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Monthly Archives: December 2012

Mats Ekström, professor in communication and media science at Gothenburg University, visited the Media and Communication research seminar in Lund last week. He presented his latest research on media talk and invited us in a Goffmanian manner directly into the actions in the empirical material of his. How exciting! (No irony here, Philip. It was really cool stuff!)

Mats is researching interviews. Journalists interviewing politicians. His theoretical eyeglasses are fitted with one lens Conversation Analysis (CA, as we say) and another lens Discourse Analysis (DA for the initiated). A great combination if you’re, like me, passionately interested in how the smallest particles of conversation reveal norms and rules of social life. The structures of power in the turn of a phrase.

One situation Mats presented I want to share with you. It was an interview by a famous radio-host with our former prime minister Göran Persson. The host of the show, Annika Lantz, is especially skilled at creating a cosy and warm atmosphere. Make people feel comfortable and ask awkward questions, so to speak.  And it was against that backdrop that she asked Göran Persson how it is possible that income disparity has been growing steadily despite the declared aims and goals of a socialdemocratic government.

What would you have whispered in Göran’s ear as his adviser?

Well, if the social democratic party is working for a more equal society, also income-wise, which we should assume, one answer suggests itself: Well, the problem is I, the Prime Minister of Sweden, can’t do anything about it. One could say: The national governments don’t have the power anymore to make a marked impact on the distribution of wealth in society. The power lies somewhere else, my dear fellow country-men and -women. Presumably, to make a long story short, it rests with ‘global capitalism’.

What do you think Göran answered? He can’t admit, of course, that governments have sold out long ago. So he told the interviewer that the divide grew until the year 2000 but since then, the social democratic party has worked hard to counteract this development. And here comes the ingeniousness: he explains to the listeners that this is called the G I N I  C O E F F I C I E N T.

We don’t understand this, says the interviewer.

Me neither, says Göran…

… and confirms by saying so that his answer does provide an explanation to the question in the first place. Sim sala bim! You avoid a tough question by mentioning something that puts you in the role of an expert – and a nice and humble expert, too.

GINI coefficientIn defence of Göran Persson: Mats, the researcher, claimed that he did give a more accurate answer later in the interview. It’s still remarkable as an example of clever PR.

 

Global Warming is Baloney

intheloop 

endofthelessonintheloop/endofthelesson. This the beginning of a new mini-series which touches upon a couple of issues in StratCom. Firstly, dirty tricks. We’ll point out some of the time-honoured ploys that are frequently em-ployed in StratCom when actors run out of arguments – predominantly on the tactical level. This is for emancipatory and educational purposes only, of course: Kids, don’t try this at home. Second, we’ll talk about strategy – something that strikes us as not unimportant in the context of strategic communication. Expect to meet good ol’ Clausewitz, but since it’s hard to discuss strategy in abstracto, we’ve decided to do it in concreto, i.e. by commenting on a case: The Climate Warriors. The idea here is, moreover, that StratCom-scholars and students can make a tiny tiny contribution. Not by refuting the arguments, but by pointing out the too-familiar tricks. Believe it or not: practitioners have made their contribution already: http://www.desmogblog.com, run amongst others by PR practitioner Jim Hoggan, was voted into the Top 25 of TIME magazine’s best blogs of 2011. Third, we’ll address the concerted attack on the credibility of science. It is worrying, we believe, that powerful forces in society are actively undermining the credibility of scientific knowledge by means of more or less cleverly crafted StratCom. And we’re not talking about the credibility of postmodernist literature theory here, but about largely uncontroversial or undisputed results in the natural sciences. Climate change denial, our fourth issue, is the prime example, but there are others: the rise of religious fundamentalism and its denial of evolutionary theory; the fact that research on what makes humans happy and content (e.g. more equal societies) is constantly ignored by policy-makers; the way economics has declared itself value-free and has at the same time become highly ideological, etc.

