European Communication Research
and Education Association
Miguel Vicente, member of the ECREA Executive Board, member of the Science and Environment Section
Human communication has drastically changed during the last century. Mass media shifted the amount, reach and depth of communication exchanges throughout the 20th century. It is necessary to understand the consolidation of press, radio and television to know how the world worked for several decades. However, there has been an additional leap in the last fifty years, with digital communication rapidly becoming commonplace across the planet. Even though obvious and diverse inequalities impede its spread, the Internet has turned into a space for a growing part of humankind: one can hardly imagine our current daily life without computers, mobile phones, tablets, email and several other new realities defining our times. One of the several strengths of digitalization is the increasing access to online worlds, where human relations are experiencing an ongoing transformation without any necessary offline connection.
Digital ICT are referred to very often as a remarkable step forward in facing the environmental challenges of the current era: for instance, working online from our homes is usually presented as a good way to reduce emissions while commuting to and from our workplace, and also as a good individual and family solution when combining domestic tasks and external labour. Shifting to online environments are perceived, consequently, as a greening solution. However, and even though it is hard to clearly measure it, sending email, surfing the web or enjoying streaming services do have an environmental impact, even though this impact remains unnoticed for most of us.
As individuals developing our careers within academia, we use our technological devices extensively and intensively. From time to time, one can find open questions, media stories and research articles dealing with the negative consequences of this technological dependence, but most of them place their interest on the psychological and physiological damage at the individual level, and the related effects on social life around individuals. Consciousness regarding the environmental impact of our daily decisions is not portrayed as often in the news or in our scientific journals. No one neglects the benefits arising from the digital revolution experienced in recent decades, but it might be worth emphasizing that these changes and gains are also leading to environmental impacts on our planet. Sustainability policies must take into account these impacts and incorporate them into complex calculations to face the urgent and growing climate challenges present on our horizon.
In order to frame adequately the size of this challenge, a deeper analysis and a critical perspective is required. Key metaphors that are very common nowadays, like services stored in clouds, evoke a natural and ethereal space collecting the growing amount of data, and hiding the material side of these ICT systems. In the current platform society, with an unstoppable presence of individuals demanding permanent access to Internet services, the energy bill will not decrease, challenging the sustainability of the current system of production and consumption. Data centres are becoming central actors in the international electricity markets, which shows in terms of their emissions, too. The role played by leading global platforms stills needs to be discussed by those tackling the consequences arising from these giants.
The environmental impact of ICT usage can be identified, at least, in three different stages of the life cycle of technological devices:
First, the design and production phase. The commercial demand for devices remains constant for several years, whereas the amount of users keeps growing with the incorporation of new social territories, and with groups and audiences stepping for the first time into the current technological age. Geopolitical issues are also behind the production chains, fostering conflicts in the Global South due to the appropriation and redistribution of the so called “conflict or blood minerals”, such as coltan.
Second, technological consumption is still on the rise, claiming around 7% of the total global consumption of energy. The abusive usage of smartphones and other gadgets is endangering the planet. Consumption is pushed by actors, who have authority over strategic actions relating to technological development and advertising of the products. Programmed obsolence is a well-known term, forcing consumers to update their devices very frequently and to replace them in case of any small disadvantage: the advertising industry promotes lifestyles based on an intense consumption strategy and technological manufacturers are offering their products and updates in ever shorter periods of time.
And third, waste management confronts all of us with the unavoidable evidence of technological materiality. A society, where fast and frequent replacement of existing technological devices by new ones id promoted, must first develop a critical consciousness among its citizens, regarding both their use and exchange values. The size of the problem – which is now turning into uncontrolled accumulation of technological devices in the Global South, like Ghana, coming from the North, where they were designed and used – and the complex international relations behind it, was portrayed several times by diverse filmmakers.
A critical understanding of the ongoing environmental crisis, and its direct relation with the unequal global distribution of resources and damage, requires combining the three abovementioned stages in our analyses, as the full cycle of production, consumption and waste management needs to be identified and controlled.
From its very foundation, ECREA has placed environmental challenges at the forefront of its priorities. The Science and Environmental Communication Section has covered extensively the key topics of a field that grows fuelled by the urgency of the responses to climate change impacts. But even within this highly conscious and skilled group of scholars, the digital footprint is usually placed behind other priorities. One cannot imagine an association like ECREA without the role played by digital ICT, but identifying the environmental impact of our daily lives, as individuals and as members of diverse social groups, turns into a necessary first step to increase our climate awareness and gain some opportunity to react in time to partially mitigate climate change and to adapt to the ongoing transformations.
