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Peircean ethics

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A. Manning
added 3 research items
Though professional communication theorists typically borrow from other disciplines (linguistics, rhetoric, cognitive or social psychology, etc.) we might develop a freestanding theory of information design, related perhaps to other disciplines, but still independent, in the way that organic chemistry is a freestanding discipline separate in many ways from general chemistry. I propose a base for such a theory in C.S. Peirce's general model of inquiry (1877). Useful information is shaped by a definitive question (topic) which moves an audience to search information for answers. Professional communication theory can be independently driven by the kinds of questions it seeks answers to.
Visual ethics discussions usually consist of accuracy or injury issues. We note a third area of visual ethics that has been largely unexplored: the ethics of choosing decorative or indicative graphics over informative graphics. Oral presentations particularly tend to favor decorative and indicative graphics when informative ones would be more useful. Using philosopher C. S. Peirce's three-part typology of rhetorical goals, we discuss the ethical implications of choosing the most effective graphics possible for visual communication, especially for visuals used in oral presentations. We distinguish among three types of visuals in terms of goals: decorative and indicative images with perception-mediating goals versus informative graphics with language-mediating goals. This distinction between perception-mediating images and language-mediating graphics serves as our primary focus, the core basis of our ethical critique of visual communication in general and of technical presentations using PowerPoint slides in particular.
Criticisms that Tufte and others have leveled against PowerPoint are not insurmountable defects of the programs themselves. These defects are generally due to an orientation, shared by program designers and users alike, and toward images rather than diagrams, toward perceptual decoration and object indication rather than toward visually mediated, iconic representations of verbal information. Using Peirce's theories of visual rhetoric, we show that improvements in visual communication generally - and PowerPoint slides in particular - depend on shifting our orientation away from image-driven thinking and toward diagrammatic modes of presentation.
A. Manning
added a research item
Environmentally sustainable industry practices have an ethical dimension, a sense of "rightness" opposed to the "wrongness" of ecologically destructive practices. Still, we face a challenge in demonstrating to skeptical audiences the connection between environmental ethics and more familiar ethical values: honesty, due diligence, quality assurance, etc. However, we can show, using C.S. Peirce's epistemological model of ethics, that sustainability of practice, in one form or another is the driving principle of all ethical conduct, both in familiar rules such as "be honest" as well as in less conventional contexts such as whether paper, plastic, or reusable cloth is the best shopping bag choice. We will examine ethics policies of various professional-communication societies and translate these collectively into terms of sustainability, showing these codes to be direct analogues of environmental sustainability. Truth, as Peirce defined it, consists of claims that can be repeated indefinitely in the environment of available data. In other words, true claims are propositions sustainable over the long term.