Ethics of Crisis Reporting

17 11 2013

Today I came across a very insightful essay on Crikey by Dr Denis Muller titled
The age of consent: journalists’ ethics in natural disasters.

The article explored how journalists should behave on disaster situations and how they should engage ethically with victims. In most cases content needs to be given, unless the person being interviewed is a public figure or it is a public forum: He states:

So the requirement to obtain consent will vary according to:

  • The person’s familiarity with the media;
  • The person’s position of power relative to the media’s power;
  • The person’s position as a participant in a public forum; or
  • Whether the person is the object of disclosure of some matter that is in the public interest.

For the most part, however, obtaining consent is a basic ethical requirement. Its foundational importance lies in its centrality to the exercising of personal autonomy. Autonomy, in the liberal tradition, is generally understood as self-determination — as the philosopher Sir Isaiah Berlin put it, the essence of being human.

If the journalist does not ask for content, it could be construed a number of ways, For example:

By failing to obtain consent, a journalist may be either coercing or exploiting someone for the purpose of obtaining a story. This would violate the value of fairness that is a part of most media codes of ethics. It is in this way that a thread can be discerned connecting the codes, via the value of fairness, to the concept of autonomy and hence the requirement to obtain consent. However, it is left to the individual journalist to infer these meanings from the codes’ broad abstractions.

Dr Muller continues, by stating that there are some standard criteria for asking for contest – in terms of assessing whether the subject is capacly and fully cognisant:

One widely accepted model for assessing the capacity of people to consent is the “four abilities” model:

  1. The ability to express a choice;
  2. The ability to understand the meaning of what is proposed;
  3. The ability to appreciate the implications and consequences; and
  4. The ability, once equipped with the necessary facts, to arrive at a reasoned decision.

So the ability merely to express a choice is a necessary — but not sufficient — condition to demonstrate capacity. Ethically, the onus is on the practitioner to make a judgment about the extent to which the potential subject exhibits these abilities and to respond accordingly. In the aftermath of Black Saturday, ability 1 did appear to be present among survivors generally; abilities 2 and 3 were present in some, at least to a degree, but absent in others; ability 4 was absent entirely in most cases.

What I think was very intresting was that this article alludes to the fact that even if victims/subjects give consent, that often they are not capable of making such a discision due to trauma and stress. Muller states:

However, the survivors’ state of mind in the aftermath of the disaster raised large questions about their capacity to consent. Many said they were aware of believing they were functioning normally — making decisions, taking stock, trying to think about what to do next. In retrospect, however, they came to realise how abnormally they were functioning:

  • Many could not remember any details at all of their early dealings with the media, sometimes not even the approximate date of the encounter — whether it was a day or a week after the fires;
  • Many could not remember anything much about the content of the earliest interviews — questions or answers;
  • Some did not make the connection between giving an interview and appearing in the newspaper or on television;
  • Some gave away information that surprised them when they read it or were told by others what they had been reported as saying; and
  • Some were in a state of post-traumatic euphoria, especially in the immediate aftermath.

It was clear that many survivors, while capable of communicating a choice, were at least to some extent deficient in the abilities to fully understand what was being proposed by the media practitioner, appreciate the implications and reason their way to a decision.

I found this article very interesting as I have attended a number of seminars that focus on crisis communications from the organisational perspective – how to manage communications and media in the face of natural disasters. These seminars have focused on how to keep the public informed during a crisis and provided practical examples, like the Brisbane (Qld) floods in 2011 and Cyclone Yasi.

The interesting aspect of this article is that it focuses on the flip side of the crisis – not on how to keep media and community informed but how media should be engaging with community.


10 11 2013

I have been back home just over a week and trying to adjust to being back in Australia, back at work and trying to refocus my energies.

The garden is not too much of a job catching up, the mulching and weeding we did before we went away was effective, though as any garden, needs attention.

Our little cat Sooks (Genji) has not come home, which has changed the energy of the house somewhat, he is truly a member of our little family and his presence is sorely missed. When we travel and I get homesick, it was always for our little unit of four, thinking of sitting together, out the back on a beautiful Spring day.

Trying to refocus includes a desire to be more routine about writing, starting small, hoping that by regular attention to the practice of writing, that the writing will flow.

In all the blogs I follow is there a consistency about the writing, a discipline that I need to adopt. Writing regularly engages readers, which is the purpose of writing a blog after all.

The thing I love about writing for mediakult is that I can play across many professional and personal areas of interest: media, technology, environmental sustainability, arts, culture and ideas of place (which are also published on

I am also hoping that writing in this public context will help me with writing in a personal context, like as Virginia Woolf describes writing a diary as “a method of practicing or trying out the art of writing.”

