Master Thesis Topics (beta)

Posted in academia by thomas on the November 1st, 2010

Universität Wien

When I said I wanted to go to Tanzania for the Great Football Giveaway, I knew this was going to be in the middle of my last winter term and I knew I’d miss one session of each my classes – including the master thesis seminar of my communication and media science MA. This is basically the last class of the program and is designed to prepare us for conducting the masters research and writing the thesis, give us some exposure to profs (that’s not that common here). However, for a lot of administrative reasons, 4 weeks into the semester we haven’t had a class yet and the first class will be held in a 3-hours session while I’m out there giving out footballs. So instead of me missing the third 1 1/2 hour session, we have until the 7th to deliver a 1-2 pages description of our topic and I won’t be there at the first session held.

Now as always, my problem is that I have more than one rough topic in mind. Some of them are advertising related, some of them are media usage related, some of them are historic and some of them are related to internal organization. So here I am, trying to get to one topic.

1) Use and Reception of (Post-Postmodern-)Advertising

This is basically inspired by Douglas B. Holt and his cultural research into branding and advertising. Holt stated in 2002 that there are 5 contradictions that contribute to the end of postmodern branding and that give rise to brands as citizen artists. He then goes on to hypothesize about a spectrum of brand and media uses that people would resort to. Now this topic is obviously huge, could use some empirical research and might be tackled from a lot of different perspectives but I’m not quite sure which one might be the most interesting and fruitful approach.

Subtopics of this bigger area of interest might be:

  • Building upon my bachelor paper an inquiry into the specifics of reception and usage of recommended/forwarded ads
  • An inquiry into the use of reality aesthetics in marketing communications (everything from user generated content to documentary)

2) Reception and Use of Cross-Platform Narratives (with a focus on gender)

I would have written transmedia here but as it’s the last thing sucked dry by the industry I’d rather stick to cross-platform. I find this topic quite interesting for a while now but it has never been a research focus of mine and it’s never been one of my institute. Still, something that Dan Hon said at TEDxTransmedia re-ignited my interest. He basically asked us to imagine what it would have looked like if Amelie would’ve gotten the „transmedia treatment“ just like Heroes, Lost and all the geeky or more „male“ franchises. And that prompted me to think about how the realities of cross-plattform narrative use and reception actually looks like, away from industry hype and glory.

3) Play and Abductive Thinking

We all know IDEO and are well-aware of the gameification hype so there’s no need to use a lot of words here. I’ve had a fairly interesting theory seminar about organizational comms last semester and also read a bit into organizational culture, management and organizational thinking styles. I think that play(ful communication) and abductive thinking might be something worth looking into from an empirical and theoretical perspective. But this is still very, very raw.

4) History lessons: Propaganda Theory vs. Planning in a Convergent Culture

Basically a look into historic developments and continuities. I had a very, very interesting lecture about the history and theory of propaganda last semester and have developed a strong interest into the relationship between conceptions of men and theories. Looking at the „perfect product claim“, social media etc I think a theorizing look back in time might be fruitful. But then again that might just be liking to sound smart.

So in case you’ve read this until here, if you’d chip in a thought or two that’d be much appreciated. Does it all sound like BS? Is it relevant or interesting to you? Has it been done before?

Every effort to change the world starts with people asking questions

Posted in communications,media, culture and society,planning by thomas on the September 7th, 2010

So I’ve been to the Ars Electronica in Linz today, to get exposed to some new thoughts, experiments and visions about what is going on in this world today and I must say I came away pretty impressed. Not only because the venue is spectacular in its own right or because I met Lauren, but because I think there were some projects that were seriously inspiring.

(Now I have to admit – and I somehow can’t help it – that when I say that about art it is in a way „instrumental“. With that I don’t mean a pure sense of functionality, but rather the fact that I can feel some sort of „purpose“ in how it relates to my life or issues that I think are relevant. So this doesn’t mean the other stuff is shite, obviously, I’m just officially not well-versed in arts, probably have a biased approach to it anyways and wanted to state this as an intro here.)

That said, one project that I found particularly interesting is „Dropping Knowledge“ or the documentary that developed out of it: „PROBLEMA – sometimes the worst enemy is our own perception“.

112 persons from 56 countries convened at the Table of Free Voices in Berlin in 2006 to provide answers to global questions about such things as the economy, ethics, war and nation-states. Now, director Ralf Schmerberg (DE) has made a film out of the resulting 11,200 statements interwoven with footage of some of the defining images of our time. The result is major intellectual marathon.

There are different reasons why I find this very interesting. The first one is obviously the content. Don’t have to discuss this I guess. Another reason is scale. It’s a massive marathon of perspectives, intellectual data points from all kinds of different people from all over the world, answering questions about all kinds of things. This is fascinating and mind-bending on its own.

What really does it for me though is the use of questions. I once had a professor who at the end of a session about cognitive media effects asked students a simple question: if they knew some tool or event or person – I’m not quite sure what it was. Then he counted raised hands. At the beginning of the next session he asked again who knew the the person/tool/event. Percentage raised. „Damage“ done. (This is of course simplifying matters as it isn’t persuasion in the strictest sense but only this thing called awareness (recognition, to be strict), but it shows how questions, as a special form of message, can lead to action and investigation into a matter without telling anybody to do anything.)

Now I’m obviously not an expert in socratic philosophy but I’m fascinated by the sheer power questions bring with them (plus I have to be because I need this as an excuse to get on people’s nerves constantly …). They frame issues in a certain way, shifting the perspective and focus. They have a higher chance of „change“ or „persuasion“ if you wish by the simple fact that we can hardly not think about an answer to it.

I don’t know exactly where I’m going here but it seems to be something as banal as: Well-framed open questions can lead to thinking and discussion which can lead to insight on the side of the one who answers. And an insight one gets on his or her own, instead of having it told from somebody else, is something one doesn’t let go of easily.

Every effort to change the world starts with people asking questions. I like that.

Some thoughts about concepts, executions and things like that

Posted in Brands and Business,communications,digital,experience,planning by thomas on the September 11th, 2009

Haven’t posted in a while. Since coming back from Canada I’ve been reading a lot on- and offline, working on some projects, meeting a lot of interesting people at the remix09 in Hamburg. The following presentation is what I’ve been digesting so far. A work in process, a way for me to frame what I’ve been thinking about lately.