9:00 AM to 10:30 AM
1. Civic Media Across World Contexts
Moderator: Evan Lieberman, MIT
Daniel Josephy-Hernández, Universidad Nacional de Costa Rica, Jorge Rivera-Marin with Ai Tomita “New Japanese Nationalism in Anime”
2. Digital Technologies, Value, and Labor
Moderator: Göran Bolin, Södertörn University
Göran Bolin, Södertörn University, “The reconfiguration of value in data capitalism”
3. Media Power, Ethics, and Truthmaking
June Deery, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, “Political Simulation: Media Portrayals of Media in Politics”
This paper will briefly re-cap the history of the media’s role in politics since Teddy Roosevelt and categorize recent political narratives found in British and US media. I will indicate how fiction contributes to our understanding of media-politics and examine how gender, class, and race/ ethnicity are presented in both political and journalistic cultures.
Primary TV texts: Yes Minister/ Prime Minister, West Wing, House of Cards (UK and US), The Thick of it, Veep, Alpha House and A Very British Coup. Primary film texts: All The President’s Men, Tanner ’88, The Candidate, Wag the Dog, Bulworth, Primary Colors, Good Night and Good Luck, In the Loop, and The Post.
The presentation will offer two contemporary cases. First, self-tracking technologies emblematise the ongoing enthusiasm for data-driven knowledge as more objective and empirical – the promise of ‘machines that know you better than you know yourself’. Second, I turn to Alex Jones and the Youtuber ‘The Golden One’ as examples of political disinformers. Here conspiracy is served as a dose of reason and reality, draped in a personal and thoroughly anti-institutional style. Their audience is subsequently monetised through dubious health products: fake news for fake pills.
Across both cases, personal truthmaking romanticises a transgressive, charismatic and individualistic kind of authenticity as the path to reason and truth. Yet the exhortation to know for yourself, whether through the latest smart gadget or by ‘redpilling’ against the lies of the deep state, becomes leveraged to establish a new generation of mediators both human and nonhuman. What is at stake is not only the spread of ‘alternative facts’, but changing social and technological thresholds of what counts as truth and trust online.
Eric Opu, University of East Anglia United Kingdom, “Online Political Activism, Media Literacy and Public Manipulation: The Challenges of Balancing Public Order and Free Speech in the Age of Fake News. Insights from Cameroon”
I examine these questions and the implications these have for internet governance and political participation in Cameroon.
4. Journalism, News, and Civic Participation
Eleni Staiou, University of Athens, “Civic responsibility trends through digital solidarity: the case of Greece during the economic and social crisis”
This paper presents the self-organized social solidarity initiatives (SoSS) that emerged in Greece of the crisis as a response to the problems that arose and could not be covered by the state. The main objective is to discuss how these initiatives have taken advantage of the online tools (website, email, facebook, twitter, youtube) in their quest, what difficulties they encountered when using online media, and if these tools ultimately helped them to achieve more quickly and easily their goals. Finally, using this experience and these data, ten basic principles are suggested regarding the use of digital tools from civic initiatives that lack resources (money or human) in order to organize a professional communication policy.
Michael Epstein, Walking Cinema & Laura Herman, Adobe, Inc, “Location-Based Journalism and Civic Participation”
Aman Abhishek, University of Wisconsin-Madison, “Locating Open Source Culture at the Heart of Public Journalism: the case of Wikinews, WikiLeaks & Indymedia”
Chris Wells, Boston University, Kjerstin Thorson, Michigan State University, & Emily Vraga, George Mason University, “Who gets the news now? Contingent information exposure, digital citizens and democracy”
5. Media Infrastructures across Contexts
Michele Ferris-Dobles, University of Costa Rica & University of Illinois at Chicago, “Central American migration and the ‘borderless’ mobile phone”
James Schwoch, Northwestern University, “From the Telegraph to 5G:Wooden Utitility Poles, Woodpeckers, and Media Transition”
Rory Solomon, New York University, “Meshing Well: A Model for Network Politics”
6. Digital Technologies, Welfare, and Human Rights
Mats Björkin, University of Gothenburg, “Computation and the Welfare State: The Development of Digital Public Service in Sweden 1950-1980”
Marc Aidinoff, MIT, “Digitizing Welfare”
Rana Arafat, University of Lugano, “Re-thinking Democratic Divide and Digital Media Usage in Forced Migration Contexts: A Study on Arab Refugees in Switzerland”
The particularity of the case of refugees, who are not allowed to participate formally in the host country’s politics until naturalization while having high restrictions on their out-of-country voting in the homelands they fled, leads to a state of political marginalization that may last for decades. Therefore, a wider understanding of the democratic divide and the internet political usage by refugees still requires further research. Aiming to bridge the gap, the study employs a qualitative data analysis method to come up with deeper illustrations and explanations. 60 semi-structured interviews with Arab refugees in the three main language regions in Switzerland are conducted (20 in Lugano and Chiasso, 20 in Geneva and Neuchâtel and 20 in Zurich and Bern) to dig deeper in their internet and social media usage for political purposes.
