European Communication Research
and Education Association
The plenaries at the online ECREA conference aim to use the affordances of videoconferencing technology to expand the opportunities for interaction. As a consequence we have rethought how the plenaries will function. Each of the speakers will deliver a short position statement of approximately 10 minutes each and this will be followed by debate, questions, and answers moderated by the chair of the plenary session.
De-colonising the curriculum: how can we contribute to the debate?
Monday 6 September 2021, 17:00 – 18:30 CET
The plenary session De-colonising the curriculum brings together leading scholars providing timely intervention and critical engagement with the issue. The discussion will reflect on the disconcerting dominance of western paradigms in the field, hierarchies of knowledge production and overlapping structures of dominance (questioning the privileged white male Eurocentric gaze, ‘civilisational hierarchies’, the colonial legacies in Central and Eastern Europe and beyond including the Global South), ask what de-colonial methodologies and de-centring approaches we can use in our research and teaching activities, touch on the gender and racial disparities in citations, publications and employment (especially at the senior ranks) in academia, and other related problems such as expansion and normalisation of precarious academic labour. The panel will look into these intersecting inequalities and endeavour to set out a roadmap for decolonising the curriculum. The premise of this panel is that a highly interdisciplinary nature of communication and media studies provides a unique opportunity for this decolonising work and constitute a unique vantage point for highlighting how decolonial thinking can make certain previously overlooked academic and societal issues more visible.
This panel’s dynamic format presupposes a 10-minute intervention from each of the speakers. Following their reflection on the issue, the speakers will have a chance to respond to each other’s statements. Then, the discussion will be open to the questions from our online audience. This ECREA plenary session is scheduled for the 6th of September 2021 (17.00-18.30).
Chaired by: Galina Miazhevich (Cardiff University) – ECREA Executive Board member
Panelists: Payal Arora, Gholam Khiabany, Sudha Rajagopalan
Payal Arora is a digital anthropologist and author of several books including the award-winning “The Next Billion Users” with Harvard University Press. She is a Professor and Chair in Technology, Values and Global Media Cultures at Erasmus University Rotterdam and an Academic Director at the Erasmus Center for Data Analytics. She is the founder of a digital storytelling organization Catalyst Lab and co-founder of FemLab.Co, a feminist initiative on the future of work. Her expertise lies in digital experience among low-income communities worldwide and decolonial design and comes with more than a decade of fieldwork in such contexts. Forbes named her the “next billion champion” and the right kind of person to reform tech. Several international media outlets have covered her work including the BBC, The Economist, Quartz, Tech Crunch, The Boston Globe, F.A.Z, The Nation and CBC. She has consulted on tech innovation for diverse organizations such as UNESCO, KPMG, GE, and HP and has given more than 200 presentations in 57 countries including a TEDx talk on the future of the internet. She sits on several boards such as Columbia University Earth Institute and World Women Global Council in New York and is a Section Editor for Global Perspectives, a University of California Press Journal. She is Indian, American, and Irish and currently lives in Amsterdam.
Gholam Khiabany teaches in the Department of Media, Communication and Cultural Studies at Goldsmiths, University of London. He is a member of council of management of the Institute of Race Relations, and Editorial Working Committee of Race and Class. His publications include Iranian Media: The Paradox of Modernity (Routledge, 2010); Blogistan co-authored with Annabelle Sreberny (I.B.Tauris, 2010); Media, Democracy and Social Change co-authored with Aeron Davis, Natalie Fenton and Des Freedman (SAGE, 2020); and two co-edited collections: Liberalism in Neoliberal Times: Dimensions, Contradictions, Limits (Goldsmiths Press, 2017), and After Charlie Hebdo: Terror, Racism and Free Speech (Zed, 2017).
Sudha Rajagopalan is Senior Lecturer in East European Studies at the University of Amsterdam. Rajagopalan is a Soviet cultural historian and scholar of contemporary Russian media, with research and publication experience in the field of Soviet and post-Soviet Russian cultural consumption. She is also member of the steering committee of the pioneering international journal dedicated to digital media in the post-communist region of the former East bloc, Digital Icons: Studies in Russian, Eurasian and Central European New Media.
Rajagopalan’s work on digital media has engaged with debates on fandoms, emotion, celebrity, publicness, postfeminism and memory and can be seen in publications such as European Journal of Cultural Studies, International Journal of Cultural Studies, Celebrity Studies, Transformative Works and Culture, South Asian Popular Culture and Journalism Studies. Her earlier book ‘Indian Films in Soviet Cinemas: The Culture of Moviegoing after Stalin’ (Indiana University Press, Bloomington, 2010) was the first ethnohistorical study of Soviet movie reception, and also a pioneering work on Soviet internationalism in the Global South and cultural flows between the USSR and India. Her current project is about the alternative cosmopolitanisms of Cold War era cultures, seen through the prism of Soviet objects in Indian and Cuban homes (forthcoming in the Routledge Global Cold War Cultures series).
Covid Nationalism: Does the European Public Sphere have a future?
