08/12/2017
by Leonhardt van Efferink
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GeoMeans Courses at Maastricht Summer School 2018

GeoMeans Courses at Maastricht Summer School 2018In 2018, GeoMeans offers you skills courses at Maastricht Summer School for the sixth time. Leonhardt van Efferink teaches you the skills needed to study political and country risks, geopolitical scenarios and frames, and texts and photos in the (social) media. Moreover, Leonhardt helps you with developing your analytical framework and apply it to a country/data source of your choice. Each of his courses enables you to benefit from his vast research experience in academia, government and the private sector. Continue Reading →

08/12/2017
by Leonhardt van Efferink
10 Comments

Country Risk Analysis: Growth Potential, Economic Policy and External Finances of Emerging Markets [Summer School]

Period: 16 – 20 July 2018; Fee: €600; ECTS credits: 2; Program: available by the end of June; Language: English; Application process: Maastricht University; Application deadline: 25 June 2018; Accomodation: Maastricht Housing; Funding: Not available

Country Risk Analysis: Growth Potential, Economic Policy and External Finances of Emerging MarketsDescription
The Asian Crisis in 1997-1998, Argentina’s default in 2001 and the recent economic downturns in Brazil, Russia and South Africa underline the relevance of country risk analysis for companies, policymakers and NGOs. This course teaches you the skills to study country risks in Emerging Markets from an economic perspective. Continue Reading →

08/12/2017
by Leonhardt van Efferink
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Political Risk Analysis: Domestic Factors, International Relations and Economic Impact Assessment [Summer School]

Period: 23 – 27 July 2018; Fee: €600; ECTS credits: 2; Program: available by the end of June; Language: English; Application process: Maastricht University; Application deadline: 2 July 2018; Accomodation: Maastricht Housing; Funding: Not available

Political Risk Analysis: Domestic Factors, International Relations and Economic Impact Assessment [Summer School]Description
The recent developments in Turkey, the social unrest in Venezuela and the ongoing conflict in the Ukraine underline the continued importance of political risk analysis for companies, policymakers and NGOs. This course teaches you the skills to analyse political risk drivers and their impact on the economic growth potential of Emerging Markets. Continue Reading →

08/12/2017
by Leonhardt van Efferink
2 Comments

Geopolitical Scenario Planning: National Security, Geo-Economics and Foreign Policy Strategy [Summer School]

Period: 30 July – 3 August 2018; Fee: €600; ECTS credits: 2; Program: available by the end of June; Language: English; Application process: Maastricht University; Application deadline: 9 July 2018; Accomodation: Maastricht Housing; Funding: Not available

Geopolitical Scenario Planning: National Security, Geo-Economics and Foreign Policy StrategyDescription
The rise of China, increased uncertainty about US foreign policy and growing concerns about natural resources scarcity underline the relevance of geopolitical complexity in international relations. This course teaches you the skills to study geopolitical drivers of inter-state conflicts, write scenarios for these conflicts and assess the impact of these scenarios on the foreign policy strategy of the states involved. Continue Reading →

08/12/2017
by Leonhardt van Efferink
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Geopolitical Framing Analysis: National Images, World Views and Global Dividing Lines [Summer School]

Period: 6 – 10 August 2018; Fee: €600; ECTS credits: 2; Language: English; Application process: finished; Contact Leonhardt for the options to do this course (partially) at your university;

Geopolitical Conflict Analysis 1: Fragmented Identities, Rising Powers and International Security Threats [Summer School]Description
The declaration of independence by Catalonia, BREXIT and phrases such as “Clash of Civilizations”, “Borderless World” and “the End of History” underline the relevance of geopolitical frames. This course teaches you the skills to study geopolitical framing, which concerns the construction of similarities, differences and connections between states. Continue Reading →

08/12/2017
by Leonhardt van Efferink
5 Comments

Textual Media Analysis: Critical Discourse Analysis, News Framing and Qualitative Research Design [Summer School]

Period: 13 – 17 August 2018; Fee: €600; ECTS credits: 2; Program: available by the end of July; Language: English; Application process: Maastricht University; Application deadline: 23 July 2018; Accomodation: Maastricht Housing; Funding: Not available

Textual Media Analysis: Critical Discourse Analysis, News Framing and Qualitative Research DesignDescription
The ‘fake news’ debate, the tweets of American President Donald Trump and the question whether media should speak of immigrants, refugees or asylum seekers underline the importance of language in (social) media. This course teaches you the skills to study the possible meanings of media texts. Continue Reading →

