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A moment at last to try and collect thoughts from 13th annual communications ethics conference at Duquesne University, Pittsburgh, from which I returned last week. Non stop since then, visiting London and Leeds, but want to record a really wonderful event before it fades.

As always with a new conference, there is the implicit code to unlock: are they jeans or suits people, to be found in sessions or coffee bars, self-important or -deprecating? My conclusions = smart but not formal in dress! very formal in address (everyone called by title not forename) but delightfully engaging and curious about the their research and ideas.

The main theme was rhetoric and ethics, the speciality of the host department. It was a little daunting at first to be caught in so many conversations about Aristotle s 4th book of ethics or Heidegger’s later works, all conducted by my fellow guest speakers, mostly professors of philosophy. I may not quite follow the US system of titles but I think I was the only keynote speaker below prof status. Still, I decide to spend the time learning from them rather than being scared and have come back determined to read Heidegger, on dwelling places, Arendt on the polis, and Foucault on embodied ethics.

While some scholars treated language as technical experiment, most were deeply humane in their explorations. Very taken by Dr Ramsey Eric Ramsey’s presentation which used a sequence of paintings to illustrate points about dwelling places, including thus one.
Baying Hound, JMW Turner
It resonated with me as all that is lost.

My own keynote speech had been scaring me for weeks before discovering how august the company was, but as with all real scholars in my experience, they were warmly welcoming and interested in me as a newcomer to their event. As a result, I felt supported not undermined and to my astonishment managed to combine the advice given at a Sydney writers festival by Lucinda Holdforth, a leading Australian author and speechwriter, and David Roach, playwright and screenwriter, both friends of novelist Charlotte Wood. Lucinda said prepare everything, write it all out, rehearse and rehearse, so if nerves paralyse you, there’s something to hold on to. Improvise, David said, keep it edgy and you’ll keep it alive. Somehow managed to do both, using the script as a guide not a straitjacket. Even cracked jokes! Whole event astonishingly enjoyable. Whodda thunk?
Oh yeah, using new software too. So bored by power point, tried Prezi.com.
Loved it.

transcendent function in Jungian ethics

First reviews

I’m very touched by the generous and thoughtful responses to my book from the range of international professors of communication who have endorsed my forthcoming book (due out in July). Makes me feel like I’ve written the book I wanted to write.

Book reviews for Public relations ethics and professionalism: the shadow of excellence

 

Very excited to receive invitation to be a keynote speaker at the 13th Annual Communication Ethics conference at Duquesne University, Pittburgh in June.

Communication Ethics conference

 

The line-up is really rich and the event is organised around a series of keynotes and discussions as well as panel and paper presentations. Have managed to rearrange planned visit to UK to include quick trip to US (from here, they look very close together). What really attracts me is that the department, led by esteemed Prof Ron Arnett, looks at communication from a philosophical perspective, encouraging a range of debates not always common in the more familiar applied approaches.

I’m working on ideas about the potential for the concept of polis, society in its more exalted state, as a transcendent function, in the Jungian sense, a framework within which the ego (or any entity intent solely on gratification) can become relativised, stepping back from the centre and seeing itself as an aspect of a greater whole. Was feeling very pleased with this idea until an excellent seminar with CSU Professor Steve Redhead this week  reminded me that the overarching global structures are currently crumbling around our ears, making them poor candidates for such a role. A podcast based on the seminar can be found here: Steve Redhead’s page.

Hmm. Hoping that asking the question is of interest even if no solutions in sight…….

New piece from Zizek amplifies absence of world order. New Zizek piece

Recent publications include:

Journal articles

Fawkes, J. (2014). Performance and Persona: Goffman and Jung’s approaches to professional identity applied to public relations. PUBREL Public Relations Review. http://www.sciencedirect.com.ezproxy.csu.edu.au/science/article/pii/S0363811114000393

Abstract: Public relations work involves shaping, reflecting and communicating identity for organisations and individuals, and is in turn shaped by the professional identity both of the field and individual public relations practitioners. This paper explores these issues from the dual perspectives of sociologist Erving Goffman’s (1922–1982) reflections on the performance of work and Carl Jung’s (1875–1961) concept of Persona, the socially acceptable face of the individual or group. The former explores these issues through observation of external behaviours, the latter by engaging with the psyche. Goffman and Jung, despite their conflicting worldviews, offer a complementary understanding of the operation, internal and external, of professional identity.

The paper, which is conceptual and interpretive, with the objective of building theory, summarises contemporary approaches to professional identity in public relations and other fields, before introducing Goffman, who is often mentioned in this context, and Jung, who is not. Together these two scholars offer insights into the interior and exterior aspects of identity, which is here applied to public relations, raising questions both about the production of identity as a commodity for others and the production of self-image of public relations practitioners. The introduction of Jungian thinking brings the inward or experiential dimension of professional identity to this debate.

Fawkes, J. (2012). Saints and sinners: Competing identities in public relations ethics. Public Relations Review, 38(5), 865-872. doi:  10.1016/j.pubrev.2012.07.004

AbstractPublic relations ethics is confused and often superficial in its approach, relying heavily on traditional theory, with only occasional reference to more recent developments in professional ethics, particularly feminist and global ethical perspectives. This paper argues that the central ethical tension facing public relations as a field lies in its divided ethical identity, in particular between the idealized codes of conduct influenced by the US-based excellence project, which conjure images of wise counsel balancing duties to client and society, and practitioner-led expectations that they are advocates and should privilege clients over society. The paper touches on the wider context of professional ethics in the early 21st century from western and non-western perspectives, in order to frame current debates in public relations’ ethics. Taking a Jungian approach, it suggests that the saint/sinner models represent opposing aspects of an ethical identity or archetype which can only be resolved through self-acceptance and a willingness to embrace contradiction.