Tuesday 7 September 2021, 18:30 – 20:00 CET
The COVID-19 Pandemic has not only brought disruption to the everyday lives of people around the world, it has also put to the test pan-European solidarity, quickly restricted trans-border movement across Europe, and instigated suspicion and distrust between neighbouring countries. How can we understand this new landscape of distrust? What role have the media played in the national isolationism that has followed in the footsteps of the pandemic? What are the chances for European solidarity to survive in the fight over vaccine quotas? And what will be the implications for an inclusive European public sphere?
These are the questions we have asked four prominent European scholars to ponder and debate.
Chaired by: Göran Bolin (Södertörn University, Stockholm, Sweden) – ECREA Executive Board member
Panelists: Fausto Colombo, Hans-Jörg Trenz, Karin Wahl-Jørgensen, Brita Ytre-Arne
Fausto Colombo is Professor of Media and Communication Studies and Head of the Department of Communication and Performing Arts at Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, Milan, Italy. He chaired the Unesco Chair in Communication Internationale at Université Stendhal, Grenoble (2015) and was Visiting Professor at Celsa, Université Sorbonne, Paris (2014). From 2012 to 2016 he was member of the Executive Board of ECREA. He is the Italian coordinator of Harvest (eHealth and Ageing in Rural Areas: Transforming Everyday Life, Digital Competences, and Technology). Since 2016 he has been member of the Academia Europaea – The Academy of Europe. His latest book is Ecologia dei media. Manifesto per una comunicazione gentile (Ecology of Media. A Manifesto for a “Gentle” Communication), Vita e Pensiero, Milano, 2020.
Hans-Jörg Trenz is Professor of Sociology of Culture and Communication at Scuola Normale Superiore in Pisa/Florence/Italy. He studied sociology and Romance Languages at the Universität des Saarlandes, Università di Bari and Universidad Central de Barcelona. He obtained his PhD in Social and Political Sciences in 1998 at the European University Institute with a thesis on ‘Mobilising Collective Identities: Public Discourse on Immigration in Germany and Portugal’ and his professor habilitation in 2005 at Humboldt University, Berlin. He held previous positions at Münchner Projektgruppe Sozialforschung (1997-98), Humboldt University, Berlin (1998-2005), ARENA – Centre for European Studies, University of Oslo (2005-2021) and University of Copenhagen (2011-2021). His main field of interests are media and public sphere transformations, digital transformations of society, political communication and democracy as well as a cultural and political sociology of European integration with a focus on the emergence of a European media and the public sphere, European civil society, European civilisation and identity, migration and ethnic minorities.
Karin Wahl-Jorgensen is Dean of Research Environment and Culture at Cardiff University, and a Professor in the School of Journalism, Media and Culture, where she serves as Director of Research for the Centre for Community Journalism. She holds a PhD from Stanford University, USA, and an honorary doctorate from Roskilde University, Denmark. Her research focuses on journalism and citizenship, and she has authored or edited ten books, close to 70 journal articles and more than 40 book chapters. Recent books include Emotions, Media and Politics (2019, Polity), Digital Citizenship in a Datafied Society (2019, Polity, with Arne Hintz and Lina Dencik), and Handbook of Journalism Studies, 2nd edition (2020, Routledge, co-edited with Thomas Hanitzsch). Since June 2020, she has been carrying out extensive research on the experiences of community journalists in the coronavirus pandemic, funded by a grant from the British Academy.
Brita Ytre-Arne (PhD) is professor of Media Studies at the University of Bergen, Norway. Specializing in qualitative research, her work analyzes how citizens connect to society through cross-media use, and explores the impact of datafication and mobile technologies on our lives. Currently, her research is focused on the role of media in complex societal crisis situations. She has researched media use in Norway through different phases of the pandemic, and is PI for a new project funded by the Research Council of Norway, titled “Media Use in Crisis Situations: Resolving Information Paradoxes, Comparing Climate Change and COVID-19”.
Climate Change: are communication scholars part of the problem or part of the solution?
Wednesday 8 September 2021, 9:00 – 13:00 CET
This panel is part of a series of ECREA Interventions that reflect on the field of communication in Europe in its broadest sense: communication scholars as researchers and educators but also as citizens, workers and consumers.
The purpose of the panel is to discuss the contribution that communication scholars make to ameliorating or exacerbating climate change and its consequences. The most obvious ‘traditional’ contribution is that of understanding climate change communication in its broadest sense through analysing how scientists, politicians, corporations, interest groups, and the public or publics make sense of climate change and mitigation measures at national and international levels. A further potential contribution, understood as ‘impact’, is how communication scholars might help to improve climate change communication as influencers of and advisors to policy-makers and practitioners directly involved in shaping people’s attitudes and behaviours. This often uncomfortable engagement with policy elites is related to but not the same as the idea of academic as a public intellectual and activist, as an active participant in the public sphere engaging in a struggle over meaning through taking part in collective and connective action. There is another level, however, affecting us all irrespective of research specialism or attitudes towards engagement: that of the everyday relating to academics as consumers and citizens who use resources both in the pursuit of their profession and in their private lives making decisions about whether to travel by air to conferences (assuming that there will be physical conferences in the future), or to cycle to work, or to adopt a vegan diet.
