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  • 07.12.2020 20:39 | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Susan Benz

    2020 was a challenging year not only because of Corona. It should be of great concern that liberal democracies worldwide are under pressure. This is especially alarming when it happens in close proximity, such as in Hungary or Poland. Neither should we remain indifferent to the election fraud and repression against the liberal demonstrations in Belarus. Academia plays an important role in tackling the corona crises. But how does academia position itself in the political struggles that challenge our democracies? Can academia be a revolutionary force against such developments?

    I contend that it is a bad idea to soften the border between science and politics, because every attempt to politicize science will inevitably backfire. To understand this, three dimensions in which academia impacts society need to be differentiated: the production of knowledge, the creation of an innovative environment, and methodological education.

    The first might be the most obvious, because knowledge-production is a core concern and competence of science. Although not all societal developments originate from science, the more complex the society, the more important the role of academia. History has shown that the specific impact a certain research project might have can rarely be predicted precisely. Take, for example, the discoveries of Marie Curie or Paul Baran, which turned out to be revolutionary. Even though one cannot predetermine how scientific knowledge-production influences society, one can say that by being noticed every research project does influence the life we live in some way. Consequently, knowledge changes the world. And comparing our current standard of living to the one of our ancestors, we can say: for the better.

    The second dimension of academic impact refers to an innovative sphere that evolves around research institutes and universities, conferences etc. It arises from discussions of problems and solutions, cultivating – in best case scenarios – an ongoing process of knowledge-production, -validation and -refutation. As academia demands constant questioning, it offers an environment for many different ways to explore answers and solutions. It brings people together, fostering new ideas, projects and collaborations that often go far beyond their fields of research. It is no coincidence that arts, political debates, start-ups and all matters of civil society flourish in and around academic circles. Here, academia impacts society beyond mere knowledge-production by creating an environment that is able to serve as a catalyst for societal progress.

    The third dimension points to academia’s methodological education. Academia does not teach young people to simply believe claims, but to constantly question them. Therefore, a sound methodological education enables students to distinguish between facts and false claims within their fields of study and beyond. It is widely agreed that research results might look fancy at first glance. Yet, if the underlying methods are weak, so are the results. Because methods have such a major impact on results, at the outset it is tempting to choose research methods that underpin desirable outcomes; for example, when you want to have a certain influence on society, such as supporting certain political interests, promoting revolutions or defending liberal democracy in times of political struggle. Yet this is a false path. That is not to say that we should not stand up and become active against political oppression. But we have to do it openly, and must not use science to camouflage our activism. Scientists can very well be part of a revolution – Science cannot! If we bring bias into the methodological dimension, we will destroy the other two dimensions, which are immensely valuable to society: Future research based on intentionally biased assumptions, and thereby methodologies, cannot advance society, but can only lead it into aberrations that the originator of the bias might not be able to foresee. The process of knowledge-production is thus disrupted, while the precondition for the use of scientific results, i.e., the credibility of their scientific intention, is destroyed. Without such credibility, the process of knowledge-production will inevitably collapse.

    The second dimension is also damaged when activism disguised as science brings bias into the academic sphere. On the one hand a false problem awareness is created and certain measures will appear as solutions to problems even though they do not address them at all. The credibility and validity of scientific thinking are undermined which will harm academia and thus destruct its innovative environment. On the other hand, the exemplary function of scientific publications influences future generations of researchers who will lose sight of impeccable scientific methods. As a result, this knowledge and its value are also being lost in society, leading rather to division than deliberation. After all, it becomes clear that it is not a good idea to participate in political revolution by deliberately or negligently biasing research results.

    So, what can scientists do to promote change? Here are three ideas for everyday academic life: First, be honest when questioning your own research relevance, research with revolutionary potential is not only interesting for research purposes; Second, talk about your research outside academia, not only about your results but also about your methodologies; Finally, reflect on and reduce your biases. In times where lies are camouflaged as alternative facts, methodologically sound and therefore convincing research could be the most revolutionary thing of all.

    Susan Benz is a PhD student and research assistant at the Centre for Media, Communication and Information Research (ZeMKI), Universität Bremen, Germany. Her research interests are within the field of media, communication and activism research.

  • 07.12.2020 20:33 | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    John Downey (ECREA vice-president)

    In recent weeks ECREA has issued three public statements relating to the suppression of academic freedom and autonomy in Belarus and Hungary. We stand in solidarity with our colleagues and students in these countries exercising their democratic rights to protest and to voice criticism of the regimes. Although thankfully these are extreme cases in the European context at least, colleagues in many European countries are mindful of how their public actions may be received by the powers that be. The Covid pandemic has at once highlighted the relevance of scientists, including communication scholars, and of speaking truth to power and reminded us that academics expressing uncomfortable views for those in power can be easily discriminated against in major and minor ways. To step outside the ivory tower and engage with the world may of course sometimes be good for one’s career but it is also motivated by wanting to change the world for the better, to make a difference. And it carries risks from death to imprisonment and intimidation to being passed over when it comes to promotion. Being awkward, of questioning authority and received wisdom consistently and insistently from the seminar room to the presidential palace, should be part of the essential criteria in any job specification for an academic position.