Enuff talk. Here’s the case. The following is our translation from German weekly newspaper DIE ZEIT, Nov, 22, 2012 – you can read the original here. We have asked to acquire the copyright for the purpose of this blog.  

Die Zeit ripped

Climate Change

The Climate Warriors

How industry-financed PR managers trick the world into believing that global warming is a fake. Chronology of an organized lie.

By Anita Blasberg und Kerstin Kohlenberg (translated by endofthelesson)

Marc Morano spreads doubt by the click of a mouse. He sits in the back of a black Lincoln-Town-Car-Limo and operates his most important weapon: the laptop. Outside, the autumn forests rush by. Morano uploads the newest headline: “Environmental Protection Agency accused of  experimenting with humans.”

The limo fetched Morano half an hour earlier from his large house in a Washington suburb. Now it’s gliding towards the studio of Fox News. Marc Morano is in for his next op.

Next week, on Nov, 26, the world’s heads of governments and their ministers for environment meet in Doha on the Persian Gulf for the UN World Climate Summit. They want to decide new initiatives again global warming. Morano wants to stop them.

Morano is not a climate researcher. He is neither capable of calculating atmospheric pressure nor is he good at analyzing temperature data. Morano is a PR manager. His talent is to communicate message so that everybody gets it.

Read More

I’ve been told the word ‘dammsugare’ attracts attention in Sweden because it denotates not only a vacuum cleaner but something sweet to eat and green to the eye. An extra-large one is awarded to every teacher on finishing a course in Philosophy of Science. Which brings me to the topic. Emelie Höög, Master student in Strategic Communication (and very much afflicted by some unspecified course in PhiloScience) shares this award-winning campaign video for Electrolux (of ‘nothing sucks like an Electrolux’-fame). Some good advice on how to construct a communication campaign and to go about your household chores: Did you know that listening to Jazz while hoovering the floor makes you do it more thoroughly? Emelie’s comment: Is it science? At least it’s done in a lab.

 

BTW: Nothing beats Queen when it comes to weird cross-dressing, moustache-sporting dammsugare-action, of course. Student advisory: Queen was a British rock/pop-band established in 1971. Which means: They’re older than me but younger than Philip 😉

 

 

Linneavikbrant

I’m in my last year of the two-year-long Master’s program in Strategic Communication. With a Bachelor in Politics and a Master in Strat Com I hope to soon enter the real world of public relations and communication. On my agenda at the moment is my role as Communications Director of IT startup Omniflit and preparing for my Master’s Thesis which will focus on the European Union.

Five things I wish someone had told me before taking up my studies

  1. The more you know, the less you know:First thing I learnt upon entering into higher education. You’re never as sure about things and as black or white as when you walk into that very first lecture of yours. There’s at least fifty shades of grey to each subject.
  2. Exams aren’t that tricky: Don’t worry too much about exams. If you attend lectures and seminars and read most of the literature on the reading list, chances are good you’ll do fine on the exam. This of course depends on the nature of the exam (there are, odd but yet, occasions where memorizing byline texts and percentages is a good idea.)
  3. More is more: Learn how to speed-read. I tend to start by reading the back of the book and then the list of content. This usually gives me a good overview of the book and what I should prioritize. If unsure, check the course curriculum. If there’s a summary at the end of each chapter, then that’s a good thing to read.
  4. Find inspiration outside the curriculum: Read a lot (other than course requirements) and get involved in organizations or jobs (related to your area of study, or not. Personally I find academic inspiration can come from the most unexpected ways.) In my five years as a student I’ve never gotten very many thrills simply out of reading course literature. Sure, it’s been illuminating and interesting but the understanding of what I’m good at, and with what I should work has come from activities outside the curriculum.
  5. You will be poor but there are perks: Try to enjoy the time of being able to do your laundry or grocery-shopping in the middle of the day. Don’t find self-studies depressing but luxurious and an opportunity to delve into the fountains of knowledge and wisdom that is science and research. Avoid feelings of not being part of, or contributing to, society. Your student years will be over sooner than you expected.