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Techné: Research in Philosophy and Technology

Volume 17, Issue 1, Winter 2013

Extending Feenberg: Toward the Instrumentalization of the Critical Theory of Technology

Joke Bauwens, Karl Verstrynge
Pages 124-143
DOI: 10.5840/techne20131717

Digital Technology, Virtual Worlds, and Ethical Change

This paper questions the shifting meaning of the ethical categories of prox­imity and alterity in the light of the technological and social changes that virtual social worlds went through. It takes Roger Silverstone’s key theme of “proper distance” as a point of departure, and discusses the significance of this concept by linking it up with the more media-theoretical approaches on virtual communication as developed in McLuhan’s and Baudrillard’s body of thought. It is argued that today’s virtual realities ask for both a philosophical and media-sociological reconsideration of the traditional ethical category of alterity. As such, it links up with Feenberg’s idea that “online groups are indeed a qualitatively new medium” (A. Feenberg and M. Bakard­jieva, “Virtual Community: No ‘Killer Implication,’” New Media & Society 6(1) (2004): 37–43, 41), but at the same time challenges Feenberg’s reservations about a theory of media centrism.