Communicating Ethically

Reflecting on the topic of increasing communication ethics literacy offers many different contexts of how it can be applied. Arnett, et, al (2009) states that “questions regarding religion, race, gender and ethnicity now join questions about the environment, crisis communication, and issues of language and science literacy” (p.220). “No longer does the human race live in an age in which information increases but is also in the age where the responsibility for information increases also” (Arnett, et. al, 2009, p. 220). What a fascinating concept; not just to learn but to take responsibility to learn, which opens up a whole new level of understanding and applying communication ethics literacy in today’s world. As a community college professor, I challenge my students to take responsibility and ownership of their learning. Arnett, et. al, (2009) echoed my thoughts regarding the barrier between teaching and learning through this statement;“communication ethics committed to learning suggests that the defining characteristics of unethical communicative acts are twofold: assuming that you know everything, and assuming what the other knows is not worth knowing”(p.221). Of course, it is import to remember what assuming can do! This also draws in the “pragmatics of dialogic ethics” and the concept that “dialogue requires that one know the ground from which one speaks, meet the Other with a willingness to learn, and learn about the ground from which the Other’s discourse emerges” (Arnett, et. al, 2009, p.223).

The barriers and breakdowns I mentioned can be the avoidance of learning and education by people, because “a commitment to learning never permits the smugness of assurance to eclipse the necessity of learning and the possibility of new insight to offer a corrective” (Arnett, et. al, 2009, p.226-227). Therefore, this is a principle I can use in taking steps to increase my own communication ethics literacy in my position as a professor in and out of the classroom. It is pretty much “learning from the difference” whether that be in opinions and methods or ways of learning (Arnett, et, al, 2009, p.227). This reminds me of a quote I recall from a television show I watched recently in which the character stated “sometimes we forget that not everyone grows up the same as us”. But it also goes back to pragmaticism, because when viewing dialogue, it is about content; mainly ‘privileging content over style” (Arnett, et. al, 2009, p. 223). Therefore it is important not to discount another’s view or idea just because  “that person does not do dialogue as we demand” (Arnett, et. al, 2009, p.223). It is something I am very conscious of, when I am engaging in conversations regarding politics, current events with friends, relatives and colleagues and many times I will find myself just sitting back and listen and observe others, especially, if it is from folks who have lived life a little more than I. My mindset is that education does not just take place in a classroom but all of life is an education. The two specific examples I mentioned in this blog is how I take the steps and personal ownership and responsibility of my learning to communicate.

Reference:

Arnett, R.F., J.M. Harden & Bell, L.M. (2009). Communication ethics  literacy: Dialogue and difference. Los Angeles: Sage.

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Community of Memory: It’s All In the Organization

Organizations are sometimes defined as “institutions” but a more friendly term is often used such as “family” or “community”. In fact, the main part of communicative life is found inside the walls and context of an organization (Arnett, et. al, 2009, p. 137). Within a given organization, diversity is ever-present, as many different cultures co-exist, which ultimately shapes the “organizational culture”. Within it is many intricacies and unspoken beliefs and rules. It is interesting to note that before I took a course in my undergraduate coursework called Organizational Psychology, that I did not quite understand the context of the communicative organizational life. Therefore many experiences within my early working life, were not fully understood at that time. Culture plays a significant role for instance, when individuals recognize their own culture in the midst of learning about another culture; therefore “working in a contrasting fashion and countering our cultural assumptions” (Arnett, et. al, 2009, p. 158). Furthermore, culture is the symbolic “system of a group of people that gives us interpretive clues for what something means and the significance of a given event” (Arnett, et. al, 2009, p. 158). A similar dynamic exists within an organization, just as in a culture, there is an “ongoing” story of that organization, with an opportunity to examine communication within the specific organization. The purpose of this is to distinguish what type of communication protects and promotes the organizational good (Arnett, et. al, 2009, p.139).

A personal revelation regarding “community of memory” within an organization actually came about when I changed jobs six years ago and the term culture shock would be underrating my reaction to the change of the organizational culture! Although I left a similarly structured organization that is considered a sister organization, a huge difference was in store for me. As Arnett, et. al, (2009) stated  regarding culture shock;“it introduces a disruption in how we think” and “we feel different when habits and conventions are not our own” (p. 162). That is exactly what happened to me, though the new organization was similar in operation to the one I had left, there were key activities that were done differently that threw me off and it took quite sometime to adapt to the changes. The rhetorical interruption caused weariness and even some depressive feelings that lasted for a year! As Arnett et. al, (2009), stated “we experience fatigue as we meet communicative cultural events, disrupting normative patterns” (p.162-163). From that point I felt that I was going to have to quit, that I simply could not hang with this group and I initially declared that I had made a mistake, but soon a turning point came within the next year as I came to the realization of one fact.

