Volume 9, Issue 1, June 2014


Teaching and Research beyond Methodological and Disciplinary Traditions

This issue of Italian Political Science (IPS) focuses on innovation and change in teaching and research, moving beyond the methodological and disciplinary traditions of Political Science. It seeks to highlight the theoretical and methodological richness of the discipline and some of the instruments it offers to analyze a changing political environment. But it also points out how these changes can be conveyed through teaching, and how helpful technological innovations and social media can be.

The old debate on Grand Theories versus local theories has been de facto overcome by the complexity of global political phenomena that require different theoretical and methodological approaches to be explained. For various reasons, some sub-fields and approaches have had more fortune than others, in some countries more than in others, at different times. Moschella and Carta are providing the IPS readership with a specific focus on – respectively – International Political Economy and Discourse Analysis. The authors combine the Italian experience with developments in the larger International Political Science community to illustrate the increasing popularity of these fields of studies.

Traditional viewpoints of our empirical discipline deny the utility and applicability of experimental methods in Political Science. IPS 1/2014 hosts two contributions that question these views. The richness of the research methodology in Political Science and the high potential of the experimental method are highlighted by Isernia’s review and by Baldassarri’s research experience.

Since social media have challenged many aspects of society, academia cannot just play the role of observer; it has instead to accept the challenge and catch up with technological and social innovation. Curini’s contribution argues that Social media analysis is emerging as a new research method to understand politics.

Last but not least, this issue discusses innovative teaching methods by illustrating specific teaching experiences in Italy and abroad. The traditional academic setting risks becoming obsolete, replaced by virtual rooms peopled by students who actively participate in constructing their learning process as it happens in the Hy’School – hyper campus – in Grenoble (Schemeil). Also simulation exercise has become a widely adopted innovative learning tool by which students perform different roles to experience a problem-based learning and acquire a problem-solving expertise (Brunazzo and Settembri).

We live in a global knowledge society and Political Science is facing new challenges and opportunities – both in teaching and research. The current IPS issue indicates that the Political Science community is ready to react and to reframe teaching and research tools.

Stefania Panebianco & Francesco Zucchini, IPS co-editors

Towards a Hyper Campus: Innovative teaching for tomorrow (the Grenoble 2012 Hy’School project)
Yves Schemeil (Sciences Po, Grenoble)

For those who dream of a university with no exams, no too-large lectures to passive if not inattentive audiences, yes, the current ways of teaching are obsolete. Confronted with a changing environment in which technology upsets campuses’ bonding and bridging processes, teachers are confused about their future. Off campus events, social networks, and permanent connectivity may be opportunities to improve their working conditions and the effectiveness of their teaching; alternatively, if uncontrolled, this changing environment may become a threat to their self-esteem. […]

Learning Through Simulation Games
Marco Brunazzo (University of Trento) and Pierpaolo Settembri (European Commission)

Today, the increasing availability of information and the complexity of the problems that need to be addressed require universities to not only equip students with the skills necessary to understand the debates and issues relevant to specific disciplines, but also with meta-skills (the ability to undertake research, organize meetings, speak in public, and defend a position through reasoning); the latter can be applied in diverse environments (at school and, more specifically, in the workplace). […]

Nowcasting (and forecasting) politics through social media? A personal view
Luigi Curini (University of Milan)

The exponential growth of social media and social network sites, such as Facebook and Twitter, and their potential impact on real world politics has increasingly attracted the attention of scholars in recent years. Broadly speaking, I think we can identify four main areas of research in this respect. The first area links social media with collective actions. […]

Lab in the Field Experiments and Collective Action Research: Evidence from a study of Ugandan producer organizations
Delia Baldassarri (New York University)

Lab in the field experiments that incorporate behavioral games into socially meaningful settings are an interesting addition to the social sciences’ research tool-kit. This article describes how I used lab in the field experiments to study the mechanisms through which small groups can overcome collective action problems. Namely, I took behavioral games out of the aseptic walls of the laboratory and brought them to the field, conducting research with members of pre-existing groups – i.e., Ugandan producer organizations – that face collective action problems on a regular basis. By adopting an innovative research design that combines behavioral games and observational data, I was able to isolate some of the mechanisms that make group members cooperate in real life. […]

Last but not least: Experimental Political Science in Italy
Pierangelo Isernia (University of Siena)

Experimental political science is now “hot” in our discipline (Morton, 2010). Indeed many indicators attest to a lively and well-established disciplinary sub-sector: formal graduate training courses (and syllabi); handbooks (Druckman, Green, Kuklinski and Lupia, 2011) and manuals (Morton and Williams, 2010); research centers; a professional journal; professional organizations; and infrastructural resources. All this corresponds to a steady increase in the number of articles published in professional journals that use and report experiments on a wide number of issues in the spheres of domestic and comparative politics and international relations. […]

Italy and the International Political Economy
Manuela Moschella (University of Turin)

After attending the annual convention of the International Studies Association and an ECPR Joint Session Workshop on the politics of banking regulation, I found myself wondering about the state of the international political economy (IPE) discipline in Italy. I have especially been wondering why Italian scholars, who make important contributions to other subfields of political science and whose works are internationally recognized and respected, do not have the same standing in IPE. In the words of a leading IPE scholar who recently offered an overview of the field, “[i]n Italy, IPE remains largely ignored” (Cohen, 2014: 118). The apparent neglect of IPE in Italy is also puzzling in light of the recent global financial crisis and its impact on the discipline. As the editors of the Review of International Political Economy (RIPE) stated in their 20th anniversary issue, if the Cold War and the events of 9/11 prioritized security studies and relegated political economy to the backseat, today’s crisis and its implications have given renewed impetus to IPE scholarship (Johnson et al., 2013). […]

Discourse Analysis and International Relations: What for?
Caterina Carta (Vesalius College, Brussels)

Since the 1990s, the application of Discourse Analytical Approaches (DAAs) has boomed in International Relations (IR). DAAs posit that ‘things’ – “objects, subjects, states, living beings, and material structures – are given meaning and endowed with a particular identity” through language (Hansen, 2006: 18). Accordingly, discourses are seen as an inescapable medium through which we make sense and reproduce reality. By and large, IR DAAs take a critical stance in theorising. The contestation of the neutrality of science and the objective character of the social world informs a criticism to both empiricism and positivism (Ashley and Walkers, 1990). Accordingly, diverse DAAs have criticised ways in which “dominant forms of representations in IR participate in and serve to reproduce the very realities they claim only to explain” (Laffey, 2000: 429). […]

Book Reviews Coordinated by Stefania Panebianco

Fabrizio Coticchia, Qualcosa è cambiato?
Reviewed by Carla Monteleone (University of Palermo)

Rosita Di Peri and Raffaella Giordana (eds.), Revolutions without revolutions?
Reviewed by Federica Zardo (University of Turin)

Aldo Di Virgilio and Claudio Maria Radaelli (eds.), Politica in Italia
Reviewed by Francesco Raniolo (Università della Calabria)

Francesco Marangoni, Provare a governare, cercando di sopravvivere
Reviewed by Nicolò Conti (Unitelma Sapienza University)

Giovanni Moro, Contro il non profit
Reviewed by Liborio Mattina (University of Trieste)

Stefania Panebianco, L’Unione Europea “potenza divisa” nel Mediterraneo
Reviewed by Rosita Di Peri (University of Turin)

John Ravenhill, (Italian edition by Giuseppe Gabusi), Economia Politica Globale
Reviewed by Manuela Moschella (University of Turin)

Mario Telò (eds.), Globalization, Multilateralism, Europe
Reviewed by Silvia Menegazzi (LUISS University, Rome)

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