On this site and in my classes, we have talked a lot about the changes inpolitics and other parts of life and labor that easy Internet access, online social-interactive media, and the cell phone (with its picture, sound and video capture and upload capabilities) have occasioned. In politics, we know that the personal appearance is different because a politician never knows who in the audience might get them on video or record them in some other way and YouTube a quote or a rant or just a funny picture. Celebrities of other kinds–like athletes and entertainers–have always faced the dilemma of being “outed” while in private by paparazzi. Now in the same way that everyone is a potential journalist, everyone is also a potential paparazzo. What are the privacy rights of individuals anywhere–OUR GEOPRIVACY? Should ordinary fans or witnesses know or care? At a minimum, it is pretty clear that if a celebrity like, say, a star of a TV show, appears in a public venue, the public has a perfect right to and shouldn’t feel any ethical qualms about capturing him/her for wider viewing.
And let’s face it, celebrities thrive on celebrity and are using the new tech (like Twitter) to show off their own backstage lives (or parts of them).
Here is a case study: Below is the narrative description by one of my students, who encountered “Darryl” (actor Craig Robinson) from NBC’s The Office. The ethical nuance here is that Mr. Robinson was not quietly having a drink in a corner but performing for the crowd, so there is even less of a problem with deciding to “YouTube” him.
At the end of December break I went to a bar called Pete’s Dueling Piano Bar (Dallas, TX). A dueling piano bar is when two pianists sit at pianos that face each other as they play song requests from the audience. My friends and I were about to leave when we heard commotion and people running in our direction. I looked up from my friends and saw Darryl from The Office on stage. He showed up out of nowhere and began singing on one of the pianos. Everybody began taking pictures and recording him on their cameras and cell phones. It was really exciting to see somebody famous right before my eyes. My friend was taking pictures on her blackberry, and sent me an email instantly with one of the pictures she had taken. Darryl then played the opening song from The Office and disappeared as fast as he had appeared.
Originally posted February 23, 2009 at PolicyByBlog