Book chapters

Fawkes, J. (2013) Public relations ethics and professionalism, in Tench, R., and Yeomans, L., Exploring Public Relations, Harlow, UK: Pearson Education, Chapter 12, pp 216-231

Fawkes, J. (2013) Public relations, propaganda and the psychology of persuasion, (ibid) chapter 11, pp 195-215

URL:  http://www.pearson.com.au/products/S-Z-Tench/Exploring-Public-Relations/9780273757771?R=9780273757771

 

New papers

 

I have a couple of new publications available online:

1) Interpreting ethics: Public relations and strong hermeneutics, in exciting new journal Public Relations Inquiry

http://pri.sagepub.com/content/1/2/117

 

Abstract

This article suggests that public relations’ inadequate engagement with the complexities of ethical theory has contributed to public loss of trust in its activities. Instead of blaming this on publics, communicators could take more responsibility for their professional ethics. The author suggests that a hermeneutic approach to ethics opens up a new area for debate in the field. Public relations ethics have traditionally drawn on the major approaches of deontology (Kant) and consequentialism (Bentham and Mill), with marginal reference to the more recent revival of Aristotelian virtue ethics (MacIntyre, 1984), an approach that shifts attention from ethical action to ethical agent. Thus discussion of ethics in public relations literature (Fitzpatrick and Bronstein, 2006; S. A. Bowen, 2007; McElreath, 1996) concentrates on rational approaches to ethical decision making, based (respectively) in marketplace theory, Kantian approaches or systems theory. In these and other writings, there is an emphasis, as is common in approaches to professional ethics, on external rule-based ethics rather than attempts to focus on inner processes to assess ethical implications of practice. This article argues that as concepts of professionalism shift and buckle under global economic and social pressures, it might be timely to look less to systems and more to human experience for ethical guidance. A hermeneutic approach, drawing on the philosophy of interpretation developed in recent decades by thinkers such as Gadamer, Habermas and Riceour, offers an alternative, inner, path to an ethics drawn from the search for shared meaning.

The article starts with a brief overview of the current state of public relations ethics, suggesting a reliance on somewhat superficial codes for guidance and the absence of reflexivity in ethical debates; it then introduces concepts from hermeneutics and its main schools or approaches, with a particular focus on hermeneutic ethics. Finally, the article links the two topics to show how ‘strong’ hermeneutic ethics might contribute to greater reflexivity in public relations ethics. It aims to shift the ethical debate away from notional reliance on codes and external guidance towards a deeper ethic. The approach taken is broadly critical (Hall, 1980; Heath, 1992) and is itself interpretative, making the article doubly-hermeneutic (Giddens, 1984) in both form and content.

2) Cultural complexes in professional ethics, in the Jungian Scholarly Studies Journal (backdated to 2010, when it should have been published)

http://www.thejungiansociety.org/Jung%20Society/e-journal/Volume-6/Fawkes-2010.pdf

Abstract

In creating a Jungian perspective on professional ethics, this paper suggests
that professions create ethical statements and codes predicated on idealized selfimages and fail to engage with the shadow aspects of the occupational group. A
brief survey of approaches to the study of professional ethics illustrates divergent
attitudes to professions in general, with some scholars (Durkheim, for example)
considering their function as stabilizing influences in society and others (broadly
following Weber) who find professional claims to be self-serving and empty. An
overview of literature suggests most professional ethics offer greater support for
the latter than former view, though discussions on Asian, discourse, and virtue
ethics have influenced thinking in this field in recent years. This discussion offers a
space for a Jungian contribution to the field of professional ethics, one that has not
been suggested before despite the obvious parallels between the idealized image
and a Jungian persona, with the disowned aspects of practice relegated to the
shadow dimensions. As most approaches to professional ethics, particularly as
embodied in codes, are constructed around such persona images, I argue that they
are too partial to be ethical in any deep sense. Indeed, they thrive on claims of
moral superiority while rejecting deviant members of the group as Other, as “bad
apples”, despite Zimbardo’s (2007) evocation of “bad barrels.”
….
It explores the tensions in professional ethics, conceptualizes professions as
psychic entities with the potential to integrate shadow material, and suggests how
such a Jungian approach might form the foundation of a new ethic. Finally, this
paper considers the implications of such an approach for the particular profession

More online and offline papers due shortly – the introductory article (with Kevin Moloney) to a special issue of PRISM on PR and power; and a piece on competing identities in PR ethics in Public Relations Review, details to follow.

Thoughtfulpiece from photojournalism lecturer on ethics involved in taking and using images, prompted by Sienna Miller’s testimony to Leveson. Agree with her rejection of the usual defences – ‘we made her what she is’ or ‘we’re not like paparazzi’ – and the call for the profession as a group to reflect on practice. Exactly.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/in-pictures-16282985

Leveson inquiry

State of UK media

Good piece from Steve Hatchett on state of UK media, as expoosed by Leveson and as familiar to most journalists forever. As a v young, enraged student I collared friends of my mother who, like her, worked for the Express and other Fleet Street tabloids about media responsibility. The answers usually included  ‘it’s only a job'; ‘if it didn’t sell papers we wouldn’t do it;’ to ‘ it’s only entertainment’ – all pretty weaselly ways of off-loading moral ownership.  Same people often fancied the ‘seeker-after-truth’ image of journalism – another interesting example of ethical identities at work.

Currently working on a paper on professional identities and their impact on ethics – some strong case material here.

 

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