The snobbery of ethical use?

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Some may accuse me of trolling when I suggest that the notion paying for media that I could easily though not ethically download is an artifact of middle class privilege. Still it’s a thought I’d like to explore.

As I become more educated about the world of web 2.0 and all its inherent issues, I try to make more of a conscious effort to model the types of digital citizenship I expect from my students. But try as I might I still get dirty looks from students when I explain to them that it’s unethical to reproduce another person’s work without their permission, that they should pay for an artist’s music rather than download from a bit torrent site, and that “finding it on Google” does not make it fair use.

It’s not that I don’t believe that these are important issues. I want my students to be good digital citizens.

But I’ve also been thinking that my own belief in value of these ideals didn’t evolve until I had enough disposable income to not think twice about spending money on something that I could privately download for free–oh let’s call it what it is–steal.

I am not advocating an end to teaching ethical use of digital media. All I’m saying is that it’s a lot easier to be ethical when you can afford it. So how do we make all our students care–not just the ones who can easily afford to care?

9 thoughts on “The snobbery of ethical use?

  1. An ethical issue? hmm ..Not sure that being a good digital citizen is defined by a minority who don’t take advantage of all that sites like Google and Youtube offer. I’m afraid the dirty looks will only continue to grow on what is not an issue for most who don’t have a stake in this.

  2. Is it really all about ethics or should it be about teaching kids about responsibility, whether or not they can afford it?? A rhetorical question, perhaps.

  3. I think teaching ethical use is important but that we are most definitely snobs about it. Party’s have a huge roll to play in the process. We selectively turn a blind eye when we buy our kids fancy handheld music listening devices and ‘forget’ that we’ve never given our kids any money to buy any music.

    • Nice. My nephew just sent me a tweet the other day saying that he just bought an iTunes card and that I would be proud of him for practicing good digital citizenship.

  4. Have you seen what Linda Yollis taught her students using their art work…it drives home the point. These little kids don’t have any money (yet) but they have ownership of something (in this case the artwork they created).

    So maybe it’s not about money or wealth…it’s about owning something.

    When I saw this video it spurred my thinking and helped me come up with some new ideas for communicating this to my students.

  5. Danika, you make some good points (and Cory Doctorow’s copyleft movement provides more food for thought on the issue). Desipte being a tough thing to both teach and abide by (it’s SO much easier to find an image through a Google search and copy/paste it than it is to search the Creative Commons areas for the same picture), I think it’s worth discussing, at least. For some of my grade 7-8 students, we held a Skype call with a MMA photographer and reporter. He talked about what he does and why it’s not cool to take his photos or his articles and use them without permission. Seeing a face behind the product made them think twice about where and how they get things.

    • I love the idea of bringing in an guest to talk about ethical use. Thanks for the feedback!

  6. Maybe one way is to start simply with the rights of ideas (ie. the written word) as teachers have always done. Once they realise what plagiarism is and how they’d feel if they were the ones being plagiarised, they may come to the conclusion about other cases, like those of the digital citizen, on their own.