Ok, how can we communicate about GloFish ethically?
By now, you might have an idea about the ethical consideration surrounding GloFish. You may not have realized, however, that the role of ethics does not stop there. How we communicate about a topic has its own implications, and if you want to be both fair and ethical, you must further consider your communication methods when discussing GloFish. Below are some ideas to consider when aiming for ethical communication.
Rhetoric is the ancient art of communication and persuasion that was coined by Aristotle. Basic rhetoric can be broken into three parts: Ethos, Pathos, and Logos.
Ethos is ethical appeal that aims to convince you about someones credibility or character. Imagine you are attending a conference on GloFish. The first presenter begins his argument by saying "I am a Genetic Engineer with over 20 years of experience," and the second presenter does not mention his industry experience. Who are you more likely to see as credible? This is an example of Ethos.
Pathos is emotional appeal that aims to persuade you through your emotions. If you saw a commercial for GloFish that showed people your age having fun with GloFish , the commercial would be using Pathos to appeal to your emotions by showing that GloFish are fun and can make you happy.
Logos is logical appeal, and attempts to convince you using logic and reason. Facts and figures are often utilized when using logos. If you read an article about GloFish that used statistics to argue for or against the use of GloFish, the article would be employing logos to appeal to you through logic.
You can strengthen any argument by utilizing ethos, pathos, and logos in a manner that will resonate with your audience. Understanding rhetoric will help you to create stronger arguments, which may be useful in your attempts to communicate about GloFish (or anything, really).
On the other hand, whether or not the use of rhetoric is truly ethical should be considered. The person with the most appealing argument is not always the person with the most valuable argument. In addition, a persuasive argument (even one built on the premise of ethos), is not always an ethical argument.
As such, it is important to determine on your own how you feel about the deliberate use of rhetoric to persuade, and how (or to what extent) it is appropriate for you to use in your own communication.
Framing is essentially the act of selecting some aspects of reality and making them more prevalent in your communication.
Imagine you have an 8x10" empty picture frame, and you have a huge picture in front of you. You can't fit the entire picture in the frame, so you have to select what part of the picture you are going to put in the picture frame. Your decision is probably influenced by your own personal preferences and the preferences of others who will be seeing your picture. No matter what you do, you aren't showing the whole big picture anymore, but instead you are showing a highlight of one part of the picture. That is framing in a nutshell.
While framing is very useful in communication, it is also a complex issue. Frames require you to simplify complex issues, and a part of the broader message is often lost in the process. When communicating, sometimes you must choose whether it is better to break down a concept to the point that it loses some of its meaning, or whether it is better to communicate the complete picture even though your audience may not understand the concepts you are communicating.
For example, how would you frame GloFish to a kindergartener, who likely does not understand the concept of genetic engineering? What about to your best friend or your grandmother? As you can see, you might frame GloFish in different way to different audiences, but what effect does this have overall, and is it ethical to consciously choose to frame an issue one way versus another?
Recognizing and understanding how to utilize framing in your own communication may help you to strengthen your arguments. However, it is also important to consider the ethical implications of framing, and how framing may affect someones overall understanding of a topic.
In the article "Communicating Science in Social Settings," author Dietram A. Scheufele examines the challenges that come with trying to communicate science in a social setting.
There is often a great disconnect "between science and the societal environment within which it operates." This disconnect makes communicating about science, especially emerging sciences and technologies, difficult.
We can see an example of the disconnect between science and society through GloFish. A child may not know that their glow-in-the-dark fish is genetically modified. Even if the child does know their GloFish is genetically modified, they may not understand what that truly means or the implications GloFish have for society.
Two issues that you may face when communicating about science are:
Despite these issues, it is necessary to communicate about emerging technologies in a manner that generates discussion and understanding. This is no easy task, however, as there are many, many, many questions surrounding emerging technologies. These questions "require careful societal debates" about science and the questions they raise.
Understanding the importance of the role of communication in science is important. How do you think you can work towards lessening the disconnect between science and the world we live in?