior, compared with their offline experiences. (Pew Research Center, 2014) And where is this behavior most likely to occur? Sixty-six percent of Internet users reported that online harassment occurred on a social networking site or app. We deal with online abuse much like we deal with other forms of human behavior we would like to temper: legislative action, educational efforts, and punitive measures. In the United States, for example, more than thirty states have enacted revenge porn legislation, following a trend in other countries. In the United Kingdom, for example, legislation to deal with not only revenge porn but cyberbullying and trolling was enacted in 2003 in line with a number of other countries, including Israel, Australia, Canada, and Japan (Miller, 2015). The common theme of these legislative actions is that the emphasis is put on preventing the human behaviors behind the technology rather than questioning the role the technology might have in changing us. This viewpoint is characteristic of our relationship with technology, which is informed by a Cartesian conception of the self that is ontologically prior to the phenomenal world. We are the subjects, in other words, and technology is the object. But how can we assess whether technologies possess moral significance? A postphenomenological perspective, like the one taken here, dissects the usual dichotomy between subject and technology to consider if the human behaviors we seek to regulate might be a consequence of the mediating role of technology, co-constituting the relationship between us and the phenomena we encounter and, more troubling, exacting a moral significance on us. Morality, Technology, and the Us We Have Become Technology and its moral effects on human life have long been a focus of academic inquiry, but the usual point of departure is the assumption that we are the predominant source of morality. This underlying assumption

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about morality is sometime explicit, but most often is implicit. The interdisciplinary approach of Science, Technology, and Society (STS), for example, points to the interaction of social, political, and economic forces in the development, design, and implementation of technology. These inquiries assume technology does not simply appear ab initio; it is instead the product of complex and socially driven design practices, representative of many cultural, political, and economic forces that shape technology (Bijker, Pinch, and Hughes, 1987). From this methodological point of view, the design of technology and its use is a co-constitutive process in society, but the emphasis is still put on humans when it comes to morality. Early on, for instance, the Social Construction of Technology (SCOT) methodology, made popular by Pinch and Bijker (1984), demonstrated social groups could transform the meaning of technology, influencing its development and deployment in the early stages of its evolution to achieve the ends we conceived for it. In this way, the design, implementation, or adoption of technology cannot be isolated from methods, interests, materials, and institutions that sway its constitution. The importance of identities, institutions, discourses, and the politics of representation in understanding the interaction between society and technology “acknowledges that lived ‘reality’ is made up of complex linkages among the cognitive, the material, the normative and the social” (Jasanoff, 2004, p. 274). The moral influence of humans is central in this line of research with an interest in the effect brought to bear on technology when it enters the worlds of the users who would inevitably “modify, domesticate, design, reconfigure, and resist technologies” toward their desired ends (Oudshoorn and Pinch, 2005, p. 1). The emphasis on the role of users to transform technology illustrates the importance put on the individual as the moral subject who possesses the capacity to modify technology to fit his or her needs, usurping the original intention for the technology entirely in ways unimaginable by the inventors and developers. As Oudshoorn and Pinch discuss, There is no correct use for a technology. “What is an alarm clock for?” we might ask. “To wake us up in the morning,” we might answer. But just begin to list all the uses to which an alarm clock can be put and you see the problem. An alarm clock can be worn as a political statement by a rapper; it can be used to make a sound on a Pink Floyd recording; it can be used to evoke laughter, as Mr. Bean does in one of his comic sketches as he tries to drown his alarm clock in his bedside water pitcher; it can be used to trigger a bomb; and yes, it can be used to wake us up (Oudshoorn and Pinch, 2005, p. 1).

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As the example illustrates, users can adopt technology in ways unanticipated by its inventors and developers or resist it altogether and, in doing so, they bring a moral critique to the design, development, and deployment of technology. The moral effect of the subject is identified in technologies large and small and by individuals and groups in a variety of different historical and cultural contexts. When the Rural Electrification Administration (REA) began to secure the rights of way for its power lines, for example, landowners did not accept this innovation willingly. Rural resisters resorted to the use of shotguns and the severing the utility poles to thwart the efforts of the REA. In response to the resistance, the REA wooed the rural community with the promise of electrical appliances with demonstrations, kitchen parties, and farm equipment tours (Kline, 2005). In more recent STS work, the lens of morality is widened to consider the ethical implications of social systems that shape content, methods, and outcomes of technological design, development, and deployment. Morality plays a role in how we privilege some forms of knowledge, institutions, or regulatory process as more valuable and persuasive than others. In a study of the causal role of certain agricultural insecticides, for example, Suryanarayan and Kleinman examine the kinds of knowledge production practices that occur and, by corollary, how ignorance is also created in the process of policy making and regulation. The exploration of privileging certain taken-for-granted approaches to knowledge production is based on the moral assumption about the relative value of knowledge and how regulatory policy and the lives of stakeholders are affected in an adverse manner. (Kleinman and Suryanarayan, 2012) Other perspectives on morality and technology advocate for more inclusive decision-making processes at the state and local level. The premise of this research is based upon a conception of morality against which the process and project development is evaluated and against which a collaborative governance structure is contrasted (Ottinger, 2014). A similar moral critique is clear in the work on stem cell research by Ruha Benjamin, who deconstructs the dichotomized judgments of good versus bad or life-saving medicine versus bioethical nightmare. Benjamin then redirects the moral imperative defined by the criteria of people who benefit or do not benefit from regenerative medicine and evaluates the outcome with what she describes as a democratic commitment to an equitable society (Benjamin, 2013). While each of these studies differs in its focus, a common theme emerges among them centering on the question of how and under what circumstances science or technology can be influenced to

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achieve a desired end by the humans behind it. Whether one agrees with the moral position being advocated, the implicit belief at the heart of these approaches to technology and science is that individuals exercise control and influence over science and technology and with this awareness are able to direct it toward its desired end. Virtual Morality When it comes to virtual reality, however, it is evident that our morality is influenced in ways not wholly anticipated. Virtuality forces us to reconsider the essential characteristics of our human categories, especially as they relate to morality and its necessary precursors. The initial hope was that our online interactions and communications would expand upon the real-world connections that we already had, contributing to our knowledge of others and creating a new virtual community without reference to geographical space or the constraints of identity and community that might have previously bound us. The optimism that virtual reality promised liberation was based on the idea of the transcendental self, first proposed by Plato and later solidified by Descartes, which located the concept of being within the transcendental subject and thinking rational mind. For some, virtual reality promised an ability for the transcendental self to free itself from the body and the social structures and institutions built around it, undoing the oppressive categories of gender, class, ethnicity, sexuality, and disability (Yar, 2014, pp. 41–2). In 1997, Turkle discussed the broad potential of our online lives: A nascent culture of simulation is affecting our ideas about mind, body, self, and machine. We shall encounter virtual sex and cyberspace marriage, computer psychotherapists, robot insects, and researchers who are trying to build artificial two-year olds. Biological children, too, are in the story as their play with computer toys leads them to speculate about whether computers are smart and what it is to be alive. Indeed, in much of this, it is our children who are leading the way, and adults who are anxiously trailing behind (Turkle, 1997, p. 10).

In Life on the Screen, Turkle foretold of “the ability of the Internet to change popular understandings of identity” and create unparalleled opportunities for individual expression. The benefits of living in cyberspace were potentially significant because in virtual reality, “we are encouraged to think of ourselves as fluid, emergent, decentralized, multiplicious, flexible, and ever in process” (Turkle, 1997, pp.  263–4). The hope was that “the Internet has become a significant social laboratory

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for experimenting with the constructions and reconstructions of self that characterize postmodern life” (Turkle, 1997, p. 180). Turkle tells us that “the rethinking of human . . . identity is not taking place just among philosophers but ‘on the ground,’ through a philosophy in everyday life that is in some measure both proved and carried by the computer presence” (Turkle, 1997, p. 180). Our virtual communities, however, did not prove to be as liberating as we might have hoped, and worse, we were not achieving a newfound sense of morality because of it. Turkle made this very point in her later research, noting the construction of our online selves came with a cost. Our computer screen were a window into a world with infinite modes of expression at our fingertips, but it portended moral risks for our “real” lives that were being created and that we would have to address. Turkle illustrates the difficulty of negotiating the risks with the example of “Pete”: I meet Pete on an unseasonably warm Sunday in late autumn. He attends to his two children, four and six, and to his phone, which gives him access to Second Life. There, Pete has created an avatar, a buff and handsome young man named Rolo. As Rolo, Pete has courted a female avatar named Jade, a slip of a girl, a pixie with short, spiky blonde hair. As Rolo, he “married” Jade in an elaborate Second Life ceremony more than a year before, surrounded by their virtual best friends. Pete has never met the woman behind the avatar Jade and does not want to. (It is possible, of course, that the human being behind Jade is a man. Pete understands this but says, “I don’t want to go there.”) Pete describes Jade as intelligent, passionate, and easy to talk to. On most days, Pete logs onto Second Life before leaving work, Pete and Jade talk (by typing) and then erotically engage their avatars, something that Second Life software makes possible with special animation (Turkle, 2011, p. 159).

Interestingly, Pete did not believe the relationship he shares with his Avatar, Jade, was an affront to his “real” wife. In fact, Pete believed without his Second Life relationship, his family life would fall apart. He explained this thinking to Turkle: “Second Life gives me a better relationship than I have in real life. This is where I feel most myself. Jade accepts who I am. My relationship with Jade makes it possible for me to stay in my marriage, with my family” (Turkle, 2011, p. 159).  When we consider the reasons for the ethical challenges we face because of virtual reality, the explanations are varied and often begin with our lack of physical presence in virtual reality. The insistence on physical presence as grounding for our morality is one that is modernist in its orientation. Dreyfus, for instance, suggests the Internet encourages

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disembodiment in our communications and this, in turn, attenuates the ethical basis for our society (Dreyfus, 2009). From this point of view, a certain nihilism is an inevitable result of the absence of the body as an orientating factor in our human interaction. He builds on the theories of Merleau-Ponty and Kierkegaard to highlight the importance of the body in affecting how we encounter the world, objects, and others, something notably absent in our virtual lives: if our body goes, and we live, for example, through avatars (virtual bodies) as in Second Life, we will largely lose our sense of relevance, our ability to acquire skills, our sense of resistant reality, our ability to make maximally meaningful commitments, and the embodied moods that give life serious meaning. If that is the trade-off, the prospect of living our lives in and through the Web may not be so attractive after all (Dreyfus, 2009, p. 7).

Because the Internet lacks a shared horizon of understanding and instead presents us with a never-ending set of options, there is only fleeting and isolated reactions to that which is interesting, entertaining, or tiresome. This lack of context for meaning translates into an absence of emotional depth for our relationships online. Without a situated and embodied engagement, the idea goes, there can be no commitment and no risk and, perhaps more importantly, in such an environment moral engagement is limited and human relations become trivial: We have now seen that our body, including our emotions and moods play a crucial role in our being able to make sense of things so as to see what is relevant, our ability to let things matter to us and so to acquire skills, our sense of the reality of things, our trust in other people, and, our capacity for making the unconditional commitments that give a fixed meaning to our lives, and finally the capacity to cultivate the intercorporiality that makes possible meaningful focal events. It would be a serious mistake to think we could do without these embodied capacities – to rejoice that the World Wide Web offers us the chance to become more and more disembodied, detached, ubiquitous minds leaving our situated, vulnerable bodies behind (Dreyfus, 2009, p. 121).

The current debate over the impact of our virtual lives pivots between two poles. Either our virtual engagement is a step toward a greater sense of moral commitment in our virtual protests, meetings, and organizations or our online lives are creating even more disunity that is caused by a lack of physical presence that our morality may require that continues a trend characteristic of modernity more generally. The methodological focus of the current work is distinct. Rather than a focus on how virtual reality may be transforming the transcendental subject, I assume that the

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phenomenological lens that social networking technologies put on the normative basis of our decisions, actions, and choices ultimately operates on the moral self we have become in our online and offline lives. The first step in understanding these phenomenological effects is to revamp our methodological point of departure. Phenomenology, Postphenomenology, and How We Know What We Know A change in thinking about us, technology, and the online reality we encounter and, more importantly, create with social networking technologies is necessary and begins with the phenomenologists, who relied upon the concepts of intentionality and consciousness to explain how we attributed meaning to phenomena, where intentionality is a characteristic of consciousness and reality is what our mind makes it. Our judgments, decisions, actions, and our identity are a consequence of the phenomena with which we are engaged or encounter. As Verbeek describes, “it is impossible to speak about the world in the absence of human involvement with it. Reality in itself is unknowable, for as soon as we experience or encounter it, it becomes reality for us: a world. There exists neither human beings in themselves nor world in itself (Verbeek, 2005, p. 111). This insight into the phenomenological basis for our morality is important for understanding the role social networking technologies play in our online lives, but there is a consequence for our offline selves as well. If we make our judgments based upon our experience or encounters with phenomena and our consciousness and intentionality are formed in relation to that which is perceived or acted upon, then social networking technologies are an invisible important mediator to the judgments we make and the actions we take. It follows that if we can consciously understand the technological mediation on our morality, then we also have the insight to modify social networking technologies and gain insight into the normative basis for our morality. A mediating role for technology assumes a different starting point than the approach we have traditionally taken, which takes the subject– object dichotomy as a point of departure. Alternatively, a philosophy of mediation assumes technologies construct relations between human beings and reality and, for the purposes of this work, affect the moral judgments we make, the actions we take, and, most fundamentally, who we become.

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Social Media and Morality Heidegger and Enframing and the Essence of Technology (and Us)

Any discussion of the mediating role of technology must begin with Heidegger, who reconceptualized the oppositional relationship between the body and the material world. From a Heideggarian point of view, selves are not separate entities but instead are embedded in space, materiality, time, and history, a way of being in the world he described as Dasein. Heidegger’s theory departs from the Cartesian separation of subject and object and instead attributes the meaning and existence of the objects of the world as they are perceived in the mind of the observer. Reality in the Heideggarian sense is relational and is only partially revealed in our interactions with it, but also in relationship to it, our Being. This insight also characterizes Heidegger’s essay on The Question of Technology, which is fundamental for resetting our understanding of our relationship with technology: We are delivered over to it in the worse possible way when we regard it as something neutral; for this conception of it, to which, today we are particularly likely to do homage, makes us utterly blind to the essence of technology (Heidegger, 1993, p. 288).

One might question whether Heidegger’s insights are applicable to the complex nature of modern technology, politics, and society today when his inquiry focused on industrial technologies  – “machinic, gigantic, mechanical, systemic and complex” (Ihde, 2010, p.  2). There are also those who have criticized Heidegger for not putting enough emphasis on the social context of technology (Rockmore, 1995). Others like Feenberg point to the ways in which modern technology differs significantly from earlier technical practices in the centrality of “the reduction of objects to raw materials, the use of precise measurements and plans, the technical control of some human beings by others, large scales of operation” (Feenberg, 1995, p.  53). Feenberg’s point of view takes the view of Heidegger as too monolithic to apply to the nuances of modern technology. But this criticism misses the broader importance of Heidegger’s approach to technology, which speaks to our technological practice or way of ontological Being with any type of technology. Heidegger encourages us to think about technology as more than a mere artifact so that we can better understand its mediating role, which, “if we give into this, then another whole realm for the essence of technology will open itself up to us. It is the realm of revealing, i.e., of truth” (Heidegger, 1977, p. 3). For Heidegger, technology reveals through a process of Gestell (enframing),

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which is a framework of possibilities and human responses or, in other words, a technical truth: Enframing means the gathering together of that setting –upon which sets upon man, i.e., challenges him forth, to reveal the real, in the mode of ordering, as standing  – reserve. Enframing means that way of revealing which holds sway in the essence of modern technology and which is itself nothing technological (Heidegger, 1993, p. 20).

The unique mode of revealing we can achieve with technology is only possible when we are able to move beyond the four causes: the causa materialis (or the material out of which something is made); the causa formalis, the form or the shape into which the material enters; the causa finalis, the end for which the form and matter is determined; and causa efficiens, or that which brings about the effect. While enframing with technology is driven by a concern– a bridge that we would like to cross or a building we would like to erect – and is consistent with the four causes, something more is revealed with our use of technology: In roads, streets, bridges, buildings, our concern discovers Nature as having some definite direction. A covered railway platform takes account of bad weather; an installation for public lighting takes account of the darkness . . . in a clock account is taken of some definite constellation in the world system . . . when we make use of the clock equipment, which is proximally and inconspicuously read to hand, the environing Nature is ready to hand along with it (Heidegger, 1962, pp. 100–1).

Investigation with technology reveals something more than what was understood as ontologically prior, and this point is an important one for broadening our current understanding of social networking technologies so that it is then possible to evaluate their moral significance on us. Heidegger warns us that while technology enframes our observations of the world, it can also conceal because of the order it imposes on our understanding: The coming to presence of technology threatens revealing, threatens it with the possibility that all revealing will be consumed in ordering and that everything will present itself only in the unconcealedness of standing – reserve. Human activity can never directly counter this danger. Human achievement along can never banish it. But human reflection can ponder the fact that all saving power must be of a higher essence than what is engendered thought at the same time kindred to it (Heidegger, 1993, p. 19).

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Heidegger uses the example of the transformation of a river into a power source with technology to illustrate the enframing capacities of technology and the order it imposes on understanding (and its limitations). It is important to note that Heidegger suggests technologies are not the means by which reality is disclosed; instead, technologies are the manifestation of our understanding of reality. In this way, the ordering of technology can stand in the way of the disclosure of the unconcealed. Heidegger explains, “the river is dammed up into the power plant. What the river is now, namely, a waterpower supplier, derives from the essence of the power station” (Heidegger, 1969, p.  297). The river, however, is not disclosed by the power plant, instead it is only because “the river, like the rest of reality, shows itself as standing reserve can something like a hydroelectric plant be designed and built” (Verbeek, 2005, p. 63). The connection between the ontic and the ontological is a function of how the technology “shapes the specific means which are characteristic of it.” As Seubold describes: The Heideggarian interpretation of the essence of technology as a way of revealing does not at all lose sight of technological means. It does indeed pay attention to them, but maintains that these devices are ultimately not fundamental, but instead refer to another ground on which they depend, namely the ontological happening of “forcing into appearance” and “setting-upon” (Seubold, 1986, p. 195).

The noematic condition (the power plant on the river) has a corresponding noetic condition or, in other words, the world as perceived creates a correlated human response (Ihde, 2010). We build the power station based upon our understanding of the river. The power station (ontic) enframes the river and orders our understanding (ontology) of it in, but this mode of truth (noematic condition) does not reveal all there is to be known (noetic response); it is instead a conditional revealing. This analogy can be extended to understand the consequences of social networking technologies on our technical way of being and that which is revealed and concealed about us in our use of them. Our social networking technologies are designed with a particular understanding of who we are, just as the power station is built with the present understanding of the river. Our current state of knowledge of humanity around which social networking technologies are designed and developed reflects a technological order and a technical way of being, but there is also that which is left unconcealed. The power plant creates a noematic condition and generates a noetic response that is representative of a praxical truth. The same can be said when we design, develop,

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and deploy social networking technologies with an assumed knowledge of who we are and what interests and needs will be served by these technologies. Out of this ordering, we develop our praxical truth about our relationship with social networking technologies. We presume we control the intentionality of the design, development, and deployment of social networking technologies, and we also believe we shape the social and political patterns created by our use of them. We take social networking platforms to be instrumental tools for our human interaction, communication, and transactions in cyberspace just as we believe them to be important to our First Amendment freedoms and rights of privacy. And when political and social abuses occur with the use of social networking technologies, we attempt to regulate away the harmful effects because we begin with the modernist dichotomy between subject and object and attribute responsibility to the humans behind the technology. These are praxical truths or shared practices that constitute the background of our understanding of “what counts as things, what counts as human beings, and ultimately what counts as real, on the basis of which we can direct our actions toward particular things and people” (Dreyfus, 1995, p. 100). The point is that while these might be our “truths” when it comes to social networking technologies, there is more to be understood about our relationship with them if we can escape the current order imposed by our use of technology, particularly when it comes to understanding of our own morality. If we are able to escape the confines of our praxical truth to question the nature of our technical being as revealed by the order imposed by social networking technologies, then it becomes possible to reach what Heidegger describes as a free relationship with technology: We shall be questioning concerning technology, and in so doing we should like to prepare a free relationship to it. The relationship will be free if it opens our human existence to the essence of technology. When we can respond to this essence we shall be able to experience the technological within its own bounds (Heidegger, 1969, p. 3).

The way out of the technological order is not with the alteration or regulation of technology that presumes a transcendental subject free from technological influence, a familiar characteristic of an Enlightenment approach. In its place, neither should we strive for what has been called “an authentic contact with reality itself to contrast that with the alleged alienation produced by science and technology” (Verbeek, 2005, p. 10). Instead, a process of inversion enables the revelation of the mode of truth

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or founding stratum upon which the relationship of the technologies and activities of subjects is based. Ihde explains the process in this way: the things of technology (instruments) and the activities (of subjects) that engage them appear as they do only against the background and founding stratum of some kind of framework. Technology in its ontological sense is not just the collection of things and activities, but also a mode of truth or a field within which things and activities may appear as they do (Ihde, 2010, p. 32).

An iterative approach allows us to understand technology as something more than the instruments we use and the activities in which we engage; instead, technology is viewed as ontic (the object) and ontological, which is to say that technology exists in reality but it also creates reality (Ihde, 2010, p. 31). As described by Heidegger, ontic investigations address the specific or determinate attributes. An ontology is concerned with the meaning of Being, requiring a shift in viewpoint so that we ask how and why we understand what we do. The distinction made between ontic and ontological is an important one for broadening our inquiry into the moral significance of social networking technologies and is especially helpful to redirecting our inquiry into co-constitutive effects of them on our existence, experience, and perceptions. This step is a necessary departure from our current approach. We attempt to solve the problems of social networking technologies with technological and regulatory solutions that begin with the premise that they are artifacts (ontic) rather than constructing reality (ontological). We might think, for instance, Facebook and other social networking platforms should require additional identifying information so that we might be less likely to engage in cyber bullying or cyber harassment or censorship. Or if social networking technologies and the information they generate contribute to mass surveillance and the use of algorithms to catalogue our every move, then we call for increased privacy protections or anonymous communications. And when bad behavior makes use of social networking technologies, scholars such as Danielle Citron argue we need to use progressive regulation in cyberspace just as we regulated the workplace forty years before. Citron writes: Since law’s recognition of women’s suffering in the last quarter of the twentieth century, the home and workplace have become safer spaces for women. Change has been slow, however, because social attitudes were firmly entrenched. The notion that sexual harassment and domestic violence were trivialities has a strong hold on the public . . . Today we see the same patterns of subordination and exclusion in cyberspace. The notion that cyber harassment is trivial is widespread (Citron, 2014, p. 254).

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The approach we take to the “dangers” of social networking technologies speaks to the founding stratum or mode of truth upon which our use of these technologies is based. We might, however, create more danger rather than less when we approach the problems we face in this way because, as Heidegger notes, we cannot solve all of the problems technology creates with technological solutions. When Gestell holds sway, it “drivers our every other possibility of revealing” (Heidegger, 1969, p.  27). To avoid the ordering of technology that contributes to concealment, Heidegger encourages us to continually open ourselves to the possibility of “destining” so that we can further understand the essence of technology. While the order imposed by technology lures us into believing we have reached an understanding of the essence of technology, it is this very order that can prevent further discovery. To Heidegger (and to this author), the real danger of technology is not the lethality of our machines; the real danger we face is never escaping our current state of technical being, which is a function of the ordering of technology: The threat to man does not come in the first instance from the potentially lethal machines and apparatus of technology. The actual threat has already affected man in his essence. The rule of enframing threatens man with the possibility that it could be denied to him to enter into a more original revealing and hence to experience the call of a more primal truth. Thus where enframing reigns, there is danger in the highest sense (Heidegger, 1977, p. 28).

Luckily, technology offers us an escape from the very danger it creates if we are able to access the saving power. Heidegger uses the language from a poem, “In lieblicher Blaue,” or “In Lovely Blue,” written by Friedrich Hölderlin, to explain that “where danger is, grows the saving power also”: Let us think carefully about these words of Hölderlin. What does it mean to “save”? Usually we think that it means only to seize hold of a thing threatened by ruin, in order to secure it in its former continuance. But the verb “to save” says more. “To save” is to fetch something home into its essence, or order to bring the essence for the first time into its genuine appearing. If the essence of technology, enframing, is the extreme danger, and if there is truth in Hölderlin’s words then the rule of enframing cannot exhaust itself solely with blocking all lighting-up of every revealing all appearing truth. Rather, precisely the essence of technology must harbor in itself the growth of saving power (Heidegger, 1993, p. 297).

We must look to the danger to find the saving power, however. If we do not like who we have become with our use of social networking

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technologies, it is the first step in finding our way to the saving power because it is the realization of our technical being. Hubert Dreyfus explains: Only those who think of Heidegger as opposing technology will be surprised at his next point. Once we see that technology is our latest understanding of being, we will be grateful for it. We did not make this clearing nor do we control it, but if it were not given to us to encounter things and ourselves as resources, nothing would show up as anything at all and no possibilities for action would make sense. And once we realize – in our practices, of course, not just in our heads – that we receive our technological understanding of being, we have stepped out of the technological understanding of being, for we then see that what is most important in our lives is not subject to efficient enhancement. This transformation in our sense of reality – this overcoming of calculative thinking – is precisely what Heideggerian thinking seeks to bring about. Heidegger seeks to show how we can recognize and thereby overcome our restricted, willful modern clearing precisely by recognizing our essential receptivity to it (Dreyfus, 1995, p. 190; emphasis in the original).

Openness to technology is not the only element necessary to achieve a free relation to it. We must also consider that there is more to human nature than only our relationship with technology, and this is exactly the subject matter of our inquiry. The perspective taken here is that it is necessary to create a new foundation for our relationship with social networking technologies, which also includes coming to terms with the moral significance they exact on us and what can be learned from this insight. As Heidegger explains, “If releasement toward things and openness to the mystery awakens within us, then we should arrive at a path that will lead to a new ground and foundation” (Heidegger, 1966, p. 56). The new ground that needs to be established requires our acceptance of the active and moral role of technology in human life, which requires a significant step away from the praxical truth that takes humankind as the only force of morality. Morality, Where Art Thou? The challenge, of course, is trying to determine where our moral influence ends and that of technology begins, but there is important work that has been done to show us the way. Those like Albert Borgmann bridge the distance between us and technology by arguing our devices are central to the question of the “good life” where morality is not only the province of humankind but can also be attributed to the devices with which we live our lives (Borgmann, 1995). This post-Heideggarian approach

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redirects the focus from the social and psychological analyses of our technological culture to an exploration of the significance of our “devices” in shaping our practices and culture in beneficial and harmful ways. The problem that has occurred, according to Borgmann, is we have foreclosed discussions about the good life because we do not see the centrality of our device paradigm and the moral standards it creates: The moral measure of the device paradigm cannot be taken by the traditional moral standards. This is not to say that the typical technological enterprise is free of problems of honesty, compassion, or fortitude, nor does it mean that these problems are not identifiable and evident as culpable by the traditional standards. It is rather that to one who has accepted the technological paradigm the traditional standards are alien in proportion to that acceptance, and such a person is unlikely to be dislodged from the allegiance to the paradigm by an appeal to traditional morality alone. Hence the task is not only one of moving attention from the superficial and misleading moral talk to the underlying mode of behavior but also one of setting aside a traditional moral idiom and discovering one that is appropriate to our deeper concerns (Borgmann, 1984, p. 184).

Significant to Borgmann’s argument is that our devices engage us in different ways and sometimes do not engage us at all. He builds his theory on the idea of two different realities that exist by virtue of the devices we possess. One reality he characterizes as commanding. The example of a musical instrument illustrates the extreme level of skill and effort that it commands in order for us to fully engage the capabilities of the device; a disposable device, on the other hand, such as a stereo, does not require our skill or effort and does not engage us in any significant way. The difference between a commanding culture and a disposable culture is significant because of the effect it can have on the morality of human practice. The materiality of devices possesses moral relevance on the kind of human practice it engenders and in this indirect way affects morality. Our engagement with our devices (or lack thereof) affects our moral practice even if our moral theories might deny it. Borgmann’s analysis is helpful for broadening our approach to technology because he recognizes that our ethical theories are shaped by our worldly practices, which include our devices that contribute to our actions and the way we live our lives. In a similar way as Borgmann, Latour focuses on the practices our technologies influence to argue both humans and nonhumans can be moral agents. Latour views technologies as part of a networked reality in which humans and nonhumans are intertwined. The Actor-NetworkTheory (ANT) approach proposed by Latour provides the foundation for expanding the idea of the “social” to nonhumans, which are not the

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“hapless bearers of symbolic projection,” but instead possess a modicum of agency, even of the moral type. The ANT approach is distinct from the usual approach to “social” sciences: ANT claims to be able to find order much better after having let the actors deploy the full range of controversies in which they are immersed. It is as if we were saying to the actors: “We won’t try to discipline you, to make you fit into our categories; we will let you deploy your own worlds, and only later will we ask you to explain how you came about settling them.” The task of defining and ordering the social should be left to the actors themselves, not taken up by the analyst. This is why, to regain some sense of order, the best solution is to trace connections between the controversies themselves rather than try to decide how to settle any given controversy. The search for order, rigor, and pattern is by no means abandoned. It is simply relocated one step further into abstraction so that actors are allowed to unfold their own differing cosmos, no matter how counter-intuitive they appear (Latour, 2005, p. 23).

Latour takes the view that ethical practice is constituted between humans and nonhumans in the choices crafted and actions taken. The usual categories of anthropology and philosophy that dissect the various influences of society and designate one as human and another as nonhuman does not capture the complexity of human and machine interaction. As an alternative, the ANT approach deals with the social as it takes shape in human and nonhuman interaction in order to understand technology as a moral mediator with infinite possibilities: An intermediary, in my vocabulary, is what transports meaning or force without transformation: defining its inputs is enough to define its outputs. For all practical purposes, an intermediary can be taken not only as a black box, but also as a black box counting for one, even if it is internally made of many parts. Mediators, on the other hand, cannot be counted as just one; they might count for one, for nothing, for several, or for infinity. Their input is never a good predictor of their output; their specificity has to be taken into account every time (Latour, 2005, p. 39).

The moral influence of technologies is found in the “scripts” that direct or influence the actions of users. Though intention of the user is not overridden by the “script” of the technology, there is moral significance exacted on users. Given the escalating reliance of humankind on technology, the separation of the technical from the moral, political, and economic no longer makes sense. He writes: It is pointless to want to define some entities and some situations as technical in opposition to others called scientific or moral, political or economic. Technology is everywhere, since the term applies to a regime of enunciation, or, to put it

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another way, to a mode of existence, a particular form of exploring existence, a particular form of the exploration of being – in the midst of many others (Latour, 2002, p. 248).

The technology that influences our behavior does not have to be complex in order to produce an influence on our behavior. Even somewhat inconsequential moral decisions might be influenced by even the most innocuous technologies, such as speed bumps, blinking lights, sounds that alert us to fasten our seatbelts, and automatic door closers to help us shut the doors behind us (Latour, 1992). In fact, we may not even realize when we are being cajoled into acting in one way or another. Latour describes a process of “folding” in which technical action, time, space, and the actants shape one another and by which technologies are more than functional tools; they offer us new ends to choose. He writes, “Without technologies, human would be contemporaneous with their actions, limited solely to proximal interactions” (Latour, 2002, p. 252). Our behavior is constituted and the morality of our actions and decisions are influenced by technology as one of the many heterogeneous influences acting upon the choices, actions, and directions we take, something he defines as a “detour.” According to Latour’s theory, these detours amount to moral choices, allowing us to “mingle beings into a heterogeneous existence” with our nonhuman counterparts. (Latour, 2002, p. 254). This insight leads Latour to conclude that morality, then, is found “not only in our hearts, but it is also in our apparatuses. To the super-ego of tradition we may well as the under-ego of technologies in order to account for the correctness, the trustworthiness, the continuity of our actions” (Latour, 2002, pp. 253–4). Here he advocates a change in approach toward the institutions and processes that, he argues, do not provide for an appropriate opportunity to define the common good in technology policy. This prescriptive makes it clear that the onus for ethical behavior when it comes to technology continues to be on us rather than on technology as a mediating factor. Another way the moral significance of technologies can affect us is by changing the way we perceive the world around us or, in the case of the work of Verbeek, inside of us. Verbeek considers the consequences of obstetric ultrasound on the moral choices parents make about when their children are in utero. When expecting couples have an ultrasound done, it may be “noninvasive technology in a physical sense, ultrasound is far from noninvasive in a moral sense” (Verbeek, 2011, p. 23). Verbeek considers how the ultrasound constitutes how the unborn is perceived

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and does not do so neutrally. The unborn is made present in terms of size and weight and, more morally significant, as a separate person; the technology has the effect of giving an ontological and moral status. With this example, Verbeek suggests technology cannot be understood with a strict separation from the subject if we are to come to terms with our technical culture, which creates “a modern, heteronomous moral subject whose actions are always interwoven with the material environment in which they play out” (Verbeek, 2011, p. 22). Verbeek calls the association between humans and reality the “interpreted reality” and human existence “situated subjectivity.” This postphenomenological approach “moves beyond the predominating modernist understanding of the relations between subjects and objects in ethics, in which subjects are active and intentional and objects are passive and mute” (Verbeek, 2011, p. 16). Verbeek explains: In our technological culture, it has become clear than humanitas gains its shape not only by the influence of ideas on our thinking, or by physical interventions in our biological constitution, but also by material arrangements of the technological environment in which we live. Humanity and ethics do not spring exclusively from the cerebral activities of a consciousness housed in a bodily vessel but also from the practical activities in which human beings are involved as physical and conscious beings (Verbeek, 2006, p. 37).

“Situated subjectivity” and “interpreted reality” with the example of sonograms, where technological mediation can make moral dilemmas apparent and acute, demanding decisions about genetic defects, Downs syndrome, and more in the course of a pregnancy, where before technological mediation there might have been none (Verbeek, 2011). This process occurs as the ultrasound mediates perceptions, creating an ontological status for the fetus as an individual person and patient. The work of Verbeek is part of an important discussion about how to assess the moral significance of technologies by considering the mediation of technology on our perceptions of the unborn but also sets the stage for broader inquiries of this type The Problem of Morality These philosophical approaches, however, leave us with a difficult dilemma. If technologies possess moral agency or embody morally relevant values, there are many questions about our current ethical theories that are organized around a humanist tradition. If we begin to consider that technologies possess moral significance, should our

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ethical theories be modified and if so, in what manner? The answers are so far multifaceted and incomplete and the purpose of this current work is to add to the current discussion. Lucas Itrona, for instance, draws a distinction between two types of sociotechnical agency to arrive at the conclusion that agency is not an attribute of humans or of technology but is instead a result of their interaction. With the example of plagiarism detection software, there is a determination made by the teacher of who is guilty and who is innocent. In reality, however, the algorithm is dependent on “certain characteristics of the copied text to remain intact for detection to be possible. In some cases, a small amount of change in the right way (or place) will make a copy undetectable and in other cases a large amount of changing will still make it possible to detect” (Itrona, 2015, p. 46). The point made with this example is that the interaction between humans and technologies results in what Itrona calls a reversal of intentionality, and this has consequences for our moral sensibilities. The teacher adopts the plagiarism detection system out of fairness, but the technology then unfairly constitutes some students as plagiarists when they are not or ignores those who are truly plagiarists. To solve for the moral problem technology creates, Itrona argues that for a “disclosive” ethics that addresses “the affordances, identities, practices and discourses that constitute a particular sociomaterial phenomenon or sit, we also need to ask about the conditions that enable and constrain the emergence of those particular agencies as legitimate in the first place” (Itrona, 2015, p.  50). The answer to this moral dilemma, he argues, is to consider human–technology interactions as interactivity with an emphasis on building values into the design of artifacts so that we can be conscious of what kinds of identities and practices we are encouraging in order to develop new discourses that “will enable and legitimate the sort of affordances, identities and practices that will intra-enact our common human values” (Itrona, 2015, p. 51). Another approach to the moral significance of technologies is to reconsider how we should account for when technologies act “in a morally relevant manner are similar to human acts or human agents” (Kroes, 2014, p.  3). Shifting moral agency to technological artifacts requires reconsidering our basic assumptions about our Enlightenment frame of reference and the centrality of the moral subject and the constitution of our ethical practices. This approach is taken by Floridi and Sanders, who focus on the moral capabilities of artificial agents that possess intentional states rather than intention. This distinction allows Floridi and Sanders

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to conclude it is the action taken by technical agents that produces effects that can be qualified as either “good” or “evil.” These artificial agents, from this point of view, can be both moral patients (as entities that can be acted upon for good or evil) and also as moral agents (as entities that can perform actions, again for good or evil). Because morality is taken as “mind-less,” the theory does not require free will, mental states, or responsibility: Our guidelines for agenthood are: interactivity (response to stimulus by change of state), autonomy (ability to change state without stimulus) and adaptability (ability to change the “transition rules” by which state is changed) at a given LoA. Morality may be captured as a “threshold” defined on the observables in the interface determining the LoA under consideration. An agent is morally good if its actions all respect that threshold; and it is morally evil if some action violates it (Floridi and Sanders, 2004, p. 349).

