Although now a worldwide discipline, the Social Representations Theory was born in Europe in the early 1960s. The development of the So.Re.Com. THEmatic NETwork will highlight Europe's position as an intellectual leader and pole of excellence in Social Psychology. It will promote synergy between research and education and introduce to others outside academia this rich European knowledge base closely linked with social policy-making processes on issues such as immigration and minority groups, quality of life, health, environment, and information technology. It will also augment and enhance the already growing "internationalisation" of European higher education institutions and research centres engaged in this area of research. It is a mechanism that pools academic knowledge with that of the private sector and political institutions and increases the added value of research in social sciences in areas important to EU citizens. Also innovative is adopting a networking approach to allow remote access to a user-friendly multimedia, multi-language repository of research data in this specialised field of social sciences. The production, development and dissemination of web based global platforms will make possible the integration of regularly scheduled institutional links, face to face meetings, as well as physical and virtual mobility for research trainees and academic and professional specialists.
This network is fundamentally based in information and communication technologies and is specifically designed to provide a high integration of diverse content and live delivery systems, including a specialised e-library, an advanced search engine, on-line bibliographic inventories, learning management systems, a web server, video-chat, media streaming server and audio and video e-conferencing tools, including an onscreen whiteboard for drawing and sharing applications, to present, record and playback the sessions.
ICT will therefore be both the tool and the goal of So.Re.Com. THEmatic NETwork project management.
In the perspective of a future “semantic web”, the category of products described above will contribute substantially to the development of the current web site by constructing a PORTAL for the entire field of Social Representations and Communication.
Beside the traditional tools and the large use of the ODL interactive tools, already above described such web-Auditorium, e-Meetings, audio and video-conferences designed for different communicative contexts and size of the target groups, there will be a specific extranet-Portal dedicated to the partners of the SoReComThematic Network not only for the whole duration of the 3 years project, but also after its conclusion as a long term acquisition of the programme.
Pedagogical and Didactic Approaches
The So.Re.Com. THEmatic NETwork's teaching/learning strategy for social representations and communication is to examine historical, theoretical and methodological aspects, fieldwork and applications in their different institutional and organisational contexts, with an emphasis on comparative European research projects on current social issues relevant to EU policies. Each network university site has special expertise in a specific research methodology in social representations. The didactic structure thus benefits from a variety of complementary methodological approaches. Although innovative compared to traditional doctoral training, the research training didactic structure within this overall strategy is a well-tested formula that can also be shared as a best practice with other disciplines/fields. As the open distance learning system outlined below demonstrates, partners in the So.Re.Com.thematic neTwork will be involved in an interlocking system of virtual and physical mobility allowing considerable flexibility in meeting research needs while guaranteeing individual tutoring and interactive learning.
- Bibliographic training by intensive “stages” and on-line access. The active participation of the entire So.Re.Com.thematic neTwork will enable the development of a comprehensive bibliography for social representations and communication, already created by the coordinator of the program.
- Intensive High Level Didactic Stage. Some experts from partner networks of the So.Re.Com. THEmatic NETwork will be invited to attend the annual European PhD International Summer School on Social Representations and Communication and the three sessions (winter-spring-summer) of the new series of the European Ph.D. International Lab Meetings.
- Seminars and advanced courses. Invited experts from the So.Re.Com.THEmatic NETwork will attend seminars and advanced courses at network university sites held under the teacher exchange mobility programme, including guest experts from outside the network.
- Multimedia and open distance learning system. Members of the So.Re.Com. THEmatic NETwork can access – upon registration fee - the open distance learning system via on-line didactic material on the European PhD web site. These include digitalised video-lessons, e-lab small group meetings for advanced methodological research training, on-line meetings for individual tutoring and co-tutoring, web-auditorium for on-line lectures, CD-ROM or DVD multimedia systems produced by the So.Re.Com. THEmatic NETwork, forum discussion, video-chat and multi-point audio and videoconferences via Internet.
- Tutoring and co-tutoring. In the case of degree candidates, the development of research programmes is monitored at the national and two additional European training sites from start to final dissertation. Research trainees are assigned their own research “space” on the web site to allow supervision and maintain regular communication via e-mail and synchronous video-chat with their tutors at three different host Universities.
The So.Re.Com. THEmatic NETwork is oriented towards "end users" in Social Psychology and will allow simultaneous interactions between leading European academics and the worldwide research community. This also includes experts outside academia from political institutions and foundations (like the Maison des Sciences de l’Homme, the Paris, Rome and Genazzano city governments, and CantierEuropa), EU experts and social policy makers concerned with European integration, international organisations (UNESCO:), and commercial national and multinational enterprises, such as Marratech (Sweden), EDF, among others.