Monday, 27 April 2009


Over Easter Dean Hardman had the pleasure of going on a teaching exchange to the Media and Communication department at Karlstad University in Sweden.

The 'exchange' (I visited Karlstad, nobody came the other way on this occasion) was funded by the Erasmus Lifelong Learning programme, whose mission is to encourage collaboration and exchange of ideas between member institutions across Europe. I instigated the exchange myself, as I saw it as a fantastic opportunity to visit another country and experience a different culture, both academic and otherwise, and agreed to give a paper at the department’s 'Higher Seminar' – a research seminar series open to academic staff and postgraduate students.

The trip started, however, with 24 hours in Stockholm – a city that I hadn’t visited before and which I immediately fell for. Built upon a series of islands, walking around allowed me to fully understand how it earned its nickname of 'the Venice of the North'. Wherever you are in the city, you’re never far from a glorious expanse of water. After visiting a number of museums (including the extremely impressive
Vasa Museum), I boarded a train to Karlstad. After a three hour journey past what seemed like the majority of Sweden’s 100,000 lakes, I arrived in Karlstad, a city on the northern shore of the enormous lake Vänern.

Karlstad is a small city of 100,000 inhabitants, and is known in Sweden for its long hours of sunshine, something I was fortunate enough to experience. With its very wide streets and pleasant main square, the city was a great place to stay for a few days. The university is situated to the north east, a 10 minute bus ride away and is one of Sweden’s newest universities. My seminar seemed to go down with the assembled group of academics about as well as an hour long paper can do when presented at the back end of the Easter break. It had the title 'Political Ideology and Identity in British Newspaper Editorials: Critical Discourse Analysis and Communities of Practice', and I discussed how newspapers construct identities for their political subjects and how this, in turn, can help to construct an identity for the newspaper itself. I also discussed how I see newspapers constructing artificial in-groups that are constructed through synthetic mutual engagement with their readers.

With my seminar delivered, questions answered and meetings concluded, I also had the fortune of meeting Stefan Holm, the 2004 Olympic high Jump champion and now an employee of Karlstad University. As well as talking at great length about his athletics career, we also touched upon the nature of celebrity, as he showed me the morning’s regional newspapers, where he made the front page of one and had a double page spread in another – all because he’s taken part in a small game of football with his cousin’s Sunday league team. Swedish TV also covered the 'event'!
All in all, a very worthwhile trip and one that confirmed my suspicions: I’m very much a Swedophile.
(Photo credit: Ruminatrix. Permissions.)

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