    Michael Burawoy in his 2004 Presidential Address to the American Sociological Association makes a persuasive argument for the rebirth of a public sociology. He argues that the founding voices of sociology—Marx, Weber, Durkheim, Du Bois, Adams— shared a moral and political purpose to change the world for the better. This, however, has been mislaid: “If our predecessors set out to change the world we have too often ended up conserving it. Fighting for a place in the academic sun, sociology has developed its own specialised knowledge” (2005, 5). Communication scholars, of course, also want their place in the academic sun. We want respect from colleagues in other disciplines, recognition of the value of the field, large research grants from prestigious funding bodies, prizes and plaudits. There’s nothing wrong with this but there is a danger though that we too lose our moral and political purpose.

    In many European countries and beyond there is now an ‘impact agenda’ in academia largely dreamt up by politicians who want scholars to prove their social relevance and worth. This is almost a strong argument for moving back into the ivory tower and pulling up the drawbridge. At its worst the impact agenda offers an emaciated view of the role of science as a handmaiden to the economy or other vested interests, of producing applied, instrumental and acritical work at the behest of those with power. Of course, there is a need to challenge and change this impact agenda as best we can so that academics are not the servants of power but rather are able to effect change through critique. The ECREA conference in 2022 in Aarhus, organised as a partnership between the university and the city, asks us to ‘Rethink Impact!’ as its theme. Of course, persuading people and organisations of the need for radical change is difficult. It is not always going to succeed, at least not immediately. We should be good at this sort of thing though as the precondition for effecting significant change beyond academia is that we remain true to our cherished academic values and remain stubbornly awkward.

    Burawoy, Michael. 2005. “For Public Sociology.” American Sociological Review 70 (1): 4–28.

    John Downey is Professor of Comparative Media Analysis and Head of Communication and Media at Loughborough University, UK.  He is also a Vice-President of ECREA.

  • 24.06.2020 20:49 | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Radio studies is a relatively new and fastly evolving field. The rise of streaming and podcasting media have deeply questioned the field of radio studies, since radio is currently losing its monopoly on sound-based media. In the last two conferences in Lugano 2018 (ECC) and Siena 2019 (Section), we have witnessed the growth of submissions interested in studying the relationships between sound and society, sound and urban spaces, the rise of new aural cultures, the rise of podcasting and mobile media listening practices (smartphone, AI-based loudspeakers), the political economy of digital music (Spotify) and audio (Audible, Amazon) streaming platforms, among other issues derived from our current digital, networking and platformization Age.

    With this change of name, we would like to make space for all these new trends in our section, also in order to be able to attract scholars from other fields of media studies and not only the ones interested in radio. We are convinced that our section, with its solid background in broadcasting, can be the right place to discuss these new topics and situate audio and sound studies into the broader history of radio broadcasting and mass communication.

  • 09.06.2020 21:39 | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Sergio Splendore (Università degli Studi di Milano, Italy)

    ECREA Journalism studies section

    In this tragic historical moment in which we are going through a pandemic called COVID-19, we got what we have been demanding for years: a much greater presence of scientists in the media. We got it to an unpredictable extent. I am writing from Italy, that is infamously a privileged site to observe the interaction among media, politics and scientists/science. Here we have scientists everywhere: on daily television programmes, in newspapers, on information sites, on the radio. Everywhere. Moreover, numerous videos bounce around on our social media: doctors and scientists who tell us about the trend of the pandemic, symptoms, possible defences, and how to wash our hands. It does not seem different to me in other media systems.

    We have also many data: positive cases, deceased, discharged, deaths, swabs taken and so on and so forth. Models that try to predict the trend of the pandemic. We also got open data, so we can also independently make sense of them. The community of scholars that studies data journalism and data journalists themselves could not appreciate more the variety of available data and also the variety of the different visualizations and analysis we receive.

    Nevertheless, what we are receiving back from politics is a chain of mistakes. Italy's delay in responding appropriately. The original idea of herd immunity from the UK and later, the run towards lockdown. From France to Germany, from Spain to the US. A chain of mistakes. Politics was very unprepared. Everywhere. But I dare to say: who was prepared for that? Is there really any chance that our neo-liberal world might be prepared for that? Prepared to opt for stagnation versus productivity. Immobility versus movement. Constraints versus freedom.

    We have not only witnessed a chain of political mistakes, we have also been receiving uncertain answers. These uncertain answers come from science. What does it mean?

    First, it means that this virus is astonishingly strong, unpredictable, and vicious. It is the start and the end point of any conversation: the virus that is holding the world hostage is incredibly hard.

    Nevertheless, beyond the strength of the virus, beyond the (almost) acceptable unpreparedness of politics, the fact that science is providing uncertainty surprised me the most. Ironically, it is happening when even the media finally understand that they need science.