08/12/2017
by Leonhardt van Efferink
2 Comments

Visual Media Analysis: News Photos, Text-Image Relations and Multimodal Discourses/Frames [Summer School]

Period: 13 – 17 August 2018 (one week earlier than initially announced); Fee: €600; ECTS credits: 2; Program: available by the end of July; Language: English; Application process: Maastricht University; Application deadline: 23 July 2018; Accomodation: Maastricht Housing; Funding: Not available

Media Representations Analysis 1: Texts, Critical Discourse Analysis and News Framing [Summer School]Description
The daily posting of millions of photos on social media, the strong resonance of some magazine covers and efforts by many states to influence the visualization of their foreign military missions underline the importance of visual media analysis. This course teaches you the skills to interpret news images and related sentences, captions and headlines. Continue Reading →

02/08/2017
by Leonhardt van Efferink
Comments Off on A Flexible Tool for Impact Assessment of Political Risk Indicators (by Gaia Verhulst)

A Flexible Tool for Impact Assessment of Political Risk Indicators (by Gaia Verhulst)

Our Guest Contributor: Gaia Verhulst

Political Risk IndicatorsIn 2014, Gaia Verhulst obtained a MSc in Comparative and International Politics from the University of Leuven, Belgium. Inspired by her dissertation on traditional leaders and rural development in South Africa, she decided to pursue a Specialised Masters degree in International Cooperation and Development at Università Cattolica in Milan, Italy. Upon graduating with highest honours, she performed several internships in private and non-profit organisations in South Africa and Belgium. She currently works as the Fundraising and Communication Officer of a Belgian development NGO that seeks to enable rural development in the Democratic Republic of Congo. In the future, Gaia aspires to professionally combine her enjoyment of political analysis and her passion for socio-economic development in an international setting, while acquiring country or region-specific expertise.

The Summer School on Political Risk Analysis

In July 2017, I participated in the Summer School “Country Risk Analysis 1: Political Risk Indicators, Geo-Economics and Report Writing” at Maastricht University. With an academic background in international relations and international development, I applied for the Summer School to be introduced to (geo-)political risk analysis, a method that I deemed useful to make multidimensional analyses of (developing/emerging) countries and regions. Participating in the course was a good learning experience because the course was intellectually challenging and practice-based. Exchanging views with a diverse group of students and professionals from four different continents enabled me to open up my perspectives on geo-politics and showed me possible pathways to combine my analytical mind-set with my passion for international development topics. The experience has taught me about the complexity of simplification, whereby history, present, and future are interlinked and influenced by various factors. Continue Reading →

23/12/2016
by Leonhardt van Efferink
6 Comments

GeoMeans Summer Schools at Maastricht University in 2017

Please check for 2018 editions of these courses: GeoMeans Courses at Maastricht Summer School 2018

We are very happy to teach analytical skills at Maastricht Summer School for the fifth time this year. This page introduces our six courses, but if you want to apply for some of them straight away, please visit the Maastricht University website. GeoMeans organises two courses on geopolitics, two on country risk and two on media representations: Continue Reading →

23/12/2016
by Leonhardt van Efferink
8 Comments

Geopolitical Conflict Analysis 1: Fragmented Identities, Rising Powers and International Security Threats [Summer School]

Geopolitical Conflict Analysis 1: Fragmented Identities, Rising Powers and International Security Threats [Summer School]Period: 3-7 July 2017

Program: Click Here to Download Course Program

Description
The civil war in Syria, BREXIT and the unexpected election of Donald Trump as American president all underline the continued importance of national identity, power and security. This course teaches you the skills necessary to study how different ideas about these key concepts can affect geopolitical conflicts. Continue Reading →

23/12/2016
by Leonhardt van Efferink
2 Comments

Geopolitical Conflict Analysis 2: Geographical Factors, Geostrategy and Scenario Planning Tools [Summer School]

Geopolitical Conflict Analysis 2: Geographical Indicators, Geostrategy and Scenario Planning ToolsPeriod: 10-14 July 2017

Program: Click Here to Download Course Program

Description
The ongoing Indian-Pakistani rivalry over Kashmir, the recent violence between Azeri and Armenian soldiers related to Nagorno-Karabach and the melting of the Arctic ice cap underline the continued importance of geography in foreign policy and international relations. This course teaches you the skills necessary to develop an analytical framework to study past, present and future drivers of geopolitical conflicts, and their impact on the foreign policy strategy of the countries involved. Continue Reading →