The work of Floridi and Sanders uses a “level of abstraction” to evaluate the morality of an intelligent agent by whether it is engaged in doing some action that can be evaluated as normatively good or evil. This theory represents an uncoupling of the subject–object dichotomy by considering the morality of intelligent agents, but ironically the emphasis is put on the agency of the technology rather than the subject in its moral analysis and does not fully address the interaction between the two. Drawing from those such as Latour, Verbeek, Borgmann, Itrona, and others, there is a growing body of work that provides a basis for understanding the moral effect of technologies on our practices and the constitution of human action and choices affected by technology. Social networking technologies can be thought of as a moral detour of sorts, offering us opportunities to act, communicate, and protest when we are online. And mediating technologies such as obstetric ultrasound can shape our moral choices by revealing what we might not otherwise know. The approach taken toward social networking technologies here, however, brings these methodologies together to explore how these technologies affect our perception of phenomena we encounter online, transforming our intentionality and consciousness, which then influence the judgments we form and the actions we take and who we become as individuals and more broadly as humanity. These insights are important for rethinking how we might structure our conscious moral choices in an increasingly morally complex world. Don Ihde provides a useful framework for coming to terms with how and in what ways technology might affect our perceptions of phenomena encountered online, which I use to inform

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my approach to social networking technologies. There are, according to Ihde, three kinds of relationships we have with technology, but they are not necessarily separate or isolated from one another. In keeping with Heidegger, there is connection among them defined, in part, by our current state of technological being and the ordering of technology that orders our understanding. The first relationship with technology that is described is embodiment. Technology, in this sense, serves as the medium of subjective experience that can actually transform our perceptions and sensations through a process of “embodiment,” a concept that draws upon Merleau-Ponty’s theory of perceptions and their material extension. Embodiment through the medium of technology can simultaneously magnify and amplify or reduce and eliminate what is experienced. Ihde writes, “before a technology can become transparent or withdraw from being more objectlike or resistant, the human who interacts and learns to ‘play’ the instrument or technology, there has to be a learning and accommodation/resistance process” (Ihde, 2010, p. 124). With Merleau-Ponty’s example of a blind man who uses his cane to explore his world beyond his sightlessness, Ihde explains the process of embodiment: The blind man’s stick has ceased to be an object for him and is no longer perceived for itself; its point has become an area of sensitivity, extending the scope and active radius of touch and providing a parallel to sight. In the exploration of things, the length of the stick does not enter expressly as a middle term: the blind man is rather aware of it through the position of objects than of the position of objects through it. The position of things is immediately given through the extent of the reach which carries him to it, which comprises, besides the arm’s reach, the stick’s range of action (Merleau-Ponty, 1962, pp. 52–3).

Ihde compares the use of a cane to technology, mediating the perception of the world to such a degree that it becomes an elemental part of the perception of the user, making it impossible to separate the two: Here is a basis for perception at a distance, mediated through an artifact, a technology; and here is a latent phenomenology of instrumentation. One can see that this analysis complements Heidegger but also builds upon his theory. In the hammer example, the tool “withdraws”; but in the Merleau-Pontean feather or a cane, it is part of the world which is reached through this withdrawal (Ihde, 1990, p. 38).

Ihde then applies this thinking to perception-enhancing technologies such as “microscopes, telescopes, X-ray imaging,” which embody scientific observation to explain a hermeneutical relationship with technology (Ihde, 1995, p.  147). These image technologies are far from neutral

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and are able to not only technologically transform our perceptions, but the image generated by the technology is itself a phenomenon separate from its referent. Using the example of a telescope and the moon, Ihde explains how the moon is “removed from its ordinary field within the sky and is framed within a now limited instrumental ‘field’ ” (Ihde, 1995, p.  149). The transformations that occur with technology are not confined to the phenomenon observed. The image also affects the space– time continuum by its marginalization of relative motion in the case of the moon, for example, because the body–moon distance is diminished. These same effects can be seen in photography and cinema, but instead of the moon that is transformed it is us and our cultural perception of events that are transformed by “time reversals, flashbacks, special effects, and above all, discontinuities (very pronounced in MTV presentations) [, which] have been raised to a high technical art” (Ihde, 1995, p. 153). The hermeneutical relation with technology is also influenced by a distinction between microperception and macroperception. The immediacy of microperception,which is associated with the act of perceiving, occurs against the backdrop of macroperception, something that Ihde characterizes as the “cultural context” (Ihde, 1990). A third relation we can have with technology is “alterity”:  Alterity is taken from the philosophy of Emmanuel Levinas and refers to the radical difference posed to any human by another human, an other (and by the ultimately other, God). Extrapolating radically from within the tradition’s emphasis on the non-reducibility of the human to either objectness (in epistemology) or as a means (in ethics), Levinas poses the otherness of humans as a kind of infinite difference that is concretely expressed in an ethical, face-to-face encounter (Ihde, 1990, p. 98).

The alterity relation is a technological otherness that is defined by the experiential aspects, which Ihde illustrates with the use of a video game. The video game is both embodiment and hermeneutical in its relations. The joystick is an extension of our hand and of our eye. The video field is the hermeneutic context but without the worldly reference. In the context of the video game, there is also quasi-otherness or quasi-autonomy in the images generated on the screen. Ihde describes it as “the sense of interacting with something other than me, the technological competitor, in competition there is a kind of dialogue or exchange. It is the quasianimation, the quasi-otherness of the technology that fascinates and challenges” (Ihde, 1990, p. 101).  The example of film and cinema and its representation of reality introduce a more complex example than the video game because the

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alterity relation possesses a referent in the world. The quasi-otherness of cinema, film, and television can generate emotions about the phenomena encountered that are about reality but also the image of reality that is presented. Media reporting on the Vietnam War, for example, generated a negative response because of the “presence” of the war and its costs showing up on the nightly news. Yet, there was no real way to verify the “reality” generated on the screen with the “reality” that was occurring, but the emotional response was no less intense. Technology transforms with its phenomenological effects that both reduce and exaggerates the judgments made about what is seen:  Even in the anger that comes through in outrage about civilian atrocities or the pathos experienced in seeing starvation epidemics in Africa, the emotions are not directed to the screen but, indirectly, through it, in more appropriate forms of political or charitable action. To this extent there is retained a hermeneutic reference elsewhere than at the technological instrument. Its quasi-alterity, which is also present, is not fully focal in the case of such media technologies (Ihde, 1990, p. 105).

Alterity explains in what phenomenological sense technology can be the other or quasi-other, but it is important to note that the application of Levinas’ human otherness to human–technology relations does not mean to attribute anthropomorphism to technology. Instead, it is to find a way to explain our emotional relationship to technologies where “the world, in this case, may remain context and background, and the technology may emerge as the foreground and focal quasi-other with which I momentarily engage” (Ihde, 1990, p. 107). Social networking technologies present an example of quasi-alterity in my analysis, but they are distinguished from the example of media portrayals of the Vietnam War with which Ihde illustrates his point. Like the emotions fomented by the images of pathos or human suffering depicted on the screen, the emotions behind our Twitter exchanges or the lack thereof when we are witness to suicide pronouncements or cyber bullying online, are representations of others to whom we relate but whose perception we are not likely to verify with reality. As Ihde explains, when discussing cinema, that “this mirror of life, like the automaton, is not isomorphic with non-technological experience but is technologically transformed with the various effects that exaggerate or enhance some effects while simultaneously reducing others” (Ihde, 1990, p. 104).  The similarities between cinema and social networking technologies are clear in the distortion of the phenomena on the other side of the lens and the judgments and actions that are triggered. Social networking

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technologies introduce distortion of reality without an ability to verify the phenomenological characteristics of it. Whether in the form of images or misrepresentations or the vilest of what our imagination might otherwise resist, social networking technologies deliver us a reality to which we react despite its factual validity. In this way, social networking technologies interweave subjects and objects in the interpretation or constitution of reality and, in doing so, mediate human perceptions, not necessarily revealing the “thing themselves,” but instead constructing our perceptions of the “real” without a direct and accessible reference for it. If we take these ideas and apply them to our use of social networking technologies, there are some interesting analogies and caveats. We encounter others, events, pictures, and descriptions that generate intense emotions and which, significantly, do not always reflect a shared reality. Whatever the phenomena encountered or experienced, it is not the thing in itself, but it is a thing. And unlike the image of the moon, which is an object that is verifiable, what we encounter online is subject to what Ihde attributes to MTV – special effects, discontinuities, time reversals, flashbacks – all of which contribute to the kinds of judgments we form and the intentionality and consciousness we form that is the basis upon which we act. Similarly, whatever we encounter is transformed from its original space–time continuum. The moon is the moon is the moon, but if we are able to witness the beheading of an individual over and over and over again, how might our judgments and the actions we take be affected? There is also the consequence of social networking technologies for our own sense of identity. Ihde explains that technologies are not only mediators of our experience, but they are also transformative of our perceptual and body sense. He writes, “I take the technologies into my experience in a particular way by way of perceiving through such technologies and through the reflexive transformation of my perceptual and body sense” (Ihde, 1990, p.  72). This transformed sense of perpetual and bodily sense also can effect changes in our intentionality or perceptions. The fact we are beginning to face problems with social networking technologies is, however, not a moment of despair but one which promises the potential for rethinking our understanding not only of technology but about who we are. But what happens when the relation with technology breaks down? This is the moment when the “fullness of the project – and the objectness of the hammer – gets shown – when it is not functioning” (Ihde, 2010, p. 79). The point of

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breakdown is the point at which the technology ceases to be an object and its hermeneutical potential is revealed. Consider Ihde’s example of the role of instrumentation in the Three Mile Island nuclear disaster. The disaster was observed through instrumentation and the delay that caused a near-meltdown was a “misreading of the instruments” rather than direct exposure to the nuclear pile. “Here an essential difference emerges between embodiment and hermeneutic relations  – what is immediately perceived is the instrument panel itself. It becomes the object of my microperception, although in a special sense of hermeneutic transparency, I read the pile through it” (Ihde, 1990, p. 86). The nuclear power system is observed through the instrument panel without access to the nuclear pile. The reading of the nuclear power system occurs with the instrumental panel (embodiment) while the hermeneutic relation of technology “lies in the connector between the instrument and the referent” when an enigma occurs (Ihde, 1990, p. 87). The point at which the hermeneutic relation of technology starts to become obvious is through its failure. This hermeneutic relationship with technology references a material condition which allows for referentiality to challenge the “reading” of technology. But if a reading does not employ any reference to material conditions, how do we challenge the reading imposed by technology? This problem is the central one we face with social networking technologies since we cannot very often challenge the “reading” they give us. “If reading does not employ any such material connections, it might seem that its referentiality is essentially different, yet not even all technological connections are strictly material. Photography retains representational isomorphisms with the object yet does not ‘materially’ connect with its object; it is a minimal beginning of action at a distance” (Ihde, 1990, p. 88). Presently, the breakdown of our relationship with social networking technologies is represented by the growing misuse of them for harmful purposes. The enigma is our inability to solve them because of our misdirected methodological approach to the moral problems we face. These “enigmas” are an opportunity to look beyond what we think we know to see the shortcomings of our current knowledge about who we are and how we construe our relationship with technology. There is, in other words a “reading” of us and our use of social networking technologies as well that should allow us to access the meaning that is only apparent when we have a breakdown in our assumptions. Are we in control over social networking technologies or are they increasingly in

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control over who we are becoming by changing how we see one another and ourselves, and what should be done about it? Where Do We Go from Here? There is no question that humanity and reality interact, and social networking technology in this sense plays a role in our existence, experience, and perception. If this is a truism, however, a fundamental question remains: if the subject and object co-constitute one another, what is the nature of our postphenomenological ontology? As Borgmann explains, the issue is not a minor one: That position either comes to a fairly straightforward realism or it is incoherent. For assume the constitution of a person is resolvable into its constituents, i.e., into its subjective and objective elements. Then we are back in some sort of realism. Or assume the constitution is not analyzable into its elements. Then it is invisible as a constitution and no longer properly so called (Borgmann, 2005; emphasis in the original).

For Borgmann, the answer does not have to be a choice between subjective and objective elements, which inevitably returns us to a starting point of realism. According to this way of thinking, the range of involvement and the aggregate effect when we discuss the relationship between us and technology is an empirical question rather than a transcendental one: The problem lies in the slide from “is more engaging” to “can involve themselves intensely.” Yes, people can so involve themselves; it’s important to point that out. But do they? What’s the aggregate effect of all the devices at people’s disposal? This is an empirical rather than transcendental question. And if the answer is depressing, as it surely is in the United States at least, why is it so? Is it not possible that to capture this gross effect of technology we need to resort to something like Heidegger’s comprehensive characterization of technology? Both of my critical points finally pivot on ethics. If a straightforward realism (though scientifically informed and focally oriented) is what we are left with, what do philosophers have to add to the analyses of human-world interactions that biologists, psychologists, sociologists, and economists have come up with? And who is to say that the way Americans typically use technological devices is depressing? Norms of moral excellence point us to the philosophical work that needs to be done (Borgmann, 2005; emphasis in the original text).

Borgmann issues a challenge here. If we are left with realism and empirical analysis of human and technological interaction, what does the philosopher have to offer? He suggests the contribution of philosophical inquiries like the one undertaken in this research should steer us toward a reconsideration of norms of excellence. We should, in other

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words, consider the moral standards by which we evaluate our use of technology. I  argue that in addition to this philosophical mandate issued by Borgmann, we should also consider the moral standards we are establishing for ourselves because of the insights we gain from this postphenomenological approach. This intention defines the hope of the work that follows. The central idea is that if we are able to examine the mediating effects of social networking technologies on the normative reasons that underlie our perceptions and inform our morality, then we need to not only think critically about how to influence the moral significance of the technology; we also need to critically consider how this awareness can inform our own morality. To this end, the methodological inquiry that follows focuses on the phenomenological influences that underlie our moral judgments when we are online, with the aspiration that a new awareness can help us be better moral selves. In this way, we begin to understand that the phenomenological effects of social networking technologies are not an obstacle to our morality, but instead are a means to gaining insight into how and why we make the moral judgments we do.

3 Why We Do What We Do

Jessica Cleland was nineteen when she took her own life on Easter Saturday last year, after receiving Facebook messages from two teenage boys she considered friends saying that they hated her, and that she was a “f***ing sook.”

Were the intentions of those who attacked Jessica Cleland for her to commit suicide? There is no question that when we are online we do not always act admirably and, more shocking, we may be at our worst when we are using social networking technologies. In a recent Pew Research study, 92 percent of the people reported that being online allowed them to be more critical (Pew Research Center, 2014). Also, ironic but true, the more we increase our use of social media to connect with others, the more depressed and isolated we are likely to become. Research done by the University Of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, for example, demonstrated a connection between the use of social media and depression (Chowdhry, 2016). As the ills of cyberspace become more obvious, we are redoubling our efforts to legislate against them. Private companies are under increasing pressure to monitor their online forums for abusive behavior and there is even a new trend of holding companies legally liable. Facebook, Google, and Twitter, for instance, have been named in a lawsuit by the family members of the victims in the Orlando nightclub shootings in 2016 because terrorist recruiting videos were posted on their sites. At both the state and federal level, there are legislative efforts under way to address cyber bullying, online harassment, and revenge porn, while educational efforts for our school-age children are designed to nip the behavior in the 90

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bud. Despite all of the attention paid to how to regulate our use of social media, however, scant attention is paid to the question of whether we are doing what we do because of our use of social networking technologies.  The position taken here is that our choices and actions are influenced by the phenomenological effects of social networking technologies. The purpose, however, is not to argue human behavior is determined by social networking technologies. Instead, the intent is to consider the embodiment and hermeneutical influence of technology on the normative basis for our human agency when we are online so as to better understand the potential effects when it comes to our offline lives. This is a necessary step because as we search for solutions to the bad behaviors that are occurring in our networked communications, we must first address the origins of the behavior and whether technology plays a role. The central argument is that social networking technologies operate on the normative reasons we give for our choices and exact a hermeneutical and an embodiment effect on what is presented to our minds as eligible for action. Though the mediating effect of technology can be found in many forms and there exist many ways in which mediation may operate on a variety of our senses, social networking technologies introduce some novel considerations. We are in front of the lens but also the object of observation, causing the embodiment relationship to be even more obtuse than, by comparison, a pair of eyeglasses or a telescope. This unique relationship has consequences for the seer and the seen because we react to that which we encounter on the screen with little contemplation of how social networking technologies might transform what we encounter. The praxical stability may not, in other words, be immediately accessible to us. Praxical stability refers to the “ordinary spatiality” that would “normally serve as our reflexive point of reference from which we make our judgments” (Ihde, 1990, p. 80). In embodiment relation with technology, our perception of reality is transformed and our position relative to it is also altered. The technology may be as simple as a pair of eyeglasses or as complex as a telescope. Yet, in each case, the technology changes that which is observed and the observer’s relation to it, often without our awareness. As Ihde describes: The entire gestalt changes. When the apparent size of the moon changes, along with it the apparent position of the observer changes. Relativistically, the moon is brought “close”; and equivalently, this optical near-distance applies to both the moon’s appearance and my bodily sense of position. More subtly, every dimension of spatial signification also changes (Ihde, 1990, p. 77).

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Technology brings the observed into closer proximity with our physical space, but in most cases we continue to be aware of the reality to which it refers. Social networking technologies are distinct in the embodiment relation we have with them, however, because of the potential lack of awareness of the differences between our mediated presence and praxical stability. “The sight of the mountains of the moon, through all the transformational power of the telescope, removes the moon from its setting in the expanse of the heavens” (Ihde, 1990, p. 76). We are able to know by comparison, for example, that even if we are able to observe the moon through a telescopic lens its praxical stability continues to exist elsewhere and its configurations are distinct in real time and space. The question is whether this awareness of praxical stability is present in our use of social networking technologies. We might react to a violent video without any way to verify whether it is an accurate depiction. The other effect of social networking technologies is hermeneutical. Recall the hermeneutical effect of the instrument panel at the Three Mile Island Nuclear Plant, which failed to adequately warn of the nuclear disaster. This example demonstrates technology can sometimes cause us to misread reality even when it is designed to represent reality. The difficulty is in identifying when the technology accurately or inaccurately represents reality, especially when that which is being represented cannot be independently verified. The process of verification might be impossible for a number of reasons. One is danger. In the case of the Three Mile Island Nuclear Plant, for example, there was an inability to verify the reliability of the technology because of the danger in doing so. “Part of the delay that caused a near meltdown was misreading of the instruments. There was no face-to-face, independent access to the pile or too much of the machinery involved, nor could there be” (Ihde, 1990, p. 85). The nuclear pile was far too dangerous for an independent analysis, and the instruments provided the only safe means of access. The phenomena or individuals behind social networking technologies, while not dangerous, may be inaccessible for verification of praxical stability because of time and space constraints. Different from the embodiment effect of a microscope, the hermeneutical effect of a technology provides a representation of the phenomena behind the instrumentality, which, as in the case of the Three Mile Island Nuclear disaster, may obfuscate our understanding of what lies behind the technology. The same effect occurs with social networking technologies. We may think we access one another by virtue of the technology, but we may be losing our way to one another instead, and social networking technologies might be to blame.

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Other hermeneutical effects of social networking technologies are the mediating effects on representations. Whether visual, textual, or otherwise, representations on social media can magnify, minimize, or misrepresent what and who we experience and perceive when we are online. In the same way, Ihde describes an infrared photo that enhances the “difference between vegetation and non-vegetation beyond the limits of any isomorphic color photography” (Ihde, 1990, p.  91). Social networking technologies are a way to connect to things and persons, but they also are transformative of the kinds of interactions and experiences we have, emphasizing, distorting, or distinguishing some parts of who and what we encounter but deemphasizing others. Infrared photography might turn our attention to certain kinds of vegetation with little effect; but when the hermeneutical effects of social networking technologies turn our attention to representations of individuals or phenomena, a range of emotional responses can be triggered based on the emphasis put upon what we perceive or experience. The hermeneutical effects of social networking technologies may accent and highlight certain phenomenological characteristics of who and what we come across online – a video showing a violent attack that is then mischaracterized can lead to a range of emotions that might not otherwise be triggered. Consider a graphic video posted online along with the description of the event as anti-Trump protesters burning an American flag followed by the depiction of a horrific beating of a veteran of war when he tried to stop it. The lens of social networking technologies bracket the experience and perception of the phenomena in a manner that makes the message more powerful because of the details it emphasizes and deemphasizes, but without the ability to verify the actual events or praxical stability. Social networking technologies not only limit our perception but they may also direct our attention in ways that affect how we see the event and also understand it and react to it. In reality, the video had nothing to do with the burning of the American flag, did not involve an antiTrump supporter, and was not actual footage of a beating of a veteran. Instead, the video had been filmed nearly two years earlier by surveillance cameras at a gas station and it in reality portrayed an argument that ensued after a ten-year-old boy accused a homeless man of hitting him, followed by an attack on the man by the boy’s mother. With the politically charged description of the video as a veteran being beaten in the aftermath of a controversial election, however, the reactive attitudes were triggered in a different way than they might have been otherwise. These reactive attitudes are not only the basis of our moral judgments,

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but they also give rise to the normative reasons that inform our choices and actions. We might react angrily, share the video on social media, comment on it, and even decide to take action outside of an online forum. The phenomenological effects of social networking technologies provide a normative basis around which we organize our human agency, but so far the exploration of the mediating effects of technology on the choices we make and the actions we take has not been the focus. The purpose of this chapter, then, is to redirect the debate and interrogate our underlying assumptions about how we assess and evaluate the hermeneutical and embodiment effects of social networking technologies on us when we are online. As a first step, however, these questions must be considered within the longer perspective on the nature of human agency, because no conversation is entirely new. Free Will or Determinism or Something In-Between? Any discussion about human agency must first deal with the tension between free will and determinism that has long defined our concerns about moral responsibility and the assignment of blame. Whether human agency is determined or a matter of free will is of no small concern. The tension between free will and causal determination defines the scope of moral responsibility that ultimately relates to societal structures of punishment, obligation, justice, and rights, among other things, all of which are of great importance to maintaining a society. An emphasis on free will denotes confidence in the ability of law, institutions, policies, regulations, and the pressures of social and political practices to shape human behavior and society. Determinism takes a somewhat opposite view. If human thought and action are subject to causal constraints, then there is little room for influencing human behavior because it is on its own unalterable course. Early philosophical concerns about free will, for instance, focused on how moral responsibility could be reconciled with existing assumptions about divine destiny. Later challenges to the idea of free will came in the form of modern science that extended to human action and thought and how causal laws influenced each. For the reason that neither theory neatly answers all questions about human thought and action well, the dichotomy between free will and causal determinism has also long been the subject of reconciliation by philosophers, sociologists, and scientists alike. The incompatibilists, for instance, favor a utilitarian understanding of moral responsibility because the moral agent can be influenced by rewards and punishments and good

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behavior can be encouraged. A classic compatibilist, on the other hand, believes the exercise of free will requires the sort of freedom necessary so that it is possible at least to choose to act otherwise. Davidson describes the reconciliation of free will and determinism in the compatibilist school of thought: The view that free actions are caused by states and episodes like desires, beliefs, remembering, and the prompting of passion comes under fire from two quarters. There are the broadsides from those who believe they can see, or even prove, that freedom is inconsistent with the assumption that actions are causally determined, at least if the causes can be traced back to events outside the agent . . . The other attack is more interesting. It is aimed not at the determinism as such but at the causal theory of action. If a free action is one that is caused in certain ways, then freedom to act must be a causal power of the actor that comes into play when certain conditions are satisfied. The champion of the causal theory cannot evade the challenge to produce an analysis of freedom to act which makes it out to be a causal power, or so at least it seems. Here the causal theorist has felt forced into a defensive stance, for no proposed accounts meets all objections. What is worse, the faults in known analyses show recurring patterns, suggesting the impossibility of a satisfactory solution (Davidson, 2001, p. 63).

Reasons for reconciling free will and determinism are driven by a wide variety of concerns. To accommodate considerations of moral responsibility in light of Christianity, David Hume believed that free will existed in the possibility of “doing otherwise.” If, for instance, an individual could have chosen, decided, willed, or intended to do otherwise, then there was a possibility for free will to exist comfortably with determinism (Hume, 1999). This compatabilist position also carves out the necessary allowance for the assignment of moral responsibility because, as Hume explains, moral responsibility is assigned when it is the agent’s desires and willing that are the cause of action as opposed to those actions that are necessitated or caused: By liberty, then, we can only mean a power of acting or not acting, according to the determinations of the will; that is, if we choose to remain at rest, we may; if we choose to move, we also may. Now this hypothetical liberty is universally allowed to belong to every one who is not a prisoner and in chains (Hume, 1999, p. 95; emphasis in the original).

Kant, on the other hand, held that our self-consciousness, a result of the internalization of the moral law, served as the directive behind the exercise of our free will. Kant described this directive as an incentives or moral motivations, or “the thing that presents the action to your mind as eligible, the principle is what determines whether it is in fact to be chosen

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or not” (Korsgaard, 2009, p. 22). Understanding the hermeneutical and embodiment effects of social networking technologies on our choices and actions requires a compatibilist point of view that takes technology not as determinative cause, but rather as a phenomenological effect on our normative reasons for human agency. The reasons we give for what we do figure into our explanations and descriptions but also create a basis for evaluating our sense of moral responsibility. Whether actions are reprehensible or laudatory, for example, each is characterized by the normative grounds for our motivation. As Anscombe explains: Aristotle would seem to have held that every action done by a rational agent was capable of having its grounds set forth up to a premise containing a desirability characterization; and as we have seen, there is a reasonable ground for this view, wherever there is a calculation of means to ends, or of ways of doing what one wants to do. Of course “fun” is a desirability characterization too, or “pleasant”; Such-and-such a kind of thing is pleasant is one of the possible first premises. But cannot pleasure be taken in anything? It all seems to depend on how the agent feels about it! But can it be taken in anything? Imagine saying “I want a pin” and when asked why, saying “For fun”; or “Because of the pleasure of it.” One would be asked to give an account making at least dimly plausible that there was a pleasure here. Hobbes believed, perhaps wrongly, that there could be no such thing as pleasure in mere cruelty, simply in another’s suffering; but he was not so wrong as we are likely to think. He was wrong in suggesting that cruelty had to have an end, but it does have to have a point. To depict this pleasure, people evoke notions of power, or perhaps of getting one’s own back on the world, or perhaps of sexual excitement. No one needs to surround the pleasures of food and drink with such explanation (Anscombe, 1957, pp. 74–5).

Our unique capacity of self-consciousness to reflect on our normative reasons for acting is at the heart of our rationality, morality, and human agency, making the phenomenological effects on our choices and actions an essential part of understanding the influence of social networking technologies. Notably, however, so far technology and its mediating effects have not been considered in discussions about human agency when we are online or whether there are effects to consider for our offline lives as well. Technology, when defined as an object, is thought to possess no effects on intentionality and causality, much like the example of a baseball bat in Davidson’s example: If Jones intentionally swings a bat that strikes a ball that hits and breaks a window, then Jones not only struck the ball but also broke the window. But we do not say that the bat, or even its movement, broke the window, though of course the movement of the bat caused the breakage. We do indeed allow that inanimate objects cause or bring about various things – in our example, the ball

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did break the window. However, this is not the accordion effect of agency, but only the ellipsis of event causality. The ball broke the window – that is to say, its motion caused the breakage (Davidson, 2001, p. 54).

The phenomenological effect of social networking technologies does not reside in intentionality or causality, but instead acts on the normative reasons that inform our agency. To better explain the consequences of the phenomenological effects, I rely on the work of P. F. Strawson, which is a point of departure. Our attitudes and intentions that inform human agency when mediated by social networking technologies alter the direction of our moral compass. Reactive Attitudes and the Commonplace Truth According to Strawson, it is within the fabric or “web” of our reactive attitudes that we form our moral judgments that serve as a normative basis for our human agency. This web of reactive attitudes is described by Strawson as a “central commonplace” that serves as the field of phenomena upon which our commonplace truth is based. The idea of the “central commonplace” is important for understanding the mediating effects of social networking technologies because it focuses our attention on how reactive attitudes form the basis of our moral judgments and provide a basis for the exercise our agency. He writes: The central commonplace that I want to insist on is the very great importance that we attach to the attitudes and intentions towards us of other human beings, and the great extent to which our personal feelings and reactions depend upon, or involve, our beliefs about these attitudes and intentions. I can give no simple description of the field of phenomena at the centre of which stands this commonplace truth; for the field is too complex (Strawson, 1992, p. 62).

The field of phenomena and its role in the establishment of commonplace truth are changeable according to the context of our reactive attitudes. Here, the embodiment and hermeneutical effects of social networking technologies operate on the field of phenomena that then informs our commonplace truth upon which we base our moral judgments. These moral judgments are the basis of the reactive attitudes we form that guide our human agency, which, for Strawson, is the expression of our free will. A  person may hurt us physically or emotionally, for example, but we may be more inclined to forgive him or her if we believe the action was not intended or if it was misdirected toward us. This moderated reaction depends upon our perception of the situation and our description of the

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intentions of others. Strawson describes the modification of our reactive attitudes in this way: If someone’s actions help me to some benefit I desire, then I am benefited in any case; but if he intended them so to benefit me because of his general goodwill towards me, I shall reasonably feel a gratitude which I should not feel at all if the benefit was an incidental consequence, unintended or even regretted by him, of some plan of action with a different aim (Strawson, 1992, p. 59).

The importance of how we moderate our reactive attitudes should not be underestimated and the effects of social networking technologies on their perceived magnitude cannot be ignored. Our allowance for either mistakes or accidents in intentions and beliefs of others is founded in our reactive attitudes that inform our moral judgments and serve as the basis of our human agency. We may overreact or make misjudgments just as often as we might exercise a degree of latitude in our moral approbation, but it depends upon the individuals to whom we are reacting. There are two groups of individuals to which our reactive attitudes might be moderated. The first are those individuals who face certain circumstances that force them to act in ways they might have not otherwise acted. Second, we may also moderate our reactive attitudes when we believe an individual does not operate on the same plane of rationality as we do because of some form of distortion of his or her beliefs and intentions. In this way, the idea of the “central commonplace” represents our sense of an “objective” standard of rationality and morality against which we contrast our reactions to the “warped or deranged, neurotic.” We are willing, in other words, to temper our reactive attitudes if the intentions and beliefs of the actor are outside of the standard of the “objective” that is formed on the basis of the commonplace truth we establish in the context of others: The agent was himself; but he is warped or deranged, neurotic or just a child. When we see someone in such a light as this, all our reactive attitudes tend to be profoundly modified. I  must deal here in crude dichotomies and ignore the ever-interesting and ever-illuminating varieties of case. What I want to contrast is the attitude (or range of attitudes) of involvement or participation in a human relationship, on the one hand, and what might be called the objective attitude (or range of attitudes) to another human being, on the other (Strawson, 1992, p. 79).

For Strawson, the ability to adjust our reactive attitudes is part of the evidence that can be used to justify the existence of human agency. When we make choices about how to respond based on our perception of the individual’s intentions and beliefs or if we are willing to grant allowances

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for individuals who may not operate from the same basis of rationality, we have exercised our agency. This insight is important for creating a basis for understanding how the phenomenological effects of social networking technologies may affect the formation of our intentions, beliefs, and reactive attitudes. Strawson focuses on the moderation of our reactive attitudes because of an understanding of the intentions and beliefs of others that he believes leads to a tempering of our moral judgment of those individuals. I suggest, however, that the mediating effects of social networking technologies may make for heightened or exaggerated reactive attitudes because of a lack of understanding or misunderstanding of the individuals or phenomena we encounter online. The cause of this lack of understanding is phenomenological. Here, the hermeneutical and embodiment effects of social networking technologies are key to the formation of our reactive attitudes. Don Ihde describes the consequences on our reactions when we experience phenomena through the mediating effects of technology generally, but more specifically in his example of the portrayal of the Vietnam War on television: The strong negative response to the Vietnam War was clearly do in part to the virtually unavoidable “presence” of the war in virtually everyone’s living room. But films, like readable technologies, are also presentations, the focal terminus of a perceptual situation. In that emergent sense, they are more dramatic forms of perceptual immediacy in which the presented display has its own characteristics conveying alterity. Yet, the engagement with the film normally remains short of an engagement with the other. Even in the anger that comes through in outrage about civilian atrocities or the pathos experienced in seeing starvation epidemic in Africa, the emotions are not directed to the screen but, indirectly through it in more appropriate forms of political or charitable action (Ihde, 1990, p. 105).

The reactive attitudes that occurred because of the portrayal of the Vietnam War on television generated anger and outrage. The consequence of this reaction might spur us on in our activism against the war or cause us to donate money for the cause of helping those damaged by the way. The same kind of phenomenological effect is present when we react to who and what we come across on our screens:  a tweet, a post, a comment. Yet, there are differences that are notable too. The reactive attitudes might be the same – anger, outrage – but the conduits for action are very different when comparing television with social media. While representations of the Vietnam War on the television screen might encourage us to alternative forms of political and social action because there is nothing we can do with our television set except to turn it off and

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engage in real-world activity as an outlet. Social networking technologies allow for immediate choices and actions with a click of our mouse. Our outrage and anger might be the same in either case (and similarly egged on by the images or words on the screen), but when it comes to social networking technologies we can act immediately on our reactions and take what we think is morally justified action. The problem is that our morally driven choices and actions may be based on a shallow phenomenological depth of knowledge or understanding. The two-dimensional aspect of computer-mediated communication creates different forms of interactive experience. Not only does the distribution of information in the periphery or in the center so that it can be selectively attended to affect the way we interact, but there are the techniques and reactions we develop as we manage and become accustomed to visual information on the computer screen. An even more important consideration of the formation of intentions, beliefs, and reactive attitudes, “a picture really can be worth a thousand words; it can often be displayed more compactly and apprehended more rapidly than can its thousand-word equivalent” (Dourish, 2004, p. 12). Visual metaphors are another factor to consider when understanding the expanding range of influences on human interactions and, importantly, how these online representations relate to our familiarity with the offline world. While computer interactions draw on our everyday world or the ways in which we experience the everyday world, the insight can also be used to understand how and why we might not be aware of how these representations might influence the way we react in our offline worlds too. Also distinct from the portrayal of images on a television, social networking technologies not only provide an immediate and unique conduit for our reactive attitudes to the field of phenomena we encounter, our reactive attitudes might be stoked by those with whom we interact online. The importance of our online roles and relationships is in the source of reactive attitudes that are generated by the phenomena but also may be encouraged or criticized by those who are also encountering the same phenomena. Strawson sees “the central commonplace” as an important arbiter of our truth upon which we make our moral judgments and with which we inform our choices and actions. Yet, when we are online our grasp of the phenomena and the extent to which our reactions might be amplified or antagonized by others may compromise the moral judgment we ultimately make and distort the actions we take and the choices we make. One additional layer of phenomenological complexity is in the multitude of social networking technologies with which we engage.

