Call for Papers

The Department of Media and Communications 20th anniversary conference 'Media Futures'

Thursday 15 - Friday 16 June 2023, LSE

We are living in turbulent and increasingly dangerous times which are in large part defined and influenced by the very thing we study and research, namely media, communication infrastructures, algorithms, and data. Faced with an uncertain future, we can discern both dystopian and optimistic scenarios. In terms of the former we need critique, as well as ethical norms and values to validate those critiques. Regarding the latter, alternative imaginaries of hope, social justice and solidarity need to be developed or indeed rejuvenated.

In our 20th anniversary conference, we aim to address both the critiques of the present and to consider and imagine alternative pathways. We welcome papers aligned with our four research themes: Media Culture and Identities; Histories and Futures; Media, Participation and Politics; and Communication, Technology, Rights and Justice. 

Details on specific strands are provided below:

Media Culture and Identities

Media offer symbolic and ideological resources for us to imagine and to fashion not only who we are but who we might become. They also represent and mediate our relationships with and responsibilities towards others. At a moment when media power is increasingly concentrated but also increasingly challenged and contested from multiple sites and directions, not all progressive, it is imperative to consider anew how media variously orient and disorient us.  

How are media, platforms, users and audiences implicated in the production and contestation of symbolic power both old and new? What sense of possibility do different media representations and practices produce, or seem to foreclose? What are we invited to imagine? What can we hope for?   

This stream invites contributions that examine the different roles of media and communications in the stories that we tell about ourselves, our human and non-human others, and our entangled, uncertain futures.    

Possible areas of focus include: 

  • race and ethnicity, coloniality and postcolonialism  
  • gender, sexuality, feminism and LGBTQI rights  
  • class, social and digital inequalities  
  • the nation, city, protest, solidarities and the commons  
  • age, generation, children’s and elderly rights  
  • ability and disability rights  
  • environmental crisis

Histories and Futures 

How do we think about the temporal in a moment of seemingly unremitting bad news? What role can history and memory play in the face of a future that might feel inescapably dystopian? And what is the place of media history, specifically, in relation to our political present?   

Authoritarianisms are on the rise the world over, relying on different brands of populism and fascism, magnified and twisted by platform logics; wealth concentrates in ever fewer hands, reshaping the structure of political discourse, and the avenues of resistance. Facing all this gloom, it is urgent to excavate progressive and alternative pasts.   

 This stream invites contributions that reflect on how the field of media and communications is to frame the temporal in the analysis of political and technological trends, and to advance a research agenda for a more just global future.     

Possible areas of focus include:   

  • the role of media history in considerations of our present conjuncture
  • temporality and media studies 
  • the politics of future imaginaries 
  • collective memory in authoritarianism and activism 
  • decolonising communications and data practices
  • affect and the temporal

Media, Participation and Politics

We are living in a time when the old is dying but the new hasn’t been born yet. This age is also characterised by the centrality of media and communication infrastructures, both in terms of the harms they induce and the potential solutions they might offer to our myriad societal problems, those of democracy above all.   

How can and should media and communications, and by extension our field, contribute to shaping stronger and more vibrant democracies, and deeper and embodied intersectional solidarities? How might we overcome the many economic, cultural and social barriers to the attainment of these social and moral goods?   

This stream invites contributions that reflect on the role of media and communications in fostering democratic and inclusive politics and participation, and countering authoritarianism, fascism and militarism.  

Possible areas of focus include:  

  • third sector and activist media practices
  • mainstream and social media in times of war
  • the politicisation of global crises
  • the changing spaces, shape and tone of political debate
  • public sphere ideals and conflict in a populist era   
  • the growing spectre and normalisation of fascism and anti-democratic authoritarianism

Communication, Technology, Rights and Justice

Recent years have seen a significant increase in philanthropic support for digital rights, tech ethics, platform accountability, media freedom, and independent media. This boost, which typically comes from wealthy tech entrepreneurs, tech firms, or their non-profit spin-offs, easily competes with national investments in communication rights and justice, and is taking place against the backdrop of increased attempts to rein in the power and influence of ‘Big Tech,’ on the one hand, and to assert digital sovereignty, on the other.   

What are the stakes in the pursuit of communication rights and justice? Who are the different players, and what are, and should be, their respective roles, interests and constraints? Is collective resistance to Big Tech possible, and if so under what conditions and with what alternatives?  

This stream invites contributions that assess changes in the balance of power between the state, market players, and non-state actors in shaping just and democratic communication infrastructures.    

Possible areas of focus include:  

  • norms, values, and practices in advocacy and organising for communication rights and justice 
  • path dependency in foundation-funded tech advocacy and organising
  • tech philanthropy and public opinion of it
  • refusal and/or/versus reform of Big Tech 
  • the meaning and nature of ‘public interest’ technology.

Conference Format

Our current expectation is that the conference will hold in-person on the LSE campus in London. Any changes to this, due to developments in the COVID-19 situation in the UK, will be communicated promptly.

Registration Fees 

The cost of attendance is £100. Waivers will be available on request for students and academics based in low income countries and on hourly paid or adjunct contracts. 

Register for the conference here.

Submission Guidelines

Proposals are welcome for single or co-authored papers. Only one proposal per person should be submitted. 

Proposals must include a title for the paper, an abstract of up to 300 words, a contact email address and indication of institutional affiliation.  

  • The deadline for submissions is Monday 7 November 2022, 23:59 GMT.  
  • Outcomes will be communicated by Monday 31 January, 2023.

Questions and Further Information

Please direct any questions about the conference or waiver queries process to:

For ongoing updates about the conference, follow our Twitter account @MediaLSE.