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Communications Ethics

Communications Ethics

Turnitin e-Copy to be submitted by 5.00pm Friday 12th September 2014.

The minor essay is a formative assignment. That is, it allows you the opportunity to integrate your
understandings through the construction of a substantial argument.

Arnett, Arneson and Bell (2006), following the work of Arnett (1987), identify five categories of
communication ethics: �democratic communication ethics; universal-humanitarian communication ethics;
codes, procedures, and standards in communication ethics; contextual communication ethics; and
narrative communication ethics� (p. 72). To this list they add a sixth category, dialogic communication
ethics, a category they say is �central for navigating a postmodern era in which narrative and virtue
agreement no longer exists� (p. 72). In adding the sixth category, they refer to what is called �the
dialogic turn�:
The dialogic turn is a form of choice that presupposes that competing positions on communication ethics
contend with on another. The dialogic turn privileges choice that requires constant learning, a willingness
to engage interpretive understanding of diversity over argumentative condemnation of difference. The
crucial element of dialogic ethics is the choice to learn; learning requires content � one needs [to] learn


�something: the ethical content comes from the narrative structure upon which a person in dialogue
stands; dialogue requires one to know one�s own position and that of the other person. (p. 81)

Essay Process
Outline each of the six categories paying particular attention to their distinguishing features.
Is the Dialogic Turn the answer to the ethical issues raised for communication professionals in the
postmodern world? Is the stumbling truth of Mahatma Gandhi enough to ground an ethics of practice (see
p. 83)?

Assessment Criteria
Breadth of coverage of the topics
Depth of analysis and integration of ideas Coherence of argument
Adherence to academic requirements


Communication Ethics

Various types of relationships can be possible in any particular domain. Interpersonal
communication, for instance, could happen with a friend in a personal perspective, a colleague in
a working context, an investor in a business deal, or even a conversation between two individuals
highlighting civic issues (Rogin & Guffey, 2009). Additionally, one has to give a consideration
to the nature of each of the interactants within the communication. All these can only happen
through ethical considerations (Rogin & Guffey, 2009). Ethics is therefore defined as the
considerations to all that is considered to be wrong or right. It is actually the moral standard upon
which actions are judged as either bad or good. People do come along with a variety of
experiences into the interaction and this helps them to understand the issues without difficulties.
When getting involved into an ethical communication, one has to pay attention to gender
diversity, sexual orientation, age difference, cultural diversity, religious differences and whether
the other party has got physical disabilities or not.
Ethical issues are prospectively relevant in any communication aspect, which can be the
source or the sender, the content or the message, communication channels, receivers, effects and
finally the environment of communication (Arnett, Fritz & Bell, 2009). Ethics will be present
whether the communication is done orally or through writing. Moreover, ethical considerations is
encountered all through the function of message, including whether the communicator intends to
present information, increase a person’s understanding level, persuade in regards to important


values, portray the presence and the significance of societal problems, advocate for a solution or
even stir up conflict (Jethwaney, 2010).
Communication experts have managed to come up with a number of categories of human
communication ethics that have been applied in several interactions. Arnett, Arneson and
Leeanne (2006) did deliberate on these communication ethic categories which include
democratic communication ethics, contextual communication ethics, codes, procedures, and
standards in communication ethics, universal-humanitarian communication ethics and narrative
communication ethics. Into this category, they added a sixth category, which they called dialogic
communication ethics. This category, they categorically stated that is fundamental for the
navigation of a postmodern era from which a narrative and a virtue agreement exists no more. By
adding this sixth category, the authors referred to what is known as “the dialogic turn”
Democratic communication ethics has been the most talked about approach of
communication ethics (Arnett, Arneson & Bell, 2006). It can be traced all the way back to when
the Athenians started practicing the Greek Rhetoric, which required that the public was to be
involved in the process of decision making. The approach is particularly known for the
discussion of customs, ideas, and rights. It also strives to protect and promote the need for
collective decision-making. A good part of American history also emphasize on this approach to
communication ethics. This however clearly came out during World War II, a time when
democracy and ethics came alongside each other. The notion of one person one vote, thus,
became the best way to do things.
Universal Humanitarian approach tends to protect and promote the capability humans to
distinguish the good through a coherent process (Arnett, Arneson & Bell, 2006). By ensuing this