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People communicate in an ever-increasing number of forums with the use of different modalities. Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter each represent a different form of communication modality and a different framework for the “central commonplace” and distinct reactive attitudes that form the commonplace truth with which we exercise moral judgment. The consequence is to increase the multitude and fluidity of those who stand in relationship to us and potentially alter our reactive attitudes and the moral judgments that follow. The segmentation of these communications might also result in a variegated basis of morality as the bounded rationality of each context shifts and modulates. Strawson, ironically perhaps, anticipates the problematic results of human agency based on the idea of “central commonplace” long before social media enters onto the scene. The “central commonplace” is, as Strawson describes, affected by “the great extent to which our personal feelings and reactions depend upon, or involve, our beliefs about these attitudes and intentions.” The “central commonplace” and the resulting attitudes that we have about the intentions and beliefs of others are affected by a variety of factors, including the consequences of the varied degrees of relationships we share with one another and how this affects the range and intensity of our reactive attitudes toward the goodwill. He writes: We should think of the many different kinds of relationship which we can have with other people  – as sharers of a common interest; as members of the same family; as colleagues; as friends; as lovers; as chance parties to an enormous range of transactions and encounters. Then we should think, in each of these connections in turn, and in others, of the kind of importance we attach to the attitudes and intentions towards us of those who stand in these relationships to us, and of the kinds of reactive attitudes and feelings to which we ourselves are prone. In general, we demand some degree of goodwill or regard on the part of those who stand in these relationships to us, though the forms we require it to take vary widely in different connections. The range and intensity of our reactive attitudes towards goodwill, its absence or its opposite vary no less widely (Strawson, 1992, p. 76).

The range and intensity of our reactive attitudes are complicated by the depth of our relationships in our offline lives, but when we shift to those relationships we cultivate with the use of social networking technologies, the relationships that constitute the “central commonplace” may be even more attenuated. Social media may in a counterintuitive way narrow how we understand the intentions and beliefs of individuals to whom we react at the same time that it exposes us to potentially

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many more people and phenomena. There is a generalized acceptance, for example, that our use of social media and the potential of its global reach can expose us to things and people we would have never experienced before. Worse, we may find ourselves drawn or directed to the very information that reinforces our beliefs, entrenching them over time. If, in our “central commonplace,” we have a shallow phenomenological depth of understanding of the individuals and their intentions and beliefs or if our own views are hardened, then our tendency is not to moderate or temper our reactive attitudes in the way Strawson expects us to do in our moral judgments. Our reactive attitudes are a snapshot (literally if we’re talking about Snapchat) of the intentions and beliefs of the individual(s) to whom we are reacting. Contrast the online scenario with the circumstances described by Strawson: If someone treads on my hand accidentally, while trying to help me, the pain may be no less acute than if he treads on it in contemptuous disregard of my existence or with a malevolent wish to injure me. But I shall generally feel in the second case a kind and degree of resentment that I shall not feel in the first (Strawson, 1992, p. 76).

If there is an accidental hurt of an individual’s hand, our reactive attitude depends on whether there was contemptuous disregard on the part of the individual who did it. If there is not contemptuous disregard, then we moderate our reactive attitude toward it, but if we only experience the accidental hurt, our reaction toward it will not be moderated and in fact may be exaggerated. Where Strawson hoped for moderation in our moral judgments, we have only exaggeration prompted by limited insight and perspective on what and whom we observe. One might dismiss this example of illustrative of the problems of the human condition generally where problems of misinterpretation and misapprehension abound when it comes to understanding the intentions and beliefs behind individual thought and action, but is there something even more problematic about our relationships (or lack thereof) when it comes to our morality? The depth of “interpersonal” relationships because of the absence of “face-to-face” interactions, obscured identities, or attenuated understandings might negatively affect the moral judgments we make that are based upon regarding the other as “a morally responsible agent, as a term of moral relationships, as a member of the moral community” (Strawson, 1992, p.  73). This is because the “central commonplace” is structured around the rationality of those individuals of which it is comprised and, contrary to the optimistic vision of Strawson, it may be built

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on something other than morality. The idea of communal boundaries plays a role not only in our judgments but in how we construe causal responsibility. If an individual is outside of our community, we are less likely to see a relationship between the suffering and the individual’s actions (Smiley, 1992). While the notion of “outside” and “inside” our community is not necessarily geographical when we are considering our online lives, it can still be significant and perhaps even more so when communities are organized around normative ideals or antagonisms. An online community organized around racism or terrorism tends to create a stark difference between the “us” and the “them” and does little to create a central commonplace based upon a shared sense of morality. Here the alterity relation is apparent where the otherness is created in in the representations we experience when online as an organizing factor in our moral or, perhaps, immoral reactions. Trolling represents one example of this skewing of the morality of the community. As Phillips describes, “lulz” is sometimes far removed from what we like to think of a morality and it is derived from those with whom we surround ourselves and from the technologically mediated perceptions of the “other” around which is it organized: In the trolling world, lulz may mean one basic thing – amusement at other people’s distress – but can be deployed in any number of directions, for any number of reasons. Trolls derive lulz from other trolls, from trolls attempting to derive lulz for other trolls, from innocent bystanders, from media figures, from entire news organizations, from anything and everything they can get their hands on (Phillips, 2015, pp. 27–8).

The case of Jessi Slaughter, who was a target of a lulz attack, is illustrative. After being accused of sleeping with the lead singer of her favorite group, she posted a video denying the accusation that was then reposted onto 4chan’s /b/ board, exposing it to the anons. The reposting of the video not only resulted in online attacks, it also generated a flood of obscene and abusive phone calls to her parents’ phone and the revelation of their personal information. The reactive attitudes of the anons to the Jessi Slaughter is a function of understanding a “central commonplace” organized around lulz in a shared reaction to someone or something encountered online; lulz as a basis for the “central commonplace” is a version of morality and rationality, but it may be far from what we might have hoped as an organizing principle. In other examples, the reactive attitudes might be explicitly immoral. Consider the aftermath of the death of a seventh grader, Mitchell

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Henderson, who killed himself with his parent’s rifle, and the lulz that ensued. The trolling began with posts on /b/, continued with the hacking of his MySpace page, and even targeted his family with threats and attacks. The moral judgment directed at Mitchell Henderson and his family was a function of emotional dissociation rather than of understanding that comes from knowledge of the circumstances. The community of trolls are “able to dismiss the emotional context of a given story, as well as the harm their actions cause” (Phillips, 2015, p. 28). Mitchell Henderson is nothing more than a meme, a joke, and nothing more than what Phillips describes as “fetish.” This kind of “central commonplace” is organized a rationality and a morality, but it does not necessarily resonate with our usual moral sensibilities. As one troll describes lulz and the (im)moral community around which it is organized in relation to the phenomena encountered and the roles and relationships with which the reactive attitudes are organized. “When I  am around other “citizens of the internet” (i.e. trolls and other people who I recognize as internet people), I go through that (same) fracture between my internet and real life persona” (Phillips, 2015, p. 34). Another ironic twist of our “central commonplace” when we are online is that our knowledge of one another may lead to exploitation rather than reactive attitudes that generate morally kind action. One troll described the thinking of the attacks in this way:  “(Great trolls) fully understand the implications of everything they say and do, and that’s what makes them great trolls. They have empathy and can work out the best way to wind people up, but that also means they are fully aware of the harms they cause” (Phillips, 2015, p. 35). The “central commonplace” that is supposed to serve as the basis for rationality and the source for our moderated moral judgments of the intentions and beliefs of others can turn into just the opposite when translated in the online world. The lack of phenomenological depth creates the potential for dissociation, antagonism, and attacks. Trolling can lead to a focus on the lulz instead of the consequential harms on the individuals under attack, but the question is why and for what reasons. Long before the arrival of social networking technologies and the kinds of behaviors they engender, there have been hard questions raised by when we moderate our moral reactions to others and when we do not. Gary Watson, for example, in his article Responsibility and the Limits of Evil, challenged Strawson by using the example of Robert Harris, a convicted murderer. After brutally killing two teenage boys, Harris was sentenced to death. Yet, by all accounts, the life Harris led

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before this incident was marred by terrible abuse at the hands of his father and mother. Still, is Harris due a moderation of our reactive attitudes when we issue moral judgment about his actions because of his past? Or, alternatively, is Harris so far outside of our shared moral framework of values that we owe him no sympathy or moderation of our reactive attitudes? This same question can be asked when it comes to some of the despicable trolling behavior we witness online or bad behavior more generally. Are trolls so far outside of the moral norm or, perhaps more troubling, do we all have this capability to become a troll in some shape or another when we are online? Phillips, for her part, suggests that we should not view trolls as any different from the rest of us. She argues that trolling is not a cultural aberration but is instead “behaviors fall(ing) on the extreme end of the cultural spectrum” (Phillips, 2015, p.  10). Phillips might be correct, but the phenomenological effects behind incidents of cyber bullying, revenge porn, and digilantism are not posited as the reason.  If trolling is constituted within the context of a “central commonplace” and made of the reactive attitudes of people who would otherwise not engage in such behavior, then the behavior is unique to the circumstances and the mediating effects of social networking technologies play a role. If, however, only certain people engage in trolling and their behavior in real time and space is not unlike their behavior in cyberspace, then the mediating effects of social networking technologies have little to do with it. Yet, mounting evidence of cyber bullying and an expanding list of outrageous online behavior point to a growing swath of individuals engaging in varying degrees of troll like behavior. While we have so far approached the problem as if bad behavior online is only the result of bad people, the regulatory approach is not winning the battle, signaling a need for a changed approach. The focus must be shifted to consider the mediating and moral effects of social networking technologies on our behavior. The embodiment and hermeneutical relationship with social networking technologies may affect more than our normative reasons for our rationality and morality in cyberspace. There is also the question of how social networking technologies affect how we evaluate our own causality and how we attribute (or do not) blame for harms we might cause but not intend. Pushing a button to post a comment is a singular act that may not seem significant or consequential and, in fact, in isolation may not be. But what may seem like purely mental events do not escape the nomological net entirely even in cyberspace, especially when it comes to causal disposition:

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Mental events such as perceiving, remembering, decisions, and actions resist capture in the nomological net of physical theory. How can this fact be reconciled with the cause role of mental events in the physical world? (Davidson, 2001, p. 207).

The truth is that these mental events are not without consequence in the physical world. When combined with hundreds or thousands of comments, the consequences are exponentially increased, but not always with our knowledge of how our singular action contributes to it. Because the consequences are distant, not only geographically but causally, it may be impossible to comprehend how one hurtful comment might cause a young girl to commit suicide. This discontinuity may make it difficult for us to evaluate the relationship between intentions and beliefs and their causal disposition and may cause us to not see ourselves as morally responsible. While all species have “desires of the first order” to do one thing or the other, he attributes “second-order desires,” only to human beings who have the unique quality of self-evaluation necessary to manifest second-order desires. He writes: Besides wanting and choosing and being moved to do this or that, men may also want to have (or not to have) certain desires and motives. They are capable of wanting to be different, in their preferences and purposes, from what they are. Many animals appear to have the capacity for what I shall call “first-order desires” or “desires of the first order,” which are simply desires to do or not to do one thing or another. No animal other than man, however, appears to have the capacity for reflective self-evaluation that is manifested in the formation of second-order desires (Frankfurt, 1971, p. 7).

Frankfurt points out that the second-order desires are crucial for moral responsibility because they enable the agent to reflect on whether the desires conform with his or her will. This point relates to the idea of self-consciousness, which, as Korsgaard explains, “opens up the space between the experience of the incentive and what previously had been the instinctive response, and that space transforms incentives into inclinations and governing instincts into free reason.” (Korsgaard, 2009, p.  125). These second-order desires may not entirely of our own making, however (Double, 1991). The phenomenological effects of social networking technologies operate on the formation of our second-order desires, the causal disposition of our choices and actions, and the assignment of moral responsibility. Consider coming across the story about the Steubenville rape case, complete with online pictures of some of the actions of those who were involved, and the moral outrage that might follow and the desire to create

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some form of punishment for the immoral behavior you have just read about. There is, of course, the legal system, but online we are empowered to do something more to satisfy our outrage. In this case, the belief is that rape is immoral and the intention formed is punishment of those involved. The second-order desire is a reflection of our rational capabilities to reason from a belief about the world to the action that should taken, which is related and consistent with our conception of who we are and the end we hope to achieve with our actions. But the formation of the second-order desire may be influenced by those who also are reacting to the phenomena experienced or encountered, having an effect on how we are able to assess the causal disposition of our intentions when we are online.  This is to say that our individual beliefs and desires are referential to those around us and reflect the shared rationality and morality with which we act, but when we are online may be inconsistent with the reality of the situation to which we are reacting. We are, according to Bratman, agents who pursue goals in reference to the world around us. And in order to achieve these goals, we engage in planning with others that establishes our shared rationality and morality. Our planning, in other words, is in pursuit of a good that reflects the shared intentions of others, not necessarily a good independent of these considerations (Bratman, 1999, p. 7). Our structures of planning agency reference our representations of the world and around which we organize our agency. Our online worlds are different fundamentally, of course, than the world we occupy in real time and space, but we may not think we are planning differently when it comes to the goods we pursue or the kind of planning necessary to achieve them. Because our agency is embedded in these planning structures, it is important to note the phenomenological influences that are introduced by social networking technologies not only in the representations of the good we intend and believe in but how we plan to achieve it: Truth is the object of judgment, and good the object of wanting; it does not follow from this either that everything judged must be true, or that everything wanted must be good. But there is a certain contrast between these pairs of concepts too. For you cannot explain truth without introducing its subject intellect, or judgment, or propositions, in some relations of which to the things known or judged trust consists; “truth” is ascribed to what has the relation, not to the things. With “good” and “wanting” it is the other way around; as we have seen, an account of “wanting” introduces good as its object, and goodness of one sort or another is ascribed primarily to the objects, not to the wanting; one wants a good kettle but has a true idea of a kettle (as opposed to wanting a kettle well, or having an idea of a true kettle). Goodness is ascribed to wanting in virtue of the

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goodness (not the actualization) of what is wanted; where truth is ascribed immediately to judgments, and in virtue of what actually is the case. But again, the notion of “good” that has to be introduced in an account of wanting is not that of what is really good but of what the agent conceives to be good; what the agent wants would have to be characterisable by good by him, if we may suppose him not to be impeded by inarticulateness. Whereas when we are explaining truth as a predicate of judgments, propositions, or thoughts, we have to speak of a relation to what is really so, not just of what seems so to the judging mind (Anscombe, 1957, p. 76).

The planning structures in our online worlds are bracketed according to the phenomenological effects of the technology. We may perceive the “good” to be the online attack of someone who is depicted as doing something or saying something that is morally reprehensible, and we may be egged on by those who share in the experience of the phenomena. In the online moment, in other words, there is little that informs the planning structure except the phenomena encountered and the limited version of the “good” it represents, which informs our intentions and beliefs. The absence of phenomenological depth to the planning structure is not inconsequential for the human agency. As Bratman describes, “appeal to such planning structures allows us to articulate basic features of intention and decisions, features that distinguish such phenomena both from belief and from ordinary desire” (Bratman, 1999, p. 6). It is no small matter that our rationality and morality is built upon this shared intentional activity and the roles and commitments: In particular, we sometimes engage in forms of shared intentional activity, and we think of ourselves as responsible agents. A fruitful theory of our planning agency should help us say more about these further dimensions of our agency. It should articulate basic features of our agency that are significantly engaged in shared intentional agency and in what we take to be responsible agency. A theory of our planning agency should, that is, serve as a theoretical kernel, a kernel common to broader accounts of these other important forms of our agency. Reflection on shared intentional agency reminds us that much planning plays a social role and is associated with commitments to others of a sort that are typically grounded in assurances and promises. As noted, I try to say what individualized planning agency is without seeing it as, at bottom, a kind of internalization of such social commitments (Bratman, 1999, p. 7).

Planning agency and responsible agency, in other words, are inextricably intertwined. When we are online, the relationship is no different but the planning structures are quite distinct. In real time and space, the “good” at the center of this shared intentional activity is, according to Bratman, supposed to give rise to responsible agency because it reflects

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the planning and commitment to others grounded in our relationships, assurances, and promises to them. Online, however, the “good” is the technologically bracketed phenomena around which the roles and relationships are organized and the agency organized. Morality and rationality organized around technologically mediated phenomena (a comment, a story that generates outrage, or even a lulz attack) result in planning agents who evaluate their responsible behavior around this limited notion of the “good” as it is portrayed, which has the effect of bracketing the planning and the actions according to a limited horizon. The consequence of online human agency organized in reaction to this “good” an individual or an event has the potential to create a homogeneous viewpoint. And as the individual within the group connects more strongly to the group identity, the action taken can be more and more disconnected from anything else other than the online group. Citron explains how the Internet intensifies the dangerousness of group behavior: Web 2.0 platforms create a feeling of closeness among like-minded individuals. Online groups affirm each other’s negative views, which become more extreme and destructive. Individuals say and do things online they would never consider saying or doing offline because they feel anonymous, even if they write under their real names. Because group members often shroud themselves in pseudonyms, they have little fear that victims will retaliate against them or that they will suffer social stigma for their abusive conduct. Online groups also perceive their victims as “images” and thus feel free to do anything they want to them. Moreover, site operators who refuse to dismantle damaging posts reinforce, and effectively encourage, negative behavior (Citron, 2009, p. 82).

This interrelationship between planning and action online has consequences for the way we may (or may not) self-govern our actions. Bratman explains that “associated with these roles are distinctive rational pressures on intentions for consistency and coherence at a time and stability over time. And intentions help constitute and support the crosstemporal organization of our temporally extended agency in part by way of the kinds of cross-temporal ties  – psychological, semantic, causal  – that are, on a broadly Lockean approach, partly constitutive of personal identity” (Bratman, 2007, p.  5). In real time and space, our agency is organized according to the longstanding roles and relationships we have and the long-term planning of our goals in consideration of them. But in our online lives, our roles and relationships may be temporally truncated and the phenomena we experience partitioned, which affects the breadth of our planning and the estimation of the causal disposition of our agency and the morality and rationality engendered.

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Another phenomenological effect of social networking technologies on our human agency online occurs when we attempt to assess the causal disposition of our intentions. The formation of the second-order desire takes place online, but the causal disposition of the action occurs offline, and the relationship between the two is complicated to discern. The causal disposition of our second-order desire – to punish someone with a nasty comment, for instance  – cannot know the significance of the consequences because it is impossible to know the causal consequences of our action even if we are willing to describe our intentions in reference to it. We may incorrectly assume, in other words, that our actions are morally justified; yet, we may do so even if we do not fully comprehend the causal disposition of them. The trouble is, of course, saying so does not make it so. Our conscious will might be an illusion and, at the very least, potentially distorted. While distortion is a consequence in real time and space when it comes to our conscious will and our descriptions of its causal disposition, the online environment opens the door for even more confusion. Worse, we may not consider ourselves morally responsible for some of the harm that may occur. As Wegner describes, we are often lured into an easy description of cause and effect when it comes to our will, and this might even be truer in cyberspace: The real causal consequence underlying human behavior involves a massively complicated set of mechanisms. Everything that psychology studies can come into play to predict and explain even the most innocuous wink of an eye. Each of our actions is really the culmination of an intricate set of physical and mental processes, including psychological mechanisms that correspond to the traditional concept of will, in that they involve linkages between our thoughts and actions. This is the empirical will. However, we don’t see this. Instead, we readily accept a far easier explanation of our behavior: We intended to do it, so we did it (Wegner, 2002, p. 27).

The fact that there is a certain amount of distortion that can occur in the space between our will and its causal disposition is not only a problem when we are using social networking technologies, of course. Early on, theorists such as Davidson reminded us we often conflate our willing with our description of its causal disposition, and the opportunity for this problem is even greater online when our intention and its consequences are separated by different time and space dimensions. In simpler terms, we may want, intend, or desire but may never be able to act in accordance with our intention either because of obstacles or

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because of a misunderstanding of the causal disposition of our willing. Davidson makes this point about separating out intention and action, but for my purposes the distinction is important for understanding the disconnect that may occur between the second-order desires of intention created in the technologically mediated space and the consequences of willing and human agency that can occur in the dimension of real time and space. Davidson uses the example of building a squirrel house to illustrate the disjuncture: When action is added to intention, for example when someone nails two boards together with the intention of building a squirrel house, then it may at first seem that the same problem does not necessarily arise. We are able to explain what goes on in such a case without assuming or postulating any odd or special events, episodes, attitudes or acts. Here is how we may explain it. Someone who acts with a certain intention acts for a reason: he has something in mind that he wants to promote or accomplish. A man who nails boards together with the intention of building a squirrel house, or think that he ought to (no doubt for further reasons) and he must believe that by nailing the boards together he will advance his project (Davidson, 2001, p. 83).

If a person intends to build a squirrel house and begins by nailing two boards together, then the action can be said to be a reflection of the intention if it is either perceived or described as such. But the intention and its consequences are not made correct simply by description or perception, and this is especially true when we move on to our online lives. The connection between the intention and the consequences of the action depends on whether there is comity between the two and in how our online actions play out in our offline worlds is even more difficult to ascertain. Just as two boards may represent a step in the building of a squirrel house, for instance, it does not follow that the relationship between intention and the action is intrinsically fixed but is instead a result of our description or perception of it. When we are online, it is even easier to describe the consequences of our intentions with the outcome we desire because it is often difficult, if not impossible, to even know the full effects of what we have done. Yet, as Davidson explains, we continue to think about our agency as effecting a cause despite the difficulty of discerning the relationship: Causality is central to the concept of agency, but it is ordinary causality between events that is relevant, and it concerns the effects and not the causes of actions (discounting, as before, the possibility of analyzing intention in terms of causality). One way to bring this out is by describing what Joel Feinberg calls the “accordion effect,” which is an important feature of the language we use to describe actions.

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A man moves his finger, let us say intentionally, thus flicking the switch, causing a light to come on, the room to be illuminated, and a prowler to be alerted. This statement has the following entailments: the man flicked the switch, turned on the light, illuminated the room, and alerted the prowler. Some of these things he did intentionally, some not; beyond the finger movement, intention is irrelevant to the inferences, and even there it is required only in the sense that the movement must be intentional under some description. In brief, once he has done one thing (move a finger), each consequence presents us with a deed; an agent causes what his actions cause (Davidson, 2001, p. 53).

In Tunisia, for instance, Anonymous was praised for its denial of service (DDoS) attacks and the distribution of anonymizing software TOR to Tunisian blogger Slim Amamou because this online activism was framed in terms of the democratic goals with which it was described. Similarly, in Egypt, Telecomix organized and informed Egyptians using chat rooms, wikis, and collaborative writing tools to provide associational space for political opposition in support of governmental resistance. When Internet and mobile services were cut off in Egypt, Telecomix worked to send information to Egyptian fax numbers that had been found on Google. The groups involved in this online activism are quick to describe their efforts as democratic and in support of First Amendment freedoms, but this is just one conceptual framework. The global activism of groups such as Anonymous has been celebrated by some as signaling the beginning of a new kind of anarchy across the globe, transcending the usual geographical basis of state dominion. The idea being that state sovereignty would be eroded by these transterritorial anonymous actors in a new form of globalization that would undermine governments and their control. Ironically, however, the opposite might actually be true. The ability of the Internet to transcend physical space has not stopped geographical bordering of the Internet in accordance with what might be understood as traditional state interests. In fact, it is becoming obvious that states have been able to regulate the Internet despite its transcendence of territorial limits and predictions that globalizing norms would undermine state sovereignty. Even more troubling, the threats of these nonstate actors making use of the Internet to effect extraterritorial change is prompting nation-states to police the Internet with renewed vigor and surveillance. Additionally, there is the question of whether the actions taken by groups such as Anonymous or Telecomix as nonstate actors are problematic in international relations from a legal and political point of view. There is also the significance of frameworks of evaluation where the immediacy of the “good” overtakes other normative considerations.

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When an attack was directed at the Westboro Baptist Church by the group Anonymous, some celebrated the attack because the antigay message of the church was offensive. From this narrow perspective on the “good,” the description of the intent and causal disposition can be heralded, but there is also the consideration of the broader principles of First Amendment freedoms. The attack on the Westboro church limited the free expression of an organization that, despite the disagreement with their message, was deserving of protection according to a constitutional analysis. The description we give to the causal disposition may be riddled by mistake or counterintuitive to the broader ends we seek to achieve. Errors in judgment. Miscalculations. Plans gone wrong. Just as two boards nailed together do not make a squirrel house, so too DDoSing does not make a democracy. We can give our reasons, but it does not a cause make: . . . when we explain an action, by giving the reason, we do redescribe the action; redescribing the action gives the action a place in a pattern, and in this way the action is explained. Here it is tempting to draw two conclusions that do not follow. First, we can’t infer from the fact that giving reasons merely redescribes the action and that causes are separate from effects, that therefore reasons are not causes. Reasons, being beliefs and attitudes, are certainly not identical with actions; but more important, events are often redescribed in terms of their causes. Second, it is an error to think that because placing the action in a larger pattern explains it, therefore we now understand the sort of explanation involved. Talk of patterns and contexts does not answer the question of how reasons explain actions, since the relevant pattern or context contains both reason and action. One way we can explain an event is by placing it in the context of its cause; cause and effect form the sort of pattern that explains the effect, in a sense of “explain” that we understand as well as any. If reason and action illustrate a different pattern of explanation, that pattern must be identified (Davidson, 2001, p. 10).

Davidson illustrates how our intentions can go wrong even according to our own description of causes by using the example of an individual who would like to make a tasty stew, which is used here to demonstrate the disjunction between the intention and the mistakes that can be made along the way with regard to the consequences intended. Consider that someone intends to make a stew (preserve First Amendment freedoms) and they believe parsley is the key to a tasty stew (hacking Scientology for suing those responsible for the reposting of embarrassing Tom Cruise videos), but they put in sage (destroying a website) instead of parsley (protesting without the damage of property): There must be such rationalizing beliefs and desires if an action is done for a reason, but of course the presence of such beliefs and desires when the action is

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done does not suffice to ensure that what is done is done with the appropriate intentions, or even with any intentions at all. Someone might want tasty stew and believe sage would do the trick and put in sage thinking it was parsley; or put in sage because his hand was joggled. So we must add that the agent put in the sage because of his reasons. This “because” is a source of trouble; it implies, so I believe, and have argued at length, the notion of cause. But not any causal relation will do, since an agent might have attitudes and beliefs that would rationalize an action, and they might cause him to perform it, and yet because of some anomaly in the causal chain, the action would not be intentional in the expected sense, or perhaps in any sense. We end up, then, with this incomplete and unsatisfactory account of acting with an intention: an action is performed with a certain intention if it is caused in the right way by attitudes and beliefs that rationalize it (Davidson, 2001, p. 79).

Because of mistake, miscalculation, or erroneous beliefs and attitudes, we act with an incomplete understanding of the causal chain or overarching pattern of influences. Our “because” is not always accurate in the reasons and descriptions we give, and nowhere is this truer than in cyberspace, where time and space separate our reasons from their causal disposition. Where there is a relationship between intentions and beliefs and actions taken, the consequences might be in direct conflict with the intentions and beliefs because of mistake of the causal dispositions. In the preceding example, Anonymous sought to protect First Amendment expression in light of Scientology’s efforts to take down an embarrassing Tom Cruise video. The actions taken, however, were in contravention of the First Amendment, the very principle that they intended to preserve. Oftentimes our intentions are not the product of deliberation and reason but rely instead on our attitudes and beliefs. We form a logical connection among our intentions, attitudes, and beliefs and the actions taken, but it does not necessarily reflect an accurate assessment of the relationship among them. When we are online, it is even difficult to measure the accuracy with a corrective perception: We cannot suppose that whenever an agent acts intentionally he goes through a process of deliberation or reasoning, marshals evidence and principles, and draws conclusions. Nevertheless, if someone acts with an intention, he must have attitudes and beliefs from which had he been aware of them and had the time, he could have reasoned that his action was desirable (or had some other positive attribute). If we can characterize the reasoning that would serve, we will in effect have described the logical relations between descriptions of beliefs and desires and the description of an action, when the former give the reasons with which the latter was performed (Davidson, 2001, p. 85).

There are several ways in which the phenomenological effect of social networking technologies might distort the relationship between our

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intentions and beliefs and their causal disposition. The first is how one intentional action can be multiplied in its effect online that is not necessarily a factor considered when an individual forms the intention to act online. In the case of DDoSing the Church of Scientology, there were thousands behind the effort. The individual acts were only significant in the context of many. Only the sheer numbers attacking the Church of Scientology’s website had the effect of bringing it down. Any one action is negligible, but when amassed, the many are powerful. Inversely, the effects of such an attack, because of the inability to assess the numbers of participants, also blurs the assessment of moral responsibility not only because of the number of individuals involved but also because one action would not have the same consequence. It is impossible to know how many might be involved in action taken, and there is also the anonymity behind which the action is shielded. All of these factors lead to a lack of moral responsibility for the action by those who engage in the action. The difficulty of ascertaining the consequences of our intentions shifts the emphasis on the intentions and beliefs as the principle upon which we base the assignment of our moral responsibility instead of the consequences. The emphasis is a consequence of the inability to associate our intentions and beliefs with their causal disposition. There is also difficulty in proving our intentions and beliefs incorrect. Davidson uses the example of a man starting a war with the intention of ending all wars to illustrate the irony but also the lack of reasonable relationship between the intention and the action taken. The second-order desire formed (starting a war to end all wars) reflects of one set of rational principles around which morality is organized even if it is demonstrably false or unreasonable. Our beliefs and desires define the reasonableness of the intention and the action taken.  We learn something about a man’s reasons for starting a war when we learn that he did it with the intention of ending all wars, even if we know that his belief that starting a war would end all wars was false. Similarly, a desire to humiliate an acquaintance may be someone’s reason for cutting him at a party though an observer might, in a more normative vein, think that that was no reason. The falsity of a belief, or the patent wrongness of a value or desire, does not disqualify the belief or desire from providing an explanatory reason. On the other hand, beliefs and desires tell us an agent’s reasons for acting only if those attitudes are appropriately related to the action as viewed by the actor. To serve as reasons for an action, beliefs and desires need not be reasonable, but a normative element nevertheless enters, since the action must be reasonable in the light of the beliefs and desires (naturally it may not be reasonable in the light of further considerations) (Davidson, 2001, pp. 83–4).

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The man who begins a war to end all wars can be shown his faulty reasoning. He may assume a show of power will dissuade anyone else from starting a war. Or the war he begins will be so devastating it will destroy all of the military capabilities of his enemies. In the end, however, the counterfactual reasons for his miscalculations and his intentions and beliefs and their causal disposition can be shown to be incorrect. Can the same be said of our online activities? The mistake consists in thinking that when the description of an event is made to include reference to a consequence, then the consequence itself is included in the described event. The accordion, which remains the same through the squeezing and stretching, is the action; the changes are in the aspects described, or description of the event (Davidson, 2001, p. 58).

Cyberspace creates a unique problem because we are able to separate the normative elements of our intentions and beliefs from their causal disposition, either because it is impossible to know or it is difficult to assess how our actions might coalesce with those of others. We tend to separate these two elements that underpin moral responsibility, not only because they are divided by time and space but because we are creatures of attitudes and beliefs upon which we act, sometimes with errors in judgment that requires us to check the miscalculations we may make, something very difficult to do, and especially so in cyberspace. We may, in other words, overestimate or underestimate the causal disposition of our intentions in our descriptions and our assessments of them: The salient point that emerges so far is that we must distinguish firmly between causes and the features we hit on for describing them, and hence between the question whether a statement says truly that one event caused another and the further question whether the events are characterized in such a way that we can deduce, or otherwise infer, from laws or other causal lore, that the relation was causal. “The cause of this match’s lighting is that it was struck. Yes, but that was only part of the cause; it had to be struck hard enough, etc.” We ought now to appreciate that the “Yes, but” comment does not have the force we thought. It cannot be that the striking of this match was only part of the cause, for this match was in fact dry, in adequate oxygen, and the striking was hard enough (Davidson, 2001, pp. 155–6).

Reconsidering Moral Responsibility and Blameworthiness If it is difficult to determine the causal disposition of our intentions and beliefs when we are online, does it follow that all hope for moral

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responsibility is lost? Not quite. As Smiley explains, moral responsibility depends upon our social and political practices and the responses we craft to “actual tensions, problems and crises that characterize our collective life” (Smiley, 1992, p. 21). Even if social networking technologies mediate our attitudes and intentions and affect their causal dispositions in ways that are at odds with our usual method of assigning moral responsibility, it does not follow that moral responsibility is lost. The answer is in the description of our moral responsibility and assumptions of blame where contracausal freedom and its causal disposition are not the essential criteria. This redefinition of moral responsibility and blameworthiness is necessary because the phenomenological effects of social networking technologies alter our normative reasons for our choices and actions and distort their causal disposition. We may absolutely agree, for instance, that attacking someone online is immoral and blameworthy, but we may not describe our actions as crossing this line because our focus on the immediacy of the normative reasons we use to justify our actions and with little belief our actions have such consequences. On the one hand, we can explain the harms of trolling someone online, but we may not conclude our actions (posting a comment or attacking someone online) results in a similar harm and makes us morally responsible. The problem is one of description and explanation rather than an absence of a true causal connection: Discussions of explanation may also suffer from confusion about how sentences are related to events. It is sometimes said, for example, that when we explain the occurrence of an event, we can do so only under one or another of its sentential descriptions. In so far as this remark reminds us of the essential intentionality of explanation, it is unexceptionable. But a mistake may lurk. If what we are to explain is why an avalanche fell on the village last week, we need to show that conditions were present adequate to produce an avalanche. It would be confused to say we have explained only an aspect of “the real avalanche” if the reason for saying this lies in the fact that what was to be explained was itself general (for the explanandum contained no mention of a particular avalanche). We might instead have asked for an explanation of why the avalanche fell on the village last week. This is, of course, a harder task, for we are now asking not only why there was at least one avalanche, but also why there was not more than one. In a perfectly good sense the second explanation can be said to explain a particular event; the first cannot (Davidson, 2001, p. 171).

The difficulties of matching our descriptions and explanation to consequences are not confined to cyberspace, of course. Yet, moral responsibility does not necessarily have to rely upon the proof of causation to establish blameworthiness if a pragmatic approach is adopted

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where the boundaries of community rather than voluntariness are central to the assignment of moral responsibility: In the case of moral responsibility, we need to focus not only on the conceptual apparatus that has evolved to support it, namely, free will, but on the set of reactive attitudes and norms of behavior that it originally evolved out of and now shapes, namely, those associated with the blame (Smiley, 1992, p. 25).

This approach to moral responsibility is not inconsistent with our philosophical tradition and instead requires a change in emphasis. Even Aristotle does not entirely focus on the factual determinants of blameworthiness to establish moral responsibility: Aristotle refers to his approach to the student of moral responsibility as scientific, he does not set out to discover the conditions under which individuals are, in a purely factual sense, morally blameworthy for having brought about harm. Instead he tries to distill out of our social practice of blaming the conditions under which we conceive of individuals as acting in a blameworthy fashion (Smiley, 1992, p. 38).

It is possible, in other words, to consider the conditions under which we consider individuals blameworthy not as a matter of causation but according to the judgments we make about human suffering. Where it is difficult to anticipate a comment or lulz leading to a suicide, for example, the problem is in our need to establish causation before moral responsibility is assigned. This requirement is even more problematic when the hermeneutical and embodiment effects of social networking technologies may distort our comprehension of the causal disposition of our choices and actions, undermining our sense of moral responsibility in the process. Consider that the First Amendment requires an evaluation of the causal link between inflammatory speech and the actual intent to incite imminent lawless action. If there is a causal link between the intent and the imminent lawless action, then moral and legal responsibility are assigned to those who cause the harm. If the speech cannot be shown to causally incite actual lawless action, then the First Amendment freedoms prevail. There are obvious difficulties we face in trying to bring these standards to bear in cyberspace. For one thing, as Citron explains, the usual distinctions we make between expression and action in real time and space may be altered in such a way that makes the legal standard unworkable and nonsensical: . . . the Internet’s very essence is to aggregate expressions so as to convert them into actions. Some Internet behaviors that are akin to the offline crimes of breaking and entering and vandalism – hacking and denial-of-service attacks – are accomplished

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by sending communications to other computers. Moreover, the Internet’s powerful aggregative capacity converts seemingly individual expressions (e.g., visiting a website or sending an e-mail) into criminal acts through their repetition (e.g., denial-of-service attacks and image reaping). The Internet also routinely allows individuals to aggregate their efforts with strangers. Thus, the fact that someone may not know the identity of a thief or rapist who uses posted personal information does not eliminate the danger, because the poster knows that such predators may put the information to malicious use (Citron, 2009, p. 99).