Chaired by: John Downey (Loughborough University) – ECREA Vice-president
Panelists: Benedetta Brevini, Michael Brüggemann, Anabela Carvalho
Benedetta Brevini is Associate Professor of political economy of communication at the University of Sydney.Before joining the academy she worked as journalist in Milan, New York and London for CNBC and RAI. She writes on The Guardian’s Comment is Free and contributes to a number of print and web publications including Index of Censorship, OpenDemocracyand the Conversation. She is the author of Public Service Broadcasting online (2013) and editor of Beyond Wikileaks (2013).
Her latest volumes are Carbon Capitalism and Communication: Confronting Climate Crisis (PalgraveMacmillan, 2017), Climate Change and the Media (Peter Lang, 2018), and Amazon: Understanding a Global Communication Giant (Routledge, 2020). "Is AI good for the planet” (Polity 2021) is her latest book.
Michael Brüggemann started his research and teaching at the Faculty of Business, Economics and Social Sciences in February 2015. His area of expertise is the study of journalism, political communication and science communication from a comparative and international perspective.He explores how journalists cover issues such as climate change and how these practices change. He also seeks to explain why they do so, by looking e.g. at media systems, editorial policies and cultures of journalism. More recent research focusses on the changing roles of journalists and scientists in science communication.
He is Principal Investigator at the Cluster of Excellence CliSAP at the Universität Hamburg and directs the Research Group "CRG Media Constructions of Climate Change"., He is engaged in interdisciplinary exchange in the context of the Center for Earth System Research and Sustainability (CEN), the Centre for Globalisation and Governance (CGG) and the Research Center for Media and Communication (RCMC).
Anabela Carvalho (PhD, University College London) is Associate Professor at the Department of Communication Sciences of the University of Minho, Portugal. She has an extensive experience of research on climate change communication and has authored influential analyses of the discourses of various social actors and the media in the United Kingdom, Portugal and other countries. Citizens’ engagement with climate change and (bio-)sustainability, and especially the conditions for political engagement, have been her main research interest in the last few years. Her publications include Citizen Voices: Enacting Public Participation in Science and Environment Communication (with L. Phillips and J. Doyle; 2012), Climate Change Politics: Communication and Public Engagement (with T.R. Peterson; 2012), and Critical Approaches to Climate Change and Civic Action (with J. Doyle and C. Russill, Frontiers). Anabela Carvalho has had leading roles at the International Environmental Communication Association (IECA) and the Science and Environment Communication Section of the European Communication and Education Association (ECREA). She was Associate Editor of the journal Environmental Communication (2010-2012) and has been Associate Editor of Frontiers in Communication: Science and Environmental Communication since 2016.
In 2020, the Summer School was for the second time organised by University of Tartu (Estonia). It was managed by local organiser Andra Sibbak and International director Pille Pruulmann-Vengerfeldt. Due the pandemic situation, the 2020 edition faced multiple obstacles. First, summer school was postponed from summer to early 2021. Second, after series of consultations with local organisers, ECREA made a decision to change the physical meeting to online format. However, organisers were able to keep the structure of lectures, workshops, feedback sessions, roundtables, and social meetings. What was it like?
The ECREA Summer School was an invaluable experience. Although it took place online this year, I benefitted from attending significantly, not only from the paper feedback sessions and the roundtable discussions led my established scholars in the fields of media and communications, but also from networking with other doctoral and early career researchers from across Europe and further afield.
The in-depth feedback I received from professors and peers came at a crucial point of my research, as I was entering the final year of my PhD. I am very grateful for that crucial feedback and for the opportunity to engage with other students' excellent work. The 'Meet the Editors', 'Academia Life Hacks', and 'Future of Journalism' roundtables I attended were also hugely interesting, useful, and inspiring.
As a result of SUSO2020, I have gained valuable contacts who I am already working on new projects with. I would wholeheartedly recommend the ECREA Summer School to doctoral students in Media and Communications at any stage of their research journey.
Bissie Anderson, doctoral candidate (University of Stirling)
Photo credits: Summer School organisers
When and how did you start with planting?
I grew up in the Philippines surrounded by flowers and trees. My grandma liked them so I was always interested in them. I started getting serious with the hobby in 2019.
Why do you like it?
Plants give me a sense of peacefulness and calm. It also brings me joy when I see them flourishing and giving me new leaves or flowers.
What would you say is your biggest achievement so far?
I’m able to keep my 80 houseplants fairly happy! I do get pests here and there, and some of my plants have died, but I regularly check them (usually in the mornings before I start work) and most of them are alive and doing well
In what ways is your hobby complementary to your academic career? And are there perhaps any similarities?
The academy can be quite stressful, especially when you’re trying to finish your thesis. The plants help me with mental health and allow me to take a break when needed. I find it calming to water them, repot them, and even share them among friends. In terms of similarities, I think you do have to stick to a schedule (of watering, for plants; and of writing/working for the PhD) but also remain flexible in case anything happens out of your control. There can be bugs and pests (literally or in your software) that you need to take care of. Taking care of plants is also science and evidence based.