Interview with the editors: Tobias Eberwein, Susanne Fengler, Matthias Karmasin
Can you please describe the key challenges to media accountability discussed in the book?
Journalists around the globe are currently facing immense pressure. Reasons for this trend are manifold and include various challenges on the political, economic and technological levels. Evidence is most easily discernible in the political arena – just think of the inflationary critique of the media that culminates in politically motivated catchwords like ‘fake news’ or ‘lying press’. At the same time, the ongoing economization of practical news work leads to an erosion of journalism’s financial basis, with consequences that are often drastic. Unfortunately, the technological innovations of the recent past have by no means helped to alleviate these tendencies. For years, we have highlighted numerous advantages that digitisation of public communication may bring about for journalism. By now, however, these high hopes have mostly vanished: the accelerated publication cycles of online journalism create a higher risk of editorial mistakes and misinformation; increasing user participation incites unparalleled waves of hate speech and trolling; and new forms of automated communication make it even more difficult to ascribe responsibility for published content. In the light of these challenges, it is no surprise that audience trust in journalistic products is waning in many parts of the world. In the given situation, media responsibility and accountability seem to be more important than ever, and our book intends to analyse and evaluate the instruments and practices that are available for safeguarding free and responsible media in Europe.
What is the original contribution of this book?
The anthology aims at mapping the state of media accountability in Europe – and at highlighting perspectives for future developments in this field: Which instruments of media accountability are currently prevailing in the various journalism cultures across Europe and how can their mode of operation be assessed? What are the particular problems and challenges they are facing? And which possible strategies can help to overcome these challenges? These and similar questions are discussed from an international and interdisciplinary perspective. By bringing together more than 30 scholars with different national and professional backgrounds, we hope to broaden the view on media accountability, which only becomes graspable if it is approached as a cross-sectional research topic.
How do you think Media Accountability in the Era of Post-Truth Politics can be important for other areas of research on media and communications?
Because of its interdisciplinary approach, the book offers relevant insights for many fields of research in media and communications: journalism studies, organisational communication, media economics, political communication, media law and policy, media ethics, but also audience and reception studies, digital communication, or mediatization research, to name just a few examples. In fact, media accountability is a typically integrative concept that can help to connect the various sub-disciplines of our scientific community, including both normative and empirical approaches to media and communication research. As such, it is a highly valuable concept – and it is surprising to see that it has been ignored in our discipline for such a long time.
Do you feel this is a timely publication in terms of public debates?
Absolutely! The current discussions about ‘fake news’ and ‘post-truth politics’, the role of social bots and algorithms, as well as other disruptive influences on journalistic communication, leave no doubt that quality and responsibility of the media have – once again – turned into trending topics. As the integrity of the international media landscape is challenged by far-reaching transformations, the need for a functional system of media regulation is bigger than ever. In democratic societies, various instruments of media accountability (such as press and media councils, ombudspersons, or media journalism) assume a key role in the process of safeguarding responsible media performance. However, in the light of the aforementioned challenges, the established system of media accountability seems to be at a crossroads: on the one hand, the necessity of non-state means for holding the media responsible towards the public is largely undisputed; on the other hand, the effectiveness of such instruments as a guardian of press freedom and media plurality is often questioned – both by media practitioners and media researchers. The systematic investigation of these media accountability instruments from the perspective of the journalism cultures in Europe is the core objective of our publication.
How was the process of the ECREA book series, and how important was it for your publication?
The idea for this volume was conceived at a one-day pre-conference to the 6th European Communication Conference in Prague. This pre-conference brought together some of the most eminent media accountability scholars in Europe. While some of them had collaborated with us in previous projects, such as the comparative study “Media Accountability and Transparency in Europe” (MediaAcT) or our European Handbook of Media Accountability (Routledge 2018), others were newcomers to the growing international network of researchers with specific expertise in media accountability and media ethics. In the closing discussion, all conference participants emphasised the need for the future institutionalisation of media accountability research – be it in the form of further conferences and workshops, joint publications or other forms of more structured cooperation. This anthology, which contains selected papers that were presented at the ECREA pre-conference as well as additional original contributions, can be seen as a first step in the prospective process of institutionalisation. We are grateful for the opportunity to have the volume published in the renowned ECREA book series, which will hopefully increase its visibility. But we also hope that further steps will follow!
Click here to order the book from the publisher.
Click here for more on the ECREA Book Series.
Image 1: Tobias Eberwein,
Image 2: Susanne Fengler
Image 3: Matthias Karmasin
Breaking Binaries: Exploring the Diverse Meanings of Journalism in Contemporary Societies
On 14th and 15th of February 2019 the Journalism Studies Section conference was held in Vienna, convened by Folker Hanusch and his team at the Journalism Studies Center, University of Vienna. The conference was a great success with 109 registered participants. The acceptance rate for presentations was 61 percent.
