Sandra Veinberga Associate Professor
Overview of scientific activity (2012-2017)
Scientific research developed over the past 6 years in communication science may be classified in 3 groups: 1) Studying the PR specifics of small countries in crisis communication situation; 2) Peculiarities of communication of the digital natives in times of transformation of the media environment and 3) The effects of fake news under the circumstances of domestic policy crisis.
The aforementioned continue scientific work commenced and reflected in monographs (2006-2017):
Research in the Area of PR
PR research was carried out in correlation with analysis of its shaping processes in Latvia after renewed independence. The analysis showed that PR has several distinct development phases which at certain periods show evolution sequences similar to the experience of small countries such as Estonia and Slovenia while at times displaying peculiarities by copying/imitating the USA, the UK or Russian PR tools indiscriminately (especially during pre-election campaigns) thus achieving contradictory results in Latvian public domain. For the purpose of studying these processes the following Doctoral dissertation was advised for 4 years: Inga Pure, Sabiedrisko attiecību attīstība un izpratnes dažādība Latvijā (Development and Varied Understanding of PR in Latvia) (1991-2010, Turiba), 4 large-scale Master’s studies (Baibe Ruza, Ilze Pence, Kristine Karklina, Elina Kutukova) as well as 8 Bachelor’s studies regarding internal PR in Latvian companies. Research results show that the prehistory of PR after the declaration of independence in the 1930s has not been analysed sufficiently.
The ongoing Master’s research by Ilze Pence proves that analysis in this area should be continued based on the existing work ( the activity of Emilija Benjamina as a PR example in Latvia during independence (1918-1939). Based on the results early Latvian PR work is not studied as a specific reputation ensuring platform on a national scale (as may be observed in the independent Lithuania that in 1918 received support from American PR classic Edward Bernays to help the Lithuanian National Council of the United States win American recognition of Lithuania, which had detached itself from Russia and formed a republic. Back then Bernays developed a special method or the so-called “stories about four inches long” as a means to fill the empty newspaper columns which helped spread information about the new country across the American media in a cheap and exciting manner. Latvian interwar PR experience does not have a similar PR starting phenomenon, however, shows the use of professional PR in business and industry practice and reveals active and unconcealed media use in agitation processes.
PR evolution in Latvia has so far developed with interruptions and requires further research. It has been established that processes of renewed independence (after 1991) have 2 aspects: commercial and political. On a commercial level, professional patterns were offered by the large foreign companies that expanded their business borders to the newly independent Latvia. The main players were the Nordic businesses that brought Scandinavian PR traditions and experience along with them. Whereas political PR understanding is shaped by the local advertising and PR specialists without professional education and experience in the field and continued the understanding of the mechanism of publicity and media use practiced in the Soviet times. Thus a collision between the Western European PR business practice and post-Soviet experience in political PR work came about. In order to verify the aforementioned assumption, 2 PR studies in crisis situations were carried out: confectioner’s actions during Selga waffle quality crisis (2012), actions of the Latvian state during the financial crisis (2008-2011) and the collapse of the roof of Maxima supermarket in Riga (2013). Research results are summarized in papers that reflect PR mistakes during Waffle Crisis 2012 (The Alternative Way for Understanding of Current PR) and Financial Crisis 2007-2013 (The Analysis of Government’s Communications and Public Engagement’s Socio-Political Effects during the Financial Crisis in Latvia (2008-2011) 2013).
According to the above, the set of PR strategic and tactical instruments of small countries is significantly different from that used by the large countries. Moreover, many of the commonly used PR work techniques described in study aids translated from English, German, and Russian are dangerous if used by small countries under crisis conditions and might have a negative impact. The research conducted showed the increased tension between public groups if the size of the public is not taken into account. Therefore, it is not recommended to use the classic PR techniques of the big countries offered by the most popular study aids developed by the Western European and North European leading researchers in PR work in Latvia. It is planned to continue cooperation within the framework of European Public Relations History Network (Prof. Tom Watson, Bournemouth University, UK).
For the purpose of continuing scientific discussion on this topic, I organized 2 conferences (scientific seminars) within the Communication Department of the university (2016, 2017) where the PR uniqueness issue of small countries was discussed regarding work on the publicity of the new European rail link Rail Baltica in Latvia. Reports were prepared by project implementers in Latvia (Neils Balgalis, Rita Voronkova/Rail Baltica) and teaching staff as well as students participated in the scientific discussion with their reports.
PR matters of the small countries were discussed on a popular science level on the blog www.sandraveinberga.lv and on a scientific report level on www.sandraveinberg.com as well as by writing publicity materials for one of the biggest Latvian news sites http://www.tvnet.lv actively for 4 years.
Research on How Digital Natives Communicate
Digital natives and peculiarities of their communication under the circumstances of the transformation of the media environment is another scientific research area. The idea was born based on the Swedish Nordicom Mediabarometer 2010/2011 research on media consumption peculiarities in children and youth who mainly used text on the computer screen instead of newspapers, magazines or books on paper.