Does your hobby conflict with your academic work, such as missing deadlines or having to choose between events?
Never. Plants don’t require much from you – just make sure you water when the soil is dry and that’s it! They grow better when you leave them alone to do their own thing.
Would you recommend your hobby to other academics?
Definitely! There’s no such thing as ‘green thumb’ or ‘black thumb.’ As I mentioned earlier, it’s science and evidence based. They all need only two things: proper water and proper light. If you just give them enough for what they need, it’s fairly easy to do.
I’m Renee, currently a second year doctoral researcher at Loughborough University in the United Kingdom.
When and how did you first meet music?
I was born in Bulgaria in ’80s and raised by a brave, bibliophile, critically thinking, nonconformist single mother in an analogue post-communist world where to have a TV you had to be entered in a list, wait for months for the shipment and after that spent a night in front of the only shop where they would (probably) sell you the TV set following (or not) the aforementioned list. I listened to gramophone records (the Beatles, the Queen, Louis Armstrong, Ray Charles, Elvis Presley, Grieg, dramatized tales, etc) before I have even had a television at home.
I was four when my mother brought the gramophone (there used to be a factory in Bulgaria and they were not too expensive) at our TV-less home. And I was five when she bought (on credit of course) her first piano (one made in the Soviet Union, branded as from the Belarus) – for me, because I had just been started playing and attend a music school. At the same time I was fulfilling her dream from childhood to have the instrument at home, because she had taken lessons for five years but never had one and had to go to the community center in her hometown to practice. So I started listening to music passionately and playing the piano, to read words and to read notes.
It turned out I had a talent and it was relatively easy for me to take my exams with excellence – one to become a regular student at the children music school, one to enter the professional music school after 3rd grade, another one to enter the high school and graduate with diploma from the professional music school. The logical step was the national music academy in Sofia (the capital). I studied here for five years and graduated with diploma as a classical music instrumentalist (piano player) in 2003.
During my years at the Music Academy, I listened to as much jazz music as possible and felt that if I am not gifted or brave enough to start playing jazz, there is no path in front of me as a piano player or a musician. Not that jazz was the only genre I love or admired (alternative, indie, dream pop, brit pop, post punk, soul, psychedelic and hard rock, hardcore, electronic music, IDM, film and video games soundtracks etc – I listen with pleasure and delight music in almost every genre you could think about), but I really, really dreamed to wake up one morning, sit at the piano and start improvising.
2003 was the year when I stopped playing the piano professionally. After the academy I was recording (on a midi keyboard in my home studio) parts of popular songs for a company producing a music content (ringtones, wallpapers etc) for before-the-iPhone-smartness-disrupting-the-field-mobile phones. I stayed for year and a half; and during this time I was also a singer in a club band.
In 2005 I made the transition to the world of digital media and locked the keyboard in the basement for good. What is important for the story – the first medium I was working on was an info website for (at beginning mainly underground) music and culture; I became a reporter, an editor and later an editor-in-chief following closely the music industry and writing about music – new releases, concerts, music video etc. – for more than 10 years. I also started writing about new technology and video games too.
I have played on stage with orchestra four times, for the first when I was 11. I would say that every performance on stage – alone or with other musicians – is a smaller or bigger triumph because you have only the-here-and-now to show the best of you. I can compare it with sport performance. A special mindset and many iterations in addition to some or extraordinary talent are needed both in music and in sport. A competitive spirit and perseverance are also an advantage for every player. Even the verb for doing music with an instrument and practicing sport is shared – play (in Russian too, but not in Bulgarian).
After I quit playing the piano (after many movings from place to place and diminished tolerance from the owners of flats, I even do not own one anymore) I didn’t turn my back on music – just the opposite. I am consciously working on nourishing my music culture, digging for new music, following and analyzing new trends, making playlists. I also read critical reviews as if I am doing some kind of digital ethnography on what influences the new developments in the music as a cultural subject, as an industry, and as a media – new themes, new formats, new ways of fostering and growing a fan base. Also, I am interested in activism in music, the messages and influence of music artists.
Media convergence, globalization, digitalization, and the platformization of the web continue to play a fundamental role to music's production, consumption, and role in society are in the third decade of 21st century. MySpace, YouTube, and Spotify disrupted the ecology of the music industry, opening the door to niche music genres and changing the artist-fan relationship for good (Arctic Monkeys path to stardom from MySpace to seven Brit Awards and five nominations from Grammy is just one very illustrative example). And this is true to the world of sport too – just think about global TV networks as Eurosport – from the jaw-dropping cinematography and editing of live events as Roland Garros and ski jumping to the opportunity to watch on-demand even events that are not part of the main TV channels program schedules. All described is closely related and researching it is complementary to both of my academic fields – media literacy and platforms governance.
No. It is an inspiration, a pressure relief valve and a booster.
I guess that everyone’s needs for one or more activities aside from their primary occupation and obligations are unique. But at the same time, I could expect for a person who has interests in arts and entertainment will like music and cinema and enjoy going to festivals and concerts. The short answer is yes :-)!