With a theme of “Breaking Binaries: Exploring the Diverse Meanings of Journalism in Contemporary Societies”, the organizers put together an interesting programme of full papers as well as high density presentations discussing how journalism studies can help to address the increasingly complex journalistic field, and to propose theoretical and empirical ways that go beyond previous, simplistic binaries that have at times defined the field. The seventeen panels touched upon various recent trends and changes in journalism, including audience interaction and engagement, innovations in and broadening perspectives on journalism, among others. The conference also included a keynote address by Karin Wahl-Jorgensen titled “Breaking boundaries: Journalism studies, emerging media ecologies and the new emotional politics”. This talk considered how emerging media ecologies, coupled with shifts in public discourse, are challenging received assumptions about journalism, and therefore also raising fundamental questions for journalism scholars. The era of angry populism, the talk suggested, has been facilitated by a confluence of circumstances linked to transformations in journalism, alongside a series of broader social, political and economic trends. These require a careful and nuanced analysis that journalism studies is well placed to offer.
A day prior to the conference, Corinna Lauerer organized a YECREA PhD workshop, which featured PhD students presenting their work and receiving in-depth feedback from established scholars in a constructive atmosphere. The six PhD candidates that had been successful in the competitive double-blind review process addressed very timely topics ranging from personalized news, audience metrics or innovation in media labs to fake news. Special thanks go to Ester Appelgren, Leyla Dogruel, Sophie Lecheler, Marcel Broersma, Arjen van Dalen, Richard Fletcher and Folker Hanusch for preparing comprehensive responses. Following the conference, Corinna stepped down as the section’s YECREA representative due to her recent election as YECREA Vice-Chair. Sandra Banjac and Phoebe Maares (both University of Vienna) were appointed new section YECREA representatives.
Corinna Lauerer, LMU Munich, Germany
Ayşegül Kesirli, chair of Women’s Network, Istanbul Bilgi University, Turkey
Arianna Mainardi, vice-chair of Women’s Network, University of Milano-Bicocca, Italy
Jolien van Keulen, vice-chair of Women’s Network, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Belgium
First of all, we want to express our gratitude for being elected as the new management team of the ECREA Women’s Network. Building on the crucial work done by the network so far, we are currently preparing to refresh and relaunch the network. One of our main goals is to increase the network’s visibility within ECREA. In this newsletter we would like to introduce our vision and plans, and invite all ECREA members to engage in setting and achieving the objectives of the Women’s Network. The Women’s Network aims to address all challenges women face in research and in higher education. Being a woman in academia has always been challenging, especially in societies with strong patriarchal traditions. Apart from difficulties relating to finding a balance between everyday routines and conducting research, women in higher education have to face gender bias in any academic setting. The first objective of the network is to create a platform for female scholars to speak up about the problems they encounter in academia and be in solidarity with colleagues around the world.
The ECREA Women’s Network also intends to facilitate, contribute to, and disseminate (research on) female scholarship. By bringing people together, stimulating the exchange of insights and practices, we aim to contribute to equality in all its dimensions and identify diverse practices in higher education in Europe and beyond, revealing differences, strengths, and weaknesses. Through the organisation of workshops, lectures, and panels – in close collaboration with all ECREA sections – the Women’s Network aims to function as a platform to increase the visibility and impact of female scholars within ECREA, and initiate and maintain discussions on gender inequalities in academia beyond national as well as institutional borders.
Expanding the existing network objectives, we aim to support critical research initiatives that challenge white male perspectives on knowledge. Generally speaking, the position that not only women but also LGBTQ+ people occupy in the higher education is not neutral. Both cultural and structural conditions intervene to define, give visibility to and legitimise the competences, expertise and knowledge of female and LGBTQ+ scholars. The existing system of practices embedded in the academic context—at the level of both the labour market and organisational and cultural systems—reinforces a gender regime that has consequences in different areas.
To achieve all these goals, the ECREA’s Women’s Network calls for support to organise events, collaborate in research projects, and generate and disseminate information about the work of female and LGBTQ+ scholars. The network aims to coordinate knowledge and initiate discussions concerning the issues within our scope through different channels including its website, Facebook page, ECREA discussion forums and ECREA events. In this way, the Women’s Network seeks to inspire future research and activities that promote gender equality in higher education in the European academic context and beyond.
