Department of Culture and Learning

keynote speakers

Confirmed keynote speakers for the conference are:

Professor Mats Alvesson, Lund University, Sweden

Title of keynote presentation: The Triumph of Emptiness. Grandiosity and zero-sum games in contemporary organizations and society

In the West, and increasingly globally, there are moves into the age of grandiosity. The mundane and trivial are, whenever possible, being transformed into something much more aesthetic and appealing. Value is seemingly increased or enhanced with minimal cost – just through adding a more desirable label or image. There is a boosting of claims of progress, achievements and extraordinary qualities of individuals, occupations, organizations and societies. This has frequently less to do with substance – ’real’ improvements or practices/material reality living up to fantastic claims are rare. Contemporary grandiosity is not like older forms, intended to celebrate elite superiority and easily identified as symbolism enhancing, but is more subtle and is intended to conceal through claims to illuminate the truth. There is a symbolic pollution of the world through the extensive production and distribution of images loosely connected to, or contradicted by, material reality – a reality becoming more and more ambiguous.

The advanced contemporary economy can be seen as an economy of persuasion. Firms and other institutions are increasingly focusing on rhetoric, image, branding, reputation, visibility. In wealthy countries and for elite groups, the production of goods and services becomes less of a crucial issue compared to the management of demands and expectations. A steadily increasing amount of talent, energy and resources are devoted to persuasion. More and more people become 'imagologists'.

The talk is based on Alvesson: “The triumph of emptiness. Consumption, higher education and work organization” (2013), Oxford University Press. The book was selected as a ‘book of the year’ by Joanna Williams, from the University of Kent, in the Times Higher Education Dec- 2013.

Mats Alvesson works at Lund University Sweden and part-time at University of Queensland, Australia, Aalborg University (as Visiting Obel Professor), and Cass Business School, London. His latest books include The Triumph of Emptiness (Oxford University Press 2013), Understanding Organizational Culture (Sage 2013), Constructing Research Questions (Sage 2013, w J Sandberg), Metaphors We Lead By (Routledge 2011, w A Spicer) and Interpreting Interviews (Sage 2011). He is currently doing research on functional stupidity at work.

Head of Global Internal Communication Nana Balle, Arla Foods, Denmark

Title of keynote presentation: More than churning out messages: orchestrating internal communication in a global dairy cooperative.

Abstract: Arla Foods was founded in 2000 when a Danish and a Swedish dairy cooperative decided to merge. Since then, Arla has grown to be one of the world’s largest dairy companies.

Developing from a regional to a global player has increased both turnover, number of markets, employees and owners significantly – while at the same time increased both the complexity and the diversity of the business manifold.

The diversity relates to ie multiple languages, skills, leadership levels, gender and ethnicity, and is a prerequisite for understanding and meeting the needs of the global consumers. Successful internal communication is key to keeping the employees informed, engaged, educated and excited around the business. To achieve this, however, demands that the individual employee is met with the right messages through the right channels in the right way. In her presentation Nana Balle will demonstrate how Arla has implemented a number of flexible communication channels and procedures that allow the communication function to deliver relevant and relatively targeted communication in an efficient way while at the same time taking diversity into account.

Nana Balle is Head of Global Internal communication at Arla Food, the world’s 6th largest dairy company. Together with her team, based in four countries, she leads the internal communication to the cooperative’s 20.000 employees. Before joining Arla, she worked within different aspects of communication at Maersk and IBM. She holds a Master of Political Science from Aarhus University, a Diploma from the Danish School of Journalism, and an Executive Master in Corporate Communication from Aarhus School of Business (now Aarhus University). She is appointed external examiner at a number of communication studies.


TITLE OF KEYNOTE PRESENTATION: The ethos and ethics of professional communication practice: towards a translational research agenda  

Beginning with a mapping of the trajectories of three overlapping research traditions – language in the workplace, professional discourse studies and organisational/institutional communication – I single out for particular focus an under-researched terrain, what I call ‘the ethics of professional communication practice’. From the outset, ethics research needs to be kept separate from research ethics. Drawing on my long-standing interest in professional practice in the domains of health and social care, I outline a conceptual framework for ‘communication ethics’ which goes beyond the ‘language of morality/ethics’ and encompasses the notion of other-oriented role-responsibility. Using the socio-anthropological concepts of gift and exchange, and keeping with the conference brief, I then address the phenomenon of translational research which must be on the agenda of researchers working in the domains of professional and institutional practice. I suggest that the following ingredients need careful deliberation within a consultative research paradigm as a way of guaranteeing uptake of discourse analytic findings: accessible presence, joint problematisation, negotiation of interpretive procedures and provision of hot feedback.

Srikant Sarangi is Professor in Humanities and Medicine and Director of the Danish Institute of Humanities and Medicine (DIHM) at Aalborg University, Denmark ( Between 1993 and 2013, he was Professor in Language and Communication and Director of the Health Communication Research Centre at Cardiff University where he retains an Honorary Professorship. Currently he is also Visiting Research Professor, Centre for the Humanities and Medicine, The University of Hong Kong (SAR China); and Visiting Professor under the Academic Icon scheme at University of Malay (Malaysia).

His research interests include: institutional and professional discourse (e.g., health, social welfare, bureaucracy, education etc.); quality of life and risk communication in genetic counselling, HIV/AIDS, telemedicine, general practice and palliative care; intercultural pragmatics; language and identity in public life; ethnicity, race and discrimination in multicultural societies.

He is the editor of Text & Talk as well as the founding editor of Communication & Medicine and founding co-editor of Journal of Applied Linguistics and Professional Practice and three book series. In addition, he is author and editor of twelve books, guest-editor of five journal special issues and has published nearly two hundred book chapters and journal articles in leading journals.

Over the last 15 years his visiting professorships and research attachments include a number of countries: Australia, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Iran, Italy, Malaysia, Norway, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, UK and USA.

Professor Per Linell, Linköping University, Sweden






Conference Chair Lise-Lotte Holmgreen

Conference secretary Julie Skibsted Larsen

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