Research group for rhetoric, democracy and public culture
Research Projects

Research Projects

Read about a selection of our research projects. The projects are categorized based on themes, ongoing and completed projects.

Main content

Politicians’ answer- and avoidance strategies

A study of the mechanisms in political interviews in Norwegian television and radio

The project examines the interaction of journalists’ questioning strategies and the politicians’ answer- and avoidance strategies in political interviews and debates in countries with multiparty systems. Through conversation analysis and rhetorical analysis of political interviews and debates broadcasted on the radio and television between 2009-2020, the project maps out the journalists’ questions, the politicians’ answers and avoidances, and study how different types of questions invite and cause different types of strategic manoeuvring from politicians. Whereas several studies have already examined journalists’ questioning strategies and politicians’ rhetorical strategies in political debate, few have systematically studied the interaction of these in debate- and interview settings. The project “Politicians’ answer- and avoidance strategies. A study of the mechanisms in political interviews in Norwegian television and radio” does so by examining the journalists’ questions and the politicians’ answers together.

More precisely, the project has three main research questions:

(a) What types of answer- and avoidance strategies do the politicians use in interview- and debate situations?

(b) What is decisive when the different answer- and avoidance strategies are used?

(c) What effect does the journalistic questions’ articulation (degree of persistence, presuppositions, follow-up, etc.) have on the politicians’ use of various answer- and avoidance strategies?

The aim is to better understand the rhetorical and interactional mechanisms at play in political interviews and debates. Thereby, the project contributes with insights that can enable journalists to better perform their role as a questioner on behalf of the people. Specifically, the project’s categorisation and descriptions of questioning- and answering strategies will be relevant to those who plan and carry out radio and television interviews. The project’s findings will also be relevant to politicians who are frequently interviewed in the media. There are good reasons to believe that increased professionalisation among the politicians is not a sign of a lack of respect for the journalists’ role or the media’s critical function. Nor does the project aim to criticise politicians who are interviewed but rather to shed light on the various rhetorical strategies used and discuss how they occasionally can disrupt the media and the politicians’ shared objective of critically examining policy proposals.

The project is financed by Rådet for anvendt medieforskning (RAM) and is conducted by Jens E. Kjeldsen and Ida V. Andersen at the University of Bergen and Eirik Vatnøy at the University of Oslo.


The main goal of DEREKRIT is to strengthen the methodological reflection and critical thinking in connection with the teaching of rhetoric, citizenship and democracy in upper secondary school.

The project strengthens teacher competence in critical rhetorical thinking and the use of scientific methods in social studies, Norwegian, media studies and religion. The project will strengthen teachers' competence and knowledge by giving them: 1) theoretical insight into critical methods and rhetoric as critical thinking about society, 2) practical experience with the development of teaching schemes in rhetorical communication, citizenship and democracy, 3) scientific insight and experience with evaluation of teaching programs. The goals are based on the fact that this is an announcement that will provide competence development for teachers in upper secondary school. It is also a goal to develop research-based knowledge. This is done in close collaboration between Vestland County Municipality, the Take the Word! Group at the University of Bergen and the participating partner schools.

CLIMLIFE: Living with climate change: motivation and action for lifestyle change

Ida Vikøren Andersen, Postdoctoral fellow in the NRF-funded project:

“Living with climate change: motivation and action for lifestyle change” (CLIMLIFE)

I examine how youth and young adults manage climate and environmental issues rhetorically – in their everyday lives, through activism, and by participating in the public debate. I study arguments for (and against) sustainable lifestyle choices, motivation for and experience with environmental activism, and opportunities and challenges related to participating in the public debate about climate change.

I am particularly interested in how the young form their opinions in the climate change debate, what causes them to change their opinion, and how they resonate when they make choices in their everyday life that run counter to their knowledge and attitudes. Moreover, I am interested in the young’s rhetorical agency in the climate change debate and climate change as a question of just distribution of responsibility – between rich and poor, young and old, centre and periphery, the individual and the collective.

The project combines rhetorical analysis of public utterances written or performed by youth and young adults (opinion pieces in the newspapers, speeches performed at the school strikes, and social media-posts), survey- and focus group interviews, and rhetorical reception studies examining how youth and young adults respond to public communication in the climate change debate.

Visual and Multimodal Rhetoric and Argumentation

How do pictures argue and function rhetorically?

The fields of rhetoric and argumentation have been dominated by the verbal for more than 2000 years. However, since communication has grown increasingly visual and multi-modal, research in rhetoric and argumentation needs to address such forms of expression. This project examines visual rhetoric and argumentation in three ways:

1. An examination of the rhetorical potentials of pictures: I suggest that pictures has at least four rhetorical potentials that makes them different from other semiotic systems: 1) the potential to create presence (evidentia); 2) their potential for realism and indexical documentation; 3) their potential for immediacy in perception; and finally 4) their potential for semantic condensation, meaning the concentrating and condensing of several ideas, thoughts or content into one decisive moment.