I am in my third year in the Media policy and law of the European Union Ph.D. program at Sofia University on a full-time basis. My research interests gravitate towards the challenges at the intersection of media, technology, and democracy focusing on platforms governance and digital rights. The list of academic publications of mine includes papers (in Bulgarian) on topics as Liability of online platforms in the EU and the US in 2020 - discourses and policies; Liability of online platforms in the context of the EU law (my Ph.D. thesis is going to be on the liability of the online platform in the EU and the UK); The growing role of the electronic media for the media literacy of the audience in the age of the information crisis; Media literacy in Bulgaria in 2020 - between media and educational policies and the civil sector; The European Parliament elections in 2019: limitations in the analysis of online media content in Bulgaria. I participated in the postponed 2020 ECREA Doctoral School (and loved it!) and I am among the participants admitted to the 2021 edition.
Image 1: A screenshot from a music video for the 2006 single of a popular at the time Bulgarian singer I played the piano in. Two months till giving birth to my oldest child :)
Image 2: Photo from Summer Well 2019 - my three music loving children and me
The purpose of the ECREA is to provide a supportive international setting where doctoral students can present their ongoing work, receive feedback on their PhD-projects from international experts and meet students and academics from other countries. However, pandemic situation has canceled the 2020 edition and local organisers (University of Tartu, Estonia) were forced to change the unique physical meeting to online format.
University of Cádiz, oganisers for 2021 and 2022, are facing the same challenge - Summer School 2021 will take place online. What do they plan? And what are the main pros and cons of the online meetings? We asked Miguel de Aguilera and David Selva.
Why did you decide to organize Summer School 2021?
There were several reasons that led us to organize it. In the first place, doctoral studies are the most attractive stage of university education, since the students are already mature in their knowledge and in their desires, and seek to achieve the highest degree that the university can offer. It is especially attractive to help in the research training of doctoral students enrolled at universities throughout Europe, who develop a set of varied and interesting research. We love organizing events, and this is especially motivating.
In addition, we coordinate, together with other colleagues from other universities, an interuniversity doctorate program. It offers a joint training from four Spanish universities (the universities of Cádiz, Málaga, Seville and Huelva) and is made up of a group of more than 350 active doctoral candidates from more than twenty countries (from Europe, America, Africa and Asia), especially Spanish speakers. We find it very interesting and convenient to connect this community of researchers with a broader community of researchers from Europe and other nationalities.
What is, according to you, the main goal and purpose of the summer school?
In this Summer Doctoral School, everything will revolve around the doctoral students. They should be able to improve their training by coming into contact with more methodological approaches than they usually know. They should get used to certain common scenarios in scientific research and communication, such as presenting their research to other researchers and discussing it with them, knowing what other researchers are doing in nearby fields of interest, or getting in touch with colleagues from other countries.
The plan has changed and you are forced to switch to the online version. What is the most challenging part of the process?
The special time that we have been living for more than a year has meant that direct social interaction has been reduced to a minimum. And, although it seems that the end of this pandemic is closer, out of prudence we have chosen to maintain a virtual school, not face-to-face, this year. The main loss for students is the lack of direct interaction with other students and with the participating lecturers. But the ECREA Summer School is going to make a special effort to organize an attractive and enriching program. It will facilitate the relationship between the participants as much as possible.
Are there any pros of the online version?
During this special year, we have all become accustomed to interacting with others at a physical distance, through screens, and accessing knowledge through them. We all know the downsides, but there are some obvious advantages too, such as the time that is avoided in commuting, the comfort represented by accessing knowledge from our own home, or the reduction of expenses. But there are others that are less obvious, such as the ease we have found in order to attend scientific events that take place in different parts of the World. That is surely the greatest advantage: accessing interesting knowledge freeing us from spatial and temporal conditioning. Anyway, we are confident that the 2022 Summer School will be able to be held physically in the city of Cádiz!
What are your plans for 2021 (or 2022)? Do you want to add other new formats, structure of feedbacks, topics?
Both the 2021 and 2022 Summer School will revolve around students, as true protagonists of their training process. We will seek that the students present their research and enrich it with the comments of other researchers (doctors and doctoral students). In addition, there will be other sessions with leading European researchers: a keynote lecture and several short lectures on more specific topics and with active student participation. There will also be round tables and workshops on methodologies and scientific skills.
Next year students hopefully will arrive in Cadiz. What is the city like? And what about the University?
Cádiz is an incredibly beautiful city, with a very special charm. It’s very well-known as a tourist destination because to its beaches, its climate, its local festivals, its gastronomy and its important historical heritage. We think it is the perfect environment for a Summer School! As for the University of Cádiz, it is a public institution closely linked to its region (it has four campuses in different cities: Algeciras, Cádiz, Puerto Real and Jerez de la Frontera), but also with a strong involvement in the European university map. We are looking forward to welcoming students and lecturers from all over Europe and the World!
When and how did you start running?
I started running regularly probably around 2012. I was finishing my PhD and the stress levels were running high, so it was good to do something about that. I noticed that a lot of academics in the UK seemed to be drinking a lot, and I was beginning to be sick and tired of this beer-pub culture. I came to the point of my life when I asked myself: “do you really want to be part of this?” I realised that there is more to life than sitting in the pub, drinking beer, and complaining about academic life.
