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Democracy and the Media Guest Lecture Series

December 1, 2020
By: 
Karen Sequeira
Democracy and the Media Guest Lecture Series

In November 2020, the MA in Professional Communications students participated in a series of guest lectures on Democracy and the Media.

We are grateful to our guests, Dr. Richard Davis, Brigadier General Janzen, Dr. Jennifer Stromer-Galley, Dr. Peter Malachy Ryan, and Dr. Kaitlynn Mendes for their very informative presentations and opportunities for further discussion. 

Session 1:  The Media and the Pandemic Election of 2020

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Anyone who is responsible for that many deaths should not remain as president of United States of America.” - Joe Biden, US President-elect

In 2020, the United States experienced a crucial presidential election while the world was suffering from the COVID-19 virus outburst. Hence, this momentous election will go down in US history as the “Pandemic Election”.

On Monday, November 16th, 2020, Dr. Richard Davis Professor of Political Science at Brigham Young University, presented on the topic: The Media and the Pandemic Election of 2020 as part of the Democracy and the Media Guest Lecture Series in the Master of Arts in Professional Communication program.

The major takeaway was how the dynamics of the US election has changed over time. The prism of political parties reflects on what people think about today’s politics. On the face of it, rising negativity in US politics is alarming. People’s ideologies about the political parties and the cause of the virus outburst are subject to what cable network they use to watch the news. While US media is projecting different worldviews, it is extremely challenging to reunite the country. Dr. Richard Davis provided suggestions to potentially overcome the instability of the election and find the common grounds for different worldviews.


Session 2: Information Wars and Democracy

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"It is not as easy to just aim the target and annihilate it with bullets to win a war these days.Brigadier-General Jay Janzen talks about his thesis titled “What if the pen is a sword?” during his guest lecture.

Many countries have weaponized social media because social media addicts consume information without questioning its credibility. Information shared over the digital mediums are used for manipulation purpose by the countries seeking power, revenge or economic advantage. Not to forget, as social media is a free-to-use engine for everyone around the world and connects the majority of the world population, it has also been used by terrorists.

On Tuesday, November 17, 2020, as part of the Democracy and the Media Guest Lecture Series, in the Master of Arts in Professional Communication program, Brigadier General Jay Janzen of the Canadian Armed Forces spoke on the topic: Information Wars and Democracy. He spoke about the complexities of information confrontation in the grey-zone, and how democratic societies and militaries can adapt in response to these challenges.

His stories are eye-opening. Some of the powerful insights include the polarization of information, echo chambers, info-jihad, China’s social incentive system, and what Canada needs to do in this information warfare. Brigadier General Janzen also provided some tools to improve professional communication.


Session 3: Facebook Advertising in the 2020 US Election

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Social media will help you build up loyalty of your current customers to the point that they will willingly, and for free, tell others about you.” – Bonnie Sainsbury

Our guest lecturer for this session, Dr. Jennifer Stromer-Galley, Senior Associate Dean for Academic and Faculty Affairs at Syracuse University discusses her research, "Illuminating 2020", which analyzes "mass-targeted" campaigning on Facebook. She displayed a picture of how social media was used back in 2016 and 2020 presidential election in USA by the political parties. Her research on the ad campaign on Facebook, Facebook’s targeting strategy, and the entities involved is remarkable.


Session 4: Building Trust in Low Trust Organizational Environments

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Public relations strategic plan - R.A.C.E model can be used in a more robust way.

Dr. Peter Malachy Ryan, Assistant Professor in the Department of Public Relations at Mount Royal University spoke on the topic: Building Trust in Low Trust Organizational Environments. This session reviewed the theory of "Participatory Deliberative Processes" (PDP) using the "Advocacy Coalition Framework" (ACF) as an example of how the PDP theory can be implemented practically in communication strategy and tactics in low trust policy environments.

The session was designed for communication professionals and researchers who are required to facilitate consensus building in low trust environments, inclusive of groups with incommensurate views on an issue. Number of case studies has been used as a context for a simulation exercise that will be provided to demonstrate how an ACF and consensus building can empower multiple stakeholder groups to work on common problems, even if they can't or won't agree on all aspects of an issue.

Dr. Ryan provided understandings of the participatory deliberative process, advocacy coalition frameworks (ACS) and its policy domain, three community engagement strategies by Bowen et al. (2010), the concuss-based workshop method, and blockade negotiation.


Session 5: #METOO and the Everyday Experiences of Digital Feminist Activism

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Dr. Kaitlynn Mendes from the University of Leicester spoke on the topic: “#MeToo and the Everyday Experiences of Digital Feminist Activism.” where she explained how Alyssa Milano started the #MeToo movement with a tweet, and how people around the world and now are using social media to share their experiences. Her research includes documenting digital feminist activism and analyzing the #MeToo movement. She shares the key arguments, research questions, choice of participants, some of the answers to the questionnaire, and findings of her extensive research.

Latest Book: Digital Feminist Activism: Girls and Women Fight Back Against Rape Culture (2019) Oxford University Press.

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