Ianis Bucholtz is an associate professor at Vidzeme University of Applied Sciences. He reads such courses on such topics as communication ethics, media economics and online information environment, ans his research work focuses on journalism and various aspects of social media. In addition to that, he also follows the professional developments of the Latvian media environment.
What is your latest and most important research about?
One of my latest research papers is related to Latvian emigrants and their online communication - how Latvian migrants use social networking sites and other personal media to maintain contact with Latvia and cooperate with each other. Both parties exchange practical support and express their national identity but the manifestations could be also conflicting.
I focused on online communication during for my PhD dissertation, studying various forms of relationships that are established amongst the users of online social networking sites and members of virtual communities.
I looked at the online relationship research as a multidimensional phenomenon, where the dynamics of communication are rising from the digital environment and the interaction of user interests. Since the very beginning of the internet communication studies, researchers have been interested in online communities, where users are united by common interests, not geographic location and not always on the basis of personal knowledge. However, there are also different forms of relationships in these communities, and participants use various "routes" to judge what other users are and what makes them trustworthy.
However, every well-conducted study is important. Research allows us to come up with new conclusions by participating in academic or social discussions, which are a perfect platform for new ideas to emerge and that is one of the elements, which makes researchers proud about their work.
Did you want to become a researcher as a child?
No. I took that direction as I began my studies, gradually realizing what the academic environment was. It wasn't like one morning I woke up and thought: "Now I'm going into science!" It was a gradual process.
Scientists are often stereotyped in the media as people in white dressing gowns working away in laboratories or under some wild conditions. However, there are many other diverse research-related fields that are both interesting and socially relevant - and which manifest themselves completely different. However, it is often that the only way to get to the bottom of a topic and find something interesting is by spending a long time collecting data and compiling literature. But this is the case in many other areas. A musician cannot play the concert well if he has not mastered the repertoire before.
However, the way science and research are perceived by the society is important. Small children are always asking, "Why? Why? Why?" - but at one point they stop doing that. Education should encourage people to keep asking these questions. Then we might have more open-minded people in the society. It's not like everyone needs to choose an academic career - this is just one way to satisfy the interest of the surrounding world and processes. The desire for creativity and question asking is vital for everyone.
How did you start to focus on communication science?
When I began by bachelor’s degree, I was interested in journalism and communication studies offer a path to this profession. However, studies at the university are valuable, precisely because they give students not only knowledge and skills about a particular field of professional activity, but at the same time show that there are even more extensive fields of ideas, and practical work is only one part of it.
Communication itself is a diverse and flexible field. Society is not able to work without communication, and through it, we can explore and develop a wide range of other scientific fields, which is showcased by the media and journalism study program at our university. It covers journalism, ethics, economics, sociology, psychology and other fields that are important not only for media professionals but also many others. Ultimately, in one way or another, media activity affects almost every single member of the society. Communication studies mean a great deal of ideas and approaches, where everyone can find something interesting - this is an opportunity to go into the processes, which affect the society.
What are your suggestions for young people studying or considering a career in research?
My recommendation is to use all that the study time provides to build bridges for your future. Study experience is what you make of it. You can simply get grades, take exams and end up with a diploma, but the diploma alone does not necessarily mean that you have good knowledge and skills. Education can not be given, a student needs to obtain it.Therefore, people studying at the same university can graduate with a very different level of knowledge. It is important for the student to understand that this is an opportunity and responsibility at the same time.
People often feel that they will be able to do many things later - read certain books, explore broad areas, even engage in some adventures. But as time goes by, much of it turns out to be more and more complicated; work becomes more demanding and you get less time. I know that the conditions for students are very different, but there is a reason why the studies should still be the basic work for students.
What, in your opinion, is the most significant scientific achievement in the world?
From me, as an online communication researcher, you probably expect that I would say the internet. However, the internet does not exist and develop by itself. What the internet is and what we can do with it is the result of the scientists and technicians, knowledge of people and the users themselves. The internet could also have evolved very differently from what we understand it today, and even today, the most popular internet media illustrates just a few of the manifestations of the media that would be technically feasible. In addition, the internet for us as a society wouldn't give anything if we did not understand other thousands of inventions of the previous centuries.
Consequently, it is difficult to proclaim something of the most important of any particular invention. Fire extraction, spelling, Gutenberg press, phone, mass media, internet - these are just a few, and are interlinked. Many like to think in the "revolution" categories, for example, that today's smartphones or social media have radically changed something. But technology isn't changing the world, but the people who figure out how to use these technologies. But people are changing considerably more slowly than technology. Thanks to technology, we can speak louder, say and write down more and spread further, but communication is and remains communication, no matter what tools are used. A person is the same person when using his smartphone as when they put it aside.