Conclusion The current policy debate is at an impasse because the discussion is stymied between those who advocate in favor of First Amendment rights such as free speech and anonymity and those who contend we need to temper harmful online behavior such as cyber bullying, digilantism, threats, racism, and terrorism. Whether we are trying to protect First Amendment freedoms or regulating the bad behaviors taking hold on social media, however, there is little progress to be made without a consideration of phenomenological effects of social networking technologies on our intentions and beliefs and their causal disposition in cyberspace. Despite the differences, we have treated the elements of human agency in cyberspace much like we have in real time and space even if the consequences are distinct. The end result is difficulty in effecting any change on the bad behavior we seek to address because of a dichotomy of the present debate that pits regulations against First Amendment freedoms. The consequences of this divide are not insignificant. As Stanley Fish reminds us, if we only concern ourselves with the substantive agenda we seek to advance, the end result, ironically, is a loss of First Amendment freedoms even if it is the one thing we seek to preserve: Free speech is just the name that we give to verbal behavior that serves the substantive agendas we wish to advance; and we give our preferred verbal behaviors that name when we can, when we have the power to do so, because in the rhetoric of American life, the label “free speech” is the one you want your favorites to wear. Free speech, in short, is not an independent value but a political prize, and if that prize has been captured by politics opposed to your purposes, it can no longer be invoked in ways that further your purposes, for it is now an obstacle to those purposes (Fish, 1994, p. 102).

The preservation of First Amendment freedoms in the context of social media requires more than simply regulating away the bad behavior or, alternatively, eschewing regulation. By doing one or the other without understanding the effects of the technology on us, we risk the long-term

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loss of freedom on the Internet because we are not fully addressing the source of the problems we face. Our use of social networking technologies is not only viewed through the lens of First Amendment freedoms or the regulation of harms but should include an understanding of the phenomenological effects that result in harm, not as a function of blameworthiness or moral responsibility as a causative effect. The problem is a matter of description and how we explain (or deny) the effects of our agency and our sensibilities about moral responsibility when we are online. As Smiley explains, if we are able to modify our usual assumptions about moral responsibility to account for the social and political considerations, then the focus can be expanded beyond cause as the criterion for blameworthiness. The reasons for performing an action can be better than those that we currently give. To answer that we are not morally responsible for the harm we cause on social media because we did not intend or understand the consequences does not provide the better reasons: Why would anyone ever perform an action when he thought that, everything considered, another action would be better? If this is a request for psychological explanation, then the answers will no doubt refer to the interesting phenomena familiar from most discussions of incontinence:  self-deception, overpowering desires, lack of imagination, and the rest. But if the question is read, what is the agent’s reason for doing a when believes it would be better, all things considered, to do another thing, then the answer must be: for this, the agent had no reason. We perceive a creature as rational so far as we are able to view his movements as part of a rational pattern comprising also thoughts, desires, emotions, and volition (Davidson, 2001, p. 42).

Apropos to the point made by Davidson, the reasons we give for performing an action should be the better reason. Yet, how do set out to change the reasons we give for our choices and actions? Better in the sense used by Smiley turns on the consideration of human suffering and our judgments of moral responsibility for it. Using the example of apartheid in South Africa, Smiley suggests that it is possible to redefine the moral responsibility of American capitalists for apartheid by reconsidering the definitions of the social and political roles with which we begin and the moral boundaries of community we ascribe. In the case of apartheid in South Africa, American capitalists, for example, bear little causal, and therefore moral, responsibility. The description of causal responsibility, Smiley points out, begins with a particular definition of the social and political roles of capitalists that prescribes a set of facts that defend our judgments about moral responsibility or the lack thereof (Smiley, 1992, p. 259). If we were to begin with

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different expectations of the social and political roles of capitalists, for instance, we would also change the basis of our moral judgments. Smiley explains: Presumably, if we were to do so in the apartheid case, we would have to ask ourselves questions like: “What is the proper role of American capitalists?” “What sorts of things can we expect capitalists to take into consideration when making their investments?” “Do they need to think about the social consequences of investing in a foreign country?” “Do they need to think about South African blacks as part of their community of concern?” (Smiley, 1992, p. 259).

A shift in our thinking could also potentially change our judgments about moral responsibility when we are using social media. Currently our approach for regulating against harm on social media precludes a consideration of the mediating effects of social networking technologies on our intentions and beliefs and the causal disposition of them. Instead, the focus is on regulating (when we are able) against those individuals we can identify as causing the harm  – no easy fix given the range of ways it is possible to obscure our identity – and ignoring a range of bad behavior we are willing to allow with the intent on preserving the First Amendment and privacy. This approach to social networking technologies presumes certain facts to be significant for our judgments about moral responsibility, but they may not be the only ones. We should consider, for instance, the human suffering that occurs on a wider scale on social media and its causes as our starting point, which up until this point has not focused on the phenomenological effects of social networking technologies on the choices we make and the actions we take. And, as will be discussed in the next chapters, the normative reasons we give for the actions we take are not inconsequential to who we are becoming, not only in our online lives, but in our offline lives as well. We must ask the more difficult question of “what for?”

4 Time Consciousness and the Specious Present of Social Media

John and Kelly Halligan lost their thirteen year old son, Ryan, to suicide on October 7, 2003. At the time of his death, Ryan was a student at a middle school in Essex Junction, Vermont. After Ryan’s death, it was revealed that he was ridiculed and humiliated by peers at school and on-line. Ryan father writes: “A few days after his funeral I logged on to his AOL IM account because that was the one place he spent most of his time during the last few months. I logged on to see if there were any clues to his final action. It was in that safe world of being somewhat anonymous that several of his classmates told me of the bullying and cyber bullying that took place during the months that led up to his suicide. The boy that had bullied him since 5th grade and briefly befriended Ryan after the brawl was the main culprit. My son the comedian told his new friend something embarrassing and funny that happened once and the friend (bully) ran with the new information that Ryan had something done to him and therefore Ryan must be gay. The rumor and taunting continued beyond that school day . . . well into the night and during the summer of 2003” (Halligan, n.d.).

The Importance of Time Did the schoolmates of Ryan anticipate their instant messages would lead to his suicide, and does the asynchricity of time when we are online have anything to do with it? The central question considered in this chapter is whether the phenomenological effects of social networking technologies alter our sense of time consciousness and, in doing so, influence the moral quality of our actions and decisions and ultimately who we are online. Time consciousness and moral judgment are inextricably linked. Moral responsibility is a function of contemplation of our actions, not temporally isolated in the present, but in consideration of the effect of 122

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our decisions and actions on others with a view toward the past and future. In short, freedom and responsibility for our actions depend on the structure of temporality because it forces us to consider a longer perspective on our existence and our responsibility to humankind. Eco explains: My possibilities of choosing or not choosing a future depend upon acts already accomplished, and they constitute the point of departure for my possible decisions. And as soon as I  make another decision, it, in turn, belongs to the past and modifies what I am and offers another platform for successive projects. If it is meaningful to put the problem of freedom and of the responsibility of our decisions in philosophical terms, the basis of the discussion and the point of departure for a phenomenology of these acts is always the structure of temporality (Eco, 1979, pp. 112–13).

As discussed in the previous chapter, the normative reasons we give for our decisions and actions are affected by the how we perceive and experience the phenomena we encounter online and influenced by the roles and relationships we adopt in relation to it. But the phenomenological effects of social networking technologies do not stop here. These same technologies also influence the structure of temporality within which we make our choices and decisions and evaluate our moral responsibility for them. This change occurs because the temporal modes of the present, past, or future form the noematic aspects, or “what is experienced as experience” (Ihde, 1986, p.  43), while noetic description concerns the modes of consciousness, such as perception, recollection, and retention of phenomena. Social networking technologies as a medium alter the noetic stance (the directional aspect of consciousness) and bracket our perception of the noematic aspects (the intentional meaning) of phenomenon. Moral judgment figures into this calculation because our sense of responsibility depends upon our perception of past, present, and future and how our decisions and actions and those of others are evaluated relative to them. Networked Time The digital network is a virtual space but also a shared space, raising questions about how this shared virtual space transforms the structure of temporality, the phenomena we encounter within it, and our reactions to it. While there is a great deal of focus on the spatial effects of cyberspace and questions about whether it brings us psychologically closer despite our geographic distance from one another, there is comparatively less consideration paid to time consciousness when we are online. The

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lack of attention paid to time and how our practice may be influencing it is understandable. We tend to think about time (or not think about it) as a backdrop to everything else. As J. T. Fraser explains, “the experience of time’s passage is intimately familiar. Present, future, and past and the flow of time appear to be simple, obvious aspects of the natural world. Trying to explain to someone who does not already know what is meant by the passage of time is not simply difficult, but seemingly impossible (Fraser, 2003). Still, from the construction of human life around the rhythm of nature to the industrial revolution and capitalism to the arrival of networked time, our understanding of time has changed and so too the social, political, and cultural patterns organized around it. Historically, we moved from a notion of time that was dependent upon nature to the modern period, which was marked by the “rationalizing” of time and the power of the clock: Work, everyday life, the running of the economy, and the philosophical and political foundations of the era all rested increasingly on a specific and narrow perspective of what time was – and that was represented through the eternal and rigidly mathematical time expressed on a clock face (Hassan, 2007, p. 9).

By the latter part of the twentieth century, another transition was prompted as the relevance of the “grand narratives” of modernity introduced reflection on the relative nature of time once again. Pierre Bourdieu’s theory of practice, for instance, questioned a scientific metaphysics of time that “considers history either as a pregiven reality, a thing in-itself, previous and external to practice, or as the (empty) a priori framework for every historical process’’ (Bourdieu, 2000, p. 206). Turning the idea of rational time on its head, Bourdieu explains that “practice is not in time but makes time” (Bourdieu, 2000, p.  206). The idea that time is transformed by human practice is an ongoing facet of postmodern society, but networked time might even be more transformative of our praxis than ever before with the arrival of social media. Much has been written about how “individuals, industries, applications, and processes combine to produce a growing virtual dimension to our lives” (Hassan, 2007, p.  41). The main focus for the debate concerns “globalization” as it is applied to the Internet and its ability to contract “space and distance at a distance through ICTs (information and communication technologies)” (Hassan, 2007, p. 41). Beyond the spatial transformations, however, there are significant consequences to account for in the structure of temporality in networked time and how it affects our sense of rationality and morality.

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The structure of temporality produced by information and communication technologies is described as connected asynchronicity or “contextcreated temporal experience,” which is far different than the clock time that preceded it (Hassan, 2007, p. 52). Information networks, of course, act as another form of artificial temporality. Through them humans now create a virtual time and space. Networks may be seen as a kind of temporal ecology outside the centripetal force of clock time. People from any point on the globe can communicate in something approaching “real time” through video or email, voice and so on, creating a temporal context where what the local time of the clock reads is of no importance (Hassan, 2007, p. 10).

Castells, for example, describes the transition to virtual reality as timeless time, “a dominant form of social time in the network society” (Castells, 1996, p. 465): On the one hand, instant information throughout the globe, mixed with live reporting from across the neighborhood, provides unprecedented temporal immediacy to social events and cultural expressions. To follow minute by minute in real time the collapse of the Soviet State in August 1991, with simultaneous translation of Russian political debates, introduced a new era of communication, when the making of history can be directly witness, provided it is deemed interesting enough by the controllers of information. Also computer-mediated communication makes possible real-time dialogue, bringing people together around their interests, in interactive multilateral chat writing (Castells, 1996, p. 491).

The importance of simultaneity and timelessness, from the perspective of Castells, is that “selective domination is exercised through the selective inclusion and exclusion of functions and people in different temporal and spatial frames,” the main consequence of which is a transformation in global capitalism (Castells, 1996, p. 465). The topic considered in this chapter, however, moves from Castell’s focus on the effects of virtual reality on the “perturbation” of things, by which he means phenomena are compressed and displaced by timelessness and simultaneity, to consider whether a change in the structure of temporality and the phenomena encountered within it transforms our moral sensibilities by putting the emphasis on a perpetual present. While it is tempting to understand time and perception of phenomena as objective categories, the focus of this inquiry is on the relationship between the structure of temporality and what Ihde (1986) calls the phenomenological “I,” which “takes on its significance with things, persons, and every type of otherness it may meet” (Castells, 1996, p. 51). Because the “things, persons,

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and every type of otherness” we encounter via social networking technologies are compressed and displaced and separated from their real-time and space referents, the emphasis is put on the phenomenological present. The consequences are not unimportant for reconsidering our approach to the immoral behavior occurring online.

Rethinking the Approach to Immorality In current debates about how to counter cyber bullying, revenge porn, or simply a growing incidence of insolent behavior online with the use of social networking technologies, the question of technological mediation on the noetic stance and the noematic aspects is not addressed. We assume our technologies are only a neutral means to our ends. Similarly, time is viewed as an unimportant backdrop to what we experience, perceive, say, or do. We are not, in other words, self-consciously attentive to what is occurring in our experience with social networking technologies because of our assumptions about the neutrality of technology. While prior discussion of networked time focused on our experience of it, the purpose here is to consider how social networking technologies actually structure temporality and, in doing so, influence the way we perceive the things, people, and otherness we come across while online and transform the phenomenological “I” we become, especially when it comes to our moral sensibilities. This approach to social networking technologies requires moving from our underlying assumptions about our relationship with technology to a phenomenological analysis that takes the “I” to be a correlated counterpart of the noema. As described by Ihde, this step requires moving from the “straightforward” experience to a reflexive analysis of it: Analysis moves that which is experienced towards its reflexive reference in the how of experience, and terminates in the constitution of the “I” as the correlated counterpart of the noema. The “I” is a late arrival in the phenomenological analysis. In this respect phenomenological analysis is the inverse of introspective analysis. The “I” is arrived at not directly, but by way of reflexivity. An introspective ego or “I” claims direct, immediate and full-blown self-awareness as the initial and given certain. In phenomenology, the “I” appears by means of and through reflection upon the phenomena that in toto are the world (Ihde, 1986, pp. 50–1).

Coming to terms with the structure of temporality and how it is influenced by social networking technologies involves “thinking about experience which presupposes some other form of experience as its noema,

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and some kind of distance in order to thematize that experience” (Ihddhe, 1986, p. 47). Instead of focusing on how we use social networking technologies to engage in bad behavior or, alternatively, concentrating our efforts on regulating cyber bullying, revenge porn, and the like, we need to turn our attention to the mediating effects of the technology on us and how we might be affected. The difficulty of changing the focus of the inquiry is not only a function of the persistence of the subject–object dichotomy when it comes to our relationship with technology; it is also due to the fact that we find ourselves in a phase of competing temporalities or clashing temporalities, where elements of embodied time persist and infiltrate our descriptions and understanding. The descriptions we use to describe time are not inconsequential. Between the language of embodied time and virtual time, there are vast distinctions: Cause and effect, linearity, spatiality, invariability, stability, clarity and precision are not being replaced but have alongside and superimposed contrasting temporal principles such as instantaneity, simultaneity, networked connections, ephemerality, volatility, uncertainty as well as temporal multiplicity and complexity (Adam, 2003, p. 74).

We assume symmetry between the two languages of time because, like our sense of time, our categories of description operate in the background, but in actuality, are constitutive of our understanding. In the case of time consciousness, however, the language of embodied time might be a factor contributing to our misunderstanding of human behavior in networked time: Merleau-Ponty notes that we live in a world where la parole is taken for granted and used effortlessly – “The intersubjective, linguistic world no longer fills us with wonder. . ..” (PP, p. 214) – by men unconscious of all that is contingent in expression and communication. To escape the superficiality and naivete of this view, we must go back to the origins of language and rediscover the silence beneath the sounds of words, then describe the gesture which breaks that silence, and see that la parole implies its own world (Lewis, 1966, p. 28).

Descriptions based in the categories and assumptions that reference embedded time when we describe our relationship with social networking technologies reflect “what counts as evidence, and what counts in how that evidence is obtained”(Ihde, 1986, p. 53). We may miss, for example, the significance of social networking technologies in influencing the structure of temporality within which we encounter things, persons, and otherness, which, in turn, shape our decisions, actions, and, more importantly, our assignment of moral responsibility. That the past, present, and

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future are significant to our sense of morality and our relationship with humanity is obvious. As Eco describes, “the subject situated in a temporal dimension is aware of the gravity and difficulty of his decisions, but at the same time he is aware that he must decide, that it is he who must decide, and this process is linked to an indefinite series of necessary decision making that involves all other men” (Eco, 1979, pp.  933–4). At a juncture where there is a transition from embodied time to virtual time, there is also a need to rethink our basic assumptions about how we experience time and its related consequences for us and our moral sensibilities. The relationship between phenomenology and our sense of time consciousness in networked time begins with some of its earlier philosophical foundations because it is here our assumptions lie.

The Debate Goes On and On Time consciousness has been the subject of philosophical investigations since, well, the beginning of time. Philosophers have long debated the best way to take account of the role of the mind and perception on our understanding of time, investigating the comprehension of phenomenon across the present, past, and future. Saint Augustine was one of the first to raise questions about our perception of time, as he attempted to reconcile what he perceived as incommensurability between our experience of time and that of Eternity. Augustine introduces the doctrine of Presentism to explain our lived experience of time, suggesting that since the past never truly exists and the future has not yet come into existence, all that remains is the present, leaving our soul to make sense of the past in the form of memories and the future or, the expectation for the future. Augustine explains his doctrine of Presentism in this way: What now is clear and plain is, that neither things to come or past are. Nor is it properly said, “there be three times, past present and to come:” yet perchance it might be properly said, “there be three times: a present of things past, a present of things present, and a present of things future.” For these three do exist in some sort, in the soul, but otherwhere do I not see them; present of things past, memory; present of things present, sight; present of things future, expectation (Gale, 1968, p. 44).

Augustine’s doctrine of Presentism identified the important issue that would continue to plague philosophers when it came to the perception of the past, present, and future: the nature of time and whether it was subjective or objective, universal or perspectival, and, perhaps

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more importantly, what role the mind played in constructing time. For Augustine, the nature of time was “nothing other than extendedness; but extendedness of what I do not know. This is a marvel to me. The extendedness may be of the mind itself.” Saint Augustine identified a central relationship between the mind and the experience of past, present, and future that was further explored by philosophers such as John é. Locke, for example, tried to provide an answer to the connectivity of temporal “presents” that was necessary for constructing coherency by suggesting that the connectivity of the past, present, and future was the product of our mind. He posited that it was the ability of the human mind that, upon reflection, could connect successive ideas in what he called a “train of ideas,” creating a relationship between one idea and another creating the duration of ideas. Locke writes in the Enquiry (1690): It is evident to anyone who will but observe what passes in his own mind, that there is a train of ideas which constantly succeed one another in his understanding, as long as he is awake. Reflection on these appearances of several ideas one after another in our minds is that which furnishes us with the idea of succession: and the distance between any parts of that succession, or between the appearance of any two ideas in our minds, is what we call duration (Locke, 1690/1970, chapter XIV, 3).

Locke’s “train of ideas” depended upon the mind to make sense of the succession of ideas across time, which he called duration. Kant also shared this perspective when, in his Inaugural Dissertation of 1770, he wrote that the mind played an integral role in sustained perception. He writes: Space is not something objective and real, nor a substance, nor an accident, nor a relation; instead, it is subjective and ideal, and originates from the mind’s nature in accord with a stable law as a scheme, as it were, for coordinating everything sensed externally (Kant, 1770, Ak 2: 403).

While Kant acknowledged that our mind played a role in perception, he also adhered to something he called the “transcendental unity of apperception” that maintains a separation between the external or things outside of us or “mind-independent” things. Still, it was William James who began to carve out the indeterminacy of our subjective internal consciousness to explain how the experience of the world outside of us was constructed not outside of us, but by us. As he explains, our memory fills the content of time: Let one sit with closed eyes and, abstracting entirely from the outer world, attend exclusively to the passage of time, like one who wakes, as the poet says, “to

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hear time flowing in the middle of the night, and all things moving to a day of doom.” There seems under such circumstances as these no variety in the material content of our thought, and what we notice appears, if anything, to be the pure series of durations budding, as it were, and growing beneath our indrawn gaze. Is this really so or not? The question is important, for, if the experience be what it roughly seems, we have a sort of special sense for pure time – a sense to which empty duration is an adequate stimulus; while if it be an illusion, it must be that our perception of time’s flight, in the experiences quoted, is due to the filling of the time, and to our memory of a content which it had a moment previous, and which we feel to agree or disagree with its content now (James, 1890, p. 619).

William James, widely understood to be one of the founding fathers of psychology, questioned the logical consequences of Locke’s theory of a “train of ideas.” James believed that if ideas and phenomena were experienced by our consciousness in isolation from one another it would be a bit like a “a glow-worm spark, illuminating the point it immediately covered, but leaving all beyond in total darkness” (James, 1890, p. 606). Instead of a “train of ideas” or a “glow-worm spark,” which would require successive states of consciousness, James posited that “internal perception” or memory would make perceptions into a more meaningful coherent whole. The “internal perception” also includes the past, which is constructed around the association of objects or “direction” of the objects that we perceive in the present. These objects or “direction” of the object from the past influence our perception of the present, creating what James calls a “constant feeling sui generis of pastness, to which every one of our experiences falls prey.” It is because of the fleeting nature of the present moment and its inability to retain a semblance of separateness from the past and future that leads James to describe the present as the “specious present” a term taken from E. R. Clay, whom he quotes at length: The relation of experience to time has not been profoundly studied. Its objects are given as being of the present, but the part of time referred to by the datum is a very different thing from the conterminous of the past and future which philosophy denotes by the name Present. The present to which the datum refers is really a part of the past – a recent past – delusively given as being a time that intervenes between the past and the future. Let it be named the specious present, and let the past, that is given as being the past, be known as the obvious past. All the notes of a bar of a song seem to the listener to be contained in the present. All the changes of place of a meteor seem to the beholder to be contained in the present. At the instant of the termination of such series, no part of the time measured by them seems to be a past. Time, then, considered relatively to human apprehension, consists of four parts, viz., the obvious past, the specious present, the real present, and the future. Omitting the specious present, it consists of three

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. . . nonentities – the past, which does not exist, the future, which does not exist, and their conterminous, the present; the faculty from which it proceeds lies to us in the fiction of the specious present (James, 1890, p. 609).

With the idea of the “specious present,” an idea to which I will return, James warns that perceptions of the present should not be thought of as a sharp line from which the past and the future can be distinguished. Instead, our perception of time and space is part of a continuum that stretches across past, present, and future and is a product of our internal consciousness. He writes: The present is not a knife-edge, but a saddle-back with a certain breadth of its own on which we sit perched, and from which we look in two directions into time. The unit of composition of our perception of time is a duration, with a bow and a stern, as it were – a rearward – and a forward-looking end. It is only as parts of this duration-block that the relation of succession of one end to the other is perceived. We do not first feel one end and then feel the other after it, and from the perception of the succession infer an interval of time between, but we seem to feel the interval of time as a whole, with its two ends embedded in it (James, 1890, p. 610).

James introduces the indeterminate nature of perception in the present, suggesting that neither is an objective or universal category so that our understanding of the present, past, and future as well as the phenomena within these time brackets are influenced by the directional aspects of individual consciousness. In this way, the present and what is encountered within it is best understood as the “specious present” because of the influence that is brought to bear on our perception of it by our internal consciousness, which also informs our perception of the past and our imagined future. The idea of the “specious present,” which took account of the variables of internal perception or consciousness and the comprehension of time and space, was a departure from the understanding of each that came with the empiricism of the Enlightenment, where time was represented in relationship to the physical sciences and possessed an objective quality. The Enlightenment ideal, which seemed to be a good fit for the physical sciences, was not as neatly applied to other categories of knowledge. Henri Bergson, for instance, questioned the notion of time that was at the heart of a debate taking place between those who believed in free will and those who supported a theory of determinism. Bergson believed the debate about free will was stymied because of the insistence of precise distinctions in language that required “us to establish between our ideas the same sharp and precise distinctions, the same discontinuity, as

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between material objects.” While there was usefulness in requiring precision in practical life and in the sciences, he questioned whether difficulties were created in philosophy because of the same insistence from “our placing side by side in space phenomena which do not occupy space, and whether, by merely getting rid of the clumsy symbols round which we are fighting, we might not bring the fight to an end” (Bergson, 1910, p. xix). As a solution, he introduced the idea of durḗe to explain how the mind played in integral role forming “both the past and the present states into an organic whole, as happens when we recall the notes of a tune, melting, so to speak, into one another” (Bergson, 1910). With the concept of durḗe, Bergson intended to shed light on how the experience of intensity was not necessarily caused by the number and nature of causes  – these were more important to understanding the physical world. Instead, “thinking in duration” made sense of phenomena without knowing its cause or magnitude because of the subjective experience of phenomena that are “within us and not outside.” He wrote: . . . in the immense majority of cases, we decide about the intensity of the effect without even knowing the nature of the cause, much less its magnitude indeed, it is the very intensity of the effect which often leads us to venture an hypothesis as to the number and nature of the causes, and thus to revise the judgment of our senses, which at first represented them as insignificant. And it is no use arguing that we are then comparing the actual state of the ego with some previous state in which the cause was perceived in its entirety at the same time as its effect was experienced. No doubt this is our procedure in a fairly large number of cases; but we cannot then explain the differences of intensity which we recognize between deep-seated psychic phenomena, the cause of which is within us and not outside. On the other hand, we are never so bold in judging the intensity of a psychic state as when the subjective aspect of the phenomenon is the only one to strike us, or when the external cause to which we refer it does not easily admit of measurement (Bergson, 1910, p. 3).

Bergson’s suggestion is that the cause and effect that characterized the Enlightenment approach to knowledge about the physical world was distinct from the way in which the mind comprehended phenomena across time. This point highlights the role of consciousness in constructing the relationship between our sense of time and the phenomena we encounter, challenging the Enlightenment ideal of objectivity to which we aspired. The idea of intensity is also important to our reaction to online content, where the emphasis is on the present but where our internal consciousness fills in the meaning where it is absent, whether true or not.

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The centrality of our internal consciousness in constructing the passage of time in relation to phenomenology was developed in greater dimension by Husserl, who, like Bergson, did not accept the idea that time was derived from Enlightenment categories of objectivism and positivism. The subjective processes, such as the element of intensity described by Bergson, generated unique and unquantifiable qualities because of the capacity of internal consciousness and its perceptive qualities. Husserl makes use of the concept of internal consciousness to explain how we construct the continuity of experience, or living present, which refers to “something futural and back to something past” (Husserl, 1966, p. 133). For Husserl, both phenomena and time are a function of the subjective quality of our experience that we can mistakenly take to be objective: Let us look at a piece of chalk. We close and open our eyes. We have two perceptions, but we say of them that we see the same piece of chalk twice. We have, thereby, contents which are separated temporally. We also can see a phenomenological, temporal apartness (Auseinander), a separation, but there is no separation in the object. It is the same. In the object there is duration, in the phenomenon, change. Similarly, we can also subjectively sense a temporal sequence where Objectively a coexistence is to be established. The lived and experienced content is “Objectified,” and the Object is now constituted from the material of this content in the mode of apprehension. The object, however, is not merely the sum or complexion of this “content,” which does not enter into the object at all. The object is more than the content and other than it. Objectivity (Objektivitat) belongs to “experience,” that is, to the unity of experience, to the lawfully experienced context of nature (Husserl, 1966, p. 27).

With this example, Husserl means to convey that our experiential perception of objects in the world falls short of perceiving the object in its totality even though the object does of course exist in totality. Despite the limited experience of “the lived and experienced content our lived experience is ‘Objectified,’ and the Object is now constituted from the material of this content in the mode of apprehension” (Husserl, 1966, p. 27). Our internal time consciousness formulates the past and future from the lived experience of the object in the present. The “immanent temporal object appears in a continuous flux,” not as a function of the properties of the object, but rather because our consciousness allows temporal duration to recede much like distance allows for the details of the object to fade or the sound of music to recede. Husserl writes, “its temporal point is unmoved, but the sound vanishes into the remoteness of consciousness; the distance from the generative now becomes even greater. The sound

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itself is the same, but ‘in the way that’ it appears, the sound is continually different” (Husserl, 1966, p. 45). Perception is affected by the “giveness” of the present because of the past and our recollections and the emphasis on the “pure now” results in a tendency to forget that the act of perceiving is “an act which brings something other than itself before us, an act which primordially contaminates the Object.” This point is an important one for understanding the distortion of our moral sensibilities when our internal consciousness is influenced by the giveness of the present when we are online without an ability to consider the past antecedents or future consequences of what we experience or perceive on the screen. Heidegger shifts Husserl’s emphasis on the present and internal consciousness to a longer perspective on time and its intimate relationship with the nature of Being. Being in the world, or Dasein, is not only a form of intentionality located in the present as is described by Husserl, but is a result of the effects of the past and the future on Dasein’s relation to the world. The relationship time has with Dasein is intimately connected and ontologically similar because Being is worldly and temporal and only manifests itself over time. Factical Dasein exists as born; and, as born, it is already dying, in the sense of Being-towards-death (Heidegger, 1962, p, 374). This is to say that time is a transcendental condition that allows Dasein’s potential to be realized in the future but within the constraints of the context-bound past grasped in the present. Because of this distinction, Heidegger believed two forms of time were relevant to Being. Worldtime represented the structure of the world events within which people organized and lived their lives, while ordinary-time was represented by clock time around which human practices were organized. Time, in either case, however, was ultimately dependent upon Dasein and its originary temporality, which represented both world-time and ordinary-time. In this sense, originary temporality is the structure for Dasein, not in an existential manner but for the purposes of meaning for Being (Dreyfus and Wrathall, 2008). Heidegger’s insight into the close relationship Being and time share ontologically is relevant to the structure of temporality that exists when we are online. Who we are, in other words, is dependent upon a spatiotemporal structure. The absence of a spatiotemporal structure in our online interactions is oftentimes heralded as the hallmark of networked time, enabling us to interact globally. Still, Dasein’s originary temporality is contingent on both world-time and ordinary-time. If networked time alters ordinary-time and world-time and the practices organized around it, are there consequences for Dasein in relations to its structure of originary temporality? The potential ramifications for a

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change in the structure of temporality on Being is that we do not experience “things or persons” in their own spatiotemporal context. This lack of context also has consequences for Being because “life potentially becomes a constant pursuit of fleeting engagements with the categories of interesting or entertaining, or boring, leading to a kind of nihilism which puts everything on a par in terms of relevance or importance” (Miller, 2015, p.  28). The limited experience of embodiment, temporality, and spatiality results in a reduced form of Being – the consequences of which are clear for our moral sensibilities. The effects of this change in temporal structure on us may not be readily apparent to us even though we exist within it because, as Merleau-Ponty discussed, the subject is the origination of time. This lack of awareness about time is the case because ”all our experiences, inasmuch as they are ours, arrange themselves in terms of before and after, because temporality, in Kantian language, is the form taken by our inner sense, and because it is the most general characteristic of ‘psychic facts’ ” (Merlou-Ponty, 1962, p. 476). Rather than something that is external to us, our sense of time is a product of our subjectivity formed in the context of a phenomenological structure within which it is experienced. The emphasis on subjectivity for understanding time consciousness is meant to shift the focus away from the “thing in themselves” for the meaning of temporality to our own imposition of past, present, and future. We may describe the passage of time and events that occur, but it does not follow that the sequence of events is dictated by the objective world. The example of a river describes the importance of the emphasis: We say that time passes or flows by. We speak of the course of time. The water that I see rolling by was made ready a few days ago in the mountains, with the melting of the glacier; it is now in front of me and makes its way towards the sea into which it will finally discharge itself. If time is similar to a river, it flows from the past towards the present and the future. The present is the consequence of the past, and the future of the present. But this often repeated metaphor is in reality extremely confused. For, looking at the things themselves, the melting of the snows and what results from this are not successive events, or rather the very notion of event has no place in the objective world (Merlou-Ponty, 1962, p. 477).

The perspective we have on time is in relation to our subjective experience of the world and phenomena around us. We define the events that we believe have happened and the future that will occur based on our worldly understanding of the present. But our understanding of events is  representative of finite observation limited by our present perspective and cannot account for the “spatiotemporal totality of the objective

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world” only available to the finite observer, who, unless we can establish a god’s eye view, which from our limited perspective, we cannot acquire: When I say that the day before yesterday the glacier produced the water which is passing at this moment, I am tacitly assuming the existence of a witness tied to a certain spot in the world, and I am comparing his successive views: he was there when the snows melted and followed the water down, or else, from the edge of the river and having waited two days, he sees the pieces of wood that he threw into the water at its source. The “events” are shapes cut out by a finite observer from the spatiotemporal totality of the objective world. But on the other hand, if I consider the world itself, there is simply one indivisible and changeless being in it. Change presupposes a certain position which I  take up and from which I  see things in procession before me:  there are no events without someone to whom they happen and whose finite perspective is the basis of their individuality (Merlou-Ponty, 1962, p. 477).

In real time and space, our experience of the succession of past, present, and future is subject to the limits of our spatiotemporal vantage point from which we make judgments about the objective world. We can “test” our assumptions about past and future in relation to our experience in the present. By throwing a piece of wood into the stream, for instance, we can test whether or not our perspective on the flow of the river over time was correct. If the wood showed up downstream the next day, then we could assess whether we were correct about the future flow of the river. Our sense of the passage of time is dependent upon our assessment of the phenomena by testing our assumptions because we lack the benefit of a finite point of view: Time is, therefore, not a real process, not an actual succession that I am content to record. It arises from my relation to things. Within things themselves, the future and the past are in a kind of eternal state of pre-existence and survival; the water which will flow by tomorrow is at this moment at its source, the water which has just passed is now a little further downstream in the valley. What is past or future for me is present in the world. It is often said that, within things themselves, the future is not yet, the past is no longer, while the present, strictly speaking, is infinitesimal, so that time collapses (Merlou-Ponty, 1962, p. 478).

Subjectivity and the Passage of Time These past philosophical insights about the central role of subjectivity in constituting the meaning of time in reference to the phenomena encountered puts the emphasis not on “the thing” but on our own understanding of present, past, and future in relationship to it. In spatiotemporal reality, our understanding of the past and future is influenced by our experience of the phenomenological present, but verifiable with

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successive points of observation and tests of the past and future. When we are online, however, our phenomenological experience of the present is isolated from the past and future from which we are separated spatially and temporally. This phenomenological emphasis on the present or “specious present”  – lacking in depth, divorced from the past and future, and perpetually accessible  – influences our subjective understanding of time but also shapes our moral judgments. When we are online, we are privy to the constant present (presence) of the image and the text separated from its spatiotemporal referents, which causes time to collapse on the horizon of our morality. Virtual reality explodes with images of the present in order to make it permanent and defies the usual structure of temporality while cultivating an intensity of reaction noted by Bergson. This “archive fever” reflects the tendency to archive the present with the counterintuitive effect of giving the present an artificial presence separate from its context (Derrida and Stiegler, 2002). But the effect of this emphasis on the “present” also affects us and our subjective judgments about it. Consider the range of reactions to even a simple image of a polar bear you might come across on the screen and take note of how the conscious imposition of time makes for different meaning: The photographer catches this bear, huge and agile, mid-leap between patches of ice, form a bridge over black water. What was the picture meant to capture? Perhaps it was just the slightly perilous present moment in the life of this particular bear, caught in a freeze frame, a present become history through the delay of photography. Perhaps the picture is a metaphor for the genuinely perilous future for all these bears and for the increasing fragility of the ice on which they depend for survival (Murphie, 2007, p. 122).

