posted Jun 07, 2003
in Communication Ethics

Communication Ethics book part for Final Diagram. (This is an automatically generated summary to avoid having huge posts on this page. Click through to read this post.)
Final Diagram of Practical Information Transmission

Our final diagram (cleaned up for convenience) has a number of isolated splotches, and a large number of candidates for what could be considered to be axes:

There are no connections between these splotches, because there are no "in betweens" which are economically viable. Running a television station does nothing to help you run a postal service, because the postal service has "transportation demands" and "initial setup costs" that the pre-existing television station does nothing to defray. Even the two most structurally similar systems, the phone system and the postal system, are very different beasts, and there's no way to use one to help build the other in any significant way. This is important, because the assumption that each of these domains was independent became an unspoken assumption in the law.

What that means in practical terms is that when a legal pronouncement was made about television ("A given company may only own two television stations in a given market"), it had little or no impact on the other communication technologies.

The separation isn't completely perfect, if you try you can come up with some things that affected multiple types of communication at the same time. But even some of the most basic ethical principles were often defined differently for different media; witness the difference between slander and libel, for instance, virtually identical high-level concepts that differ only in whether they occur in spoken or printed word.

I'd also like to point out that there's a lot more on that diagram then I believe most people are considering since they tend to limit themselves to merely mass media like television and the Internet. By adding in some of the other technologies, we'll find that we can actually find a simpler, more general pattern that applies even after the Internet comes into existence, by focusing not on the technology but on the patterns of communication itself.


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