Ethics: Mediating the Conversation

This week in BCM310 we looked at dialogic interaction and the mediation of the online exchanges between users and broadcasters.

According to Bakhtin (1986, cited by Martin 2012, pg 181), dialogic interaction refers to the online ‘utterances’ and ‘self-contained expressions which nevertheless presuppose an earlier speaker’.  The Internet allows for high levels of interactivity and for instantaneous communication to occur; this functionality has been embraced by the majority of media organisations who offer services such as discussion boards, online chats and the ability to comment on news articles. Martin (2013) noted that the characteristics of the Internet, including its existence as a ‘borderless social space’ and the ‘immediacy of publication’, have led to a need for new ethics of communication.

The question is: what should the ethics of communication be?

I think one of the major issues we face in the development of online communication ethics is the attempt to balance civility and openness. A strong case study to apply to this issue is the story of Samantha Brick. An article written by Brick was published by the Daily Mail (2012) on their website, which discussed the struggles she believes she has faced as a result of her self-perceived beauty. This article received a lot of backlash – not only in the comments section of the actual article but on a wide variety of social media networks and websites across the Internet. Some of the comments were quite harsh: examples include this tweet by Scottish comedian Frankie Boyle and one woman who claimed that Brick should be ‘bricked to death’ (2012).

Should comments and tweets like this be censored?

Freedom of conversation can allow for a variety opinions and even ‘different, dissident voices’ to be heard (Martin 2012, pg 184). On the other hand, there is the potential for harm if certain uncensored comments are published. People who publish these types of comments are known as ‘trolls’, and trolling has recently become a heavily discussed issue in the Australia media. Palan (2013) reported that there has been an increasing amount of requests for police intervention in social media trolling incidences.

I think there will always be difficulties in mediating and censoring online content.  It can be difficult to draw the line between what is ‘unacceptable’ and what is ‘controversial’. In terms of a solution to this problem, I believe the answer lies in education and awareness, leading to self-censorship.

Thanks for reading!



Brick, S 2012, ‘There are downsides to looking this pretty’: Why women hate me for being beautiful’, Daily Mail, 3 April, accessed 22 May 2013 via here.

Brick, S 2012, ‘The I’m so beautiful backlash’, Daily Mail, 3 April, accessed 22 May 2013 via here.

Martin, F 2013, Mediating the Conversation, guest lecture, BCM310, Emerging Issues in Media and Communication, University of Wollongong, delivered 20 May.

Martin, F 2012, ‘Vox Populi, Vox Dei: ABC Online and the risks of dialogic interaction’, in Histories of Public Service Broadcasters on the Web, editors, N. Brugger and M. Burns. New York: Peter Lang, pp 177-192

Palan, S 2013, ‘Police step-up efforts against trolls’, ABC News, March 20, accessed 23/5/2013 via here.

Image sourced from here.