Although the practice of writing sometimes frustrates me, it is also driving me in a way, there is a need to get better, to explore more, to learn as a writer. One thing is to learn balance, between the passive activity of writing and to be actively discovering new experiences and places.  Also, how to write while travelling, is a skill I would like to improve on. I have not yet perfected the art of regularly writing every day and I blogged very little on our last trip overseas, which was unusual compared to earlier journeys.

Being grounded I find is both a positive and negative thing – it gives you a chance to breathe, to take stock and clear one’s mind for fresh ideas and energy. On the other hand it can grind you, bringing you down by slipping into the repetitive routines and behaviours lived at home.

My little writing effort is to avoid that monotony one experiences about the every day grind, it is a chance to explore possibilities and think outside of the routine of working life.

Low and High Fidelity in Electronic Arts

23 09 2011

One of the things I find eternally interesting in discussions around art and technology is the question of what drives the production of the work. For some artists it is about the slick use of new technologies and the concept is either invisible or of secondary importance. For other artists, it is the process of discovery and using the technology to work through conceptual issues within their work. There is value in both approaches undoubtedly, but this value often does not translate to an equal representation in art exhibitions and art funding. There is also the additional issue of gender representation, which has recently been a hot topic on the faces list.

When I was at the recent ISEA2011 in Istanbul, I had a great time meeting up with old friends, making some new friends and sharing ideas about where electronic arts is and where it is going.

In a forthcoming post I will review some of my highlights of ISEA and show some  of the projects that I personally found inspiring.

In this post I would like to unravel a notion of high and low fidelity in the space of media arts and online communications. Low and high fidelity is often a phrase used in UX design to describe ways of prototyping design. Low fidelity ranges from post-it notes and sketches to other basic forms of media to work through design and Information Architecture challenges, whereas high fidelity can mean anything from a fully marked up website in HTML and CSS to the use of Photoshop and Fireworks and other software to mockup designs (see my post on User Experience Fundamentals for more info).

High fidelity, low fidelity and Electronic Arts

So where is the value proposition in electronic arts (digital arts, art/sci, new media, and so on)? Is slicker, more tech reliant work *better* than work that explores the process not necessarily the outcome? Also, what constitutes as ‘art’ in this space. For example, I had a great conversation with Di Ball about Van Gogh’s chair and the relationship between blogging as a form of art and the notion of invention in electronic art (see her blog at Interestingly when I first met Di, we were both experimenting with web and back in the mid nineties it was a tres cool to even have a website, let alone one with animated gifs:-)

Di Ball - The beauty and the geeks

Di Ball - The beauty and the geeks

Anyway, I digress. I have seen some amazing work – some of which could be described as high fidelity and some equally great work which is comparatively low fidelity. I guess it comes back to what you are into – for me concept wins every time and I especially enjoy work that considers the implications of the technology being used. ( For example, I get quite annoyed with work that has the environment or climate change as its theme and is a power hungry, consuming beast that undermines the concept).

Also artists work in different ways – much of the high fidelity work relies on teams of image and sound renderers, programmers, etc, etc. What disappoints me is when those people are not recognised. Yes – the concept is important, but the work could not be realised without the support of many others.

High fidelity artwork is also more vulnerable to technical failure – I saw many potentially  interesting works, that did not *work*.

Also, wrapped in this dynamic of high and low fidelity is the question of funding – many works do not have the benefit of large buckets of research money. To be honest, I prefer to see work that is inventive and manages to exist despite a lack of institutional support.

To conclude, I hope that curators take the time to consider more than just the slick end result and consider the value of work made via experimentation, innovation which may not have all the bells and whistles. It is worth remembering that when he was alive Vincent van Gogh had very little support for his work and the arts establishment were very dismissive of his experimental, investigative approach. Let us not go down the same path with electronic arts.

Perhaps we need more of this sentiment:

QR Code - Old Age Anarchy

From Geokult – Istanbul and ISEA2011 – physical and virtual access

18 09 2011
Lost at the Spice Bazzar or 'Leeches at the Pet Market'

Lost at the Spice Bazzar or 'Leeches at the Pet Market'

One of the biggest challenges we have experienced in Istanbul is actually working out where we are on the map. It is relatively easy to identity significant sites like the Hagia Sofia, The Blue Mosque and Taksim Square, but to try and find small galleries, restaurants and hotels off the main streets is somewhat difficult. We have four different tourist maps of the Sultanahmet and Taksim areas of the city and none of them are the same. That said, we have now been here nearly a week and have worked out how to get to most places that we want to go to.