We would like to encourage all ECREA members to become a member of the Women’s Network and to engage with the network’s objectives and activities. Below you find the URLs of our website and Facebook group, as well as a link to our revised objectives to which all ECREA members are invited to comment on or contribute to, by getting in touch with us via e-mail email@example.com or posting a comment on the network’s discussion forum in the ECREA Intranet until May 15, 2019. Lastly, we would like to call attention to our next event; during the conference 'Female Agency and Subjectivity in Film and Television' organised by Istanbul Bilgi University on 11-13 April 2019, the ECREA Women's Network will organise a workshop to explore the experiences of women in academia and raise awareness of inequalities. We hope to meet and inspire all ECREA members during the ECC in 2020.
Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/348976009038672/
Network objectives: https://ecreawomensnetwork.wixsite.com/website/network-objectives
Image 1: Ayşegül Kesirli
Images 2: Arianna Mainardi
Images 3: Jolien van Keulen
In 2018 journalists' associations have registered over a hundred different attacks on media freedoms in Serbia – verbal attacks, cyber-attacks, pressure from editors, limited access to information and events. According to the 2019 Freedom House report, the status of Serbia declined from Free to Partly Free, among other things due to legal harassment and smear campaigns against independent journalists by the government and allied media. The culmination happened in December 2018 when the home of Milan Jovanović, a journalist for the local news website Žig Info, was set ablaze with a Molotov cocktail during the night. Jovanović and his wife managed to escape, but the entire house and their car burned down. A month earlier, one of the opposition party leaders was physically attacked and beaten on his way to a round table organized in the town of Kruševac. As a response the protest “Stop the Bloody Shirts” was organized on 8 December, gathering thousands of citizens on the streets of Belgrade demanding greater press freedom, political plurality, electoral reform, and new elections. Asked to comment on the demands, Aleksandar Vučić, the president of Serbia from the ruling Serbian Progressive Party, replied that protesters could walk as much as they wanted, but he would not meet a single demand even if 5 million people gathered in protest. And a new name for the protest was born - “1 in 5 million”.
In the turbulent recent past of Serbia, protests are not a novelty. The longest ones were organized by students in 1996-1997 and they lasted for three months. The largest ones were organized on 5 October 2000 when Slobodan Milošević was overthrown from power. What marked the new protests “1 in 5 million” is a collective response from Serbian academia.
The support first came from the University of Belgrade’s Faculty of Philosophy who addressed the public with a letter titled “105 out of 5 million”. In the letter 105 professors, researchers and assistants stated that through their scientific research of individuals, and society as a whole, they recognize many signs of dictatorship in the government’s behaviour. Among other things, they pointed out that “the foundations of modern European democracies – political, economic, and cultural freedoms, have been taken away from the citizens of Serbia, institutions and the rule of law are suspended and general welfare subordinated to personal and party interests”. In the context of political and media freedoms they noted that by using persecution in the tabloids, threats, arrests, judicial procedures and violence, they are trying to scare and humiliate the citizens of Serbia, that the government refuses to answer the questions and demands of the citizens, and its officials insult all those who dare ask questions or state different opinions. Furthermore, the letter from the Faculty of Philosophy noted that plagiarism and fake diplomas are destroying the education system, and that the new legal framework is undermining the autonomy of the university.
Soon, other faculties of the University of Belgrade followed. The Faculty of Political Sciences, home to the largest communication scholars’ community in Serbia, highlighted the main points about the undermined political and media freedoms, while the Faculty of Law raised concerns about the accumulation of executive powers that conflict with the constitutional role of the President. The faculties from the northern and southern parts of the country, the Universities of Novi Sad and Niš, also expressed public support for the protests. The website University support to protests now includes over 1500 signatories. The protests have been evolving since 30 November 2018, spreading throughout Serbia. Organized once a week, protests have taken place in more than 50 cities so far, with new cities joining in constantly. As the protests continue, many professors took the side of citizens in marches and gatherings, or take part as speakers at the rallies in different Serbian cities.
Ana Milojević, University of Belgrade
Jelena Kleut, University of Novi Sad
Julia Velkova (born 1982) is a media and communications scholar and post-doctoral researcher at the University of Helsinki, where she teaches and researches on aspects of datafication, algorithmic cultures, digital waste and media infrastructures. Julia is currently Vice Chair of the Media Industries and Cultural Production section of ECREA. Between 2016 and 2018 she was the YECREA representative of the section.
What are your hobbies outside academia?
I like sports and outdoor activities. I try to play tennis once a week, and I have engaged a little bit in orienteering since my son got interested in it. During the winter, my favourite activity is to skate on the lakes in Sweden, but this year there was too little safe ice to do it as much as I would have wanted to. During the summer I like hiking in the mountains.
What inspired your interest in hiking?
