Since 2010, I have focused my philosophical analyses on the relationship between media, the public sphere and critical thinking: How does communicative media affect our communicative relations and discussions, and how does the present situation facilitate or disturb our ideas about democracy and society in general.
This focus is intimately related to my appointment at the Danish School of Media and Journalism, but it was also a natural extension of the work that I had done before, with focus on various issues concerning the Internet and democratic conditions.
My work can be divided into various tracks — tracks that are intimately related:
Discourse analysis: How do we put the world into language
Concrete analyses and more details can be found here (in Danish): LINK
An important part of my teaching and my developing work seeks to develop discourse analytical tools for journalists. If journalists are upgraded to handle the discourse analytical insights they will be able to become aware of how they themselves posses a huge influence in how they create discourses, but also they become aware how they are manipulated through discursive articulations.
Traditional journalistic ideals of attempted objectivity do not suffice to articulate the good journalistic story. It is not enough that a journalistic story tells the truth (even though, of course, it should be) — we also need to consider whether it is the most relevant topics and the most relevant articulation that is used.
The idea is thus that journalists should become better at thinking beyond the obvious perspectives, partly in order to become aware of an infinite creative resource of hidden urgent stories, partly to become aware of the manipulative work of strategic communicators, partly as a tool in interview situations to have more fruitfull and challenging exchanges with the interviewees (both professional and untrained).
Democratic Public Sphere and Freedom of Expression
In a democratic perspective discourse analyses can also ensure that new voices are heard in the public sphere. This leads to another theme in my work: To identify tasks in relation to a democratic society that are not obviously redeemd through the structures and incentives in the technological and commercial systems.
The starting point for these analyses is to dig out the possibilities and challenges that arise with the emergence of the Internet.
On the one hand, the Internet solved some of the previous challenges. Information flows much more freely, users can themselves post new material, those in power can communicate with the people independently of traditional media. Scarcity of information is not an issue anymore, and new tools for sorting out the relevant information are developed.
This, however, does not mean that everything is good and fine. There are still many challenges in relation to the democratic public sphere. How do we ensure that all relevant voices are heard? How can we avoid that irrelevant voices cover the more urgent ones (the limited bandwidth of attention)? How do we create fruitful environments for critical dialog?
The freedom of expression obviously plays an important role in these issues, since it limits the opportunities of those in power to silence critical voices. I do, however, also try to show that we need to be aware of ways in which the freedom of expression is and should-be limited. A freedom of expression without borders would lead to a public sphere, where strong voices can suppress weak ones. The limits of freedom of expression can be justified as a protection of weak minorities.
The Internet – and the open sources
As mentioned above, the Internet plays a major role in my analyses, because the Internet has made new communicative relations possible.
What is special about Internet media is that they allow for two-way communication, they resolve the necessity of communication cetners, they allow for experiments with identity. This is especially systematic developed in various open source movements and communities. In my interpretation, these communities are characterised by the abolishment of exclusive property. They do not consider the individual interests as important, instead these collective cooperatives focus on the rights of information — “information wants to be free”.
In my reflections I consider whether the ideas in these communities can be transfered to a social level.
In addition to my research these issues also are at the center of my teaching:
On the one hand I teach journalism students about the “Role of Journalism in Society”. In this course I teach the role of journalism as the Fourth Estate. This is done by showing how journalism is important for democracy, freedom of speech, the public sphere and thougts about Public Service. At the same time, however, I show them there is not agreement about what what to count as a good democracy, what is the role of freedom of speech, what is the aim assignment of the public sphere, etc.
I also teach discourse analysis, whereby I hope to help them transgres the obvious perspectives in the public sphere.
Finally I teach Theory of Science for communicators. In this work, it is an increasing discovery to me that both communicators and journalists ought to be well acquainted with the main theories of scientific work, because this is a prerequisite for being able to make qualified use of researcher-experts.