We are left to our own devices (literally) to construct the meaning of the images or text on the screen without any ability to know the real present these features represent or the past or future in relation to them. The picture of the bear leaping possesses no meaning in isolation. The meaning is imposed by what we make of “the links to its immediate past and future, in the ‘extended’ now or duration of the leap as an event” (Murphie, 2007, p.  122). And when we are online, of course, we are subject to the influence of the description imposed on the content to which we are exposed. Recently, a picture of a thin and struggling polar bear went viral on social media and was cited as an example of global climate change. The picture of the starving bear, however, was experienced without actual context or any means of verifying the reasons for the starving bear and

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was instead put into the political frame of environmental activism, while generating all of the emotions connected to it.  While prior discussions of time consciousness centered on the phenomenology of perception in the context of spatiotemporal reality, networked time presents new challenges for our understanding time consciousness because of the “field of presence.” The field of presence, which informs our sense of time, especially when we are online, is shallow in its phenomenological depth because of the mediating effects of social networking technologies and is disconnected from our experience of the past and future. Our understanding of time is a product of our interactions with the field of presence. In the case of the picture of the starving polar bear, the field of presence is admittedly shallow, but it does not stop us from filling in how the bear achieved this condition or what it might mean in relation to global climate change:  It is in my “field of presence” in the widest sense  – this moment that I  spend working, with, behind it, the horizon of the day that has elapsed, and, in front of it, the evening and night – that I make contact with time, and learn to know its course (Merlou-Ponty, 1962, p. 483).

The consequences of the field of presence we encounter when online are significant for the phenomenological “I” because our decisions, actions, and considerations of morality and blameworthiness are evaluated in relation to it and our conscious construction of the past, present, and future. It does not matter, in other words, whether the polar bear in the picture was starving because of global climate change because in our minds, we assume it to be true:  It is indeed true that I should be incapable of perceiving any point in time without a before and an after, and that, in order to be aware of the relationship between the three terms, I must not be absorbed into any one of them: that time, in short, needs a synthesis (Merlou-Ponty, 1962, p. 481).

Here our absorption into the online present might cloud our judgment of past and future upon which our judgments depend. As Eco describes, “my temporality is my freedom, and on my freedom depends my ‘Beinghaving been,’ which determines me. But, in its continuous synthesis with the future, the content of my ‘Being-having-been’ depends on the future” (Eco, 1979, p. 933). Only with these phenomenological consequences of networked time in mind can we better understand how our internal consciousness is affected, altering our moral judgments in reference to the presence of the present.

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Specious Present and the Other The phenomenological shallowness and temporal isolation of the field of presence and specious present we encounter online do not stop us from filling in the meaning of its phenomenological depth The predisposition of our internal consciousness to make sense of the past and future from our limited perspective on the present is not only a function of our online lives. We are prone as humans to infer from our subjective experience an objective reality and the “other” from our limited experience with the “specious present.” Husserl, in fact, suggested that our incomplete mode of perception might result in a dogmatic or prejudicial approach to the world and the phenomenological data and subjects encountered in it if we were not aware of our own limitations in fully comprehending phenomenological depth. He emphasized that we must temper our propensity to seek the objectification of these temporally isolated lived experiences because “they belong in the world of things and psychical subjects and have their place therein” (Husserl, 1966, p.  29). Out of our lived experience, Husserl encouraged us to adopt a horizon of transcendental attitude according to which we delimit what is our own understanding, and in doing so, attempt to formulate a broader understanding of what we consider the “Other.” Because the Other is not only a physical thing (like chalk) but also is in the world by virtue of distinct lived experiences.  Our shared yet distinct lived experiences, rather than being a liability, could also be used to broaden the explanation of moments noemetically: In changeable harmonious multiplicities of experience I experience others as actually existing and, on the one hand, as world Objects not as mere physical things belonging to Nature, though indeed as such things in respect of one side of them. They are in fact experienced also as governing psychically in their respective natural organisms. Thus peculiarly involved with animate organisms, as “psychophysical” Objects, they are “in” the world. On the other hand, I experience them at the same time as subjects for this world, as experiencing it (this same world that I experience) and, in so doing, experiencing me too, even as I experience the world and others in it. Continuing along this line, I  can explicate a variety of other moments noematically (Husserl, 1960, p. 91).

The ideal described by Husserl is that our experience of the Other presents an opportunity to broaden our own limited noetic stance with the lived experience of those around us, which ideally results in an expansion of our subjective experience by virtue of our knowledge of subjective experiences of others. In an ideal sense, these shared experiences could

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then be used to counter our own limited experience upon which we base our assumptions about the world and others around us. He explains: . . . the characteristic of belonging to the surrounding world, not merely for others who are also given at the particular time in actual experience, but also for everyone, the characteristic of being there for and accessible to everyone, of being capable of mattering or not mattering to each in his living and striving, a characteristic of all Objects belonging to the phenomenal world and the characteristic wherein their otherness consists should not be overlooked, but rather excluded abstractively (Husserl, 1960, p. 95).

While this ideal is difficult to achieve in real time and space, it may be even more difficult in virtual reality, where the phenomenological depth is shallow as is the subjective experience organized around it. The ironic result is though we share our experiences online as Husserl might have expected, the noemtic stance of our cumulative shared experiences is lacking the value of context, which limits its benefit of broadening our understanding.  The hope was that the worldwide web would advance this Husserlian ideal of sharing our experiences into a shared knowledge of the whole, but the reality might be, unfortunately, far different and, at its worse, detrimental. Consider a description of trolling given by Paul Partyvan and how the victim of lulz is described and how the action that followed is justified: Being obscene for shock value can only go so far. You have to interact with the people you are trolling. Twist their words, respond to their comments, etc. They get even angrier when you point out the flaws in their argument. And you can make them absolutely rage when you start getting inside their heads. Either by selecting a line of attack based on their previous responses (suicides go to hell for religious types) or trying to guess aspects of their lives based on their profiles. The things that hurt the most are the comments grounded in truth. Ones that echo the thoughts of whoever you are trolling, bringing up the doubts that haunt them every day (Phillips, 2015, p. 35).

In the preceding description, there is a remarkable level of detachment and abstraction in the self-described behavior of the troll and their account of the victim, coupled with a disturbing intent to hit where it hurts the most to evoke the greatest reactions and generate the most lulz. As described by Phillips, lulz is cyclical and references its victim and itself and little more. It is an “us” versus “them” marked by those who engage in lulz on the one side and those who are on the receiving end on the other side. Phillips describes the origin of lulz as “trolls laugh[ing] themselves into existence and sustain[ing] this existence through further

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laughter” (Phillips, 2013, p. 31) and little more. For example, the suicide of Mitchell Henderson became lulz because of the amusement generated by a grammatical error posted first on Henderson’s MySpace page and subsequently linked to a MyDeathSpace page that a handful of trolls found amusing. This amusement was then amplified when it was discovered that Henderson had lost his iPod and a troll speculated that the lost iPod was a factor in his decision to commit suicide. Thus a teenager committing suicide becomes a source of lulz by virtue of the abstraction, putting symbols into different relationships by (mis)understanding of the referent, for example, the lost iPod and suicide. What represents a complex human affair of loss and despair is transformed into lulz, a singular phenomenological dimension that transforms the Other into something that lacks human quality. The transformation of the Other is made worse by the way in which lulz is allowed to become the organizing principle for the virtual behavior, which seems oblivious of the consequences. In this way, the practice of lulz creates a phenomenological abstraction of what is taking place, excluding consideration of other ways in which the situation or Others might be apprehended and affected. In the case of Henderson, the loss of the iPod impossibly caused the teenager to commit suicide, a counterintuitive meaning associated with a tragic result and leading to a notion of absurdity that in turn is humorous, but only if one is able to set aside the lived experience of the actual death of a young person and the tragedy experienced by his family. Lulz imposes its own meaning on the event by those who participate in it, abstracting the Other and condensing the phenomenological depth. In this way, our online interactions, rather than creating a closeness and a shared experience, are (re)creating us in our worst form. The preceding example is an extreme one, but I would suggest that on any given day, a Twitter feed results in the same kind of cruel behavior without a care for the consequences. The explanation for this response is obviously more complex than simply assuming that trolls (or we) are bad people. Instead, the phenomenological “I” as a correlated part of the noema, which has a spatial and temporal context, means our noetic stance not only has consequences on the phenomena we observe but also has consequences for us (Ihde, 1986, p. 50). If social networking technologies bracket the “things, persons, or otherness” that we experience when we are online, there is shallowness to the phenomenological emphasis that in turn affects our sense of time consciousness that possesses a detrimental effect for the judgments we make morally speaking. Whether it is textual, an image, or a tweet, the emphasis is put on only the shallowness

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of the present experience and the abstraction of the phenomena from the past and future, which also affects the subjectivity of the observer, or in Ihde’s words, the phenomenological “I.”  Recall that when Husserl describes our experience of chalk, the partiality of observation in the present defines the totality of existence of that which is seen from a subjective point of view, be it person or object. This point is important to the accuracy of our perceptions because we tend to fill in the past and the future with all the potential fallibilities of our mind. As Husserl warned, our perception of the present contaminates our understanding of the object, person, or otherness to its detriment, but also that of our own, and “precludes our fullest human and embodied experience” (Garza, 2002, p.  193). Social networking technologies can result in an incomplete mode of apprehending phenomena, encouraging the phenomenological “I” to default to dogmas and prejudices to complete missing parts of the past and the future to which we do not have access online. The consequences for the freedom we experience on the Internet are not insignificant. Lisa Nakamura suggests that some view the Internet as “a mass medium and has lost some of its potential as a space for transgression, expression, and reinvention of mass images of race, gender, and identity” (Nakamura, 2008, p. 184).

Finding Fulfillment in Isolated Space Where phenomenological depth is shallow and time consciousness distorted by the specious present, there are clear implications for how we may experience moral responsibility for the “Other,” but it may be other consequences beyond poor moral judgment for which to account. Baudrillard, for instance, hypothesized that the potential effects of a networked reality was a reduction of human experience to the screen where body, landscape, and time disappear and ideal principles of a human scale are replaced by the remote sovereignty of the machine: Each person sees himself at the controls of a hypothetical machine, isolated in a position of perfect and remote sovereignty, at an infinite distance from his universe of origin. Which is to say, in the exact position of an astronaut in his capsule, in a state of weightlessness that necessitates a perpetual orbital flight and a speed sufficient to keep him from crashing back to his planet of origin (Baudrillard, 1983, p. 128).

Here, the specious present of virtual reality can result, according to Baudrillard, in the “miniaturization, telecommand and the

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microprocession of time, bodies and pleasure.” Baudrillard’s descriptions harken back to Husserl to describe a private universe as alienating, separating us from the world and others: In any case then, within myself, within the limits of my transcendentally reduced pure conscious life, I experience the world (including others) and, according to its experiential sense, not as (so to speak) my private synthetic formation but as other than mine alone [mirfremde], as an intersubjective world, actually there for everyone, accessible in respect of its Objects to everyone. And yet each has his experiences, his appearances and appearance-unities, his world-phenomenon; whereas the experienced world exists in itself, over against all experiencing subjects and their world-phenomena (Husserl, 1960, p. 91).

The virtual world largely exists according to our subjective experience, which may not only diminish our lived experience of others, but can also lead to perversions in the type of online relationships we strike with others as we seek out ways to counter the feelings of isolation and aloneness that are a result of our wired connections. Studies demonstrate the obvious effect of wired time and show that increased Internet interactions have the effect of increasing the sense of isolation and aloneness (Sanders, Diego, and Kaplan, 2000). Ironically, however, we tend to satisfy the isolation and aloneness with more time spent with our social media and our devices, leading us not to the sort of connectivity that we desire. We try to recreate attachments, in other words, not through our real-time relationships, but in our online communities, which may, in turn, be defined by nothing more than organizing with other “citizens of the Internet” and not citizenry in a larger sense of the word. One troll described the experience: When I am around other “citizens of the Internet” (i.e. trolls and other people who I recognize as Internet people), I go through that (same) fracture between my internet and real life persona. When I am with my friends, I act in a similar fashion as I do on the internet, but when I am not around other internet people, I revert to my soft-spoken, calm, and somewhat shy personality . . . Since we all are experienced with how language transforms on the internet, we can easily bracket each other’s words in this way (Phillips, 2015, p. 35).

When we are online, we may experience alienation and isolation, but we also might experience more intense and negative reactions as well. A 2013 study, from Beihang University in Beijing, of Weibo, a Twitter-like site, for instance, found social media promotes the spread of anger (Fan and Chen, 2014). The study suggested that those who experience outrage on the Internet receive validation of their beliefs from others in reaction to something that is a shared experience. The reaction can be particularly

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powerful when the outrage is organized around an image or perceived wrongdoing that can be accessed and experienced over and over again. Recall the killing of Cecil the lion, of Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park, by Walter Palmer, a dentist from the United States. The image of Cecil was promoted widely on both Facebook and Twitter and fomented moral outrage, eventually leading to the shutdown of Palmer’s website and dental practice. But hate and the Internet are strange bedfellows. The Wiesenthal Center’s Digital Hate and Terrorism project has identified more than ten thousand hate and terrorist websites, hate games, and other Internet postings. In an online environment where there is little oversight, expressions of hate can easily spread quickly and can escalate because of the perpetual presence of the image or words on the screen (Simon Wiesenthal Center, 2009). And an analysis issued in 2015 by the think tank Demos found that on average around 480,000 racial slurs are tweeted every month. Compare that figure to just 10,000 three years ago. The question is, why is hate on the rise when we are online and does the altered temporality when we are online have anything to do with it? There are different perspectives on the reasons behind our hateful or immoral behavior toward one another when we are online. For example, Vallor identifies four key dimensions of the Aristotelian theory of the good life, which connects human flourishing to complete friendships, including considerations of virtue, reciprocity, empathy, self-knowledge, and the shared life. While there is potential for online friendships to develop along these lines, she argues that social media cannot fully achieve the Aristotelian notion of complete and virtuous friendship by themselves (Vallor, 2012). The principles of our moral behavior as laid out by Aristotle in the Niomachean Ethics depend upon the capacity to recognize that other individuals have needs, interests, and rights.  The difficulty of applying these Aristotelian maxims to our online worlds is connected to the kinds of relationships we create when our online presence is disembodied. In real time and space, every physical thing has its own determinable place and temporality, and our experience of it is similarly located in a shared spatiotemporal reality, and this assumes our morality is tied to our actual knowledge of the Other. The lack of spatiotemporal relational phenomenological presence when we are online may affect the way we form our moral judgments because of the consequences of disembodiment or the difficulty of creating the bonds of friendship with people about whom we know little. But there is also an oddity to these Internet relationships. 

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These relationships represent a “zero origin” that serves as the basis of our judgment located in a culture of a group or a community. Ricoeur explains that “just as my body is the zero origin from which I consider all things, my community is the zero member of the human community” (Ricoeur and Embree, 1967, p. 138). Indeed, whereas human beings as well as all the physical things of the world exist in a world of time, when we are online we live in a kind of eternal present with other citizens of the Internet where the organizing principles of the community are the phenomena to which we are exposed generating intense reactions and relationships despite disembodiment and an absence of complete friendships. For “citizens of the Internet,” the collapse of time horizons and spatial relationships can result in a very strong sense of morality organized around a phenomenological experience that is narrowed spatially and temporally. That we are not located physically within this zeroorigin community does not diminish the strong sense of morality we experience as a result of the phenomena we encounter online. Indeed, it may even be a stronger sense of a moral imperative, but it is a morality that lacks a horizon in spatiotemporal reality. Significantly, because of this, the morality of the Internet community might result in an immoral consequence. Consider the case of the Impact Team, whose hacking was organized for a “moral” cause. In 2015, the Impact Team released the data of millions of people who had signed up on AshleyMadison.com to engage in extramarital affairs. The list included names and addresses and identified the sexual desires of the users. When hackers released the data, they did so with a message: “Learn your lesson and make amends. Embarrassing now, but you’ll get over it.” One of those people whose data were released was named John Gibson. He was a father, a husband, a pastor, and seminary professor. On the same day his affair was revealed, John Gibson killed himself. The hackers might have intended to expose a form of immorality, but in doing so they committed another moral wrong. The Moral Consequences of Connectivity in Cyberspace The moral consequences of our virtual connectivity rests on a combination of a perpetual phenomenological present coupled with a reduction in the friction of distance. The immediacy of the phenomena on the screen combines, perhaps dangerously, with our ability to organize our actions instantaneously around a moral imperative absent a spatiotemporal

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context, blinding us to the consequences of our behavior. The limits of our noetic stance that emphasizes the present and not the past and future. The more and more we connect in this way, however, the more alienated we may become. The images and text we experience and the virtual communities organized around the phenomena ultimately shape the direction and intensity of the moral and political judgments we adopt with an emphasis on the present and the intensity of the emotion it triggers. Here the “centre of real time supersedes the centre of real space in historical and political importance. Wherever the nodal of interactive telecommunication over the central of active communication, the intensive definitely towers over the extensive” (Virillio, 1997, p. 135; emphasis in the original). The perpetual present accessible with social networking technologies is not only an intensification but is an electric present that is “all-powerful and all-seeing now” We occupy this “all-powerful and all-seeing now” in concert with those who are occupying the same viewpoint on the phenomena, who then become the “zero origin” of our community (Ricoeur and Embree, 1967, p. 138). The fluid space of the Internet allows a variety of moral or immoral positions that lack synchrony and perspective from the longer view on humanity: They get to choose the extent to which their statements match their personal beliefs, they get to establish that they’re just trolling . . . Targets of trolling, on the other hand, are expected to take trolls at their word, and are only trolled harder if they resist. Consequently, trolls exercise what can only be described as pure privilege – they refuse to treat others as they insist on being treated. Instead, they do what they want, when they want, to whomever they want, with almost perfect impunity (Phillips, 2015, p. 26).

The coupling of this emphasis on the morality of the moment results in a moral judgments that result in a false sense of universality organized on a principle or a target that tends to ignore any other moral vantage point. Recall that the Anonymous attacks on Scientology were organized in short periods of time around the takedown of the Tom Cruise video. Anonymous went on the attack after an anonymous post ignited a firestorm: I think its time for /b/ to do something big. People need to understand not to fuck with /b/ and talk about nothing for ten minutes and expect people to give their money to an organization that makes absolutely no fucking sense. I’m talking about “hacking” or “taking down” the official Scientology website. It’s time to use our resources to do something we believe is right. It’s time to do something

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big again, /b/ Talk amongst one another, find a better place to plan it and then carry out what can and must be done. It’s time /b/ (Coleman, 2014, p. 55).

Coleman describes this call to arms as the lightning rod for activism, but from the perspective of those involved the first moral imperative of the attack, in fact, was self-described “motherfuckery”: The unified bulk of anonymous collaborated through massive chat rooms to engage in various forms of ultra coordinated motherfuckery. For very short periods of time between January 15th and the 23rd, Scientology websites were hacked and DDoS’ed to remove them from the Internet. The Dianetics telephone hotline was completely bombarded with prank calls. All black pieces of paper were faxed to every fax number we could get our hands on. And the “secrets” of their religion were blasted all over the Internet. I also personally scanned my bare ass and faxed it to them. Because fuck them (Coleman, 2014, p. 58).

Coleman and others trying to make sense of the event grafted a familiar narrative onto the event to construct a moral imperative that resonated with broader political, legal, and moral paradigms. Hacking of the website became a First Amendment protest. The barrage of faxes sent to the organization in response to Scientology’s efforts to remove a video of Tom Cruise was an act of resistance to the suppressions of a First Amendment freedom. But the normative origin of the attack formed in the present moment was nothing more than lulz directed at a powerful organization. Still, for others who participated, it was nothing more than a prank. Time consciousness figures into the description we give; however. Coleman puts the event into a paradigm that portrays the activism as consistent with other historical forms. Those engaged in the activism nevertheless tell a different story. The morality of the moment or “motherfuckery” was the basis around which the activism was organized. This contrast in narrative speaks to the importance of our own time consciousness influencing the moral choices we make.  While the attacks on Scientology were to many not dire, other instances of online “activism” are far worse. After the killing of Michael Brown by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, for example, Anonymous posted a YouTube video calling for a “National Day of Rage” to protest the shooting. Anonymous’s National Day of Rage coopted a previously planned protest, the National Moment of Silence, and further detracted from the original movements by claiming to know the identity of the

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police officer who shot Brown, which it did not. Yet, the action taken by Anonymous was heralded as heroic despite or, more aptly put, in spite of the consequences that followed. Narratives of Time and Morality Time consciousness is central to our moral judgments because of the consequences we perceive and the justifications we give for our decisions and actions in relation to one another. While our abstraction of past and future in relation to our moral judgments are admittedly problematic in real time and space, in our virtual lives the specious present predominates and our morality suffers because of it. Bourdieu describes the dangers of this type of abstraction on our understanding: This uncertain abstraction is also a false abstraction which sets up relationships based upon what Jean Nicod calls “overall resemblance” (Nicod 1961:  43–4). This mode of apprehension never explicitly limits itself to any one terms it links, but takes each one, each time, as a whole, exploiting to the full the fact that two realities are never entirely alike in all respects but are always alike in some respect, at least indirectly (that is, through the mediation of some common term) (Bourdieu, 1990, p. 88).

Yet, in our consideration of the problems we are facing with our use of social networking technologies, for example, we do not acknowledge the importance of time consciousness constructed around the phenomena we encounter online. We instead rely upon a narrative that adheres to the assumptions of a spatiotemporal reality rather than a virtual one, and it has consequences for our moral judgments and the justifications we give for them as well. Any change of the temporal structure or modification in tempo should acknowledge the potential consequences for our practice, and as we increasingly rely on networked time for our interactions, communications, and transactions, we have yet to acknowledge the consequences for us: Practice unfolds in time and it has all the correlative properties, such as irreversibility, that synchronization destroys. Its temporal structure, that is, its rhythm, its tempo, and above all its directionality, is constitutive of its meaning. As with music, any manipulation of this structure, even a simple change in tempo, either acceleration or slowing down, subjects it to a destructuration that is irreducible to a simple change in an axis of reference. In short, because it is entirely immersed in the current of time, practice is inseparable from temporality, not only because it is played out in time, but also because it plays strategically with time and especially with tempo, either acceleration or slowing down, subjects it to a destructiveness (Bourdieu, 1990, p. 81).

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We may not so far have accounted for the changes in tempo or its effect on the meaning of our practice because we do not acknowledge the mediating influence of social networking technologies on our temporal structure, which causes us to be similarly unaware of the transformation of our moral praxis. We assume symmetry between our spatiotemporal existence and experience and virtual reality where there might be extreme differences between the two. Our narrative references our straightforward experience, which focuses our attention differently than the reflexive experience. Ihde explains the distinction: In my description of chopping wood as a straightforward experience, the most dramatic aspect was the involvement with a range of things concentrated into what appeared, reflectively, as a pattern of relationships. While chopping wood, my perceptual attention is concentrated upon the piece of wood to be cut. The piece of wood absorbs my attention and stands out from the entire environment around me. This is not to say that the piece of wood is all that remains in my awareness, but only that it forms the focal core. I may secondarily be aware of the ax and the aim directed through it – but, if I am a skilled wood chopper, this will be barely noticeable (Ihde, 1986, p. 49).

The straightforward experience is what first stands out to us, especially when trying to negotiate the policy implications of social networking technologies. We use the technologies so we control them, the usual adage goes. The reflexive approach to this question attends to a different consideration – not the bad behavior, but the phenomenological effects of social networking technologies on us. “The analysis begins with what appears (noema) and then moves reflexively towards its how of appearing” (Ihde, 1986, p. 50; emphasis in the original). There is a need to move the narrative from our straightforward experience to a focus on the reflexive to capture the changes in the structure of temporality on our moral judgments when we are online. We narrate the issues we face with social networking technologies, in other words, with a familiar story that denies a critical perspective on that which we take to be objective reality unchanged from the mediating effects of social networking technologies. This “ritual practice” leads to a difficulty in adopting a different narrative from our current one: Ritual practice performs an uncertain abstraction which brings the same symbol into different relationships by apprehending it through different aspects, or which brings different aspects of the same referent into the same relationship of opposition. In other words, it excludes the Socratic question of the respect in which the referent is apprehended (shape, colour, function, etc.), thereby

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obviating the need to define in each case the criterion governing the choice of the aspect selected and, a fortiori, the need to keep to that criterion at all times. Because the principle opposing the terms that have been related (for example, the sun and the moon) is not defined and usually comes down to a simple contrariety, analogy (which, when it does not function purely in the practical state, is always expressed elliptically – woman is the moon) establishes a relation of homology between relations of opposition (man:woman:  sun:moon) which are themselves indeterminate and overdetermined (hot:cold male:female day:night), applying generative schemes different from those that can be used to generate other homologies into which one or another of the terms in question might enter (man:woman:: east:west or sun:moon::dry:wet) (Bourdieu, 1977, p. 112).

Just as there is a narrative about social networking technologies that perpetuates the dichotomies of privacy versus First Amendment concerns and the subject–object relationship with technology, there is also a narrative of time and moral judgments we use to makes sense of the immoral human behavior to which social networking technologies have given rise. In each case, however, the narration we are creating might not be accurate. While narrative is oftentimes used to describe the organization of temporal events, it may even be more powerful (and potentially destructive) when it imposes temporal organization on the asynchrony of our virtual lives. A plot contributes to our understanding of the complexity of narrative but also lends coherence between the past and the temporal description of what happens in time even if it is not accurate: . . . the art of narrating does not merely exist within – time - ness from being leveled off by measured anonymous and reified time, it also generates the movement back from objective to originary temporality. In this way the plot does merely establish human action in time, it also establishes in its memory. And memory in turn repeats – re-collects – the course of events according an order that is the counterpart of the stretching along of time between a beginning and an end. The question therefore is whether we may go so far as to say that the function of narrative or at least of a selected group of narratives is to establish human action at the level of authentic historicality, that is, of repetition (Ricoeur, 1980, pp. 183–4).

The current narrative we have adopted to describe the origins and remedies for our online behavior is no small problem when it comes to the moral problems we face with social networking technologies. The mediating effects of social networking on our sense of time consciousness influence the moral judgments we make when we virtually coalesce around and then disperse from isolated moral and political targets. We

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suffer from the problem of an altered structure of temporality without an awareness of it because the specious present of the moral and political target defines the morality and the ethics instead. But this presents a problem. Freedom and responsibility for our actions depend on a longer perspective on responsibility and the existence of freedom. Umberto Eco explains: Sartre writes that “the past is the ever-growing totality of the in-itself which we are.” My possibilities of choosing or not choosing a future depend upon acts already accomplished, and they constitute the point of departure for my possible decisions. And as soon as I  make another decision, it, in turn, belongs to the past and modifies what I am and offers another platform for successive projects. If it is meaningful to put the problem of freedom and of the responsibility of our decisions in philosophical terms, the basis of the discussion and the point of departure for a phenomenology of these acts is always the structure of temporality (Eco, 1979, pp. 112–13).

It was thought that the Internet could liberate us and remove us from the temporal restrictions of who we are and the lives we have made and allow our mythical selves to be free. But if we become accustomed to an ever-continuing present in which our moral judgments take shape from a temporally narrow point of view, we may also forget the need for “the possibility of planning, the necessity of carrying plans out, the sorrow that such planning entails, the responsibility that it implies, and, the existence of an entire human community whose progressiveness is based on making plans” (Eco, 1979, pp. 113–14).  Our mythical self is not liberated if there is no contemplation of what liberation means in reference to its past and to its future and, perhaps more importantly, in relation to humanity writ large. In his essay on the myth of Superman, for example, Umberto Eco explains the importance of temporality for morality, forcing us to consider freedom and responsibility in the context of the “indefinite series of decision making that involves all other men,” which may prove to be an important allegory for the asynchrony of our times. While Eco is discussing the myth of Superman, we may be prisoner to our own set of myths:  In Superman it is the concept of time that breaks down. The very structure of time falls apart, not in the time about which, but, rather, in the time in which the story is told. In Superman stories the time that breaks down is the time of the story, that is, the notion of time which ties one episode to another. In the sphere of a story, Superman accomplishes a given job and at this point, the story ends (Eco, 1979, pp. 113–14).

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Superman evades the constraint of the temporal dimension in order to save the situation, but it makes for a shortsightedness in his approach because his pursuit of truth and justice does not relate more broadly to humanity. Superman exists only in the successful triumph over his nemesis in the present, making him oblivious to what Eco calls the baser problems associated with the existence of freedom and causing him to act without a vision of how his actions affect the larger community and blinds him to the larger problems at the base. Eco says the following of Superman, but his criticism can extend to us as well: In growing accustomed to events happening in an ever continuing present . . . he forgets the problems which are at its base, that is, the existence of freedom, the possibility of planning, the necessity of carrying plans out, the sorrow that such planning entails, the responsibility that it implies, and, the existence of an entire human community whose progressiveness is based on making plans (Eco, 1979, pp. 113–14).

Our virtual morality organized around temporally isolated moral and political causes limits our perspective to the present and carries with it the hermeneutical effect of narrowing the judgment of the action taken toward others and clouds our understanding of who we are becoming online and offline. The “good” measured only against the temporally defined “bad” may obscure the judgment of long-term consequences and isolate considerations of other normative structures, more comprehensively contemplative of a larger sense of the “good”: Before causally determines after, and the series of these determinations cannot be traced back, at least in our universe (according to the epistemological model that explains the world in which we live), but is irreversible. That other cosmological models can foresee others solutions to this problem is well known; but, in the sphere of our daily understanding of events (and, consequently, in the structural sphere of a narrative character), this concept of time is what permits us to move around and recognize events and their directions (Eco, 1979, p. 933).

Conclusions: Medium as Message Where much of the discussion and debate about regulating cyberspace is centered on content regulation and modifying the human behavior we do not like, the discussion must begin with a focus on the medium of the message rather than on the message itself. There is little question that the Internet has “extended our central nervous system itself in a global embrace, abolishing both time and Space as far as our planet is

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concerned” (McLuhan, 1964/1995, p. 149). But this global embrace may also be transforming our sense of time consciousness as well and, along with it, our sense of morality. Time consciousness is intrinsically related to the medium of the explosion of images, messages, and individuals we encounter with social networking technologies. While there is plenty of debate about the explosion of content we encounter when we are using social media, there relatively little attention paid to the medium of the message and its consequences for the behavior that occurs. As McLuhan explained in his early work on mass media, the medium is not only a vehicle for the message. The medium is the message too: In a culture like ours, long accustomed to splitting and dividing all things as a means of control, it is sometimes a bit of a shock to be reminded that, in operational and practical fact, the medium is the message. This is merely to say that the personal and social consequences of any medium – that is, of any extension of ourselves – result from the new scale that is introduced into our affairs by each extension of ourselves, or by any new technology (McLuhan, 1964/1995, p. 1).

McLuhan was concerned about the then emerging mass media and its “personal and social” consequences for human associations, but the insight is just as readily applied to social networking technologies and the transformations that occur. Digital communications introduce new scale to human associations, allowing for the technological possibility of extending ourselves globally and, in doing so, shaping the way in which we interact, perceive, and experience. The ability to transcend the spatial and temporal barriers and enter into virtual space to extend our lived experience has “opened” us to realities, cultures, and people we might have never been exposed to before because of spatial limitations. Yet, the absence of spatial boundaries is seen as contributing to the transcendence of cultural, social, and political constraints that is often characterized by freedom, but the asynchronicity may also have its own particular costs. Network time marks a cultural and philosophical transition and transforms time and space into a virtual reality that is no less real, but is different in the way we experience phenomena. Individuals are able to access information from across the globe and to communicate in “real time,” broadening our interconnectivity, but, at the same time, leaving open questions as to its depth and consequence. The scale of communication and interaction ushered in with the Internet is often heralded because it offers the opportunity for us to transcend temporality and geographical space to connect in more and more ways, but it is increasingly clear we must question who we are becoming in light of the “connections” we are creating.

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In short, our use of social networking technologies has not lived up to the optimism of broadening of our experience as was once hoped, and time consciousness has something to do with it. “As space appears to shrink to a ‘global village’ of telecommunications and a ‘spaceship earth’ of economic and ecological interdependence . . . and time horizons shorten to the point where the present is all there is (the world of the schizophrenic), so we have to learn to cope with an overwhelming sense of compression of our spatial and temporal worlds” (Harvey, 1990, p. 240). More than making us schizophrenic, however, is the fact that our social networking technologies might be making us immoral.

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If someone called me a chink or a gook online I really wouldn’t care at all. In real life though, depending on who says it, if someone called me a chink or gook I would want to beat the hell out of them . . . Reason for this is because online they have no clue what race I am and so they are obviously trying to troll me which I  find funny. Real life though they are actually attacking my culture/race which I can take until it’s a friend or something (Phillips, 2015, p. 34). If the despairing self is active . . . it is constantly relating to itself only experimentally, no matter what it undertakes, however great, however amazing and with whatever perseverance. It recognizes no power over itself; therefore in the final instance it lacks seriousness . . . The self can, at any moment, start quite arbitrarily all over again (Kierkegaard, 1941, p. 100).

The arrival of social networking technologies was met with great optimism and anticipation when it came to our personal identity. These technologies promised to us the possibility to communicate and interact free from the physical markers of gender, class, ethnicity, sexuality, and disability and, in doing so, liberate us from the ways we were divided. The hope was that realization of our transcendental self in virtual reality would allow us to prioritize the mind and not the body as the primary characteristic of being human (Yar, 2014). Yet, it seems we are even more divided and segmented than ever before, and social networking technologies might be partially to blame. Some argue that being able to hide our identity is often at fault for all that is wrong and accounts for the increase in the bad behavior when we are on social media (Peebles, 2014). Yet, ironically, the two main arenas for our interactions and communications  – social networking 155

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sites and text messages – are not anonymous environments, and studies indicate that it is here our human behavior is at its worst (Tokunaga, 2010). If anonymity is not entirely to blame, the phenomenological effects of social networking technologies offer another explanation for some of the behavior occurring not only in our virtual lives, but in our offline lives as well. As discussed in the previous chapters, the hermeneutical and embodiment effects of social networking technologies can alter the normative reasons we give for the actions we take and the choices we make. More significant, social media may also be transforming our personal identity and our broader sense of moral responsibility to humanity at the same time. As Korsgaard explains, “our conceptions of our practical identity govern our choice of actions, for to value yourself in a certain role or under a certain description is at the same time to find it worthwhile to do certain acts for the same of certain ends, and impossible, even unthinkable, to do others” (Korsgaard, 2009, p.  20). While we have long contemplated the importance of personal identity for the establishment of rights and obligations, we are in yet another important phase of reconsideration and we account for the effects of social networking technologies on us. This said, we must first rethink the definition of personal identity with which we begin in order to expose the blind spots in our current regulatory and developmental approach to technology. The phenomenological effects of social media act on our traditional conception of personal identity in two important ways. First, if social networking technologies possess a mediating effect on our experience and perception, then they also fundamentally influence the normative basis for our choices and actions. Korsgaard explains the relationship between our normative reasons for choices and actions and our personal identity: “the intimate connection between person and action does not rest in the fact that action is caused by the most essential part of the person, but rather in the fact that the most essential part of the person is constituted by her actions” (Korsgaard, 2009, p. 100). These effects on our sense of self and moral responsibility are not isolated to an online environment. We may consider our online personae to be separate from our offline posts and interactions, but there is evidence one affects the other in ways we do not fully appreciate (Hongladarom, 2011). In her description of trolls, for instance, Phillips describes the awareness the trolls have of the differences between the behaviors that characterize their “trolling mode.” Yet, this awareness might not translate into knowledge

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of all of the potential effects of online behaviors on our personal identity in real time and space: The vast majority of trolls I’ve worked with agree, and insist that their trolls selves and their offline (“real”) selves are subject to a totally different set of rules. Despite the explicit and biologically necessary connection between the troll and the person behind the troll, and despite the correlations between reallife experiences and online behaviors (even simply terms of search interest or basic technological access), trolls believe there exists a fundamental difference between what they do as trolls and who they are as people . . . The issue then isn’t where the trolling behavior occurs, but what the behaviors signify. And what the behaviors signify is that an individual has switched into trolling mode. He has, in other words, put on his mask (Phillips, 2015, p. 34).