Why did you choose running?
Running fits with the awkwardness and pressures of academic career. You can go running at 5 o´clock in the morning, you can go running at night, everything is up to you. You can basically run wherever you want to - it´s an activity done in the open space and also a good way of exploring places. There is also a social aspect of running – you can run alone but you can also spend your time with friends or meet the new ones. Many people get spontaneously together to go running.
Is there any difference between running and Academia? Are there any similarities?
I don´t think there is any kind of tension between an academic career and running. Because running is mostly individualised activity, the beauty of it is you can do whatever you want. It also depends on what you want from it. If you want to be an excellent marathon runner, you need to be devoted and obviously need to spend more of time training. Equally, if you just want to stop being a couch potato, you can do slow runs and that´s absolutely fine. I am probably somewhere in between. I don´t have the ambition to be an excellent marathon runner, I like having a target and I like attending good races. I started to plan my races around times of the year when I know that there would be a chance to be completely stressed out.
Could running improve your academic abilities?
I suppose the answer is ‘yes’. Not in the intellectual sense, but in the mental one. Running has a great impact on mental well-being. It helps to forget about things. The Academic environment can be toxic at times so letting some things go is very useful. At the same time, during the 2 hours slow run you can think about things normally one wouldn´t have time to think about. You can put them in the right places in mind, compartmentalise them if you like. And of course, when you run with other academics, it can stimulate academic conversations.
How often do you run?
Four, five or six times a week – it depends on circumstances. It changed with the lockdown; it has had a huge impact on the way how people run. Now I keep running on my own, I do 40 minutes speed sessions, I do a long Sunday run, that´s probably around 2 hours and 21 kilometres. On Saturdays, I was used to do a Park Run (see: https://www.parkrun.org.uk) so now I am trying to keep up with the routine and I do them on my own. On Monday I do a slow jog just to stretch my legs after a long Sunday run. That´s usually my routine.
Do you use any special equipment?
Shoes, a t-shirt, and shorts. A lot of T-shirts and shorts. Occasionally I stretch my legs with resistance bands because it´s good to keep the muscle balance and prevent potential injuries. Running is a relatively inexpensive hobby. In my social circles, people slightly get mad about the smart watches. That´s a way of keeping in touch with other runners who are distant, but I am not obsessed about this digitalisation of the ‘running performance’. Some people think that if the run has not been digitalised, it has not happened. I think it is quite funny.
What is your biggest achievement so far?
I always haven´t achieved what I wanted to achieve. My fastest marathon was 1 hour, 31 minutes and 9 seconds and I wanted to do it in 90 minutes. I did 10k (10 kilometres) close to 40 minutes and I wanted to do it below 40 minutes. I can do 5K (5 kilometres) under 20 minutes. I am also pleased with the fact that I managed to get other people into running, too. They seem to be grateful and emphasize that in private conversations. One of my friends from Poland came to visit me in the UK, started running with me, and now he acknowledges that running became a very important part of his lifestyle – it became a routine for him. He is not the only one, I encouraged some other people to start running, too.
So, you recommend running to other academics?
Absolutely. I think it´s one of those activities anyone can do. The old-school orthodox runners would tell you that amateurs destroy running- they still believe you have to be a super performer or stay at home and don´t clutter the streets for other runners. Of course, people should approach running responsibly. If someone has not run at all, they need to come up with a plan to develop the muscles, and to build up their fitness levels. Running is a good thing to do to release stress, to get things into perspective, to get away from a computer screen. Especially now, when we are stuck in front of them 12 hours a day doing online teaching on the top of other things. Running is also a way how to keep fit to do other sports like skiing. Overall, running has multiple benefits. It´s really a pleasant activity and a socially good thing to do.
Paweł Surowiec is Senior Lecturer at the Department of Journalism Studies, University of Sheffield University (UK) and member of ECREA Executive Board.
I am doing research from home and what helps is online library access to download journal papers and also reviewing for journals because they then give complimentary access to all of their editions so even if something is under embargo via my University, I can still acess it.
Martina Topic (Senior Lecturer in Public Relations)
"I take advantage of the fear that going out is risky, to stay indoors reading; keeping in touch with colleagues on WhatsApp to brainstorm in areas I don't clearly understand."
Allan Job Wefwafwa (Tutorial Fellow, Journalism and Media Studies University of the Witwatersrand)
"Working from home, one of the most important things for me is to attend to mental health. During these difficult times, it can be hard to separate professional and private life and maintain good routines in terms of exercise, meditation and more. I think it is really important to be extra attentive to this. And try to help students and colleagues do so as well"
Johan Farkas (PhD Student, Malmö University)
Milda Malling, Phd Student in journalism, Södertörn University, Sweden
I should not miss the date! When I was asked to write a text about my hobby that would be as far away from academia as possible I was concerned with a deadline that is, indeed, far away from what a dedicated PhD student should do in a late spring. I sat next to my cucumber-bed putting the small seeds into the soil, and, just like every spring, telling myself that gardening should be practiced by those who are not at the moment actively involved in the education system. By those, who are not restrained by the thesis deadlines or spring exams, or a conference. These two weeks at the end of April and the beginning of May are the weeks, both here and there, and the way you behave these 14 days will result into fruits (be it cucumbers, articles or grades) that will affect the harvest the rest of the year(s).
