International Research Colloquium – Summer Semester 2016

Public Education - Help Against Social Crisis ?

On Tuesdays, 4 p.m. - 6 p.m. – Venue: Kiel University, Leibnizstraße 10, Room 134

External guests are welcome!


Apr 18, 2016

Timothy Ignaffo

…Education for the Public Good


May 02, 2016

Stephanie Hausdörfer und Antje Wienke

Information Structure and Design of the Project's Website (Presentation and Discussion)


May 16, 2016

Anna Krontal

Refugees and Violence in Italy - Articles and Reader Comments in The Huffington Post Italia

Kira Seeler

  Radical Non-Violence: A Philosophical Approach (Paul Mason in the Light of Judith Butler's Ethics)

May 30, 2016

Marlena Müller-Gabriel

Microplastic in the Environment (Based on a self-produced PSA Clip)

Adriel Watt

The Digital Divide and Libraries (A Librarian's Point of View)

Jun 06, 2016

Timothy Ignaffo

Special Viewing: “Examined Life”

Jun 13, 2016

Martina Hillbrand

Climate Change and Human Adaptation – What Can We Learn from (Pre)history?

Jun 20, 2016

Prof. John Allegrante (Teachers College, New York)

What Can We Learn about Healthy Adolescent Development from a Small Nordic Nation? (Iceland) 

Jul 04, 2016

Iris Peters

Photographic Approach to Social Crisis and Threats

Chris Johnson

(De)constructing Anxiety Culture through Language: A Linguistic Analysis of Political Discourse in the Communication Strategies of Political Parties in the UK and Spain in Relation to the Themes of Immigration and Economic Austerity    

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Anna Krontal

Refugees and Violence in Italy - Articles and Reader Comments in The Huffington Post Italia

Reader comments or blogs or any other digital communication mostly appeal because of their linking connection between the public and private voice. Therefore, they are particularly rewarding as an object of critical discourse analysis, offering an opportunity to take a closer look at the relationships between society and discursive research. 

The purpose of this work is to apply an analytical tool of critical online discourse analysis to a socially problematic area - namely the topic "Refugees and violence in Italy," to see how users comments create an atmosphere of problematic social discourse. 

For this purpose, the contents of this work will focus on two different approaches: on the one hand, a deliberately selected textual corpus, which consists of different articles and blogs from the online newspaper The Huffington Post Italia. Second, the reader comments are examined and placed in conversation with societal moods and tensions regarding this theme. The main attention is paid to the fears and threats. 

This concludes with a summary and some on the results of this study concerning options for changing the designs of such comment forums, and other proposals on how to deal with this problem in society, focusing especially on educational institutions to achieve a decrease of such fears.

Kira Seeler

 Radical Non-Violence: A Philosophical Approach (Paul Mason in the Light of Judith Butler's Ethics)

How should we act in times like these and how does Moral Philosophy fit into our contemporary social frame? How should we handle all the threats and dangers in a philosophical and ethical way? One answer that could be put forward is “radical nonviolence”. The American philosopher and gender-theorist Judith Butler explains that we have a moral problem when social structures are confronted with, for example, radical changes and incidents, and therefore people need to readjust their natural habits and additionally their cultural and ethical behavior. The world changes, the spirit of the age changes, and morals change as well. If a collective ethos isn’t shared within the whole society anymore, and some people still want to claim thoughts of an outdated ethos, things tend to get dangerous, or in other words violent. To address this kind of violence, which is radical in its own way, one could adopt a position radical nonviolence. Butler subdivides nonviolence in a moral position and a political option: Most of the moral positions try to eliminate all reference to power, and the political positions tend to categorize nonviolence as a mode of resistance, and moreover aggressive resistance. Therefore, one needs to carefully distinguish between nonviolence and violence, as nonviolence often tends to be interpreted as violence, regarding the angle and the position of a party. Butler says further that the traditional conception of self-defense is very important when discussing nonviolence. It is in a way an ethnical dilemma.

One other way to look at radical nonviolence, regarding radical changes, comes from Paul Mason, a British journalist and author. In his book PostCapitalism-A Guide to Our Futurehe says that capitalism comes in 50-year cycles or waves. Like Marx, Mason thinks of a possible breakdown of capitalism under the weight of its own internal contradictions. In addition, the rise of new media and information technology will destroy market systems, property rights, and the relationship between wages, property, and work. But this is not simply a negative. To the contrary – it will open up the possibility of a brave new world. If we don’t change, warns Paul Mason, we will end in chaos. 


