Inquiry Project Vlog

Welcome to my Vlog titled Keeping a Church Alive: Dwelling Place and Community Memory in Religious Institutions. I enjoy creating Vlogs – I hate listening to my strong southern accent. I hope you can understand what I am saying when I inadvertently draw one syllable words out to two syllables or more. I know what it is supposed to sound like – but when I open my mouth the southern tumbles out! Regardless, I hope you enjoy my Vlog, and I really appreciate you taking the time to watch it!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Communication Ethics in Action

There’s long list of nouns that could preface my name: wife, mother, grandmother, daughter, music teacher, choir director, runner, writer, friend, student and more. After this eight-week study, I would add another, and probably write it in capital letters: LISTENER. Sure, I’ve learned a number of theories and can recite a whole litany of communication scholars, but when all is said and done, listening appears to be at the crux of communications ethics literacy. Almost two millennia ago, Greek philosopher Epictetus (55-135 A.D.) agreed saying, “Nature hath given men one tongue but two ears, that we may hear from others twice as much as we speak” (Epictetus). Instead of assuming that our agenda, our schedule, our way of doing things is the right way, this course has taught me the importance listening to others – truly listening – without preconceived notions of how the conversation will develop.

In today’s world, listening isn’t always easy. There are so many inputs coming from all sides, that it’s sometimes difficult to discern what’s important and what isn’t. Do you listen to your husband describe his day, or do you catch the six o’clock news on television while cooking dinner, answering emails, and helping a little one with spelling homework? Do you listen to a preschooler tell a “looooonnnggg” tale about what happened at bath time the night before, or finish setting up the music room while going over the new Halloween song in your mind and confirming the interview that afternoon by text? Do you give your mother your full attention while she’s calling long distance to talk about an aunt in a nursing home that you barely know, or do you put her on speaker phone while balancing the checkbook, then rudely interrupt her with a shout of victory when you find the $1.62 that was out of balance?

Sadly, I’ve don’t always make the best choice (just ask my mom.) I don’t always listen as carefully as I should, and I’m not always been present in the conversation even if I am standing face to face with the other person. Often, my time appears to me more important than the Other, and my way of doing things more efficient. My political views are more logical, and my philosophy of life better thought out. But throughout the class, our text kept reminding me that (even though I’m an only child) it’s not all about me. As Arnett, Fritz and Bell say, “this contention over the notion of the good is at the heart of crisis communication, which reminds us not to assume the Other will think as we do or value what we hold dear” (Arnett, Fritz and Bell, 2009, p. 212). I know this, of course, but it’s easy to fall back on the premise that my good is the only/best/reasonable/logical good worth considering.

With the knowledge I’ve gained through COM616, I feel I’ve become a better listener. I find myself making a conscious effort to focus on the conversation and contemplating what the other person says before I respond. When I read the newspaper each day, I do so with a more open mind, trying to put myself in the Other’s shoes to see what it is they see even if I vehemently disagree with their actions or point of view. Our text refers to Levinas who “reminds us over and over again, ultimately, it is not theory that calls us to responsibility for another, but a human face. The face of the Other offers the ‘why’ to bear any ‘how,’” (Arnett, et al., 2009, p. 229). Communicating Mindfully has helped give life to theory and make the Other real for me. The lessons I’ve learned have made me a better wife, choir director, writer, etc. as I’ve found a new commitment to listening mindfully, learning from others, and incorporating communication ethics in my daily life whether at home, work or play. For that, I am grateful.

References

Arnett, R.C., Fritz, J. M.H, Bell, L. M. (2009) Communications ethics literacy: dialogue and difference. Los Angeles, CA: Sage.

Epictetus (n.d.) The Golden Sayings, Section 3, VI. Retrieved from   http://classics.mit.edu/Epictetus/goldsay.3.3.html

The Year of the Christmas Flu

I am rarely sick. When I am, it is usually just a bad cold that makes me uncomfortable for a few days, but does little to slow me down. Christmas of 2014 was the exception. But first, a little background . . .

