I delivered my paper to the Ukrainian Catholic University Journalism Faculty’s Conference on Media and Identity first thing, first day.
My paper, “Identity (in)formation: Analyzing internet media materials in the context of EURO 2012 for evidence of a new Ukraine” prompted a rousing 1.5-hour discussion among the invited professors and students. This is the first formal result of my Fulbright-year research.
My analysis of UEFA.com materials from Ukraine’s perspective of attractive tourists and business investment suggests the tournament will be bitter disappointment. While Poland and Ukraine are co-hosting the tournament and depicted as “twins” in UEFA communication strategy, the “twins” treatment does not control for a critical variable: the significant disparity in communication know-how and sales savvy in Ukraine compared to Poland. Poland reveals its advantage in an interactive travel planning program and links that Ukraine’s parallel links match with information with no effective choice or buy-through options. Even the alphabet works against Ukraine: travellers have bought transportation and hotels in Poland before they find out anything about Ukraine. I had two offers of publication from conference participants.
The most significant discussion occurred with regard to my discussion of the gap between what Ukrainians know to be true about independent Ukraine and what Westerners perceive about Ukraine, essentially as one of a sea of “former Soviet” republics. Not only does Ukraine have to make a strong persuasive case for tourism and business development, but it has to differentiate itself as a country separate from Russia and break through the information-poor stereotype of Westerners’ attitudes towards “countries of the former Soviet Union.” The idea that, even though it has collapsed, the Soviet Union is alive and well in news and other credible rhetorical references to Ukraine and other 20-years’ independent states.
The discussion was exhilarating. On top of it all, my four cheerleaders (mom, Adam, Zachary, and Bill) were invited to stay for lunch!