Name: Lauren Kogen
Organisation: Temple University
Role: Assistant Professor
Country: United States
I am an Assistant Professor in the Department of Media Studies and Production at Temple University. My research explores the intersection of communication for development and social change (how media and communication can be used to promote positive social change) and communication about development (how information about development work is communicated to policy-makers and the public). Communication for social change (CSC) is founded upon the premise that development work should be participatory and should privilege the knowledge, desires, and goals of communities seeking social change over the assumptions of outsiders. CSC emphasizes communication emanating from those communities rather than communication propelled toward them, and relies on the belief that we, as outsiders, are better positioned to listen and facilitate social change than to impose how we believe social change ought to occur from without and above. Communication about development (CAD) matters, first, because public opinion regarding development aid influences how development aid is treated by policymakers. Second, funders’ and policymakers’ understanding of the role of media and communication in development influences development policies, and specifically support (or lack thereof) for CSC projects. CAD therefore not only impacts interactions between publics, governments, and development funding agencies in the Global North but also between those institutions and those who are marginalized, oppressed, and disadvantaged, and who many of these institutions purport to want to help. Much of my work focuses on development project evaluations. I consider project evaluations crucial for this research for two reasons: First, evaluations function as important tools for communication about development. In many ways this is where the knowledge and information about how to ‘do’ development are generated and communicated to publics and policymakers. A key question, then, is what purpose these evaluations are intended to serve, and what purpose they ultimately do serve when it comes to policymaking. Second, evaluations offer the opportunity to observe how communication can promote development and build CSC theory. This makes evaluations vital for studying both the role of communication in development and how assumptions and theories around development are communicated to, and understood by, the outside world. My evaluation work is therefore focused on why certain interventions succeed (or fail) rather than whether projects have succeeded or to what degree (the typical focus of project evaluations). Another area of my research in this field focuses on communication about development targeted directly at the public through the mainstream media. The way development work is constructed for, and communicated to, U.S. audiences has important consequences for how Americans view recipients of development aid and how they envision the appropriate or moral relationship between wealthier societies and disadvantaged communities. In some of this work, for example, I argue that media coverage often deters support for development work by failing to give news audiences a way to effectively engage with issues. The ultimate goal of my research is to discover new ways to 1) promote more effective and sustainable development; and 2) encourage ethical and fruitful communication about development that facilitates a just relationship between those who are in positions to promote positive social change and the recipients of that support. More information about my research can be found here. I hold a Ph.D. in Communication from the University of Pennsylvania, an M.A. in Cinema Studies from New York University, and a B.A. in Economics from Stanford University. More information about my research can be found at www.LaurenKogen.com.