Net Recommendation: Prudential Appraisals of Digital Media and the Good life

Dissertation, University of Twente (2012)
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Digital media has become an integral part of people’s lives, and its ubiquity and pervasiveness in our everyday lives raise new ethical, social, cultural, political, economic and legal issues. Many of these issues have primarily been dealt with in terms of what is ‘right’ or ‘just’ with digital media and digitally-mediated practices, and questions about the relations between digital media and the good life are often left in the background. In short, what is often missing is an explicit discussion of the relations between digital media and the good life. Under the label of ‘Net recommendation’, the present study aims to offer a balanced and constructive normative analysis of digital media, focusing on the relations between digital media and the good life. The project of Net recommendation aims to (re)assert the importance of actual discourses in our normative analysis of the relations between digital media and the good life. I pursue this project with a Walzerian approach to digital media and the good life that takes seriously (and, ideally, also interacts with) actual discourses. This approach allows us to have a better understanding of our normative judgements on the impacts of digital media has (or will have) on the good life and, at the same time, allows us to answer the question of ‘how should we live with digital media?’ more adequately. Moreover, the Walzerian approach is useful in both an intra-cultural and an inter¬cultural context. Using China’s Internet as a case study, I show that the relations between digital media and the good life in each culture should be examined in its own right. Together, I hope, this study provides an adequate illustration and defence of the project of Net recommendation that does not start with the assumption of digital media being a source of moral problem and strives to recommending specific ways to reform and/or transform digital media and digitally-mediated practices that allow us to have better relations with digital media and enable us to live better lives with them.
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