The preliminary findings showed strong evidence for the existence of a democratic divide in political internet usage among long-settled Arab refugees in Switzerland. While the majority of the participants showed high digital literacy skills and a big interest in following political news about both their homelands and host countries, three key barriers contributed to creating a new form of democratic divide in the forced migration context including fear of state surveillance, political discouragement/despair and the Swiss citizenship and current residence status. In most of the cases, such factors prevented those interested in politics from expressing their political opinions online or engaging in any online political discussions. This widens the democratic divide between those who use digital media for politics and those who do not causing many refugees to be ‘twice marginalized’, once for not having political rights to participate in the formal state politics in their host countries offline and once for not being able to engage in digital politics online. This double marginalization adds a new aspect for understanding the democratic divide in a more critical situation, opening the door for raising questions about the future of these non-electronic voices that are marginalized from political participation in the age of rising e-governments.
J. Mauricio Gaona, McGill University, “Socio-technological redistribution of digital media: From AI-news and e-policy forums to human rights protection”
In my paper, I argue that Artificial General Intelligence (AGI) will correct public trust problems currently associated with social, public, and commercial media. Moreover, since evolutionary algorithms will gradually remove human bias from their source code, AGI will not merely provide greater objectivity but further eliminate natural (psychological) and unnatural (political) distorters of reality—particularly since machines can fact-check better the news they report. Eventually, society will benefit from sharing the same facts from which more intelligent discussions will finally emerge.
Neither commercial nor social media will disappear as this redistribution will push them to become e-policy and reaction forums mainly focused on discussing rather than reporting the news. Still, social media role will regenerate through specialized-emerging functions—this is another critical finding of my research. In fact, my paper shows traditionally neglected social groups using social media across the world to protect their human rights and fight against dissimilar forms of discrimination, oppression, and authoritarianism. This includes political opponents in Venezuela using YouTube to expose crimes against humanity, victims of conflict in Colombia using Facebook and Twitter as transitional justice e-forums, Central American, Syrians, and Rohingya refugees using social media as migration tool, and women in Honduras using Facebook as sociopolitical-accountability tool to stop gender violence and discrimination.
7. Fake News: Past and Present
Ryan Scheiding, Concordia University, Alternative Facts & Atomic Bomb Collective Memory: The Case of John Hersey’s Hiroshima”
This incident can be seen as an early example of “alternative facts” that dramatically changed American collective memory of the atomic bombs. Past research has examined the connection between official sources and the stifling of Hersey’s work in the period directly after the bombing (1946-1947). Yet, little work has been done that examines the continuing impact of Hersey’s work. This paper fills that research gap through a comparative study of the original New Yorker issue (1946), the mass market paperback version (1989) and the reproduction found on newyorker.com (2015). This brief case study examines not only what has changed (and not changed) in the different iterations of the work but also examines the influence of official sources on collective memory through the use of disinformation.
Jeffrey Blevins, University of Cincinnati, “Free Expression and Fake News: Does the ‘Marketplace of Ideas’ Metaphor Still Apply?”
