Conference reports

Jung @ Cornell (3)

Posted on August 14, 2010. Filed under: Conference reports, Ethics, Jung | Tags: , , |

Plane delayed (the joys of US air travel) so time for reflection at end of  conference:

Surprised by lack of explicit investigation of ethics, given it was a keyword in conference title; only one paper (Bonnelle Strickling) explored relationship between Jung and another body of theory, in that case virtue ethics. Another presenter (Don Moores) referred to links w Jung and Aristotlean eudaimonia in an interesting session on the ecstatic in art and culture. Other aspects of ethics were implicit and focused on object relations or the other. Enjyed a useful workshop on psychological types – much easier to understand from a human than a book – which again implied ethical relations.

– and that’s one of the joys of a conference like this when your understanding is so based in literature: here people are talking about the concepts, phrases and contested interpretations that were hitherto just text – so much more vivid.

Realise that last year I wrote down every word; this year I can absorb and reflect, digesting rather than force feeding.

Fabulous conversations with great people: getting to know people throughtheir books and papers, then another dimension through presentations, then the human emerges over dinner. I remember noting at last year’s  conference in Cardiff that delegates seem to bring their whole self to academic conferences, not just their professional personae. Really pleased t have spent time with Roger Brooke whose work on Jung and phenomenology I knew (though felt out of my depth with) who gave the opening plenary session on post combat trauma. He mentioned a paper on Psyche Self and the World which I found online and will use in thesis – terrifically lucid and helpful. Nice man,too.

Hope to stay in touch with rinda west – felt like the start of a friendship. Love the fact she’s left teaching and taken up landscape gardening; she gave a terrific presentation on the garden in the psyche. And we make each other laugh.

Looking at comments I wrote after the Cardiff conference, this year’s event felt more inward looking, with fewer bridges into different disciplines, though key speakers all brought tremendous richness with them. I like the idea that the JSSS use in their conferences of consecutive rather than parallel sessions, even if it means fewer papers. Would provide more of an unfolding narrative.

Personally, I have  felt encouraged by feedback and advice, have several names whom I could approach for collaboration or other support. May contact them in coming months as I move from PhD to post doc work. Need to get moving on book plans too and work out how to fund the writing process.

Last night closed with dinner dance thing – not quite enough dancing for me, but made it to observatory to see andromeda galaxy and neptune – more adventures in the universe.

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Jung @ Cornell (2)

Posted on August 13, 2010. Filed under: Conference reports, Jung, Papers | Tags: , |

Presented paper yesterday – still digesting interesting feedback. The first presenter, Evangaline Rand, gave a moving and emotional reflection on suffering, her own and WW1 soldiers, tracing an inner and outer journey through images, dreams and paintings. At first thought my offering would seem pale and dull but decided it was just different and gave a confident and fluent paper, speaking to power point slides but with asides and comments which I had earlier  written as notes but which I had no need to consult, making the whole thing flow more easily. What was brilliant was the interested and engaged response of those present, who saw major possibilities in engaging professions with their own shadows. One pointed out the shadow of eros in teaching, the unspoken omnipresent sexual tension (or potential) between teachers and students, which I’d not thought about. Others talked about the  hidden aspects in the therapeutic community (i did cite some eg from analysts on professional ethics).

Another person, Austin Clarkson, hoped I wd be taking this message to boardrooms and exec committees and wondered how that engagement might be managed. I spoke to him later over dinner, and we talked about maybe writing stories about the organisation, its members, its history to see if the shadow could be brought to light that way. Evangaline also very enthused by my work and we talked later – possibility of working together? She’s an experienced analyst so this cd be a good partnership.

Terence Dawson suggested contacting Wellcome to seek funding for post  doc research and I do need to get on with some ideas about taking  these ideas further into the world. Have to deal with not having a Jungian clinical background – treat it as a strength because I can talk to professions from educational and practitioner background, with added Jungian insight. Might even be easier – no hint of a therapeutic approach – just a diagnostic aide with suggestions for institutional integration, if desired.

