Miscommunication Ethics

Anthony Wilden (1935-2019) writes that ‘all communication is miscommunication’ (1972, p. 242).

So-doing, he identifies the central role of miscommunication and its many sub-genres, within research for communication ethics.

Without formal and methodological studies of how miscommunication operates, it is likely that human progress is deeply subverted, simply due to the impact of miscommunication and misinformation in an era of communication and information.

Particularly, the inadvertent introduction of distortion, noise and misunderstanding by those who don’t know better.

Or the deliberate misdirection introduced by those who seek to subvert, divert, destroy or otherwise deny, public protocols necessary to make agreement or even to understand what is happening.

Consider how big the problem of miscommunication is for our global media age?

Across multiscale political, media, organisation, group and interpersonal domains?

Miscommunication covers many issues of fakes news, alternative facts, government propaganda, corporate greenwashing, personal ignorance, deliberate ignoring, group coercion and much more.

At the human level, how easy it is now, using digital media, to subvert or deny communicative interaction: genuine human communication necessary for sensemaking and cohesion within and between our communities.

This process of systemic miscommunication even damages the assurance individuals require for a healthy role in society and limits protection of their rights to life, because of the negative consequence of disagreement.

What does it mean if our communication is reduced and made less accurate, either by each of us inadvertently, or worse, by deliberate sabotage?

Or by political institutions simply ignoring, avoiding or denying critical protocols for human communication, at all scales of governance?

Or most commonly in argument, by those seeking to limit the role, action or influence of others with whom they disagree?

Miscommunication is the new frontier on which our newly-forming, global- digital-civilization, appears to break.

However, miscommunication, despite its multiple complexities, is capable of being confronted and addressed.

This is a critical focus and task for a new, publicly-negotiated science of communication ethics.