23/12/2016
by Leonhardt van Efferink
0 comments

Country Risk Analysis 1: Political Risk Indicators, Geo-Economics and Report Writing [Summer School]

Country Risk Analysis 1: Political Risk Indicators, Geo-Economics and Report Writing [Summer School]Period: 17-21 July 2017

Program: Click Here to Download Course Program

Description
The recent developments in Turkey, the social unrest in Venezuela and the ongoing conflict in the Ukraine underline the continued importance of political risk analysis for companies. This course teaches you the skills necessary to study political risks, and explore how these risks can affect the economic growth potential of Emerging Markets. Continue Reading →

23/12/2016
by Leonhardt van Efferink
2 Comments

Country Risk Analysis 2: Macro-Economic Risk Indicators, Causal Chain Tool and Recession Scenarios for China [Summer School]

Country Risk Analysis 2: Macro-Economic Risk Indicators, Causal Chain Tool and Recession Scenarios for China [Summer School]Period: 24-28 July 2017

Program: Click Here to Download Course Program

Description
The current economic recession in Brazil, the unusual budget deficit of Saudi Arabia and the uncertain growth prospects of China underline the continued importance of country risk analysis for companies. This course teaches you the skills necessary to study country risks in Emerging Markets from an economic perspective, with a special focus on China’s future growth path. Continue Reading →

23/12/2016
by Leonhardt van Efferink
19 Comments

Media Representations Analysis 1: Texts, Critical Discourse Analysis and News Framing [Summer School]

Media Representations Analysis 1: Texts, Critical Discourse Analysis and News Framing [Summer School]Period: 31 July-4 August 2017

Program: Click Here to Download Course Program

Description
The role of media before the American presidential elections, the ‘terrorist or freedom fighter’ debates and the question whether European media should speak of immigrants, refugees or asylum seekers underline the continued importance of language in media coverage. This course teaches you the skills necessary to study to study how media texts can be interpreted. Continue Reading →

23/12/2016
by Leonhardt van Efferink
12 Comments

Media Representations Analysis 2: Images, Social Semiotics and Multimodality [Summer School]

Media Representations Analysis 2: Images, Social Semiotics and MultimodalityPeriod: 7-11 August 2017

Program: Click Here to Download Course Program

Description
Millions of daily posts by social media users, disinformation efforts by governments and the increased visualization in the traditional written press underline the continued importance of visual media analysis. This course teaches you the skills necessary to study how media images can be interpreted, and how their interaction with surrounding textual elements contribute to their meaning potential. Continue Reading →

23/10/2016
by Leonhardt van Efferink
2 Comments

What are the Key Questions in Visual Analysis?

“Grundlagen der Visuellen Kommunikation. Theorieansätze und Analysemethoden” - Marion G. Müller and Stephanie GeiseWould you like to improve your visual analysis skills? And can you read German? Then “Grundlagen der Visuellen Kommunikation. Theorieansätze und Analysemethoden” is an excellent read. The book by Marion G. Müller and Stephanie Geise confirms that introductory textbooks can be very inspiring. Why?

First, the book explains different theories and concepts in a very accessible way. This helps you position yourself and your own research within the existing literature.

Second, the book contains 100 photos with very engaging interpretations. This makes it not only easier to understand the theoretical issues at stake in your research, but also their implications to your actual data.

Third, the book helps you to make a distinction between the description, analysis and interpretation of images. These steps could concern questions such as “Which features does the image have?”, “What meanings does the image have to you?” and “How are the possible meanings of the image affected by its production context, consumption context or visual building blocks?” The authors acknowledge that it can difficult to draw strict boundaries between these three steps. Moreover, “prosumers” can be relevant in this regard as well. They concern people who are both producers and consumers of media representations, and have become important particularly thanks to social media.

Fourth, the book clearly explains the three key stages in meaning-processes of images: their use, their reception and their effects. This division is important in visual analysis since it is directly related to your research design. Which of the three stages are you focusing on in your visual analysis?

Fifth, the book takes a broad perspective on visual analysis. There are for example chapters on content analysis, political iconography and visual context analysis. Moreover, the chapters on agenda-setting, framing and priming form excellent overview of relatively new approaches towards visual analysis. The observations made offer great insights that can be used to design your research method.

“Grundlagen der Visuellen Kommunikation. Theorieansätze und Analysemethoden” - Marion G. Müller and Stephanie GeiseFinally, the book explains the role of multimodality (i.e. text-image relations and text-image-sound interaction) in visual analysis. The authors stress that images rarely appear without semiotic resources from other modes (such as written or spoken text) joining them. A multimodal approach is in their view therefore often -if not always- recommendable in visual analysis.