I am an only child with three adult children of my own. My elderly parents live about 80 miles away. For years my house has been the gathering place for Sunday dinners as well as birthday and holiday celebrations. I am the one who cooks and cleans and tends to everyone’s needs. It’s a role I embrace willingly as I love being surrounded by family and friends. I am also the de facto caregiver in my family. Early on I adopted the tenets of the “labor of care” as mentioned in our text as, “the three major elements of life as defining characteristics of the human condition: labor, work and action. Labor is a necessity; it is what we do that must be done . . labor of care defines our humanness and calls forth responsiveness to the world before us.” (Arnett, Fritz & Bell, 2009. p. 200) The “labor of care” metaphor describes not only my life within my family, but also life within my Christian faith. But back to the story . . .

Christmas of 2014 was shaping up to be an epic event with sixteen people expected for lunch. Never mind that two of my children, one of which still lived at home, were diagnosed with the flu several days earlier. I counted it lucky that they had enough time to recover before Christmas Day. I bought extra plates at Crate and Barrel so everyone would be able to eat off real dinnerware, I purchased and arranged flowers from Costco supplementing them with greenery cut from my yard, and I carefully planned the seating chart, splitting the crowd between the dining room and kitchen tables so that all would have a seat at a table.

Christmas Eve was busy as I prepared as much as I could for the next day’s feast, as well as filled the crockpot with homemade potato soup, a Christmas Eve tradition to be enjoyed after the candlelight church service. While playing in the bell choir during the service, I noticed my throat was scratchy, but chalked it up to being tired and standing under the air vent in the sanctuary. After dinner and our traditional tour of Christmas lights around town, I went to bed with great expectations of the next day. The next morning, I felt dizzy as soon as my feet hit the floor. I went down steadily as the morning progressed. Family and friends arrived and I put on a brave face, but as I was opening the oven to take the potatoes out shortly before noon, I gave up. I called my husband to the kitchen, told him it was all  – food, crowd, presents, cleanup and everything else -now his, and climbed upstairs to my bedroom.

From my bed, I could hear the shock and awe spreading through the crowd. What happened to Melinda? Where was Mom? Is she ok? Do we need to take her to the emergency room? Do we still get to eat? What about the presents? Should we all just leave and go home? How could this happen? It’s Christmas Day – how could she get sick on Christmas Day?!? While it was nice to hear their concerns, it was also uncomfortable as I felt I had let everyone down.

Long story short – the cooking was finished and the food got on the table. Everyone ate lunch, albeit quicker than usual. Presents were opened and folks left soon after, either to go to other celebrations or get out of the sick house as soon as possible. I was left with a 103.7 degree fever, aches and chills, and great disappointment that the Christmas Day plans fell apart. It was hard to admit defeat, but I had to, in the words of Arnett, Fritz and Bell, “admit illness and take proper actions. For someone very conscientious, the admission of illness . . . shifts the care from the doing of normal work to the task of attending to health, one’s own and that of others.” (Arnett, Fritz & Bell, 2009. p. 201) That admission of illness of was very hard. As a natural caregiver, it was very difficult to find myself on the care-receiver end of the spectrum. It took about a week for me to recover and I haven’t really been significantly sick since. But I learned a lot through that experience.

The Christmas flu  was a lesson in humbleness. I was reminded that I was not immune to sickness; I was not indispensable as Christmas Dinner went on without me; and I was not always in control. I could not stop thinking about the fact that I was not nearly as bad off as other folks who likely found themselves sick on Christmas Day with no roof over their heads, no access to doctors, and no one to bring them endless cups of ice water, crackers, and anything else that sounded good in a fever induced state. In a strange way, the flu caused me to reflect on my blessings and realize how very lucky I was to have a husband that cared for me, the resources to seek medical care, and a warm, safe place to recover. It was, as our book states, “the hour, the moment, the time of thanksgiving when a human being steps forth in response to what is met – whether joy, sadness, or sorrow. Initiating final freedom and the notion of response begins to define an action-framed understanding of health care communication ethics.” (Arnett, Fritz & Bell, 2009. p. 196) I was most appreciative of the care and understanding given to me during those few days, and I plan to continue to pass along that same care and compassion to others with health concerns. The Christmas flu turned out to be an Hour of Thanksgiving (Arnett, Fritz & Bell, 2009. p. 196) and, for that experience, as miserable as it was, I am grateful.