After public address at the conference of Vilnius University in Lithuania with the report (Media as a Specific Technology of Culture. The Digital Field is Already Here. 2012 research work in the area was continued focusing on the study of the media use by the digital natives. Surveys conducted within the framework of the research showed that use of the information sources under crisis conditions (day of the collapse of the roof of Maxima supermarket) significantly differed from the daily use of information sources from the point of view of the youth. According to the comparative analysis, digital natives use the social media, microblogs (Facebook and Twitter) and call their family or competent persons in case of emergency instead of traditional media such as the radio or TV. See Digital Native´s Attitude towards News Sources. 2015;
Bachelor theses also study this topic. For instance, research by Sanita Paegle which looks at Facebook kā komunikācijas un reklāmas rīku “Playgraund festivālā (Facebook as a Communication and Publicity Tool for Playground Festival); Kristaps Pelekais: Zibakcija kā publiskuma impulss sociālajos medijos (Flash Mob as Artistic Audience Activation in Latvia); Megija Grauzina – Latvijas īsfilmu distribūcijas aktivitātes 2012-2016 (Short Film Distribution Activities in Latvia from 2012 to 2016); Inta Libkovska – Mobilās aplikācijas kā sporta video noteicošais elements (Mobile Applications as Determining Element of Sports Videos).
Audiovisual language is the main element of communication for the digital natives. Several comparative analyses have been dedicated to the above in Bachelor theses. For instance, comparison of investigative journalism and documentary film (“Sibīrijas bērni” (Siberian Children) (2001) by director Dzintra Geka and “Bēgšana no Kubas” (Fleeing Cuba) (2009) by journalist Ogita Krenberga. Author: Daina Zviedre. Interpretation of the audiovisual narrative was also studied by Anna Sirjajeva by looking at the comparison of Latvian and Swedish portrait cinematography narrative in XXI century. Dita Zaharova addressed paralinguistic effects of Latvian audiovisual advertising in 2013. Peteris Abolins: Videospēļu un kino sižetu sinhronizācija šausmu filmu žanrā, 1999. – 2016.) (Video Game and CinemaScope Cooperation in the Horror Genre 1999-2016) and Liena Lapsa’s Pētījums par ekrāna izmēru priekšnosacījumu režisora mākslinieciskās idejas realizācijā (Screen Size as a Precondition for the Film Director’s Artistic Idea’s Fulfilment) concerned audiovisual language synergy.
The idea of the monograph titled Communication or Theory and Practice of Media Communication was born largely thanks to students’ suggestions to study communication impulses and peculiarities of internal communication. Student Liena Lapsa’s Bachelor thesis on the choice of screen for implementation of director’s artistic idea and Jana Orlova’s Bachelor thesis Bohēma kā radošs impulss televīzijas un kino industrijā Latvijā mūsdienās un pagātnē (Bohemian as Creative Impulse in the Television and Film Industry in Latvia Nowadays and in the Past) had something in common with advisor’s scientific research on one’s internal communication. In order to develop a study aid, internal communication so far little research had to be addressed. Work in this area was also facilitated by findings of Thich Nhat Hanh “The Art of Communicating” (2013) and Korean Buddhism beyond Postmodernism: Truth, Media, and Publics. (2016). As a result, internal communication of digital natives was analysed and results were reported at conferences in Tartu and Sarajevo as well as in publications: The Attitude of Digital Natives towards Intrapersonal Communication 2016/ 2017; Is Communication Really Food, 2015).
The author also addresses research of audiovisual narrative by organizing a scientific interuniversity conference (March 2017) of the Communication Department on digital communication ethics issues.
We analysed this topic with students both in seminars and at the creative forum Club of Non-Writing Writers. It was initiated in 2015 and a year later began active creative work on a monthly basis. Space for these voluntary classes (for Liepaja University students and graduates) was supplied by the Faculty of Arts while practical work and expeditions were led by me. For instance, last year we studied Ruba Baron Woldemar von Nolcken’s family regarding construction of Ruba Manor designed by Reinhold von Sivers. We went on expeditions and studied archive documents in order to reconstruct a story of the tragic fate of the Swedish-German family before the revolution in tsarist Russian Latvia. Each student chose their own character and the narrative was constructed by using similar story-telling methods to achieve convergence of all versions.
Research on communication of the digital natives embraces analysis of media use by children and youth (Media as a Specific Technology of Culture. The Digital Field is Already Here), peculiarities of news consumption (Digital Native´s Attitude towards News Sources), uniqueness of internal communication (The Attitude of Digital Natives towards Intrapersonal Communication) and analysis of emotional satiation of forms of communication (Is Communication Really Food?).
It was established that the digital natives constitute a new group of communication service consumers that requires communication forms suitable to the communicative environment and does not accept traditional media. (More in my monograph Communication, 2018, Liepaja University Publishing House).
