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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.
During the General Assembly that took place on 3 November 2018 in Lugano, the ECREA membership approved the newly established ECREA Ethics committee. Members of the Ethics Committee are:
Carlos Barrera, Spain
Benjamin de Cleen, Belgium
Charles M. Ess, Norway
Richard Haynes, UK
Anastasia Kavada, UK
Josiane Jouet, France
Epp Lauk, Finland
Snjezana Milivojevic, Serbia
Claudia Padovani, Italy
Burcu Sumer, Turkey
The Committee will start its activity with the creation of ECREA Ethics code. During General Assembly, tentative use of The European Code of Conduct for Research Integrity by All European Academies (ALLEA) was approved.
How did the idea for Models of Communication arise?
During one of the breaks at the 2013 Nordmedia conference, two of us (Kęstas and Mats) began chatting about fashionable and unfashionable topics in communication theory. We noted a curious fact: although models of communication are not at exactly in vogue – at least not in the way that they once were – many our colleagues deal with questions of communication modelling, albeit not always explicitly. Therefore, we thought it would be interesting to organise a workshop on the theme of models under the auspices of the ECREA Philosophy of Communication section. This took place in Vilnius in 2015. The volume at hand is primarily an outcome of the workshop, although some of the essays included were not presented in Vilnius.
Can you please present the varieties of communication models discussed in the book?
The book includes a number of discussions of familiar transmission and constitution models, but the approaches might be described as unconventional – in a positive sense. For example, one of the essays explores how Turing machines can contribute to constructivist / constitutive modelling, while another articulates a defence of the much-disparaged transmission model based on the contention that its central function is to identify key components of the communication process rather than a “linear” depiction of the flows of information. Some of the models discussed are limited to mass media and journalism; but there are also contributions that explore less familiar modalities of communication, leading to themes not customarily dealt with in treatments of communication modelling. There are chapters that outline approaches to communication models based on the philosophy of pragmatism and Norbert Elias’ figurative sociology – and many of the essays are critical of traditional conceptions of the communication model. Delving deeper than a mere presentation of various models on the market, the book includes articles that address questions of modelling in relation to the metaphysical and epistemological fundaments of communication theory. Consequently, the volume pays attention to certain aspects of communication – such as its ontological, natural, and even mystical dimensions – that Robert T. Craig identified as promising areas for further development in his seminal 1999 article “Communication theory as a field”. Hence, it is highly fitting that the first article of the book is a new essay – “Models of Communication in and as Metadiscourse” – by Craig.
What new insights does this book offer to communication scholars?
Since Dance’s 1967 helical model and Barnlund’s 1970 transactional model, there has been comparatively little innovative work done on communication modelling. We all know that the usual suspects come up all the time in research and scholarship. Models are not theories, but they can be used to structure theory and investigation or to articulate, simulate, transform, and critique varying aspects of communication situations. In communication studies, we do this quite regularly – and sometimes perhaps somewhat mechanically – using transmission and constitutive models as our main guiding lights. But given the complexity and richness of communicative phenomena, this simple dichotomy needs both elaboration and critical scrutiny. Here, we not only discuss old and new models of communication but also probe more fundamental ontological and epistemological issues in communication modelling.
So, on the one hand, the book presents a number of new (or forgotten) models that may prove conducive to inquiry. On the other, it addresses truly fundamental issues of communication theory seen through the lens of modelling. We hope that the book will contribute to a fruitful reassessment of the role that models may still can play in the development of communication research – without ignoring valid caveats concerning the shortcomings and perils of communication modelling. The book invites scholars to make more creative and imaginative use of the potential that modelling has to offer in conceptualising and studying communication – without forgetting the translation of theoretical research into practical and political interventions. Sensibly developed, communication models can be helpful tools for communicating about communication in real-world contexts when communication becomes problematic.
How do you think Models of Communication can be important for other areas of research on media and communications?
As a whole, this book offers a contribution to the theoretical and philosophical discussion about the nature of communication. We hope that it will support other areas of research by suggesting new ways to investigate, criticise, and transcend the most commonly held assumptions about communication. The book articulates varying approaches to creating new conceptualisations of communication, rooted in experience and philosophical reflection. But it also invites scholars of different stripes to explore novel ideas of communication in a more experimental spirit. Communication is a dynamic thing; and as Marshall McLuhan knew better than anyone else, an element of play is an essential part of our engagement with communication – something that should be kept in mind in empirical inquiry as well as in abstract theory. We hope that some of that attitude comes across in this book.
