Mobile communication and ethics: implications of everyday actions on social order
Keywords:mobile communication, emergent conventions, consequential ethics, deontological ethics, social order, reflexivity
Of the many opportunities and affordances that mobile technologies bring to our day-to-day lives, the ability to cheat physical separation and remain accessible to each other—in an instant—also brings pressure to bear on well-established social conventions as to how we should act when we are engaged with others in shared spaces. In this paper we explore some ethical dimensions of mobile communication by considering the manner in which individuals in everyday contexts balance interpretations of emergent social conventions with personal desires to connect in the moment. As we later discuss, the decisions made in response to a ringing mobile phone or flashing text message emerge from consequential versus deontological ethical frames used to determine what to do versus what we ought to do. This is particularly true in western and North American cultural contexts from which our data are collected. Using Goffman's dramaturgy, we suggest that these conflicts occurring on an individual level provide evidence of social structure, and are simultaneously entwined with our less obvious ruminations on the maintenance of social order.