CfP: “Media Policy and Digitalization” workshop

Update – January 25, 2017: the deadline for abstracts is extended to February 15!

Original post:

When The XVIII Nordic Political Science Congress (NoPSA 2017) takes place in Odense on August 8-11, 2017, I will chair a workshop on digitalization and media policy. Vilde Schanke Sundet from Lillehammer University College will act as vice-chair, and the workshop will constitute The 2nd European Symposium on Media Policy.

And now, the call for papers is out:

Description:

Media policy constitutes a neglected sub-field of political sciences and has, traditionally, been relegated to the realms of media and communication studies. However, since it concerns the structures that support and regulate democracy, freedom of expression, and public participation, and since it is of increasing interest to policy-makers on both national and super-national levels, it is an area that could also be of interest for the political-science community. This workshop proposes an occasion for starting such a conversation and fertilizing the ground for increased integration of media policy in the political sciences.

Issues of media policy have become pertinent in recent years as technological and social development reconfigures the object of this policy area. So, the workshop will focus particularly on the challenges that digitalization poses to media policy and the questions that it raises. These challenges include – but are not limited to – (1) how traditional media markets such as broadcasters and the press increasingly converge on digital media, challenging the regulatory frameworks and subsidy systems put in place by policy-makers; (2) how digital intermediaries such as Google and Facebook are central actors in citizens’ media use but transgress the tools of the same policy-makers; and (3) the extent to which one can even distinguish between “media policy” and other policy areas such as cultural policy, policies of infrastructure (telecommunications), and trade/business policy.

The workshop format:

We emphasize the workshop format of the event, expecting all authors with accepted abstract to submit full papers before the workshop (see timeline below) and act as designated opponents on other authors’ papers (i.e., reading the paper in advance and prepare comments). At the workshop, we will have 45-60 minutes for each paper: 20 minutes for presentation, 10 minutes for comments from the opponent, and 15-30 minutes for general discussion. This format should allow for time to work in-depth with the paper contributions. The workshop will accept a maximum of 15 papers, and we hope to be able to publish the best of them as a special issue.

Timeline:

  • January 15, 2017: Deadline for paper proposals. Proposals should have the form of extended abstracts (750 words) and be sent directly to workshop chair Aske Kammer (aska@itu.dk)
  • March 15, 2017: Notification of acceptance
  • May 15, 2017: Deadline for Early Bird registration
  • July 15, 2017: Deadline for submission of full papers (send to workshop chair Aske Kammer, aska@itu.dk)
  • August 8-11, 2017: Conference

Questions or comments?

Do not hesitate to contact me or Vilde Schanke Sundet.

 

Theorizing (changes in research into) cultural policy

Earlier this month, I attended the 2nd International Conference on Public Policy (ICPP) in Milan. For thoughts on the conference as such, I recommend Raul Pacheco-Vega’s blog post about his experiences at the conference – the purpose of this post is somewhat different, namely to try to structure some thoughts that I have had since the conference and, thereby, hopefully continue and contribute to the specific discussion I was part of in Milan. (Comments are most welcome below.)

My paper ”Media Policy Responses to the Convergence of News Media Sectors in Denmark” was part of a 13-paper panel on cultural policy organized by Kate Mattocks (City University London) and Lisa Marx (University of Geneva). Mattocks and Marx did a very good job in putting this panel together, and I think everybody learned something from the presentations and discussions.

The most important discussion arose after the section where I presented (but not because of me, I must emphasize!). Here, Clive Gray from Warwick University served as discussant, and instead of offering feedback on the presented papers (which is the normal approach in that situation), he took one step back and asked why all the papers were studies that explored some small instance of cultural policy in some concrete setting instead of asking larger questions about what cultural policy is for, what it is in the first place, and what is actually at stake in the contexts of the studies. I cannot remember the exact way he phrased his critique, but I think it is fair to say that he would have preferred more work that offered critical reflection on these questions than the papers in the panel had done so far.

Gray is right that we might be prone to focus more on “small” empirical studies, where we subject some piece of policy to intense scrutiny, and thereby miss the bigger picture – namely the question about what cultural policy really is, what its consequences are, and how different actors with different interests use the very concept of culture in very different ways. “All uses of the concept of culture can be both attacked and defended”, Gray asserted in his own presentation; cultural policy is a contested area where opposing views and interests compete for discursive hegemony as well as practical influence.

I know Gray intended to be provocative and kickstart an important discussion, so I will just put it out there for the record that while I agree with his overall point, I also think that we should avoid neglecting the value of empirical studies of even very small cases; the larger discussion about “culture” is important, but if we do not have a firm grounding in empirical data and interpretations of them, we risk disconnecting the normative discussion from the facts. But I do not disagree with Gray that we need more critical thinking about the very idea of culture and the implications of using that concept in the ways that we do (Raymond Williams famously called culture “one of the two or three most complicated words in the English language“).

What I think would be a most interesting direction to move forward, however, would be to apply Gray’s ambition of addressing the bigger questions to the very tendency of smaller studies.

Rather than lament the absence of papers that asks grand questions about what culture and what cultural policy is, we should ask why 12 in 13 papers in the panel was of an empirical nature. Is it because it is considered easier to do empirical work than to develop theory? Is it because the “publish or perish” paradigm of higher education organizations grants primacy to this type of academic activity, which is often faster to do and can result in more journal articles (which, again, is particularly important for junior scholars who do not yet have tenure)? Is it because we cannot all think the big thoughts?

And is it really a bad thing – or is it necessary for the theoretical development of the field to have these empirical studies to rest upon?

So, while we look forward to the 3rd International Conference on Public Policy in 2017, it might be fruitful to start theorizing not only culture and cultural policy but also the current tendencies in cultural policy research.

New grants for research into cultural criticism and media economics

These weeks have been very good in terms of getting funding for future research.

First, I am part of a research project called “From Ivory Tower to Twitter: Rethinking the Cultural Critic in Contemporary Media Culture“, which succeeded in landing 6.2 m DKK from the Danish Council for Independent Research. The collaborative project is headed by Nete Nørgaard Kristensen from the University of Copenhagen and aims at exploring current changes and transformations in the practice, authority, and status of cultural criticism and critics. It is a project, I and some of the other participants have been working on for a couple of years, actually, in different constellations (e.g., in the international research network Cultural Journalism in the Nordic Countries) and in connection with a coming special issue of Journalism Practice (more on that in a later post), but this large grant is a game-changer in terms of pushing this research agenda forward.

In addition to Kristensen and myself, the research group consists of Unni From (Aarhus University), Helle Kannik Haastrup (University of Copenhagen), Erik Svendsen (Roskilde University), Troels Østergaard (The Danish School for Media and Journalism), and one PhD fellow.

Second, I participate (though much more peripherally) in a Norwegian research project called “Digitization and Diversity – Potentials and challenges for diversity in the culture and media sector“. This project is housed by the Centre for Creative Industries at the Norwegian Business School in Oslo and landed 15 m NOK for researching (among other things) the business models of digital news over a three-year period. My part in this project is a minor one, but the grant will fund at least a one month stay as Visiting Fellow in Oslo.

Both of the projects deal with subject matters, which are already on my research agenda, and so the new funding does not fundamentally change my priorities. What they do is that they improve the working conditions and offer new possibilities – and they also allow me to go back to Oslo for an extended period of time, which was most rewarding for me last time.

So, happy times and bright outlooks. Have a nice summer, everyone.