If David Cumes,who shared about divining the bones and working with the dead yesterday, can take that talk to the medical profession (he described the ‘you’ve got 3 months’ line as a voodoo curse), I can surely talk to professions.

Conversations have all been v helpful. This time I haven’t taken notes  as few of the sessions feed directly into the thesis. Instead have enjoyed absorbing and reflecting on a wide range of presentations, including fabulous paper on Kafka’s metamorphosis, an Auschwitz novel and the dangers of hope.

Also enjoyable meetings – spent 4 hours today walking up and down Ithaca hills with Rinda West, a lovely woman with Jungian, literary and political tastes close to my heart. Got a bit lost, didn’t matter at all.

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Jung and ethics conference @ Cornell

Posted on August 10, 2010. Filed under: Conference reports, Jung | Tags: , |

Arrived v late Sunday night after gruelling 24 hrs of travel. V grateful to shiatsu massage people at La Guardia, where I ended up spending 7 hrs (missed connecting flight during loo break!), who restored flagging body and spirit.

Now in Cornell dorm, wondering if I  can get away with saying ‘I went to cornell’ without mentioning it was only for five days? Conference starts in a couple of hours – interesting line up, with highlights on combat trauma and the collective response, plenty on film studies , esp vampires, lots on the Other. I’m most interested in the political stuff, how ethics is lived collectively and in one paper on jung and virtue theory. Only the latter seems to address how a Jungian ethic might resemble or differ from established approaches. There will also be ‘interactive workshops’ which sound a bit scary, like audience participation.

Quite a full schedule – breakfast meetings and post-supper sessions; last year’s Jungian conference was hard physical work too, but the dancing made up for that. This year, I’m v tired so may skive off to write chapter 9, the PR case study.

I present tomorrow – have finished the slides, now need to rehearse. As these are parallel sessions, don’t expect big  audience, but these events are usually most interesting over meals and coffee. We’ll see….

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last conference before completion

Posted on September 12, 2009. Filed under: Conference reports | Tags: , , |

just back from Stirling 21, the academic conference for PR and comms people, brilliantly  organised by Jaquie L’Etang and team, including glorious weather.

Primary observation is the quality of papers and thought on offer: all the presentations I went to were driven by ideas not data: on the relationship between PR and anthropology, PR in fiction, dialogue and relationship, health sector ethics… much more. Didn’t see a single graph!

I presented two papers, one asking if there can be a psychology of the professions, which looked at sociological approaches to the professions and found a wealth of psychological material, though this is not explicitly identified as a psychology of professions. Then applied Jungian insights to professional development in general and then PR profession in particular. All the pieces seemed to fit, good questions and discussion. This has been useful paper to me, settling some uncertainties about the scope and direction of thesis.

Second paper was on hermeneutics, drawing on the work I did earlier in the year. Treated it as a report from recent adventures into hermeneutics, very open about my ignorance before (and still after) the trawl thru unfamiliar literature. Again, it makes much more sense to me now and was gratified that in later conversation one delegate thought I’d grasped subject well and others found it useful.

This is the last conference before I complete as I now need to put my head down and starting turning these papers into chapters. Looks like the viva will be in April now not June so need a good draft by the new year. Yikes!

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Jungian studies conference – reflections

Posted on July 14, 2009. Filed under: Conference reports, Jung | Tags: , |

Still thinking about how wonderful the Jungian studies conference in Cardiff was. My own presentation went fine, though a v small audience as the previous session had overrun and everyone needed a break, but that wasn’t a problem as I had terrific conversations with a variety of interesting people, all of whom were encouraging about my thesis. One recent PhD student had done a similar project looking at business ethics (we used similar quotes and refs) but had spent time analyzing managers’ views rather than developing a new approach it seemed. We’re swapping references and papers. Other delegates included musicians, painters, helath workers, youth workers, as well as very senior Jungian analysts and academics, including John Beebe who founded the SF CG Jung Institute in 1975 and Andrew Samuels who advises Blair, Brown and Obama on psychological and political issues.

