If companies want to continue putting their heads in the sand, they risk getting their
heads cut off. The Internet is now the difference between getting in the game and sitting
on the sidelines.
--William Murphy, Director, Internet Marketing, Hewlett Packard
The problem with reducing online interaction to an exchange of bits, and the interactive
age to an information age, is that it allows cyberspace to be quantified, and ultimately
commodified….The Internet was not something a person engaged with; it was a set of
information that could be accessed. And anything that could be accessed could be given
a price tag.
--Douglas Rushkoff, media analyst
Ethics Case: Onlinepills.com
Ben Tweed woke up before his wife one morning feeling more awake than he usually did
at 5:00 AM, and turned on the family computer, almost without thinking why. But there
was a reason, and he could tell himself, by the time the icon for Netscape had appeared
on the monitor, that this might be his chance to get something done about that problem
he’d been worrying about lately. There was the ad he’d seen on television recently—the
one with the man about his age or younger—good-looking—shaving, smiling into the
mirror as he tightened his tie, hustling out the front door and then appearing in a waiting
room. “It’s time,” the ad had said, “time to ask your doctor about Viagra.” But Ben knew
he was never going to ask any doctors about Viagra. No way.
Once he was connected he wrote in the URL of his favorite search engine, and in the box
he typed: Viagra. Within seconds, a lengthy list appeared. The first address—
http://www.viagra.com--carried the title “Viagra/welcome,” and he was about to click on
it when he noticed the title of the second: “cheap Viagra online.” A moment later and
Ben was staring at the portal of
. There were a few icons at
the top. He noticed the one for Claritin, the allergy med his wife took, and there was one
for Viagra, with a picture of the blue pill beside it. Ben clicked.
The next page had a springtime photo of a man hugging a woman, and under that just one
paragraph: Ben read that he was not alone, that “approximately 52% of men 40-70
experience some degree of erectile dysfunction (ED).” This was comforting, but it was
even better to read that it was not just the oldsters who had this: the screen told him 10%
of men from 20 to 30 were in his same boat. The good news was that “almost all” cases
were “treatable.” Luckily, Ben didn’t have to bother with anything “embarrassing” like
the “vacuum devices, suppositories or penile implants or other procedures” mentioned,
and Ben felt a wave of genuine relief at this point. In fact, it was looking like Ben didn’t
even have to go through the embarrassment of showing up in person in a doctor’s office
like the guy in the TV ad. No—it looked like all he needed to do was click on for an
“online consultation.” Ben clicked.