Today is the final class on Digital Media Ethics in DIKULT106, and we’re discussing sex and games. This is my least favourite chapter in Ess’s book – his discussion of sex barely mentions digital media, instead presenting a general ethical discussion for and against pornography in general. The part on games has a useful exercise, though, where students are asked to describe “what sorts of habits or excellences are required in order to play games successfully”, apply ethical frameworks to these habits and skills, and also to develop arguments against playing games, with justification and meta-theoretical analysis. We’ll do that exercise.

He also talks a little about media panics. This Norwegian article from gives a good introduction to media panics.

Some useful links:

  • Henry Jenkins “The Only Thing we Have to Fear…” – this is a useful blog post by a very prominent scholar about the “politics of fear” about computer games and violence. A politics of fear is beneficial for politicians and for the media, Jenkins argues. “First, the mass media are feeling the erosion of their consumer base to digital media. If they can convince parents that it is unsafe to allow their sons and daughters to go online or play video games, they may slow the erosion. (..) Second, fear-based coverage leaves us glued to the set, seeking out more information.” The gender aspects are also important: “Specifically, the ways that there have been recurring efforts throughout modern history to capitalized on the perceived sexual threat young women face from any new media and on the perceived threat of violence and aggression which surround young men’s relations to any emerging technology. In other words, we are consistently being taught to fear for our daughters and to be afraid of our sons.”
  • If you want arguments against the connection between video games and violence, Jenkins also conveniently summarises arguments against Eight Myths about Video Games or his essay about all the things he wished he’d said on the Donahue show
  • is of course one of the obvious websites to look at in Norway when it comes to sex, pornography and the internet. Pornography online is often (certainly not always) posted by women themselves. Does it make a difference if there is no middle man, if the posting is completely voluntary?
  • Maybe games are outside of morals, not amoral?
  • You may have heard the claim that The Internet is for Porn. It’s based on a Time Magazine story from 1995 which falsely reported the results of a very limited study by a BA student. He had surveyed images on adult BBSes (not “the internet”) and found that 83.5% of them were pornographic. Time reported that as 83.5% of “the internet” being porn, and many, many other media outlets have followed suit.
  • Alex Halavais taught a college course on Cyberporn and Society in 2005, and has also written on the topic, for instance about Small Pornographies, when people share naked photos of themselves.
  • Here’s a classic story of how sexting can go wrong. (Advice: if you take naked photos of yourself or your friends, leave out your face!)

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