Do you feel this is a timely publication in terms of public debates?
The questions with which this book deals are primarily theoretical and philosophical, and in that sense comparatively timeless. On the other hand, one of the central aims of philosophical work is to problematise the seemingly obvious. This book will hopefully challenge the reader to imagine alternative possibilities for communication practice – something that is acutely needed today. Just think of datafication and the rather reductive view of communication that the discourse of datafication implies and tends to institutionalise. Seeking to articulate the richness of communication in vibrant and fruitful ways is more important than ever. Having a broader set of models to draw on can be a big help in this respect. Insights into the varying means by which we partition and comprehend the sphere of communication can therefore be useful for communication scholars engaged in public debates on communication ethics, mediatisation and the influence of (communication) technology on social and personal life. In this sense, this book raises vital questions concerning the basic conditions for our critical engagements with the role of communication and media in contemporary society.
How was the process of the ECREA book series and how important was it for your publication?
It is a great recognition of the role that our small Philosophy of Communication Section plays in ECREA and communication research in Europe. We are very happy that we were allowed to produce this book for the series and we hope that the readers will find it both thought-provoking and enjoyable.
Click here to order the book from the publisher.
Click here for more on the ECREA Book Series.
Madalena Oliveira, former chair of the Radio Research Section and editor of the ECREA's open access journal 'Radio, Sound & Society Journal'
Open access publishing is as important to the wide dissemination of scientific knowledge as it is controversial. Emerging as an alternative to the commercial editorial market, the reaction to the cost-free distribution of research outputs has been ambiguous. On the one hand, it is perceived as unrestricted access to scientific literature. On the other hand, it is also perceived as a possible threat to the quality and relevance of scientific results. In recent years, many journals were launched with a general policy of free access to knowledge, and they represent new chances for new research fields. These journals benefit from online publishing tools, and they may be published by commercial editors. However, it is mainly nonprofit research groups or associations that sponsor them.
One criticism of open access publications has to do with their business model and sustainability. Often lacking professional or dedicated staff, these publications depend on volunteer editors. Their sustainability is not only a matter of funding, however. It is a matter of credibility and symbolic power. In spite of their open availability, it is much more difficult for new open access journals to create their own audience and attract contributions from senior researchers.
Individual and collective projects require academic publishing, a condition for validating new findings among the scientific community. Nowadays, rather than publishing edited or single-author books, researchers must publish in scientific journals, whose peer-review processes are seen as a guarantee of scrutiny. The increasing number of authors looking to publish work is one reason the editorial sector is so vibrant and dynamic. Competition is high and to publish in renowned journals became a particular concern for all researchers.
Although the improvement of knowledge is science's primary objective, the current scientific paradigm measures research relevance in terms of social and economic impact. Academic careers are mainly assessed by new parameters focused on impact factors. In this context, there is great pressure to publish scientific results, which promotes an industry regulated by citation indexes and other sophisticated metrics that rank the social relevance of editors, journals and authors. Even if this were understandable, this system would threaten the genuine motivations for science without a complementary sector that could disrupt the business barriers. Therefore, open access publications are not only a consequence of new opportunities created by the Internet; they are necessary.
There is no doubt that the open access model is advantageous for democratizing knowledge. It represents for science what the Internet represented for journalistic content in general: the offer of costless information. As in the media sector, the abundance of available resources demands more abilities from the users, especially in distinguishing the quality and credibility of the content. Open access does not necessarily mean a lack of credibility. In most cases, open access journals follow the standards of quality for conventional publications (peer and blind-review, regular publishing, a coherent and well-written reference style). Many have also been submitted to indexing processes. The idea that only paid-for information could be safe is indeed nonsense.
The major apprehension about open access publishing is the need to avoid a kind of scientific epidemic. According to the Spanish researcher Miguel Tuñez, predatory journals are one of the most dangerous aspects of an unregulated market of free publishing. Sometimes with unknown origins, these pseudojournals develop aggressive and deceptive marketing strategies. They offer open availability, global diffusion and quick acceptance of articles, they have more editions per year than usual and promote a very wide call for papers. Some are multidisciplinary and accept contributions from diverse scientific areas. They also often contact potential authors and invite them to submit their work to an easy publication process. Announcing “fake” impact factors, these journals offer a false appearance of scientific credibility. They are the toxic side of open access systems and have nothing to do with the spirit of free knowledge. Their objective is to make money with fees charged to the authors.
