Wednesday, February 13, 2013

PhD position on the role of social media hypes and controversies in sustainability governance

As part of the Informational Governance research programme at Wageningen University, a proposal for a Phd project submitted by Noelle Aarts (Strategic Communication group) and myself (Public Administration and Policy group) has been granted! We are now looking for a PhD candidate on the following topic:

Social media as the new playing field for the governance of sustainable agro-food systems: Twitter hypes, controversies and stakeholders’ strategies

Governmental, business and civil society organizations engaged in the governance of sustainable agro-food systems face the challenge of dealing with an increasingly important but capricious public sphere formed by the social media. Public and private decision-making processes about sustainable agro-food systems are increasingly affected by both hypes and controversies in the social media, often through their interplay with mass media like newspapers, radio or television. Little is known, however, about what happens to information about sustainable agro-food systems when it travels through social media networks, or when and how hypes or controversies arise. To deal with this capricious public sphere, governmental, business or civil society organizations are developing and trying out strategies for monitoring or engaging with social media, but little is known about what these communication strategies entail and what their impact is. By monitoring and analysing Twitter activity related to sustainable agro-food systems, this project will study (1) when and how information leads to hypes or controversies on Twitter; (2) which social media strategies are used by governmental, business and civil society organizations to deal with this new public sphere; and (3) what the impact is on public and private decision-making processes about sustainable agro-food systems.

We are looking for someone with a keen interest in communication and sustainability governance, familiarity with social media and ICT tools, and preferably a background in both quantitative and qualitative research methods. The official job opening for a 4-year Phd position at Wageningen University can be found at The deadline for applications is March 17th. You can contact Noelle or myself if you need more information.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Call for papers on "Puzzling and Powering over long term policy problems" at IPA 2013

Together with Martijn Vink, we're organizing a panel on "Dealing with Long Term Policy Problems: Making Sense of the Interplay between Puzzling over Meaning and Powering over Interests"  at the Interpretive Policy Analysis conference 2013 in Vienna.

Paper proposals can be submitted here: (panel 10). The deadline is February 28. Here's the call for papers:

Intrinsic uncertainty over future societies creates complex challenges for policy makers to defining what should be done today to adequately deal with problems of tomorrow. Uncertainty might amplify the ambiguity in societal understandings of what is actually at stake and how important this is to society. Accordingly, politicians and civil servants experience difficulties in developing policies for uncertain futures in plural societies, but long term characteristics of policy problems may also put politicians in the position of postponing painful policies by projecting them over multiple political cycles beyond the politicians’ accountability. Or policymakers may employ the future as a framing vehicle for telling stories and making promises which appeal to current societal concerns. Hence, the uncertainty and ambiguity which comes with long term policy problems may yield specific complexity in policymaking processes. Conflict or controversy are never far away, as we currently see in welfare state reforms across Europe, climate change policy from the global to the local level, or the developments in the European project as a whole. 

This panel aims at exploring the interface between two themes which are central to the IPA conference series: on the one hand processes of interpretation and meaning construction in uncertain and ambiguous societal contexts, and on the other hand the mechanisms of power at work in policy processes. Starting from the traditional notions on puzzling over the societal meaning to the problem, and powering over interests for getting things done (Hall 1993, Culpepper 2002, Heclo 2010), we aim to develop a better understanding of how puzzling over meaning is marked by a context of power positions and processes, and how powering over interests is marked by particular ideas and a struggle over meaning. Considering the ambiguity which comes with intrinsic uncertain futures this interplay between puzzling and powering becomes especially interesting in view of complex long-term policy issues. Therefore we are inviting contributions that conceptually and/or empirically explore the interplay relations between puzzling over meaning and powering over interests. 

Papers may examine questions as
How does the process of puzzling and powering work in a decentred governance context? 
What is the role of powerful interests in shaping policy frames, and what is the role of convincing ideas in shaping power relations?
How can frame analysis, discourse analysis or other interpretive methods be used to study powering and puzzling?
Which concepts are useful to understand the interplay between puzzling and powering? 
How do processes of puzzling and powering over long term policy issues lead to policy action, controversy or apathy? 

These analyses could be applied to different long term policy issues, including social welfare, macro-economics, environment, food security, climate change, migration or globalisation issues.

Culpepper, P. D. 2002. Powering, puzzling, and 'pacting': the informational logic of negotiated reforms. Journal of European Public Policy 9:774-790.
Hall, P. A. 1993. Policy Paradigms, Social Learning, and the State: The Case of Economic Policymaking in Britain. Comparative Politics 25:275-296.
Heclo, H. 2010. Modern social politics in Britain and Sweden : from relief to income maintenance. ECPR Press, Colchester.