Bottom line: thanks to a productive balance between theories, methods and examples, “Grundlagen der Visuellen Kommunikation. Theorieansätze und Analysemethoden” by Marion G. Müller and Stephanie Geise forms an excellent basis to improve your visual analysis skills.

Visual Analysis

16/08/2016
by Leonhardt van Efferink
0 comments

Our Essay Template for Textual/Visual Media Analysis

Our Essay TemplateDeveloping the structure of your essay could be a complicated and long process. This is especially problematic if you don’t have much time (left) to write your essay.

This applies for example to the students of our one-week Summer Schools on Textual/Visual Media Analysis. They actually need to write an essay within 72 hours. To enable our Summer School students to quickly decide on their essay structure, we developed this Essay Template (please click on link to download Word file).

The Essay Template has been developed in line with our Summer School course objectives. Its structure reflects the way in which our students are expected to approach their data, concepts and methods. We used the Essay Template for the first time in 2016.

It proved to be of great help to the participants in our Summer Schools in their analysis of media representations. Some of them -both students and lecturers- asked us whether they could use the template for their future work or classes.

Therefore, we now offer the Essay Template as a free download on the GeoMeans website. We expect that the template could be useful for other assignments as well, both related to media representations and other data.

It is good to keep in mind, however, that the structure of an essay should always reflect its educational or analytical objectives. Therefore, we encourage you to change our Essay Template if that helps to bring its structure more in line with your objectives.

To conclude this post, we give you a preview of the Essay Template by showing its complete structure:

1. My Theme, Concept and Article

a. Relevance of Theme

b. Relevance of Key Concept

c. Relevance of Article/Image/Cartoon

2. My Research Questions

a. Meta Question

b. Central Question

c. Operational Questions

3. My Method

a. A Broad Perspective

b. A Narrow Perspective

4. My Findings

5. Conclusion

6. Bibliography

7. Annexes

Essay Template

24/06/2016
by Leonhardt van Efferink
6 Comments

BREXIT and the Myth of National Unity

BREXIT

A red Mini that can not move forward due to red traffic light.
(Photo: Leonhardt van Efferink, Newcastle upon Tyne.)

Simply put, geopolitics is about human rivalry over space. So political, economic and military resources matter in geopolitics. Such resources can be both instruments and objectives in spatial rivalry. The way people think about themselves and others is important as well in this context. This is why identity is a crucial concept in geopolitics.

People usually speak of identities in the form of a Self and an Other. A popular example is “The West” and “The Rest”. What is often left unmentioned, is that ideas about a national Self are often based on a myth. The myth of national unity. A short analysis of political news can be helpful in identifying the fractures in any national identity.

The BREXIT referendum in the UK is a case in point. On the one hand, the majority in favour of BREXIT highlights a widely supported perception of the EU as not being being part of the (national) Self. On the other hand, the result simultaneously highlights fractures within the British Self. Being close to 50%-50%, the result reflects particular dividing lines within the British population. It actually refutes claims about British national unity.

The following two quotes from an article in the EU Observer question this claim as well. They further underline the strong link between identity and the other geopolitical concepts territory and sovereignty.

Scotland, as expected, voted to Remain, by 62 percent. The result will raise again the question of Scotland’s independence.

This observation raises the issue of UK sovereignty. What does the Scottish majority against BREXIT imply for the authority of the British government over this British region? And how will this result change the views among Scottish voters on whether their region should remain part of the UK territory?

The UK-wide majority for BREXIT also resulted in questions about the authority of the London-based British government in Northern Ireland:

The republican Sinn Fein party, which is the second largest force in the region’s coalition government, reacted by saying that “the British government has forfeited any mandate to represent [the] economic or political interests of people in Northern Ireland.”

Let’s not forget that both quotes do not only apply to today’s BREXIT referendum results. They also reflect fractures within the UK that have already existed for many years. The European Championships Football offer a telling example. This tournament is for countries only. The UK however holds an exceptional position. Four of its regions can participate in the qualification rounds for these Championships. In fact, Wales, Northern Ireland and England all made it to the knock-out stage of this tournament in 2016.

Wrapping up, the national identity of all countries has always been fractured. People with different backgrounds can have different views on themselves and others. Such disagreement points at the existence of multiple boundaries between the (national) Self and the Other(s). As the BREXIT referendum makes clear, the UK is no exception.