Researchers have discussed the many advantages and disadvantages of open access publication. To have more benefits than problems, it is necessary to promote the responsible use of information tools. For society in general, as well as for scholars, trust is the key challenge today. It is not enough to have access to content; citizens need to trust the media, the political systems and the scientific structures. In addition, scientists need to trust information processes. Building trust-based communities is as essential as promoting communication grounded in freedom and independence. Analytics businesses, indexing services and official databases started to do part of this work, though they had strong economic motivations. They filter predatory journals, set parameters of quality and allow for normalised comparability.
Trust in open access publications should not only be assured by external institutions. It has to be a result of scientists' self-regulation as well. Readers must critically select what should be taken seriously or not, and publishers must promote honest, innovative and reflective contributions to their own research fields. It is clear that the quantitative model applied to science may distort the concept of excellence. A return to slow reading would be good advice for conscious navigation through open access knowledge.
Henrik Örnebring is Professor of Media and Communication at Karlstad University, Sweden, where he mainly researches the historical, institutional, and professional aspects of journalism. He is also the author of two science fiction novels and numerous role-playing game supplements. He is also an avid beer geek who regularly goes to beer festivals and always makes sure to plan some beer-related stops whenever he attends academic conferences.
What are your interests and hobbies outside academia?
I think I have almost every geeky hobby that exists! I play games – role-playing games, board games, card games, tabletop miniature games. The only type of games I really do not play are computer/video games, strangely enough. I am very into comics, and have been since I was a very young age. I love old pulp literature, cult films and TV, crime novels, science fiction and fantasy in all forms and across all media, and as noted I am a beer geek (and a whisky geek, and a consummate cocktail maker) as well. I also have a couple of ‘normal’ hobbies – I go to the gym four or five times a week and I also love cooking and attend cooking classes and cooking events.
When did you become a role-playing game writer in Sweden?
I’ve been playing role-playing games since I was about 13 and written material for my own and my friends’ use since then. Eventually, when I was in my mid-20s, I had acquired the network and the skill to offer my writing samples to some Swedish game publishers and get my stuff published commercially (though I use the word “commercially” in the loosest possible sense – I have never made anything more than pocket money from my games writing!). Most of the stuff I’ve written has been pretty small scale, but I won the ‘Role-Playing Campaign Supplement of the Year Award’ in 2005 for an RPG book I wrote with my friend Ola Janson (it was about life in post-apocalyptic Gothenburg).
How did you start to take an interest in beer tasting?
That interest goes back to my student days when a friend introduced me to beer other than mass-produced lager for the first time. I was amazed to find that beer could taste something other than beer, if you understand what I mean. I started doing beer reviews for the student newspaper and I’ve kept the interest since then!
Do beer tasting or your interest in role-playing games have any links to your academic work?
Ha ha, I really don’t know! You should ask my colleagues, who I always drag around town when we are attending conferences, looking for the best breweries/beer bars! I’ve never written about beer or role-playing games in an academic setting as I tend to think that would make my hobbies more like work and thus not as enjoyable. I have, however, pursued my interest in cult TV with a number of academic articles (in the International Journal of Cultural Studies, for example) about the TV series Alias. Look them up if you are interested!
How do these interests, if at all, help you as Professor?
Ha ha, again I don’t know! But I have noticed that my interests (which I would like to think are fairly wide-ranging) have given me a broad frame of reference and I can often relate to conference presentations and academic texts outside my own area of expertise (particularly in the field of popular culture), because I have some idea about the object of study or about geek culture in general. So my interests have certainly broadened my (academic) horizons, which I can only think of as a good thing!
What game would you recommend to other communication scholars?
I’ll go very obscure here: there is a not-very-well-known independent role-playing game from the mid-2000s called The Shab Al-Hiri Roach, which is set in the academic world and a very funny satire (in game form) on academia. I think the game’s own presentation best explains its potential appeal to academics: “The Shab-al-Hiri Roach is a dark comedy of manners, lampooning academia and asking players to answer a difficult question – are you willing to swallow a soul-eating telepathic insect bent on destroying human civilization? No? Even if it will get you tenure?”
How would you recommend people interested in learning about beer should start?
Come find me at a conference and come with me to a beer bar/brewery! There’s nothing like a personal introduction to get started in the world of beer!
Photo credits: Charlotte Örnebring
Pille Pruulmann-Vengerfeldt is Professor of Media and Communication at Malmö University, Sweden. She primarily teaches an international hybrid and flexible online/on-campus MA programme called Media and Communication: Culture, Collaborative media and Creative industries; and researches audiences, new media, and museums. Since 2017, Pille has been the international director of the European Media and Communication Doctoral Summer School. She is a mother of three boys and an advocate for sign language.
