Keynote speakers

Professor Nick Couldry, Department of Media and Communications, London School of Economics and Political Science, England

Biography:

Nick Couldry is a sociologist of media and culture. He is currently Professor of Media Communications and Social Theory, and Head of the Department of Media and Communications, at the London School of Economics and Political Science. He is the author or editor of eleven books including most recently Ethics of Media  (2013 Palgrave, coedited with Mirca Madianou and Amit Pinchevski), Media, Society, World: Social Theory and Digital Media Practice (Polity 2012) and Why Voice Matters: Culture and Politics After Neoliberalism (Sage 2010).

Abstract: Life With the Media Manifold - Between Freedom and Subjection

This talk reviews the trajectory of thinking about audiences and media in the past decade and a half. Starting with the turn min the early 2000s to theorising media as practice (Couldry 2004) that acknowledged media as providing a general environment, the talk will argue that during the past 5 years, a different shift has occurred which has involved recognising that media operate not just as an environment within which we act, but as a managed continuity (accessed for example via smartphones and tablets)  through which corporations require us to move in order to extract data value from that movement. This more recent shift poses two challenges, analytical and ethical. The analytical challenge involves tracking how actors grasp this new space of possibilities: to do this, the talk will argue, media researchers need to think about the ‘media manifold’ which is the combination of the overall media environment and the particular, more limited possibilities, which those actors actualize in daily practice. The media manifold involves many exciting possibilities for new types of political and civic practice. The ethical challenge is faced by users of media every day, and increasingly being registered by researchers through the concerns of those users (eg Turkle 2013): how to think about, and adjust to, the costs of living with this managed continuity (media) that embeds actors within a new infrastructure of ‘the social’ that is entirely corporatized. How, in other words, should we (as both researchers and users of media) think about the costs of connectivity, when those costs involve the construction of a deep and so far unaccountable new form of social differentiation and power?

Professor Maria Bakardjieva, Department of Communication and Culture, University of Calgary, Canada

Biography:

Maria Bakardjieva is Professor at the Department of Communication and Culture, University of Calgary, Canada. She is editor-in-chief of the Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication. Her research has examined Internet use practices across different social and cultural contexts with a focus on the ways in which users understand and actively appropriate new media. Her work on the topics of Internet use in everyday life, online community, e-learning, and research ethics has been published in numerous international journals and edited collections. Her current projects look at the interactions between traditional and new media with a view to identifying opportunities for citizen participation in the public sphere.

Abstract: Intersubjectivity Across Media: The Structures of the Lifeworld Revisited

This paper investigates the transformations in the experienced social world brought about by digital media technologies and practices through the lens of the phenomenological sociology of Alfred Schutz (Schutz and Luckmann, 1973). It inquiries into the social and political implications of these transformations by expanding Schutz’ framework with concepts and questions stemming from schools of thought such as Medium Theory, the Phenomenology of Technology and Critical Theory. The paper argues that the newly emergent repertoires of intersubjectivity and forms of togetherness fostered by the new media environment demonstrate contradictory tendencies. They render social connections between friends banal and meaningless due to the overproduction of signals in the absence of mutual orientation. They tend to substitute a social world created by communicative action with a barrage of exchanges driven by the strategic logic of systems of commerce and power. At the same time, these repertoires offer new ways of achieving mutual knowledge, agreement and cooperation across previously insurmountable barriers of time, space and cultural difference. Hence new conditions of meaning-making and co-operation as well as new horizons for individual and collective action take hold. To what extent are these conditions critically reflected upon by users and policy-makers? Can they be consciously shaped, navigated and challenged by users? How do users break their personally meaningful and politically emancipatory paths through the thicket of cross-media connections and communicative forms? The paper frames these questions theoretically and looks for initial cues in the empirical material comprising in-depth interviews with digital media users.

References: Schutz, Alfred, and Luckmann, T. 1973. The structures of the lifeworld.
Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press.

Professor James G. Webster, School of Communication, Northwestern University, U.S.A

Biography:

James Webster is a Professor of Communication Studies at Northwestern University. His research focuses on media audiences. He has recently published two books; The Marketplace of Attention: How Audiences Take Shape in a Digital Age (2014 MIT Press) and the fourth edition of Ratings Analysis: Audience Measurement and Analytics (2014 Routledge). Webster is on the editorial boards of the Journal of Communication, the Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, and the International Journal of Communication. In 2012 he won the University of Amsterdam’s Denis McQuail award for writing the article that best advanced communication theory. Earlier this year he won the Broadcast Education Association’s Lifetime Achievement in Scholarship award. For more information and copies of his work see his web site at http://webster.soc.northwestern.edu/

Abstract: Three Myths of Digital Media

Our discipline has seen a steady stream of books and articles about how digital media will affect everything from politics to popular culture. But there’s no consensus about what the future holds. Some writers believe we’re at the dawn of a new participatory culture. Others are convinced that digital media will tear society apart. But most of these arguments are built on erroneous assumptions about digital media and how people use them. There are three common myths; 1) users are in charge, 2) big data are neutral, and 3) users will opt to live in media enclaves. In this talk, I’ll explore those myths, how they buttress popular narratives about digital media, and why I believe them to be false (or at least overstated). I’ll conclude by discussing a broad theoretical framework, the “Marketplace of Attention,” that offers a more realistic way to understand audience behavior across media platforms.