Panel E

Radical Epistemologies and Future Directions 

Tatu Matilainen: The Human Responsibility to Communicate Animal Suffering: A Theory of Moral-Communicational Status 

Animal farming causes unnecessary animal suffering, climate change and pandemics. But media and communication ethics and research are mainly concerned with only one species of animals: Homo sapiens. As professor emeritus Clifford Christians has said, “classical media ethics is (…) anthropocentric. (…) [H]uman exceptionalism among living entities is the overarching problematic for the future.” My aim is therefore to determine foundations for responsible communication in the age of animal ethics, climate crisis and artificial intelligence. This paper provides a ‘theory of moral-communicational status’, which explains why some entities have communicational responsibilities towards others, whether human or nonhuman. I develop the concepts of agency and patiency used by Luciano Floridi. I define agency as the communicational capacity to affect human meanings, and agents have responsibilities toward patients. As opposed to recent communication ethicists such as Floridi, David Gunkel and Mark Coeckelbergh, I define patiency as the capacity to suffer. Patients have interests in not suffering and in receiving help from agents. Those with the most agency are the most responsible to help those with the most patiency. Some entities only have agency (e.g. artificial intelligence and institutions such as journalism) while others have only patiency (e.g. farmed pigs), but some have both (e.g. journalists and teachers) so I call them agent-patients. I also create a fourth category of indirect patients, whose harm causes suffering in others (e.g. a climate that becomes unstable). Overall, I argue, these four categories of moral-communicational status form a solid and useful ontology in the academic context of normative media and communication ethics.

Keywords: Media and communication ethics, Animal ethics, Anthropocentrism, Communication theory

Mariia Prystupa: Of the Transforming Local Labor Communities: In Search for a Conceptual Frame

In the article, theoretical provisions by M. Granovetter, S. Eisenstadt, and A. Honneth regarding the interrelation between interpersonal relationships and social structure are analyzed. We argue that under the conditions of capitalistic globalization and technological advancement social relations tend to dissociate from physical space, leading to the local labor communities gradually losing their integrative function, and potentially affecting integration processes on a larger scale. Therefore, a relevant theoretical frame is needed for studying transformations of the integration processes in local labor communities and their influence on the social relations in general.

The selected approaches are reviewed in order to identify the elements of social relations which they consider the most significant and the ways they connect these elements. Similarities and differences between the discussed theories are analyzed, as well as the possibilities of their integration into a single conceptual framework. The following aspects of social relations, that all the three researchers consider significant, are outlined: trust; involvement (or active recognition of the counterpart’s social significance); domination/submission relations and the establishment of compliance. We draw a conclusion that the discussed theories can be integrated without contradictions into a single conceptual framework since they all implement a notion of the mutual influence of the different levels of social integration. Moreover, different scopes suggested by the researchers complement each other into elaborating a complex notion of the dynamic social process.

We argue that such integrated conceptual framework is adequate for studying social transformations resulting from the inconsistencies between physical and social topology. Implementing such a conceptual framework for studying transformations of local labor communities allows tracing the connection between social integration in local labor communities and grand-scale social change, as well as supports the significance of these transformations which is not limited to only the sphere of labor.

Keywords: interpersonal relationships, social structure, social integration, integration function of labor

Katri Vihma: On the Possibilities and Preconditions for Realising Dialogues Across Epistemological and Ontological Boundaries 

Decolonial theory famously strives for a pluriverse, “a world where many worlds fit” (Escobar 2015). This idea has a clear ontological dimension because it demands equal respect for not only diverse knowledges, but also for the existing worlds they articulate (ibid.; Conway and Singh 2011). Encounters between worlds are, however, far from unproblematic: besides ontological plurality’s potential to spark dialogues across differences (Da Costa Marques 2014), these encounters can also threaten particular cosmovisions’ right to exist (Escobar 2015). My paper focuses on these encounters by examining the possibilities and preconditions for carrying out dialogues across epistemological and ontological boundaries, both in theory and in practice. I begin by discussing nonextractivist methodologies (e.g., Santos 2018; Blaser 2010) for knowledge construction. For these methodologies, equitable cooperation among diverse knowledges requires recognising and feeling the relationality between knowers. I investigate the practical implications of such knowledge creation process, especially its ontological dimension. I draw my – importantly, situated and partial – insights from my conversation with a decolonial ethical space (Ávila-Santamaría 2019), the International Rights of Nature Tribunal. I focus particularly on its regional European Tribunal, organised during the Spring of 2021. In addition to having participated in this Tribunal’s online hearings and engaged with the related documents, I have interviewed its protagonists. My aspiration has been to know with (Santos 2018) the European Tribunal, which has implied relating (Blaser 2010) to it and, also, negotiating how my research could potentially contribute to the Tribunal’s struggle for restorative justice. To summarise, then, my paper aims to contribute to an understanding of realising more equitable dialogues across epistemological and ontological boundaries. Such conversations are needed not only in addressing the colonial power relations underlying (Northern) scientific research (e.g., Smith 2012), but also in deliberations on more equal co-existence between diverse ways of knowing and being in general.

Keywords: cognitive justice; nonextractivist research; ontological justice; pluriversality; Rights of Nature