2. An examination of visual and pictorial argumentation: Semantic condensation can be both emotional (evoking emotions) and rational (evoking arguments and reasoning). Pictures, I suggest, have the potential to argue primarily by means of such condensation. They offer a rhetorical enthymematic process in which something is condensed or omitted, and, as a consequence, it is up to the spectator to provide the unspoken premises. Rational condensation in pictures, then, is the visual counterpart of verbal argumentation.

3. Case studies of visual rhetoric and argumentation: The rhetorical qualities of pictures and their potential for creating visual argumentation are developed theoretically. Through case studies of visual argumentation, the theoretical considerations are analytically examined and further developed.

Digital Presentation Practices

What are the rhetorical consequences of using PowerPoint?

This project aims at developing our understanding of the ubiquitous use of presentation tools such as PowerPoint and Keynote in university teaching and presentations. The main aim is to identify and describe the pedagogical and rhetorical consequences that the employment of digital presentation tools has for teaching, lecturing and presenting.In order to identify and describe the pedagogical and rhetorical consequences of the employment of digital presentation tools for teaching, lecturing and presenting. The project:

- reviews the existing research on the subject of digital presentation tools and provide an overview of the field and research results.- performs a survey in order to establish the extent, context and character of the use of presentations tools, and chart the attitudes which lecturers and students hold towards this technology.- examines empirically how presentation tools are actually used in lectures and characterize what kinds of interactions occur and which forms of pedagogy and rhetoric is performed.

The project is a collaboration between Jens E. KjeldsenFrode Guribye, and Arild Raaheim.

Ph.D Projects (ongoing)

Ingeborg Hedda PaulsenPh.D. candidate, Høgskulen i Volda:

Rhetorically working through - Public feelings and mental health issues

This project will give insight into how we experience media texts and public debate characterized by strong, emotional, and experience-based argumentation. The main goal is to gather new knowledge about how emotions work as arguments in public by analyzing how different publics "rhetorically work through" news stories about mental health. The study will give new empirical insight into how the public uses, interpret and negotiate health information - in a time where traditional health authorities are challenged, and health is constructed as an individual responsibility.

The project will use and develop the theory about rhetorical working through. Rhetorically working through is the process where individuals continuously engage with public issues, especially through their daily use of online news and social media. Individual's opinion formation, arguments, and values are inseparable from their social relations and situations. This project's main contribution to the theory is to 'tap' into each step of the interpretation process using mixed methods and a sequential explanatory design. The study consists of three parts and design to understand 1) what is the most dominant health discourse in the news about mental health, 2) how do individuals interpret, negotiate, read, and work through different health discourses, 3) how do groups read, understand, and work through health discourses, what does the rhetorical exchange look like and change over time?

Håvard Kiberg: 

Musical turbulence: Strategy, politics and communication among conflicting stakeholders in the music industry

The project examines how various cultural and music policy stakeholders communicate strategically to gain cultural, economic and political influence in the music industry. The project has a special focus on the work of music organizations and trade unions during the corona pandemic and how local cultural policy is anchored in a globalized and platform-centric industry.

Håvard Kiberg's main interests revolve around the music industry, streaming and cultural policy. This implies a particular interest in how economy and visibility apply through algorithmically structured distribution platforms for music.

Kiberg is affiliated with both the Department of Information Science and Media Studies at the University of Bergen and the Department of Communication at Kristiania University College, and is part of the "Research Group for Rhetoric, Democracy and Public Culture" at the University of Bergen. 

Ph.D Projects (completed)

Trygve Svensson: Retorikk og konflikt

Hva kan Ludvig Holberg lære oss om retorikk og konfliktløsning?

Holbergs bestselgende Introduksjon til Naturens og Folke-Rettens Kundskab (1716) var skoledannende for juridisk tenkning i Danmark-Norge. I Holberg møtes antikke klassikere med opplysningstidens stridstema. Skriftene er gjennomsyret av spørsmål om krig, likestilling, religionsfrihet og demokrati, med eneveldet som historisk kontekst. Som Stephen Greenblatt har skrevet om Shakespeare, forholdt også Holbergs seg til tidens forhandlinger om hvordan samfunnet skulle styres.   Prosjektet retter seg mot Holbergs sakprosa, og hele hans rikholdige tekstmateriale. Naturens og Folke-Rettens Kundskab og Moralske Tanker står som to referansepunkter i den tidlige og sene delen av forfatterskapet. Å sette klare skiller mellom sakprosaforfatteren og dikteren er imidlertid vanskelig. Derfor er også Niels Klims Reise, som står i et særskilt nært forhold til sakprosaen, et utgangspunkt.


Eirik Vatnøy: Sosiale medier som retorisk arena

Hvordan bruker politikere og partier sosiale medier i valgkamper?

Med den eksplosjonsartede utviklingen i digitale medier de seneste årene har arenaene for politisk kommunikasjon utvidet seg kraftig. Selv om deres betydning enda ikke kan sammenlignes med de konvensjonelle mediene, er sosiale medier også stadig viktigere innenfor norsk politikk. Det snakkes med begeistring om de sosiale medienes demokratiske potensial som møtearena for politikere og velgere, men også med bekymring for intimiseringen, fragmenteringen og mangelen på redaksjonell kontroll.Prosjektet kombinerer innsikter fra politisk retorikk og digital retorikk.  Retorikkens flere tusen år lange fagtradisjon gir tidløse innsikter i hvordan mennesker påvirker hverandre gjennom kommunikasjon. Selv om mediene er nye, kan mekanismene som endrer holdninger og meninger langt på vei forstås på samme måte.


