ICE blogs

December 28, 2009

Kate Lacey | public lecture on listening and media | Sydney, Australia

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Listening Overlooked: Rethinking media and the public sphere

A public lecture for the Transforming Cultures Research Centre University of Technology, Sydney

Wednesday December 9th 2009
6 for 6.30 pm
UTS Building 2, Room 411 (enter via Tower Building)
Dr. Kate Lacey School of Media, Film and Music University of Sussex, UK

Since the late nineteenth century, the recording, manipulation and transmission of sound have opened up the possibility of new industries, new prospects for commodification, new artistic practices, new cultures of listening, new subjectivities and, not least, new publics. The idea of ‘the listening public’ that emerged with the infant sound media has tended to be associated with the text or medium listened to, not carrying with it any particular connotations of critical practice. This paper will challenge such a restricted understanding of the audience. It will examine the discursive construction of the listening public in relation to the ongoing transformation of communications media, and will argue the case for taking listening as a critical category in thinking not just about radio and other auditory media, but about the public sphere more broadly. In short, the ambition is to amplify the specifically auditory roots of the word ‘audience’, a word that combines the experiential with the public aspect of mediated culture.

The paper will argue that there is an analytical distinction to be made between ‘listening out’ - as an attentive and anticipatory communicative disposition - and ‘listening in’ - as a receptive and mediatized communicative action. This analytical distinction, I will argue, opens up a space to consider listening as an activity with political resonance. The main argument is that listening, as a communicative and participatory act, is necessarily and inescapably political. This has nowhere more profound consequences than in balancing the normative ideal of free speech with a normative freedom of listening that encompasses both a responsibility and a right to listen. Where the freedom of speech is a right ascribed to the individual, I argue there is a freedom of listening that, by contrast, inheres in the space between individuals, and is concerned precisely with guaranteeing the context within which freedom of expression can operate not as speech, but as communication.

Light refreshments will be served. Please RSVP to

conference on global ethics, Bristol, UK

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Conference Announcement

The Third International Global Ethics Association (IGEA)
University of the West of England, Bristol, UK
30 June - 1 July, 2010

Global Ethics:
10 years into the millennium

What progress have we made in addressing the key ethical issues of our time such as global conflict, climate change, and international injustice?

Confirmed speakers: Simon Caney (University of Oxford) and Darrel Moellendorf (Director, Institute for Ethics and Public Affairs, San Diego State University)

This conference invites papers and panels on all aspects of Global Ethics in 2010. We encourage multidisciplinary papers which address the theory and practice of Global Ethics and global justice from academic, policy and practice perspectives. Issues which we would like to consider include:

  • Development issues like progress towards achieving the MDGs and impact of post-colonial and post-development critiques on development ethics
  • Ecological crises such as global warming and the distribution of increasingly scarce natural resources
  • War and peace concerns such as the ethical issues arising from the War on Terror, humanitarian intervention, privatization of the military and the ethics of peace-keeping
  • Gender issues 20 years since CEDAW, for example, transnational feminism and reproductive rights
  • Human rights issues 60 years after the UDHR
  • Economic injustices and the global market
  • Global networks and civil society
  • Identity politics, multiple identities and transnationalism

Journal of Global Ethics

Network for Global Ethics and Human Rights, University of the West of England

Centre for the Study of Global Ethics, University of Birmingham

For further information please contact Dr Christien van den Anker ( and Dr Heather Widdows (

Sustainability - not change - the priority

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Robert Beckett considers the implications of the recent Copenhagen Climate Change conference for communication ethicists

The recent Copenhagen Climate Change conference - COP 15 - proved a milestone, bringing together 192 nation states to confront a new class of global issues. Two communication insights are now vitally important for the success of the Copenhagen agenda.

Instead of talking about climate change, a single specialised science susceptible to scientific doubt, all communicators need to talk about global sustainability - a label for 40-50 interlinking sciences, or narratives, which together, present a clearer picture of the issues and are far less susceptible to dispute.

The argument is not whether climate change is beyond question, but that a wider variety of global and national economic and natural systems are deeply threatened. There is little scientific doubt that global population is exploding, the ice caps are melting, that many fisheries and forests are reaching a terminal point, or that 25 per cent of the species on earth are threatened by human activity and so on.

If everyone of conscience were to focus not on climate change but on global sustainability we might stop the climate change lobby fixating on a single issue and seeking selective evidence to stop all subsequent change. This problem is connected to another: namely the influence of specialists and lobbyists on a political system that is simply incapable of managing the quantity of information to evaluate and coordinate such a change.

Secondly, to address the complexity of social and environmental issues, all people have to be included in the political process itself, and to make these decisions themselves. The conceit of representative politics (even at Copenhagen level) can be stated with one simple figure. Despite calls for a smaller House of Commons, each British MP, on average, represents 100,000 people. That’s a bigger crowd than fits in Wembley stadium. Imagine one person, standing in the centre of a stadium of such magnitude and saying: ‘I promise to represent your views.’

Every citizen (please let’s not talk of stakeholders, consumers or customers) needs to represent themselves in their own fully operational democratic community. Consider this: no permanent full time government employees, only part time, semi-permanent citizens working for their communities. We’d wipe out unemployment in one go, solve the problem of educating our under-qualified citizens (on-the-job training) and include everybody in the big debates about sustainability (local education, transport, food, clothing and housing taken care of, not by Whitehall, but by the town hall).

The conceit of centralisation is no longer valid, because the technology of our age, the computer, stimulates the opposite effect. We’d expect to recreate coordinating governance at the global, regional, national, sub-regional and local levels, with no extra resources, because the system efficiencies and higher rates of innovation will create a far wealthier system, simply due to the magnified benefits of greater inclusiveness, increased participation, higher education levels, greater capacity for innovation etc.

Cries of socialism will be directed at such a plan, while a response is straightforward. Socialism and capitalism are outdated 19th century labels for larger historic ideas by which to navigate human social and economic action. We need to move beyond labels and to create new communities founded in low consumption of resources, individual and familial well-being and peaceful coexistence between nations and communities guaranteed by transparent and inclusive self-governing technologies and a minimum body of rules.

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