The dialectics between private pleasures and public needs raise various dilemmas, especially in the domain of the erotic and aesthetics. These are relative and abstract terms that can vary from individual to individual. However, in the public spaces of the Internet, the need for community standards of decency, acceptability, and taste often drag many of the debates about the Internet into a legal space, despite its description as a virtual sphere and the libertarian endeavours to keep it free from government and organizational control. While the Internet is a global resource it is often ruled through the laws of its physical embeddedness, and the global nature of the Internet also means that it is consumed and assessed through the differing cultural practices and norms that prevail in various parts of the world. The Internet as a communication and information platform is then subject to varying codes of ethical and moral conduct by different communities whether online or off-line. While the realm of the erotic is often equated with individual pleasure and psyche, the proliferation of pornography on a public platform raises social, moral, and legal concerns for communities, states, and governments. One significant element in the development of the Internet as a market place has been the availability of explicit sexual material, and these electronic networks continue to feed the pornography boom and facilitate new methods for consumers to interact with sexual content as “porn” (Spencer, 1999). These networks highlight the “privatising” potential of technology, especially in relation to sexual matters, while illuminating new forms of formal and informal exchanges (Jacobs, 2004, p.72; Spencer, 1999). The Internet, from being a rather unregulated enterprise a few years ago, has recently become the focus of multiple ethical concerns and debates and in some cases, it has amounted to moral panic (Bkardjieva & Feenerg, 2000; Cavanagh, 1999).
The emergence of gaming culture and the simulation of reality through the design of gaming technology raises the age-old issues about image and representation; the effects it can have on our cognitive senses, and how these can, as a result, affect or mediate our ability to reason and engage with interactive technology. These questions become ever more salient with regard to online pornography or sexually explicit material. The distinctive element about online porn is its use of multimedia, its ubiquity, and consumer access to it. Due to the anonymity of the Internet and the difficulties in regulating this transnational and anonymous medium, transgressive forms of entertainment, including pornography, have flourished online. According to Spencer (1999), the Internet is structured at one level around the economics and politics of consumption, at another level around the politics of individuality, and at another around communitarian concerns (p. 242).
Key Terms in this Chapter
Ethics: The code of conduct in a society or community that may be tacit or explicitly expounded
Cyber Porn: Sexually explicit material that is available on the Internet
Regulations: Formal rules and legislation that are enacted to address a particular issue.
Digital Image: A visual content constructed through pixels which can be altered or manipulated through technology.
Pornography: Sexually explicit material that may be available in any medium