Fresh from a party, a teen posts a photo on Facebook of a friend drinking a beer. A college student repurposes an article from Wikipedia for a paper. A group of players in a multiplayer online game routinely cheat new players by selling them worthless virtual accessories for high prices. In Disconnected, Carrie James examines how young people and the adults in their lives think about these sorts of online dilemmas, describing ethical blind spots and disconnects.
Drawing on extensive interviews with young people between the ages of 10 and 25, James describes the nature of their thinking about privacy, property, and participation online. She identifies three ways that young people approach online activities. A teen might practice self-focused thinking, concerned mostly about consequences for herself; moral thinking, concerned about the consequences for people he knows; or ethical thinking, concerned about unknown individuals and larger communities. James finds, among other things, that youth are often blind to moral or ethical concerns about privacy; that attitudes toward property range from “what’s theirs is theirs” to “free for all”; that hostile speech can be met with a belief that online content is “just a joke”; and that adults who are consulted about such dilemmas often emphasize personal safety issues over online ethics and citizenship.
Considering ways to address the digital ethics gap, James offers a vision of conscientious connectivity, which involves ethical thinking skills but, perhaps more important, is marked by sensitivity to the dilemmas posed by online life, a motivation to wrestle with them, and a sense of moral agency that supports socially positive online actions.
About the Author
Carrie James is a sociologist and Principal Investigator at Project Zero at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. She was codirector (with Howard Gardner) of the Good Play Project, which collected the data that inform Disconnected.
—Urs Gasser, Professor of Practice, Harvard Law School; Executive Director, Berkman Center for Internet & Society; coauthor of Born Digital and Interop
—Mizuko Ito, Professor in Residence, University of California Humanities Research Institute; author of Hanging Out, Messing Around, and Geeking Out: Kids Living and Learning with New Media
—William Damon, Professor of Education, Stanford University