 

I attended sessions on Jung and writing, culture, leadership, TV, archetypes and justice, competing concepts of self and much more…. Particularly struck by the level of engagement with politics – rounded off by Andrew Samuels (author of the political psyche) on economics and psychology.

 

 

The main themes that emerged for me were:

 – the desire to build bridges between Jungian ideas and the modern world, ie beyond therapy – linking with media, politics and change

– concepts of leadership using Jungian premises are being taught in management schools and developed in theory

– the welcome from experienced Jungian specialists for ‘new blood’ like me, who may not acquire equal depth of knowledge but who still have something to bring to the table.

Had particularly exciting conversations with Peter Dunlap who runs a practice for individual therapy but also offers group support for people involved in change campaigns of various sorts – he’s written a book linking Jung and political movements that looks as if it will contain useful material for me (for ‘grounding’ the conclusions in practice). I’ve added a link to a recent radio interview with him (see links)

   Only downside was appalling accommodation both for conference : cramped cold lecture theatres with failing sound ,  – and much needed rest :  ghastly student units with harsh lighting, rock solid beds and fire alarms triggered by use of showers – so turfing everyone out of bed about 6.30 am. Horrible.

 

But overall, Very fruitful…… Felt like a three year PG course on the range and variety of Jungian studies right now – exhausting but exciting.

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back from Chicago

Posted on June 17, 2009. Filed under: Conference reports, Papers, Uncategorized | Tags: , |

Successful International communications Association conference in Chicago – excellent range of papers and presentations – including final plenary from Naomi Klein reflecting on post-Obama emotions (the fluctuating hope levels she describes as a ‘hopercoaster’).
My Jung and PR paper went down v well (all the better for not using power point – everyone battered by graphs and models at his stage of events). Fascinating watching the audience responses, from scowling and turning away to nodding and smiling (majority). Ron Arnett of Duquesne U was most enthusiastic and encouraging. Been reading his work on communication (rather than professional) ethics since and found lots of convergence. Can see the post-doc landscape opening up – the priority will be turning thesis into book, though need to find financial support to enable this. Feel v bouyed by positive response from senior PR and ethics scholars…

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Launch of new Institute

Posted on December 17, 2008. Filed under: Conference reports, Jung | Tags: , |

http://www.leedsmet.ac.uk/news/index_spirituality_under_spotlight.htm

Terrific launch event on Dec 5 for Leeds Met’s new Institute for Spirituality, Religion and Public Life. Had thought it would be too long (3.30 – 7.30 ) but it was beautifully planned and executed, with an introductory talk from Stephen Paul on the meanings associated with the Institute’s title which raised a series of questions for discussion among the 120 + guests who then shared their views with a top table panel that included – ME! Was rather nervous in advance, having never spoken publicly about my beliefs or views on spiritual life but just tuned my ego out of the picture and it all went swimmingly. Mostly talked about Jung’s ideas of the religious instinct and working with the shadow to become whole, especially in field of PR. Also my own view that spiritual life does not need Capital Letters, special buildings, rituals or robes – that the challenge is to recognise all life as spiritual, not just approved bits.

Finally, a splendid inaugural lecture from Ian Markham which can be found through the above link on religion and civic engagement which took a sociological approach to faith and communities.

Feels like a great time for such a gathering to take shape – so much change in the air, and the final exhaustion of some of those material dreams……

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Whistleblowers conference

Posted on November 26, 2008. Filed under: Conference reports |

Excellent conference last Friday at what used to be the London College of Printing (now London College of Communication) where I started teaching in 1990 on a course that had previously been titled Publicity and Packaging, showing its roots, but which became PR and Media relations in various guises. I’ll never forget the realisation that whereas I knew exactly what to do on my first day at the previous job (Information Officer at the TUC) when Peter Snow rang from Newsnight for a comment, I had no idea how to begin to plan a class, run a class, deal with students, teach. I had to deconstruct all my practical skills to work out how I knew what to say to Peter Snow – all the media knowledge, news awareness, press office function and role knowledge that preceded that call. Hard work.