Sometimes I joke that with three kids, one does not need a hobby as I already have three, but I do love reading, learning new things, board games and watching baking and cooking programmes on TV.
How did you start to take an interest in sign language, and how far have you been involved?
When our youngest son was born almost six years ago, we learned early on that he will face many challenges. Among them, doctors could not get an accurate reading of his hearing although he passed some hearing tests around age one, we were told when he turned two that he would quite likely be profoundly deaf. Additional investigations into Cochlear Implants (CI – technology that is implanted to hearing nerves and produces at least some kind of hearing) showed that his hearing nerve was never completely formed, so nothing could be implanted. This meant that hearing was never going to be part of his way of communication. That coincided with our relocation to Sweden [from Estonia]. It took us some time, but in May 2016 we took our first sign language classes and have by now spent more than 100 hours learning Swedish sign language.
It keeps surprising people that sign language is country specific and a natural language. As a natural language, it emerges when enough people get together (usually in schools) and evolves to support the understanding (mostly lip-reading) of the local language. This means that one has to know both the language the sign-language is built on as well as the actual signs. Thus for us, intensive learning of two new languages – Swedish and Swedish sign language – began.
Together with learning the language, the courses provided to the parents also include education about deaf culture, which has a long and interesting history, and activists fighting not only for the rights of deaf people but also for their right to their own culture and language. Realising that this is the culture and the future world of my child, which among other things, is endangered by the technocratic worldview of medical professionals, I became engaged with the cause with as much as my current workload allows. The problem that reliance on technology does not fit everyone has led to reduced availability of sign language classes, signing interpreters and signing education in the special needs educational branch.
Does this activism around sign language relate to your academic work on Communication? If so, in what ways?
I do not think I can really call myself an activist; rather I am looking at this issue from the perspective of a communication scholar. Sign language is a communication tool, and as elsewhere the negotiations between technological determinism/optimism and the real-critical views of the lived realities are quite different. So I have been thinking (and not getting too far with this yet), but overall, there is more research needed when it comes to unique communicative properties of the sign languages in general. There are some interesting aspects that have been addressed, but sign language is not only an interesting tool and subject for linguists. We as communication scholars should also care about the cultural, expressive and communicative properties of different sign languages that are connected to the parallel languages to which they have evolved to enhance, but all sign languages across the world have fascinating bodily and spatial properties too. These make the stories told in sign language much more visual; signing people, in general, are more expressive and also often more aware of their surroundings and more able to ‘read’ other people even when they do not speak. The spatiality and bodily dimensions of the sign language make it somewhat hard for me to learn as you cannot really write it down – or you can, but there is only some sense in it.
Thus, my work in communication shows me (I think) new problems in understanding signing people and sign language as a cultural tool. I think that this is also a point for further investigation, perhaps by me, but I definitely hope by other people too.
How does it, if at all, help you as Professor?
This is a hard one to answer – it makes me more aware of the diversity of the world we live in, it gives me more respect for the different challenges people face daily, but it also increases the need for me to be able to show how communication as a focus of research can shed new light on a political struggle. I think for me the learning has also been related to how ‘ableist’ we are in our research, and while I am fully aware that many people are fighting for the cause of diversity, I think in my professor position, I will need to take this idea of equality and diversity even more seriously.
Do you or would you like to try to bring other academics to this cause?
I hope quite a few academics are working on the issue, but I would really like to see more communication research coming out of this. It can also be that as I traditionally see and hear more mediated communication research, then there might be strong branches of interpersonal communication research already dealing with sign language, but my preliminary investigations have not really shown that to be the case. Thus, I would love to call on communication researchers who could be interested in looking at different modes of communication as a way to investigate the cultural richness of the human world we live in, to study sign language. Sign language should not be reduced to the status of a tool for communication assistance, but needs to be recognised for its richness and diversity and the unique cultural contribution it can have.
How could people who would like to become engaged in sign language learn more about it?
There is a Spread the Sign app, where you can check out some quite different sign languages, and think of learning about your local sign language – does it have the status of a language? Is it recognised? What kind of political discussions are there around the sign language in your country? And think – how is my research taking into account people with different abilities, different communicative needs and abilities?
