Volume 17, Issue 1, Winter 2013
Extending Feenberg: Toward the Instrumentalization of the Critical Theory of Technology
Joke Bauwens, Karl Verstrynge
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.