Archive | June 2015

Reframing Media/Cultural Studies, University of Westminster, 19-20 June

This was originally posted on the Birmingham Centre for Media and Cultural Research blog.

On 19 and 20 June I attended the Reframing Media/Cultural Studies in the Age of the Global Crisis conference at the University of Westminster. It was held by the university’s Communication and Media Research Institute (CAMRI) in partnership with Fluminense Federal University in Brazil.

The conference included a lot of high profile speakers from the field including Dave Morley, David Gauntlett and Paddy Scannell, who told me this is the first time he has attended a UK conference in nine years, because he currently works at the University of Michigan.

It was Paddy who began the first plenary, which set the tone for the rest of the conference. The panel laid out the state of media and cultural studies at the moment, and he commented that the field is trapped in ‘presentism’ and that history needs to be considered in current media and cultural studies. This was echoed by Dave Morley who added Eurocentrism, media centrism and technological determinism to the list of ‘isms’ media studies is currently trapped in. Annabelle Sreberny from SOAS, University of London mentioned a need to reassemble ourselves in order to deal with the complexity of modern times, through embracing interdisciplinary approaches. David Gauntlett agreed a non media-centric media studies is required, and argued that his focus on making things is one approach, and he also mentioned Nick Couldry’s focus on practices (which he talked about at Kings College London last week) as another possible approach, among others. It was a thought provoking panel which asked some important questions.

Many of the other panel sessions applied theory to modern technological and social conditions, such as Heidi Herzogenrath-Amelung’s use of Heidegger’s ideas of a rationalised approach to being-in-the-world to characterise technology and ICT as a mode of revealing reality. Federica Frabetti talked about software theory as an attempt to shed light on culture and philosophy, claiming that software can be constitutive of our consciousness. The second plenary offered a break from theory to talk about the global crisis. Jeremy Gilbert argued that we have always been living through a crisis, but that we need to understand the role of digital media in contemporary capitalism. For example, how corporations are capturing co-creative practices and commodifying them, and where precarity and hypermobility spur from and are increasingly signs of capitalism itself. A lot of what Jeremy says resonates with what I’m looking at in my own work about social media, expertise and creative work. Neoliberalism was talked about a lot throughout this panel, and the conference.

The plenary on the second day talked about ‘new/old theory in media/cultural studies’ and included input from Christian Fuchs, whose work I have drawn upon a lot in relation to social media and laboutr. He described a need for critical social media studies that includes a consideration of the economy. Much of what he talked about is in his recent book Culture and Economy in the age of social media, including his application of Raymond Williams’ cultural materialist approach to understanding social media. I’m still not entirely sure about this approach for my own work, but Christian does provide much needed insights into social media as situated within the wider cultural and economic context.

My own presentation went well and I received very helpful feedback, particularly regarding consideration of the audience and their reception of the performance of expertise on social media, and also considerations of power, which is what I am currently thinking about. The final plenary, about internationalising media/cultural studies, brought many interesting perspectives from speakers around the world. Jaeho Kang talked about area studies and national identity in Korea, and argued that Marshall McLuhan’s ‘the medium is the message’ requires further interrogation rather than being dismissed as technological determinism. He said that instead, the medium is the methodologywhich is exactly how i’m approaching social media – I see it as a medium or close analysis, rather than a source of data.

On the whole, this conference was very interesting and inspiring, and has prompted me to think more about theory for my research.

University of Birmingham Research Poster Conference

On 16 June I presented at the University of Birmingham’s research poster conference. My poster covered the performing expertise aspect of my PhD, and I designed it to look like Twitter to make it a bit more eye-catching. It was a productive day and definitely good practice for talking about my research to a variety of audiences.

Here it is below. Click for a larger version.

Research conference poster Karen Patel V2

Cultures in Disarray, Kings College London 11-12 June 2015

This was originally posted on the Birmingham Centre for Media and Cultural Research blog.

Last week I presented externally for the first time at the Cultures in Disarray conference at Kings College London. It was a thoroughly enjoyable two days with many interesting talks from a variety of disciplines.

The first keynote speech was by Peter Dahlgren who talked about civic cultures and participation, characterising it as a circuit with six dimensions: knowledge, values, trust, spaces, practices and identities. I found it interesting that he drew upon the work of Bourdieu to talk about online participation as an ‘online habitus’ which is acquired through the practices and experiences of everyday life. Peter didn’t go into too much depth with this, but everyday life is something I am looking at in my PhD so it certainly got me thinking.

Peter Dahlgren

Peter Dahlgren

The talks that followed were themed around technology, then creative and cultural industries. There was a really interesting case presented by Yachiao Tu (pictured below) about the use of creative and cultural industries discourse in Taiwan to brand the city as a tourist destination. She describes how the government borrowed the UK’s discourse about creative and cultural industries, as well as the ‘Creative Britain’ strategy, and used it to brand creative and cultural industries (CCI) based tourism destinations. These include CCI hotels and parks, and she talked about the use of terms such as ‘creative life’ in the marketing discourses around these destinations. It was a real eye opener for me, to see another city adopt the UK’s creative and cultural industries strategy and almost take it to an extreme. The presenter told us that on the local TV and radio, ‘CCI’ is talked about constantly. I would really like to go to Taiwan now to see this for myself!

CCI woman (800x450)

Yachiao Tu

I presented on the second day on one aspect of my PhD – the performance of expertise on social media, with some results from my pilot study. It was really useful to hear feedback from people and their questions and suggestions about social media methodology. In particular I have to thank Roberta Comunian for her feedback which will be a great help for my next conference at the University of Westminster this week.  Expertise was mentioned a few times throughout the conference but only in passing, and afterwards a couple of people researching social media told me they had never ‘thought about expertise’ before.



The final keynote was by Nick Couldry who talked about his thoughts on the social construction of reality, arguing that the corporate attempt to construct reality needs to be interrogated. He describes how social media is increasingly the space where ‘the social’ is happening, and corporations are constructing these spaces and aggregating data to make profit. Of particular use to me was the flagging up of literature which really interrogates this, in particular a book by Ulises Mejias (2013) called Off the Network. It was a very provocative keynote and I’ll be interested to read Nick’s next book, which he is currently writing.

Nick Couldry (800x306)

Nick Couldry

To find out more about the papers presented see the book of abstracts.