ICE blogs

October 25, 2009

Mair ‘chuffed’ with top Coventry award

Filed under: Uncategorized, Blogroll, ethical space editors blog, Headlines, journalism — news_editor @ 5:04 pm

John Mair, a member of both the Ethical Space editorial board and the executive group of ICE, has been awarded the Cecil Angel Cup, the most prestigious award by Coventry University. The cup is awarded annually to university staff or students for a significant contribution to the development and/or well being of the university and the wider community, and/or significant enhancement of its reputation.

It is to be presented at the graduation ceremony on 23 November 2009 by Vice-Chancellor Madeleine Atkins. John Mair, an associate senior lecturer in journalism and a former TV producer, invented the Coventry Conversations, weekly talks with and by media movers and shakers, four years go when he joined Coventry University.

Since then, there have been more than 160, including six Coventry Cathedral lectures. The cast who have come to Coventry is stellar and has ranged from the Director General of the BBC to famous TV faces to Oscar, BAFTA and Emmy award winners. Live audiences have ranged from 20-300 but most of the reputation is garnered on the internet where some conversations on itunesU ( attract up to 2,000 downloads a day. The university podcasts ( also attract hundreds of downloads. Some are also on YouTube where one has been downloaded 7000 times.

Mair said in response to the news of the prize: ‘I am very very chuffed to get this cup. It makes it all worthwhile. The conversations are a triumph because of 30 years of contacts, hard work, dogged determination and because they hit a seam of public curiosity. At times, it has been like pushing water uphill but with sterling support from the highest echelons of the university, I have made it. They will thrive and continue. Thank you to all big and small who have helped them to germinate, gestate and mature. Onwards and upwards.’

  • For more information contact John Mair at

October 22, 2009

Freedom of expression under threat from ’super-injunctions’

Filed under: Blogroll, ethical space editors blog, Headlines, journalism, human rights — news_editor @ 6:05 pm

Legal expert Barry Turner argues that the recent spate of ’super-injunctions’ are unlawful since they are contemptuous of parliament and in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights

The media has in recent weeks complained of a use of injunctions not only to prevent publication of controversial stories but to stifle the very discussion of the injunction itself.

Applications made to the courts by zealous and perceived powerful defamation and ‘privacy’ lawyers have been granted by judges who seem to have forgotten the very nature of the relationship between the press and the courts and who have, more disturbingly, forgotten that an injunction is an equitable remedy and not a legal right.

The recent action against the Guardian to stifle reports about the oil company, Trafigura, and the dumping of toxic waste in the Ivory Coast in 2006, went well beyond any idea of protecting the applicant’s privacy and equitable interests. The lawyers for the claimant, Carter-Ruck, were not only seeking to prevent adverse commentaries on the company’s activities but sought to injunct any kind of debate about it in parliament.

The injunction is a well-established and commonly used legal tool to prevent an individual suffering a wrong and to prevent a wrongdoer from evading responsibilities. Properly used in the spirit of the English legal system’s concept of equity, it is a remedy to be applauded. When used in less than good faith it represents a fundamental threat to freedom of expression that should not be tolerated in a pluralist democracy.

The injunction is an equitable remedy. Equity is a cornerstone of English law enabling judges to apply the law in a fair and ‘equitable’ manner. It is a centuries-old tradition that has served those who seek redress in the courts well. The reason it is such an invaluable tool is because it is discretionary and need not slavishly follow the more rigid legal rules that apply in our legal system. The ’super-injunction’, which aims to stifle entire debate, is in clear violation of the spirit of equity and of judicial discretion.

A judge granting a ’super-injunction’ is, in fact, breaking the rules of equity themselves. The House of Lords - in American Cyanamid v Ethicon 1975 - made clear that the injunction, as an equitable remedy, can only be used when there is a cause of action, a triable case. In another pivotal decision on injunctions, the Master of the Rolls from 1982 to 1992, Sir John Donaldson, declared that the court may disregard fanciful claims. A claim that a national newspaper may not discuss questions in parliament regarding an injunction is about as fanciful as it gets.

The rules of equity in the main mitigate against the granting of injunctions. Great drafts of the common law on both equity and freedom of expression urge caution on judges before granting an injunction. The ’super-injunction’ is an invention of imaginative lawyers and judges who have forgotten the very basics of the law of equity.

‘Super-injunctions’ defy legal maxims enshrined since time immemorial (natural justice). Super injunctions deny the supremacy of parliament. They deny the authority of statute and treaty (the European Convention on Human Rights, Article10; the Human Rights Act 1998 Section.12); they defy absolute privilege; they abuse the purpose of the sub judice rule. They are unlawful!

October 14, 2009

Challenging misrepresentation of indigenous people

Filed under: Blogroll, News, ethical space editors blog, Headlines — news_editor @ 5:24 pm

Valerie Alia is one of a number of academics challenging the misrepresentation of indigenous people in a New Yorker article on 21 April 2008. Here is the opening of her article which appears on the website.

Much has been written about the questionable research, writing, and presentation of indigenous people in Papua New Guinea (PNG) in Jared Diamond’s New Yorker article, Vengeance is ours: What can tribal societies tell us about our need to get even? I would like to place the article and discussion of it in a more general context of media ethics and media coverage of indigenous people. Moreover, I would like to consider it in the context of the important work that indigenous people around the world are doing, to tell more accurate stories - in their own voices - and to create their own media outlets and networks.