    My surprise is very naïve. After years of demanding a greater presence of scientists in the media, after years of requesting open data, after years of asking the media for knowledge more rooted in facts and data, I forgot a lot of the literature on which the social sciences are based. I forgot the wonderful James Carey’s pages on the role of social sciences. I forgot the work of Thomas Gieryn that we are increasingly using in journalism studies to determine what journalism is and is becoming. I forgot that any science is socially constructed. That the boundaries between those who are wrong and those who are right are porous and contrasted. I forgot also what I preach when I try to elucidate what is happening in data journalism: that the availability of data is political. The data we receive to build our models are fragile. They are linked to both human fallacy and strategic choices. Fragile as the words of doctors linked to the uncertainties of a science that has never been so far off being hard. Obviously, right now, going to remove some dust from the shelves full of books and ideas stored and forgotten, is not much consolation.

  • 09.06.2020 11:58 | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Anna Eveliina Hänninen (age 35) is PhD student at Tampere University, Finland (sound and voice in journalism), saxophonist and a mother of three children.

    Where does your story as a saxophone player begin?

    I started playing the saxophone when I was 15. I had played the piano, but I had problems with my wrists and even bigger problems with my motivation. In that year at school our music class had the history of jazz music as a theme. We listened to a lot of jazz and I fell in love with the sound of the saxophone. I still felt myself more as a player of classical music than jazz. So I asked if I could change my instrument in the middle of the year at my music school. One month later I took my first saxophone lesson. Instantly I felt that I had found my sound. Or it felt more like an extension to my voice. My teacher was super! When I started playing the saxophone I thought I would be ‘too old’ to do anything else than play for my own amusement. But I was carried away, practiced a lot and soon found myself studying at upper secondary level for vocational education in music.

    After that I managed to get in to study music pedagogy to become a saxophone teacher. But since I got a job opportunity at a classical music magazine and I had already studied journalism at the university and was a mom, I made a decision not to go for pedagogy studies. After that I considered music to be more of a hobby. I made a vow that even though I was not going to be a professional musician, I could do things where music is involved and that has happened. I feel I still have a strong identity as a saxophone player.

    What would you say is your biggest achievement so far? What kind of shows do you usually play, and which have you enjoyed the most?

    It is difficult to say if I have achieved a lot. Since I graduated from my music studies I haven’t earned too many euros by playing. I have played in orchestras with music students and in small projects, some weddings and so on.

    I don’t know if these are achievements but I was part of some meaningful and funny moments: in 2003, I had the opportunity to play national anthems with a saxophone quintet at the FIFA U-17 World Cup in Helsinki. As a huge sports fan I found this really exciting. That tournament is the only time I’ve been standing on a World Cup field. I think I shook hands with FIFA president Sepp Blatter. Or perhaps it was some other important FIFA guy.

    I would have so many stories to tell. This is one of my favourites: I was playing the baritone saxophone with a student orchestra a week before my second child was born. One of the pieces included a part where the saxophone section had to walk in the middle of the piece behind the stage to play and then walk back. I guess I was noticed while doing that!

    In what ways is playing saxophone complementary to your academic career?

    The biggest influence of music on my academic career is that I feel I would not be doing it at all without it! I had no intention of going for PhD studies. I went to university to become a journalist. But over 10 years ago in my first ever university class I had to think about a topic for a media criticism essay. I realized that I have always wondered how they make decisions about music and sound effects in current affairs programmes on TV. Long story short, I learned this topic needs to get attention professionally and academically. Finally I fell in love with my topic and I had to go for a PhD. I think playing an instrument and learning music theory has given me a solid ground on which to build my academic expertise on journalistic sound. I think my history in journalism and music makes me the right person to do my research. But at the same time, I have learned how much there is that I don’t know. The more I read and learn, the more I am aware of the complexity of my topic, sound and voice in journalism.

    When I was younger, stage fright was my friend. I was nervous and usually played very badly before the performance. But I had the confidence that I will play on the stage better than ever before, because that happened every time since I was a little pianist. That thought is still part of me sometimes: no matter what, I’ll go and I’ll do and I’ll survive. I’ll go for my thesis, I’ll do my PhD, I’ll do it well.

    Is it different now?

    For some reason as an adult the nerves got me more and more often. I also have those experiences where my hands shake and my throat is jammed. It feels terrible to stand on a stage like that. I always loved to perform and suddenly I was afraid of it. That, still, is the other part of me. What if I don’t know what to do? What if I fail? Later I realized that the insecurity came when I didn’t have so much time for music. I used to play 2-5 hours per day. I was confident because I knew my stuff. I had worked enough to have the technique and I never had to worry about the interpretation anyway. But you cannot interpret if you have to stress about memorizing the music and getting the notes right. If you are not sure that you can, you get nervous.

    I have also been very nervous with academic presentations. I was very surprised about that. I have performed all my life and done live broadcasts on the radio! How come I am stressed by a bunch of people in a conference room? I think the difference is that as a musician, my intention is to honour the music that someone else has made. Of course, the musician is always bare and open for the audience, but I always felt myself to be just a messenger. As a radio journalist I always felt I was there to highlight other people and important matters. I was just a messenger. But presenting my own research work … I think revealing my own thoughts is frightening! What if they think I am totally stupid? What if I never finish my PhD? What if someone comes and invalidates all my arguments?

    I am still quite fresh in academia. Maybe later I can achieve similar trust in myself when I stand in front of the audience and think: ‘I’ve got this. I have worked enough.’