To answer the question, stated in the beginning, one could begin by looking at Butler’s theory and mirror/strengthen it with the help of Mason’s thought.  Mason says that the economy has to change, as the world is changing, which is the same position as Butler. As Mason acknowledges, one should not underestimate the capacity of capitalism to adapt to new circumstances, and most importantly he suggests a radical way to answer radical threats, again in a similar manner as Butler. He suggests that change, even though it’s radical, can have positive connotations and that fear is a chance to make the world better. Both thinkers are suggesting a non-violent change.

Adriel Watt

The Digital Divide, a social threat for the 21st century

The goal of this presentation is to examine the nature of the digitial divide in the early 21stcentury as a social threat and to look at the role libraries play in addressing the threat. I will first examine a number of definitions of the digital divide and discuss the metaphors used to describe the problem. Then I will discuss the demographics of the digital divide. Next I will explore the notion of a spectrum of users of Information and Communications Technology (ICT). Finally, I will discuss possible solutions to the problem focusing on what libraries can do to help.

Originally, the digital divide referred to the digital “haves” and “have-nots”, i.e. those who have access to ICT, and those who do not. The focus has, however, moved from physical access to skills/usage.Using ICT is not enough, one must also possess the skills to operate the technology and most importantly the information literacy to navigate through the vast online environment to solve one's problems.

The digital divide as a metaphor is problematic. It suggests that it is possible to “build a bridge” and allow those on the wrong side of the divide to cross over. The problem is, however, fundamentally social. Another metaphor that is often used is the idea of the “information rich” and “information poor”. This is closer to the reality. The division is between those of higher and lower socioeconomic status. Since the digital divide is a mirror of social inequality, some prefer the term “digital inequality”.

The demographics of the digital “haves” and “have-nots” are as one would expect. The “have-nots” tend to be senior citzens, those with a low income, the less educated and rural residents. Age and income seem to be the biggest factors influencing a person's use of ICT. The main reasons non-users in developed countries cite for not going online are a lack of interest and difficulty in using ICT. In developing countries physical access is still a major problem.

Most scholars of the digital divide prefer to view the problem as a spectrum. There are those who do not have access to ICT and at the far end of the spectrum there are those with access and very well developed skills. In between there are those who have access to ICT, but rarely use it or have minimal computer skills or mainly use ICT for entertainment. This is connected to the idea of the knowledge gap, the idea that those of higher socioeconomic status get more out of the mass media than those of lower socioeconomic status. The most important factor in solving this problem is education.

Libraries can help in bridging both the access gap and the skills gap. For those without their own ICT, the library can be one of their main access points. For those who possess ICT, the library can be a place to learn the skills needed to use ICT effectively. Many libraries offer courses on a range of subjects including computer skills and information literacy.


  • Born and raised in California.

  • 2013 to present librarian at the Department Library of the Department of Romance Languages at Kiel University

  • 2012 B.A. in Library and Information Science (focus cataloging and reference services) HTWK, Leipzig

  • 2005-2012 teacher of English as a foreign language and translator.

  • 2002 B.A. in German (focus linguistics)

Martina Hillbrand

Climate Change and Human Adaptation – What Can We Learn From (Pre)history? 

In my research I have studied the effect of climatic and environmental changes on pre-historic human societies and the effect theses societies had on their environment. I demonstrated that climatic changes forced people to abandon certain settlements because of changing water levels. I also showed, however, that during human settlement the water quality of a nearby lake changed considerably, suggesting that even in prehistoric times humans had heavily negative effects on the natural environment. In my talk, I will address the impact of climate change on human civilization throughout history up until the present day. I will then ask to look critically at the climate change debate today and its frequent use in political campaigns.


Martina Hillbrand (MSc) studied ecology at the University of Innsbruck (Austria). From 2008 until 2012 she worked on a project at the University of Innsbruck in cooperation with the Amt für Archäologie of the Swiss canton Thurgau studying the environment of the neolithic settlement Nussbaumersee-Inseli. Next to her work in palaeoecology she worked as a field ornithologist in several countries in Europe and North America. She is currently enrolled as a master student at the Kiel School of Sustainability.

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