This is my personal blog where I write about communications, design and journalism. And I post miscellania. In the interests of disclosure, I’ll use this page to say a little about where I’m coming from.
Pink Sheep Media
Pink Sheep Media is a full time+ gig for me. I co-founded Pink Sheep ten years ago with Becky Cory. She’s still my partner, although she has less time and energy for our little company now that University 101 gets core funding from the University of Victoria. Becky is also my partner, and we live together.
About a third of our clients are in the not-for-profit sector, a third are government agencies (well, maybe less right now), and a third are corporate. Yes, running a small consultancy is a lot of work. It’s not always easy. And I feel so much gratitude for the clients we have.
HTML, CSS, WordPress, PHP, jQuery
I am a big user of WordPress. Thanks to early support from Hugh Stimson, I got on board the WordPress train, and I’m still enjoying the ride.
Philosophy, logic, metaphysics
I’m a big fan of science. I’m a critic too. But, I believe in human truth and objectivity and justification and warrant. Not in a simplistic way. I really think that we modernists have learned so much from postmodernism. And I really think that many modernists have a lot of work to do catching up. But if I had to choose a camp, I would want you to know that I am more of an ubermodernist.
During my undergrad, I concentrated in logic and metaphysics and had the honour of studying with Ali Kazmi, Brian Chellas, Jack MacIntosh, Brian Grant and C.B. Martin. For my master’s thesis, from the University of Victoria, I followed closely the work of Jan Zwicky, James Young and Jeffrey Foss and wrote about the intersection between realist models of science and anti-realist models of truth in the philosophy of language.
Looking back, I might summarize my thesis thusly: Statements are made true by human minds, specifically by mental models, but the test of these, our human models, is a matter of how well these models work, and how well these models approximate a world that exists quite independently of humans. Yes, I’m a materialist, if only methodologically when pressed.
William James figured largely in my work. Pragmatism for the win! And Bertrand Russell. Logical positivism for a rousing second place finish! Other authors include Quine, Wittgenstein, Putnam, Austin, Carnap, Armstrong, Tarski, Peirce and Dewey. I drop these names so that you can get a sense of where I’m coming from. Yes, it is a bit of an old boys club. Sigh. This quote by Russell perhaps captures the essence of my project:
We have to consider… whether to sacrifice the law of excluded middle or to attempt a definition of truth which is independent of knowledge.
The difficulties of either view are appalling. If we define truth in relation to knowledge, logic collapses, and much hitherto accepted reasoning, including large parts of mathematics, must be rejected as invalid. But if we adhere to the law of excluded middle, we shall find ourselves committed to a realist metaphysic which may seem, in the spirit if not in the letter, incompatible with empiricism.1
The view from nowhere gets mentioned five times in my thesis.2 I mention this because one of my good friends has introduced me to the work of Jay Rosen, who has quite a lot to say about the view from nowhere.3
Well, that was a long time ago that I wrote my thesis. Nonetheless, I’m proud of the work and I consider it a genuine contribution to the field. No, I did not go on to publish it in parts or in whole in academic journals. Anyway if you want to read about any of that, you can read the PDF of my thesis. My apologies that it’s still only in PDF.
Science, science fiction, epistemology
Oh wait. I really should mention that my interest and admiration of science is very much informed by philosophy studies in epistemology and metaphysics. I believe in kinds and degrees of objectivity. Of course it’s never absolute. That’s what makes it fun. We’re humans with small human brains, doing our best to figure out what is true. To do that, we need to work together. That makes the pursuit of truth a social endeavour. And that makes the pursuit of truth an ethical endeavour.
Yes, I believe in a roughly classical, even Aristotelean view of truth. But it’s immensely complicated to get it. And humans have immensely complicated interests. And any truth worth its salt, can’t be got alone. So that’s a predicament. That means that truth relies on things like honesty and integrity. Yes, yes, sound methodologies and proper statistical applications also help. I love math, even if I never really did that well at linear algebra and integral calculus. I am one of those folks that thinks you can never know enough math.
But this is the thing. I believe many scientists fundamentally misunderstand their own field. Like athletes, they might excel at it. But they don’t really know how to improve it, until they get that science, and reason itself, are prescriptive, ethical, meta-ethical, moral, normative (use whatever term you want here, just be clear about it) transactions. That’s how we get objectivity.
Ask me sometime what I think objectivity is. I’ll be happy to speak at length about it.
Philosophy of Science
Also, remind me to write about the views of Susan Haack, Richard Giere, Nancy Cartwright, Jeffrey Foss, William James, Carl Hempel, John Searle and Kenneth Craik, Catherine Elgin, Daniel Dennet and Michael Dummett. The word “model” can be found in my thesis 637 times. The word “map” occurs 101 times.
Journalism, public relations, modern publishing
I am immensely interested in the professional field that I broadly call strategic communications. ‘Strategic’ is a euphemism for manipulative. Just kidding. Kind of. The further I’ve traveled from metaphysics and logic, the more confronted I have become with with the human animal. We are so fracking fascinating. I do believe that we are first and foremost social animals. Over the years I have become more attuned to power and privilege.
I’ve been involved in social marketing and activist campaigns that I’m proud to have helped out with. Many of them utterly failed. I’ve also said and done things I’m not proud of.
Along the way, I am slowly waking up to the nightmare of history and becoming increasingly sensitive about the way the history unfolds in our living present. Our present remains, shall we say, pregnant with our histories, known and unknown.
My point, I think, is that communications is a field full of moral quandaries. In my professional life as a brand developer and a brand manager, I’ve become somewhat attuned to some of the social and political realities of marketing and advertising. And sometimes it’s hard. One close friend told me once that running a business was a very politicizing experience for her. I get that. Another close friend once jested that I started a brand consultancy because I was suffering from Stockholm syndrome. I disagree, maybe.
My point here is that the commercial or capital interests are powerful. And when you’re interested in how we know things, as I am, you have to be interested in structural bias. And you can’t be interested in how we know things without caring, at least a little, about journalism, modern publishing, advertising, public relations and the human forces at work there.
Power, oppression, and marginality
This sections deserves more. I owe so much of my intellectual growth to friends and acquaintances who understand intersecting systems of power much more deeply than I. I’m white, and cis. I use he and him pronouns. I aspire to be a feminist or perhaps I’m a pro-feminist (it’s not for me to say whether I succeed at that or not). It’s work and it’s my duty to do it. Oh, I’m into duties.
I’m not currently a member of any political parties, but if I was going to be it would be the NDP. I have voted for the NDP both federally and provincially.
I’m a big fan of political democracies. And I’m also a supporter of workplace democracies. Unions and union rights are really important. Workers need ways to band together and make decisions and exercise their powers. Unions are one important way that workers do this.
I live in Victoria, Canada – which is Lək̓ʷəŋən land.
Bachelor of Arts, Philosophy, University of Calgary
Master of Arts, Philosophy, University of Victoria
MA thesis: Models, Method and Truth: How to be an Internalist with Realist Attitudes [PDF]
- An Inquiry Into Meaning and Truth, London, 1940. ↩
- I coined a couple of important terms in my thesis. Well, okay, these terms might have been in use in other places. But I was out front in epistemoloy. One is linguaphilia. Heh heh, I used this term to make fun of all the people in the humanities that think human thought is always linguistic in nature. I mean, come on. Read some science people. Also I borrowed a phrase from Hilary Putnam, ‘God’s Eye View,’ and then extended it with a Fossian distinction between the GEV epistemological and the GEV metaphysical. Brilliant! IMHO. ↩
- I should mention that this page is, in part, inspired by Rosen’s FAQ ↩