Argumentation in Public Communication
Recent research in public communication reveals the importance of an argumentative turn in policy analysis. This turn is justified because, in public communication, most activities and interactions (oral and written) are characterized by argumentation, as actors are committed to be accountable for their decisions and give reasons for their claims. Argumentation in Public Communication focuses on oral and written argumentative discourse in public policy and public communication, assuming that a well-conducted argumentative dialogue increases the quality of public communication. Examples of argumentation will be taken from different contexts, ranging from public press releases, to policy documents, to the debate around popular initiatives, to NGO campaigns and political debates and their echoes on the media and social media. Throughout the course, we will adopt a critical perspective: the analytical reconstruction of argumentation will be associated to the critical evaluation of its logical and communicative validity, including the discovery of manipulative processes, for example misleading premises hidden in online hate speech.
The main aim of this course is providing students with methods to analyze and produce arguments. These methods are illustrated through the discussion of a series of case studies within different contexts of public communication, ranging from public press releases, to policy documents, to the debate around popular initiatives, to NGO campaigns and political debates and their echoes on the media. Students will be able to reconstruct which argument schemes are used in in different contexts and documents of public communication (distinguishing, for example, argument schemes such analogy, means-end argumentation and appeals to authority), analyze their implicit premises and evaluate their validity. The goal is to improve the quality of argumentation and decision-making in public discourse and policy-making and to be able to detect manipulative processes.
The course adopts a bottom-up approach, based on the analysis of empirical data (documents, spoken discourse, social media) in the field of public communication and administrative rhetoric. Classroom interaction will allow significant space for students’ discussion, group-work, and guided controversy in order to see how argumentation works in practice. A complete syllabus will be made available at the beginning of the course.
The evaluation is based on an exercise of production of argumentative speech assigned in the first weeks of the course (15% of the final evaluation) and on an oral exam during the regular sessions. The oral exam (85% of the final evaluation) consists of four questions: (1) self-chosen and self-prepared question (analysis of a case of argumentation); (2) theory question, related to the concept introduced in the course; (3) exercise question (brief exercise of analysis or production, to be done during the exam); (4) question on the assigned readings. The exam evaluates knowledge of the course contents (including lessons and assigned readings), critical thinking skills and skills to analyze and produce argumentation following the methods learnt in the course. More information on the evaluation will be given during the course and in the syllabus.
It is necessary to get at least 47/85 points in the oral exam to sum the evaluation of the exercise to the final grade.