    And are there perhaps any similarities in those two “adventures”?

    Maybe the similarity is that both in music and in academia you will never be ready. There are always new things to learn and you can always look back and think you would do something differently now with the new knowledge and skills. As I am writing this, I just started to think we should appreciate the journey more. Giving a great concert or finally finishing your PhD is a result of so much hard work, mistakes, smaller achievements, bad and good ideas. Sometimes a few twists and bumps are needed to finally get there.

    Besides, I have always accepted human error in music. A couple of missed notes are nothing in the big picture. For some reason, accepting a similar room for error is not easy for me in academia. But if you don’t have the guts to try, there will be no music at all.

    Another similarity is that I seem to find myself in the margin. I often hear people wondering that they didn’t even know classical saxophone music exists. Now doing a PhD about sound and voice in journalism I am used to being the odd one, too.

    Do you find it challenging to combine the two worlds?

    Yes, I find it challenging! That is why I play depressingly seldom nowadays. Of course it would be easier to give time for music while doing a PhD if I didn’t have a family with three kids or if I didn’t work as a journalist for a few days each month. It is more than a year ago since I performed.

    I have been a bit of an ‘all or nothing’ type of person when it comes to music. A wind instrument is unbribable in the sense that you can easily lose a sensitive touch to it after a pause. It has been very difficult for me to accept that I know how my playing should sound, but my face muscles do not work to make the tuning nor the timbre as I would like. But even though I am not as good a saxophone player as I used to be, I enjoy playing. And I find it wonderful that the sensitive touch and the trajectory of my fingers always come back. The things I’ve learned are not gone, but hiding somewhere. It has surprised me how good it feels just to blow out a sound, even if it’s not a perfect one. So blowing a few notes is a good way to relieve stress when I need to get out of my papers for a moment.

    I have tendency to choose a repertoire that is a bit too difficult. That worked out well when I practiced a lot. I’ve been playing for years mostly saxophone concertos by Alexander Glazunov and Lars-Erik Larsson, and Debussy’s Rhapsody. Sometimes I feel I am going backwards, since I practice so little. Actually, I dreamed that I could play the Glazunov concerto at my post-doctoral party. It seems I have plenty of time until that day arrives, so maybe I could squeeze in some hours for practice before that.

    I have had the possibility to interview many musicians as a journalist and I have studied so much more about music and sound for my PhD, that I feel I would be a better musician than before if just I practiced more. I hope I will have the possibility to prove that to myself one day.

    Would you recommend doing music to other academics?

    Well, that depends whether you like music or not! For me, music is my second language which I have learned since childhood. It has been an important way to express myself and learn who I am.

    But I think the most important thing is to do something you love. It is good to do enjoyable things and maybe challenge yourself a bit, too.

    I warmly recommend that everyone listen to classical saxophone music. Search for music played by e.g. Claude Delangle, Sigurd Raschèr, Quatuor Ellipsos or Olli-Pekka Tuomisalo and be prepared to get hooked!


    Picture 1: This was taken one week before my second child was born. The baritone saxophone is my favourite.

    Picture 2: When I wanted to get new pictures for my CV it was obvious to have my saxophone with me. (Credit:

    Picture 3: This is what it takes sometimes to combine saxophone playing with kids. Baby number three in front and the baritone saxophone on my back.

    Picture 4: Me and my husband playing at my final exam 12 years ago. These moments also are some of my favourite saxophone memories.

  • 09.06.2020 11:43 | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    On 29 October 2019 the YECREA section of International and Intercultural Communication (IIC) and the Young Scholars Network (YSN) organized a PhD workshop with a focus on international journalism, humanitarian communication and news production at the Free University of Brussels. The workshop preceded and took place in the context of the two-day ECREA conference “Digital Fortress Europe: Exploring Boundaries between Media, Migration and Technology” (on 30 and 31 October 2019 in Brussels). It was hosted by Dr. Kate Wright (University of Edinburgh) who is internationally acclaimed for her research on humanitarian journalism and NGO communication.

    After a welcome address, Dr. Wright opened the workshop’s first session on humanitarian communication and journalism by providing a keynote discussing her own work and related ethical and practical research issues. The keynote was followed by three PhD presentations and extended Q&As. First, Roja Zaitoonie (Ruhr University Bochum & Technical University of Dortmund) presented her research on the UN’s efforts on media development in fragile and (post-) conflict contexts. She thereby indicated the relevance of both looking into the policy as well as the reception level.

    Second, Richard Stupart (London School of Economics and Political Science) reflected on the discourse and practice of reporting suffering. Based on a large number of expert interviews and extensive field work in Sudan, he discussed if and how journalists’ witnessing of suffering affects their news coverage.

    Finally, Joshy Joseph Thumpakattu (City, University of London) discussed the BBC’s international news coverage of India in the digital era. He compared findings among news media outlets, media genre and time (pre- and post-online period).

    After a cosy lunch break - which was an excellent opportunity to get to know each other, the workshop’s second session on media, migration and post-colonialism started, again consisting of three PhD presentations and long Q&A’s. First, Elke Mahieu (Ghent University) discussed Congolese newspaper coverage on Belgium and vice versa. She thereby looked into preliminary findings of both her text and production research in Kinshasa.