I grew up in Bulgaria where high mountains are everywhere. It is very common to hike there from an early age, as a family activity and later as part of youth life – it requires little planning and little budget. My parents used to bring me and my sister on hikes frequently on weekends at the Vitosha mountain near Sofia, Bulgaria. Later on I started going with friends to other mountains as well. In a sense, I grew up in an environment where hiking and mountains were a natural part of a regular week and of social activities. So, I never really had to ‘find’ inspiration for it – it was a natural part of life. This is something which I often miss in Sweden where I live and where it takes about seven-eight hours of driving from Stockholm to get to the mountains. One can go easily and spontaneously to a forest, but not a mountain. In Sweden, hiking trips require planning and preparation.
What was the most difficult hiking trail you took? Why was it difficult?
It was in 2006 when I went on a hiking trip on the 600km-long European trail from the Kom Peak in Serbia to Cape Emine on the Black Sea coast. The hiking trail follows the ridge of the Balkan mountains in Bulgaria through very different, picturesque landscapes. I would not have dared to do this trip alone, so I joined a group. It was a difficult hike because it required a lot of mental and physical endurance to manage walking a distance between 30 km and 60 km a day, 12-14 hours every day during a 16-day period in changing weather conditions which could vary from snow and hail to 30-degree heat depending on the altitude. I was not sure whether I would manage to finish it, but I did and it was a memorable journey. I repeated part of this hike last summer as a celebration of enduring and successfully defending my PhD. I hope to have the time and chance to hike in Slovenia in the not too distant future – the mountains there are really spectacular.
Would you say that hiking and academic work are a good combination? Why?
I was surprised to find out how many women in academia do hiking – it seems to be rather common. I find hiking much more pleasant and energy-boosting than, say, going to the gym. The creative energy and endurance that academic work requires can not emerge only from sitting in an office and interacting with colleagues, at least not for me. Hiking or generally, outdoor activities give me energy, and both detach me from the everyday academic work but also boost new creative ideas. I wish I could do it more often. At the moment my children are still too small to do a more ambitious hiking trip, but I am looking forward to some easy family hikes this summer in the North in Sweden.
Has hiking ever conflicted with your academic schedule?
Not really. Of course, it happens that I get emails with requests to submit an abstract for a conference or revisions for a journal article while on a hike, but it has always sorted itself out in the end.
Would you recommend your hobby/hobbies to other academics?
Yes, for sure. Hiking, ice-skating, tennis – any sort of outdoor, physical activity in fresh air and outside of the city is great!
Cosimo Marco Scarcelli (born in Trani, Italy, 1984) is professor of Sociology of Media at the University of Padova and University IUSVE of Venice, where he teaches and investigates digital media, gender, sexuality, young people and digital literacy. Cosimo Marco, but everyone calls him Marco, is chair of the Gender and Communication Section of ECREA and previously served as its vice-chair for four years.
My three most important hobbies are photography, cycling and rock climbing. I started to take pictures when I was 18 years old, and I bought an analogue camera. For a while, I worked as a photographer, and I did some exhibitions. Now, it is just a hobby, but I like it! I also like to spend time (when I have it!) outside and stay in contact with nature, so I like to ride my gravel bike and go rock climbing.
How did you start rock climbing?
I started three years ago. I liked hiking, but I needed more adrenaline and an activity that permitted to me to focus on something cleansing, temporarily freeing the mind from everyday stress. So, I started with vie ferrate, and I liked it a lot, but it was not enough. I asked a friend to introduce me to rock climbing. I tried an artificial wall in Padova, and it was exciting, so I decided to take a rock-climbing course with a couple of friends. I learned the basic movements of climbing and overall how to ensure your safety with the wire and how to belay a lead climber—simple tips that are literally vital (for you and your partner) when you are climbing.
What do you see as your greatest rock-climbing achievement?
At the moment, the most important achievement is the multipitch climb I did last spring with a couple of friends on mountains in the Friuli Venezia Giulia region called Via l’Estetista e il Biottico. More than 200 meters to climb and lots of emotions. From a psychological point of view, rock climbing teaches me the importance of trusting my climbing partner and doing your best to make sure that everything is ok when you are belaying a lead climber. If you have a good partner, she/he can help you if you fail, and sometimes, she/he can save your life. And you have to be ready to do the same.
Are there any similarities between academic work in Communication and rock climbing?
In academic work and climbing, it is necessary to do lots of work to improve your capabilities, and sometimes, it is frustrating because you have to work hard just to see small improvements. But when you reach your goals, you are full of energy and ready for a new adventure. You need to go higher and go outside your comfort zone because you need adrenaline.