The trolls believe they exert control over the separation of self and determine when and where their online identities begin and end. Still, while it is true that we like to think of ourselves as unified agents and conceive of our effects as always our own, this is not always the case. As Korsgaard explains, “action that is self-conscious in the particular way that, as I  will soon argue, human action is, certainly does require that the agent has a conception of what she is doing and why” (Korsgaard, 2009, p. 98). The why of what we are doing and who we are is a function of the reality we encounter but also the relationships we create in our interactions on social media. These relationships serve as the second substantial effect of social media on our personal identity. It is a truism that we are subject to the moral sway of those with whom we surround ourselves. The roles and relationships that constitute our online lives are transformative of our personal identity because our choices and action do not exist in a moral vacuum and are, in part, reflective of our interactions with others. Yet, the roles and relationships of our online world may be starkly different when it comes to the company we keep when compared to our offline lives: Conceptions of practical identity include such things as roles and relationships, citizenship, memberships in ethnic or religious groups, causes, vocations, professions, and offices. It may be important to you that you are a human being, a woman or a man, a member of a certain profession, someone’s lover or friend, a citizen or an officer of the court, a feminist or an environmentalist, or whatever (Korsgaard, 2009, p. 20).

In real time and space, we are surrounded by consistent relationships with people to whom we owe a duty in work, friendships, or family. Within these roles, we maintain a more or less consistent set of normative

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reasons for our actions and choices that are a function of the people we know and who know us. These relationships contribute to stability in our personal identity as well as serving as a foundation for a shared sense of morality. In an online environment, however, to whom we relate and the manner in which we do it has the potential to construct a very different set of normative references around which we organize and justify our choices and actions, making our online community and our online self potentially “solitary, poor, nasty brutish and short” at the very least or even worse. It follows that if social networking technologies mediate our normative reasons for our actions and choices, influence the roles and relationships we adopt when online, and contribute to a transformation of our personal identity, then our traditional way of thinking about moral responsibility is affected as well. The precepts of Kantian moral psychology that underpins our approach to ethical responsibility take our incentives as the basis for the assignment of moral responsibility. Our incentives, according to Kant, are formed in response to the representation of an object. Kant does not mean only objects in the literal sense of the word. Instead, objects “include not only substances, but also states of affairs and activities. The object may be actually perceived, or conceived as a possible item in the environment, a way that things might be” (Korsgaard, 2009, p. 105). While the incentive is formed in response to the object – either desirable or aversive, the principle determines what we may say or do in the face of the incentive. In this sense, the phenomenological perception of the object is significant for the principles that inform what we say and do and who we are as individuals. This is the case, because self-consciousness plays an important role in creating the “need for the principles of reason, which are then more firmly separated from the associated incentives than their instinctual predecessors were. But self-consciousness also converts the other side of the equation  – it transforms incentives into what Kant calls inclinations” (Korsgaard, 2009, p. 120). One might question how the phenomenological effects of social media might alter our sense of personal identity because of the normative content to which we are exposed. The answer is located not only in the phenomenological content we encounter while online, but also in the influence of the roles and relationships that organize around it. An example helps to illustrate. Consider someone who might seek out the online ISIS magazine Dabiq. The images and stories are designed to radicalize individuals according to the principles of a particular political

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ideology, but the messaging also generates normative reasons for choices and actions that connect to a personal identity condoning actions and choices related to terrorism that is reaffirmed by those in that online community. This is not to say the exposure to such ideas and those who support them “creates” a terrorist. Rather, there is phenomenological effect that might encourage or endorse a particular set of choices and actions that then contribute to a personal identity, which, absent the online exposure and support of those organized around it, might not have flourished. Recent studies affirm the connection between radicalization and the Internet: The internet is undeniably an important factor in understanding the radicalization trajectories of many violent extremists. A senior official at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security recently observed that extremists’ “deft use of Internet propaganda, together with that content’s wide availability, has broadened the population of potentially vulnerable individuals, and shortened the timespan of their recruitment.” Supporting this statement, terrorism expert Magnus Ranstorp lists social media as one of nine factors that may exacerbate causes of an individual’s radicalization, including individual and social factors as well as cultural and ideological motivators (Szmania and Conway, 2017).

We, of course, are aware that social media might contribute to radicalization, but answering the question of why it occurs is important to crafting a response to it. Solutions such as removing content or redirecting users to counternarratives represent the current policy initiatives with their own problematic interplay with First Amendment considerations depending upon who is orchestrating the information feed. While the creation of an identity that is associated with terrorism is an extreme example, there are varying degrees of influence we encounter on social media that operate on our sense of personal identity, community, and, at a more fundamental level, our morality. At one level, we may be harmlessly persuaded by our “friends” on Facebook who also are our colleagues and neighbors to “like” a particular political post, while the Twitter accounts we follow for our news and commentary might put us in contact with others we are likely never going to meet. And some of these moral influences might not even be human. The algorithms of social media itself are always hard at work on shaping what we think and do and who we become: These days, the main social networks  – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram  – all use an algorithm that decides what will be shown in your news feed. While it is unknown exactly what is prioritized in these algorithms, there are two things that do help get your post in front of others:  high engagement and sponsored

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content. As social media becomes more of a “pay-to-play” type of platform, paid social media posts will definitely begin taking a priority over the organic content (Prodan, 2016).

We are becoming increasingly aware of the influences of social media on us; still we are not yet cognizant of the full range of its effects, especially those that are phenomenological, because of the concept of personal identity with which we begin. If, in other words, we begin with a stable notion of self as the point of departure our inquiry, then we are unable to account for the phenomenological influences on our personal identity and sense of moral responsibility to one another. A  postphenomenological approach, like the one taken here, parses out these effects on our personal identity and the morality of our choices and actions as they take shape. This “new” question, however, must begin with history as prologue, because our thinking about personal identity is inevitably informed by what we think we already know and this can sometimes limit the solutions we seek.

History as Prologue Questions about personal identity are not new, of course. Personal identity has long been a focus of our social, legal, and political landscape because it is essential for the assignment of rights and duties and serves as the basis for the assignment of moral responsibility. Long before social networking technologies arrived on the scene, we were concerned with personal identity as we confronted questions about the nature of consciousness, the assignment of moral responsibility, and the persistence of the soul when our body perished. In our online lives, we find ourselves at another philosophical turning point that begs for a reconsideration of our assumptions about personal identity, but does not necessitate setting aside the old for only the new. A central tenet that continues to be true, for example, is that personal identity is at the center of “the foundation of all rights and obligations, and of all accountableness” (Reid, 2002, p. 112). The difficulty we face with personal identity in the era of social media, however, is how to ground these rights, obligations, and accountableness in something other than our physical presence. While social media poses unique challenges, the discussion of personal identity and how best to define it is longstanding and reflective of the anxieties of the time. We were at first worried about the relationship between the soul and its body and the consequences that

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followed after death for the existence of our soul. Homer, for example, believed the life principle or soul separated from the body and then went to Hades as shade (Gallagher, 2013). The relationship between the soul and body was also of special interest among the Christian philosophers like Augustine, who was among the first to posit that the material body remained tied to the immaterial soul forever, writing “a soul in possession of a body does not constitute two persons, but one man” (Augustine, 1995, p. 259). Duality of soul and body was also a prominent theme as the modern sciences spawned an interest in the materiality of the self in relationship to the physical world. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the idea of self replaced the soul as the essence of personal identity, serving as the repository for free will, consciousness, and self-consciousness. This view of personal identity led to early philosophical debates that focused on how and under what circumstances the self is constructed and retained in the physical world not only in relation to others but in terms of our own self-consciousness. Personal identity in this sense represented “the ability to determine our own self with respect to its actions, and even the ability to reflect on our own past, presupposes that we are conscious of one’s own self” (Theil, 2011, p. 1.1). It was in this context that Descartes started using the word “mind” instead of “soul,” suggesting that there was something distinct from the immaterial self in the form of the brain and the bearing it had on our identity. The brain, he suggested, was responsible for sensation, perceptions, and imaginations and functioned as one with the physical body, “because to conceive the union between two things is to conceive them as one single thing” (Descartes, n.d., Vol.1, p. 277). For Descartes, mind, or consciousness, is central to our understanding of who we are because this is the quality that distinguishes us from other living things: From the mere fact that each of us understands ourselves to be a thinking thing and is capable, in thought, of excluding from himself every other substance, whether thinking or extended, it is certain that each of us, regarded in this way, is really distinct from every other thinking substance and from every corporeal substance (Descartes, n.d., Vol. 1, p. 213).

The Cartesian idea of consciousness is an important aspect of personal identity that continues to inform our thinking as we discuss the effect of social networking technologies. Recall that one of the aspirational hopes of virtual reality was that it made it possible for us to liberate the transcendental self and free it from the ties that bind in the physical

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world, allowing us to become who we were truly free from our bodily constraints. The idea that consciousness was the essence of who we are when it comes to personal identity is not necessarily new, but our use of social networking technologies define new territory for its expression while adding a unique dimension to this perennial debate. But before discussions took place about the effects of virtual reality on our consciousness, the effects of the world around us and its consequences for our conception of self was a central theme. John Maxwell described consciousness as “a reflex act, by which a Man knows his Thoughts to be his own Thoughts and, the direct Act of Thinking; or simple Sensation or the Power of Self-motion, or the beginning Motion by the Will” (Theil, 2011, p. 6). According to this idea, there was an explicit sense of relating to one’s self by virtue of the world that was encountered, which gave rise to self-consciousness. Self-consciousness, or the internal perspective of the self (consciousness) and the awareness of the self in relation to the external world, was also central to the development of a system of ethics. For the Stoics, moral development began first with the desire to preserve our physical constitution, but this first impulse later was informed by reason and is the “bearer of insight and moral striving” (Theil, 2011, p. 14). The relationship between consciousness and self-consciousness (oikeiosis) and the self and the external world continue in modern-day thought as we continue to believe “we arrive at consciousness of our self on the basis of consciousness of the other object” (Theil, 2011, p. 15). Aquinas echoes this idea when he explains the connected quality of consciousness and self-consciousness:  “What is first known by the human intellect is this object; then, in the second place, the act by which the object is known is itself known; and finally, by the way of the act, the intellect itself, of which, the act of understanding is the perfection, is known” (Aquinas, Summa Theologue 1a.87.3 transl. Gilby et al. 1964– 80 (pp. 115–17) The self and its dependence on the external world for a system of ethics informs, in part, the approach taken here except with a consideration of the how the phenomenological lens of social media affects our perceptions of the world around us, others, and our self. If self-consciousness is influenced by the interactions and encounters with the world around us and others, then the normative basis upon which we rely to structure our choices and actions and ground our moral sensibilities is affected by the mediating qualities of social networking technologies. We may become impassioned because of a description of an event, angered because of images on the screen, or incensed because of a YouTube video, and it may encourage us to take action we might

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not otherwise; alternatively, we may not accurately interpret what we see on the screen because what we see or experience may be taken out of context and distorted. But because we do not always account for the mediating effects of social media that might magnify or distort our reactions, we are likely to act without consideration of them. We may still attack or shame the person who is depicted on social media as engaging in immoral activity or respond with anger and outrage and organize with others who share our reaction to an image we have seen absent the realization that social media is shaping our reactions and who we become. Our actions informed by misperception or distortion when online are not morally inconsequential; they can result in cataclysmic consequences. Consider the Brown University student Sunil Tripathi, who was incorrectly identified by members of Reddit and other social media as a suspect in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombings. Not only did Tripathi’s family suffer widespread media abuse, but Tripathi’s body was later discovered in the Providence River, the victim of foul play or suicide. Was the suicide or foul play a result of social media? But for the identification of Sunil Tripathi as the bomber, would he have taken his life or been the subject of foul play? We must, at the very least, be aware that the “reality” to which our inner consciousness of self is directed when we are online is a matter of perception and even if it is reinforced by those who support our reaction on social media does not make it morally justifiable. Still, are we so easily persuaded to engage in morally reprehensible behavior as a result of social media and its potential distortion of what we perceive? If, in other words, we accept that self-consciousness references “reality,” how does this phenomenological effect carry through in our behavior offline, ultimately affecting or sense (or lack thereof) of moral responsibility? Much of this answer lies in the ways in which we ground the self and moral responsibility. The Sources of Psychological Continuity and the Stability of Self Perhaps ironically, John Locke (who obviously knew nothing about social networking technologies) can help us to move closer to an answer about the nexus between our offline and online selves and how our sense of moral responsibility might be affected. Locke is known for a theory of personal identity that is characterized most simply as one of psychological continuity. This viewpoint is consistent with a philosophical turn in the treatment of identity that took place in the seventeenth century, marking a shift from the ontological to the subjective. This trend occurred

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at the same time questions about the distinctiveness attributed to objects could be absent a consideration of their perception by the mind and its judgment. The importance of time, perception, and naming of things was of concern in this philosophical phase because there was also a growing interest from individuation to diachronic identity. By this, Locke means to suggest that who we think we are and who others believe us to be depends upon not only continuity but shared psychological continuity among others to define personal identity. John Locke explains, that “wherever a man find what he calls himself, there, I think, another may say is the same person.” This connection between who we are and who we think we are is a product of “that conscious thinking thing, whatever substance made up of (whether spiritual or material, simple or compounded, it matters not) which is sensible, or conscious of pleasure and pain, capable of happiness or misery, and so is concerned for itself, as far as that consciousness extends” (Locke, 1690– 4/1970, pp.  346, 341, 335). There is tension between person and self whereby an individual may call himself the same person and others may recognize him as the same, but, at the same time, the conscious self may not parallel what a man calls himself or connect to how others might recognize him. This idea is central for addressing how our conscious perception of self is not something that exists independently of others. As Locke explains, our subjective self is influenced not only by what we encounter but who we encounter for not only our own conscious sense of self but for how others identify us. He writes: Identity (of) persons lies not in having the same numerical body made up of the same particles, nor if the mind consists of corporeal spirits in their being and the same, but in the memory & knowledge of ones past self & knowledge of ones past self & actions continued on under the consciousness of being the same person whereby every ownes himself (Theil, 2011, p. 99).

Our online and offline identities are differentiated by the roles we occupy in relation to others and by the memory and knowledge of our past. When we are online, each of these factors is affected differently when compared to our offline lives. Who we encounter in our social media interactions as well as what we leave behind contribute to our identity. We might view these details of our online self as being insignificant to who we “really” think we are, but the consequences might be more than we know. Online, people are able to alter their age, history, personality, and even gender, enabling a certain amount of freedom to

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construct our personal identity according to the descriptions we choose to give (Suler, 2002). These valences for personal identity vary depending upon the social networking platform that is being used but, in each case serve as a referent for who we are or want to be and influence our choices and actions. Suler, for example, explains that in some parts of our online lives there is an explicit recognition that some online forums are explicitly fantasy, such as in online games, in which the avatar must be imaginative and not representative. There is obviously conscious construction that is at work on our personal identity when we use social media, but there is also a deeper effect on our own psychological continuity and how we then judge the normative value of our agency. We may believe we are in control of the separation of our offline and online identities, but it does not follow there is no effect on how one contributes to the other. People who use Internet dating services, for instance, consciously create profiles online, but when they receive validation (or the lack thereof) this also influences the beliefs they have about themselves and their behavior in their online as well as their offline lives (Yurchisin and McCabe, 2005). Our memory and knowledge, two factors important to our psychological continuity, are also not immune from the effects of social media. In a recent study, it was discovered that posting personal events on social media causes those events to be significantly easier to recall, but this is not the extent of the effect. These electronic memories affect our social cognition, specifically our memories and experiences as they affect our perception of our personal identity (Wang and Lee, 2017). This is not to say that distinctive consciousness at different times necessarily translates into a total disconnect one from the other, however. We just may not be aware of how our offline and online personae affect the other, and this is exactly the point we might be missing when we try to regulate away bad behavior without understanding its underlying causes in our use of social media. Here, too, Locke offers insight on the importance of consciousness on personal identity. Locke, for example, describes the conscious identity as “the understanding turns inwards upon itself, reflects on its own Operations, and makes them the Object of its own Contemplation” (Locke, 1722, Vol. II, p. 34). To apply this idea to our use of social networking platforms, the identity we construct online (consciously or unconsciously) is an abstract idea that informs our conscious understanding of our personal identity even if we might not be fully aware of it and, more significantly, also

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influences the range of behavior consistent with who we believe we are and who others believe us to be. Locke explains: But to conceive, and judge of it (identity) aright, we must consider what Idea the Word it is applied to stands for: It being one thing to be the same Substance, another the same Man, and a third the same Person, if Person, Man and Substance, are three Names standing for three different Ideas: for such as is the Idea belonging to that Name, such must be the Identity (Locke, 1856, Vol. II, p. xxxii.7; emphasis in the original).

If we are unaware of how our consciousness is affected by the construction of our online and offline selves, there are also consequences for our sense of moral responsibility. While Locke never contemplated a possibility for a social media self, he did consider the effects of a lapse in our consciousness and the consequences for the assignment of moral responsibility. A  psychological coherency of the subject is an obvious requirement of his legal and moral theory, and its continuity is dependent upon an individual’s ability for reflection and consciousness to maintain a stable sense of identity for itself and others. Locke draws a distinction between consciousness and reflection in a subtle way that is significant for understanding personal identity:  “We can produce ideas of mental operations because we are conscious of them (which we being conscious of) and can therefore consider them through an act of reflection” (Theil, 2011, p. 117). Consciousness presupposes “an agent who performs acts of consciousness and those thoughts and actions to which consciousness relates” (Theil, 2011, p. 122). It is important to note that when Locke writes of “the same continued consciousness,” he suggests that there is continuity between acts of consciousness, which is the basis for moral responsibility. According to Locke, “consciousness . . . unites Existences and Actions, very remote in time, into the same Person, as well as it does the Existence and Actions of the immediately preceding moment:  So that whatever has the consciousness of present and past Actions, is the same Person to whom they both belong (Locke, 1856, Vol. II, p. xxxvii.16). Locke’s moral and legal theories rest upon these distinctions, because a person is not only comprised with cognitive unity but is also held morally and legally responsible by a memory that is able to recall and relate conscious states (Theil, 2011, p.  128). This continuity of consciousness is required for both punishment and rewards, and each is founded in selfidentity, where “punishment is annexed to personality, and personality to consciousness” (Locke, 1856, Vol. II, p.  xxvii.20). Consider Locke’s example of two groups of individuals – drunkards or the insane – who

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might experience an interruption of consciousness that, in turn, affects the moral and legal responsibility that can reasonably be assigned. The insane and the drunkard, Locke argues, should not be punished for acts of which they were not conscious: Since personal identity is the basis of judgments of human courts, and since personal identity is constituted only through inner consciousness, the question arises of how human courts can in principle distinguish between genuine and pretended lack of consciousness: since a person’s ability to self-ascribe actions through consciousness is beyond the court’s knowledge, how can they ever distinguish what is real and what is counterfeit? (Theil, 2011, p. 131).

While the insane and the drunkard lack the requisite consciousness to be held accountable in Locke’s theory, in an online environment, there may also be a comparable lack of consciousness of how our online identities might be affecting who we are becoming in real time and space. While we may not be drunk or insane when we are online, in other words, there might be a similar lack of understanding of how our psychological continuity is adversely impacted by social media and how our choices and actions in our offline lives are being influenced. This is not to say we should escape punishment for our moral wrongs for this lack of consciousness, but there must be a consideration of our phenomenological influences on our offline and online personal identity in order to better craft regulatory and technological solutions to the problems we face. Creation of the Coherent Self Part of the reason we might not be fully aware of how social media is splintering our sense of identity and moral responsibility is because we strive for coherency of self and, in doing so, ignore variations in our own personal identity and that of others. This insight is also not specific to our online self. According to Hume, for example, the self is a product of conscious constitution, but also references ideas and impressions to form the self. These impressions, however, are often variable and lack constancy, giving rise to an indeterminate nature of the self which we are inclined to ignore in order to sustain coherency (Hume, 1793). Hume explains: For when we attribute identity, in an improper sense, to variable or uninterrupted objects, our mistake is not confined to the expression, but is commonly attended with a fiction, either of something invariable and uninterrupted, or of something mysterious and inexplicable, or at least with a propensity to such fictions (Hume, 1920, p. 241).

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This propensity for unification of self on our part is so strong that it can encourage us to ignore differences that may be fundamental in isolation but relevant when we are ascribing identity to ourselves and others. Using the example of an infant who becomes a man or a small plant that grows into an oak tree, Hume argues we are willing to overlook physical variations for the sake of preserving identity, and this might entail accepting a certain amount of disconnect that is nonetheless necessary. Hume explains that perceptions of self are central to the maintenance of personal identity even if they do not always reflect the truth of the matter. “When I  turn my reflexion on myself, I  never can perceive this self without some one or more perception; nor can I ever perceive anything but the perceptions. ’Tis the composition of these, therefore, which forms the self” (Hume, 2008, p. 174). This insight is apropos to the present discussion about social networking technologies and our definition of self. Hume points out that we tend to overlook variations of our self in an effort to preserve identity – something we might do when we are reconciling our online self with our offline self without being very selfconscious about how we are doing it. While early thinking about the Internet suggested our online behavior did little to reveal much about our personal identity, recent research, in fact, points to how there might be more unifying themes between our online and offline selves than we even aware: Most notably, our typical patterns of social media activity can be accurately predicted by scores on scientifically valid personality tests. This research is the product of Cambridge’s Psychometrics Centre, led by Dr Michal Kosinski (now at Stanford). For instance, studies show that Facebook “likes” reflect how extroverted, intellectual and prudent we are. Mining tweets reveals how extroverted and emotionally stable people are. This can be done by analysing the content of tweets (personality predicts what words you are more likely to use) as well as the number of tweets and followers people have. Twitter can also be used to infer dark side personality characteristics, such as how machiavellian, psychopathic or narcissistic people are (Chamorro-Premuzic, 2015).

Our postings, comments, and even images of ourselves reveal who we are but we may not be cognizant of how social media is shaping who we are in ways we do not recognize. The broader point here is that the self is a product of our experiences whether in physical reality or virtual reality and it constructs our sense of self but also our morality. We are not, in other words, engaging in immoral action in one context while not also not transforming our moral sensibilities in another. We may join Anonymous to attack the Church

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of Scientology with low orbit technology and justify it according to one set of moral principles that might in fact conflict with those we follow in another context. Whether in engaging in cyber activism, posting a nasty tweet on Twitter or trying to achieve the more mundane, like enhanced privacy, we may seek a separate identity online for any number of reasons that we believe allows our fictional self to exist separately from our natural self without even realizing how it compromises our sense of self and the moral responsibility that attaches to it. We must, in other words, be aware of the forces at work in the age of social media in order to regulate the behavior we seek to modify. A New Self for a New Age? Although we tend to believe we are using social media to broaden our experiences and liberate ourselves from the constraints of the physical world, it may be that our world is narrowing and our morality along with it. Here, too, the phenomenological effects of social media are part of the explanation for the problems we face as individuals and more broadly as humankind. We may believe we are creating a shared experience in our social media interactions ultimately bringing us closer together, but it may be we are being driven apart in more ways than one (Zingale, 2013). Recent research, for example, suggests there is a link between social media use and narcissism, and when it comes to our decisionmaking, causing empathy to be on the decline when we are online (The Conversation, 2016). Even those who connected with the hopes of creating a new social order are now acknowledging there is more to social networking and its consequences than they first imagined. Evan Williams, one of the founders of Twitter, told The New York Times, “I thought once everybody could speak freely and exchange information and ideas, the world is automatically going to be a better place. I was wrong about that” (Streitfield, 2017). Still, it is unrealistic to believe we will ever eschew our mobile devices and return entirely to face-to-face communication entirely, making it is necessary to think about how we might evoke a sense of moral responsibility to one another when we are online and perhaps repairing our moral deficits offline as well. There must be something, in other words, that serves to ground our sense of moral responsibility to one another other than the temporally isolated moral agenda to which we attach ourselves or the shallow depth of our shared ontology built on it. Setting aside our utopian beliefs about social media must instead be replaced by inquiries into how social networking is changing us as moral agents and whether there is anything we can do to counteract it. Here, too,

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earlier insights into how personal identity can maintain its coherency without reference to a physical presence are useful for thinking about how to ground the self and shore up our sense of moral responsibility to one another in light of a shallow, but shared, ontological experience when we are online. While these philosophical inquiries began with a series of hypothetical scenarios prompted by scientific inquires into dissociative identity disorders, our use of social media makes them more realistic and pragmatic considerations today for their insights about the valences of personal identity. Guy Fawkes and Losing Oneself Bernard Williams, for instance, used a fictional account of Charles, who woke up with memories that are not his own. Instead, all of his memories relate to the life history of Guy Fawkes. Williams uses this example to ask whether the memories of Guy Fawkes are sufficient to make him Guy Fawkes, suggesting that if another individual could undergo the same changes in order to retain the memories of Guy Fawkes, would he also be Guy Fawkes, and so on. Williams uses this illustration to demonstrate the absurdity of memory serving as the only criterion of personal identity, not only because there would be numerous “Guy Fawkeses,” but also they could occupy different physical locations at the same time. William writes: In the case of material objects, we can draw a distinction between identity and exact similarity; it is clearly not the same to say that two men live in the same house, and that they live in exactly similar houses. This notion of identity is given to us primarily, though not completely, by the notion of spatio-temporal continuity. In the case of character, however, this distinction cannot be drawn, so to say that A and B have the same character is just to say that A’s character is exactly similar to B’s. Nor can this distinction be drawn in the case of memories – if you could say that two men had the same memories, this would be to say that their memories were exactly similar. There is, however, an extreme difficulty in saying these things about memories at all; it is unclear what it would mean to say that there were two men who had exactly similar or the same memories since to call them real memories is to imply their correctness. Thus if we are to describe Charles’ relations to Guy Fawkes in terms of exact similarity of everything except the body, we are going to have difficulty in finding a suitable description in these terms of his memory claims. We cannot say he has the same memories as Guy Fawkes as this is to imply what we want to deny that he really is Guy Fawkes, not can we say that the memory claims he makes are the same as those made by Guy Fawkes as we have little idea of what memory claims Fawkes in fact made, or indeed of how much he at various times remembered (Williams, 1973, p. 10).

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Williams unknowingly identifies a problem that has come to characterize modern-day discussions of our online identities: how best to create a sense of personal identity and how to define it sufficient to establish moral grounding for our actions and decisions when our physical selves are not present.  A potential solution to the moral grounding of our virtual self can find direction in Derek Parfits’s influential insights on the question of how to embellish psychological continuity and personal identity without the requirement of physical presence (Parfit, 1984, p. 203). The more essential factor necessary for personal identity is defined in relation to psychological connection we share with others and the requisite depth of these relationships (Parfit, 1984, p.  205). The source of psychological continuity is what he calls a “deep further fact” about a person, which, important for the discussion about social networking technologies, survives by virtue of connectedness to others but also with residual effects on our conscious conception of self (Parfit, 1984, p. 315). Parfit illustrates this idea with the use of a fictional teletransporter to illustrate how personal identity persists over time outside of the body in the form of psychological continuity and connectedness. In his story, the scanner destroys the brain and body and a blueprint of each is beamed to Mars, where a Replica is made. Here the prior debates about the relationship between mind and body are evident as Parfit describes the physical and psychological copy that is made, in every way similar to what was destroyed. But there is a twist to the story. In the process of replicating the brain and body, each is not completely destroyed as they are supposed to be and the “original” is able to overlap its life with that of the Replica. Parfit explains the dilemma that illustrates the conundrum of personal identity. “Since I can talk to my Replica, it seems clear that he is not me. Though he is exactly like me, he is one person and I am another. When I  pinch myself, he feels nothing. When I  have my heart attack, he will again feel nothing. And when I  am dead he will live for another forty years” (Parfit, 1984, p. 201). In an interesting way, raises a parallel concern for identity in virtual reality. We create our online personae that are separate from our personal identity in real time and space. These personae are us, but they are also not us. Our psychological continuity connects them, but they may remain separate for others. The central issue is whether this separateness between our offline and online personae translates into a disconnect in our own sense of psychological continuity when it comes to our personal identity. Parfitt adds to the idea of Lockean memory as the basis of personal identity with the introduction

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of psychological continuity, which substantiates personal identity and “roughly coincides” with psychological connectedness to others who know us and whom we know. Our rationality and morality, to put it simply, depend upon psychological continuity and psychological connectedness. The question, however, is whether the absence of psychological continuity and psychological connectedness possesses a consequence for our sense of personal identity and thus our moral responsibility when we are using social media. In real time and space, we can accomplish this psychological connectedness with the thick and thin properties of the self, both of which contribute to diachronic unity and serve the purpose of contributing to a stable sense of self across time. Yet, in our virtual lives, our psychological connections are neither necessarily long-lasting nor “thick” in their properties, causing our sense of self and moral responsibility to suffer. As Shoemaker (2013) explains, our knowledge of self is dependent on the roles and relationships we have with others, and, as explained, this is lacking in our virtual lives. Our representations of self are a form of third-person criteria that helps to establish the continuity of personal identity between us and others. Shared meaning in this sense establishes a basis for our personal identity and lends substance to the normative basis upon which we base our moral judgments. We are empowered, in other words, to act in ways that are consistent with shared morality and rationality, because our psychological continuity of self is defined in our stable relationship with others. Online, however, we may try to forge separate online identities that are unstable and short-lived and, worse, organized isolated moral and political agendas that might be distinct or at odds with those that we pursue in real time and space. The question that follows is whether there are ways to ground our personal identity in such a way that it contributes to a more consistent psychological continuity and connectedness that might mean a stronger moral conviction to others when we are in cyberspace. Some have suggested there is a need to use social media to connect our offline and online identities not necessarily through a process of identification but with less intrusive means such as geolocation devices. Consider an app called Social Serendipity and the description of the intention behind its development. Social Serendipity is an online introduction system “to cue informal face-to-face interactions between nearby users who do not know each other but probably should. Serendipity uses Bluetooth to sense nearby people and utilizes a centralized server to decide whether two users should be introduced to each

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other” (Long et al., 2013, p.148). Absent this method, is it possible to create psychological continuity and connectedness online that avoid the danger of moral relativism without reverting to identification? For some, the structure of language and its contribution to shared meaning might offer a solution.

The Narrative Self Are we able to challenge the doctrine of the self in which the “uniqueness of this body is sufficient to give rise to the idea that one’s experiences can be ascribed to some particular individual thing, can be said to be possessed by, or owned by, that thing” (Strawson, 1971, p.  97). If the body and the relationships we organize around our physical presence are not the central core of personal identity, this speaks to the potential of freeing moral responsibility from this historical referent and locating it elsewhere. If states of consciousness can be attributed to “something different from that to which corporeal characteristics are ascribed, then indeed it becomes difficult to see why states of consciousness should be ascribed to, thought of belonging to, anything at all” (Strawson, 1971, p. 98): One can ascribe states of consciousness to oneself only if one can ascribe them to others. One can ascribe them to others only if one can identify other subjects of experience. And one cannot identify others if one can identify them only as subjects of experience, possessors of states of consciousness (Strawson, 1971, p. 100).

Strawson suggests the stability of self is owed to the structure of language because it is the bridge between the states of consciousness experience by oneself and others: What I am suggesting is that it is easier to understand how we can see each other, and ourselves, as persons, if we think first of the fact that we act, and act on each other, and act in accordance with a common human nature. Now “to see each other as persons” is a lot of things, but not a lot of separate and unconnected things. The class of P-predicates that I have moved into the centre of the picture are not unconnectedly there, detached from others irrelevant to them. On the contrary, they are inextricably bound up with others, interwoven with them. The topic of the mind does not divide into unconnected subjects (Strawson, 1971, p. 112).

The conceptual scheme we have in common is also the way in which we distinguish ourselves from others and, perhaps more importantly,

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how we connect ourselves to one another. In this way, stability of self is a function of the way in which our individual consciousness is “bound up with others” in our language and its descriptions. The ability of language and shared meaning is a possible solution to stabilizing the self in virtual reality, but it also introduces a different set of problems that are difficult to counter with narratives alone. Moral relativism, cybermobs, and extremism are only a few of the difficulties yet to overcome in our quest to reestablish the self in cyberspace if the language of morality is not located in something other than in the isolated moral agenda that takes shape in the specious present of our online interactions Relocating the Self How do these early insights into the stability of self and its connection to naming with language translate to the relationship between social media and personal identity? It is true that in our use of social networking technologies, we are connected subjects and our personal identity is a function of our shared consciousness, which, in turn, is a result of our expression with the use of language, images, and, of course, emojis. We may decide to sign a petition, post a comment, or use a hashtag on Twitter because of others who are reacting to the same phenomena and who are doing the same. Yet, this shared sense of meaning is transitory and organizes around an agenda that does not necessarily create a shared sense of morality nor contribute to any stability of self. Recent studies of “slacktivism” suggest that online activism ordered around hashtags, petitions, and posts do not result in a strong moral commitment or an enduring sense of moral responsibility: Importantly, the socially observable nature (public vs. private) of initial token support is identified as a key moderator that influences when and why token support does or does not lead to meaningful support for the cause. Consumers exhibit greater helping on a subsequent, more meaningful task after providing an initial private (vs. public) display of token support for a cause (Seay, 2014, p. 1).

Even if we can encourage a “thickness” to our self with shared meaning, there is still the difficulty of countering the distortion of the phenomenological effects of social networking technologies and the isolated shared meaning to which they give rise. The problem we face is one of developing a shared sense of meaning stabilizing enough to ground morality and rationality so that we share fundamental principles not as

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isolated selves but as humanity. The problem, of course, is that language and its shared meaning are necessarily subject to interpretation and distortion, which is its beauty and its downfall – both of which are apparent on social media. The variance and stability of meaning are maintained by not only with reference to meaning itself, but must also to the language community, and it is our definition of community that must go beyond that which we find online: “A language only exists and is maintained within a language community. And this indicates another critical feature of the self. One is a self only among other selves. A self can never be described without reference to those who surround it” (Taylor, 1989, p. 35). . . . what I am as a self, my identity is essentially defined by the way things have significance for me, and the issue of my identity is worked out, only through a language of interpretation which I  have come to accept as a valid articulation of these issues. To ask what a person is, in abstraction from his or her selfinterpretations, is to ask a fundamentally misguided question, one to which there couldn’t in principle be an answer (Taylor, 1989, p. 34).

The relationship of the self to its language community serves as the point of reference for morality and rationality and the spiritual stances we have used to define us, but it is here that we have also gone wrong. Taylor suggests that the self only exists “in a certain space of questions, through certain constitutive concerns. The questions or concerns touch on the nature of the good that I orient myself by and on the way I am placed in relation to it” (Taylor, 1989, p.  50). The importance of our shared concerns is to define a communal horizon that has the capacity to draw us away from our narcissism and self-centeredness that tends to shut out what he calls the “bonds of solidarity”:  The agent seeking significance in life, trying to define him- or herself meaningfully, has to exist in a horizon of important questions. That is what is self-defeating in modes of contemporary culture that concentrate on self-fulfillment in opposition to the demands of society, or nature, which shut out history and the bonds of solidarity. These self-centred “narcissistic” forms are indeed shallow and trivialized (Taylor, 1991, p. 40).