    Second, Sara Creta (Dublin City University) scrutinized the role of social media for digital migrant activism. She focused on how collective identities and mobilisation are shaped among political exiles in Libya by digital media.

    Finally, David Ongenaert (Ghent University) looked into the public communication strategies of refugee organizations. He emphasized the importance of looking into the production and reception dimensions of public communication, and taking into account a myriad of factors.

    By spending a lot of time on Q&As, the young scholars obtained in-depth, constructive feedback from Dr. Wright and each other in a relaxed atmosphere, which was perceived as very positive and useful. Furthermore, at the end of the session plans were made for future collaborations. We consider this workshop as very interesting and useful, and want to thank all the participants for sharing their research and providing great suggestions, Dr. Kate Wright for her insightful keynote and excellent feedback and enthusiasm, and the YSN and ECREA’s Diaspora, Migration & the Media (DMM) section for their fantastic support and collaboration!

    Elke Mahieu and David Ongenaert (PhD representatives of ECREA’s IIC-section, and organizers of this event).

  • 09.06.2020 11:35 | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Miloš Hroch is researcher and PhD. candidate at Charles University in Prague. He is interested in alternative media, zines, post-digital media and cultural studies.  His PhD thesis is titled "Samizdat in the postdigital era: the influence of new materialism on the transformation of zine scenes and subculutral capital".


    When and how did you start with skateboarding?

    I started with skateboarding when I was about twelve years old. Back then I found it to be the most meaningful thing in the world. The perspective and priorities might have slightly changed – but the core of that attitude and pure fascination is still there. My favourite writer Ursula K. Le Guin in this sense once wrote: "I believe that maturity is not an outgrowing, but a growing up; that an adult is not a dead child, but a child who survived."

    Why do you like it?

    At a very early age it taught me about the importance of community and a do-it-yourself (or more precisely, do-it-ourselves) attitude, and also skateboard videos and magazines introduced me to a whole bunch of good bands. At the same time, it probably lit some interest in media. When someone asks why I like skateboarding, I would quote Ian MacKaye – from bands like Fugazi or Embrace, and the head of Dischord Records: “Skateboarding is not a hobby. And it's not a sport. Skateboarding is a way of learning how to redefine the world around you. It's a way of getting out of house, connecting with other people, and looking at the world through different sets of eyes.”

    What would you say is your biggest achievement so far?

    Having stayed on a skateboard for almost 20 years now, and also producing some texts on skateboard culture.

    In what ways is skateboarding complementary to your academic career? And are there perhaps any similarities?

    In terms of creating participatory networks and communities, skateboarding can be inspiring. During my PhD studies I had the luck of meeting people who would always show me the way, give me helpful advice and guide me through – not only theoretical – obstacles. Which very much reminds me of some forms of informal mentorship in skateparks.

    Personally, skateboarding taught me about patience – because when you’re trying to do some trick, it can take some time. It´s the same with submitting papers to academic journals.

    Does your hobby conflict with your academic work, such as missing deadlines or having to choose between events?

    Not at all, it coexists in a perfect assemblage: it’s the sympathy and symbiosis, as Deleuze would say. Skateboarding is the ultimate relaxation for me, during my time on board, cruising the streets or skating the ramps you can forget about everything and just focus/tune yourself to different surfaces and materials, cracks in the sidewalks, or shapes of your board. It’s these personal mindfulness tactics: afterwards you can return to your writing lightheaded.

    Would you recommend skateboarding to other academics?

    Reading is more comfortable and secure: I would recommend the works of Iain Borden – the first skateboarder-sociologist – which can be found in canonical subcultures readers. Skateboarding is also a contribution to urban studies, because I can’t think of a better example of Lefevbre’s “right to the city”.

  • 16.12.2019 12:23 | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Stephanie Tintel is a PhD researcher at imec-SMIT-VUB and teaching assistant within the Communication Sciences Department of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB) where she assists methodology courses (quantitative and qualitative). Her PhD research is focused on the measurement and economic valorization of the audience in relation to the audiovisual (film) industry. She is further specialized in economic impact assessment studies within audiovisual industries.

    When and how did you start with scuba diving?

    I did my first official dive in April 2009 in a 30-metre-deep pool in Brussels called ‘NEMO 33’. My first real outside dive was in June 2009 in a quarry called ‘Dongelberg’ in the French speaking part of Belgium. I was only 16 years old then. I dived for 2 years in 2009 and 2010 and then I stopped. I restarted in 2018 around the time when I started my PhD. The reason why I started scuba diving is rather obvious. My parents met each other while scuba diving. My father was my mother’s instructor and taught her how to scuba dive. “We fell in love under water”, my mother told me once. Since my parents are both divers, it would have been weird if my sister and I didn’t start scuba diving ourselves. Today, my father and I are the only active scuba divers in the family.

    What would you say is your biggest achievement so far? What is the maximum depth you have dived to? At what depth does it usually get uncomfortable or challenging?