In addition, a good climber has to combine competences from different fields: knowledge on bonds, different rocks, the environment (for example, how to read weather conditions), how to treat your partner/s to help her/him to fight her/his fear, etc. For an academic, working in communication is the same. She/he cannot stop at having knowledge about her/his specific field. She/he has to be an omnivore and take information, inspiration and knowledge from different fields and be able to combine them.
Do you check for rock-climbing sites when planning an academic trip? Have you ever combined the two?
Usually, I am curious, and when I plan an academic trip, I look for sites to climb. But, at the moment, I have never combined academic trips with rock climbing, but just because I do not know colleagues who like to climb.
Of course! Because I am looking for academic climbers to spend some time with outside during academic trips. I think that rock climbing can be a great activity for academics because when you are on the rocks, you are focused on you, and you can forget the stressful academic life for a while. And then you can see great places and panoramas that recharge and inspire you.
Sigrid Kannengießer, University of Bremen, member of Digital Culture and Communication, Political Communication, Philosophy of Communication, Gender and Communication, Science and Environment Communication Section
We are facing an ecological crisis caused by climate change. Different actors in politics, the economy and civil society (are trying to) develop strategies and means to transform society to be more sustainable. Media and communication studies mostly deal with the topics of climate change and sustainability on the levels of media content, its production and appropriation. This enables analysis of how journalists, agents of public relations and “ProdUsers” of online content are presenting climate change and sustainability, under which conditions they work, and within which networks. Furthermore, these presentations of climate change and sustainability are examined also from the audiences’ perspective, analysing how people perceive and interpret this media content.
But only a rather small research field deals with the socio-ecological effects caused by the production, appropriation, and disposal of media (technologies). What different actors do in relation to media technologies to contribute to sustainability has not been sufficiently addressed so far. Yet, there are many initiatives in which people act on media, thus putting the media technologies themselves in the centre of their practices. By doing so they are consciously and actively seeking to transform not only the technologies but also trying to change society.
Therefore, my argument within this opinion piece is twofold: First, as media and communication scholars we have to deal with the materiality of media (technologies) by also considering where the media devices we use and analyse come from, which socio-ecological effects they cause when they are used, and where the media apparatuses go after their disposal. Second, we have to pay attention to practices, which people develop in relation to media (technologies) to contribute to a sustainable society.
There is a small research field that examines the processes through which media devices are produced. While the investigation of manufacturing processes of media technologies, which are mainly taking place in production facilities in Asia, Eastern Europe and Mexico, is difficult due to severe restrictions, some authors have been successful in gaining insights. They point to indecent working conditions under which people produce the fancy gadgets. These conditions not only harm the health of those involved but also the surrounding environment due to the toxic effects of the manufacturing processes.
Furthermore, the damaging effects of the extraction processes of resources needed for the production of (digital) media technologies have been studied. In particular, the extraction of coltan in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo is a focus of research (and media discourse): people, often children, extracting the mineral are not only facing severe health problems due to their working conditions but their lives are endangered because of dangerous mines, which are mainly owned by rebel groups financing their war by selling the mineral. Moreover, the surrounding environment is being damaged too, due to deforestation and because the animals living within this region are evicted or killed.
Another rather small research area deals with the socio-ecological effects of media appropriation, focusing on the energy which is needed not only for running media technologies when using them but also for servers in huge centres which store data and facilitate our internet use. For operating huge data farms, energy intense cooling systems are needed to cope with the heat produced by the operating servers. The main resource of the energy used by media devices in their day-to-day use as well as by the server farms is fossil energy, causing emissions which lead to climate change. Therefore, the ecological footprint of processes like mediatization, digitalization and datafication is far from being sustainable.
A third research area deals with the ways media technologies are disposed of. Although illegal under the Basel Convention, disposed of media technologies (broken or not) are shipped from North America and Europe to big waste dumps in Africa (Agbogbloshie in Ghana) or Asia (Guiyu in China). Here, the toxic e-waste damages the heath of people trying to extract some of the still valuable resources from the disposed of apparatuses through burning them. Due to this inappropriate disposal, the surrounding environment is poisoned too.
In communication and media studies, we have to pay more attention to these different aspects of the materiality of media technologies that cause severe socio-ecological effects during the production, appropriation and disposal of media devices. That means media and communication studies need to further recognize the need to analyse and discuss the socio-ecological effects of the meta-processes mediatization, digitalization, and datafication, and to pay attention to these effects when examining new phenomena regarding media and mediated communication. Taking these socio-ecological effects into account is not only necessary because otherwise we would not understand these comprehensive socio-cultural meta-processes and discuss the many possibilities they provide, but just as important, it is our responsibility as scholars to reveal and address the problems and negative impacts which accompany these transformations, some of them having disastrous effects on people’s lives and the environment.
