Doctorate honoris causa to Jimmy Wales, co-founder of Wikipedia

May 27, 2014

The Università della Svizzera italiana has awarded the 2014 PhD honoris causa in communication to Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia and of Wikimedia.

USI Doctorate honoris causa Jimmy Wales

Wikipedia has become the largest encyclopedia int he world, and possible the first result you get on a search engine when looking for something! For this reason the faculty of Communication Sciences of the University of Lugano has decided to award Jimmy Wales a doctorate honoric causa.

In his speech, Jimmy Wales commented on the future expansions of Wikipedia, explaning the importance of having content in the local  langage of people from developing countries, who can now access the Internet thanks to affordable mobiles.



The best of ICA conference 2013 in London

June 27, 2013

The ICA conference 2013 took place in London last week, with an unprecedented amount of participants.

Those you managed to find the right room in the maze of the Hilton metropole hotel, have been rewarded with great presentations.

I appreciated the ‘high density’ poster format, which allowed to have an insights on the research on a large number of participants – very efficient!

Here is a collection of some of my favorite presentations.

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Prof. Sabine Einwiller presented two interesting papers in the PR session. “The influence of message source and cultivation strategies in a nonprofit
public relations context” is one of the most interesting research I’ve seen at the conference, both theoretically grounded and practically relevant (having an NGO, I was very interested on the practical side as well). In summary the study finds that people believe more to NPO websites compared to the media! (Ok, this is an oversimplification for the sake of brevity).

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Laura Illia of IE University presented the results of a research she has conducted on “Exploring the Practices of Dialogue Management Within CSR Field”, together with researchers of  Iulm,  ICADE and New York University. Very advanced statistical methods have been applied to synthesize large amount of qualitative and quantitative information.

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Prof. Jiang Fei and his wife Viola Kuo Huang  presented the status of communication studies in China “Three Waves of Communication Studies in China: On the
Problems and Directions of Chinese Communication Studies”, with an insightful and entertaining presentation. In few minutes they have presented a condensed and quantitative based synthesis of the field of communication in China.

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In the same panel Prof. Jiro Takai, of Nagoya University, Japan, discussed “The Background of Communication Discipline in Japan”, explaining the problematic status of communication Studies in Japan, with a visually appealing and comprehensive interactive presentation.

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Sherri Jean Katz presented 3 papers on Construal Level Theory and Psychological
Reactance Theory: Theoretical Interactions, Message Salience and Message Effectiveness, with a very lively presentation style.

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I’ve also found a research on materiality in communication presented by Gina Neff: “Material Challenges to Communication Research: Rethinking the Dynamic Roles of Materiality in Communication”. She focuses on architectural blueprints and investigated the dialogues they generates. Sounds familiar 😉

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Congratulation to Katharina Hohmann and Jeanne Mengis, Università della Svizzera italiana for being a Top Paper in Organizational Communication with their research “The Conversational Constitution of the Task at Hand: A Temporal Work.” on hospital emergency teams.

Excellent research was conducted by Wibke Weber on Infographics in Asia: her presentation “Between Tradition, Imitation, and Innovation: Interactive Information Graphics in Asia” has been so interesting that I even forgot to take a photo! Looking forward to read more about this research and on what Westerners can learn from Asian visual communication.

Organizational communication across cultures with visual mapping: benefits and perils

March 24, 2013

Communicating across cultures is often a challenge: it is easy to imagine that visualization can help us overcome linguistic barriers, but it can actually do much more!

The benefits of visual mapping for cross-cultural communication can be summarized in five main factors:
1. Overcoming linguistic barriers.
2. Providing double cues: When the verbal or textual information is not clear, the visual element can support elaborations and understanding.
3. Seeing the big picture and the relations: Mapping ideas forces to provide links between the contributions. In presence of cultural
differences, this explicitation is useful to convey ideas more clearly.
4. Surface misunderstanding: Visualization, thanks to its concreteness, can help to surface assumptions and misunderstandings by triggering an open discussion.
5. Prevent personal conflict: when ideas are mapped onto a visualization, participants can express their disagreement by referencing the idea visualized, rather than the person who proposed it. This advantage of visual mapping can be particularly useful in intercultural meetings in which the Power Distance  of the participants’ culture is largely different.

However visualization is not free of dangers when used in cross-cultural context: misunderstanding can arise, cause by seven main factors:

1. Color.
2. Direction: In Arabic and in traditional Chinese language information is read from right to left.
3. Icons and symbols: a handshake symbolizes agreement only in the west. Fork and knife are perceived as an exotic symbol in Asia.
4. Humor: humour is culturally dependent.
5. Visual metaphors: sport metaphors are not understood in coutries where that sport is not practiced.
6. Focus of attention: Westerners focus on the main central objects at the expenses of the background, and Asians focus equally on the background as on the foreground (Nisbett, 2003).
7. Nature of thought: Westerners prefer linear and analytical diagrams while Asians prefer more holistic types of visualizations such as visual metaphors.

If you are interested in more details you can check out my recent publication:  Bresciani, S. (2013). Organizational communication with visual mapping: Comparing East and West. In D. Ingenhoff (Ed.), Internationale PR-Forschung. Konstanz: UVK Verlag.


The last lecture of Professor Poglia: the world in 6 dimensions

February 24, 2013

Last Thursday Professor Edo Poglia of the University of Lugano gave his Lezione di Commiato, which in English is usually called – with a more engaging title-  The Last Lecture.
In one hour he had the challenging talk of talking us through his life in research, having now reached the retiring age of 70.
The ideas, thoughts, findings and provocative statements flew at a very fast pace throughout the talk, engaging the audience with his pungent humor and clear  evidence based on hard data. The inputs for thoughts were many, intense, dense and surprising. The argumentation was clear and fast paced, so intense to leave at times the audience disconcerted in front of all that knowledge coming to the brain at such a high-speed that it was arduous to absorb.

Hi double background in Engineering and Sociology must have give him the impressively broad view on the different streams of research, which he illustrated through the metaphor of geological faults. He emphasised the need to observe social reality from different angles. For this reason he created a model, a schema of analysis, consisting of six dimensions:

He has used this schema since the 80s to drive his research, and the findings are impressive.
A summary of his work and of the talk is an impossible task, ranging from education, to migrants, to intercultural communication; I would just like to give a couple of examples.

For instance he investigated the values of students of different cultures and disciplines, to understand if differences in values are given more by culture of origin, or by the discipline.

In the picture below we can see that people belonging to the sector “industry and constructions” compared to the sector “communication and marketing” give very different answers regarding their “proximity” to different cultures. From the radar diagram we can readily see that communication students feel closed to all cultures, and in particular they feel much closer to the European, Anglo-Saxon and French culture.


In another studies he compared the attitude of Europeans (in yellow color) and Moroccan (in gray color) students: he found that liberty of expression is more relevant for Europeans, and that politics is not relevant for any of the two cultural groups, and even less for the Europeans.

In addition the will for self-realization (or self fulfilment) is much stronger for Europeans than for Moroccans.


In conclusion, the depth and breadth of Prof. Poglia research can be seen as a leading example for young researchers.
The visionary and impressively broad view of research of Professor Emeritus Poglia is certainly an inspiration for all of us.

IADIS – ICT, Society, and Human Beings 2011

July 23, 2011

I just arrived at the IADIS Multi Conference on Computer Science and Information Systems 2011, taking place in Rome. Tomorrow morning I’ll be presenting my paper “Augmenting Communication with Visualization: Effects on Emotional and Cognitive Response” at 11:00. If you’re interested, here’s the prezi presentation.

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