Prof. Sandra Veinberga
Self Assessment of the Academic Work
9 September 2011
My contribution to the communication science in Latvia, in terms of content, is reflected in the published monographs. The most topical of them were written in English and published last year by Liepāja University Publishing House (Sandra Veinberg Censorship – the Mission of the Media. A work of scientific essays in English, Publishing House LiePa Publishing Latvia, Liepāja, 2010, 151 pgs.), and discusses the theme of censorship.
I am focusing on this topic in close relationship with the democratisation and globalisation processes in the world, as well as in Latvia and Sweden. Media plays a significant role in the public development and set the thresholds for not only political but also spiritual and intellectual evolution. Censorship adapts to the direction of the public progress and changes its appearance according to the needs and requirements of the pressure groups.
As the most significant contribution to this field I consider the censorship cross-section research, which includes not only the horizontal and vertical censorship analysis, its graphical forms (“the spiral of silence” Elisabeth Noelle-Neumann, 1993 or “the theory of masks”, Erving Goffman,1959), but also more recent and modern forms of the information content selection attributable not only to the traditional media, but also to the means of communication – the communicative forms of the Internet and cell-phone SMS.
I am also interested in the diversity of forms of the horizontal censorship manifestations since “speech is silver, silence is golden” is often confused by media with concealment that actually is a method of demagogy (propaganda). In the second part of the book, I have focused on the analysis of the topic, by reviewing the Swedish “compulsory silence law” of 1941 and its consequences in the post-war modern society, because the unconscious censorship is much more common in the public communication than it was believed so far.
The listing of concealment patterns, which proves Edmund Burke’s domino effect of clichés in all levels of public communication, can be added to the findings. I was interested in the application of these patterns in the contextual charge of tablet PCs and the topical Google and Facebook censorship practice.
Censorship is a very wide-ranging and complicated topic with diverse forms of manifestation. For me, one of the most topical forms is formalisation of censorship (Bourdieu Pierre, 1990), when institutions increase the censorship of the information flow, by use of privacy laws and anti-terrorism argumentation.
Now, instead of the power transparency, the era of private persons’ transparency has set in. It appears that now – in a free and democratic society, also in Latvia, we are not more open (in terms of information accessibility) than populations who are still forced to put up with the outspokenly noticeable censorship of the totalitarian authority dictatorship.
“Although we cannot point to one particular orwellism manifestation – the big brother, who is keeping an eye on us from above, there are countless little brothers who do not leave us alone,” (Merete Mazzarella, SvD, 23 February 2009).
In my work I analyse censorship in peace and war situations, dealing with the digital attacks of Russia to Estonian websites, the winter censorship introduced by the Latvian State Bank in 2009 regarding the issue of the Latvian Lat devaluation; simultaneously investigating arrests of journalists in Vietnam (for a similar reason), assessing Chinese and Malaysian blogger conflicts with the restricting stand of the authorities towards the flow of information.
Of course, violent death due to censorship is still the leading cause of death among journalists worldwide, moreover, in connection with the assassination of Anna Politkovskaya or persecution of Arkady Babchenko and Roberto Savaino it will urge researchers (including me) to review this topic also in the future. Nevertheless, I believe that “the embedded journalism” is an even more dangerous manifestation, practiced and still being applied by the political leaders of the democratic states in particular, including the US and Latvia.
The first discovery in my study was the analysis of “the positive censorship” which succeeded in wrapping up our society in the ties of the selected news flow within 50 years. As I point out in my book – habits are powerful – and the same way as a smoker gets addicted to nicotine, the population of post-soviet countries are accustomed to censed media and censed and deliberately aestheticized picture of the reality.
After the fall of the Berlin wall, the world opened to those people uncensored and slightly unattractive. Identification of this phenomenon in the former Soviet bloc countries and its satellite system (including Cuba) and its research is one of my contributions in the development of the communication sciences.