Reference

Arnett, R.C., Fritz, J. M.H, Bell, L. M. (2009) Communications ethics literacy: dialogue and difference. Los Angeles, CA: Sage.

 

NYC – My Rhetorical Interruption

Many years ago I was fresh out of college, newly married and the mother of a one- year-old little girl. A large insurance company announced its relocation intents – from New York City to Charlotte – and I applied for one of the technical analyst jobs. I was excited to be one of the core team hired, but also anxious that I would spend one summer commuting back and forth from Charlotte to NYC. It’s important to note that I grew up in Hickory, N.C. where we did not have an escalator in town until I was in twelfth grade. I thought the move to Charlotte for college was huge, so the idea of living in New York City by myself wasn’t something I had ever even considered.

I accepted the job and bought new luggage and business attire. I kissed my husband and daughter goodbye and boarded the plane with two other co-workers the first Sunday night in June. We winged our way to the Big Apple where we landed at Newark, then boarded a train to Hoboken. The company put me in a one-bedroom apartment with a gas stove (electricity was all I knew and the idea of using a match to light a stove was terrifying), no air conditioning (so I heard all the street sounds below), and four flights of stairs to navigate. Each day we boarded a train, somehow ending up in the basement of the World Trade Center where we then rode up the steepest escalators I had ever seen.

I was young and homesick, experiencing a “rhetorical interruption described by Arnett, Fritz and Bell as when ”we recognize that we are not participants, but onlookers in a much larger world than we had earlier imagined.” (Arnett, Fritz & Bell, 2009, p. 164) And what an interruption it was! Nothing was the same – mothers pushed babies in strollers onto the escalators – something that no one would ever do back home – there were signs warning against such dangerous action. People pushed and shoved each other, all the different smells on the street were overpowering, the traffic was insane, bomb scares in the building were common place, and it seemed more hot and humid than a Carolina summer. In short, I was miserable.

Looking back on the experience, especially in light of this communications course, I realize the situation could have been much improved if the company, or myself, had recognized our common ground. As it happened, I was a fish out of water or, as Arnett, Fritz and Bell say, “When the routine fails, we find ourselves in shock, missing a cultural background that had previously given tacit meaning to our communicative lives.” (Arnett, Fritz and Bell, 2009. P. 162) I was experiencing culture shock. Our textbook says it’s “a natural reaction to the unexpected and unfamiliar, and needs a thoughtful response; simply giving free rein to our distress is no loner a helpful response to changes in the expected.” (Arnett, Fritz and Bell, 2009. P. 162) Unfortunately, I didn’t know how to process such an unfamiliar environment. It wasn’t that I had been sheltered or spoiled, I simply did not have the life experience to deal with the situation in a positive way.

My immediate supervisor knew I wasn’t happy, but the company was so busy preparing for the move down south, they didn’t have time to cater to a young, southern girl, who couldn’t recognize a magnificent cultural opportunity when it was staring her in the face. We later learned that the company was actually hesitant to hire anyone in Charlotte to help with the migration south as they were afraid that once we tasted life in NYC, we would never go back. Imagine that – the New Yorkers were so sure their way of life was superior, that it never occurred to them that some folks – most particularly me! – would rather live below the Mason-Dixon line in a less frantic environment. The intercultural communication between us had broken down. Both of us were only thinking of our own situation as Arnett, Fritz and Bell describe, “Intercultural communication ethics keeps before us that there is a before and an after. If ‘I’ am the tree, there may no be noise in the forest when the ‘I’ falls, but there is a forest that will nurture the next tree.” (Arnett, Fritz & Bell, p.161) Those folks did not want to leave their life in the big city, the dwelling place and community of memory that had been established, and they assumed everyone there felt the same way. Though dull in comparison, I missed my life back home.

