Lance Strate (2011). On the Binding Biases of Time. Fort Worth, TX: The New Non-Aristotelian Library, Institute of General Semantics. v+290 pp. ISBN 198-0-9827559-3-8. $18.00 (paper). (Bibliography, index, author biography).

 

 

As the media with which we live evolve we sometimes are lucky to find books with transcendental titles that use words such as time, matter, and energy. Some books in this class-John McPhee's On the Curve of Binding Energy or Stephen Hawking's A Brief History of Time-require reading the works themselves in order to understand their titles. What cannot be denied is that they concern important matters.
Lance Strate's collection of essays-some of which are obituaries-on the topics of general semantics and media ecology is in the same tradition. The difference between Strate's volume and the authors mentioned above is that Strate focuses on general semantics, and not on physical or mathematical science. In addition, a number of chapters have particular relevance for those whose focus is on ethics and the media-as well as having a liking for puns and other wordplay.


For example, Chapter 1 ("Alfred Korzybski and General Semantics"), while being a good introduction to the concepts of general semantics and non-Aristotelian logic, also shows how Korzybski tied these ways of thinking to ethics in general. Chapter 4, an essay whose title was borrowed for the title of the book, shows how the relativity of language, like that of time and gravity, goes far beyond Groucho Marx's "time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like a banana" quip to show how consciousness of time has evolved, slowly, over the centuries. It also reintroduces us to thinkers and writers in communications such as Harold Innes and Jim Carey. Chapters 5 and 6 ("Post(modern)man" and "Defender of the World") are devoted to communications scholar Neil Postman. Chapter 8 examines the 10 Commandments as a deliberate attempt to modify the semantic (and media) environments of the ancient Israelites. Some of the topics in these chapters are quite contemporary; for example, Chapter 12 is largely devoted to the 2010 Supreme Court "Citizens United" case that greatly augmented corporate ability to influence the political process and Chapter 13 deals with "Healthy Media Choices."


Although this issue of MEDIA ETHICS doesn't have the space available to do full justice to the other chapters in On the Binding Biases of Time, most of these essays have-at least-some relationship to the media and other institutions in our society.


Some readers of On the Binding Biases of Time will find it a consciousness-raising, life-changing, experience. Others will quickly return it to the shelf or the bookstore. Nobody, however, will be able to ignore the ideas it contains once exposed to them.
-JMK


Ronald C. Arnett, Janie M. Harden & Leeanne M. Bell (2009). Communication Ethics Literacy: Dialogue and Difference. (Los Angeles: Sage). xxii+273 pp. ISBN 978-1-4129-4214-0. $39.95 (paper). (Preface, glossary, references, index, about the authors).


One must read a substantial portion of this volume in order to fully comprehend the meanings of "communication ethics literacy" in a book that tries to cover mass, interpersonal, intercultural, and organizational ethics and communications.


After an agenda-setting preface, Communication Ethics Literacy is divided into 12 chapters, with their scopes and organizations fleshed out in a useful augmented table of contents. But even the chapter titles alone give one a good overview of the subject matter: The Pragmatic Necessity of Communication Ethics; Defining Communication Ethics; Approaches to Communication Ethics: The Pragmatic Good of Theory; Communication Ethics: In the Eye(s) of the Theory of the Beholder; Dialogic Ethics: Meeting Differing Grounds of the "Good"; Public Discourse Ethics: Public and Private Accountability; Interpersonal Communication Ethics: The Relationship Matters; Organizational Communication Ethics: Community of Memory and Dwelling; Intercultural Communication Ethics: Before the Conversation Begins; Business and Professional Communication Ethics; Healh Care Communication Ethics; Communication Ethics Literacy and Difference: Dialogic Learning.


Although the chapter titles use specialist language, a strong effort has been made to assist the student/reader. Each chapter starts with a "Student Application" to explain where it is going; the chapter subheads (and the index) allow almost any subject discussed in the book to be identified and located; and there is enough useful redundancy to allow the reader to discover the many ways of skinning a particular cat.


There are few areas that are given only cursory examination. This book is trying to cover classic ethical and philosophical theory, as well as current ethical dilemmas and their sometimes-inadequate solutions. For example, looking at Chapter 2, the reader will find discussion of such varied topics and sub-topics as democratic communication ethics; universal-humanitarian communication ethics; codes, procedures and standards; contextual communication ethics; narrative communication ethics; and dialogic communication ethics. Although some of the more specialized chapters-such as Chapter 11 on health care communication ethics-may be of more interest to some readers than to others, approaching Communication Ethics Literacy with an open mind will benefit everyone.
-JMK


Robert W. McChesney & Victor Pickard (eds). (2011). Will the Last Reporter Please Turn Out the Lights: The Collapse of Journalism and What Can Be Done to Fix It. (New York & London: The New Press). xiv+372 pp. ISBN 978-1-59558-548-6. (paper). (Introduction, notes and references, about the contributors, permissions).


In the spirit of other books decrying the current condition of journalism (Bagdikian, Auletta, etc.) and offering prescriptions for improvement, McChesney and Pickard have assembled some 32 articles, essays and other chapters that should be a valuable resource to anyone interested in the evolution (or devolution) of the media. Among the 36 authors are professors of law, English, and many other subjects; members of the FCC; staff members of the Free Press organization; authors, editors and newspaper publishers; as well as numerous "aha!" names; and good writers with something to say on the subject.


Although we don't have space to list them all, or to reproduce the table of contents, rest assured that the three parts of this book-The Crisis Unfolds (Chapters 1-10), The American Traditions (Chapters 11-20), and The Way Forward (Chapters 21-32)-will make great reading for anybody concerned about the future of the mass media.
-JMK