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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter Mouton 2018

22. No Greater Than Who I Actually Am: Virtue Ethics in Digital Life Narratives

Michael Humphrey


The events, thoughts and actions we create in digital space form identities in two distinct ways. The purposeful communication of life events is a rough analog to traditional life writing, but the introduction of algorithms creates a new complication. Whether there has been an ethic of autobiography in the past is a debate of its own, but now we have entered a phase of human life which prompts fresh questions: How is a digital life narrative formed in a just way? What are the limits of agentive identity creation, both for the self and the software? G.E.M. Anscombe (1958) provides a useful lens onto these questions, by suggesting the modern moral perspective should guide us toward “flourishing.” In this paper, I argue that individual storytellers (anyone who is presenting the semblance of an authentic self on a digital platform to be consumed by other users), by the nature of the “publicness” of their act are subjecting themselves to a new kind of life identity ethical scrutiny.

© 2018 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Munich/Boston