I wish I could say that Jared Diamond’s article is unique. Sadly, it is not. During thirty years of research on media ethics and identity, and experience working with / learning from indigenous people in several countries and regions, I have seen countless examples of misrepresentation, inaccuracy, sensationalism, cavalier treatment of individuals and communities, and general disregard for the effects of careless journalism on the people who are portrayed. I have learned to expect this from the tabloid press and its broadcast equivalents. I did not expect to find it in the pages of The New Yorker.

Where a situation is volatile and people are vulnerable, inaccuracies can be lethal. Without sufficient context, a media portrayal can invite or encourage stereotyping and misunderstanding, and inflame hate speech and conflict. This is particularly evident with respect to indigenous people.

The importance of transdisciplinarity for communication ethics

Filed under: Blogroll, News, ethical space editors blog, Headlines — news_editor @ 5:17 pm

Robert Beckett argues that transdisciplinarity can support the integration of communication ethics practice with many other disciplines, by providing a theoretical basis for each

Transdisciplinarity is an important theory for communication ethics, both situating the lifeworld study of communication-morality as essential and connecting it to a new physics of time-based multi-dimensionality. One of the difficulties for any discipline is justifying itself outside its own boundaries. While these boundaries are dynamic and wide in communication ethics, this may also reduce the possibility of agreement over the natural limits to the discipline and therefore its unique justification. Transdisciplinarity may support the integration of communication ethics practice with many other disciplines, by providing a theoretical basis for each, a justification situated in new understandings of multi-dimensional physical realities and in the time-distorting potentiality of information communication technologies.

In 2002, the Romanian physicist Basarab Nicolescu, published, The manifesto of transdisciplinarity (translated by Karen-Claire Voss, New York Press). More recently, the field of transdisciplinarity has gained serious recognition at a World Knowledge Dialogue event, held in Switzerland in 2008 and attended by such luminaries as A.O. Wilson and Edgar Morin, (see and via the International Center for Transdisciplinary Research (see Last year also, a more diverse collection of essays was published, edited by Nicolescu, Transdisciplinarity: Theory and practice (Cresskill, NJ: Hampton Press Inc.).

There are several key formulations in transdisciplinarity that tie-in closely with communication ethics. These include:

 a) Transdisciplinarity is linked to the identification of complexity in both natural and social sciences. It recognises how a postmodern multi-modal knowledge construct helps provide a measure of integration within and between the sciences using a theory of physics.

b) This integration is achieved by recognizing the two great revolutions of the 20th century, the quantum revolution and the computer revolution. In recognising that new levels of reality exist, signified by recognition of the quantum domain and that computing supports amazing new capabilities to track our universe, transdisciplinarity, identifies a new dimension of human reality which communication scholars will recognise. Nicolescu calls it computer space-time (CST), a human domain of light-speed capability that is already used to evaluate, revise, create and reassess all human knowledge.

c) Linked to the new CST capabilities is the acceptance by physicists of ‘new levels of reality’ and the significant insight for communication and ethics of a revised, yet simple logic. Scholars who have looked into the logic/dialogic of classical knowledge will not be surprised that the limits of Aristotelian classical logic contained in the standard three laws (Law of Identity , Law of Non-Contradiction, Law of Excluded Middle) can be revised, based on the new quantum evaluation of complex physical reality.

Particularly for logic, this revision relates to the ‘excluded middle’, where Nicolescu, refers to Stéphane Lupasco, who, in the 1970s, conceived that a binary logic which depended on the separation of logical entities did not account for the relatedness of objects. Lupasco denied the ‘excluded middle’ and, instead. replaced it with an ‘included middle’ or tiers inclus (T-state) enabling a both/and category for logic, replacing the either/or option of ‘exclusion’.


d) For transdisciplinarity and for other disciplines, the recognition of a T-state re-balances logical objects in human knowledge by a ‘third-state’ - the interrelational, thereby providing an actual logic of change, explaining dynamic equilibrium and disequilibrium, while initiating a fundamental re-integration of human knowledge across the sciences through examination of ancient (il)logical structures. Under the transdisciplinary perspective, the relational dimension of all energy in the universe suggests a more subtle appreciation of connections using a new ‘modal logic’ and even a reintegration of ’science’ with the ’sacred’ by showing their interrelation.

e) For communication ethics, the transdisciplinary revision supports both dialectical suspicion of certainty, and integrates the natural and social sciences using in a multi-modal logic founded in postmodern physical reality. The suggestion here is that communication ethics, perhaps the most concise general theoretical conception in the social sciences, linked via the massive/complex capabilities of CST, can now be founded in a equally profound understanding held in the natural sciences, the quantum revolution. Together, each has a power which apart they lack. A transdisciplinary communication ethics is capable of being linked with other disciplines via a shared view of physical reality and a new modal logic; a logic that suits the open, interpretive and moral requirements of communication ethics and, in fact, of transdisciplinarity.

On a personal note, the theory of transdisciplinarity is supported by the method of 5D sense making that this author has published since 2001. 5D provides a simple method for communication ethics, and any other subject including transdisciplinarity, that enhances their common integration via a simple numerical patterning of key knowledge, aiming to signal the often sublimated theories and assumptions in text, and supporting the move to interactive (on and off line) knowledge examination via the use of visual mapping of data in real time.


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