    Scuba diving isn’t a competitive sport. It’s not about being the fastest, most daring or most adventurous scuba diver. Scuba diving is about surviving in an environment which is, without the right equipment, unlivable for a human being. You force yourself to explore a space which is unnatural to you. To be able to do this, you need a good sense of responsibility, organization skills and communication tactics because scuba diving entails many risks, like decompression sickness, arterial air embolism, drowning, ... All of the health risks, remedies, organization and communication skills we learn during trainings.

    I’m certified to go to 30 metres meters. My next certification will let me go to 40 meters. But from 40 metres, you can start to experience nitrogen narcosis which is comparable to the feeling of drunkenness. It can cause a temporary reduction of reasoning, decision making and motor skills. Another difficulty is finding your way under water. There is no Google Maps to show you the way, but a briefing beforehand and a compass to give you direction. Also, the more experience you gain, or the more certified you become, the more responsibility is expected of you. I always have to dive with somebody with a higher certification level than me, but when I get my next certification level, roles can be switched. I will be allowed to dive with somebody who has less experience than me. There are many challenges, and they go from planning your dive, to getting your tank on and off your back, to looking for octopus in between rocks. But the real challenge for me is to be able to completely clear my mind when I’m under water.

    I do scuba diving to escape the everyday world, to literally go beneath the surface where I leave my worries and thoughts just for a while. To me, scuba diving is the only activity that enables this feeling since it demands a lot of concentration and attention. In a way, scuba diving is a kind of mindfulness. When I had a good or successful dive, I was able to reach that state of complete tranquility. Next to the obvious of course: that everybody comes back up safely.

    In what ways is scuba diving complementary to your academic career? And are there perhaps any similarities in those two "adventures"?

    Scuba diving works with certification levels. The higher your certification level, the more of an experienced diver you become. And by experience, I mean that you start to carry responsibility not only for your own safety, but also for your scuba buddy or buddies. You always have to dive with a buddy, you never go alone. On the other hand, a higher certification level also means you are allowed to do more under water: you can go deeper. This means you can discover more but your dives will be more difficult. For example, ship wrecks are mostly found at depths of 40 to 50 metres. Dives like this need careful planning because the deeper you go, the more you become under pressure and thus the more your health is at risk. With my current certification level, I’m only allowed to go to 30 metres. But who knows, maybe in a few years, you might find me exploring sunken ships in the Black Sea and Caribbean.

    In academia you grow in a similar way: effort enables. With every new research project, new paper or new course I teach, I delve deeper into the world of academia. While I grow personally, I’m also enabled to grasp more of a new world. This is the same for scuba diving: with every new certification level (for which you do tests both theoretical and practical), I’m allowed to explore more. Right now, I feel myself exploring two worlds at the same time: the underwater world and the world of knowledge creation, but without any efforts. Both scuba diving and academia work around this idiom: “there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch”. Everything is a trade-off: no further exploring without investing.

    Does doing scuba diving conflict with your academic work, such as missing deadlines or having to choose between events?

    It’s all about planning. Both academia and scuba diving demand rather good organization skills. When I have a deadline for my work, I plan to make sure I get it done in time. The same goes for scuba diving, I have to make sure I get my tank filled in time and I have to check all my diving equipment at least a day before. Scuba diving needs careful preparation and the same goes for my work. I think I had to cancel once on a dive, because I wasn’t finished with my work. I hate to cancel on commitments, in particular when this affects other people. But whenever I feel that I will be too busy with something else, I just say that I won’t be joining, instead of saying I will join, but then having to cancel. It’s really annoying for the diving organizer to get last minute cancellations. So no, it doesn’t conflict with my academic work. I think scuba diving trains my organization and communication skiIls more than I am aware of. Scuba diving and academic work rely on similar skills. In that sense, I would say scuba diving benefits my work not only because of the skills I gain, but because diving makes me feel “refreshed” in terms of having a clear mind with new ideas.

    Would you recommend scuba diving to other academics?

    Yes, I would definitely recommend scuba diving to other academics. However, it’s not a sport for just anybody. Often when I talk about it, the first reaction is always “Oh no, that’s not for me!” I’ve always wondered, why? I was already comfortable from the very beginning because of the very obvious reason: I love the water. On the other hand, I was a little uncomfortable during my first dive in the dark because I couldn’t orientate myself and I could only see one metre in front of me. Everything takes time and practice, with scuba diving as well as with my work, but it’s important that your heart is in it in the first place. The underwater world is truly magical. The experience of only hearing your own breath, the inability to speak and the feeling of flying through space are extremely satisfying. If you would like to clear your mind and feel free, scuba diving is the sport to do. And one last thing, I don’t only see the perks of being a scuba diver in my work but also in my way of going through life.

    Jacques Yves Cousteau was nothing but right: “The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever.”

    PS. My next scuba diving trip will be in Bonaire, an island in the Dutch Antilles: turtles, manta rays, dolphins, eagle rays, octopus, moray eels, sea cucumbers, and whale sharks, here I come!

    Photos: Personal archive of Stephanie Tintel.