Rushing here does not help – for a person who is taught to base each sentence on ten well-researched articles by the others, I wish I had done it right this time. That is, started preparing the soil last autumn, pre-grown the seeds in a wet napkin 48 hours before, had watering system in place… But sometimes better done than perfect takes over, and I am still planting, once again, a bit imperfect. Just this last time. We can call this my last-minute ambitious proposal for this summer. Preparing it always starts a bit later and always takes a bit longer. It is often worth it, as it gives a chance, a pleasure of being a part of it all, of keeping up with the cycle.
I will just move on. It will have to be an inductive approach this time. Just like this quickly, purely out of curiosity collected data can start making sense or even turn out to be “innovative”. We will see. The green leaves might still turn up.
However, it is my observation that garden, like few other things and academia is one of them, loves people who have their routines in place, like sticking to the right reference guidelines, watering and regular, dedicated and not distracted attention. With a peak then, as been said, at the end of the spring term (May), and, again, at the beginning of the new one (September). And the real enjoyment comes during the late summer break. The harvest.
So how cucumbers help to study PhD in journalism? The idyllic of the urban gardening, most likely, is rooted in the Ancient times and the Renaissance, as we humans feel how the nature brightens up our souls and thoughts. But with my fingers in the soil I let me name some, so to say, down to earth examples. Indeed, one of these academically enlightening moments I experienced well into the summer when looking at my plant with many healthy, strong branches, but few fruits. I realized that I should have pruned them. Their problem now reminded me what happens when one collects too much data, gets engaged in too different research areas at the same time, or has too many ideas that one is trying to fit within the same essay. By growing all these branches, my cucumber had no energy left to nurture the fruits. I should have kept it focused. Should have simply deleted that paragraph. I should have left one main stem. One, overarching, question, so to say. Unless the issue is because of the invisible. The roots – what is going on there? I have asked hundreds of journalists about the sources who contribute but never get quoted, the sources that are hidden and informal, helpful or refusing to contribute. I want to understand all about the people who do influence the result, but who are not visible in the content, not visible on the surface, but who are there by the roots. But in my garden I will not dig out the plant this time, I will satisfy myself with the “content” even though I see that the problem and the roots also here, like in political communication, most likely belongs to the invisible…
If, despite all the delays in the schedule, despite over-ambition and too many branches, and despite the Nordic summer, the plant is still thriving, well, then another dilemma will become relevant: what to do with all my cucumber-fruit? The harvest suddenly starts coming, all at once. I will run out of jars for pickling, and I will find myself sharing my cucumbers with anyone who cares to taste them. A little bit like offering the research results to all who would like to hear about them...
And at the end of the season, when cleaning up the soil and the desk, one might think that well, never again. But as soon as a beam of sun, just like a new curious call for proposals, knocks into your window, look, you will be rushing out into the field again. Because it is nice to get close to the bottom, to where all of it starts. Each year is a bit different, and yet the same. It is about a cycle and being a part of it.
Milda Malling is a PhD student in journalism at Södertörn University and Mid Sweden University. She researches about informal and/or invisible interactions between journalists and their political sources.
2020 was a challenging year not only because of Corona. It should be of great concern that liberal democracies worldwide are under pressure. This is especially alarming when it happens in close proximity, such as in Hungary or Poland. Neither should we remain indifferent to the election fraud and repression against the liberal demonstrations in Belarus. Academia plays an important role in tackling the corona crises. But how does academia position itself in the political struggles that challenge our democracies? Can academia be a revolutionary force against such developments?
I contend that it is a bad idea to soften the border between science and politics, because every attempt to politicize science will inevitably backfire. To understand this, three dimensions in which academia impacts society need to be differentiated: the production of knowledge, the creation of an innovative environment, and methodological education.
The first might be the most obvious, because knowledge-production is a core concern and competence of science. Although not all societal developments originate from science, the more complex the society, the more important the role of academia. History has shown that the specific impact a certain research project might have can rarely be predicted precisely. Take, for example, the discoveries of Marie Curie or Paul Baran, which turned out to be revolutionary. Even though one cannot predetermine how scientific knowledge-production influences society, one can say that by being noticed every research project does influence the life we live in some way. Consequently, knowledge changes the world. And comparing our current standard of living to the one of our ancestors, we can say: for the better.
The second dimension of academic impact refers to an innovative sphere that evolves around research institutes and universities, conferences etc. It arises from discussions of problems and solutions, cultivating – in best case scenarios – an ongoing process of knowledge-production, -validation and -refutation. As academia demands constant questioning, it offers an environment for many different ways to explore answers and solutions. It brings people together, fostering new ideas, projects and collaborations that often go far beyond their fields of research. It is no coincidence that arts, political debates, start-ups and all matters of civil society flourish in and around academic circles. Here, academia impacts society beyond mere knowledge-production by creating an environment that is able to serve as a catalyst for societal progress.