Erik Knudsen: Politisk kommunikasjon, framing og oppfatning

Hva er sammenhengen mellom pressedekning av NAV og folks oppfatning av etaten?

Gjennom blant annet eksperimenter, meningsmålinger og forskningsintervjuer har man funnet sterke indikatorer på at fremstillingen, eller vinklingen, av et budskap, en organisasjon eller person kan være utslagsgivende for hvordan mottakere tolker budskapet, samt deres inntrykk av organisasjonen eller personen.NAV, en etat og reform som har skapt overskrifter, blitt utskjelt og fått sitt eget verb, er i dette prosjektet utgangspunktet for å studere vinklingens makt. Her undersøker jeg NAV som strategisk kommunikator, pressedekningen av NAV samt sammenhengen mellom pressedekningen og folks oppfatning av etaten. Hvordan ønsker etaten selv å fremstå, er det egentlig slik at NAV-omtalen har vært så negativ og kan dette knyttes til folks oppfatning av etaten?Prosjektet bygger på teorier innen politisk kommunikasjon knyttet til vinkling (framing) av budskap, innvirkning av negativ og positiv omtale, samt journalistiske grep som bruk av enkelthistorier fremfor statistikk.


Magnus Hoem Iversen: Politisk reklame i Norge

Hvordan skapes, mottas og oppfattes politisk reklame i Norge?

Bruken av politisk reklame øker i popularitet hos samtlige norske partier. Dette gjeder reklame på radio, i avis, på kino, og ikke minst på Internett – spesielt eksemplifisert gjennom «Taxi Stoltenberg» i 2013. Maktforholdet mellom politiske partier, den frie presse og borgere er i endring. Politisk direktekommunikasjon mellom partier og velgere er i ferd med å bli en viktigere brikke i norske demokratiske prosesser.

Jeg undersøker hvordan norske politiske reklamefilmer kan belyse disse prosessene. Formålet er å undersøke hele kommunikasjonskjeden, med spesiell vekt på bruk av visuell og emosjonell argumentasjon, både i produksjon, i selve reklamebudskapene og i forhandling hos konkrete velgere.

Completed projects 

Rhetorical Reception

Exploring the role of the real rhetorical audience

The first audience analysis must have been Aristotle’s description of the various types of human character in the Rhetoric. However, in general rhetorical studies of audiences are rare. With a few exceptions most rhetorical studies are speaker- or text focused.

When rhetoricians actually discuss the audience, they are mostly concerned with the audience as theoretical or textual constructions. They examine the universal audience (C. Perelman), the second persona (E. Black), the audience constituted by the text (M. Charland, M.C. McGee), the ignored or alienated audience (P. Wander), or they theorize about the audience’s cognitive processing of messages (W. Benoit/M.J. Smythe).

Only very rarely, and in very limited way, does rhetorical research study the actual audience reception of rhetoric. However, in our time new media and new forms of communication makes it harder to distinguish between speaker and audience.

The active involvement of users and audiences is more important than ever before. Therefore, the rhetoric group at the department of Information Science and media studies have established a pre-project dealing with rhetoric and reception and the real rhetorical audience.

We believe that rhetorical research should reconsider the understanding, conceptualization and examination of the rhetorical audience. From mostly understanding audience as a theoretical construction that are examined textually and speculatively, we should give more attention to empirical explorations of actual audiences and users.


Retorikkeksperter i skandinavisk dagspresse

Hvordan brukes eksperter på retorikk i pressen?

Forskere og andre eksperter har fått en stadig større plass i skandinaviske medier de siste tiårene, og ekspertene trekkes oftere inn for å kommentere dagsaktuelle nyhetssaker og sjeldnere for å formidle fagkunnskap eller forskningsresultater.

Prosjektet undersøker hvilken rolle retorikkeksperter har fått i skandinavisk dagspresse, med utgangspunkt i en analyse av 517 avisartikler fra 18 papirbaserte aviser i perioden 2001–2010. Sentrale spørsmål er hvem retorikkekspertene er, hvor ofte de uttaler seg, hvilke temaer de uttaler seg om, og hvorvidt de formidler egne forskningsresultater eller kommenterer aktuelle nyhetssaker.

Et hovedfunn så langt er at bruken av retorikkeksperter i dagspressen er økende, og at denne typen eksperter først og fremst hentes inn for å kommentere taler og debatter fra politikkens verden. Analyser viser også at retorikkeksperter fra det private konsulentmarkedet ofte opptrer i svenske aviser, mens de danske og norske avisene i all hovedsak henter sine retorikkeksperter fra akademia.

Prosjektet er et samarbeid mellom Jens E. Kjeldsen (UiB) og Jonas Bakken (UiO)