Moreover, and this is the second aspect of my argument, as media and communication scholars, we have to pay attention and analyse initiatives, on the levels of media production, media content and media appropriation, which are trying to develop new ways of dealing with the negative socio-ecological effects which I have summarized so far. There are many different actors who are aware of the socio-ecological effects of mediatization, digitalization and datafication, and who are trying to contribute to sustainability by shaping these processes to reduce the negative impacts they cause. And it is our responsibility as scholars to acknowledge these practices to not only understand what people do with media (technologies) but also to acknowledge and study people’s critical understanding of datafication, digitalization and mediatization, and to become aware of what actors are trying to improve on the basis of that criticism. The analyses of these practices will allow us to further discuss and assess how today’s media content and technologies can be used to contribute to a sustainable society.
Faced with ecological crisis and unjust globalization processes, more and more people are changing their consumer behaviour; they buy fair trade products and/or consume fewer products in general. Media play a crucial role not only because people gain information about sustainable consumer options but also because online platforms for selling, buying or exchanging goods are made available to them through online media. At the same time, media themselves are drawn into the focus of consumption as people become increasingly aware of the socio-ecological effects of the production, consumption, and disposal of media technologies. Some people act on media to contribute to sustainability; examples can be found in the repairing of media technologies in Repair Cafés and the production of fair media devices: Repair Cafés are public events in which people come together to repair their everyday objects – media technologies being among the goods which are brought most often to these events. While some people help in the repairing process, others come with their broken devices – many being keen to learn how to repair. Many of the people involved try to prolong the lifespan of the technologies they own, to prevent the need to produce new media apparatuses and the disposal of existing ones. An example of how people try to contribute to sustainability regarding the production processes of media devices are technologies which should be produced under decent working conditions using sustainable resources, e.g. the Fairphone (a smartphone being developed and produced by the Dutch company Fairphone) and the Fairmouse (a computer mouse being developed by the German non-governmental organization NagerIT).
The repair of media apparatuses and production of fair media technologies are practices with which people try to contribute to a sustainable society. Of course, these practices are not without any constraints or contradictions, and it is our task as scholars to critically analyse them to address these complexities. Hence, we need to take these media practices into account to not only understand what people do with media, but to fully understand how people act on media to transform society, and how media can be used to contribute to sustainability.
Last but not least, as media and communication scholars, we also have to reflect on our own consumption of media technologies and our fascination for media innovation and ask ourselves how we can contribute to a sustainable society – not only in our research but also in our own (media) practices.
Suggestions for further reading:
Baldé C P, Forti V, Gray V, Kuehr R and Stegmann P (2017). The Global E-waste Monitor – 2017. Bonn/Geneva/Vienna: United Nations University, International Telecommunication Union & International Solid Waste Association.
Gabrys, J (2011). Digital rubbish: A natural history of electronics. Ann Arbor, University of Michigan Press.
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By Madalena Oliveira on behalf of the Radio Research Section Management Team
There are people whose memory neither distance nor even death can erase. They are people who marked us because of a special dedication to a cause or to others. Guy Starkey is such a person. So, it would always be too soon to lose people like him. This is why the news of his death at the beginning of August 2018 was so shocking for his colleagues and friends.
A tribute can have diverse expressions. Whether it is payed in one’s lifetime or as a memorial, a tribute is always an act or statement intended to show gratitude, respect and admiration. It is given in acknowledgement of how relevant or special someone was or still is. This is what this text should be: an act of collective thankfulness to someone whose legacy is much more than pure science.
Madalena Oliveira giving a tribute to Guy Starkey during the ECC 2018 in Lugano
Like many other scholars in the radio studies field, Guy Starkey started his career as a practitioner in radio, where he exercised the vibrant, absolutely clear and unmistakable intonation of his voice. Although he also worked in magazine journalism, radio was his main vocation. In addition to his exciting experience at an offshore radio station broadcasting from the Mediterranean to the Middle East, Guy Starkey also worked for Radio Nova International on the French Riviera. After his graduation, he was employed by the British Forces Broadcasting Service in Gibraltar. His professional credits include several commercial radio stations and BBC Radio 4. He had a passion for radio and knew how magic the relationship with the studio can be, as well as understanding the imaginative power of the spoken word and complicity with the listeners, which until recently he was still practising in his morning show—Weekend Breakfast Club—every Saturday and Sunday, from 7 to 11 a.m.