We have also experienced other issues with access, primarily around accessing the Internet. At our hotel the WiFi connection changes with the wind, despite a wireless transmitter being on every floor. At the moment we are sitting on the rooftop terrace and the wind seems to be holding thankfully. Besides, there could be a lot worse places to sit and wait to the WiFi to blow in.

Navigating the ISEA2011 festival is also somewhat challenging, both physically and virtually as there is so much happening at many locations around the city.

Nicholas Knouf made these incisive comments about accessing the main ISEA2011 venue on the -empyre- list:

This requires being checked off of a list and then traveling through a metal detector with your belongings x-rayed. You find yourself in front of two gleaming towers of uncountable numbers of floors that reflect the blue sky. You realize that this is not the university, but rather the headquarters for Sabanci Holding (, which appears to be the largest industrial and financial conglomerate in Turkey, while also the organization behind the founding of Sabanci University. Once you make your way through men and women in perfectly tailored business suits and executives being escorted into Mercedes to be driven to power lunches, you find yourself in front of another metal detector and x-ray machine which may or may not be used (I didn’t have to go through it when I entered). Inside is bland corporate decor not unlike anything else in the globalized world. Hacker or DIY space this certainly is not, and the internet seems to block anything that doesn’t travel on ports 80 or 443 (meaning any local e-mail clients on computers or smartphones won’t work; Blackberries won’t work; and seemingly only web traffic will go through).

Language is also proving a challenge at times. Many people do not understand English and when we have attempted to speak Turkish quite often we just get shrugged shoulders. What we have found effective however, especially in cafes and on the tram is to use French. This is quite hilarious as our French is very rudimentary, though expressions like ‘Pardon?’ and ‘Bon chance’ seem to be working well.

As we finish writing this blog, we now are at the Karakoy campus of the Sabanci University, because there is no WiFi access at our hotel. Apparently (according to the hotel manager), the entire area of Sultanahmet is without Wifi. Hmmm, I don’t think so.

Despite the challenges in access and language, we are still enjoying Istanbul and ISEA2011. We have seen some wonderful exhibitions as part of ISEA2011 and the Istanbul Biennial, which we will report on later.

This post has also been published in Geokult.

THATCamp CBR – Digital/Augmented space session

1 09 2010

In this session, the focus was on how we can traverse physical space with digital tools, map our location and connect with others. There was a particular focus on who has been in the same location and what this could mean for sharing an experience of a space or idea of place. The discussion was led by Dr Chris Chesher, who initiated the discussion by sharing his interest in robots and augmented space.

This topic is close to my heart as it is related to my creative practice as well as my PhD research.

This discussion covered a lot of ground in terms of covering tools, conceptual issues, future possibilities and challenges. For this reason, the majority of this blog post is a list of dot points which are split into three sections – concepts/issues, tools and references. The best aspect of this session was that there was a lot of blue sky thinking about what was imagined, what was possible and what is already emerging. Thanks to @ellenforsyth for providing the initial list of discussion points.


There were so many ideas, concepts and issues that emerged from this discussion, that I thought it prudent to try and only list some of the main themes:

  • how robots inhabit space – robots moved from science fiction to reality
  • gps – networked connections which inform about the space
  • spaces which have embedded information systems
  • what are the regulatory questions?
  • using mobile devices to record knowledge, stories in situ and feed it back for others
  • problems have changed – the technology gets smaller – perhaps the tablets are the solution – better image size – can make available in museum (Puke Ariki doing this now or soon)
  • two sides – using location based information to access received wisdom (museums, libraries, archives) but the other side of the community generated knowledge – accumulation of wisdom about specific locations – mention of 4square as a way of getting local recommendations
  • looking at memory – it may be the experience of the place, not the place itself – the personal stories, example of visiting the site of the former World Trade centre and the stories around
  • issue of following people on twitter who may over tweet their location – are we interested?
  • question about how to represent “my space” in a physical and an online way – how can an indiviual represent their physical space
  • second life mapping? dashboard with all spaces represented – could have a physical representation at some point, virtualising
  • artists working with gps locating combining in physical space – eg. Nigel Helyer
  • need for a truly topological architecture which can change, be exploratory, but can leave a trace others can interact with
  • AR – example which uses face recognition technology – as a navigation and access tool – using separate feeds for interaction,
  • is there an intiutive, pure way of leaving the trace in the environment?
  • the audio moving as you move through physical space – wanting diversity
  • who funds the staged experiences? collaborations? scalable? interlinking? example of staged experience cycling through inner west Sydney looking at galleries – other wise would not explore
  • push space – potential for marketing, but also possible for heritage and art discovery
  • example of Blutooth enabled signs in Adelaide for a band – song sample played
  • rfid – can slide tags in everywhere – no way of judging/evaluating them – perhap a solution is to be able to put filters on?
  • is there a market for the cultural sector to be a collective filter for people to opt to – as a collaboration rather than organisation by organisation?
  • idea that aggregators with crop up in the future – subscription option – also location filtering?
  • there could be a place for local aggregated information for discovery
    multiple view points helpful for many areas/locations
  • are the technologies providing the connections or enabling the connections
    broadening connections and also ultra local possibilities
  • different platforms with different norms about who you will have relationships with – differences with facebook, twitter, delicious…
  • need to keep in mind W3C standards and full accessibility – plus multilingual options? also social inclusion is very important – eg. iPhone ad showing people using their phone to sign
  • example of developing countries doing really interesting things with mobile phones, mobile phones as leap frogging technologies
  • example of using mobile phone technologies in refugee camps, and in transitioning to settlement
  • mobile phone as private space – this feeds into the notion of augmented space and personal/public have become blurred with the use of technology
  • banking transfer system in one African country based on mobile phone
  • are we already augmenting reality – by sharing things in different ways?
  • phones in West Bank provide a way around the changing boundaries – as can reroute people about the changes, adn map for boarder crossing pathways with real time updates
  • parking police mobile app – you know where they have been…
  • rfid tracking of cattle and sheep – genetics and feeding
  • stories from the US passing laws the prevent employees being micro chipped


  • readcloud – for ipad – people in a book club can comment, add images, where they are, twitter feeds, within the application of the book club, bringing together online and physical
  • soundcloud – similar with comments on the audio track, or kindle ap with high light within text to share possible sections of reading
  • Parramatta Library/Heritage centre will loan devices for accessing the walking tours
  • Museum which created a story ending at at secret room at the museum, online sources from Nina Simon blog
  • Tools for geocaching audio –, graphito (iphone app)
  • What about qr codes, qr queries? has their time passed? Issues of adding qr codes to buildings – who owns the plaque, can the code fit? Not all phones can read qr codes
  • new forms of fiction – King Park app finding your way to particular points – you are part of the story – also a version for Sydney Park
  • judas goat – feral goat tracking device – way of doing feral goat reduction
  • mesh technology could tie in with local applications as well
  • in France – Free – two boxes – networked foneros (?) works feeding “extra” bandwidth into shared area – sharing your own bandwidth
  • 4square – using gps to recognise where you might be, and can share information with friends or tweet or post tips for anyone to read – game mechanic “mayor” of place
  • Parramatta Heritage i-phone app for Governor Macquarie heritage walking tour, walking the past in Parramatta through the built up environment
  • mesh mobile phones – mobile phones reaching the tower through other mobile phones – for emergency phone towers


  • Cyberspace first steps (text title) this book was refered to, circa 1999, but I have not yet found it in a collection)


31 01 2008

Buffalo, NY — On Monday in Federal District Court, attorneys for SUNY Buffalo Professor Steven Kurtz presented motions to dismiss the charges against him. Defense attorney Paul Cambria was able to disassemble the government’s entire “case.”

The problems for the prosecution began when it was unable to produce the original material transfer agreement (MTA) on which it has based its entire allegation of “mail fraud” (charges now punishable under the USA PATRIOT Act by up to 20 years in prison). Cambria then went on to demonstrate that no crime was committed. For mail fraud to be prosecuted, there must be a clear representation by the parties involved of what cannot be done (in this case, according to the government, transferring material) which is then followed by willful misrepresentation to get around the rules by those intending to defraud. None of these conditions were demonstrated in the indictment against Dr. Kurtz. Cambria showed that even the ownership of the harmless bacteria samples—and thereby what could be done with them—was unknown, since the American Type Culture Collection MTA policy and the University of Pittsburgh purchase order contracts were in direct contradiction with one another. Steps to
remedy this problem were taken in 2005 by Pitt and ATCC (one year after this case began) further showing the acknowledgement of these contradictions by the institutions involved.

U.S. Prosecutor William Hochul seemed flustered. While he did not admit that he had failed to provide adequate evidence, he could not provide the evidence. Judge Arcara repeatedly asked the prosecutor to explain how these requirements were fulfilled in the indictment, to which Hochul could only repeat that they were. After an hour, the frustrated judge gave up asking. Judge Arcara also asked Hochul if the cases he cited as precedents for the prosecution were in actuality to the benefit of the defense. Confirming the Judge’s concerns, Cambria went on to show that, indeed, the cases cited supported the argument of the defense rather than that of the prosecution.

