Notes on Paul Martin Lester’s ‘Visual Ethics’

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Preface

Lester considers six philosophical ethics ideas as a way to ‘judge’ photography:

  • Categorical imperative – Kant, role-based rules
  • Utilitarianism – useful to the many
  • Golden Mean – Aristotle, average views between extremes
  • Golden Rule – Aristotle, do to others
  • Hedonism – because you can and you like it
  • Veil of ignorance – John Rawls, blind justice

Q: OTHER PRINCIPLES? See What is Good?

Q: EAST/WEST? HARMONY, FIELTY?

1. Ethical issues and analytical procedures

Faye Dunaway sneaky shot story

Q: WHAT ARE MY PERSONAL STORIES?

Dublin …

Mick Yates. 2014. That’s a Surprise. Dublin.

Morality = judgment, Ethics = behaviour (pg. 2)

Q: VALUES?

2500-year summary ‘Do your job and don’t do unjustified harm’

Five areas of ethical concern:

  • Victims of Violence
  • Rights to Privacy
  • Subject, image and context manipulation
  • Persuasion
  • Stereotypes

Q: ROLE OF THOUGHT EXPERIMENT?

Systematic Ethical Analysis (SEA) (pg. 7)

Developed from SMA and the Potter Box

  • Step1: What are three significant facts in the case?
  • Step 2: What are three facts you would like to know?
  • Step 3: What is the ethical dilemma?
  • Step 4: Who are the moral agents and what is their role?
  • Step 5: What are the stakeholders and what is their role?
  • Step 6: What are all the positive and negative values of the agents and stakeholders?
  • Step 7: What are the loyalties of the agents and stakeholders?
  • Step 8: Consider against 6 ethical philosophies – Golden Rule (do as you would be done by), Hedonism (do what makes you happy), Golden Mean (Aristotle – find a middle ground), Categorial Imperative (Kant’s deontology –  an objective, rational, necessary and unconditional principle that we must always follow), Utilitarianism (maximise good), Veil of Ignorance (anonymity).
  • Step 9: What creative and/or credible alternatives could resolve the issue?
  • Step 10: What would you do?

2. Visual Reporting

Why take a picture if you know it won’t be published? (pg 17)

The photographer chooses how to make the photo, the editor chooses how/whether to use it, the viewer chooses how to receive it

Different philosophical world views drive those choices

Q: ROLE OF SUBJECT & CHOICE? See What is Truth?

Victims of violence 

Lester lists examples including Nick Ut, Kevin Carter, Niloufer Demir (pg. 21/22)

Q: ROLE OF PASSAGE OF TIME?

Q: POLITICAL, SOCIAL, CULTURAL, ECONOMIC CONTEXT?

Privacy

US first amendment protects street

What is legal is not always ethical

Q: STREET PHOTOGRAPHY AROUND THE WORLD?

Q: PRIVACY LAWS BY COUNTRY?

Q: RIGHTS TO PERSONAL IMAGE DATA IN GDPR WORLD?

Subject and image manipulation

Dorothea Lange et al (pg. 24)

Q: DIFFERENCE BETWEEN JOURNALISM AND DOCUMENTARY?

Fact, Narrative, Story, Fiction

Too often Lester uses ‘hedonism’ as a catch all excuse to allow something to happen

Technology – HDR images not proper news photos as multiple moments (pg 26)

Q: ROLE OF TIME?

Q: WHY DO WE BELIEVE VIDEO?

Q: NOTIONS OF TRUTH … LESTER MISSES THIS … CORRESPONDENCE, COHERENCE

Documentary and Advocacy

Total objectivity is not possible (pg. 33)

Plaisance and Skewes. 2002. Newspaper reporter values … 24 listed and ranked (pg. 33)

MICK – SIX LAYERS?

    1. PHOTOGRAPH (SUBJECT/TECHNICAL/SYMBOLS)
    2. CULTURE (e.g. HOFSTEDE + CONFUCIUS)
    3. CHANGE INTENTION (OBSERVE – DOCUMENT – ADVOCATE – PROGRAMMATIC)
    4. POWER RELATIONSHIPS (POLITICS – MEDIA – OWNERSHIP)
    5. NETWORK EFFECTS (IDENTITY, SEARCHABILITY, TRUSTWORTHINESS, ACTIONABILITY)
    6. ROLES (PHOTOGRAPHER – EDITOR – MEDIA)

Myth of objectivity (pg. 34)

Although we have no rational grounds for believing in an objective reality, we also have no choice but to act as if it is true’. David Hume, in Morris, 2013,

www.humesociety.org/about/HumeBiography.asp

Q: TRUTH?

See interviews at end of book and note importance of respect for and empathy with subject, even as getting the ‘truth’ out.

Do you tell both sides of story, or just one? Advocacy.

Virtually all examples American (even Nick Ut).

2. Citizen Journalism

3. Advertising and Public Relations

Sherry Baker & David Martinson. 2001. The TARES Test: Five Principles for Ethical Persuasion. Journal of Mass Media Ethics (pg. 53)

  • Truthful – message
  • Authentic – spokesperson or source
  • Respectful – dignity of individual
  • Equitable – fair & impartial
  • Socially Responsible – make world better

WRITE ON WHAT IS AUTHENTIC? WHAT IS RESPECTFUL?

Does TARES deal with stereotypes? (pg. 56)

Calvin Klein – Brooke Shields

Sex sells

Benetton – Oliviero Toscani. Resigned 2000 after posing 26 death row inmates in magazine Talk (pg. 57)

4. Typography and Graphic Design

Serious vs Comic Sans

Stealing intellectual property esp. from amateurs

5. Informational Graphics and Cartoons

Sex, stereotypes, exaggeration, juxtaposition.

6. Screened Media

Sex, violence on small screens, video games

Fake Videos

7. Mixed and Virtual Reality

All of the above

Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR)

More real than video or stills

More real than TV

MICK: BAUDRILLARD’S SIMULACRA?

8. Social Media

Not really new (pg 103)

But Fake News

Network propagation, speed, fact checking etc.

MICK’S EARLIER RESEARCH:

    1. PURPOSE
    2. NODAL IDENTITY
    3. TRUSTWORTHINESS
    4. SEARCHABLE DATA SET
    5. ACTIONABILITY – USEFUL LINKS

Do as you would be done by – Golden Rule (pg. 113)

9. Editing Challenge

Conclusion – Let Empathy be your guide 

‘What is needed from visual producers are thoughtful and ethical productions of complex social issues within a networked culture’ (pg. 125)

!!!!!!! UNPACK THAT!

Can VR communicate empathy best? (pg. 127)

……………………………….

LESTER, Paul Martin. 2018. Visual Ethics. New York: Routledge.

PLAISANCE, Skewes & HANITZSCH. 2012. Ethical Orientations of Journalists Around the Globe – Implications From a Cross-National Survey. Communications Research 39. Available at: https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/e4d9/b704115bb93324eb06aa92af4ceb498938f8.pdf (accessed 07/06/2019).

YATES, Mick. 2005. Building Better Organizational Networks. Available at: Mick Yates 2005 – 2018 Building Better Organizational Networks (accessed 08/06/2019).