Cell Phone Ethics Class

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Last updated April 12, 2019

A new cell phone class at Immaculata, a private Catholic university in Malvern, Philadelphia, in the United States, is teaching its students about more than just how to use the rapidly advancing technology. It is also teaching them about the ethical responsibilities that come with it. 

Communications professor, Sean Flannery believes that the ethical responsibilities of using cell phone cameras to take and publish photographs is something that needs to be addressed, given the constant scandals that seem to surround them in the mainstream media and believes students need to understand “the full gravity of what’s at their fingertips and the power they can have”.  Professional photographer, Hunter Martin is joint teacher of the class but while Martin concentrates on the technical side of things, such as editing, composition and lighting of cell phone photographs, Flannery admits his aim is “to sell the students on the notion that the camera phone and its usage in culture is news in the making”.  “I think it’s part of our responsibility… to teach kids how to use this tool,” he says, comparing it to similar ethical responsibility lessons which are taught in media classes regarding video cameras and broadcast news.

While cell phone photography classes in themselves are by no means a new idea, New York University has been running one for the last two years, addressing the ethical considerations is a new take on the idea.  “Society is rapid… it’s viral,” notes twenty one year old senior student Stephen Vujevich, who hopes the class will teach him how to use the tech to capture news in a responsible fashion.  “When something happens, people want to know about it.”