The hearing ended with the judge granting Cambria’s request to submit a brief to the court summarizing his arguments – a request rarely granted in Judge Arcara’s court. All briefs are to be filed by March 7, and the judge’s ruling will follow within weeks of that date.

While it may have been clear to everyone in the courtroom that no crime was committed by Drs. Kurtz or Ferrell, and that this action by the Justice Department is a flagrant attempt to implode civil and criminal law, it is unlikely that a dismissal will be forthcoming. Grand Jury indictments are rarely dismissed, no matter how thin. While there is some room for hope for a dismissal that did not previously exist, hopes should not be built too high.

Should Judge Arcara rule in favor of the government, a trial will likely be scheduled for Summer 2008. Should the judge rule to dismiss the case, a potentially years-long appeal process by the prosecution will begin.

For more information about the case and how you can help, please visit:

-empyre- August 2007 – Avatars and SecondLife

7 08 2007

Second Life : The Good, the Bad and the Ugly – Being in Second Life < >

Neal Stephenson’s Metaverse reigns supreme. One of it’s current incarnations- the multi-user virtual universe Second Life claims a population of 8.5 million avatars. SL is embraced by many as an innovative and safe fantasy scape – enabling play, creativity, education, companionship, love and lust. It is reviled by some as a cesspit of antisocial isolationist addictive behavior; and SL is dismissed by others as simply an over-inflated hype driven commercial venture expounding the values
of property acquisition and commodity exchange.

Whatever your perspective, SL is serious business with an exchange rate which fluctuates against the $US and an estimated Second Life avatar electricity consumption equivalent to the average citizen of Brazil.<>

In this seemingly infinitely expandable universe aesthetic endeavours, creative constructions and artistic performances are enacted daily by talented artists and researchers – some of whom will join us in discussion this month as guests, and many more as part of the -empyre- community and beyond. We hope to hear from all of you and view your work.

Performance, architecture and artwork images from the guests and -empyre- community will be available on our Filckr site and a synthesis of the discussion will be edited into a richly illustrated chapter of a new Pretsel publication on the Second Life Architecture Competition. No dialogue will be published without individual approval and if you wish to upload images of any SL creativite activity which you are posting about to the Flickr site please email me. <>


–> Annabeth Robinson (UK) is a Second Life Artist focusing on interactive and sound driven projects, Metaverse consultant and Sim builder, Lecturer -Design for Digital Media at Leeds College of Art and Design. aka AngryBeth Shortbread

–> Patrick Lichty (US) is a technologically-based conceptual artist, writer, independent curator, co-founder of the Second Life based performanceart group, Second Front, animator for the The Yes Men, & Executive Editor of Intelligent Agent Magazine
aka Man Michinaga,

–> Stephan Doesinger (Austria) is a conceptual artist and architect who initiated Bastard Spaces the 1st Annual Architecture and Design Competition in SL to be announced at Ars Electronica aka Doesi Beck

–> Dr Ricardo Peach (AU) is the Program Manager for the Inter-Arts Office at the Australia Council for the Arts, which is funding a SL residency.aka Ricardo Paravane

–> Christy Dena (AU) is researching changes to art and entertainment in the age of cross-media production for her PhD at the University of Sydney. Dena works as an industry strategist, mentor, educator and journalist. aka Lythe Witte

–> Dr Fabio Zambetta (AU) lectures at School of Computer Science and Information Technology at RMIT University Melbourne and researcher in the area of 3D embodied conversational agents, 3D virtual environments, and interactive storytelling.
aka Fabio Forcella

–> Kathy Cleland (AU) is a writer, curator and lecturer in the Digital Cultures Program at The University of Sydney and is currently completing her PhD investigating avatars, digital portraiture and representations of the self in virtual environments. aka Bella Bouchard

–> Adam Nash (AU) is a media artist, composer, programmer, performer and writer who works in networked real-time 3D spaces, exploring them as live audiovisual performance spaces. His work has been presented at SIGGRAPH, ISEA, and the Venice Biennale. aka Adam Ramona

—> Dr Melinda Rackham (AU) is the Executive Director of ANAT – Australia¹s peak cultural organisation for artists working with emerging technologies. Her Ph.D. explored the nature and construction of avatars and multi-user Virtual Reality Spaces. aka Marina Regina