Three-D Issue 31: MeCCSA Conference 2018: Creativity and Agency

We were delighted to welcome delegates to London South Bank University (LSBU) for the MeCCSA 2018 conference (10-12 January 2018). We would like to thank everyone who contributed to making the event a success.

Delegates were welcomed on 10 January by the outgoing chair of MeCCSA, Professor Natalie Fenton, and by Professor Janet Jones, dean of the School of Arts & Creative Industries at LSBU. The new incoming chair of MeCCSA, Professor Anita Biressi, then gave the opening keynote of the conference, on ‘Career selfies’, examining prevailing messages about the manufacture of the successful neoliberal self. It was a very thought-provoking start to the conference, touching on some of the key concerns which we had highlighted in the call for papers – such as the commodification of everyday ‘creative labour’ via social media, or the self-marketing strategies adopted by aspirant ‘creative workers’.

A thoughtful and reflective tone also ran through the other keynote talks. Professor Andy Miah kicked off day two with a talk on ‘Sport 2.0’ (see photo below), discussing contemporary innovation culture and media technology in the context of sports, where such examples as artificial intelligence, wearables and ingestibles are becoming new, disruptive artefacts within our media culture. Professor David Gauntlett’s closing keynote on the final day, on ‘Creativity and agency, and the purposes of media studies’, was also his final lecture in the UK before moving to Canada to take up new post at Ryerson University in Toronto. David offered a personal perspective on the ways in which media and communications studies has changed over the past 20 years, and the ways in which creativity and agency have moved in and out of focus within the discipline.

We were also pleased to be able to welcome Professor Dinah Birch, chair of Main Panel D (Arts & Humanities) for REF2021, as a guest speaker at the MeCCSA AGM. Professor Birch’s insights provided valuable guidance for those of us thinking about the still-on-going process of finalising outputs and impact case-studies for the next Research Excellent Framework exercise.

The MeCCSA 2018 conference attracted over 250 delegates from as far afield as Australia, Japan, China and the US, as well as from universities across Europe and the UK, and from non-HEI organisations such as BAFTA and Ofcom. A wide variety of work was presented under the overall conference theme of ‘Creativity and Agency’, including a programme of film screenings and other practice-based research, as well as traditional academic panels and round-tables.

The various MeCCSA networks were well represented, with for example two panels each from the Radio Studies Network and the Climate Change Network. With so many interesting sessions on offer, it would be impossible to pick out highlights without also neglecting other great panels and presentations. However, special mention should probably go to the AHRC-funded Filmmaking Research Network, who organised a round-table on ‘Filmmaking in the Academy’, as well as a special screening of a selection of short films.

On the social side, we enjoyed a very well-attended conference dinner at the TAS restaurant in Southwark. And, in a break from recent MeCCSA quiz night tradition, hosted the first-ever MeCCSA comedy evening, featuring performances by Erich McElroy, Leo Kearse and Jessica Fostekew. All three comedians also joined an academic panel earlier in the day, on ‘Politics and Comedy’, organised by LSBU’s Ben Mallaby.

Many LSBU staff helped in organising the event – advised and guided by the MeCCSA executive – but special thanks must go to our dean, Professor Janet Jones, and our director of research, Professor Lizzie Jackson, both of whom played a major role in supporting and championing the event. The organising committee would also like to thank all our LSBU Student Ambassadors for their hard work and professionalism, and – perhaps our biggest debt of all – the always good-humoured and unflappable head of the university’s Events team, Neil Basing.

Posted by Einar Thorsen