Wisdom in the digital age: a conceptual and practical framework for understanding and cultivating cyber-wisdom

Ethics and Information Technology 24 (1):1-16 (2022)
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Abstract

The internet presents not just opportunities but also risks that range, to name a few, from online abuse and misinformation to the polarisation of public debate. Given the increasingly digital nature of our societies, these risks make it essential for users to learn how to wisely use digital technologies as part of a more holistic approach to promoting human flourishing. However, insofar as they are exacerbated by both the affordances and the political economy of the internet, this article argues that a new understanding of wisdom that is germane to the digital age is needed. As a result, we propose a framework for conceptualising what we call cyber-wisdom, and how this can be cultivated via formal education, in ways that are grounded in neo-Aristotelian virtue ethics and that build on three prominent existing models of wisdom. The framework, according to which cyber-wisdom is crucial to navigating online risks and opportunities through the deployment of character virtues necessary for flourishing online, suggests that cyber-wisdom consists of four components: cyber-wisdom literacy, cyber-wisdom reasoning, cyber-wisdom self-reflection, cyber-wisdom motivation. Unlike the models on which it builds, the framework accounts for the specificity of the digital age and is both conceptual and practical. On the one hand, each component has conceptual implications for what it means to be wise in the digital age. On the other hand, informed by character education literature and practice, it has practical implications for how to cultivate cyber-wisdom in the classroom through teaching methods that match its different components.

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Tom Harrison
Cardiff University

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