Tag Archives: Ethics

Wiki-ethics.

In ethics, openness and transparency are certainly the goals, however, they are not the only values that need consideration in ethical decision-making. In fact, pursuing some ethical principles while neglecting others is inherently unethical.

For example, seeking transparency and openness above other values, creates a lopsided and perhaps unintended, “ethical hierarchy.” One where transparency and openness are placed at the top, giving them an authoritative position over other values that should have equal consideration. In ethical decision-making, neglecting certain values – such as minimizing harm, or maximizing the greater good – is a mistake. Without considering these factors, the decision becomes reckless and endangering rather than ethical.

On July 12, 2007 the US performed an airstrike in Baghdad. The event was recorded on video, which showed US soldiers using machine guns killing people who turned out to be innocent civilians. Two of the victims were journalists, whose cameras were mistaken for weapons. Perhaps the most disturbing part of the recording was the soldier’s cavalier attitude towards the killings. Phrases such as “light ‘em up” are things I’d expect to hear from a video gamer, not from a person who is actually taking someone’s life. The fact the U.S. was at war at the time of the recording is irrelevant to me. I don’t think that there is ever an excuse for this type of disrespect for human life.The video recording the airstrike, dubbed “collateral murder,” was leaked to the internet via the website WikiLeaks.

Created by Julian Assange, WikiLeaks is a website that provides a safe haven for whistleblowers (civilian or journalist) to shed light upon corruption or reveal information to the public. Although Wikileaks tries to keep the “leakers” anonymous, in this case, U.S. Private Bradley Manning was identified as the one who leaked the information. Following his arrest, Manning has been kept in military detention, reportedly enduring inhumane treatment.

It is difficult to determine the exact effect that releasing secure information has had on the war effort and on the attitudes of Americans towards their government. It is essential to democracy for people to be aware of these issues. However, at the same time, to maintain peace and public order, it is essential for certain military secrets be kept secure.

In the debate surrounding Wikileaks, it seems like there are two opposing priorities: are you on the side of liberty and freedom of the press? Or on the side of national and domestic security? I think Benjamin Franklin spoke eloquently when he said ‘those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.’ That being said, there is always a middle ground. I believe that while it is important for people have access to news that hasn’t been moderated by the government or filtered by regulation. It is also the responsibility of the source of that information to consider ethical principles before releasing it.

I am highly intrigued by hearing the different opinions regarding WikiLeaks and ethics. Some call Julian Assange a modern-day hero, and others think that he is an evil-doer who must be held accountable.

For me, the question that trumps all: have the actions of Assange and Manning make the world a better place?

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With today’s advances in technology, can the “decisive moment” be created instead of captured?

I recently stumbled upon  a video  produced in time-lapse format demonstrating the tools and techniques used by a brilliant Photoshop artist. I say brilliant because he can essentially create an incredibly detailed and beautiful picture from scratch through Photoshop. I watched him compose the background from nothing, create a visual story, and infuse it with emotion. As he decides what is in in his picture, his composition is near perfect.

The fleeting and elusive “decisive moment” that photographers strive to capture is a non-issue for him. His angle, focus, and shutter don’t work together to create his image. Instead, like many other artists, he works from a blank canvas and can create whatever he wants with it.

As this artist worked, I felt amazed and threatened at the same time. Maybe this surge of worry is premature or unwarranted altogether, but I couldn’t help but wonder… Since the very first photograph, taken in approximately 1816, the capturing of still images has been something that fascinated humans across the planet. Now, with the accessibility of cameras, has the medium lost some of its allure? Does this artists enhanced drawing mark a resurgence of the more traditional art forms, albeit with a digital twist? This an ancient battle, from sculpture to tapestry, oil painting to engraving, Each new medium challenges the previous to reinvent itself to stay current. Photography challenged the traditional methods of painting and illustration. Now, it appears that the tables have turned.  Traditional photography is facing challenges as technologically based computer art forms continue to develop.

Obviously, there are ethics and standards that journalists should adhere to as far as photo and video editing goes. In the past, some journalists have not followed the values and ethics that people trust, and when they are found out, their actions taint the entire profession. However, what if some unethical journalists “create” images through Photoshop but never get caught? The motivation for certain unethical edits is perhaps tied to the accessibility and user-friendliness of digital cameras.  Photographers may feel more pressure than ever to capture that decisive moment. Furthermore, as images from artists and citizens photographers (who may not be familiar with the ethics and values of journalism) flood into the marketplace of ideas, the public then must sift through images and decide which are truth and which are fabrication.

I hope that the public will always favor and demand truth from journalism, even when a truthful image has a less than perfect composition. As much as I respect the talent that artists use to bring beauty and creativity to our lives, I hope that journalism and art never merge to an undecipherable point; because if that were to happen then  truthfulness – journalism’s greatest asset – may be lost among a sea of beautiful creations.

Below is a collection of some of Henri Cartier Bresson’s photographs. Bresson is known as the “father of modern photojournalism.”

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