Have we lost a sense of the good when it comes to questions of morality and rationality when we are online, and is there a way to find our way back from it?  The trouble from a moral point of view is that the narrative self and its composition are inevitably dependent on context. Social media, notably lacking in context except that which develops in the temporary

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interactions, demonstrates the complications of the narrative self not oriented toward a good. Whereas someone such as Strawson (1971, p. 98) would suggest states of consciousness, thoughts, and sensations are ascribed to the physical characteristics, the narrative self in our virtual lives is a product of ascription with the mental predicates with which we attribute meaning. From this point of view, the individual is not the reference for the predicate; our language is instead both descriptive and prescriptive of who we are and others believe us to be. One only needs to take a look at the language used on Twitter to be concerned about how it is working on our increasingly fragmented sense of morality and rationality. Who I Am and What I Am The obvious problem of narrative identity for rationality and morality is that the identity of the story defines the identity of the character (Ricoeur, 1992, p. 148). With narrative identity, however, it is possible for a person to be held accountable for his or her actions by asking the “what” of the “who” we are, which is not merely identification of the self but instead acknowledges that while “everything is possible, not everything is beneficial”: . . . now the “what” of the “who,” as we said above, is character – that is, the set of acquired dispositions and sedimented identifications with. The absolute impossibility of recognizing a person by his or her lasting manner of thinking, feeling, acting, and so on is perhaps not demonstrable in practice but it is at least thinkable in principle. What is practicable lies perhaps in acknowledging that all the attempts at identification, which form the substance of those narratives of interpretive value with respect to the retreat of self, are doomed to failure. How, then, are we to maintain on the ethical level a self which, on the narrative level, seems to be fading away? How can one say at one and the same time “who am I?” and “Here I am!”? Is it not possible to make the gap separating narrative identity and moral identity work to the benefit of their living dialectic? On the one hand, there is no doubt that the “Here I am!” by which the person recognizes himself or herself as the subject of imputation marks a halt in the wandering that may well result from the self’s confrontation with a multitude of models for action and life, some of which to go so far as to paralyze the capacity for firm action. Between the imagination that says “I can try anything” and the voice that says, “everything is possible but not everything is beneficial (Understanding here, to others and to yourself),” a muted discord is sounded. It is this discord that the act of promising transforms into a fragile concordance: “I can try anything,” to be sure, but “here is where I stand!” On the other hand, the tormenting question “Who am I?” exposed by the troubling cases of literary fiction can, in a certain manner, be incorporated

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into the proud declaration. “Here is where I  stand!” The question becomes, “Who am I, so inconstant, that notwithstanding you count on me?” The gap between the question which engulfs the narrative imagination and the answer of the subject who has been made responsible by the expectation of the other becomes the secret break at the heart of the commitment . . . Thus the imagined nothingness of the self becomes the existential “crisis” of the self (Ricoeur, 1992, pp. 167–8).

If the question that orients the narrative self is informed by a consideration of whether what I say and do is beneficial instead of an imagined nothingness of the self only organized around “here is where I  stand,” then there may be a way of invoking an ethics of social media. Ricoeur points out that if the question shifts from “what I am,” there is a repertoire of mental predicates that are then available for use in the culture for expression and understanding and expressed in our representations that are a hermeneutical backdrop for our personal identity but also for our rationality and morality. This means that our descriptions of the “good” and the “obligatory” are descriptive but also prescribe the teleology of action in a hermeneutical circle by which the whole and the part are to be understood relative to one another: In what way do these standards of excellence relate to the ethical aim of living well? In two ways. On the one hand, before characterizing a practitioner as good at something, standards of excellence allow us to give sense to the idea of internal goods immanent to a practice. These internal goods constitute the teleology immanent to the action, as expressed on the phenomenological plan by the notions of interest and satisfaction, which must not be confused with those of pleasure (Ricoeur, 1992, pp. 176–7).

I use this insight to explain how the limited repertoire of mental predicates we currently construct online, organized by limited moral agendas or informed by a narrow perspective on a shared ontology of being, imposes a hermeneutic limit to the meaning of both description and prescription as applied to our shared sense of rationality and morality and to our personal identity as a result. Social media has empowered us to seek an answer to the question of “here is where I  stand” relentlessly and has encouraged us to forget to ask whether what we are doing is beneficial to the “good and obligatory” that binds us together rather than tearing us apart. As Ricoeur, explains “between our aim of a ‘good life’ and our particular choices a sort of hermeneutical circle is traced by virtue of the back-and-forth motion between the idea of the ‘good life’ and our most important decisions of our existence” (Ricoeur, 1992, p. 179). To extend this insight to our online

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lives, the mental predicates are limited to our self-selected online communities and also by the search engines and social media sites and the relationships with which we engage that reinforce our habitual and political preferences and establish a narrow basis for our rationality and morality. Social media allows us to persistently emphasize who we are and set aside the question of what we are together. The consequences of this narrowing effect may ironically be a growing assuredness in the meaning and understanding of our mental phenomena upon which we base our personal identity and communities of association, but also a lack of depth in our mental predicates for a shared sense of morality and rationality online that is eating away at our offline lives too.  It is important to note that social media is not necessarily the genesis of this problem, but is its illustration of the decline of the good and the obligatory as a principle to which we aspire. As will be discussed in the final chapter, social media coincides with other philosophical trends  – primarily postmodernism and the emphasis on moral perspectivalism to which it gives rise – that contribute to an existential crisis of the self ironically because we have emphasized the perspectivalism of the self as the only orienting criteria. The consequences of this philosophical turn are nowhere clearer than on social media, where attacks, condemnations, radicalization, bullying, and harassment among other forms of bad behavior show the moral corruption of only relying on the “who I am” as the good and the obligatory without confronting the “what” of who we are in relation to others. The unanticipated consequence of the emphasis on “who I am” as the mental predicate for a given culture is that it collapses intentions and motivations into the repertoire of mental phenomena “without having to specify to whom these phenomena belong, and on the other hand, of making even more enigmatic the appropriation which removes the suspension of ascription” (Ricoeur, 1992, p.  98). We tend to believe that our motivations are the cause of our actions without considering the source of our motivations. “The agent thereby proves to be a strange cause indeed, since naming him or her puts an end to the search for the cause, a search which constitutes along another line – that of motivation. In this manner, the antithetical of which Kant spoke penetrates the theory of action at the very point where acting and the reasons for acting are joined” (Ricoeur, 1992, p. 104). There is also the problem of entanglement of agents and predicates in which the actions of one agent are intertwined with the actions of

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everyone else, making it hard to find where our motivations begin and those of others begin. This phenomenon is especially true online because the “stories” we tell about our online actions are the predicate for individual and collective action – and representative of our rationality and the morality are only grounded in “who I am” – that each and every one of us asserts as our own personal version of morality and rationality. This self-referential process is internally consistent with its own sense of rationality and morality and certainly does not include a consideration of whether our actions are beneficial or consistent with the question of “who I am.” Here, it is necessary to redirect rationality and morality to include an acknowledgment that “the action of each person (and that of person’s history) is entangled in “stories”; the actions of each person (and that person’s history) are entangled not only with the physical course of things but with the social course of human activity” (Ricoeur, 1992, p. 107). Where this power to designate begins and ends, especially in the alignment of one with the other is made even more complex with the Internet as the medium, where group identification around a cause suspends the distinction between one and the other to the “us” and “them.” I suggest that in order to ground our rationality and morality more firmly, we need to “to find the points of anchorage of a properly ethical evaluation of human action in the teleological and deontological sense – in other words, in accordance with the good and the obligatory” (Ricoeur, 1992, p. 112). Unfortunately, the good and the obligatory are products of habit that are conditioned across time and, significantly, require a specific question to be asked of us. The asynchronous character of our online interactions and communications does not establish a continuum of habit or conditioning consistent with a long view of the good and the obligatory, also undermined by our current philosophical disdain for the ideals of the Enlightenment. Instead of the Kantian idea of an independent self, we conceive of an alternative conception of identity or community “made up of these identifications with values, norms, ideals, models and heroes, in which the person or the community recognizes itself. Recognizing oneself in contributes to recognizing oneself by” (Ricoeur, 1992, p. 121). Ricoeur’s insight into our lack of propensity to recognize ourselves “by” is played out on social media, where our values, norms, ideals, models, and heroes are transient and subject to our limited tolerance for anything other than that which occurs in the present  and according to our point of view. There must be shared meaning of how our actions and decisions figure

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into the larger course of social course of human activity if there is any chance for morality and rationality to survive: It is important to make the argument in favor of the distinction between the identity of the self and the identity of the same on the basis of the use we make of the notion of identity in the contexts in which the two sorts of identity cease to overlap, and even dissociate from one another, baring in a sense of the selfhood of the self, severed from its base in sameness. There is, in fact, another model of permanence in time besides that of character. It is that of keeping one’s word in faithfulness to the word that has been given (Ricoeur, 1992, p. 123).

I suggest that the anchor for our personal identity in the age of social media and a prior reference to post modernism can still be our character. This assertion seems contradictory to a postphenomenological approach to social networking technologies because it might seem as though it requires that we set aside a transcendental subject as our starting point for morality and suggests that the phenomenological influences of social media are constructive of the self. But I argue social media technology and its reflective qualities on the construction of our postphenomenological self provide a moment of unique insight if we are willing and able to find it. No matter whether the singularity of self is defined by the “here” and “now” or the “there” and “then,” the central aspect of personal identity is its singularity of character as distinguished from all others and in relation to others. And for this, we are solely responsible for finding our character again:  Between the correlations between action and character in a narrative, there results a dialectic internal to the character which is the exact corollary of the dialectic of concordance and discordance developed by the emplotment of action. The dialectic consists in the fact that, following the line of concordance, the character draws his or her singularity from the united of a life considered a temporal totality which is itself singular and distinguished from all others (Ricoeur, 1992, p. 147).

Conclusion The existential “crisis” of the self described by Ricoeur is evident in our online lives (if not in the post-modern condition generally), but all is not lost. Our use of social networking resembles the hypothetical situation described by MacIntyre, where we find ourselves in an imaginary world where we must strive to remake what binds us together. MacIntyre describes a world in which a catastrophe occurs and the blame for it is placed upon natural sciences and its scientists. The crisis in the natural

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sciences leads a powerful Know-Nothing movement to take control, banishing all teaching of science and imprison the remaining scientists, effectively destroying the natural sciences and all of the previous norms and values that held society together. When enlightened people decide to try rationality, but without the knowledge repository of what it was before it, a new knowledge is born out of the theories and practices, but “nobody, or almost nobody, realizes that what they are doing is not natural science in any proper sense at all. For everything that they do and say conforms to certain canons of consistency and coherence and those contexts which would be needed to make sense of what they are doing have been lost, perhaps irretrievably” (MacIntyre, 2012, p. 1). The end result is that there is no basis upon which to judge the veracity of one tradition versus the other. With this example, MacIntyre illustrates what he believes to be true about the relationship among language, morality, and truth in post-modern society, but it also connects directly to our online selves. He posits a hypothetical in which we do not possess a comprehensive conceptual scheme of morality or rationality, we have only fragments or simulacra from past theoretical and practical understandings. The fragmentary nature of our understanding is not clearly reflected in the moral language or moral reasoning. We are unable, however, to detect the missing elements in our moral thought and practice, because the narrative we use presupposes a complete understanding, which keeps us from searching for its totality. The consequence of these fissures in moral language and moral reasoning is that “the modern radical is as confident in the moral expression of his stances and consequently in the assertive uses of the rhetoric of morality as any conservative has ever been. Whatever else he denounces in our culture he is certain that it still possesses the moral resources which he requires in order to denounce it. Everything else may be, in his eyes, in disorder; but the language of morality is in order, just as it is” (MacIntyre, 2012, p. 4). This moral crisis results in a modern self that is not subjected to any limits other than those defined by the self. While MacIntyre was writing before social media became a reality, he nonetheless describes the experience of our online lives (and in some respects our offline experience as well) on our sense of morality perfectly. The moral and rational discourse of self is to align “the attitudes, feelings, preference and choices of another with its own. Others are always means, never ends” (MacIntyre, 2012, p. 24). As MacIntyre describes it: The modern self, the self that I have called emotivist, finds no limits set to that on which it may pass judgment for such limits would only derive from rational

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criteria for evaluation and, as we have seen, the emotivist self lacks any such criteria. Everything may be criticized from whatever standpoint the self has adopted, included the self’s choice of standpoint to adopt. It is in this capacity of the self to evade any necessary identification with any particular contingent state of affairs that some modern philosophers, both analytical and existentialist, have seen the essence of moral agency (MacIntyre, 2012, p. 33).

The consequences for morality and rationality sound dire, because the self can be anything and can take on any role and assume any. It is only in it for itself without consideration of others because there is no moral imperative to do otherwise. The morality of a self as described lacks a telos by which it judges itself and its actions, something described by Ricoeur as the good and the obligatory. The emotivism of the modern self, as MacIntyre describes it, is a reaction to the failures of the Enlightment, which established rationality and morality in its universals, and cyberspace is the test case for our new society. The modern departure from the Englightment ideals is akin to the circumstances we faced in the Dark Ages, when “men and women of good will turned aside from the task of shoring up the Roman imperium and ceased to identify the continuation of civility and moral community with the maintenance of that imperium” (MacIntyre, 2012, p. 263). We are at a similar turning point in terms of our online lives (and, by relation, our offline lives too), which gives rise to a point at which we need to consider how and by what means we reground our morality and civility if we are to continue to be a society that is organized around the principle of “everything is possible but not everything is beneficial” (Ricoeur, 1992, p. 167). Certainly, there are moments of when the meaning and significance of our moral narratives connect to others online, but more and more often they also separate us into moral islands that degenerate into a multiplicity of narratives, the sum of which has no connecting theme. But, as MacIntyre explains, “we are never more (and sometimes less) than the co-authors of our own narratives. Only in fantasy do we live what story we please” (MacIntyre, 2012, p. 99). Most important in this moment of time is to establish something with which civility and intellectual and moral life can be maintained and cultivated rather than destroyed. Still, how do we create this in our online lives (and even in our offline lives) and how can we use a postphenomenological approach to establish it without reverting to the constraints from which postmodernism sought to liberate us? In simple terms, the self or personal identity constructed in our online lives cannot only be built on the fragile tenets of emotivism where rationality and morality are nothing more than transitory and we

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do not contemplate our actions and their consequences in consideration of the past and the future of who we want to be. Indeed, we have already experienced a community of this sort in the form of cyber mobs and radicalism that are altering our offline worlds too. Ironically, while social media contributes to the sense that the “good” and the “obligatory” no longer serve as our guide for our personal identity, I will describe in the final chapter how postphenomenological insights of social media can lead us to a new conceptualization of the moral self.

6 Revealing the Moral Self in the Context of Us

We shall be questioning concerning technology, and in so doing we should like to prepare a free relationship to it. The relationship will be free if it opens our human existence to the essence of technology. When we can respond to this essence, we shall be able to experience the technological within its own bounds (Heidegger, 1977, p. 1; emphasis in the original).

If our morality is being shaped in a detrimental way by our use of social media, how is it possible these same technologies could also offer a solution for its repair? The answer depends on whether we are willing to explore what social media reveals about us. Recall that Heidegger explained that technology is a “way of revealing” because it allows reality to come to presence while transforming our relation to it. This process of “revealing,” however, also orders our relationship with technology and our ontological state of Being in such a way that it limits our understanding. The ordering of technology is Enframing, which, in turn, creates the Gestell that limits what is revealed: Enframing does not simply endanger man in his relationship to himself and to everything that is. As a destining, it banishes man into that kind of revealing which is an ordering. Where this ordering holds sway, it drives out every other possibility of revealing. Above all, Enframing conceals that revealing which, in the sense of poiesis, lets what presences come forth into appearance. As compared with that other revealing, the setting-upon that challenges forth thrusts man into a relation to that which is, that is at once antithetical and rigorously ordered (Heidegger, 1977, p. 14).

This description of our relationship with technology captures the current “danger” we face in our use of social media. Ironically, it is not the

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technology that is the danger. Rather, it is the technological ordering of our ontological Being that is the danger we must overcome. “The threat is not a problem for which there can be a solution but an ontological condition from which to be saved” (Dreyfus, 1995, p. 54). The solution for the moral problems we face with our use of social media is not then limited to technological fixes. In fact, it is precisely when we believe that technology can “reduce everything to human domination and control, it becomes no longer even possible to think about being and the process of emergence from unconcealment. Not only is it overlooked, but it can no longer be seen” (Verbeek, 2005, p. 57).  The way out of our current approach to social networking technologies requires the establishment of a free relation with them. In the Heideggarian sense, a free relation with technology is gained through a questioning of the essence of technology in such a way that “in no way confines us to a stultified compulsion to push on blindly with technology, or what comes to the same thing, to rebel helplessly against it” (Heidegger, 1977, pp.  25–6). This moment requires more than a mere openness to technology, however. We must be willing to reconsider what our relationship with technology reveals about our own ontological condition so that we can move forward in our inquiry to understand what it reveals about us. “Releasement, it turns out, is only a stage, a kind of holding pattern, awaiting understanding of being, which would give some content to our openness – what Heidegger calls a new rootedness.” (Dreyfus, 1995, p.  104) The establishment of a new “rootedness” is possible only when we “find ourselves gathered by things rather than controlling them.” (Dreyfus, 1995, p. 57). The example of a bridge explains the distinction between being “gathered” by technology rather than “controlling”: The old stone bridge’s humble brook crossing gives to the harvest wagon its passage from the fields into the village and carries the lumber cart from the field path to the road. The highway bridge is tied into the network of long-distance traffic, paced as calculated for maximum yield. Always and ever differently the bridge escorts the lingering and hastening ways of men to and fro . . . The bridge gathers to itself in its own way earth and sky, divinities and mortals (Heidegger, 1971, pp. 152–3).

The old stone bridge can accommodate a lumber cart traveling from field to road, while the highway bridge is used for long-distance traffic and calculated for maximum yield. The stone bridge gathers human activity according to its limits while the superhighway, on the other hand,

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supersedes the limits of the old stone bridge but still does not realize the full potential of humankind because it too – just like every technology – imposes its own limits on human capacity. Using this analogy, any technology, including social media, “gathers” human activity in a particular way, but it also establishes limits dictated by its ordering of Nature and of our ontological state of Being. In our development and use of technology, we begin by controlling our technological tools, but it is inevitable that our human activity is gathered by them. Nowhere is this more obvious than with our use of social media and our increasing inability to control its influence over us.  This stage in our relationship with social media marks the opportunity to establish a free relation with these technologies while gaining new insight into our ontological state of Being. The shift from our control to technological gathering is evident when we look back on our intentions for social networking technologies and compare them to the reality we currently face. Our hope was that the tools of social media would give rise to a thriving civic engagement in cyberspace, contributing to free speech, democratic transitions, and liberation from all that confined us in our physical space and body. Early descriptions of the potential of social media and the contributions they would make to our lives were, in fact, downright utopian: The data revolution will bring untold benefits to the citizens of the future. They will have unprecedented insights into how other people think, behave and adhere to norms or deviate from them, both at home and in every society in the world. The newfound ability to obtain accurate and verified information online, easily, in native languages and in endless quantity, will usher in an era of critical thinking in societies around the world that before had been culturally isolated. (Schmidt and Jared, 2013, p. 34).

Now, however, it is clear we have something different on our hands. We have not become global citizens because of a data revolution as some hoped. And we are certainly not freer than before once surveillance, data mining, and intrusions on privacy and free speech are factored in. And our use of social media has brought out the worst in us in the form of radicalism, terrorism, cyber bullying, body shaming, revenge porn, and hate, not to mention a growing spate of rude behavior. We envisioned social media as the foundation of a new utopian space, but it is increasingly clear that our interactions and communications are far afield from our initial vision. Not surprisingly, our solutions are also not yielding the results we had hoped. We persist in treating social media just like previous communication technologies, evoking First Amendment freedoms

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and privacy protections as the starting point of our ethical and moral concerns. While this approach is not entirely misplaced, it has also not produced the desired solutions for the problems we face. We can no longer persist, in other words, in “going on in the same way,” to use the Wittgenstein rhetoric, when there is growing evidence that our usual regulatory, political, social, and cultural tactics are no longer effectively controlling social networking technologies. Social media is instead controlling us in ways we tend not to acknowledge because we have not yet explored what this technological ordering reveals about us. There is a need to change our methodological inquiry.  Whether in our attempts to counter the bad behavior behind the technology or our efforts to better understand the consequences of social media on us, there are ways in which our current methodological approach, in Heidegger’s terminology, conceals the revealing potential of technology into these very questions. Reaching this juncture is not reason to despair, however, but it is, instead, an opportunity to adapt our understanding of social networking technologies and our own sense of Being in relation to them. Also important is that technology is not the problem but the solution if we are thinking about it correctly. As Heidegger explains, “it would be foolish to attack technology blindly. It would be shortsighted to condemn it as the work of the devil. We depend on technical devices; they even challenge us to ever greater advances” (Heidegger, 1966, p. 56). To make use of the potential of this stage of revealing, we must identify the order technology has imposed before we can move forward with what Heidegger describes as a “free relation” to technology. This step is perhaps more difficult when it comes to social media, however, because it is our Nature that is being ordered. Like Heidegger’s example of the bridge, we tend not to notice how human activity is being gathered because we are in the habit of believing these technological tools are ours to control. This modernist assumption limits our inquiry and blinds us to how social networking technologies are shaping and limiting our human capacity in significant ways. An analogy can be drawn to Heidegger’s example of a hydroelectric plant on the Rhine River with which he illustrates the technological ordering of Nature and the process of revealing and concealing to which it gives rise. While the Rhine River is transformed into a power station by the use of technology, this technological transformation does not reveal the essence of technology or the river in its entirety: The hydroelectric plant is set into the current of the Rhine. It sets the Rhine to supplying its hydraulic pressure, which then sets the turbines turning. This turning sets those machines in motion whose thrust sets going the electric current

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for which the long-distance power station and its network of cables are set up to dispatch electricity. In the context of the interlocking processes pertaining to the orderly disposition of electrical energy, even the Rhine itself appears as something at our command. The hydroelectric plant is not built into the Rhine River as was the old wooden bridge that joined bank with bank for hundreds of years. Rather the river is dammed up into the power plant. What the river is now, namely, a water power supplier, derives from out of the essence of the power station (Heidegger, 1977, p. 7).

In a similar way, social networking technologies impose an order that creates our ontological condition in relation to them, but as is the case with this technological order, this order does not reveal the totality of who we are or what we might become, and this is probably a good thing. If, however, we can shift our focus from regulating away the behavior rather than trying to consider its root causes, then we can learning something about ourselves and establish a new relation with social networking technologies. Just as the Rhine River is more than a source of electricity for a power station, there is more to be aware of about us and the root causes of our behavior and, hopefully, our human capacity for better behavior. Whether we are considering the Rhine River or our own Nature, technology lures us into to believing we know all there is to know and prevents us from further inquiry. To not go beyond the limits of this imposed order is the danger of technology about which Heidegger warned. “It is technology itself that makes the demand on us to think in another way what is usually understood by ‘essence’ ” (Heidegger, 1969, p.  312). But how do we escape the “danger” of technology, especially when we love our social media so much? The danger of social media is the saving power too if we are willing to free ourselves from the order that social media has imposed on us. The Danger of Technology Is the Saving Power As Heidegger describes with the words of Hölderlin, it is within the danger that the saving power exists. “Where Enframing reigns, there is danger in the highest sense. But where danger is, grows the saving power also”: If the essence of technology, Enframing, is the extreme danger; and if there is truth in Hölderlin’s words, then the rule of Enframing cannot exhaust itself solely in blocking all lighting-up of every revealing, all appearing of truth. Rather, precisely

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the essence of technology must harbor in itself the growth of the saving power. In what respect does the saving power grow there also where the danger is? Where something grows, there it takes root, from thence it thrives. Both happen concealedly and quietly and in their own time. But according to the words of the poet we have no right whatsoever to expect that there where the danger is we should be able to lay hold of the saving power immediately and without preparation (Heidegger, 1977, p. 15).

Heidegger uses the reference to the poem The Lovely Blue, written by Hölderlin, to suggest that if we are willing to inquire into the existing technological order to consider that which is concealed, then there is something more that will be revealed. The question is one of process. To overcome the ordering that is our present relation with them requires that we examine “the shared practices into which we are socialized . . . to provide a background understanding of what counts as things, what counts as human beings, and ultimately, what counts as real, on the basis of which we can direct our actions toward particular things and people” (Dreyfus, 1995, p. 55). This type of exercise begins with a methodological shift in focus so that the “analysis begins with what appears (noema) and then moves reflexively towards its how of appearing” (Ihde, 1986, p. 50). The effects of social networking on us begin with a reconsideration of the human subject and the phenomenological influences that operate on us when we are online. This type of analysis depends upon our ability to reconsider the prescribed “taken for granted reality” that we assume explains our relationship with technology (Collins, 1992). The “stability” of “entrenched inductive generalizations is the stability of the forms of life or taken-for-granted practices – ways of going on – in which they are embedded; it is the stability of cultures and their social institutions” (Collins, 1992, p. 18). The assumptions we make, for example, about social networking technologies and our relationship to them are a result of shared practices that constitute our relationship with technology but are also constitutive of us and our behavior in ways we might be unaware. In contrast, in phenomenological approach, “the ‘I’ appears by means of and through reflection upon the phenomena that in toto are the world” (Ihde, 1986, p. 51). We must, in short, explore the shared practices that we believe explain our relationship with social networking technologies and interrogate them for the ways in which they limit our understanding. The first step is making explicit the order that is before we can reveal what the order conceals.

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There is much to the current ordering of our relation with social networking technologies that affects (and limits) our understanding on that which we take to be most fundamental about who we are as moral and rational beings. The persistence of the modernist subject–object approach to our relationship with social networking technologies is the largest stumbling block because it minimizes the moral significance of technology, which, in turn, constrains our ability to assess the phenomenological consequences on our normative reasons for our decisions, actions, and personal identity. The lack of attention to the mediating effects of social networking technologies is no small matter because we ignore them in the way we conceptualize the regulation, design, and deployment of social networking technologies. If we are subject to the phenomenological influences of social media because of the effects on the normative basis for our decisions, choices, and actions, then we can interrogate and alter the effects on who we are as moral and rational subjects by using these insights. First, however, we must unpack the order that limits our ability to assess the phenomenological influences of social networking technologies on us.  One aspect of the current ordering of our approach to social media that must be set aside is our belief that with technology we have the ability “to bring the forces of nature and culture under control, to liberate us from misery and toil, and to enrich our lives” (Borgmann, 1984, p.  41). Not only does this way of thinking cause us to believe we are in control of the development and deployment of technology, the moral imperative we exercise is limited by the theory we adopt. We focus on the political and ideological direction of our regulation and development of technology and miss the phenomenological effects it has on us. Langdon Winner, who epitomizes this kind of thinking about technology, describes the importance of our theoretical and ideological approach but also assumes a particular direction of the moral influence and importantly does not necessarily encourage us to consider the forces operating on our moral self: If our moral and political language for evaluating technology includes only categories having to do with tools and uses, if it does not include attention to the meaning of the designs and arrangements of our artifacts, then we will be blinded to much that is intellectually and practically crucial (Winner, 1985, p. 126).

The Enlightenment tradition led us to believe it was possible to harness technology to serve our moral ends so that we should shape the

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influences of technology on our cultural, social, and political practices. From this perspective, the theoretical framework and the political ideology we chose were paramount because it defined a scope of action for us to exercise when using technology. Also important, however, was that this theoretical and ideological perspective also defined the extent of our moral responsibility in relation to technology. The belief in our power to direct technology according to our conscious choices also speaks to where we believe our moral responsibility begins and ends, but it does not necessarily reflect where our moral responsibility should or could be. This belief in our ability to direct and control technology to our moral ends does not have any theoretical space to acknowledge the mediating effects of social networking technologies on our normative reasons that constitute us. Not surprisingly, our thinking about regulation and development of the Internet was also influenced by our belief that we could control (or destroy) its evolution. In the beginning phases of the Internet, for example, the main concern was that we needed to proceed with extreme caution when it came to regulating cyberspace if we were going to regulate it at all. Lawrence Lessig was famous for warning that the Internet was the new frontier of creativity, but it also was subject to destruction if we were not careful how we regulated cyberspace: This technology has inspired a market that builds on this freedom to create. Apple sells the idea of the “Rip. Mix. Burn.” Culture – the idea that you should be free to take or rip; you should be free to change or mix; you should be free to release or burn, all producing a culture that expresses ideas differently. It is exactly the freedom that Disney knew. But now technology explodes the possibility for creativity – unless the law gets in the way (Lessig, 2004, p. 3).

While Lessig was mainly concerned with copyright regulation, there was also a more generalized reluctance to regulate cyberspace because of the unintended effect of stunting the “generativity” of the Internet. Jonathan Zittrain was well known for describing the creative potential of the Internet as “generativity,” referring to its inherent capacity to transform and respond to its many users, becoming something greater than the sum of its parts. Regulation could, it was feared, kill the “generativity” of the Internet, and thus the trade-off was seen as a zerosum game. Fortunately, the standoff between those who feared the loss of “generativity” and those who wanted regulation is now more like a truce, as our worst fears were not realized in either regard. We did not lose generativity with regulation nor did generativity resist regulation

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(Zittrain, 2008). Interestingly, the belief that we possessed so much power over the evolution of cyberspace and its technologies mirrors our early treatment of industrialization. Each represents a time period when regulation was viewed as an enemy to the laissez-faire cultivation of economic prosperity. We envisioned cyberspace as a separate but analogous space that possessed the potential for free speech on a global level, facilitating new forms of digital communication that had the ability to transcend geographically imposed boundaries and challenge authoritarian and totalitarian states: During this initial period of the network’s development, the dominant theory – to the extent that anyone was thinking seriously about regulation at all – was that the Internet itself was a separate space, often called  – cyberspace. The concept of cyberspace melded the creativity of the science fiction writer with the aspirations of the democratic theorist dreaming of a fresh start (Palfrey, 2010, p. 2).

The “open Internet” phase was consequently challenged by the recognition that this technological space, like any other space, could be used for good and for bad and, more significantly, was having some unintended consequences for the real world. The rise of social and moral ills that found their way from cyberspace to real time and space challenged the creative commons approach in cyberspace and set the stage for a transition in the rhetoric and regulation. The commonly held viewpoint that the Internet was a space that defied regulation gradually gave way to one where regulation was not only possible but necessary. While we celebrate the ways in which information and communications technologies, whether digital or not, are useful to those who would bring democracy about around the world, it is equally important to realize that the very same tools can be useful to those who would harm other people. These are technologies, useful for the activist, useful for the state, and useful for the terrorist. We are ought to see information and communications technologies as connected to the rest of life in virtually every respect. Nearly all of the problems that arise in offline space find their way into the online environment, and in turn give rise to control strategies (Palfrey, 2010, p. 6). The phase in which we currently find ourselves is one in which we recognize, for better or worse, that the Internet cannot be killed by our regulatory efforts. As Paul Ohm summed it up, the panic over the relationship

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between regulation and freedom on the Internet was overblown, and now it is time to direct our attention elsewhere for the solutions we seek: Regulation can shape the internet, but it is not likely to kill it. If they are wisely designed, net neutrality laws will take a few narrow and innovation-dampening business arrangements off the table; antidiscrimination laws will decrease discrimination; and anti-hate speech measures will decrease hate speech. But the parts of the internet these laws do not directly touch will remain, as ever, generative, burbling founts of innovation and dynamism and economic growth (Ohm, 2016).

This realization that we cannot kill the technology we are trying to control should give us some solace, but it should also signal we need to refocus our concerns when confronting the challenges that social networking poses. Like the early regulatory debate about the Internet, our interest in addressing the harms of social networking technologies often begins with a similar binary approach to the question about regulation and development instead of considering what these technologies might tell us about us. Instead of worrying that regulating social media will destroy our creative potential or raise the specter of governmental interference, as was demonstrated with the panic that ensued in the net neutrality debate, we should consider the more fundamental changes that are upon us. We should move beyond fretting about whether regulating our use of social media will destroy our essential freedoms  because to regulate or not regulate is only part of the story. Those like Coleman, for example, advocate resistance against virtually any regulatory efforts, especially against hackers, who feel secrecy of any sort is a threat to their self-styled activism as it takes shape on the Internet: This ethnography is centrally concerned with how hackers have built a dense ethical and technical practice that sustains their productive freedom, and in so doing, how they extend as well as reformulate key liberal ideals such as access, free speech, transparency, equal opportunity, publicity, and meritocracy (Coleman, 2012, p. 3).

Others such as Mary Anne Franks would characterize Coleman’s defense of this ethos a form of “cyberspace idealism” that denies the “features of cyberspace that amplify the possibilities of individual liberty also amplify the potential for discrimination. Cyberspace idealism drastically downplays the Internet’s power to activate discriminatory stereotypes and social scripts” (Franks, 2011, p. 225). The consequence of this cyberspace idealism, Franks contends, is that it provides a free and

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open space for a host of human behavior not supportive of the freedom that it is designed to foster. Citron, for her part, advocates a “robust enforcement of law against cyber harassment” with a focus on . . . civil, criminal, and civil rights laws that could be ground to bear against harassers. Tort claims redress victims’ damaged reputations, privacy invasions, and intentionally inflicted emotional distress. Criminal law punishes stalking, harassment, threats, extortions, solicitations and punishes the economic, social, and psychic costs inflicted when individuals are denied the right to pursue life’s crucial opportunities because of their membership in a protected group (Citron, 2014, p. 120).

Paradoxically, each position  – whether in favor of regulating our use of social media or not regulating it – begins with a shared starting point that misses the broader insight we might gain from our relationship with social media. Instead of asking whether our sense of freedom and responsibility is changing because of the phenomenological effects of social media, we focus on attempting to regulate in the name of freedom and responsibility without exploring how each has changed. We do not, in other words, fully comprehend the mediating influences of the technology on our experiences, perceptions, or existence, and this fundamentally limits what might be learned from a postphenomenological approach into our human capacity for morality and rationality and, more importantly, what we might do about our own morality. The current ordering of our ethical concerns that we face with social media is dominated by a focus on the established principles of privacy and First Amendment freedoms that causes us to miss how technology has already transformed these interests. This is to not to say that privacy interests and First Amendment freedoms are not worth protecting. Rather, the point is we may be missing how our practices, lives, and sense of ontological Being are being altered by our use of our apps and devices for communications, interactions, and transactions in ways that are consequential to who we are. While scholars, policy makers, and regulators continue to consider the consequences of the rise of data collection through the lenses of First Amendment freedoms and privacy interests, social networking technologies are quietly transforming us and our practices in ways our current paradigmatic approach does not capture. Privacy and First Amendment Freedoms and the New Order That technology has altered our legal understanding of privacy and First Amendment freedoms is no surprise, but social networking technologies

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can be attributed with evoking very different changes than we have faced before. Looking back, our Fourth Amendment jurisprudence was designed to account for the challenges that privacy faced in the face of technological innovation. As Sklansky describes: . . . a concurring opinion in Katz explicitly tied Fourth Amendment protections to “reasonable expectations of privacy” – to those “actual” expectations of privacy “that society is prepared to recognize as reasonable” – and the Court soon embraced that formulation and made it the centerpiece of its search and seizure jurisprudence. By the end of the 1960s, it was conventional wisdom that the Fourth Amendment was concerned, first and foremost, with privacy. Even today, that proposition is often treated as close to self-evident (Sklansky, 2014, p. 1075).

Technological innovation and privacy share a long history, and thus it is no surprise that modern social networking technologies continue to be coupled with privacy so closely in our analysis of them and the threats and benefits they deliver. We, however, are being pulled and pushed by unique technological forces that indicate fundamental changes in our way of thinking about privacy that we do not notice because of approaching social networking technologies in a similar way to their antecedents:  To the extent that privacy exists, is important, and is threatened, the threats today seem to come more from the private sector – from Internet search engines, social networking sites, credit reporting agencies, and private surveillance systems  – than from government investigators. Recent revelations about government monitoring of electronic communications have drawn some of the attention of privacy scholars and privacy activists back to the government. But the concerns have centered on intelligence gathering by national security officials working in cooperation with telecommunication companies, not on the day-to-day operations of the criminal justice system. The threats that law enforcement poses to privacy seem dwarfed not just by commercial threats to privacy but also by other threats posed by law enforcement: racial profiling, police violence, and mass incarceration. As a result, privacy scholars by and large remain less interested in the police than in Google, Facebook, and Equifax, and criminal justice scholars are less interested in privacy than in fairness, proportionality, and legitimacy (Sklansky, 2014, p. 1073).

And our privacy interests are not the only thing changed by the widening net of surveillance by private entities. Our associational life has historically been viewed as essential to the protection of civil society, but it too is being transformed: The arguments for why untraceable anonymity is a good thing include the idea that it contributes to human flourishing; people want to experiment, and the ability to experiment with less fear contributes to human self-realization. In places that are less free, avoiding retribution for saying the wrong thing may be

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a matter of life and death. Political dissidents, ethnic minorities, religious splinter groups, people campaigning for women’s rights or gay rights, and many others are, or have been, subject to the risk of genuine and very palpable violence. If they wish to speak or write for their causes they need a means to protect themselves. Anonymity is one such tool (Froomkin, 2015, p. 121).

