Next week sees the third - and final - NEMO conference (Friday, October 17) and our second NEMO academic conference (Thursday, October 16). The project has been running for nearly three years and I have been working at Campus Helsingborg since July 2012.
This year's conference is themed Meet the Digital Naturals, a concept that emerged from my work with Marja Åkerström. A while ago a few of us started think about the ways Web 2.0 technologies were changing how our students engaged with politics. The obvious approach was to sit down and ask them, which we did.
We knew our sample would be small, unrepresentative, and partial, but we learnt a lot. Early on, we almost accidentally hit on a name for a our cohort. We didn't like the widely used Digital Natives, not least because it casts the researchers as Immigrants: Natives is both unhelpful and inaccurate so when Marja used the term Digital Naturals we instantly realised this was a much more effective framing.
Although our What Digital Naturals Demand from Democracy work, first presented in Stockholm in September 2013, focused on a fairly specialised group of educated, media-literate students, mostly under 30, who had grown up with the internet, it seems obvious that the ability to operate effectively in the online environment had little to do with age. Likewise, there was no more a convincing way of distinguishing between Natives and Immigrants as there was a significant difference between experiencing online and offline. Bye bye digital dualism.
Worse, assuming that one group magically acquired vital social and cognitive skills simply by being born after 1980 not only badly misrepresents the experience of the disenfranchised immigrants, it also short-changes many of the so-called Natives.
These themes will be developed in NEMO anthology, Strategic Communication, Social Media and Democracy: The Challenge of the Digital Naturals, edited by Tim Coombs, Jesper Falkheimer, Mats Heide and myself, to be published in the prestigious Routledge New Directions Series.
We will be debating the findings of 16 projects, involving reseachers from five countries, at the Academic Conference, and many of the Friday presentations will pick up the Digital Naturals theme. Together NEMO represents an impressive body of work which has played its part in establishing Strategic Communication at Campus Helsingborg (ISK) as one of the leading departments in Europe.
I am looking forward to welcoming NEMO 2012 presenter Neville Hobson back to Sweden (he was the first name I signed up for the University of Sunderland's Delivering the New PR series, way back in 2006), and meeting Brit Stakston and Robin Teigland for the first time. But the real pleasure and satisfaction has been working with an outstanding team of colleagues at ISK, many of whom will on stage on Friday.
I have learnt a great deal from working in Sweden, partly from teaching in a very different environment, with strong students and challenging methods, but also from constanly debating and developing new ideas with some very sharp minds.