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Självpresentationernas logiker: en tematisk studie av gymnasieskolors identitetsskapande på webben
Umeå University, Faculty of Arts, Department of culture and media studies.
2019 (Swedish)Licentiate thesis, monograph (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

The aim of this licentiate thesis is to examine the means of self-presentation on the websites of 18 upper secondary schools in Sweden. This empirical material may be referred to as a kind of marketing since they render a highly idealized image of schools. To some extent they exaggerate what school is about, as a way for schools to promote themselves as well as to maintain their hold on the market. Self-presentations thus play an important role in the struggle to attract prospective students and keep these enrolled. The fact that self-presentations refer to schools and not companies in general—although several schools certainly strive to define themselves as such—indicates that self-presentations are not like any other marketing practice. They can also be read as a kind of imaginative documents. In this capacity, self-presentations do not only express what school is or may be interpreted as, but foremost how it envisions itself in the future. The material underlying the study consists of a selection of excerpts that were collected from the schools' webpages at different points of time during the years 2011/2012 and 2016/2017. This allowed me to study both continuities and change in the way schools are presented online.

In this study, schools' self-presentations are analyzed thematically in combination with Jason Glynos and David Howarth's so called logics approach, which has been developed out of poststructuralist discourse theory and its ontological assumptions. A logic may be understood in this case as a rule or pattern governing the way a phenomenon like school is constituted. As a research strategy, logics have helped me explore, step by step, the conditions of possibility as well as impossibility of identity-formation processes. I mainly deal with four logics that comprise the overarching principles that structure what it means to be a school: business adaptation, academization, individualization and social responsibility. The empirical study thus consisted in setting out the social, political and fantasmatic aspects of these logics—which consequently served to thematically analyze the contemporary identity-formation on schools' websites. Social aspects have been a descriptive tool to study what characterizes school as presented in the empirical material, whereas political and fantasmatic aspects refer to analytical and critical perspectives. The aim has been to illuminate not only the way schools' identities are organized but also how and why this happens – in other words, what logics do to the identity-formation of schools. Importantly, the logics in question are interrelated and work together at the same time as they 'struggle' over the significance of being a school. As I argue, the identity-formation of upper secondary schools can hence be perceived as crisscrossed by competing and complementary logics that all make certain claims as to what a school is supposed to be (or not).

The main task of a traditional Swedish school has been to foster democratic members of society. The findings of my study, however, question such a general understanding. In my empirical material a self-referential meaning of school rather emerges with the purpose to produce good employees; that is, a competent work-force willing to submit to the norms and values of the corporate sector. Subsequently, the boundaries between school and the surrounding world are also increasingly loosened, as business is brought into the classroom and made a premise of learning and development in accordance with the needs and interests of the labor market. However, this replacement of a traditional school is only partial. Since schools are equally dependent on the societal tradition to appear as legitimate and credible alternatives on the educational arena they cannot wholeheartedly commit themselves to a corporate identity. Hence, self-presentations often indicate a struggle to be different enough to stand out from the host of other schools, but also to be similar enough to be considered a 'proper' school. This licentiate thesis has in common with previous studies that statements about qualification and employability measures have indeed increased. A corresponding decline of statements about active citizenship and critical thinking could not be detected – but then again, educational-political aspects confirm that a traditional school may be understood as a background against which an alternative school is formed. This is a conclusion which is consistent with the findings of previous studies on school and education policy.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Umeå: Institutionen för kultur- och medievetenskaper, Umeå universitet , 2019. , p. 134
Keywords [en]
Upper secondary school, self-presentations, websites, self-referential, identity-formation, thematic analysis, thematization, logics, social aspects, political aspects, fantasmatic aspects
Keywords [sv]
Gymnasieskolor, självpresentationer, webbsidor, självtolkningar, identitetsskapande, identitetsformationer, logiker, sociala aspekter, politiska aspekter, fantasmatiska aspekter
National Category
Media and Communications
Research subject
media and communication studies
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-155739ISBN: 978-91-7601-960-3 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:umu-155739DiVA, id: diva2:1282931
Presentation
2019-02-15, Hörsal F, Humanisthuset, Umeå universitet, 907 36 Umeå, Umeå, 10:00 (Swedish)
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Supervisors
Available from: 2019-01-28 Created: 2019-01-27 Last updated: 2019-03-26Bibliographically approved

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Citation style
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