Research @ CHbg

About half a year ago, I wrote in SK: UNCUT about the enigmatic conception of interpassivity. Interpassivity is a theoretical term developed by cultural philosophers Robert Pfaller and Slavoj Žižek in the 1990’s with regard to artworks and diverse cultural phenomena –  a term with a very specific psychoanalytical underpinning. I observed that since the beginnings, reflection on interpassivity slowly developed and influenced the fields of social philosophy, pushed for example by the research group of Gijs van Oenen at Rotterdam’s Erasmus University, and also by other social scientists. But although the idea of interpassivity – which was developed as a counter concept against interactivity – has some relevance for communication science, the concept is far from established in the field up to now.

What relevance, you may ask? Just one example. I recently stumbled across this weblog with a short analysis of the so-called “boiler room parties” in terms of interpassivity. Boiler room parties are a phenomenon on the web that recently gained remarkable attention – with several thousand visitors at each boiler room TV event. The idea of boiler room parties and boiler room TV is to broadcast parties organized at secret places as an exclusive event to a larger web audience. But what’s the purpose of showing these parties to a growing public? It is for sure that the broadcast doesn’t aim at inviting more people to the club. The parties will remain secret and exclusive events for a small group actively enjoying the clubbing. However, one can argue that boiler room events represent an opportunity for thousands of visitors to delegate their enjoyment by watching others enjoying in their place. That’s a very specific pleasure and a variation of what Pfaller and Žižek call interpassivity…

boiler room

Once one starts to look, one can find quite some reflections about cases of seemingly “interpassive communication” on the web. What is still lacking is some profound theoretical discussion of interpassivity – especially in contrast to the concept of interactivity that seems so well established. So guess what? I am currently starting a research project about this topic. The project is related to the research group NEMO – New Media, Modern Democracy at Lund University / Campus Helsingborg and is financially supported by the German Fritz Thyssen Foundation with a scholarship. My ambition is to reflect on implications of the cultural theory of interpassivity as established by Robert Pfaller, Slavoj Žižek and Gijs van Oenen with regard to the concept of interactive communication. Master Thesis anyone?

JohanHjort_1 Our friend and colleague Johan Jacobsen is currently visiting ISK. He is a PhD-student at the Department of Business Communication, Aarhus University, where he specializes in crisis communication. He held a highly interesting presentation at our department last week as part of ISK:s research seminar series. As a visiting scholar on ISK:s own turf, I figured it would be suitable to interview the fella. So here’s a very short interview with Johan.

So, who are you?

My name is Johan Hjorth Jacobsen and I am a PhD Fellow at the Department of Business Communication (BCOM) at Aarhus University in Denmark. I used to work as a practitioner in a corporate communication function, as well as teaching part-time at BCOM, before I became a PhD Fellow. My visit to ISK is a part of my three-year fellowship, as it is a tradition in Denmark. We are supposed to find inspiration and new networks in foreign research environments during our training to become researchers, so we go abroad in search of new knowledge. I chose to come to ISK because of the interesting research that takes place here, as well at the friendly relationship between several researchers from ISK and BCOM in Aarhus.

Tell us about your current research.

My current research is driven by the interest in creating knowledge about how organizational members perceive crises, and how these perceptions are influenced by, and influence, the crisis communication of the organization.

Why did you chose this particular subject?

I wrote my masters thesis in the field of crisis communication. And from my experience as a practitioner, as well as my knowledge of the crisis literature, I know that too much attention is given to what an organization should do in case of a crisis. I want to contribute to the growing literature in which the crisis understanding is processual and knowledge is also based on subjective perceptions.

What do you think of ISK as a research environment?

ISK and BCOM in Aarhus share many similarities, the most important of these for a visiting PhD Fellow is a good balance between widely published senior researchers and doctoral candidates. And while I came here because I know of your more published colleagues and their research, I have also
enjoyed the company and suggestions of the other doctoral candidates. I think that you enjoy an open communication climate here at ISK, where all colleagues are accessible and friendly, and I like to believe that this too is the case in Aarhus. And as most Danes do, I easily feel right at home here in Skåne.

What do you think of the future of crisis communication? Where is it headed?

I think that the interests of crisis communication researchers are so diverse that it is impossible to point out one stream of research as the most important. However, I think that the field will continue to grow at conferences and in journals, as more scholars are dedicated to doing crisis communication research. I also believe that the current interest in revisiting the assumptions in crisis communication for new inspiration, as well as getting inspiration from organizational theory and other developing fields of communication research, will continue. And I am sure that the researchers here at ISK will continue to be a strong voice in the field.

Thanks Johan!

Award-winning PR scholar Julia Jahansoozi, director of our joint Master Programme in Strategic Public Relations, is at Campus Helsingborg this week.

On Monday, Julia, from Stirling University, Scotland, gave a fascinating insight into her current work, including investigating lobbying in Nigeria, researching industry–community relationship building in the Canadian petroleum industry, public private partnerships in sub-Saharan West Africa, and a new project which will soon start on institutional capacity building in India.

Nigeria doesn’t always enjoy the best media profile – Forbes Magazine recently ranked it as the 20th saddest place to live in the whole world: ‘Decades of corruption have squandered great oil and gas wealth, while new concerns involve sectarian violence.’ But after living there for four months, Julia gave a rather more nuanced picture of a warm, friendly and vibrant society… with just a few death threats to liven up the communicative process.

Julia’s work focused on the cassava industry. Cassava is a root vegetable, which has long been a staple food for many Africans, but it can also be used to produce ethanol that can be used as vehicle fuel, in glues, and industrial grade starch. “Cassava has gained considerable political interest over recent years because of its great commercial potential – were are talking five billion US Dollars  a year – so the complex relationships between its varíous stakeholder and activist groups are fascinating and an challenging.

“My research showed ignoring vested interests can undermine even the most popular government intiative.”

Here is Julia’s presentation, Lobbying in Nigeria.