Photo credit: Gabriella Liivamägi
Does our field get its fair share of research funding? Two years ago the Association established a task force to look into this. It was chaired by Peter Golding (UK) and included Christina Holtz-Bacha (Germany), Paolo Mancini (Italy), Slavko Splichal (Slovenia), Helena Sousa (Portugal) and Kirsten Drotner (Denmark). The concern was fuelled by unease that research funding, even where available, was increasingly leaning towards work that was short-term, atheoretical, and with a strong bias towards more applied and commercially oriented investigation. The group’s first report found many of these trends were apparent in many (not all) countries, and there was real basis for concern. The Committee also drew attention to the work of national subject associations, and recommended that ECREA seek to update its information about such bodies, encourage their activity where they were dormant or even non-existent, and to provide support for them where resources and time allowed, not least to promote research support in their own countries. ECREA decided to transform the task force into a standing committee, and invited it to continue its work, focusing especially, in the first instance, on the role of the European Research Council (ERC).
This resulted in the second report from the Committee, which was presented at the Lugano conference, and can be found on the website together with the recommendations of the first report. At the Lugano conference there was also a presentation by Dr. Lionel Thelen, who is the ERC Coordinator for the panel to which many ECREA members might submit bids. As the Committee’s findings and Dr Thelen’s presentation showed, there is great uncertainty and imprecision about just how much support is provided for our field by the ERC. However, what is clear is that it could be very much more, and that far too few applications are submitted, a matter ECREA will seek to correct. It is also a concern that submissions should be reviewed by researchers active in the communications and media fields, and ECREA will be seeking to improve the number of such referees accredited by the ERC. The ERC does provide large grants with long duration, and successful award holders seem largely pleased with their situation. But are enough such people in our field? The information to date is indecisive, but sufficiently uncertain to suggest that there are too few grant holders in the field and too few applications, and that ECREA should work with ERC to improve the situation, both in relation to applications and to encourage members to become referees for the ERC.
Professor Peter Golding
Emeritus Professor, Northumbria University, UK
The ECREA biennial European Communication Conference (ECC) took place in Lugano, Switzerland from 31st October to 3rd November 2018. The theme was Centres and Peripheries: Communication, Research, Translation. The Newsletter informed you about all the important things running up to the conference. Now, we are happy to report, on behalf of the local as well as the international organising committee of the conference, that the ECC 2018 has successfully concluded.
Here, we bring you some quantitative data to summarise the event. We are happy to report that this was the biggest ECC so far with 1248 participants. The greatest number of participants came from Germany, United Kingdom and Switzerland, followed by participants from Spain, Sweden, Denmark, Netherlands, Belgium, Finland and Portugal (see below). More than one quarter of participants (350) were PhD students, out of which 10 were granted an ECC travel grant and fee waiver by ECREA with cooperation of YECREA. In total, 983 speakers presented 1012 presentations. The average presentation had 19 slides, and as you can see in the attached graphic overview, most of the speakers uploaded their presentation more than two hours before their presentation took place. Thank you all.
Those interested in Journalism Studies had hard choices to make, as this section had 29 panels running throughout the conference. The Communication and Democracy, Political Communication, and the Digital Communication and Culture Sections had 21 panels each, and the Audience and Reception Studies Section ran 15 panels in total (see the table for more details on the other sections).
From the corridors and coffee break discussions, we are happy to report that people commented very positively on the ECC, finding presentations of interest and diving deep into the topical discussions.
The conference also hosted three all-female keynote presentations. Eszter Hargittai opened the conference with her nerdy Halloween candies but most importantly with her presentation on The online participation divide. Her research goes beyond asking whether people participate or not, but further looks at what determines the quality and effectiveness of their participation. She argues that the crucial factors are personal internet skills that are not correlated with one’s age, but rather to people’s differing socio-economic status. She also shows that there is a gender gap, not necessarily in people’s internet skills, but rather in people’s self-perception of those skills, as women tend to underscore their skills in comparison to men.
The second opening keynote speaker was Lina Dencik with her presentation Resistance in the datafied society: From data ethics to data justice. In her presentation, starting from the increasing reliance among governments on collecting data about their citizens (as we could see with the Snowden leaks), she argues that attention needs to be paid to decision making that is informed by algorithmic analysis (whether it is for policing, use of social services, etc.) as this is grounded in the belief that such data are unbiased in their predictive capacity. She argues, that these predictions come not only at the cost of people’s privacy, but are also inaccurate, and just as importantly reinforce existing inequalities, calling for the decentralisation of data and claiming data back, within a broader political agenda of social justice.