That fact was that I could not quit and return to the other organization because I had made a decision that was irreversible. But at that time I did not understand the implications of the intercultural communication crisis I was experiencing because I was attempting to infuse my previous culture in this new one. The whole purpose of intercultural communication ethics is to protect and promote the culture’s good, therefore the “good” that was previously protected and promoted was not relevant in this new environment. Unfortunately, it has taken about six years to fully understand that my “communications ethic responsibility” was to observe and learn what this new culture was about and leave behind everything I believed I knew regarding interacting within organizational cultural communities (Arnett, et. al, 2009, p. 164). The key was applying the “dialogic ethic” to the intercultural communication crisis in my life at that time. It it is as simple as examining the dialogic ethic “in the manner of listening, attentiveness, and negotiation”(Arnett, et. al, 2009, p. 169-170). Simply, the following keys would have smoothed out the rocky road to transition: (1) Listen without Demand, (2) Attentiveness (ground of self, other and the historical moment), (3) Dialogic negotiation, (4) Temporal dialogic ethical competence (evaluation/self reflection and going from knowledge to learning, (5) Listen to what is before communicative partners who are culturally different (Arnett, et. al, 2009, p. 170). It as a matter of changing from this is how “so-and-so organization did it” to this how the (new) organization does it. Hindsight is truly 20/20.

Reference:

Arnett, R.F., J.M. Harden & Bell, L.M. (2009). Communication ethics  literacy: Dialogue and difference. Los Angeles: Sage.

Public Opinion or Popular Opinion: Which Voice is Louder?

As the political elections draw near with televised coverage of the political parties’ conventions, many newsworthy pieces are emerging regarding the November races. An interesting article appeared in several publications this week over an outfit worn by Megyn Kelly of Fox News at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio. The article which appeared on Huffington Post online chronicled many of the comments that were published on Facebook and Twitter regarding Kelly’s appearance on the televised portion of the convention.  Ms. Kelly was dressed in a spaghetti-strapped dress to combat the hot and humid weather that night. Apparently many viewers felt that the outfit and the backlash that followed violated the “sacred space”. It important to note that Arnett, et. al, (2009), defines that it is a “space that is to be protected, honored and valued” (p. 108). The Republican National Convention and public television are of course part of the public arena and therefore an unspoken and decades-held dress code in a sense was something that was not be changed or modified and therefore it may have seemed that the outfit worn by the correspondent was a deliberate “thumbing the nose” at regality and tradition of the event. Historically, people often begin to feel threatened if something that seems familiar and comfortable is changed, but it is often forgotten that the “public arena” is “not our home” and it is not wise to “feel totally comfortable in such a place. It is interesting to note that in this case, the “voice”, representing the appropriate and inappropriate was fully present in the forum comments and editorial opinions as well.

However, there were some elements lacking that diminished the seriousness of the events going on in American politics. It is “just a dress” or is it? Did Ms. Kelly harm the “public good” in any way considering she was in the public arena. Many of the “voices” emphasized their “opinion” regarding her choice of wardrobe as right or wrong.  The public arena is viewed as the place that protects and promotes the discernment among diverse ideas and lives and prospers when public space for conversation, not one’s own opinion (Arnett, et. al, 2009, p. 103). This is where undue confidence and unsubstantiated opinion comes in and simply put, there is no room in a “vibrant” public arena is for communicative action based on “ideological certainty that seeks no new knowledge, just the opportunity to tell, and an unwillingness or inability to make temporal decisions” (Arnett, et. al, 2009, p. 103). Therefore, that is where a lot of “she should have or she shouldn’t have” is based on, which shows generational shifts of what is deemed as acceptable or not acceptable. Most importantly, the public arena does not possess the final answer, it simply provides the “place for a grounded stance, engages other’s grounded stances’ and makes a decision and with that are short-term and long-term circumstances” (Arnett, et. al, 2009, p. 103).