particular approach, and yearning for the greatest good, people are able to put forth a standard for
ethical considerations and through that standard, being good to others is seen as expectations
both to themselves and to every other person. The question about what the greatest good is for
the largest number of people presumes an illumination idea that enables people to discern the
most correct answer.
Codes, procedures, and standards in communication ethics outlines the communication
principles through which apposite ethical conduct is assessed (Arnett, Arneson & Bell, 2006). Its
main aim is to protect and promote the good of a principles and practices that have been jointly
agreed-upon. This approach is mainly employed in the creation of a number of ethical codes in
businesses and organizations.
Contextual communication ethics advocates for a specific good that is found embedded in
various contexts that differ from one culture to the other, person to person and also consider
specific settings (Arnett, Arneson & Bell, 2006). This particular approach asks queries regarding
the different situations that aim at identifying what is appropriate for every particular situation.
The approach has been particularly displayed in the ever-changing cultures and the expectations
within the international business.
The narrative communication ethics has the assumption that communication ethics do
commence with people’s lives as directed by the stories that teaches the where the world should
be or rather how the world is (Arnett, Arneson & Bell, 2006). Such stories also aim at protecting
and advocating for a good residing within different cultures. The goods exemplified in this
approach present guidelines on how one should live, and evaluates one’s life against the others


(Michael, 2012). The birth of Jesus is a story that has been prominently used as a communication
ethics approach when told to the Christian believers.
The dialogic turn, which is the form of selection that presumes that the contending
positions in the field of communication ethics compete each other, gives priority to such choices
that require continual learning, the will to involve an interpretive understanding of variety over
argumentative criticism of difference (Arnett, Arneson & Bell, 2006). The choice to learn is the
most important component of the dialogic ethics. Ideally, learning is all about content. The
ethical content originate from the narrative arrangement upon which the person involved in the
dialogue stands. Dialogue will require one to understand his or her own position and the other
person’s position.
Conceivably one of the leading debates pertaining to intercultural communication is
whether or not the same ethical dimensions or rather the framework of all the cultures can be
applied or whether every culture has set standards that are specific to it. The view that every
culture set for itself what it considers to be wrong or right seems to ogre well with a number of
interculturalists and anthropologists.
There are actually two major stances: cultural relativism and meta-ethic. Cultural
relativism is where each culture defines what it feels is wrong or right. Meta-ethic on the other
hand is where certain predominant ethical ideal are applied across all cultures. Choosing between
the two stances may not be as easy as it may appear. Scholars now suggest that every culture
should strive to embrace an ethical stance that is specific to itself in the postmodern,
multicultural world. This however brings forth the questions regarding the practices that have
been held by different cultures at different times as history records. Such practices include


human sacrifices, slavery, wife-burning, and women oppression that came in terms of female
genital mutilation, denial access to education among others. It is therefore advisable to consider
both options when addressing the issues of communication ethics in the postmodern world.
Owing to the fact that intercultural analysis unearths the deep-rooted societal structures
and modes of communication, it averts the answers including those that are traditionally
presented regarding intercultural ethics. One should be understand that values do vary from one
society to the other, ad infinitum. It is thus impossible for one to follow all the existing
intercultural caveats. According to Mahatma Gandhi, it is not possible for someone to do right in
a given area and attempt to do wrong in a different area (Arnett, Arneson & Bell, 2006). This
implies that life is in fact a single indivisible whole. People holding the leadership positions thus
must be ethical and prudent as they are able to alter the progress of other people’s lives with their
mere influence.
This notion, which is best described as the stumbling truth of Mahatma Gandhi, can
actually mince ethics of practice. Consider a scenario where one goes to church and he is the
darling of the church. He does all that is required of him. In fact, he is at the forefront of taking
offerings to the church and he also fully participates in the church activities. The same person is
a devil in waiting back at home. He does all the evil things one can imagine while at home.
Actually, the wrong things that he does at home will stain all the good ones he does in the church
and in the end, his ethics will be questionable. This is clearly evident that his ethics practice have
been ground.



Arnett, R. C., Fritz, J. M. and Bell, L. M., (2009). Communication ethics literacy, dialogue and
difference. New York: Sage Publications, Inc.
Arnett, R.C., Arneson, P. and Bell, L.M. (2006). Communication ethics: The dialogic turn.
Review of Communication, 6, 1-2, 62-92.
Jethwaney, J., (2010). Corporate communication: Principles and practice. Oxford: Oxford
University Press.
Michael, F. D., (2012). Ethical Considerations of using narrative to communicate science. Sage
Journals 34(5), 592-617.
Rogin, M. E. and Guffey, K.R., (2009). Business communication: Process and product. 3 rd ed.
Toronto: Nelson Education.

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