Lilia Kilburn, Harvard University, “Photoshop and the Visual Registers of ‘False News’ in Cameroon”
why these debates took place when they did. Using techniques drawn from semiotic anthropology (Silverstein 2004, Agha 2005), I trace the dialectical emergence of three distinct visual registers of Photoshop use in this setting: first, a leave-no-trace approach to photo editing with historical ties to Euro-American skepticism of Photoshop on photography-as-truth grounds; second, the Cameroonian government’s visibly Photoshopped images, part of a long history of Biya’s tactics of mediation (Mbembe 2001); and third, the recent uptake of Photoshop by Anglophone separatists. Four years prior to the introduction of the secessionists’ cryptocurrency AmbaCoin, satires of government Photoshoppings helped to consolidate a secessionist counterpublic and fueled an emergent fantasy through which technological expertise might save a new Anglophone state—and only its citizens—from the crises faced by the bilingual one. I argue that Photoshopped images in Cameroon produced value through social differentiation, splitting constituencies that might have aligned against broader forms of exploitation, because they made benefits like foreign press attention available only through designations of relative goodness or competency, and suggested a zero-sum moral universe (Simone 2004).
10:30 AM to 11:00 AM
11:00 AM to 12:30 PM
Plenary: Culture Industries
Weisner Building – E15
Huma Yusuf, Wilson Center
David Hesmondhalgh, University of Leeds
Roberta Pearson, University of Nottingham
Philip M. Napoli, Duke University
12:30 PM to 1:30 PM
1:30 PM to 3:00 PM
Iago Bojczuk, MIT, “From Rio de Janeiro to Marrakech: Spatial and Female Representations of the ‘Arab-Muslim’ in the Brazilian Telenovela O Clone”
9. Television’s Transitions
Giulia Taurino, University of Bologna/University of Montreal, “Cultural Proximity, Technological Divide: a framework for understanding the expansion of non-linear television”
This paper argues that media transitions, as well as changes in concepts of participation, can be best understood via theories of play. Play is defined as free and yet bound by rules; it exists in between ambivalences of autonomy and control. Most recent transmedia phenomena, such as interactive features and playable stories are very fruitful examples as they are directly connected to gaming. The interactive film Black Mirror: Bandersnatch refers to such issues as loss of control and gamification while inviting the audience to engage with a playable format, in which one cannot be sure if the viewer is fully aware that she is part of a higher game. Using game mechanisms, the viewer becomes a player that iterates her decisions – but the outcome is ultimately out of her hands, questioning her autonomy and if democracy concerning digital media practices is enabled.
This mode of experimenting, or playing, is also used in transmedia contexts and allows the recipients to practice their interaction with constantly changing media forms. But simultaneously they are being played and stuck in media algorithms and structures.
Ivy Roberts, Virginia Commonwealth University, “Tinker Culture: Democracy of the Waves in 1920s Radio and Television”
• What aspects of 1920s popular science facilitated the democratic culture of early radio and television?
• How does the unregulated culture of early radio and television compare to that of the broadcasting era?
• What effects did regulation and standardization have on early radio and television culture?
• How did the imposition of regulations affect programming?
The presentation will conclude with the consequences of regulation and standardization on the early culture of experimentation and innovation. The battle of the waves stifled the organic democratic culture that evolved out of the early period of media in transition.
In this presentation, I explore the transition from an informal to a formal infrastructure as a process that promoted the participation of publics in the sustainability of these infrastructures. While these projects are covered by democratic values, Community Television has been also pushed into competition through a set of rules that restrict their operation. More importantly, to keep their legal status, Community Television must produce a specific number of hours to prove their community outreach. In focusing on how Community Television have handle this requirements, I consider the affective labor of maintenance, which involve technical aspects on maintaining obsolete technologies, but also multiple legal strategies to sustain them.
10. Digital Media and Creative Democracy in Popular Music Culture
Haekyung Um, University of Liverpool, “Aesthetic and Political Values of Pop in the Age of Digital Media: The Polemics of Entertainment and Political Representation of BTS and Diverse Roles of Audience Participation”
This paper addresses two ways that the idea of democracy has been articulated in relation to the creative practices of popular musicians. The first question concerns whether media practices offer access to potentially diverse and egalitarian forms of creative expression and public dialogue: Do digital technologies and streaming platforms allow wider democratic participation in music making by broadening both access and the criteria by which a musician is recognised? The second question concerns the impact of media on democracy, and whether popular arts can contribute to a type of ‘monitory democracy’: Has digitalisation and the streaming of music allowed more people to participate in monitoring and influencing democratic processes? In broader terms the paper asks what it means to think about popular music creativity and democracy in an age of digital abundance. Is the increasing ability of any creator to put their music into the digital realm in itself a democratic achievement (even if nobod