  • 16.12.2019 12:20 | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Kaisu Innanen is a PhD researcher and experienced communication specialist. Her dissertation project, titled Researchers as Science communicators, is studying researchers’ and communications professionals’ perceptions of science communication and collaboration from the viewpoints of science communication and organizational communication research. She has spent her working career in the fields of culture, education, and science in Finland. Currently she is writing her dissertation on sabbatical from the Faculty of Information Technology and Electrical Engineering at the University of Oulu, Northern Finland.

    When and how did you start with arctic hiking?

    My hiking has developed in small steps. During (downhill) skiing holidays in my twenties in Northern Finland, on the horizon I saw higher fjells that I wanted to explore. So next time I travelled further north, all the way to the border of Finland and Norway, and was enchanted by the stunning, dramatic Scandinavian Mountains that in Norway fall steep into the sea. In Finland we call it the Lapland graze, and many people experience it. They return year after year to Lapland for hiking and other outdoor leisure, and feel themselves captured in a very positive way. It has a lot to do with the sense of true wilderness and the ancient landscape with the indigenous Sami people’s mythologies. Luckily I never recovered from it.

    For many years I travelled by car and even the Norwegian coastal ships up in the North, and went just for short hikes. As my kids grew older, it was time to graduate to longer hikes. I remember the first winter hike trails: as an exchange student at the University of Tromsø, Norway, I joined the Easter skiing hike group to the Lyngen Alps. But we foreigners didn’t have the right kind of skis: they were far too light to climb the steep, hard, frozen slopes. The next trial was as bad in Northern Finland at Pallas fjell, where we had too heavy, randonnee slalom skis for the forested landscape with powdery snow.

    I always choose to hike in the open landscape above the tree line (fewer mosquitos). For a beginner, the hiking facilities and cabins along the Kungsleden trail on the Swedish side of the Scandinavian Mountains are great, as beds and food are available in the cabins. I learned my skills by joining a local Lapland hiking group. On easy trails I’ve been hiking alone, and that way one can meet great hikers, but I would not go alone outside the hiking tracks in the winter, since the conditions may get too rough, hostile, and I wouldn’t enjoy a snow storm alone.

    What would you say is your biggest achievement in arctic hiking?

    The best achievement is that, after a long training, I really got to know myself as a hiker. That is a matter of enjoyment and safety as I know my strengths and limits as a hiker. I also know the details of hiking gear and food, and those won’t take too much attention from the focus anymore: enjoying nature. For example, in order to sleep in a tent in snow, one must trust the equipment, and for me as a small lady it is crucial to minimize the weight of the hiking gear and food, so that I can carry everything in my sledge for days. I’ve become self aware to know when to stop, take a break and sit down for a snack even if there’s no shelter, and it’s raining miserably.

    My longest hikes have been for ten days, around in Paddjelanta in Sweden and Sulitjelma in Norway, but I would like to go even longer.

    In what ways is arctic adventure different from your academic career? And what is perhaps similar?

    The similarities have to do with the lengthy, systematic preparatory phases for the hikes: one has to take everything into account as you will have to survive with what you packed with you, but not overload the sledge. Just as with qualitative article writing, one has to focus and consider, which of the ideas deepen the analysis, but fit into the word count. Also, when we orienteer/navigate outside the trails, one has to plan the route in theory on the map, and qualitatively allow the empirical material of the landscape to draw the trails and results. One has have the mental strength to overcome the difficulties along the way.

    The greatest difference between hiking and academic work is that in nature, there simply are no words. Not one. Everything is natural, concept free and organic, and my thinking escapes from the analytical to a more holistic, embodied human experience of being. It is such a great break for the brain, and enjoyment of experiencing something else, literally. The experience of beauty of the wilderness is strengthened by the physical exercise: after the days’ exhausting hike, when one is finally relaxing with a great dried meal, the details of the setting sun’s red shades on the mountainside snow in the endless landscape are even more overwhelming.

    Do the trips to arctic nature conflict with your academic work, such as missing deadlines or having to choose between events?

    One has to prepare for the deadlines in advance, as there is no way to write, or wireless networks to access with laptops on rucksacks. I had to retreat from my winter hike for travelling to the Public Communication of Science and Technology Conference in New Zealand in 2018. I had some severe trouble in concentrating in the academic writing retreat over there, as the nature outside the room was calling me.

    Would you recommend your hobby to other academics?

    Of course, it is an excellent way to get a real break, and boosts a different way of thinking that also refreshes the analytical mind. I found another way to experience this when I was visiting the Science Communication Unit at the University of the West of England, Bristol as a PhD student last year. I started to train Argentinian tango which also forces one into different, bodily thinking. It turned out that most of the dance students were academics.

    Photos: Personal archive of Kaisu Innanen.

  • 16.12.2019 11:55 | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Interview with TWG chair Daniel Nölleke (University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria) and vice-chairs Kirsten Frandsen (Aarhus University, Aarhus, Denmark) and Xavier Ramon (Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona, Spain)

    How did the idea of establishing this TWG arise?

