|Geert Lovink on Thu, 12 Oct 2017 17:51:40 +0200 (CEST)|
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|<nettime-ann> Speaking truth to power? The ethico-politics of whistleblowing|
Call for papers for an ephemera special issue on:
Speaking truth to power? The ethico-politics of whistleblowing in contemporary mass-mediated economy
Issue editors: Randi Heinrichs, Bernadette Loacker and Richard Weiskopf
Ever since the NSA affair in 2013, the WikiLeaks-disclosures or the publication of the Panama Papers in 2015, hardly a day goes by without the media reporting on whistleblowing, leaks, hacks, and uncovered truths. In contemporary global knowledge economy, organizations have become ‘leaky containers’. The conjunction of openness and closure, visibility and invisibility, and transparency and secrecy of information is increasingly precarious (Curtis and Weir, 2016). Public perceptions of whistleblowers are rife with ambivalence. For some they represent traitorous violators of a code of fidelity to their organization, suspicious figures who betray secrets and reject their obligations of loyalty to the employer. Others view whistleblowers as heroic truth-tellers: martyrs to the cause of transparency and openness and veritable ‘saints’ of today’s secular culture (Grant, 2002). In light of the increasing attention that whistleblowers and acts of whistleblowing attract, this special issue of ephemera is interested in exploring whistleblowing as a phenomenon that is socially mediated and shaped, with the aim of gaining better insights into the political and the ethical questions that accompany practices of whistleblowing.
We notice that organizational research into this area tends to be somewhat a-political, evaluating whistleblowing in terms of whether predefined rules or ethical codes have been followed (Hoffman and Schwartz, 2015). Many studies in the field focus on predicting the likelihood of whistleblowing occurring in a given organizational setting (Bjørkelo et al., 2010; Miceli, 2004) or on creating typologies of motivations for why people speak up. Others concentrate on examining the kinds of retaliations and personal impacts that organizational whistleblowers suffer (Alford, 2001; Glazer and Glazer, 1989). Such approaches are valuable for enhancing our understanding of whistleblowing as an experience, but where the focus is exclusively upon micro-level issues such as retaliation, motivation and personal impacts, there is a tendency to ignore the wider political, cultural and institutional contexts in which they occur.
A few studies have addressed contextual issues by exploring, for instance, the relation between whistleblowing and power, seeing the former as a type of organizational resistance (Martin, 1999; Vinten, 1994; Rothschild and Miethe, 1999). Whistleblowing has further been conceptualised as an institutionally shaped and culturally mediated social practice (Perry, 1998), or as a modern form of courageous truth-telling (parrhesia) (Foucault, 2001), in which the whistleblower risks all in the process of ‘speaking truth to power’ (Contu, 2014; Munro, 2017; Weiskopf and Willmott, 2013; Weiskopf and Tobias-Miersch, 2016; Wildavsky, 1979).
Today, the truth-telling of the whistleblower is mediated in multiple ways: by new media and digital technologies of communication, by a plethora of legal, institutional and organizational regulations and whistleblowing-policies, or by intermediary organizations that seek to support, amplify, channel and also capitalise on the truth-telling of whistleblowers in the name of increased transparency, democracy or justice. We see, for example, a new form of investigative journalism that seeks to amplify the truth-telling of whistleblowers (e.g. CIJ and the Panama Papers), organizations that provide an infrastructure for leaking (e.g. Wikileaks), or governmental and non-governmental organizations that mobilise truth-telling in the ‘fight against corruption’ (e.g. Transparency International). They might represent sources of support for whistleblowers, but might also lead to their enmeshment in dynamics of power and domination even beyond the context of the organization in which they have blown the whistle (i.e. media pressure, party politics, and so on). The increasingly networked character of information and the decentralized infrastructures of hybrid ‘online-offline worlds’ reshape the space for whistleblowers and truth-speaking (Nayar, 2010), with digital, anonymous forms of whistleblowing and, specifically, networks like the ‘hydracollective Anonymous’ (Coleman, 2014) indicating most clearly that concepts such as the public sphere, political activism, and individual and collective responsibility are in transformation (Bachmann et al., 2017; Munro, 2017).