In fact, looking ahead, the results could even lead to new cracks in the very fabric of British society. After all, national identity is always on the move. This is exemplified by today’s Facebook post of a London-based poet. She calls for the secession of the British capital from the UK:

Dear Europe. I am so sorry that my country has decided to shoot both itself and me in the foot with this idiotic decision. Please know that London still loves you very much. I have never been less proud to be British. London: please can we leave the UK and start our own state before Boris takes over?

BREXIT

16/06/2016
by Leonhardt van Efferink
0 comments

Our Framework of Country Risk Concepts

Country Risk Concepts

Definitions of 15 Key Country Risk Concepts
(click on image to download pdf file)

This post discusses some concepts that are important during your first steps in country risk analysis. It also offers you a one-page overview of 15 country risk concepts. It is based on the opening session of our Summer Schools. You can download the overview for free and use it as the basis for a more context-specific country risk analysis framework. Please note than an effective framework always requires adaptation and specification of the general suggestions in this post and the accompanying overview.

If you do one of our skills training sessions, your first challenge is to become familiar with the most important country risk concepts. Starting with country risk itself, it may at first seem confusing to discover that it is very hard to pin down. This makes however perfect sense. Its definition should be selected in line with the underlying analytical objectives. A related question is which country risk types are most important in a specific context. Banks for example are concerned about sovereign risk, collective debtor risk, convertibility risk and transfer risk. The last two play a central role in our Summer Schools. To get more familiar with these country risk types, please check our overview of 15 country risk concepts. The overview offers you a possible definition for these country risk types (and several other country risk concepts that are introduced below).

An effective country risk framework further requires the inclusion of at least 11 other concepts. The first two and most straighforward ones are creditor and debtor. These are of course essential concepts in banking and finance as a whole. Specifically in country risk, the locations where creditor and debtor reside are essential. Two other major concepts are counterparty risk and environment risk. They refer to the scope of country risk. In other words, the central concern is how many debtors may face payment difficulties. You can describe possible payment difficulties very well with the concepts arrrear and default, pointing at increasingly severe situations.

The concepts payment ability and payment willingness are important in both the assessment of country risk and the interpretation of arrears or default. Both also require a good understanding of the status of particular currencies in two ways. This applies to the currency in which the debt is denominated and the currency in which the debtor generates her/his earnings. If they are different, it could have a profound impact on country risk. If the debt is denominated in a hard (foreign) currency, while the earnings of the debtor are in a soft (local) currency, country risk is more elevated ande complex.

As I note above, our overview of 15 country risk concepts suggests definitions for each concept. These definitions seek to encouage you to reflect on the role that country risk plays in your research or business. They further should be seen as starting points for any (re-)development of a basic or comprehensive country risk analysis framework. Please feel free to change the definitions and add/remove concepts in line with the requirements of your research or business. Finally, the overview may also assist you identify the skills that you or your organisation need in order to develop such a framework. If you have any questions about the concepts, definitions or skills to develop a country risk analysis framework, please contact us.

These country risk concepts and their definitions are not adequate to deal with all activities in all countries under all circumstances. They should always be re-defined and re-conceptualized in line with either your analytical objectives or the operational context of your business.

Country Risk Concepts

14/06/2016
by Leonhardt van Efferink
0 comments

Words Matter in Geopolitics – Czechia or Czech Republic?

CzechiaWords matter in geopolitics. Think for example of the words “ally” and “enemy”. These words matter because of the simple, yet in particular contexts very popular assumption that all other countries in the world are either “allies” or “enemies”.

Ursula von der Leyen, Germany’s Minister of Defence, suggests that an exception to this binary world view is possible . She creates a third option by using these words: “Russia is not our enemy, but it’s no longer our partner.”

Other words that matter in the current geopolitical debate are threat and refugee, among many others. How to define them, who decides on this and -given the selected definition- what is the right policy to deal with them? The selection of one particular definition for a word can actually have a huge impact on the policy preferences.

This article by Global Risk Insights provides another telling example of why words matter in geopolitics: the name of a country. Wouldn’t it be better to speak of “Czechia” instead “Czech Republic”? Actually, in the Netherlands we already speak informally of “Tsjechië”. So here, the name change wouldn’t have dramatic consequences.

But what would be the costs of the change in a global context? In answering this question, the GRI article suggests that there is a close relationship between language and economics as well in some contexts. It concludes that “the switch to Czechia is going to create confusion.” After all, words matter. Not only in geopolitics.

This post was earlier published by author on LinkedIn Pulse

Words