Research Dialogues

Wednesdays 12:30 - 16.00
Room KWS 2.12

MT1 – 5 October 2011
Panelists (all at Dept of Media and Communications, LSE):
Lilie Chouliaraki
Maria Kyriakidou
Sonia Livingstone
Discussant: Tal Morse

Lilie Chouliaraki, abstract to follow
Sonia Livingstone: Reflections on children's offline and online vulnerability to risk

In this paper I reflect on the debates over 'vulnerability in relation to children and online risk. In relation to internet safety, identifying the vulnerable child is something of a holy grail, with many efforts to identify the conditions that support or mitigate against vulnerability. Of particular interest is the thesis that offline vulnerability explains online vulnerability and the contrary thesis that the internet affords new sources of vulnerability. In examining the concept, I observe that, on the one hand, research has been led by policy makers' broadly administrative concerns with child protection and welfare, namely to pinpoint those children who are particularly vulnerable or at risk in order to target resources more precisely so as to benefit those in need. On the other hand, the very concept of 'vulnerability' demands scare quotes from academic critics and some practitioners who fear that the term plays into moral panics and reduces social problems to individual failings. In my work, I have sought to examine the concept of vulnerability first by distinguishing risk from harm, second by considering the benefits of some degree of vulnerability (as the grounds for building resilience), and third by examining varieties of disadvantage as they may or may not render some children vulnerable to particular online risks or reduce their resources to cope.

Maria Kyriakidou: Witnessing vulnerability on the media: the audience of distant suffering

"To be informed about the wider world today", John Peters argues, "means to be acquainted, among other things, with the endless variety of ways in which the human body can die" (Peters, 2005: 215). This paper will explore the moral and emotional implications of being confronted with images of distant suffering and human vulnerability through the media. How do viewers position themselves in a media landscape where reports of pain and catastrophe are a frequent occurrence? How do they construct human vulnerability as a basis for moral concern and recognition of the suffering faraway others? The paper, empirically informed by focus group discussions with audiences in Greece, employs the concept of media witnessing as a modality of audience experience to address these questions. It argues that vulnerability is attributed different emotional and moral significance depending on the mode of media reporting, the nature of the suffering, as well as cultural and national discourses that viewers employ to make sense of the suffering witnessed. 

Summer Term Week 8 – 22 JUNE 2011
(This is a paper session open to staff and PhD students of the Dept of Media and Communications only)
Reflections on the field of media representation research: The state of the art

Speaker: Dr Shani Orgad, Dept of Media and Communications, LSE
Discussant: Dr Shakuntala Banaji, Dept of Media and Communications, LSE

This paper offers some reflections on the state of the art in research on media representation. This rich and diverse field of research has made important contributions in terms of highlighting and explaining the connection between representation and power and showing how representations may be transformed to foster fairer, more generous and more inclusive frames for understanding. However, it also presents some substantial tensions and faces several fundamental challenges. I focus on three of these: (1) theorizing the nature and consequences of the power of media representation; (2) compartmentalization of the field; and (3) research that is "stuck in time". The paper concludes with some suggestions to address these challenges and ensure the relevance of this field of study to the reality of media in the 21st century.

Summer Term Week 5 – 1 JUNE 2011
Members to martyrs: crossing the line from online to offline jihadism on Arabic-language jihadist forums

Speaker: Mina Al-Lami, Visiting Fellow, Dept of Media and Communications
Discussant tbc

A close examination of Arabic-language jihadist forums shows that there is more to them than their alleged media-platform facade. Using the metaphor of 'universities', these forums offer multiple training (theological, media, and military) and resources to their 'students' to allow at least some, the honour students, to graduate from being e-jihadists to field mujahideen. While instances of crossover from online to offline jihadism in the West and on English-language jihadist forums have been scarce, anecdotal and unsubstantiated, such instances are more common among Arabic-language forum members, as their reporting suggest. In their case, the line between online and offline jihad seems more blurred, hence easier to cross. Moreover, there is constant pressure put on members in the form of multimedia productions and messages glorifying field mjiahideen and martyrs while shaming 'sitters': those who stay behind in times of war.