Fake News Research
Third research area analyses fake news in the media. It is based on the analysis of the use of misinformation techniques in international media practice. Julian Assange’s trial in Sweden was used for the purpose of tracing news content changes in newspaper texts and the interpretation process of the news was analysed in 6 countries: Sweden, UK, Ecuador, Russia, Latvia, and Malaysia (Most Dominated Problems of Mass Media Dialogism in National Dailies during the Trial Process of Wikileaks Founder Julian Assange).
Facts gathered (including Japanese sources) enabled tracing the use of lexical resources in fact visualization analysis (The Visualisation of News Reports (A Comparative Analysis of Newspapers in Seven Different Countries: Myths, Identities, and Culture). Both studies identified fact interpretation trends in various countries showing a two-level communication interruption. First: misunderstanding, error practiced by the media in their news about Julian Assange’s detention and arrest that may be explained both by misunderstanding a legal fact and the inability to translate the primary source – Swedish media which resulted in the partially fake news.
Second is deliberate fake news generation process which resulted in circulating fake news in a classic form. It was found that fake news generation is based on not only ideological or political motives determined by the context of the political situation and media freedom of each state. In this case, the most important thing was the complex circumstances of Assange’s detention and journalists’ lack of understanding of what was happening as well as inconsistency in Swedish media news formulation, explanation, and argumentation which translated in newspapers of other countries was misunderstood and misinterpreted.
As a result, the media simplified what was happening by visualizing it as a video game of manhunt with obvious favoritism of the main character (Julian Assange). Reflection of Assange’s detention process in the media largely demonstrated journalism quality standard in the respective country with an accurate and dispassionate portrayal (Japan), less understandable and constructive (UK) and tendentious (influenced by habitus in Sweden, Russia, Malaysia, Latvia, and Ethiopia). The so-called “hum/noise of translations” also plays a significant role in interpreting international news by creating prerequisites for news interpretation censorship according to the ideological acceptance standard of the respective country.
Julian Assange informed me through his secretary Stella Moris that he has read both papers and finds the analysis to be dispassionate and scientifically constructive.
The image of refugees and migrants in Latvian media during the crisis was also used (The Consequences of Colonialism in Latvia during a Mass Migration Period in Europe (2015/2016), 2017. Latvia (during migration crisis) was one of the most negatively disposed EU member states as the majority of the population showed the dismissive attitude towards receiving refugees demanded by Brussels. Surveys were conducted and news on the refugee and migration crisis in the leading Latvian dailies were analysed in order to determine the reasons for such dislike The results showed that negative attitude of the Latvian population towards refugees and migrants can be explained by post-colonial experience instead of xenophobia and thus should be interpreted as traumatic consequences of long-term occupation rather than hate towards foreigners.
The study found that attitude towards “incomers” differs significantly across generations in Latvia and this reaction is largely determined by not only post-colonial experience but also media use. Older generation mostly uses the local media to discuss migration matters while the youth – foreign sources. Which means that people’s fear of immigrants is also motivated by the media assessment that on the local market is politically tendentious rather than a dispassionate interpretation of facts.
Thus it was found that emotional deformation process of facts (as a result of medialization) serves as the basis for fake news in the leading Latvian dailies intensifying the existing post-colonial bias against the process of receiving migrants and refugees in the country. The similar issue has already been discussed in the publication Efekta verdzība kā satura kvalitātes defekts (The Slavery of Effect as Content Quality Defect). (The Flow Approach and the Distance Between ´Serious ‘and ‘Entertainment´ Mass Communication), 2012.
Along with the main research areas above studies on Latvian journalism, history have been conducted in the past 6 years. Including: “Cenzūras ietekmes virzieni latviešu grāmatniecības un publicistikas attīstībā līdz valsts neatkarības atgūšanai (1918)” (The Impact of Censorship on the Development of Latvian Publishing and Journalism until Latvian Independence (1918)) Liepaja University conference 2017.19.05. Expected to be published in 2019. Presentation of paper at the conference in 2016: “Rokrakstu avīzes kā Latvijas agrīnās periodikas aizmetņi 17. gadsimtā” (Handwritten Newspapers as the Onset of the Early Periodicals in Latvia in the 17th Century) that studied little researched early journalism in German, Swedish, and Russian in Latvia.
New lecture courses developed over the past 6 years: 360 ° Journalism (2), Theory and Practice of Public Relations (2), Introduction to Theory and Practice of Communication (2), Genres of Journalism (2), Art Journalism (2), Narrative Perspective of Journalism (2).
Advised: 22 Bachelor and 8 Master’s theses, 1 Doctoral dissertation.
Scientific Research Reviewed
Reviewed papers by other researchers in international magazines:
International Journal of Strategic Communication (2014; 2017; 2018),
Journal of Baltic Studies (2012),
Public Relations Review (2016),
Journal of Business Management (2016) and
for Latvian authorities (Riga Regional Court, Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau of Latvia, State Regional Development Agency).
Work for 2 scientific magazine/conference editorial boards (Liepaja University Society and Culture and ADAM (RISEBA University).
I have been a communication science expert at Latvian Academy of Sciences since 19 May 2016 (Latvian Council of Science Decision No. 460201 of 19.05.2016 on granting expert rights).
5 November 2017