Project: Dormant crises: A discursive analysis (doctoral research)
Project team: Annette Klarenbeek, cees van Woerkum & Hedwig te Molder (doctoral students Wageningen University)
Project duration: Four-year doctoral programme started in January 2008
Aim: Acquire insight into the interactional dilemmas faced by crisis brokers Dealing with a dormant crisis
The research will explore how government communication could contribute in identifying a dormant crisis and where possible prevent an acute crisis.
It is also important for crisis communication to investigate the crisis context involving an organisation, permanently tuning into external and internal events. The early identification of crisis dynamics and understanding the course of the crisis form part of the analysis. This idea about organisations and estimating the threats facing them is not new. However, what is different is the insights into the dynamics, and what needs to be anticipated in terms of the approaching disaster. This study explores current practice: What actually happens in everyday practice between crisis brokers and the external world and what signals, identifying the crisis, are highlighted in these interactions? Ms. Klarenbeek will also be investigating the way in which these signals are dealt with by the environment.
The idea that the communication field is actively searching for where this dynamic sits in these interactions is central to this thesis. In what ways do particular individuals and groups resist or deal with these problems? How do people interact in these processes? This study can be located, on the one hand, in the growing research field into interactions and, on the other hand, as a supplement to the risk and crisis communication domain.
Which interactional problems does a crisis broker have to face in dealing with a crisis and in which way does he or she solve the crisis?
An interactional discourse approach to the role of communication could help in arriving at an answer to these questions.
Dormant crises are a challenge to communication due to their ambiguity. This last concept will also be explored further in this study. It is a core skill within communication to clarify ambiguity. The Wallage Committee refers to this in terms of a “transparent government”. However, the dormant crisis is also an interesting topic to study as not much is currently known about acute and institutional crises.