The initial findings of this study are the result of original research and detailed data collected by the researcher from 2007 up-to-date. It is also the most extensive database of detailed and documented cases of crossover available in this field of study.



Summer Term, week 1: 4 MAY 2011
Media development: Two perspectives

Speaker: Linje Manyozo, LSE
Respondent: Iginio Gagliardone, University of Cambridge
The presentation critically analyses one of the ComDev approaches, that
is, media development - which refers to externally or organically
developed initiatives that are strategically designed to build media/ICT
infrastructures, policies and capacities, as a way of consolidating good
governance, free speech, political citizenship and sustainable
development. The discussion is a postcolonial analysis in itself,
attempting to demonstrate that the origin of media development is rooted
within the development project of modernization, in which western
organizations and institutions continue to implement a "Marshall Plan
for the development of third world communications" (UNESCO, 1980: 291).

The presentation also rethinks two key perspectives towards media
development - the good governance and the community development
perspectives, in light of media development indicators being scaled
out/up by western organizations and governments. Building on Mansell's
(2011) typology of knowledge for development that places power at the
centre of two axes (top-down/bottom-up versus
producer-led/context-specific), the discussion contends that media
development debates largely centre around the development and adoption
of what Freire (1978: 10) describes as "packaged and prefabricated"
indicators, that footnote indigenous knowledge communication systems,
the southern concerns with cultural imperialism, and over-emphasis on
the minimalist model of civil society.

LT9 – 9 March
Public space, media and control in the city

Dr Shakuntala Banaji, Dept of Media and Communications, LSE
Dr Myria Georgiou, Dept of Media and Communications, LSE
Dr John Roberts, Dept of Sociology, Brunel University

Using examples from the recent student protests in London and Rome, and anti-austerity protests in Greece, Shakuntala Banaji| will initiate discussion on how the safe-guarding of urban public spaces and buildings is reified by journalists and other commentators in the mainstream media above other rights and freedoms; how vandalism in the name of protest is reviled over and above state sanctioned violence against citizens. This happens in particular in relation to protesting groups such as young people or ethnic minorities. She will raise questions about the use of the terms 'the public' and 'taxpayers' in articles discussing the use of public space for and during protests.

Myria Georgiou| will focus on the emergence of alternative political spaces in the city, especially with the use of personal and online digital media. With reference to examples from the recent uprising in Egypt and the Cairo protests, she will discuss the close synergies and tensions between preexisting systems of political organization and newer forms of mediated communication and organization. These synergies, she will argue, illustrate the merging of media and the city in advancing and framing urban protest.   

John Roberts will explore how state and governance mechanisms pre-empt the formation of public spaces of dissent and resistance in cities so that the latter can be effectively regulated in the pre- and post-9/11 climate. The presentation illustrates these points through global social movements, law and dissent, planning and designing dissent, and the surveillance of dissent.

LT7 – 23 February
Producing the mediated performance

Speaker: Prof Espen Ytreberg, Dept of Media and Communication, University of Oslo
Discussant: Prof Peter Lunt, Brunel University

The performances of programme hosts, interviewers, reporters, and stars have clear similarities to the performances we all get up to in everyday, unmediated settings. One might say of both that they are "formal,"  "informal," or "intimate," for instance. At the same time, mediation makes a difference to performance. We cannot all perform in the ways that talk show hosts can, and the way a talk show host performs "being informal" may not be the same way we perform it. After all, mediated performances come about in circumstances that are quite different from the ways everyday communicative performances happen. The latter are typically spontaneous products of an egalitarian setting, whereas the former are, as a rule, comprehensively planned and hierarchically organized.  Mediated performances are also as a rule heavily dependent on the handling of technologies, and of various forms of scripts. The talk outlines the production of performance as a media studies subject that straddles the domains of production studies and studies of performance and performativity. It goes into some empirical detail to show concretely how performances are produced in broadcasting. Particular attention is paid to the ways that ostensibly spontaneous and "fresh" performances are routinely planned.