The second contribution – censorship of the humane values as a compact censoring block for unfamiliar values. This includes the Vaxholm conflict in Sweden, which from a small labour market dispute between a Latvian construction company and Swedish trade unions turned into the European scale labour market conflict.
The Danish crisis caused by “Muhammad caricatures” and the truth being the victim of war during the armed conflicts between Russia and Chechnya range along the above mentioned.
The third contribution – media morality which results in offering the picture of censored reality manifestations to the public on a systematic basis. This includes all spheres of interests, among them – politics, pop-music and fine arts.
Finally, the globalisation has turned the world into “the global village”. Marshall McLuhan’s ideas have implemented in the real life, and the Spanish Boot of censorship is squeezing even tighter. Research in this area is required on an even wider scale than it has been done so far. I am going to proceed with this work.
My second reviewed monograph published last year by Publishing House Zvaigzne is a work titled “Mediju misija” (The Mission of the Media. Trends of the Press Development in Latvia following Reestablishment of the Independent Statehood (1990-2010), a monograph in Latvian, Publishing House Zvaigzne, Rīga, 2010, 158 pgs.).This work is devoted to an analysis of the Latvian press development following the Singing Revolution that led reestablishment of the independent statehood.
Media are the technology of culture or its communicative dimension. They perform several functions. I was particularly interested in the aspect of secondary socialisation which was entrusted to the media in the early ’90s. Unfortunately, the press failed this task. The population of the USSR area did not succeed in disposing of the propaganda habitus clichés but the new habitus area was not practically offered by the media.
Media should establish the awareness of national identity and togetherness: offer a new scale of values with a matrix of ethics enclosed. Unfortunately, media did not facilitate the transition of the society from doxas of the Soviet era to the Western world perception and principles of values. The media failed in performing their mission.
My most important finding was media anthropology approaches, forming a very disintegrated picture during the transition period. This is one of the most significant findings.
The irony is that in the early ’90s each medium made its own platform for understanding the independence, based on strongly subjective views of the head of the particular medium. I also highlighted media development periods with the following characterisation and PR threats to the development of the independent media areal in Latvia. At present, these threats have become the reality, and the leading press publications have completely given up the productive part of journalism, leaving the stage for the manipulators of the public relations. Newspapers have become discredited to the level of billboard standard.
Of course, such situation is not normal and can be explained by the refusal of the state authorities from reasonable regulation of the media as a significant field of culture and industry.
The second revised edition of the book Masmediji: prese, radio un televīzija, Zvaigzne ABC, 360 pgs. (Mass Media). Monograph. Publishing House Zvaigzne, Rīga, second revised edition, 2008) deals with the development of the press, radio, television, and Internet, being the first original monograph in Latvian devoted to the mass media. The monograph is devoted to the facilitation of further development of journalism in Latvia. It is used both by students and practitioners. The most essential findings are problems related to the adaptation of the new – Western way of thinking in the routine of the Latvian media.
For me, it was important to highlight that the task of a journalist in the present-day free Latvian society is the ability to critically evaluate each situation, questioning each official version, avoiding the influence of “the leading mood” and impacts of “the silence game”. That is not an easy task. None of the media (at the management level) have the understanding about the media mission and duties to the public.
I draw a lot of attention to the explanations of communication, which, I believe, are an inevitable overture in mastering the media (John Fiske, 1988; Mattelart, Armand Michele, 1998; Kenneth Backman, 2001), and the effects of defects.
One of the essential findings is respect of redundancy and entropy when creating a public message in media or PR. This analysis is a significant finding that has also helped me in my further work with students during lectures.
Interpretation problems of the information content, cultural conflicts, and sensation journalism instead of the professional journalism are the next topics I focused on in more detail. In the reprint, I expanded the sections about web communication problems and erosion of the professional journalism in Latvia.
Creation of media policy is the duty of politicians and the public. This policy indicates the type of society we are attempting to create.
Will preconditions (tax allowances, sufficient funding, public service, etc.) be created for the media, which could ensure the continuation of the democratisation process in our country?
