Department of Culture and Learning

phd workshop

PhD workshop - 2nd International and Interdisciplinary Conference on Discourse and Communication in Professional Contexts

PhD Course, 13th August 2019, 2 ECTS

Doctoral Programme in
Interdisciplinary Discourse Studies 
Faculty of the Humanities 
Aalborg University

The Dark Side of Communication  
Identifying, Analyzing and Challenging Manipulative Organizational Discourses

Course description:

Learning Goals

In this PhD course, we will explore and substantially deepen our understanding of what dark side communication activities ‘are’, and what they ‘do’ in or with reference to organizational contexts.

The learning goals of this course are threefold.

  • To raise awareness of what may constitute ‘dark side communication activities’ – discursively, socially, and organizationally. 
  • To identify and to analyze select instantiations of ‘dark side communication activities’ – in different modalities, discourses, and contexts.
  • To discuss and to evaluate how ‘dark side communication activities’ influence the communication (and management) climate of organizations.

Course Content

The expression “the dark side” seems to have become a portmanteau term for all things unwanted. In strategic communication, “the dark side” pertains to (corporate) communication perceived as intentionally ambiguous – and maybe even unlawful. In organization studies, “the dark side” encompasses deviant or even harmful organizational behavior. In interpersonal communication, “the dark side” deals with immoral, dysfunctional or malicious communication. In critical management studies, “the dark side” refers to wrongful and damaging business decisions that managers might take. In sum, by calling forth “the dark side” of communication, a sort of Manichean discourse of light vs. dark is evoked, in casu: of good vs. evil communication. Looking at communication activities in organizational and/or professional contexts in light of this, it seems to be a question of whether communication is seen as manipulatory, i.e. as “dark”/evil, or emancipatory, i.e. as “light”/good. This, in turn, effectively stigmatizes dark side communication activities as vehicles for the (organizational or corporate) propagation of suppression of unwanted ethical, political, and ideological voices and discourses. Throughout this course, we will use this taken-for-granted dichotomy as an impetus for two main strands of critical investigations: Firstly, we will address and challenge the very premises upon which this dichotomy is built. Secondly, we will analyze, discuss and evaluate some of the practical implications of this dichotomy as they manifest themselves in organizational/professional/corporate discourses.

Even though this PhD course focusses on ‘dark side communication’ activities, it is by no means a prerequisite that participants’ thesis work must be centered on ‘dark side communication activities’ in order to attend. In fact, all PhD students with an interest in a critical investigation of the discourses and communications that take place within the general field of organizational/corporate/professional communication are encouraged to attend. 

Teaching formats:

  • Lectures 
  • Colloquia / round table 
  • Presentations & discussions
  • Deliverables

Two pages worth of project synopsis to be submitted to course organizers prior to course, i.e. no later than June 15th 2019.

Five pages worth of extended & revised project synopsis relating the PhD project to ‘dark side communication activities’ to be submitted no later than two weeks after the course.

Attendance: One day of teaching, i.e. 13 August 2019, Aalborg University, 100% compulsory.

ECTS: 2 Ects


The course is organized by Prof. Peter Kastberg and Associate Prof. Line Schmeltz who are both members of the Communicating Organizations Research Group at the Dept. of Culture and Global Studies, Aalborg University.

How to sign up

If you are interested in attending the PhD course, then please submit your CV as well as an abstract of you PhD project to the organizers as soon as possible. When you have been admitted to the PhD course you should register for the course


Conference chair: Peter Kastberg

Conference secretary (main contact): Julie Skibsted Larsen

Conference secretary: Marianne Ellersgaard

call for papers
Practical information
conference committee

The conference is supported by