Mattering is a group which explores and co-creates/forms/develops discourses and practices in different contexts. A central focus is – also through active participation in the global research community – to engage in complex processes of change. Its members’ interests do not concentrate on one specific field of study but explore various empirical contexts in different fields that allow for both comparison and transmission of research results. This means using and developing methodologies that can help form governmental, media, organizational, technological, voluntary and other practices to provide both (critical) basic research and the application of this knowledge to inform/improve practice. The need for change can be of very local (‘micro’) nature, but often the problematic issues are constitutive of or relatable to larger cultural, political and societal issues.
The complexity of topics and practices – an interplay of mono- and interdisciplinarity
The group studies communication through a theoretical lens on discourse and practice, that is, theoretical approaches that aim to explore and explain how our realities are grounded in and formed by communication, interaction, documents and technologies. Our aim is to describe entanglements: not to find simple causalities but to understand correlation and complexity. This has also highlighted the interdisciplinary nature of Mattering’s research interests. In that sense, the group fits well in Aalborg University’s PBL (Problem Based Learning) principle: Complexity is to be understood as an interdisciplinary issue and studied through methodologies that can attend to various intricacies. United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, now a focus at AAU, are a good example of this.
How to help change and form alternative futures?
A key aspect of communication that the group members attend is its processual nature. Often this means following and observing participants, phenomena and/or settings that (wish to) undergo processes of change. In other words, the central elements of practice as an established way of ‘doing’ have to be uncovered in order to help meaningful change. In order to acquire a comprehensive understanding of practices, awareness is needed of the complexity of theories and methods relevant for the practice under scrutiny. The research group’s different areas of expertise are an asset when research has complexity as a starting point. However, the group has a general common interest: the emergence of meaning as a material phenomenon. For instance, health communication often is part of political communication and takes place through various media with differing material affordances. This complex health and political communicative chain or network can be analysed in order to find out about and alleviate possible problems in the trajectory. The problems can be of different nature and scope, from routinized practices to power imbalances.
Participatory approach to applied research to form enriching collaborations
Participation covers many aspects of the research interests of the group: From close analyses of how various participants can influence what is going on (i.e. agency) through participatory (design) research to undertaking studies where observation is replaced by the researcher being a participant. Under participatory approach could be also placed the recent interest in co-creation as a specific form of interdisciplinary research. Co-creation has a special emphasis on involving citizens and professional practitioners in shared decision-making in institutional, clinical and everyday settings. The group’s research on discourse and practice at a high international level provides a strong basis for a careful development of participatory practices in all phases of studying for meaningful change.
Empirical studies so far
The group’s research into discourses and practices has resulted in contributions to, for example
- health communication and interaction
- political communication
- robotic technology and welfare technology
- social media and digital youth culture
- sustainability/environmental communication
- work life and wellbeing