The Concept of Ethos as a Tool for Assessing Civility

The Concept of Ethos as a Tool for Assessing Civility

Benjamin J. Cline (Western New Mexico University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-5178-4.ch010
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Civility in computer-mediated communication, especially in the computer-mediated classroom, has been a topic of numerous inquiries. For this reason, teaching of the means and reasons for civil computer-mediated communication has become increasingly necessary. In order to accomplish this, the chapter explores past research which indicates major sources of incivility that have emerged in computer-mediated culture. The chapter then argues that civil discourse is also the most effective and useful form of discourse, and show it needs to be communicated to students. This chapter then offers concrete means of teaching civility in computer-mediated communication by teaching civility as tied to the rhetorical concept of ethos already taught in the Public Speaking class.
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The need for teaching civil communication, especially civil computer mediated communication, has never been greater. The popular news outlets abound with stories of what is probably the least civil of all computer mediated communication, online bullying. Fox News derides “a West Virginia high school's ‘Queen of Charm,’ who created a Web page that suggested another student had a sexually transmitted disease, and invited classmates to comment” (2012 para. 2. MSNBC talks about a 16 year old girl, “a self-described atheist, [who] has been the target of cyberbullying and threats” after a judge required that a religious banner at her high-school be taken down (2012, para 2). Headline Newsdiscusses the plight of a young man for whom online bullying “led to despair, self-mutilation and thoughts of suicide” (2011, para 2). CNN expounds on a litany of such stories:

  • Such behavior remains in the spotlight after the recent death of Jamey Rodemeyer, a 14-year old boy from Williamsville, near Buffalo, who last week took his life after what his parents say was years of bullying over his sexual orientation.

  • Last year, Phoebe Prince, 15,of Massachusetts, took her own life after being continuously bullied at school and online. The online bullying continued even after her death, as people left vindictive comments on her Facebook memorial page.

  • An 18-year-old Rutgers University student, Tyler Clementi, killed himself by jumping off of the George Washington Bridge in September 2010 after two classmates posted and broadcast a secretly taped video of his sexual encounter with another man (Debucquoy-Dodley, 2011,paras. 5-7).

The New York Times captures the public outcry when telling the story of a fourteen year old boy bullied online to the point of suicide and claims that: “His story is a classic case of bullying: he was aggressively and repeatedly victimized. Horrific episodes like this have sparked conversations about cyberbullying and created immense pressure on regulators and educators to do something, anything, to make it stop” (Boyd, 2011,para. 1). This public outcry for civility in computer mediated communication, especially in the computer mediated communication of young people, demands careful attention from those working in the education industry.

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