In reflection, it seems that the ability of “free thought” on social media is approaching the excessive mark. Each time I read a news post or a Facebook post, I glean the comments to see how many differences of opinion exist regarding the topic discussed. Although moderation is important in the conduction of rational thought and discussion, it is important to note that moderation could pose the possibility of censorship of unpopular opinions and especially those that expose the truth behind the often alleged “media fabrication”. As a child growing up in the eighties and nineties, the term politically correct always came up on the news and talk shows and in the “politically correct” context we live in today, I see how free speech could definitely be endangered. Therefore, no guarantee exists that informed moderation could ensure that the public dialogue be that of rational and sensible thought without imposing some form of  censorship. Arnett, et. al (2009) stated it well: “in a changing world, public discourse is the communicative ethics protector of difference among persons and ideas: the task of individuals is to keep the public domain safe for the difference” (p.108). However, it seems as with each passing day that is being threatened.

References:

Arnett, R.F., J.M. Harden & Bell, L.M. (2009). Communication ethics  literacy: Dialogue and

       difference. Los Angeles: Sage.

Hatch, J. (2015, July 22). Megyn Kelly wore spaghetti straps and people lost it. The

      Huffington Post. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/megyn-kelly-

      wore-spagehetti-straps-and-people-lost-it_us_57923502e4b0fc06ec5cbe9a.

Narratives: The Shape of My World

When reflecting on this week’s topic, it was necessary to go back and define what the term Narrative meant before deciphering my own meaning of it. Narrative is described as “a story agreed upon by a group of people” (Arnett, et.al. 2009, p. 37). However, it can also be a term defined as the “story of one’s life” and although it encompasses a public story and the harbinger of human action, the personal story of each human is greatly influenced by the narrative or narratives of the world in which the public story is created. Narratives play such an important part in the “human story” because “Humans are essentially storytellers” and essentially “read and evaluate the texts of both life and literature(Arnett, et. al, 2009, p. 37). Without fully understanding how communications ethics in action “requires a dwelling place from which the good is articulated and then brought into persuasive engagement” it is easy to misunderstand or even dismiss the importance of narratives and I never really appreciated how much the narrative impacted my life until hitting adulthood (Arnett, et. al., 2009, p. 38-39).

Many narratives influence my daily life and dates from my childhood until now, which is largely dominated by the values which were instilled in me by family. Christian values are largely dominant and it very apparent that tradition can play a role how a narrative can shape an individual’s decision making and ultimately their worldview. In reflecting on the narrative that has greatly influenced my life, I am very mindful of that the communication ethic that has guided my life is not necessarily shared by other people, especially in my community and certainly in the world around me. Our text stated it well: “given communication ethic is not understood to guide action for everyone; each communication ethic lives within the narrative structure or communities of discourse that argue for the importance and value of a given set of communicative goods” (Arnett, et. al., 2009, p. 38).

An example of these implications noted above can best be described in how diversity shapes my life and my narrative. Residing in the state of Arkansas, many cultures have settled in the state over the years and therefore has transformed the cities and towns of the state across the board. Unfortunately, many residents have resorted to a negative view of the blending of the different ethnic groups and have even encouraged the separation and the lack of acceptance has clouded the narrative of the community. However, my view is somewhat different of that of my neighbors and friends. In my family, the Christian values and within the practice of Christianity, the development of friendships across races and cultures were encouraged. Mind you, not all Christians share that same view of acceptance and showing love of their fellow man; it very deceptive of Christ’s teachings when violence and segregation are promoted in his name, it is a false narrative breed from hate and intolerance.

An incident from my childhood is still vivid as I remember my family being outraged when an African-American family wanted to come to our church, and they were discouraged from coming back due to the color of their skin. My family questioned this of church leaders and were essentially ignored, a little later we found another place to worship, but years later, we all realized we should have immediately disassociated ourselves from that congregation but the narrative that shaped our Christianity that also influenced within me and my family was a more separatist view when it came to religious worship. In other words it was okay to associate with different races at work or school but not at church. Very narrow thinking but over the years, the “narrative” has changed; the values I outlined took on even a broader view and the simple truth is you cannot compartmentalize acceptance into different parts of life. That particular communication ethic applies to each aspect of life. Interestingly today, my parents are pastors of a congregation that is made of several different cultures and as an adult I visit this church frequently. Just last week before I fully engaged in the chapter topic, I was lamenting how these precious people would not have been welcome in the churches of my childhood, even today.

Therefore the narrative that guides me in my everyday decision making invokes understanding and appreciation of those with different upbringings and views. True love and acceptance does not necessarily mean “rubber stamping” every view or influence of that other culture. Ultimately, it is following my own moral compass that has been shaped by faith and experiences which have shaped the communication ethics practiced in my life.

References:

Arnett, R.F., J. M. Harden  & Bell, L.M. (2009). Communication ethics literacy: Dialogue

       and difference. Los Angeles: Sage.