I made it through the summer by flying home each weekend, and I did okay in the job. But in September, once we were permanently based in Charlotte, I quit the company to spend more time with my child. As our text states, “When we meet life in its patterned cadence, we do not find boredom; we find comfort. Sometimes, we do not recognize the importance of the pattern as comfort until it is no more.” (Arnett, Fritz & Bell, 2009. P. 163.) I missed that pattern. I needed that comfort. As silly as it now sounds, I was not prepared for the intercultural differences I encountered in NYC. If I had it to do over again I would “learn by watching communicative behavior of the Other and resist the initial impulse to tell ‘This is not how we do it at home’ . . .and move from unreflective critique to the role of guest.” (Arnett, Fritz & Bel, 2009, p. 171) I would have learned a lot that summer – but I still may have quit my job come fall!

Reference

Arnett, R.C., Fritz, J. M.H, Bell, L. M. (2009) Communications ethics literacy: dialogue and difference. Los Angeles, CA: Sage.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Online Comments? None for me, please.

This morning, Saturday, July 29, a hot air balloon crashed in Texas killing all 16 people on board. (Newsome, 2016) The story was reported on CNN’s Facebook page at one p.m. By nine p.m. there were 529 comments running the gamut from grief to political to curious to macabre.

Many questioned the wisdom of putting 16 people in one balloon while admitting they knew nothing about ballooning or basket capacity. One person believed the obesity of America was to blame as many of them were likely overweight so that a balloon designed for 16 should probably only have carried 12 and a lawsuit against the balloon company is most certainly on the way. A lady who lives near the crash site scolded people who were making light of the tragedy. (I couldn’t help but wonder why she was online in the comment section of the article when something so terrible was happening just down her street.) And the list goes on.

Each comment was written with confidence, with the writer sure that his or her opinion would substantially to the conversation. (Even those writers who were most positive that the Democrats will outlaw hot air balloons because that’s what they do – sit around looking for ways for the government to interfere in our private lives . . .) Perhaps some of the folks commenting really did know what they were talking about. But it was impossible to tell that from the forum. It appeared that the comments only serve to stir the pot and diminish the importance of the event.

Sixteen people are dead and the commenters presume the right to use those deaths to carry on inane conversations in public space with people they don’t know and will probably never meet. Welcome to communication ethics circa 2016.

Perhaps the whole reader comment idea hits a little too close to home. As a stringer for a regional newspaper, I have been on the receiving end of some very hurtful comments. In my experience as a writer, there are many folks out there that seem to have nothing better to do than wait for a story to hit the internet so they can pick it apart sentence by sentence, word by word.

Did I spell a word wrong? (Inexcusable, but understandable given the quick turnaround time and lack of professional proofreaders due to budget cuts.) Did I not talk to a source they thought I should have contacted, or did I quote a source they disagreed with? Perhaps they didn’t agree with what was happening in the article, but because I reported on it, I am the bad guy who needs to 1) go back to school and learn to spell 2) find another career where my biased opinions and the paper I write for won’t ruin society or 3) go straight to . . . you get the idea .

Evidently I’m not the only one that this concerns as many online publications, including CNN, have disabled their comment section. Instead, they direct readers to their social media sites where they can duke it out till the cows come home if they would like. In reporting on the movement of comments to its Facebook page, CNN’s Doug Gross says, “. . . comments on most stories were disabled in August. They are selectively activated on stories that editors feel have the potential for high-quality debate — and when writers and editors can actively participate in and moderate those conversations. Editors and moderators now regularly host discussions on CNN’s Facebook and Twitter accounts.” (Gross, 2014) According to Gross, some news outlets say the move was made because social media is a better forum for this kind of discussion; others blame it on online trolls. (Gross, 2014)

Personally, I don’t believe that informed moderators would make any difference on these sites. I think most folks that write comments already have their minds made up, their opinions in place, even before they read the article. The substance of the article only serves to reinforce what they already believe – either by agreeing with what they believe or giving them an excuse to espouse what they believe and tell all the world why the article – and its author – are wrong. I believe removing the comments from the publication site and directing them to social media will help those readers who just want news without unsubstantiated commentary. Sadly, I’m not sure it will help preserve sacred public space as everyone appears to be overly interested and confident in their own opinion. Comparing it to junior high drama, our text states that, “this form of discourse continues throughout life wherever there is a rejection of difference, demanding that others or activities be as “I” so proclaim. Such private discourse that invades the public area seeks not to change public policy, but to enhance the self relationally.” (Arnett, Fritz, & Bell, 2009, p. 105)