Anyway, back to Friday – conference on ‘Whistleblowers and the Ethics of Scandal, organised by Institute of Communication Ethics (see links) run by Richard Keeble of Lincoln and Fiona Thompson of Leeds, Trinity and All Saints. Key note speakers included Simon Goldsworthy of Westminster on how PRs and journalists engage with each other through mirrored idealism of self and demonisation of other, noting that the PR sector currently employs more than journalism and detailing PR tricks for minimising or managing scandals in the ‘information market place’. Excellent phrase (can’t remember whose) for the trading that goes on between pressrooms and newsrooms – I remembered all the scams from my press office days, though we were less likely to threaten legal action to stifle a story than launch a major enquiry.

Michael Ford spoke about media victimisation of gay clergy in the 1980s, the most vivid example being that of the priest who fell apart when the (hostile) media attention went away – an illustration of an emerging theme of fragmentation of the self for media consumption.

Kate Omenugha came from Nigeria to explore the recent ‘Madam Speaker’ scandal, suggesting that the exposure of public officers in corruption scandals is now becoming a tactic in political struggles, making the ethics of scandals extremely complex and contradictory.

My friend and colleague Kevin Moloney gave a vivid, personal contribution about the ethics of being a trouble maker – as a retiring academic and trade union leader, Kevin has created trouble both in the field of PR and in the workplace and provided thoughtful examples of what he called ‘ethical unease’, a phrase I shall probably steal as it describes some of my own conflicts as a practitioner in the 1980s when I was both a trade union leader (Chair of Camden Nalgo) and a press officer for the Council. Some of the tensions of those years provide energy and material for reflection today and in my thesis I hope to cite such examples of ‘ethical unease’.

Alan Lane talked about PR and accountability, suggesting that as PRs take their longed-for places in the boardroom they may also have to accept responsibility for some of the decisions they participate in ans then promote – such as recent financial scandals. Will the courts fill up with PR practitioners?

David Leigh of the Guardian and World in Action fame spoke entertainingly about investigative journalism and the ethics involved – including the decision to ‘outsource’ a sex scandal to one of the tabloids during one major political/financial investigation to undermine the target without getting tangled in further litigation. The increasing reliance of journalists on pre-packaged information was also discussed.

The contribution I found most stimulating was from Karen Sanders who explored the idea of scapegoating and the ‘journalism of outrage’ in the ‘mediapolis’. Concepts of sin eaters, outcasts, and the ways in which social groups bond against Others chimed with my own interests in the Shadow and echoed the theme of fragmentation and commodification of Self for media feasts – I intend to read more of Karen’s writing as her presentation was provocative, speculative and assured.

Richard Keeble will be editing the above proceedings into a special edition of Ethical Space in the New Year.

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Conferenced out – pt 2

Posted on September 4, 2008. Filed under: Conference reports |

So, on to the next gathering: the conference on professional ethics organised by the Professional Association Research Network (PARN) and the Centre for Applied Ethics (CAPE) at Kingston University, which was a stimulating gathering of senior professionals, representatives from professional bodies and a scattering of academics. Having had several discussions in Stirling about the relationship between theory and practice (I confessed to a certain boredom with practice-based PR research – a minority view), I found it really engaging to deal with the practical and ethical issues facing a range of professionals including accountants, physicians, nurses, psychologists.

I noticed in a slightly sneery way that many presenters gave cod philosophical underpinnings for their 3 points of ethics or 5 principles for best practice, throwing around words like ‘trust’, ‘transparency’, ‘truth’, ‘accountability’ etc. as if the words were unproblematic and their deployment provided instant remedies for the ethical problems facing professionals. The favourite word was ‘integrity’ which was presented as an easily accessible quality – appliqué rather than applied ethics. But then realised that they were profoundly engaged with those dilemmas, trying to negotiate the complex and contradictory demands of modern professionalism – how to maintain standards in a modern business world.