In 2001, after receiving an MA in Media Education, Guy Starkey was awarded a PhD in Educational Studies by the University of London with a thesis entitled ‘Balance and Bias in Radio Four’s Today Programme, during the 1997 general election campaign’. His first book—Radio in Context (Palgrave Macmillan, 2004)—is still (and will be for a long time) a reference for students, as it combines theory with contributions on the development of practical skills in radio production in a truly balanced way. In 2007, Guy Starkey published Balance and Bias in Journalism: Representation, Regulation and Democracy (Palgrave Macmillan), which represented more or less a return to his PhD thesis, based on his concern with the power bestowed on those who have the ability to shape representations in the mass media. In 2009, Sage published Radio Journalism, a book that Guy Starkey co-authored with Andrew Crisell. Exploring what makes radio reporting distinctive, this book results from the magnificent harmony Starkey had with Crisell in acknowledging how radio transformed the character of the news and how radio journalism is worthwhile. His last book, published in 2011 (Palgrave Macmillan) —Local Radio, Going Global—explores the impact of globalisation on local radio stations. In a way, it is a book on the economy of the radio sector, putting into perspective themes like regulation, localness and ownership. Well-informed and visionary, this book also shows how Guy Starkey was an intuitive researcher, taking seriously the risk local radios face of falling into the hands of big media groups.
Between 2000 and 2017, Guy Starkey published several book chapters and articles in scientific journals on radio, regulation, journalism, localness, democracy and citizenship. He coedited two other books: Radio Content in the Digital Age: the Evolution of a Sound Medium (with Angeliki Gazi and Stanislaw Jedrzejewski, 2011, Intellect) and Radio: the Resilient Medium (with Grazyna Stachyra and Madalena Oliveira, 2014, Centre for Research in Media & Cultural Studies). A regular participant in scientific events, Guy Starkey has also acted as reviewer and consultant for scientific journals, events, projects and industry awards (such as the New York International Radio Awards, the Radio Academy Radio Production Awards and the Frank Gillard BBC Local Radio Awards), not only in the UK but also in Portugal, Spain and France. He was a member of the Steering Committee of the Radio Studies Network within MeCCSA and of the Scientific Committee of the Groupe de Recherches et d'Etudes sur la Radio (GRER).
In his discreet way he was a kind of ‘communities maker’. Unpretentiousness and humility do not apparently combine with leadership, but his modest and welcoming temperament was the source of his tremendous talent when leading groups. He was the Associate Dean (Global Engagement) for the Faculty of Media and Communication at Bournemouth University since January 2016. Previously he was Professor of Radio and Journalism at the University of Sunderland, where he had the role of Associate Dean (Media) and Head of Department (Media). In 2008, he was appointed chair of the ECREA Radio Research Section, a position he held until 2014. Between 2014 and 2015, Starkey was Sections Representative on the ECREA Executive Board and member of the Advisory Board.
In 2013, as chair of the section, Guy Starkey organised the 3rd Radio Research Conference at the University of Sunderland in London. Like other events of the ECREA Radio Research Section, it was an outstanding event. But besides the high quality of the scientific programme, there was a particular detail that made this conference such a unique event: as accommodation is very expensive in London and usually breakfast is not included, participants were provided with a breakfast every morning in the conference hall! Only a sensitive man like Guy Starkey was would have thought of offering this!
Among other scholars, Guy Starkey was always between equals. There were no signs of any superiority or vanity. His words were always warm and kindly. Scientific meetings with him were always like a circle of friends, where he used to ask about our families and update us on his own children’s achievements (just like proud fathers do). Guy Starkey was one of the most gentle people many of us ever met. For those who are not native English speakers and express words with some difficulty, Guy was the most delicate and pedagogic interlocutor. Speaking Spanish and French as foreign languages, he knew very well how non-native speakers were experts at ‘inventing new words’! And when chairing conference sessions or presenting his own work, there was a melody in his voice, intended to make his words totally understandable and to create the same empathy radio practitioners reach with their listeners.
Guy Starkey was a one-of-a-kind man. In the hours that followed the announcement of his death, many colleagues wrote messages praising the person he was. There will be no fairer tribute nor better words than those posted on Facebook and sent by email: ‘a brilliant man’, ‘the finest friend’, ‘a wonderful and generous scholar’, ‘kind, generous and extremely professional’, ‘a great colleague’, ‘an amazing tutor’, ‘a wonderful man’, ‘an excellent scholar, researcher and a big inspiration for students and co-workers’, ‘a leading, caring and inspiring colleague’, ‘one of the most genuine, caring, sincere people’, ‘an amazing gentleman’, ‘such a humble and approachable human being’.
If radio studies are now a vibrant, vivid, emotive and passionate scientific area, it is to a great extent thanks to Guy Starkey, with whom many scholars learnt how science is simultaneously a matter of thinking and affection.
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