On Friday morning, José van Dijck addressed conference attendees in the third day’s keynote presentation on The geopolitics of platforms: Lessons from Europe. In her presentation she focuses on the implications of the platform society, arguing that Europe is beingsqueezed between the big tech companies from the US and China that act as gatekeepers to the public sphere and shape social and cultural affairs, dominating the infrastructures of health, transportation, education or news. She argues that Europe has a great need to negotiate and articulate its own public values and norms in relation to security, privacy, accuracy and transparency. She outlined the following challenges for Europe in the future: how to devise a comprehensive approach to the ecosystem, articulate value centric principles, update regulatory frameworks, and stimulate non-profit and public platforms.
The plenary sessions were closed by a new session format called ECREA Critical Interventions, a participatory format where an introductory thematic talk is followed by extensive time for questions, but also personal contributions from among the audience. This year, the invited speaker Thomas Allmer discussed the dilemmas, challenges and pitfalls of academic life and labour, elaborating the precarious conditions of academics in the neoliberal society. His talk strongly resonated with the audience who recognised themselves in those accounts.
The central space of the Palazzo dei Congressi was buzzing with debates among colleagues, carrying on discussions after panels, as well as planning new projects and collaborations. These were paralleled by conversations on social media. According to local organisers, the conference hashtag #ecrea2018 was constantly trending as 1st and 2nd on Twitter Switzerland with an engagement level of 1200 (retweets, likes, replies). Furthermore, the conference account @ECREA2018Lugano had around 600 tweets per day, 5143 organic coverage; around 2000 reactions (like, shares, comments) on Facebook; and hundreds of stories on Instagram accompanied with 380 posts mentioning ECREA and only positive sentiment on that platform.
The four days of intensive discussions took its toll in the form of 7000 coffees drunk during the conference.
Many thanks to all the organisers, presenters, attendees and all those who helped to make ECC2018 a great ECREA conference.
See you all in two years on 2-5 October 2020 in Braga for ECC2020!
Photo credit: Facebook page ECREA 2018 Lugano
Michael Brüggemann, University of Hamburg, member of Journalism Studies Section and Science and Environment Communication Section
As a former journalist I have always had an appreciation for the value of the written word. I have also always considered it an honour and a privilege to be published. I regarded authors to be the rightful owners of their text. In my world, you may give away texts as a present to your friends or to the scientific community or you may sell them. My idea of fair publishing did not include having to pay a private company to get published whilst losing the copyright of my work. Yet this, at least in Germany, for many years used to be the world of book publishing for many authors: some academic presses would charge for publication and appropriate the author’s copyright whilst failing to provide substantial ‘added value’ to the text such as peer review and thorough editing, proofreading and text formatting services. As a PhD student I felt I had no choice but to accept this world of predatory publishing.
Now, as a professor, in contrast to the situation of a freelance journalist, my written work is paid for by the public through my full-time employment at my University. Therefore, the public should have free access to my work. I am willing to pay for the true costs of publishing. To this day, some publishers of academic books do not provide high quality services in terms of layout, print and binding of academic books. In Germany, most publishers do not provide a peer review and some do not even provide a careful editing of academic books. The costs of the actual services provided seem much lower than the 10,000+ Euro (Dollars and sometimes even Pounds) that many commercial publishers demand for open access publishing of a book. I was particularly shocked by the terms offered even by high-ranking ‘University presses’ that also demand excessive fees from authors of open access books. I learnt that some of them are, in fact, commercial enterprises with an interest in maintaining the profitable old business model that also draws millions of Euro out of the public funds of University libraries.
I found only very few open access book publishers with moderate or no fees that also seemed to ensure a strict peer review process, and make books available online and in print in a professional way. When I searched in early 2017, I found only one publisher that provided what I consider a fair open access model that raises moderate fees only from those authors who are able to secure funds for open access publishing: Open Book Publishers, an independent and non-for-profit press created by a team of academics at Cambridge University. As they did not yet feature books in my area of research, I gathered fellow researchers to set up our own open access book series with Open Book Publishers: Global Communications. The Series focuses on the current transformations in public communication and journalism from a transnational perspective. Please find more information here.
Our book series, of course, represents only a small step in the much larger quest for alternatives to the kind of predatory publishing described above. Although the options for fair open access are limited thus far, they are continuously expanding and initiatives like ours may also motivate some commercial publishing houses to engage more in fair open access. Therefore, when you publish your next book, take the time to look at the terms of the contract you are signing and take into account that your book belongs to you, your University and the public. And no one else.
Photo credit: UHH, RRZ/MCC, Mentz
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