One presenter from the Securities and Investment Institute encapsulated my split response: the first half was an utterly uncritical look at the difficulties facing financial institutions, poor mites, and how there were only a few Enrons, and World Coms and Parmalats, and anyway the BBC was in trouble too, so there, and lack of trust hurts us all and besides it’s all the media’s fault…. Then he offered a blinding example of a company whose MD discovered his pitching team were basing their proposal to an important prospective client on papers left behind by a rival firm. We were offered a range of responses, from congratulating the team on their enterprise to pulling all bids for the business. Astonishingly most of the audience and the business involved actually chose the latter. So, for all the dubious waffle, hard choices are being made.

The best speakers were the key note presentations which started each session, notably that from Andrew Weissman, chief prosecutor in the Enron case who gave vivid examples and memos that illustrated the corporate culture that ensured so many perfectly intelligent professionals could conspire to rob their shareholders and employees. (My favourite memo involved ‘seagull tactics’: make a lot of movement and noise to distract the customers, dump a load of shit – and fly away). He talked about the ‘silent insiders’ not only at Enron but at Anderson, Merrill Lynch and others who enabled the whole operation and the current problems following the Sarbanes-Oxley act to correct past abuses. Other speakers included John Saunders, Chairman of the Royal College of Physicians Committee on Ethical Issues in Medicine, who used Kant to validate his ideas but ended up as a model of patrician ‘objectivity’, promoting professional bodies as more reliable guarantors of ethics than democracy. Stan van Hooft from Deakin University, Australia, was the main academic speaker and he outlined the principles of Socratic dialogue – which we later explored in practise (see below).

Parallel session offered a wide range of case studies and practical examples of how professional bodies are developing ethical ideas and practices. There was strong representation from the various fields of health, finance and education as well as social work, computer and other biotechnical ethics.

My own paper was pleasantly received with an encouraging array of questions, requests for full papers and exchanges of cards. Most people seemed to respond to Jung’s idea that integrity occurs as the result of a profound internal struggle and that holistic ethics need to be preceded by recognition and negotiation of the personal and professional ‘dark side’. The most challenging question was one I’ve faced before: why would any professional body expose its own shortcomings? My answer is similar to that I’d give to an individual resisting therapy – no one volunteers to explore the issues they’ve spent years avoiding unless the current situation is too painful to be tenable. Of course professional bodies would be engaging in this debate in the public sphere not private consulting rooms – it will take moral leadership to encourage such self-awareness. But then ethical debate offers just such a framework, doesn’t it?

Found exposing my PhD to fresh air somewhat sobering – the ideas are interesting enough, but there’s no shortage of interesting ideas out there. Maybe I get a bit over excited by world changing potential of stuff I’m reading and writing – conference papers provide a healthy corrective.

A special extra to the event was the opportunity to participate in a Socratic Dialogue facilitated by Stan van Hooft. About 10 delegates spent two hours exploring a particular idea generated from amongst us, defining its parameters and deconstructing its key elements and assumptions until we were able to agree a summary of the situation, at which point we would have started again… I found it an enjoyable and interesting experience, as one who is always happy to wade into an intellectual argument, but felt at the end that it achieved a majority view rather than a true consensus as the ‘spiral of silence’ kicked in. In the end, so much communication is emotional, driven by fear, pride, display and concealment: to expect a perfect harmony as an outcome may be unrealistic, but it was an engaging journey and one that provides an excellent teaching tool at all levels.

So, a stimulating and varied conference – very well organised by PARN and Intercape. But curiously unself-critical: no-one raised the current crisis in attitudes towards professionals as a whole, or the scepticism about the ethical claims made by various professional bodies. The literature paints a picture of existential angst as the professions loose their status in society and try to bolster their diminishing esteem by Just Say No brands of ethics. But these people seemed confident about their fields and hopeful about developing ethics – are the critics too removed from the practice or are the professionals simply deluded?

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Conferenced out – pt 1

Posted on August 28, 2008. Filed under: Conference reports |

There are little windows in the university teaching cycle – one after marking/exam boards but before everyone flees the country and another after their return and before the hoards descend – and in these interstices the year’s academic conferences flourish.

