Session D.15: Working with the Digital Rhetoric Collaborative toward a Digital Ethics Manifesto


Discussions from this mini-workshop culminated in a Digital Ethics Manifesto (Digital Rhetoric Collaborative, 2019), which is reproduced here. The Digital Rhetoric Collaborative Fellows consider this manifesto a living document, and welcome your comments, revisions, or suggestions for further reading.

We forward…

1. Honest and transparent communication of digital risks

  • Instructors who deploy public facing assignments should discuss with students the risks and rewards of online involvement/participation in certain discourse communities.
  • Instructors need to determine the appropriate degree of exposure to protect students from online harassment.
  • Instructors should introduce appropriate research methods and processes to help students navigate ethical, social, historical, cultural, and other dimensions of online community discourses.
  • Instructors should provide appropriate scaffolding of digital/online/multimodal projects so students are given the chance to experience such interactions incrementally.

2. Zealous advocacy for ethical and healthy online interactions

  • Instructors should advocate for more thorough and stronger institutional support when dealing with potential harm due to online exposure in students’ research or study.
  • Institutional authorities need to take digital/online harassment issues seriously by providing sufficient resources and appropriate backing for victims of such instances.
  • Administrators and those in positions of power to activate change should advocate for ethical practices in the face of oppressive activities.
  • Whenever possible, all participants of digital/online interactions should strive to model positive and ethical behaviors.
  • Individuals should acknowledge their own inherited and given privilege, and how these privileges influence their interactions with others.
  • All users of digital/online spaces (including researchers, instructors, students) should recognize and articulate their positionality and power, and strive to be as equitable as possible toward their interlocutors or counterparts.
  • Those charged with responsibilities in moderating online communities should practice equitable actions in de-escalating harassment, responding to bullying, recognizing imbalanced power relations, provide explicit instructions for professional communication and civil interactions among community members.

3. Intersectional understanding of digital discourse communities

  • As users of digital/online communities, we should contribute to the articulation of the definitions of online harassment so that we can recognize it.
  • We must acknowledge that the internet is not a neutral space.
  • All users should recognize the limitations of technology.

4. Continued growth in resources

All users should contribute to the growing materials that provide greater understanding of digital interactions and online cultures.

5. Increased Attention to Accessibility Issues

  • Institutional authorities and those in positions of power should ensure access to the internet and the quality of such access.
  • Instructors should strive to make course readings, technologies, and resources available to students.
  • Instructors should draw students’ attention to the inclusive means of visual representation, including the use of alt-texts to describe complex visual information.
  • Instructors should enhance students’ awareness of accessibility throughout the entire process of composition including circulating their works and citing others’ works.
  • Researchers should make their research available not only to academic audiences but also to public audiences.
  • Researchers should be aware of their disciplinary voices and be ready to adapt their voices for the needs of different audiences.
  • Researchers and developers should strive to make databases available for online users, including the ease of information searching.

6. Growing Recognition of Multiple Voices and Perspectives

  • We should stress the importance of covering accessibility issues in composition instruction and research.
  • Instructors should strive to make course materials available for all students and recognize their students’ diverse material experience and voices.
  • Instructors and researchers should recognize the complexity of ethical issues in digital media, including critical inquiries into multiple stakeholders and factors underlying these issues.
  • Instructors and researchers can learn from the feminist practice of rhetorical listening that allows students to recognize the voices different from their own, including historically marginalized perspectives and voices from the community.
  • Instructors and researchers can collaborate with other institutional programs and community members in supporting multiple voices through their teaching and research practices.

7. Conscious Awareness of Bodies and Their Representation

  • Instructors should incorporate social advocacy as part of their multimodal instruction and encourage students to become advocates for historically underrepresented social groups.
  • Instructors can ask students to engage in social advocacy practices through the production of multimodal texts, including the active captioning of videos to support individuals with disabilities.
  • Researchers and developers should strive to make interfaces available for all users, including individuals with disabilities, in game and algorithmic design.
  • Researchers and developers should improve the representation of multiple bodies, including individuals of different genders, races, and ethnicities, in game and algorithmic design.
  • Researchers should be wary of ethical issues related to the representation of diverse bodies in research practices, including data collection and analysis.
  • Researchers should reflect on their positionality in researching diverse bodies, including data collection and analysis.

Thanks and Acknowledgements

The Digital Rhetoric Collaborative would like to thank our mini-workshop participants: Anshare Antoine, Christopher Barber, Neil Baird, Bradley Bleck, Michael J. Faris, Anne Gere, Angela Glotfelter, Jialei Jiang, Andrew Kulak, Ben McCorkle, Jason Michálek, Jason Palmeri, Adrienne Raw, Chris Scheidler, Naomi Silver, Jason Tham, Bremen Vance.


  • Katie Walkup

    Katie is a doctoral student in Rhetoric and Composition at the University of South Florida. Her research interests are rhetoric of health and medicine, mental health literacy, digital rhetoric, and writing program administration.

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