Nordic Network for Media and Communication Ethics

Ethical agency in a changing media and communication landscape

Ethical agency in a changing media and communication landscape

October 6-8, 2022
University of Helsinki

Preliminary description

For more than a decade, doubts concerning the traditional focus on the rational individual as the locus of media-ethical inquiry have been mounting. In its place, networked or relational approaches, drawing e.g. on the work of Bruno Latour, have gained traction, as have radical notions of “machine moral agency” and “distributed moral responsibility”, involving scenarios where specifically digital norms and ethical practices emerge from algorithmic constellations in an almost “ex machina” manner. Attempting to transcend the anthropocentrism of classical ethical theorising, certain information ethicists (in particular Luciano Floridi) have explicitly shifted the emphasis from ethical agents toward affordances and ethical patients – that is, beings or things that may qualify as enablers or receivers of moral action. The issues and tensions implied by such approaches point toward a critical challenge for contemporary media and communication ethics, with implications for how autonomy, responsibility, transparency, accountability, and similar key conceptions are apprehended and operationalised.

The first workshop will address questions such as:

  • What philosophical and theoretical approaches provide the most promising conceptual tools for tackling questions of ethical agency and patiency?
  • Is ethical agency strictly restricted by the human, somehow attributable to artificial agents, or best conceived as something emerging from informational and communicative assemblages including human and non-human constituents?
  • What are the specific implications of automation and artificial intelligence for ethical agency?
  • How does the alleged proliferation of information disorders affect the prospects for cultivating autonomous and responsible ethical agency?
  • How could and should media and communication professionals respond to challenges to ethical agency and the resulting re-conceptions of autonomy and accountability?

Professor Shannon Vallor (University of Edinburgh) and Associate Professor Mike Ananny (Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism) will give the keynote addresses.