Will media be able to withstand the volleyball game with “the power and money” in front of their readers, listeners and TV viewers, or collapse under the political and commercial pressure?
The choice lies in the hands of the general public – that is the leading motive of my research.
The fourth biggest work over the last years is my focus on the public relations at the scientific level, and these attempts are demonstrated in my monograph – Publiskās attiecības jeb PR. Teorija un prakse. (Public Relations or PR. Theory and Practice.) Monograph. Publishing House Zvaigzne, Rīga, second revised edition, 2008, 325 pgs.
The notion – Public Relations – circles the world like a satellite and takes part in our everyday routine, immodesty demonstrating its suggestive nature. Moreover, by creating the impression that practically all problems of the society can be solved with the help of the magic formula “PR” because “the faith in this form of communication is exactly as big as the fear of its manipulative nature” (Avenarius, 2000). The aim of my research was to find out what exactly is PR and what it can do to us.
My first point of reference was to understand the imprecise translation of the PR in Latvian as “sabiedriskās attiecības” (social relations). I focused on the explanation of this mistake and analysed the reasons for imprecision in the translation and the possible effects on everyday life and science. I offered my solution, suggesting to use the PR in Latvian as “publiskās attiecības” (public relations) and devoted an extensive explanation to this approach on the following pages of my monograph.
I focused on the translation issues of the PR notion in other countries, as well, coming to the conclusion that Latvia is not the only country where researchers are not satisfied with the translation of the PR notion.
Of course, the imprecise PR translation in Latvian causes confusion to many people who have to engage in the practical journalism in their everyday life. This also has an inhibiting effect on the science since it confuses “public” with “social”.
Thus, I believe, serious and detailed discussions of experts would be necessary about the terminology problems of the communication sciences, by adopting and accepting synonyms for denoting PR in Latvian.
Of course, this aspect is significant in the development of the PR as a science. Currently, I am supervising the doctor’s paper of Inga Pūre, a doctoral student in the School of Business administration Turība, and I am facing her problems in relation to the arrival of the PR in Latvia. Many of the PR pioneers in Latvia did not have a clear idea as to “what are they engaged in”. The scale of conceptions in this field is very wide, ranging from outspoken manipulation and propaganda to dry reporting in the form of orders.
I believe that also the notion of relationshipness (along with the public relations) could be used for denotation of PR. In the essence, PR is exactly making relationships rather than marketing.
Scientific researches of PR in Latvia have a short life. We do not offer the fundamental theories, according to our interpretation, to the global science yet, but this time will come, and I have no doubts that we are going to make it.
Currently, the leading approach in the PR science lies with the theories of L´Etang, Pieczka, 1996, Fakheimer, 2002, Deter/Ginter, 1997, Rottger, 2009, Avenarius, 2000, and Grunig, 1992.
The modern environment of public relations is a dynamic region, and this is exactly the reason why I am sure that the threshold situation is waiting ahead of us.
My most important findings in this research were: establishing the fact of communication immoderation, identification of the phenomenon of evaluation of symbolic production of goods, the time frame of symbolic forms, and the pressure of modernisation radicalism on PR forms. I am particularly interested in relationshipness, i.e., relationship as a complicated and insufficiently researched process.
Actually, so far these issues have been researched only from the point of view of the transmissive logic, i.e., via Grunig’s Excellence.
My endeavors to review relationshipness in the aspect of PR theory and practice led to the conclusion that four levels, namely: density, time, community level and application of appropriate filtration methods, must be passed in this direction.
I considered the scientific models of communication and chose the convergence model as the most appropriate, which is also used as a basis in my future researches.
Of course, the practical PR cannot be neglected. The last part of my monograph was devoted to this topic, focusing on the business of political PR and the public relations with the industry and manufacturers.
PR is a very perspective field of study since people continue building walls instead of bridges. In case any problems emerge, people should focus on settlement of the conflict rather than destroying their alliance.
Nevertheless, the society often lacks knowledge about the elementary settlement of relationship conflicts. The state of war becomes the only way out.