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In our ever-new world today, wherein the individual is just a few simple steps from attracting and holding the attention of thousands worldwide (or millions), what are the updated golden rules? Are the principles of ethics and reciprocity that had held true for the traditional physical world multiplied online, in proportion to how the Web amplifies human communication, sharing, and influence?
It is arguably a mistake to engage audiences online using (only) the same sense of responsibility that one feels offline.
Societies of Superhumans
Some of us may want to reframe this question in the opposite direction: would it be unsurprising if a heightened sense of responsibility for one’s own messages and influences upon others was carried over from our Web lives into dealing with conventional in-person social scenes? Maybe it is fair to say that there is a bi-directional phenomenon concerning our responsibility as communicators, a new standard toward which we should become more sensitive.
A comparison between the more serious activity of offering a message and a lighter activity such as playing a game could highlight the magnitude of jumping up to the global scale: when a gamer plays offline at home the action is confined to one’s laptop or to the living room flat screen; but when the gamer plays online or in a multiplayer ecosystem (such as online casinos) the action is seen by any number of observers (changing their own playing habits). Some gamers even publish their sessions on their YouTube channels, which can teach other players and even provides a new form of entertainment.
Even being a gamer can have an influence upon other gamers in the superhuman digitally empowered landscape. The simple act of playing, when it goes online and global, can assume unexpected functions; the more complex act of communicating messages also transcends its traditional settings and exerts surprising effects and influences at the global scale (in whatever subject area or context to which it belongs). The difference between talking to one other person, or a few, and talking to the entire world is nearly incomprehensible and cannot be underestimated. The question is, how can we get a grip on this awesome responsibility?
Quality Versus Quantity
Doubtless, there are many who have the simplistic view that they can make their voice, their message, into a product that they can replicate digitally, and broadcast digitally, in order to compound the associated “monetized” publicity. This concept of monetization in fact may represent not only the process of making online communication or knowledge sharing a profitable moment but maybe also a greedy impulse to leverage global reach without necessarily acquiring a global sense of accountability. The simple truth is that today we live with the tools and resources and ready audiences that have a capacity to give any individual superhuman powers of voice, and perhaps also persuasion — but even if an individual does not actually demonstrate such a power and talent, the fact that it is possible is gradually changing our standard expectations and assumptions for all human communication.
Again, we could relate the magnified reach of individual voices loosely with online gaming, which stands alongside social networks and Web video as one of the most explosive and mainstream of all contemporary media. Many would be surprised to know just how big the following is for light gambling such as online bingo and slots at this point. One of the reasons for its popularity is the communal aspect that has been baked into the newest game platforms — almost all have social networking-like features for their members, and a handful of sites are starting to allow users to record a short clip of their jackpot moments to share them on Facebook.
In step with the vastly expanded powers of self-expression that we have now is a wave of increasing tolerance towards not only new subjects, topics, forms of information, and social policies, but also towards foreign cultural patterns including forms of entertainment. In the example above, gambling is just such a case. It is something that traditionally has been proscribed and even denounced in many parts of the world; and yet as it appears online the taboos and stigmas seems to be softening and even diminishing.
This could be because the human element of vice has been virtually lifted from it by computer technology, which is seen as a highly rational, controlled, regulated filter that can be programmed to ensure fairness, snuff out corruption, or even enhance personal discipline. As such, simple betting games like real cash slots or bingo have become rather pedestrian, and even commonplace light diversions in countries like the UK where the marketplace is safe and packed with mainstream incentives, such that people who try free slots win real money no deposit required initially. On the other hand, because they are so easy, convenient, and economical to pick up, they may also be considered more tempting, perhaps even more addictive.
The same thing that is happening with pastimes like gambling (extended reach, more acceptance, and newer concerns in terms of responsibility) is occurring for communication in general. Sharing or even peddling messages publicly always has been a bit game like, sometimes even risky — today it is everybody’s challenge to maintain awareness that this game is also more serious than ever, even though it has never been so playful.
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