Against this backdrop, this special issue situates the experience of whistleblowing in the context of contemporary discourses and practices, such as security, transparency and accountability, and is thereby particularly interested in the exploration of the ethical and political dimensions and implications of practices of whistleblowing. It raises the question of who is considered to be qualified to blow the whistle, under which conditions, about what, in what forms, with what consequences, and with what relation to power (Foucault, 2001). How is the figure of the whistleblower socially and discursively constructed and is there, for example, a specific relation to gender, race and class implied? How and at what cost do whistleblowers as political actors constitute themselves as ethical subjects, capable of taking risks and posing a challenge, capable of governing themselves and of governing others? Moreover, why are we suddenly faced with a boom of whistleblowing and an intensified ‘problematisation’ of the phenomenon in so-called digital cultures? Or, from another perspective, for which social, political, legal and also technical difficulties is whistleblowing the answer?
For this issue of ephemera, we would thus like to invite contributions that extend our understanding of whistleblowing as a socially mediated practice and put emphasis on the ethico-politics of whistleblowing and practices of ‘speaking truth to power’.
Possible contributions might seek to address, but are not limited to the following issues:
Deadline for submissions: 31 March 2018
All contributions should be submitted to one of the issue editors: Randi Heinrichs (email@example.com), Bernadette Loacker (firstname.lastname@example.org), Richard Weiskopf (email@example.com). Please note that three categories of contributions are invited for the special issue: articles, notes, and reviews. Information about these types of contributions can be found at: http://www.ephemerajournal.org/how-submit. The submissions will undergo a double-blind review process. All submissions should follow ephemera’s submission guidelines, which are available at: http://www.ephemerajournal.org/how-submit (see the ‘Abc of formatting’ guide in particular). For further information, please contact one of the special issue editors.
Alford, F. (2001) Whistleblowers: Broken lives and organizational power. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.
Bachmann, G., M. Knecht and W. Andreas (eds.) (2017) ‘The social productivity of anonymity’, ephemera: theory & politics in organization, 17(2).
Bjørkelo, B., S. Einarsen and S.B. Matthiesen (2010) ‘Predictive proactive behavior at work: Exploring the role of personality as an antecedent of whistleblowing behavior’, Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, 83: 371-394.
Coleman, G. (2014) Hacker, hoaxer, whistleblower, spy. The many faces of Anonymous. New York: Verso.
Contu, A. (2014) ‘Rationality and relationality in the orocess of whistleblowing: recasting whistleblowing through readings of Antigone’, Journal of Management Inquiry, 23(4): 393-406.
Curtis, R. and K. Weir (eds.) (2016) ‘Open secrets’, ephemera: theory & politics in organization, 16(2).
Foucault, M. (2001) Fearless speech. Los Angeles: Semiotext(e).
Glazer, M.P. and Glazer, P.M. (1989) The whistleblowers: Exposing corruption in government and industry. New York: Basic Books.
Grant, C. (2002) ‘Whistleblowers: Saints of secular culture’, Journal of Business Ethics, 39: 391-399.
Hoffman, W.M. and M.S. Schwartz (2015) ‘The morality of whistleblowing: A commentary on Richard T. De George’, Journal of Business Ethics, 12(7): 771-781.
Martin, B. (1999) ‘Whistleblowing and nonviolence: Activist paradigm’, Philosophy and Social Action 25: 5-18.
Miceli, M.P. (2004) ‘Whistle-blowing research and the insider: Lessons learned and yet to be learned’, Journal of Management Inquiry, 13(4): 364-366.
Munro, I. (2017) ‘Whistle-blowing and the politics of truth: Mobilizing “truth games” in the WikiLeaks case’, Human Relations, 70(5): 519-543.
Nayar, P. (2010) ‘WikiLeaks, the New Information Culture and Digital Parrhesia’, Eoncomic & Political Weekly, 52: 27-30.
Perry, N. (1998) ‘Indecent Exposure: Theorizing whistleblowing’, Organization Studies, 19(2): 235-257.
Rothschild, J. and T.D. Miethe (1999) ‘Whistle-blower disclosures and management retaliation the battle to control information about organization corruption’, Work and Occupations, 26(1): 107-128.
Vinten, G. (1994) Whistleblowing, Subversion or corporate citizenship. London: Sage.
Weiskopf, R. and H. Willmott (2013) ‘Ethics as critical practice: The Pentagon papers, deciding responsibly, truth-telling, and the unsettling of organizational morality’, Organization Studies, 34(4): 469-493.
Weiskopf, R. and Y. Tobias-Miersch (2016) ‘Whistleblowing, parrhesia and the contestation of truth in the workplace’, Organization Studies, 37(11): 1621-1640.
Wildavsky, A.B. (1979) Speaking truth to power: The act and craft of policy analysis. Boston: Little, Brown.
Dr Bernadette Loacker
Organisation, Work and Technology
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