    Nowadays, mediated sport is literally unavoidable – no matter whether you do sports yourself and employ media technologies, or whether you follow sports as a spearch. While other international academic associations like the ICA and IAMCR have already established divisions and interest groups dedicated to research on the nexus of communication and sport, ECREA had not yet done so. But we believe that there is the need for a forum which provides European researchers with the opportunity to share and discuss their research on the realm of European sports – which differs enormously from US sports. Hence, already two years ago, Daniel came up with the idea of pooling European research on sports communication by proposing a new ECREA Temporary Working Group. Back then, we simply did not find the time to submit a proposal for a new TWG. But now we did – and we are very happy and grateful that this initiative has been successful.ctator via mass media. This close relationship between sport and media offers a wealth of approaches for scientific research. And indeed, there are numerous colleagues who – like the three of us – address this topic in their rese

    What is the role of sport in our society?

    Sport clearly is an essential element of culture around the world. As a growing social and economic phenomenon, it plays a key role in contemporary societies. Notably, the European Commission ascribes to sport the potential to make an important contribution to the European Union’s objectives of solidarity and prosperity.

    The importance of sport is demonstrated on the one hand by the fact that it is consumed on a massive scale – either on-site in sports arenas or via mass media. Sporting success has the potential to shape the identity of entire nations. Sport fosters and even initiates the overcoming of borders and can have enormous integrative effects. At the same time, sport is actively practiced by a tremendous number of people – not necessarily on a competitive level, but also by jogging or going to the gym. Interestingly, such sporting activities mirror societal change – e. g. processes of individualization or changed requirements in performance societies.

    But sport does not only shape everyday culture. It also affects other social spheres as it has become subject to discussions and decisions in the political, judicial, as well as the economic spheres of contemporary societies.Kirsten Frandsen

    What is the relationship between media and sport?

    The societal role of sport is inextricably linked to the potentials of mediated communication. In this day and age, it is mediated sports that form a constituent part of popular culture: sport is distributed, consumed and even practiced via media. We currently witness a process which we call the mediatization of sports. Athletes, clubs and federations increasingly employ social networks and take measures to increase visibility in sports coverage. Sports fans have unprecedented opportunities to receive sport-related information and to follow sports from all over the world. Coverage of huge sport events such as the FIFA World Cup achieves record-breaking ratings, and sports stars are among the most popular actors on social media platforms. But media do not only affect professional high performance sports; they also shape individual sporting activities as everyday people increasingly use digital media technologies to track and share training progress. Apparently, media have an increasing meaning for sports – and the same is true the other way around: sport has proven to be the driving force behind the emergence of new media. For many outlets, sport is premium content. And in many countries, famous sports journalists have reached celebrity status.

    What are the key plans for your TWG?

    We are looking forward to the very first panel in the history of our TWG which will be held at the ECC in Braga 2020. In our call for papers we refer to the still growing number of communicators who are now present in the European sports media landscape and represent a range of very diverse agendas in relation to sport and its audience. We pick up on ECC’s main theme and address how such a diversified landscape of sports communication relates to the issue of trust. For spring 2021, we are planning the first conference organized by the TWG.

    In general terms, we strive to provide a platform to share and discuss pan-European research on all kinds of issues related to mediated communication and sport. Moreover, we want to build a network of European researchers to bundle expertise and to stimulate collaborative projects to facilitate grant applications and enhance global visibility. In this regard, it is a main objective of the TWG to encourage joint publication efforts such as thematic issues of academic journals or edited books.

    Our special concern is to initiate contacts with sports media professionals and exchange academic and practical expertise on sports communication.

    Xavier RamonWhat is your personal relation to sport?

    Ideally, you have the privilege to occupy yourself professionally with topics that you are also personally interested in. This also applies to academia: research ideas often result from everyday observations. Indeed, our scientific interest in sport is also strongly linked to a personal passion for sport. We all do sport – but rather as a hobby than on a competitive level. However, as huge sports fans we follow a wide variety of sports through most different channels. And then you happen to come across new sporting competitions such as parallel slaloms in skiing or mixed relays in athletics. Or you are surprised about Cristiano Ronaldo’s efforts on social media; you shake your heads when listening to the empty phrases of “expert” statements by former athletes. This all relates to sports communication – and as communication scholars we have the privilege of researching such phenomena.

    Are the fields of academia and sport compatible?

    First of all, as a social phenomenon sport is a highly relevant subject of academic research. Even though sport is sometimes (by the way, also in journalism) considered to be a toy department, it has long been shown that enormously relevant research is carried out here. The importance of sport in academia is also indicated by the fact that there are now yoga classes at major conferences, that academics arrange football matches with international colleagues or meet up for jogging before a long and tough conference day. And since major sporting events often take place in parallel to conferences, sport is always a good topic of conversation for the coffee break – or you watch games together in the evening. And finally, the academic race for publications, positions, and awards resembles sporting competitions for trophies, doesn’t it?

    How many people are in your TWG? Can ECREA members join your TWG?

    We just started our TWG. Hence, at the moment we still do not have enough members to set up several football teams :-). But as many other ECREA sections and TWGs also deal with sport-related issues we are confident that our team squad will grow rapidly. Because the answer to your question is of course: yes, we invite all ECREA members who are interested in sports communication to join our TWG.

    Pictures: Daniel Nölleke, Kirsten Frandsen and Xavier Ramon




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