Spent an interesting few days in Brisbane recently – a lovely city threaded by a broad river and criss crossed with car and foot bridges. Great to be surrounded by people of different racial backgrounds again – always makes me feel safer and reminds me of the appeal of cities. It seems so easy to condemn cities as blight but I always think of them as places of mess and freedom and collisions between groups, for good and bad outcomes. Was reminiscing at the weekend about living in Turnpike Lane, North London, surrounded by Turkish-cyoriot, Greek-Cypriot, Caribbean, North Indian, African and other ethnic groups who were solidly established with lots of bakeries, sweetshops and grocers reflecting each preference. Sunday mornings the streets heaved with families buying olive bread from one shop, Cypriot aubergines from anther, pakora and condensed milk sweets from another… bliss. (Yes, there were gang fights too, and drug dealers and knives and old mattresses in alleyways; never said cities were perfect)

Anyway, back to Brisbane.. lovely campus at Queensland University of Technology (QUT) where I’d been invited by Jen Bartlett (see pic) Imageto present a research seminar on my work. Pix show how well they’ve designed the intersections of old and new buildings with trees and plants in every corner. Campus also felt active and engaged – loads of young people sitting around (you lose that with distance learning of course). There’s a big Department of Media, Advertising and PR there and we had a lively meeting with a nice turn out of staff and research staff. Lots of interesting questions about teaching ethics and whether they are even teachable. I’m not sure you can teach ethical decisions – or even should – but I do think creating a space where students can reflect on their own processes, prejudices and confusions. Teachers, too – was clear that there is real unease about teaching something so complex and fundamental – on the whole PR teachers would have no training in this. Given the field’s reliance on codes (a position I’ll be challenging at the Euprera conference n Istanbul next week) there is no real exploration of what’s involved in evaluating the ethical aspects of communication & the core texts aren’t much help.

Most interesting discussion was after my presentation when we talked about European vs US PR scholarship and the growing range of alternative voices to the dominant Grunigian, quantitative approaches to PR research. The question arose – what would an Australian ‘take’ on PR look like and I realised I want to be part of that discussion. My sense is it could embrace the concepts of land and space that seem present but unspoken in Australian culture as well as reflecting the interesting cultural/geographical influences of Uk, US and Asia. In a changing world order, Australia seems a very interesting place to be. Suspect more follows (though may take time to evolve ideas here).