I don’t remember the first time I told my students that we live in an age in which seeing (also hearing) is no longer believing. I used to present a unit in my media ethics class examining photo manipulation through the years beginning with the hilariously bad attempts by the communist party in Russia and ending with what can now be accomplished with Photoshop.
The software just keeps advancing… toward what? You can make shockingly realistic videos with Unreal Engine. Adobe’s suite of software has powerful audio manipulation tools. And now even text isn’t pure (whatever that means) with the introduction of ChatGPT (as opposed to lying or plagiarizing which are human acts).
I’ve been thinking about the impacts of technology on media ethics for two decades. But something about ChatGPT is freaking me out. Self-knowledge is a beautiful thing, but that doesn’t mean I have this freak-out worked out.
One of the ways I work things out is to write about it. The real me, that is. I am human. I am typing these words.
(Is style a giveaway? I’m purposely (over)using some schemes that (I think) are identifiable as my style.)
I’m going to set myself to another project (not as involved and never-ending as my examination of “what is a documentary”). I’m going to create my own documentary code of ethics.
This effort also follows from my examination of the statement of values by the Documentary Accountability Working Group. My last media ethics class spent much time last semester thinking about it. I support their effort. I think they did a good job. I have a few quibbles.
The point here, I think, is that we have been living in an era in which doing non-fiction of all kinds is made difficult by the fact that the tools available to us all (free and low cost) create a greater critical burden for the audience.
I will publish a personal code to help my audience shift the critical burden away (to some small extent) from questions of tech-based creation of an alternate reality to a creator-based creation of an alternate reality where their critical effort properly belongs 😉