Arnett, Fritz and Bell talk about the “ . . .unknown, the unheard and the unseen party in a conversation.” (Arnett, Fritz, & Bell, 2009, p. 111) In many cases, I wonder if those silent voices are the folks who, instead of just sitting on their couch and welding a keyboard or phone to complain and whine about what’s going on around them, are actually in the trenches, working to make a real difference in the world. After all, we are all in this together!

 

References

Arnett, R.C., Fritz, J. M.H, Bell, L. M. (2009) Communications ethics literacy: dialogue and difference. Los Angeles, CA: Sage.

Gross, D. (2014, November 21) Online Comments Are Being Phased Out. CNN. Retrieved from http://www.cnn.com/2014/11/21/tech/web/online-comment-sections/index.html

Newsome, J. (2016, July 30) G=Hot Air Balloon Crashes In Texas. CNN. Retrieved from https://www.facebook.com/cnn/

Organizational Communications Ethics: Vlog on Dwelling Place

A dwelling place is an important part of an organization. It doesn’t consist of physical walls or constraints, but is a mindset, a sort of metaphorical personality of the organization. The traits of the management style of an organization’s leaders can have a profound effect on the type of dwelling place an organization offers. You can learn more about the concept of dwelling place and how it can be impacted by the organization’s leadership at my Vlog:

Thank you for watching!

If you would like to read Colloquium on Levinas, leadership, and ethics to delve deeper into the subject, visit  http://www.elgaronline.com/view/journals/lath/4-1/lath.2016.01.03.xml

 

What I Believe – the Christian Narrative

My Christian faith defines my narrative. “This public story explains the way the world works and the meaning of human life, including what is good for humans to be and do. A narrative provides guidelines for human action.” (Arnett, Fritz & Bell, 2009, p. 37) The Old Testament stories of God’s blessings and deliverance of His chosen people and the New Testament stories of God’s unfathomable love and grace form the basis for the decisions I make, the way I respond to others, and the way I choose to live my life.

Of special interest to me are the many “petite narratives, a term that acknowledges the existence of more than one understanding of human life and the good” (Arnett, Fritz & Bell, 2009, p. 38) present within the Christian faith. Though the bible is the book all Christians claim, there are many different interpretations of its passages and verses. I don’t believe in literal interpretation of scripture. I believe it is divinely inspired, but still must be interpreted through the lens of history. Political, societal and religious events happening in the time it was written must be studied when discerning its meaning. The Presbyterian Church USA, the denomination that I claim, allows that interpretational latitude. Other denominations are more literal oriented and believe that each word is to be taken exactly as written.

I’m not even sure that all that follow the Christian narrative share the same “oughtness.” As explained by Jensen, “Oughtness does battle over values. We struggle to understand right and wrong, good and bad, true and false, just and unjust, virtuous and corrupt.” (Jensen, 1997) Different denominations, and even different churches within the same denomination, have differing views on a variety of ethical issues. Though we all believe in Jesus Christ, our views on good, justice, virtue, morality and even who is going to heaven and how they will get there may be dramatically different. While Christianity is our narrative ground, we deviate wildly in how we interrupt parts of that narrative.

Personally, while I subscribe to the Christian narrative, I take a contextual communications approach to life. I believe the Christian narrative and the contextual approach are intertwined. A contextual approach “recognizes the variations in culture, persons, and setting when applying communication ethics principles, protecting and promoting the good of the particular.” ((Arnett, Fritz & Bell, 2009, p. 57) Each individual we encounter is unique and deserves to be treated with kindness and respect. I believe that is what is meant by one of my favorite Old Testament verses which reads, “He has showed you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8 Revised Standard Version)

Arnett, R.C., Fritz, J. M.H, Bell, L. M. (2009) Communications ethics literacy: dialogue and difference. Los Angeles, CA: Sage.

Jensen, J.V. (1997) Ethical issues in the communication process. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum