Ethics and Social Media:

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Blurring the Boundaries in the Virtual World. Dr. Amy Thurlow. Dept. of Communication Studies. Mount Saint Vincent University. CCEPA Research Presentation. Introduction. What’s changing in the virtual classroom?. ID: 460908 Download Presentation

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Ethics and Social Media:

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Ethics and Social Media: Blurring the Boundaries in the Virtual World

Dr. Amy ThurlowDept. of Communication StudiesMount Saint Vincent University

CCEPA Research Presentation



What’s changing in the virtual classroom?

Blurring boundaries between public and private conversations

Ethical dilemmas


Discussion / Q&A


“What students don’t realize is that the use of new media in education has fundamentally changed the nature of our relationship.”

(Faculty member, Professional Studies)


Social Media

Fundamentally concerned with human relationships

Defined by Boyd and Ellison (2007, p. 234) as “web‐based services that allow individuals to (1) construct a public or semi‐public profile within a bounded system, (2) articulate a list of other users

with whom they share a connection, and (3) view and traverse their list of connections and those made by others within the system. The nature and nomenclature of these connections may vary from site to site.”



“These new media are not just changing our lives, the way we work and communicate – but they are profoundly changing our selves... our own identities, and authenticity”



, 1995)


Research program

Student Interviews

Faculty Interviews

Focus group discussions



The conceptualization of the classroom

The jurisdictional boundaries of communication within the new media environment

Changing roles for students and faculty

Definition of ethical dilemmas


Focus Group Interview Guide

What are the ethical issues that you see reflected in this scenario?

Do you agree with how the (student or professor) handled the situation?

What would you do if you were the main character (student or professor) in this scenario?

How serious do you think this issue is? (for students, for faculty, for universities)

How would this situation have been different if new media technology were not involved?


Ethical Dilemma ‘A’

Student A is a student in an on-campus Communication course. She contacts her professor via email to say that a classmate has posted comments about her on Facebook. These comments describe Student A as “wasting time in Communication class with her endless, stupid questions.” The comments are posted on the classmate’s own Facebook page, however, since all of the Communication students are “friends” of the classmate, the entire class has read the posting. The professor is not a “friend” of the classmate and does not have access to the Facebook page in question. Student A has forwarded the content of the page in her email to the professor.

The professor contacts the classmate and asks for a face to face meeting. During the meeting the professor asks the classmate to take the posting off her Facebook page.


Privacy and social media

Privacy within social networking sites is often not expected or is undefined. Social networking sites record all interactions, and retain them for potential use in social data mining. Offline, most social transactions leave behind no trace. This lack of a record is a passive enabler of social privacy



, 1998)

. Therefore these sites need explicit policies and data protection mechanisms in order to deliver the same level of social privacy found offline



, &


, 2007, p. 2)



Facebook and the e-presence

Even though professors or employers could access student Facebook pages, for example, students were very clear that they should not do that without student permission.


“It’s very sneaky of them,” said one participant. “It’s kind of like spying” said another. One student suggested that employers should inform all applicants to jobs at the time they submit applications that, “I’m going to be checking your Facebook, Twitter account, etc. – if that’s OK with you.”


e-professionalism and accountability?

Universities teaching students social media skills - CTV News

The e-presence


DePaul University

Etiquette - Ryerson

Tip sheets / information at login - Dalhousie

Workshops - Carleton

Social Media 101 – Ryerson










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