LT5 – 9 February
Paper session
Underdetermined Globalization: Media consumption of Chinese audience in the age of file sharing
(please note – this is a paper session open only to staff and PhD students of the Dept of Media and Communiciations)

Dr Bingchun Meng, Dept of Media and Communications
Discussant: Dr Shakuntala Banaji, Dept of Media and Communications

So far research on media and globalization has mainly focused on the global circulation of media products through legal channels. Few have studied the distribution and consumption of media content via the informal and sometimes illegal routes such as peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing. Taking Mark Poster's concept of underdetermination as an entry point, this paper examines the cultural implications of Chinese audience's consumption of American television shows by way of P2P file sharing. Poster's (1995, 2001) main argument is that the modernist conception of the instrumental-rational subject is deconstructed in the age of networked digital communication. The previously separate categories such as time/space, subject/object, human/machine, mind/body have now become entangled and their significations fluid.

The underdetermination of P2P based media consumption manifests at both institutional and individual levels. At the institutional level, file sharing subverts the conventional copyright regime, which is fundamental to the production and distribution of media content as commodity. Although the industry's own calculation of revenue loss due to digital piracy is never to be taken at face value, the disturbance that file sharing has brought to the traditional business model of global media companies is real. In the specific Chinese context where formal media channels are heavily regulated, file sharing opens up a third communication space in between the market and the state. Yet this third space is connected with rather than autonomous from the other two, hence the significance of file sharing is constantly negotiated.

For audience members who consume American TV shows via P2P networks, they now assume a more participatory role than before. This is not only because audiences take more initiative in seeking the content, but also because many of them participate in the production (For example there are several volunteer-based translation groups that regularly produce Chinese subtitles for a large amount of foreign media content) and redistribution of those content. In the process, the dynamics between global media products and local audiences are contingent upon how participation is mediated through file sharing activities.

Paper session
Covering the hung parliament: the 2010 election, presidentialization and media framing
(please note – this is a paper session open only to staff and PhD students of the Dept of Media and Communications)

Dr Nick Anstead, Dept of Media and Communications
Discussant: Dr Ben O'Loughlin, Royal Holloway, University of London

The 2010 General Election has a good claim to having the most "presidential" campaign in British history. This was especially notable in the organisation and coverage of the Prime Ministerial debates, which essentially adopted a presidential format, focusing heavily on the party leaders. While this pattern should not be surprising, given the much-noted trend towards presidentialization across parliamentary democracies, the result of the election – a hung parliament where no party had overall control – was a sharp reminder that the UK remains a parliamentary system.

Given what had gone before, this turn of events, and the subsequent coalition formation talks between all three major parties, challenged news media to adjust their framing of the whole electoral process. Drawing on analysis of a range of both print and broadcast media sources, this paper will chart the period immediately before the election, the negotiations and the first few days of the coalition, in order to seek to understand how successful different elements of the media were at making this change, and how the presidential-style of the campaign and parliamentary-actuality of those few days after the election were integrated into the narrative presented to the public.   

The Future of Cultural Policy

Chair: Myria Georgiou
Prof Katharine Sarikakis, University of Vienna
Prof Philip Schlesinger, University of Glasgow and Visiting Prof, Dept of Media and Communications, LSE
Discussant: Sonia Livingstone

Philip Schlesinger will discuss the continuities and discontinuities between the new British coalition government's cultural and media policies and those of New Labour. There are some big headline issues: the cuts and new obligations of the BBC and the future ownership of BSkyB. There are other matters that are more the domain of experts monitoring developments: abolition of the UKFC, Ofcom's reduced scope, local TV, beating the drum for arts patronage. This all raises questions about the relations between policy-making and evidence – and more fundamentally, how policy is actually made.

Katharine Sarikakis will focus on the developments of cultural policy and financial support for culture and the Arts in European countries, in the light of the economic 'crisis' and the spreading phenomenon of national debt. She will argue that there is an emerging shift in cultural policy taking place in the European culture and media landscape that will shape culture and the media for this new next decade. It is characterized by a process of dismantling of remaining public assets; the re-emergence of a class-based culture; the detrimental effect for culture-making and in particular non professional, non commercial non mainstream forms of cultural production. These processes take place within a changing format of capitalism, which is largely 'crisis' driven and a emerging notions of the state, which is taking up new, more complex roles in the regulation and administration of these changes.