In cyberspace, however, the protection of anonymity is being undone by the confluence of a data revolution, the nexus of private and public entities, the war on terror, and the inability of regulation to parse through the complications of this combination, and the usual regulatory approach has done little to quell it: There has been a gradual effort to get ISPs to collect as much information about their customers, and their customer’s communications, as the cellphone company gathers. As is well known, U.S.  law has special Constitutional protections for speech (US Constitution Amendment I), and supposedly against government searches (US Constitution Amendment IV). It is worth pointing out when you mix the adoption of encryption with the legal protection of anonymous speech, it creates a major tension that U.S. law has not yet resolved. The legal problem exists because every packet of encrypted digitized data looks alike from the outside. If the legal system imagines that there might be any class of disfavored and thus unprotected speech, whether it is pirated movies, terrorist conspiracies, obscenity, or revenge porn, widespread encryption undermines the ability to control the spread of that content. And if a key element of that control involves finding the party responsible for the bad speech, cryptography-based anonymity technology becomes a major problem (Froomkin, 2015, p. 130).

Our virtual associational life is eroded by powerful factors such as the ongoing and never-ending war on terror, the prevention of white-collar crimes, and a spate of other illegal activity that depends upon identification for its prevention or prosecution. After the terrorist attack in London in May 2017, for example, one of the causes cited by the prime minister, Theresa May, was the Internet and its potential for inciting radicalism online and the difficulties of preventing it if identification of those who were behind the activity was not a priority of the social media companies. The existing legal protections for anonymity are also challenged by the growing political, social, and cultural ills of our online lives and the consequences that seem to outweigh the benefits. The growing incidences of “revenge porn,” cyber bullying, and cyber harassment and the potential for radicalism in cyberspace make it even more difficult to argue for protecting anonymity. The development of technology reflects these imperatives: When the Internet started, one byproduct of the architecture of the Internet was that online anonymity was easy to achieve. It required only minimal technical

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knowledge, or fairly simple tools, or assistance from the right people. In those days you could be anonymous and have a great deal of faith in being successfully untraceable. Cryptography made this possible. PGP – “Pretty Good Privacy” – was one of the early and important tools, perhaps the first consumer-oriented cryptography (Froomkin, 2015, pp. 121–2).

The point is that while we lament the loss of privacy, anonymity, and First Amendment freedoms and worry about how to regulate against the technological innovations that threaten them, these technological imperatives are “gathering” human activity in ways we may not fully appreciate because we are growing more complacent and perhaps even supportive of yielding these interests to the technologies that threaten them. Whether it is CCTVs on the street or iPhones in the hands of everyone around us, the gaze of technology is not as troubling to many of us as it used to be, but it actually might be changing us in ways we do not fully recognize or, worse, about which we do not care. In a Pew survey conducted after the Edward Snowden revelations about a widespread NSA surveillance program, for example, only a small percentage of Americans believed there was much they could do about the collection of their personal data collection and its use. There was a striking 91 percent of the respondents who indicated that they had not made any changes to their Internet or cell phone use to avoid having their activities tracked (Madden, 2015). In addition, the traditional First Amendment and privacy paradigm does little to stop us from contributing our data to the new information economy that is built on the data we willingly surrender. We tend to be eager consumers as we rush to buy the newest devices and apps, which whet our appetite for more access, communication, and interactions in cyberspace. While we might have considered cataloguing every aspect of our lives online as unthinkable, now many of us strive to collect as many “likes” as we are able, and we may be willing to do anything in order to achieve them: Narcissism, defining our self-worth, and validation has always been a part of human nature; however social media has created digital and seemingly endless means of having our basic needs for acceptance met. Attention addiction has increased relevance in today’s social media environment. While most social media users do not display narcissistic tendencies, what can be found on social media are self-promoting or personal platform displays; and intentional displays designed to emote attention with words (Edwards, 2017. p. 25).

There is also no sign that technologies that accumulate our data and our desire for them are going away anytime soon. We are, instead,

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driven to submit ourselves to our technological machines and ignore the consequences even if there are more and more data about us that are available and cobbled together in ways we are unaware: Video images from far-flung camera systems are stitched together; license plates photographed by surveillance cameras are automatically read, identified, and tracked; automated facial recognition is crude but getting steadily more accurate. Store purchases – and, increasingly, other behaviors while shopping – are tracked and cross-referenced. Online click are compiled and analyzed. Medical records, school transcripts, and credit reports are increasingly accessible. Merging separate databases makes it difficult if not impossible to maintain the anonymity of any records. The federal government is said to be constructing a vast data facility “to store all of the trillions of words and thoughts and whispers captured in its electronic net” (Sklansky, 2014, p. 1086).

It is clear that the potential for tracking our online activity is a boon for public and private sectors because of the wealth of information about us that is generated and easily gathered. But this is not the only way our relationship with our devices is ordering human activity. We have blind spots, in other words, in our understanding of the profound effects of social networking technologies on us because of our current ethical and regulatory paradigm that misses the profound influence of those who ultimately control social media.  For one thing, social media does not fit easily into our constitutional framework and limits associational life and threatens privacy in ways different from how earlier communication technologies ever did. The regulation of content and users by the companies who give us access to Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat is not only a function of the viewpoints of the private entities who control them, it has little to do with the broader protections afforded to us by the Constitution. And while social media giants, as private companies, are well within their legal rights to decide to limit users or content, doing so leaves little recourse to those who are the target of these decisions and find themselves on the receiving end of the action. Just ask Milo Yiannopoulos, among a growing list of others, who are banned from Twitter. And while we might all agree about the need to limit extreme forms of radicalism or hate speech, how to stop it and who is responsible for doing so are difficult questions not answered within the confines of the First Amendment doctrine. Cass Sunstein, for example, has suggested we need to rethink our regulatory approach to social media when it comes to terroristic activity because the First Amendment might be contributing to the rise of radicalism

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(Sunstein, 2015). Sunstein’s argument, begins and ends with the idea of limiting the First Amendment, which does not move us very far along because we might end up destroying the very thing we seek to protect. This consequence comes about because the normative standards for content and user regulation reside in tastes and politics of those who control the forum and the algorithms they create to take us where they want us to go. When we put the power in the hands of social media to decide the parameters of what is “real” and “fake” or “good” and “bad,” there is little to counter the economic and political motivations behind the decisions that are being made if we are only relying on our traditional assumptions about regulation (Trending, 2017). This is not to say that privacy, First Amendment freedoms, and social media responsibility are not important considerations, but we are missing other ways in which social media is affecting us because we are only engaging in what is called a “straightforward” approach to them. We must move beyond this methodological impasse to come to terms with the fundamental changes that are occurring. From Straightforward Approaches to Postphenomenological Investigations Recall that a straightforward evaluation is “actional, involved, immersed in the project of the moment, narrowly focused and concentrated” (Ihde, 1986, p. 45). A reflexive approach, on the other hand, takes the inverse view and reflects on the phenomena that constitutes the “I,” or in the case of social networking technologies, the “us.”  The situation we face in our relationship with social networking technology is, in its present form, best described as a “technological understanding of being.” This moment is both hopeful and contemplative, not because it yields immediate answers, but because it sets the stage for different questions to be asked about our relationship with technologies. Heidegger explains this moment as releasement: That which shows itself and at the same time withdraws (i.e., the clearing) is the essential trait of what we call the mystery. I call the comportment which enables us to keep open to the meaning hidden in technology, openness to the mystery. Releasement toward things and openness to the mystery belong together. They grant us the possibility of dwelling in the world in a totally different way. They promise us a new ground and foundation upon which we can stand and endure in the world of technology without being imperiled by it (Heidegger, 1966, p. 55).

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The clearing to which Heidegger refers is the place “in which things and people can show up for us. We do not produce the clearing. It produces us as the kind of human beings we are” (Dreyfus, 1995, p. 55). So what kind of human beings are we and what do social networking technologies reveal about who we have become and how we have changed? The simple answer is we are not immune from the phenomenological effects of social networking technologies, but the promise of this insight is that we can also reveal something about our human capacity when it comes to morality. If the phenomenological effects of social media are consequential to the normative basis of our decisions, actions, and personal identity when we are online, this also means that we possess the power to consciously reevaluate this normative basis as well. It is important to note that I am not arguing for a mere increase in regulation or education. Rather, I am suggesting that we can reconsider our normative reasons for actions, decisions, and assessments of who we are, because social media can help us uncover our implicit assumptions about mortality  and, more importantly, where we might have gone wrong. This methodological transition is necessary  because clearly our attempts to regulate or educate away the rise of bad behavior online are not working. The campaigns and regulatory efforts to curb behavior such as cyber bullying and online harassment have done little to quell the rise of such behavior. A survey by Pew Research Center found that malicious behavior continues to flourish, with 73 percent of respondents having witnessed such activity and 40 percent being on the receiving end of it (Duggan, 2014). The incidences of revenge porn are also on the rise. Nearly ten million Americans are either threatened with or are victims of “revenge porn” according to a study put out by the Data & Society Research Institute (Lenhart, 2016). Regulation and education are still a part of the solution, but that there is a deeper problem that social media is revealing to us about our own morality that we have yet to investigate.  As new directions in research demonstrate, we are at the stage of discovering how we can begin to think about what the moral significance of technologies is and what it means for our own morality. But the success of a postphenomenological approach continually depends on the questions we ask and the conclusions we reach. And certainly we cannot assume a conclusion about the morality with which we begin if we are taking the “post” in postphenomenology seriously. Paul Verbeek and Robert Rosenberger are leading the way forward with some exciting work that is true to its postphenomenological origins. The use of concrete case examples to illustrate the interaction of humans and

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technology “proves its value through practical contributions to contemporary interdisciplinary conversations on design, scientific investigation, policy and so on” (Rosenberger and Verbeek, 2015, p. 32). In their most recent book, for example, they cite cases studies on imaging technologies in scientific and medical practice in which the hermeneutic relation with the image generated by the technology lend insight into aspects of the scientific practice that usually go unnoticed. “Rather than understand images simply as representations of the world, or perhaps as a data set to be squared away with theory, the postphenomenological perspective reveals the essential dimension of these practices, as a human user encounters a technological mediated world” (Rosenberger and Verbeek, 2015, p. 33). This methodological approach turns the usual assumptions about science on its head. Where it is traditionally asserted that scientific progress begins with theoretical insight, Ihde would counter that “science is more primarily dragged forward through the development of instruments, following ‘instrumental trajectories’ in which those devices are more and more refined” (Rosenberger and Verbeek, 2015, p. 33). The value of postphenomenological perspective is on the practice of interpretation and the mediating effects on the observer and the object that is the subject of the image. There are, for example, considerations of implantation of technology, such as cochlear implant devices, that extend our capacities as humans (Besmer, 2012). Our cell phones are the subject of postphenomenological approaches as well, bringing “quasi-face” interaction as a form of establishing alterity in some shape and, at the same time, existing in the form of an embodiment relation that transforms a user’s capacity for communication. Rosenberger explains, “that typical phone usage is also highly characterized by sedimentation and field composition,” which is to say “that phone usage reorganizes a user’s overall field of awareness” (Rosenberger and Verbeek, 2015, p. 38). And when it comes to cell phones, regulating distracting driving also benefits from an “intraphenomenological” inquiry into the question of whether distracted drivers are actually able to separate their attention sufficiently to drive attentively even while using the cell phone. The substance of such a case study involves accumulating concrete details of drivers’ experience and traffic policy but begins with a basic understanding of human attention as it is altered by technology (Rosenberger and Verbeek, 2015, p.  39). The possibilities for a postphenomenoloigcal approach to technologies are as endless as the technologies we use. The intent of these expanding postphenomenological inquiries is to establish a body of work that escapes a traditional perspective on technology that focuses

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its attention on the function or efficiency or preconceived ideology of the technology and to instead ask about the effects of technology constituting our behavior. The benefit of these methods is that they take us beyond the assessment of technology limited to only the question of its functionality according to a social and political significance. The idea is that this postphenomenological process “enables a turn, instead, toward pragmatism’s orientation, most marked in John Dewey’s work, toward concrete cultural (historical, social and political) events as occasions of interaction of environments and organisms. Further, the focus on technologies as practices instigates attention to the ‘how’ of their interrelations and the positive and negative value that emerges in those practices” (Rosenberger an Verbeek, 2015, p.  46). Postphenomenological inquiries, like those outlined by Verbeek and Rosenberger, can help to fashion technological development in pursuit of understanding how our moral behavior takes shape, but can also assist in molding it. Still, the question of what this morality looks like still remains. It might be tempting at this point to argue only in favor of technological solutions informed by these postphenomenological effects on us, allowing us to learn as we go without asserting a guiding metaphysics. Perhaps our moral behavior could be improved if social networking technologies incrementally built in “nudges” toward what we take to be more moral, like those proposed by the app Candid. Candid uses artificial intelligence and sentiment analysis to assign badges to users. These badges are a warning to others as to what kind of person you are without revealing your identity. If you are a person who posts unsubstantiated rumor, you earn the badge of “gossip.” If the sentiment analyzer thinks you post negative information, you might earn the badge “hater.” These kinds of “nudges,” however, possess their own set of problems. The sentiment analyzer is not a neutral arbiter even if it is presented as such because of its characterization as an objective algorithm. Other approaches limit the kinds of interactions we might have anonymously. A new app, tbh, allows users to comment anonymously about their friends and peers in a gamelike setting. But unlike Sarahah or Yik Yak, the app only allows its users to say positive things about other users, which has given rise to a wave of popularity, but a reduced kind of interaction. There are other ways we might be “encouraged” to be more ethical when we are online as we learn more about the morally significant possibilities of technology and how we respond to them. Mixed media technologies depend upon two modalities to focus our attention on what is important and are used to stimulate sympathy. These mixed media

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approaches are used by nonprofit organizations to generate support and understanding for human and animal plight, and it may be that our use of social media might benefit from this type of “thick” description of who is on the other side of an online exchange. There is also the potential for interdisciplinary research into perception in virtual reality that would yield insights into how we perceive phenomena when we are online. New research at the University of Pennsylvania, for example, is using psychologists and physicists to develop a better analysis of how we “see” things in virtual reality. Understanding how we perceive virtual reality would contribute to understanding how the normative reasons for our decisions and actions take shape online and make us more aware of how technology might be modified to encourage “better” decisions. Technological modifications to “encourage” or “nudge” us to be better people are a trend that has been described as “solutionism,” and it too has some troubles that stem from out lack of metaphysics. As Morozov points out, we are often keen on turning to “smart” technology to solve our problems big and small. Whether in the form of a teapot that has an orb that either glows green or red to inform you if there is sufficient energy for brewing tea, or a garbage can that documents what we throw away, there is potentially a technological solution to every ethical issue we want to solve (even if technology created it in the first place) (Morozov, 2013). While technological solutions are tempting, there are issues lurking here too. First, the technological solutions we choose are based upon the immediate ethical problems we perceive, and suffice it to say we are not prescient. An academic paper that trumpeted the benefits of the BinCam, a tiny smartphone that takes a picture to document what is deposited into the trash, took a narrow approach to its ethical considerations and ignored the possible immoral implications that the technology might generate: Nowhere in the academic paper that accompanied the BinCam presentation do the researchers raise any doubts about the ethics of their undoubtedly wellmeaning project. Should we get one of the citizens to do the right thing by getting another set of citizens to spy on them? Should we introduce game incentives into a process that has previously worked through appeals to one’s duties and obligations? Could the “goodness” of one’s environmental behavior be accurately quantified with three leaves and gold bars? (Morozov, 2013, p. 2).

Crafting technological solutions to modify human behavior imposes a limit on how we conceive of our responsibility for moral decisions we make, and also constrains our ethical purview on the solutions we seek. Like the stone bridge in Heidegger’s example, human activity is gathered

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in relation to the technology, and this is not always a good thing when it comes to our morality. Unintended consequences are the hobgoblin of good intentions. We may do the “right” thing when confronted by the BinCam, but there are ways in which the moral objectives of the technology might be put to counterintuitive purposes or, more importantly, we might even be able to do better than the BinCam encourages us to do. We may be able to “nudge” moral behavior with a trash monitoring garbage can or reduce water usage with the glowing orb of a teapot, but other technological moral fixes might lead us down an immoral road before we even know that we are on it or are persuaded not to take another road to reach a destination. Moralizing technology based on our findings of a postphenomenological method depends upon the interpretations of our findings and the conclusions we draw from them, and this too suggests that a certain moral perspective is implicit if not explicit. And here the source of our moral judgments still remains an open question or a strangely closed question because of the distortion of postmodernism upon which we currently rely. The most valuable insight our relationship with social media reveals is that we possess the power to construct and consciously alter our normative basis for our reasons for decisions, actions, and assessments of who we are and want to become, but we are also doing a very bad job of it. The central problem that is revealed about us in ontological state of Being is that we are unwilling to construct a normative basis of our morality that is based on something more than “who I am.” While social media manifests the consequences of perspectival morality founded upon of “who I am” rather than “what I am,” it is not solely to blame. Instead, it is the current philosophical approach to morality that is our central problem and we must come to terms with it or, at the very least explore how it is operating on us. While social media demonstrates the problematic approach to morality upon which we currently rely, the source of the problem is not taking the “post” in postmodernism seriously. Our online lives are rife with perspectivalism and relativism and we tend to abide by whatever contingent morality strikes our fancy. Unfortunately, this tendency is not confined to our online interactions and is finding its way into our offline lives as well. The perpetual present of our Twitter interactions sets aside the pursuit of shared morality for our self-styled conclusions from our narrow perspectival point of view, and we are content to associate only with those who agree with us. Our relation with social media demonstrates the lost postmodern promise that was founded upon a methodology of deconstruction that mined the relationship among the

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sign, signifier, and signified that hide our truths. But never did postmodernism promise to reveal the thing in itself, because to do so – or to claim to do so  – would only be constructing the reality that it was designed to deconstruct. Somewhere along the way postmodernism has lost its way and purpose to the political identities of our time that claim their own specialized truths. Strangely, we have traded the transcendental self of modernism and all of the modernist assertions and universal truths that the deconstruction of postmodernism was designed to interrogate for something that, I argue, is far worse, especially when it comes to our morality. But how did this happen and what should be done about it? Certainly at the start, postmodernism began with a questioning of the Enlightenment tradition making us wary of asserted claims of morality for fear that it is merely internal and relative to a particular tradition while ignoring “the role of contingency in our political and moral life” (Yack, 2012, p. 24). But the outcome of this rejection of the Enlightenment tradition has ironically pushed us into our moral corners. We have ceased to continue down the postmodern path of deconstructing our understanding of our assumptions and instead have decided it is better to merely assert our own perspectival truths and make our moral judgments and pit them against all others. This odd end to a postmodern method of deconstruction results in an contradictory turn of events that takes us far afield from its postmodern origins. Social networking technologies reveal the consequence of our mistaken interpretation of the postmodern intention that ends up feeding the human tendency toward confirmation bias and motivated reasoning (Pluckrose, 2017). Postmodernism promised a methodology of deconstruction to constantly challenge the basis of our assumed “truths,” but now we merely assert them one against the other, which invariably ceases the search for something more that we might share. Social networking technologies reveal this shortcoming in our thinking and illustrates the faltering basis of it if we rely only on a morality of the moment defined by our limited purview. We cannot simply truncate our morality according to “who I am” if we are to continue on the quest for a morality that binds us together. A postphenomenological approach to social media demonstrates that we are a product of our normative choices, decisions, and actions. But the post of postphenomenological approach requires we also are willing to contest the moral subject, which is impossible to achieve if the “post” in postmodernism is mistaken in its assumptions and methodological approach that a postphenomenological approach to technology, for example, does not have to set aside a metaphysics, but it does alter our starting point for asserting it. We must take the “post” in postphenomenological and postmodernism

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seriously. Instead of beginning with a moral theory and an ideological imperative such as that advocated by Langdon Winner, which tries to direct technological development and deployment according to its ideological preferences (even if they might be factually incorrect), the metaphysics of a postphenomenolgical approach is one that seeks what Dewey called “generic traits of experience,” out of which we come to understand the common experience: “The philosophical results themselves acquire empirical value; they are what they contribute to the common experience of man, instead of being curiosities to be deposited, with appropriate labels, in a metaphysical museum” (Dewey, 1925, p. 26). The hope is that the postphenomenological insights can reveal the interrelations between technology and us that transform our thinking not only about the moral significance of technology, but also about the moral objectives we are consciously seeking to achieve. Still, in this regard, we must be careful to avoid the pitfalls we are trying to escape, and our relation with social media reveals that even if we are capable of constructing our morality, we must not devolve into the mistake of believing our perspectival morality it is the only “right” one. In our quest to liberate ourselves from the caste of modernity, we must also not fall victim to the lure of a misguided postmodern approach that is informed by an ironic insistence on our own perspectivalism as the moral authority. The problem is that if we abandon any search for a shared morality, then we surely will not find it, and social media clearly shows us the shortcomings of this kind of approach to humanity. It is clear there is a need for an ethical standard by which to organize our behavior when we are online, but the broader challenge is how we should locate it without creating the same sort of modernist problems or worse we are trying to escape.  Those like Feenberg suggest that we need to come up with a morality that does not entirely abandon the past, because without some reference to the categories of modernity theory “such as universal and particular, reason and tradition, culture and class, which are transformed from explanation into explanada. One can neither rise above the level of case histories nor talk meaningfully about the essence and future of modernity under these conditions” (Feenberg, 2003, p. 88). Vallor, on the other hand, advocates coming up with a theory of “what counts as the good life for human beings” without asserting modernist underpinnings. She describes a virtue ethics that draws upon the Western philosophical tradition in which moral virtues are “states of a person’s character: stable dispositions such as honesty, courage, moderation, and patient that promote their possessor’s reliable performance of right and excellent

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actions” (Vallor, 2016, p. 18). A revival of virtue ethics must surmount the criticism that has been mounted against it by those who targeted the preoccupation with “law, duty, obligation and right to the exclusion of considerations of character, human flourishing, and the good” (Vallor, 2016, p.  21). We must also not prioritize our individual vision of the good as the only one that matters. Those like Rosenberger and Verbeek prefer “a metaphysics that describes a world of mutual relations is a radically reconstructed metaphysics. It investigates reality as a process of mutually interactive constitutions of concrete technologies and human practices; of the things we make how things make us” (Rosenberger and Verbeek, 2015, p. 53). According to this way of thinking, we should be investigating our relationship with technology and build our metaphysics as we go along. Yet, we cannot get very far with a postphenomenological approach if we insist on uncontestable moral claims that the current misguided postmodern approach encourages us to privilege. Instead, we need to consciously consider the philosophical basis of our morality and strive for its realization by asking a different set of questions than our current (and misguided) approach to postmodernism suggests. We need, in other words, to find (not assert) a new “rootedness.”  As Heidegger explains, releasement from a technological ordering requires a new rootedness by which he means a new understanding of Being without its complete abandonment. The idea of “rootedness” is that upon reflection we can “come together in a new cultural paradigm that held to us a new way of doing things, thereby focusing a world in which formerly marginal practices were central and efficiency marginal. Such a new object or event that grounded a new understanding of reality Heidegger would call a new god” (Dreyfus, 1995, p.  60). The idea of “god,” as it is used here, is meant to refer to a set of normative concerns that orients our behavior. Social networking technologies and our use of them have shown us what a world without a “god” looks like, and it is not a pretty sight. Left to our own devices and the limited vantage point of our own moral perspectivalism leaves us without an attempt at normative reasons that define a commonality necessary for humanity to take shape. The problem we face in searching for this new “god” is not social media, although social media shows us where the problem lies. It might be argued that our moral perspectivalism is the inevitable result of postmodernism, but I  contend it is most certainly not. Postmodernism, in its attempt to deconstruct the binary oppositions upon which modernism was based,

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was not designed to give rise to unassailable truths, especially defined by moral perspectivalism. Yet, this is exactly and ironically what our distorted postmodernism has become.  For example, when Jacques Derrida delivered his lecture at Johns Hopkins University intended to solidify a methodological approach called deconstruction, “Structure, Sign and Play in the Discourse,” he explained that there is “no transcendental or privileged signified and that the domain or the interplay of signification has, henceforth, no limit, he ought to extend his refusal to the concept and to the word sign itself – which is precisely what cannot be done.” (Derrida, 1978, p.  281). The process of deconstruction did not seek to arrive at a truth about reality or an unassailable morality and, in fact, disavowed this as its methodological outcome (Traldi, 2018). Yet, the postmodernism of today has turned into politically divisive moral assertions that are destructive of any chance of humanity, perhaps even more so than the dominant modernist paradigms it was designed to question, because of its ability to isolate us one from the other. We had hoped social networking technologies would unite us and not divide us; liberate us and not isolate us; create a newfound sense of freedom and understanding. But to realize these ethical visions, in our online and offline lives we must continue to search for and identity the obstacles, even if they reside in us and the things we believe. This is the only truth of a postmodern approach: that there is no truth to be found, least of all from our limited vantage point. Social media reveals that we are influenced by the normative reasons we construct, but this also means we must also be conscious of the reasons we select. As Dreyfus explains, “we are again led to the view that releasement is not enough and to the modified Heideggarin slogan that only some new gods can save us” (Dreyfus, 1995, p. 61). The “gods” we must find are not in ourselves but in the commonalities we share. We must not let social networking devices to “warp, confuse and lay waste our nature,” but we must also allow ourselves to find our shared nature too: We can use technical devices and yet with proper use also keep our selves free of them, that we may let go of them any time. We can use technical devices as they ought to be used, and also let them alone as something which does not affect our inner and real core. We can affirm the unavoidable use of technical devices, and also deny them the right to dominate us, and so to warp, confuse, and lay waste our nature (Heidegger, 1977, p. 54).

Social media reveals that we have, perhaps unknowingly, become the very thing we sought to escape and provides a way out if we are willing

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to find it. We are trapped by the question of “who we are” because of our wrongheaded approach to postmodernism that emphasizes our perspectival truth that denies the importance of the good and the obligatory that comes from asking the question of “what we are” to one another. In questioning every attempt at universal morality, we have rejected it in totality for our own self-styled morality, and it has left the self stranded in its own sea of emotivism and adrift without hope for a shared sense of moral meaning or quest for it, akin to the fictional world described by MacIntyre (2012) in After Virtue. Thankfully, all is not lost (I hope) if we are willing to consider that social media demonstrates we can be influenced (and even created) by the normative basis of our decisions and actions and we also have the power to change them and us. Still, we must find a way of moving beyond our own moral righteousness that we have privileged because of a distorted postmodern approach and find a way to escape the moral isolationism to which it gives rise. As Eco reminds us, “the subject situated in a temporal dimension is aware of the gravity and difficulty of his decisions, but the same time he is aware he must decide, that it is he who must decide and this process is linked to an indefinite series of necessary decision making that involves all other men” (Eco, 1979, p. 933).  A postphenomenological approach that is true to its postmodern roots means that we must continue to question and investigate our relationship with technology but also ourselves in a continuing search of a morality that joins us and does not separate us.

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223

Index

Alterity, 84, 85 anonymity, 3, 13–16, 18, 27, 42–45, 49–55, 57, 119, 156, 195–98, 220 Anonymous, 6, 28, 52, 55–59, 112–14, 146–48, 168, 212, 217 Anscombe, G., 96, 108, 211 ANT, 77, 78 Articles of Confederation, 16 artifacts, 4, 8, 22, 45, 48, 52, 74, 81, 190 asynchronicity, 125, 153 Augustine, 128, 129, 161, 211

Collins, H., 189, 213, 215 cyberactivism, 24

Baudrillard, J., 142, 143, 211 Bentham, J., 17 Bergson, H., 131–33, 137, 211 Berlin, I., 58, 59, 211 Bijker, W., 64, 211, 216 Borgmann, A., 22, 29, 30, 76, 77, 82, 88, 89, 190, 211 Bourdieu, P., 124, 148, 212 Bratman, B., 107–9, 212 bullying, 2, 16, 18, 26, 27, 57, 58, 74, 85, 90, 105, 119, 122, 126, 127, 178, 186, 188, 196, 200

Easterbrook, F., 20, 21, 213 Eco, U., 12, 123, 128, 138, 151, 152, 209 embodiment, 7, 83, 84, 87, 91, 92, 94, 96, 97, 99, 105, 118, 135, 156, 201 Enframing, 25, 70, 71, 184, 188 Enlightenment, 28–31, 62, 73, 81, 131–33, 179, 190, 205

Cartesian, 63, 70, 161, 215 Castells, M., 125, 212 Citron, D. K., 3, 15, 27, 58, 74, 109, 118, 119, 194, 212 civil society, 3, 16, 29, 40, 58, 59, 195 classist, 29, 30 Cohen, J., 44, 45, 48, 51, 212

Dasein, 70, 134 Davidson, D., 95–97, 106, 110–17, 120, 213 Derrida, J., 137, 208, 213 Descartes, R., 66, 161, 213 destining, 75, 184 Determinism, 94 digilantism, 16, 18, 57, 105, 119

Facebook, 1, 2, 6, 29, 47, 62, 74, 90, 101, 144, 159, 168, 195, 198, 212, 219, 220 Feenberg, A., 70, 206, 211, 213, 215, 216, 218 First Amendment, 5, 16, 17, 20, 21, 27, 29, 36, 38, 39, 41, 47, 51, 54, 56, 57, 59, 73, 112–14, 118–21, 147, 150, 159, 186, 194, 197–99 Fischer, C., 31, 32, 214 Floridi, L., 22, 81, 82, 214 Foucault, M., 17, 24, 25, 214

223

224

Index

Fourth Amendment, 5, 17, 33, 34, 41, 49, 195, 219 Frankfurt, H., 106, 214 Franks, M., 193, 214 free will, 9, 11, 62, 82, 94, 95, 97, 118, 131, 161 Froomkin, M., 16, 18, 42, 43, 196, 197, 214 Generativity, 20 Google, 1, 47, 51, 52, 90, 112, 195, 220 Hassan, R. 124, 125, 214, 217 Heidegger, M., 7, 8, 25, 70–76, 83, 88, 134, 184, 185, 187–89, 199, 200, 203, 207, 208, 213–15, 218 hermeneutical, 8, 12, 83, 84, 87, 91–94, 96, 97, 99, 105, 118, 152, 156, 177 human agency, 9–11, 91, 94, 96–98, 101, 108–11, 119 Hume, D., 9, 10, 95, 167, 168, 215 Husserl, E., 7, 133, 134, 139, 140, 142, 143, 215, 218 Ihde, 4, 70, 72, 74, 82–87, 91–93, 99, 123, 125–27, 141, 142, 149, 189, 199, 201, 215, 220 interpreted reality, 8, 80 iterative, 15, 74 Itrona, L., 81, 82, 215 James, W., 1, 129–31, 215 Jasanoff, S., 64, 215 Joerges, G., 29, 30, 215 Kantian, 21, 22, 135, 158, 179 Kierkegaard, S., 68, 155, 215 Korsgaard, C., 96, 106, 156–58, 216 Latour, B., 8, 78, 79, 82, 216 Lessig, L., 46, 191, 216 Locke, J. S., 11, 13, 18, 19, 129, 130, 163–67, 216 MacIntyre, A., 180–82, 209, 217 McLuhan, 153, 217 mediating, 2, 4, 7–9, 11, 20–22, 31, 59, 60, 63, 69, 70, 79, 82, 83, 89, 91, 93, 94, 96, 97, 99, 105, 121, 127, 138, 149, 150, 156, 162, 163, 190, 191, 194, 201

Merleau-Ponty, M., 68, 83, 127, 135, 214, 216 Mill, J. S., 19, 45, 46, 57, 217 modernist, 4, 7, 9, 16, 23, 67, 73, 80, 187, 190, 205, 206, 208 morality, i, iii, 2–4, 9–13, 16, 20–26, 28, 32, 59, 60, 62–69, 73, 76, 77, 79, 82, 89, 96, 98, 101–5, 107–9, 115, 124, 128, 137, 138, 144–48, 151–53, 158–60, 168, 169, 172, 174–82, 184, 194, 200, 202, 204–9 Morozov, E., 203, 217 MySpace, 1, 104, 141 Nakamura, L., 142, 217 networked, 8, 11, 12, 45, 47, 77, 91, 124, 126–28, 134, 138, 142, 148 Nietszchean, 28 noematic, 72, 123, 126 normative, 12, 16, 23, 25, 28, 34, 57, 59, 64, 69, 89, 91, 94, 96, 97, 103, 105, 112, 115–17, 121, 123, 147, 152, 156–59, 162, 172, 190, 191, 199, 200, 203–5, 207–9 objectivism, 133 Olmstead, 32–34, 36, 39, 212 ontic, 72, 74 ontological, 23, 70, 72, 74, 80, 163, 170, 184–86, 188, 194 ontology, 72, 74, 88, 169, 177 Orwell, G., 39 Oudshoorn, N., 64, 217 Parfit, D., 171, 217 perspectivialism, 23 Pew Research Center, 42, 63, 90, 216 phenomenological, 3, 7, 10, 21, 23, 69, 85, 86, 89, 91, 94, 96, 97, 99, 100, 102, 104–8, 110, 114, 117, 119, 121–23, 125, 126, 135, 137–42, 144, 145, 149, 156, 158–60, 162, 163, 167, 169, 174, 177, 180, 189, 190, 194, 200 Phillips, W., 103–5, 140, 141, 143, 146, 155–57, 217 Plato, 5, 66 positivism, 133 postmodern, 11, 23, 25, 67, 124, 204–9 postphenomenological, 7–9, 11, 12, 20, 23, 60, 63, 80, 88, 89, 160, 180, 182, 183, 194, 200–2, 204–7, 209

225

Index praxical, 72, 73, 76, 91–93 praxis, 4, 5, 11, 25, 124, 149 Presentism, 128 Privacy, i, 16, 34, 39, 53, 194, 197, 214, 216–20 Prohibition, 5, 32, 33, 36, 41, 219 racist, 29, 30, 51 Reason, 28, 155 referentiality, 87 Reid, T., 160, 218 revenge porn, 26, 27, 54, 58, 63, 90, 105, 126, 127, 186, 196, 200 Ricoeur, P., 145, 146, 150, 176–80, 182, 218 Saint Augustine, 11, 128, 129 Sanders, C. E., 1, 22, 81, 82, 143, 214, 218 Shklar, J., 46, 218 Situated subjectivity, 80 Sklansky, D., 18, 39, 41, 42, 195, 198, 219 Smiley, M., 11, 23, 103, 117, 118, 120, 121, 219 Snapchat, 6, 29, 102, 198, 212 Sousveillance, 18 specious present, 130, 131, 137, 139, 142 Strawson, P. F., 9, 10, 97–2, 104, 173, 176, 219 STS, 64, 65, 220 Sunstein, C., 198, 219 Supreme Court, 33, 39, 43 Taylor, C., 175, 215, 216, 219 Temporality, 12, 123, 134, 151, 123–27, 134, 135, 137, 138, 144, 148–51, 153

225

The Pew Internet & American Life Project, 42 The Question of Technology, 7, 70 Theil, U., 161, 162, 164, 166, 167, 219 Theoharis, A., 37, 38, 220 Tocquevillian, 28 transcendental, 66, 68, 73, 88, 129, 134, 139, 155, 161, 180, 205, 208 trolling, 54, 55, 63, 103–5, 117, 140, 146, 156, 157, 187 Trolling, 54, 55, 103, 104 Turkle, S., 13, 22, 66, 67, 220 Twitter, 1, 6, 29, 90, 159, 169, 198 Vallor, S., 21, 144, 206, 207, 220 Verbeek, P., 4, 7–9, 24, 25, 69, 72, 73, 79, 80, 82, 185, 200–2, 207, 215, 216, 218, 220 vigilantism, 18, 19 Wikileaks, 28, 56, 57 Williams, B., 169–71, 220 Winner, L., 5, 29–31, 37, 47, 52, 54, 190, 206, 220 Wittgenstein, L., 60, 61, 187, 220 Woolgar, S., 6, 29–31, 216, 220 Yack, B., 24, 205, 221 YouTube, 1, 2, 147, 162 Zimbardo, 14 Zittrain, J., 20, 46, 191, 192, 221