Introducing the new Faculty of Communication, Culture and Society Dean's Office
Institutional Communication Service
22 February 2021
At the beginning of the new semester, we spoke with the new members of the Dean's Office to get to know them better. United in achieving the goals set for the years 2020-2021 they tell us about the Faculty's Cultural Project that will launch in 2021, in the context of USI's 25th anniversary.
From September 2020, the Dean's office of the Faculty of Communication, Culture and Society has a new team, represented by Prof. Luca M. Visconti, Dean; Prof. Sara Greco, Vice-Dean; Prof. Katharina Lobinger, Associate Dean and Study Delegate (https://www.usi.ch/en/feeds/13821). We asked them few questions, starting with the Faculty's possible developments in the near future.
"The Faculty is in a phase, not so much of continuity as of change, dare I say a turning point. And, not by chance, this is happening during the 25th anniversary of the birth of Università della Svizzera italiana" says Prof. Visconti. "After 25 years, the "startupper" phase gives way to consolidation and strategic development, with repercussions on the rationalisation of the educational offer and with a refinement of the governance mechanisms. In our case, it was precisely in 2020 that we changed our name: from Faculty of Communication Sciences to Faculty of Communication, Culture and Society. One of the first objectives of the current Dean's Office is to give new and coherent content to the Faculty's repositioning and communicate it clearly, both inside and outside USI. The new name Communication, Culture and Society invites us to delve into the various disciplines that exist within the Faculty and apply them to a broader socio-cultural context. The idea is no longer to consider our knowledge as purely specialistic and localised but in a dynamic relationship with the social contexts and culture that surrounds us. This translates into two courses of action. First, as faculty members, we need to think harder about our crafts and disciplines' overall effects. Second, by addressing the local and international socio-cultural contexts, the Faculty also aims to involve a larger number of people and organisations linked to these contexts in its activities".
Following this approach, Prof. Sara Greco adds: "A third objective involves the desire to become better acquainted with the research and teaching projects that arise within our Faculty, to encourage a fruitful exchange and convergence on what "communication" means from different points of view. This is even more important since it is an area of study addressed from highly multidisciplinary perspectives and with aspects that are profoundly complementary with other academic disciplines".
In this context, the Faculty's cultural project was born, which in 2021 focuses on convergence and distance.
Each year, the cultural project is structured around a theme chosen by the Faculty. The objective is to tackle this theme from different perspectives, involving colleagues with whom there would not be many opportunities to work together, as they belong to other USI Faculties or distant communication areas. The cultural project aims to go beyond the comfort zone of those who participate in it: the output of these reflections should not be strictly academic (conferences, scientific publications, etc.), but precisely cultural. Depending on the theme, therefore, such reflections will take the form of exhibitions, performances, videos or others. Internally at USI, the hope is to build new "bridges" between the Faculty of Communication, Culture and Society and the other Faculties; externally, the desire is to share part of the academic work with the local and international community. "There is thus a paradoxical dimension to this project, which on the one hand follows a desire for re-centring by seeking a common focus (a centripetal thrust, so to speak) and on the other follows the opposite thrust of openness (a centrifugal trajectory). These are the two dynamics that we try to articulate, knowing that it is a challenge" concludes Prof. Greco.
We also want students to contribute to the project's development, in a bottom-up logic, through educational activities that give life to the project itself. Therefore, the idea is to think outside the box, in an open, transparent and, hopefully, generous way towards the communities that support USI.
What are the opportunities to be seized? What challenges do we face instead?
"In recent times, it has become increasingly evident how communication as social interaction plays a role of primary importance," says Prof. Lobinger, who continues, "the name 'Communication, Culture and Society' brings all these concepts together: communication being crucial to culture and society. For example, in public speaking, digital media are currently no longer just a source of "moral panic" or something to be avoided, but also a potential resource. On the Covid-19 context, the focus is shifting from epidemiological to socioeconomic health communication, confirming the centrality of communication in building and managing pandemic challenges."
Prof. Greco extends these reflections on the teaching front and on the role of the Faculty towards the students: "Expanding the objectives of teaching to the interdependencies between each of our disciplines and the socio-cultural contexts, inevitably we must focus on a less norms-based teaching. As researchers and teachers, our task is not so much to give answers, as to put our students in the position to ask questions, to know what questions to ask to read the dynamics behind each process. By way of example, lockdown stimulates a more critical reflection on the role and potential effects of technology, prompting a more complex analysis on the one hand, by the enemies of technology and, on the other, by those who elevate it to a global remedy".
Katharina Lobinger concurs, observing that the health emergency has accelerated reflection on both universities' pedagogical design and their communicative positioning as "classic" institutions of education and research. From this point of view, the Faculty of Communication, Culture and Society has tried over time to remain reactive to changes, also in terms of the programmes offered, designed to respond nimbly to the transformations and needs of the workplace and society. In this regard, Prof. Greco comments: "We are a Faculty where each one is specialised in his/her own field, but open to contamination. Being a relatively small faculty has the advantage of being able to adapt to what is happening around us".
"By choosing communication, our students have opted to work on the part of everyday life that has never been as important as it is today. We're witnessing the phenomenon of mediatisation in several areas: from medicine to business. Today, a graduate in communication can work in different sectors because communication no longer involves only media and agencies dedicated to communication activities. In the "network society", every organisation communicates, thus making communication skills critical, whether in traditional media or highly digitalised contexts. As a result, the profile of a communications graduate is completely changing", Prof. Lobinger adds. "Precisely because communication is now everywhere", suggests Prof. Greco "the discriminating factor is making sure to offer quality teaching. A quality principle that the Faculty of Communication, Culture and Society interprets in terms of technical skills and critical thinking. Skills that our students "train" also through the continuous application to real-world contexts".