Chapter 28 of The Participatory Cultures Handbook, edited by Aaron Delwiche and Jennifer Jacobs Henderson, explores the ethics of participatory culture. In her essay entitled “Toward an Ethical Framework for Online Participatory Cultures,” Jennifer Jacobs Henderson first defines participatory cultures as “spaces where thoughtful, engaged world citizens tackle complex problems, build creative networks, and contribute to political decision making” (272). Henderson then goes on to describe the potential that these spaces can achieve, such as advancing scientific discovery, empowering those who have little voice, and the elimination of geopolitical boundaries (272). However, in order for those potentialities to occur, ethical structure must first be assigned to participatory culture. To do so, Henderson establishes five fundamental aspects that must be assigned - access, rule making, connectedness, contribution, and freedom.
According to Henderson, two barriers to active participation have existed for many years - income, and geography. However, the recent development of new technology hasn’t remedied these two barriers. It has simply perpetuated their existences, but in a new way. For example, wealthier countries have more widespread internet access compared to less wealthy countries, which does nothing but perpetuate the “digital divide” (273). In my opinion, however, barriers extend beyond income and geography. Another barrier that exists is technological literacy, or the lack thereof. Technological illiteracy prevents members from taking advantage of the participatory technology, so that even if they have the physical access to it, they are unable to use it in a meaningful way.
Henderson then asserts that another structure that must be enacted is rule making. She acknowledges that these rules may differ based on the medium at stake - the rules governing original uploads may differ from the rules governing comments. However, regardless of the specific rules being applied, she argues that these rules must be enforced if participatory culture has any chance to thrive.
Henderson continues with her structural establishment, emphasizing the importance of both connectedness and contribution. In my opinion, participatory culture inherently involves a sense of commonality and connectedness. Henderson advocates for these aspects of participatory culture to be even more developed and encouraged within the community in order to facilitate the survival of the culture. She also values the aspect of contribution, stating that “respect must be at the core of valued participation” and that this respect is “often attained through recognition by others” (277).Finally, Henderson develops the idea of freedom in participatory cultures, and asserts that a wide range of voices and opinions must exist in order for the full potential of participatory culture to be reached.