The third dimension points to academia’s methodological education. Academia does not teach young people to simply believe claims, but to constantly question them. Therefore, a sound methodological education enables students to distinguish between facts and false claims within their fields of study and beyond. It is widely agreed that research results might look fancy at first glance. Yet, if the underlying methods are weak, so are the results. Because methods have such a major impact on results, at the outset it is tempting to choose research methods that underpin desirable outcomes; for example, when you want to have a certain influence on society, such as supporting certain political interests, promoting revolutions or defending liberal democracy in times of political struggle. Yet this is a false path. That is not to say that we should not stand up and become active against political oppression. But we have to do it openly, and must not use science to camouflage our activism. Scientists can very well be part of a revolution – Science cannot! If we bring bias into the methodological dimension, we will destroy the other two dimensions, which are immensely valuable to society: Future research based on intentionally biased assumptions, and thereby methodologies, cannot advance society, but can only lead it into aberrations that the originator of the bias might not be able to foresee. The process of knowledge-production is thus disrupted, while the precondition for the use of scientific results, i.e., the credibility of their scientific intention, is destroyed. Without such credibility, the process of knowledge-production will inevitably collapse.
The second dimension is also damaged when activism disguised as science brings bias into the academic sphere. On the one hand a false problem awareness is created and certain measures will appear as solutions to problems even though they do not address them at all. The credibility and validity of scientific thinking are undermined which will harm academia and thus destruct its innovative environment. On the other hand, the exemplary function of scientific publications influences future generations of researchers who will lose sight of impeccable scientific methods. As a result, this knowledge and its value are also being lost in society, leading rather to division than deliberation. After all, it becomes clear that it is not a good idea to participate in political revolution by deliberately or negligently biasing research results.
So, what can scientists do to promote change? Here are three ideas for everyday academic life: First, be honest when questioning your own research relevance, research with revolutionary potential is not only interesting for research purposes; Second, talk about your research outside academia, not only about your results but also about your methodologies; Finally, reflect on and reduce your biases. In times where lies are camouflaged as alternative facts, methodologically sound and therefore convincing research could be the most revolutionary thing of all.
Susan Benz is a PhD student and research assistant at the Centre for Media, Communication and Information Research (ZeMKI), Universität Bremen, Germany. Her research interests are within the field of media, communication and activism research.
John Downey (ECREA vice-president)
In recent weeks ECREA has issued three public statements relating to the suppression of academic freedom and autonomy in Belarus and Hungary. We stand in solidarity with our colleagues and students in these countries exercising their democratic rights to protest and to voice criticism of the regimes. Although thankfully these are extreme cases in the European context at least, colleagues in many European countries are mindful of how their public actions may be received by the powers that be. The Covid pandemic has at once highlighted the relevance of scientists, including communication scholars, and of speaking truth to power and reminded us that academics expressing uncomfortable views for those in power can be easily discriminated against in major and minor ways. To step outside the ivory tower and engage with the world may of course sometimes be good for one’s career but it is also motivated by wanting to change the world for the better, to make a difference. And it carries risks from death to imprisonment and intimidation to being passed over when it comes to promotion. Being awkward, of questioning authority and received wisdom consistently and insistently from the seminar room to the presidential palace, should be part of the essential criteria in any job specification for an academic position.
Michael Burawoy in his 2004 Presidential Address to the American Sociological Association makes a persuasive argument for the rebirth of a public sociology. He argues that the founding voices of sociology—Marx, Weber, Durkheim, Du Bois, Adams— shared a moral and political purpose to change the world for the better. This, however, has been mislaid: “If our predecessors set out to change the world we have too often ended up conserving it. Fighting for a place in the academic sun, sociology has developed its own specialised knowledge” (2005, 5). Communication scholars, of course, also want their place in the academic sun. We want respect from colleagues in other disciplines, recognition of the value of the field, large research grants from prestigious funding bodies, prizes and plaudits. There’s nothing wrong with this but there is a danger though that we too lose our moral and political purpose.
In many European countries and beyond there is now an ‘impact agenda’ in academia largely dreamt up by politicians who want scholars to prove their social relevance and worth. This is almost a strong argument for moving back into the ivory tower and pulling up the drawbridge. At its worst the impact agenda offers an emaciated view of the role of science as a handmaiden to the economy or other vested interests, of producing applied, instrumental and acritical work at the behest of those with power. Of course, there is a need to challenge and change this impact agenda as best we can so that academics are not the servants of power but rather are able to effect change through critique. The ECREA conference in 2022 in Aarhus, organised as a partnership between the university and the city, asks us to ‘Rethink Impact!’ as its theme. Of course, persuading people and organisations of the need for radical change is difficult. It is not always going to succeed, at least not immediately. We should be good at this sort of thing though as the precondition for effecting significant change beyond academia is that we remain true to our cherished academic values and remain stubbornly awkward.
Burawoy, Michael. 2005. “For Public Sociology.” American Sociological Review 70 (1): 4–28.
John Downey is Professor of Comparative Media Analysis and Head of Communication and Media at Loughborough University, UK. He is also a Vice-President of ECREA.
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