This story also appeared on The Daily Campus.

Annual conference of the professions discusses ethics, social media

Joe Richardson, The Daily Campus, October 15, 2011

A roomful of doctors, lawyers and clergy gave their rapt attention to the research director of the Harvard Graduate School of Education's "Project Zero" on Friday morning.

The 26th annual Conference of the Professions met in Prothro Hall to discuss ethics and social media for professionals. The conference was geared toward lawyers, doctors and clergy.

The conference began with a keynote address by Dr. Carrie James. She presented the findings of her research with Project Zero.

"I'm really excited to think with you and hear from you on how some of the ideas, and the findings from our research extend to issues in religion, medicine, law and other professions today," James said.

Dr. James began working with Project Zero in 2003. For over eight years she was involved with the GoodWork Project. According to James, three psychologists founded this initiative who were interested in the question: "what does it mean to do good work at a time when there is rapid social and technological change?"

Over 10 years they conducted over 1,200 interviews with people in nine fields about what good work meant to them.

She also did a lot of research with youth, which she claims is relevant to the topic of ethics in the professions. She called the youth of today "digital natives" because of "their frequent engagement in digital media at younger and younger ages."

"These digital youth are entering or will be entering the world of work in the professions," she said. "So our research and findings may suggest the habits of mind that these youth are and will be bringing into the world of work and the opportunities and challenges associated with growing up in a digital era especially with respect to ethics."

The keynote was followed by a panel discussion moderated by the director of the Cary M. Maguire Center for Ethics and Public Responsibility at SMU Dr. Rita Kirk. The panel included a medical doctor, a minister and a lawyer.

Dan McCoy is a dermatologist from Dallas. Dusty Craig is the pastor of Next Generation Ministries at White's Chapel UMC in Southlake, Texas. John Browning is the managing partner of Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith, LLP.

The panel discussed subjects ranging from anonymity to privacy in the social network era.
On the subject of anonymity, Dr. McCoy said, "When you get too much anonymity you lose authenticity and when you lose authenticity then I think you have to be very wary of the results you're going to find."

Craig said that Facebook was a great tool for ministers. But he went on to say, "As Facebook time increases, so does face-to-face time need to increase as well."

Browning said this about privacy in the online age: "By it's very nature social networking is sharing. You have shared information with one or potentially many more individuals, and so this expectation of privacy is subsequently lessened."

Eric Anderson, the assistant to the director of the Cary M. Maguire Center for Ethics and Public Responsibility at SMU, believes that the conference was very timely because of the pervasiveness of social media today.

 
"This conference does a very good job of educating people and it's a round table discussion for people to be able to talk about their experiences in these professions with social media and how it can apply to other people in the same professions," he said.

Randall Lane, a psychiatrist in Dallas, agreed with Anderson.

"I think the event was relevant and helpful, you can apply it to practice with a lot of areas to think about and increased awareness."

Christa Cantele thought the event was wonderful. She especially liked Dr. James' portion of the conference.

"It was extremely well-balanced, informative, and it touched on very key issues of ethical, moral and social responsibilities," she said.

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