The New Frontier of Mobile Communication Ethics

The New Frontier of Mobile Communication Ethics

Amanuel Gebru (Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia) and Catherine Basila (SUNY Adirondack, USA)
Copyright: © 2015 |Pages: 11
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-8239-9.ch026


Existing international research on cellphone ethics was thematically reviewed with a focus on empirical observation. Additionally, cross cultural mobile telephony was explored, as well as philosophical ethics, including consequentialist, dentological and normative perspectives as a conceptual backdrop. This major ethical evaluation of cellphone communication was guided by Stahl, Heersmink, Flick, van den Hoven, Wakunuma, Ikonen and Rader's (2010) framework, which assists in the ethical analysis of communication technology. The current scientific knowledge, regarding mobile communication ethics is discussed and includes, interpersonal communication, cellphones and public acoustical environments, spousal communication, organizational communication contexts, inter-group dimensions and M-health ethics.
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Mobile communication pertains to all receptive and expressive functions enabled by a smartphone, whereas mobile communication ethics encompasses communication motives and means and ends, which can all be viewed using ethical lenses (Johannsen, Valde & Whedbee, 2008) related to all cellphone applications. Additionally, mobile communication ethics may be more simply understood as a generic system of acceptable and unacceptable communication behaviors (Allen 1990), applicable to smartphone communications.

Mobile communication ethics emerged as a branch of technoethics following the global diffusion of cell phones as communication affordances in the 1990s (Luppicini, 2008). As Tenner (1977) noted, new technology is often initially greeted with enthusiasm, as demonstrated in the initial euphoria expressed regarding the obvious merits of cellphone technology (Fox 2001; Nyri, 2005), until its dark side emerges much later (Tenner, 1977). Among the pioneers of cellphone ethics research are American authors Dr Joseph Coates and Dr Jennifer Jarrat (Coates & Jarrat, 1990), Dr James Katz of the University of Rutgers (Katz, 1999) and Dr Richard Ling of the University of IT Copenhagen (Ling, 1997). Whilst these pioneering scholars continue to dominate the mobile communication ethics research landscape, others most notably Dr Charles Ess of the University of Oslo (Ess, 2009) and Dr Naomi Baron of American University in Washington (Baron, 2008) have produced relevant research prolifically as emerging leaders in the new scholarly field.



This chapter will thematically review existing international research on cellphone communication ethics. The primary focus will be on empirical observations. In addition, philosophical ethics will be discussed, including consequentialist, deontological and normative perspectives as conceptual backdrops. Emerging ethical issues of cross-cultural mobile telephony will also be addressed.

The major ethical evaluation of cellphone communication in this suggested chapter is guided by the team work of Stahl, Heersmink, Flick, Hoven, Wakunuma, Ikonen and Rader (2010) who have developed a simple framework to help in the ethical analysis of a communication technology. This framework includes history and definition, essential features, applications, relationship to other technologies, attendant ethical and other relevant issues in connection with the technology in question, as found in the literature on the subject. Mobile communication ethics is discussed as it is related to different forms and contexts of communication.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Surveillance Communication Technologies: Technologies used to monitor or spy on telecommunication traffic and behavior involving fixed line or cell home communication which may include a variety of software applications that secretly record conversations or transmit visual data pertaining to selected targets.

Collocated Interaction: Communication taking place among persons who are physically located in the same space such an office or a restaurant as opposed to remotely located interactants who are using mobile phones.

Public Acoustical Environment: Open public spaces in which all forms of speaking and listening take place which may involve face to face exchange or communication technology such as cell phones or loudspeakers.

Affinity Seeking and Maintenance Communication: Communication that is intended to develop and maintain positive relationship with significant others such as family members, friends, and colleagues.

Lean Media: Medium such as text messages that may result in inadequate communication by introducing uncertainty, ambiguity or multiple interpretation of a message as opposed to rich media such as face to face exchanges which can reduce such communication barriers.

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