Hence I spent Sunday to Tuesday at the end of June/early July at the first Radical PR conference in Stirling University, Scotland before taking the not-very-much sleeper to London so I could catch the last two days of the PARN/Intercape conference on professional ethics at Kingston University. Not used to this business-model of travel and meetings, I wimped out of the third leg, the ICE meeting in Lincoln. But it isn’t just guilt at broken promises that prompts me to write this – I had such a fascinating week of tremendous variety and promise, it’s worth sharing.

The Radical PR conference grew out of conversations between leading PR academics like Jacquie L’Etang of Stirling, David McKie at Waikoto, NZ, Jesper Falkheimer from Lund, Sweden, Magda Pieczka from QMUC, Edinburgh and Jordi Xifra from Girona University, Spain. They recognised that a group of dissident scholars has emerged in recent years who are challenging and expanding the rather narrow systems-based approach which dominates the debate on the PR field. The effects of critical theory, social theory, post modernism, chaos theory, critiques of propaganda and changes in methodology as well as research topics have been explored by a growing number of PR academics. While we often cite each other’s work and embrace at conferences, we had not become an Entity. Importantly, this was an international conference, with representatives from Australia, New Zealand, US, Norway, Sweden, Spain, Poland, Columbia amongst other countries. The text books in the field create a kind of ‘Planet US’ orthodoxy in which PR history starts with PT Barnum (as Rob Brown, from Salem University pointed out); but other countries have their own histories, as UK and other European scholars have shown.

So it was exciting to all be in one room, realising that there was enough critical mass to become Something. Needless to say we spent half the time discussing What exactly we might be and do and – most importantly – what we should call ourselves. Some unease at the 70s’ connotations of ‘radical’ led to more heat than light and we seem to have ended up where we started – but taking the pretty route to get there. A concrete result is the establishment of a strong website (www.radicalpr.org) which will form an important nexus for all our divergent ideas and activities, as well as creating possibilities for joint research projects and information exchange. A less concrete outcome is the desire from the participants not just to swap stuff but to make a difference, to contribute to change. The Panglossian view taken by many texts misses the complexity and contradiction of PR’s role in the world, not only of communication but also economics, ideas and social change.

As well as admiring our navels (sorry, practicing reflexivity) we heard a lively range of views, demonstrating precisely the range of issues with which PR scholars are engaged – such as Christine Daymon’s (Curtin University, Australia) plea for more reflexivity and humanity in PR research methodologies to explore how the human dimensions of PR production and consumption, Rob Brown’s (Salem, Mass) splendid revisionist ‘meta-theoretical’ overview of PR history, embracing complexity, dramaturgy, and the liminal possibilities between the sacred and the profane; Oyvind Ihlen’s (Oslo University, Norway) call for reclamation of rhetorical theory into PR discourse; and Paul Elmer’s (University of Central Lancashire, UK) personal and sociological exploration of the role of body image in constructing norms in PR work. These were the papers which most spoke to me and my interests, but other important contributions included papers on the language used to manage Mattel’s 2007 Product Recall crisis and the scapegoating of Chinese manufacturers; CSR policies in Columbia; the occupational culture of PR in Mexico; private/public PR debates in cocoa production in Ghana and Nigeria; a deconstruction of concepts of community as deployed by developers in Australia; an analysis of activist-corporate partnerships and an exploration of the language used by PR practitioners to describe their own experience at work.

The whole event was splendidly organised and catered (and chauffered) by Jacquie L’Etang and her husband Deek, who ensured lively social space as well as serious exchanges. There is a real change taking place in the discourse around pubic relations – and Radical PR is likely to play a major role in leading this change.

Spent a somewhat sleepless night on the train to London (mixture of excitement at the glamour of the idea (very 39 Steps), if not the reality, and waking every time my bed changed speed. Arriving in Euston in pyjamas is … odd.

To Be Continued…..

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