Ewan Kirkland & Julie Doyle
University of Brighton

It was a pleasure to welcome delegates to the University of Brighton’s City Campus for the MeCCSA 2020 conference. Over 270 attendees joined us for this three-day event, including delegates from South Africa, China, Spain, Czech Republic, Denmark and Switzerland. Everyone who contributed, from presenters to panel chairs, from stewards to members of our technical team, deserves an enormous ‘thank you’ for their part in making this event such a resounding success.

The conference began at the Sallis Benney Theatre, Grand Parade, with a welcome from the University of Brighton’s Professor Tara Dean, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research and Enterprise). The opening keynote was delivered by Dr Deborah Gabriel from Bournemouth University, founder and director of Black British Academics, a global network committed to enhancing racial equity in Higher Education and society. Dr Gabriel presented a stimulating pedagogically-focused keynote on resisting racism, decolonising the curriculum, and providing students with the critical tools required to understand and dismantle white privilege. It was a timely reminder of the responsibility everyone within the academy has in combatting systemic racial inequality and exclusion. This session was followed by a range of panels, covering journalism, radio, media and mental health, activism and international television.

Despite the city being very much a summer tourist destination, we were pleased to offer delegates the best of what Brighton has to offer in terms of external events. The first day concluded with a wine reception in the opulent setting of Brighton Museum and Art Gallery. This was followed by drinks and a quiz at The Walrus, a traditional pub in the heart of Brighton’s historic Lanes.

The second day featured keynotes from Sarah Kember, Professor of New Technologies of Communication at Goldsmiths, and Trine Syvertsen, Professor in the Department of Media and Communication at the University of Oslo. Professor Kember’s keynote considered the state of contemporary scholarly publishing. The current move to make publicly funded research freely and immediately accessible to researchers and the public was explored in relation to the imposition of STEM models onto AHSS, the dominance of neoliberal and cyberlibertarian ideologies, and the exclusion of more radical alternatives and models of publishing. ‘Digital detox’ was the focus of Professor Syvertsen’s keynote which drew on user research, media policy, industry practice and media debates to explore the ambivalent individualisation of digital disconnection as a consumer lifestyle choice.

Thursday’s panels covered a wealth of areas, such as sound and music, election campaigns, black feminism, artificial intelligence and genre television. Lunch was provided by the Real Junk Food Company Brighton, a non-profit-making organisation dedicated to intercepting food waste destined for landfill and turning it into tasty nutritious meals. The organisation was chosen to reflect the conference theme of environmental awareness and sustainability. Nine network meetings were held, including the Race Network, Climate Change Network and Social Movement Network. The guest speaker at the MeCCSA AGM was Professor Matt O’Leary, director of the education research centre CSPACE at Birmingham City University, internationally recognised for his extensive body of work on the use of classroom observation in understanding and improving teaching and learning. The evening concluded with dinner at Palm Court, a fish and chip restaurant on Brighton Palace Pier.

Friday’s conference continued the wide range of papers, panels and presentations, covering such subjects as media technologies, international gender politics, film and history, gender and coding, libraries and museums, tastemakers, comedy and social media. The final keynote was delivered by Jussi Parikka, Professor in Technological Culture and Aesthetics at the Winchester School of Art, and Visiting Researcher at FAMU at the Academy of Performing Arts, Prague. Professor Parikka’s insightful talk drew inspiration from various architectural and artistic projects, in considering methodologically creative and productive ways of representing, and responding to, environmental crisis.

The conference theme of Media Interactions and Environments was diversely represented, with panels exploring environmental sustainability, ecological futures, science and environmental controversy, mediated cities, philosophies of media ecologies, environmental storytelling and digital environments. Contemporary issues and developments in media practice and academia were also reflected in panels examining digital bodies, fake news, sexual violence, participatory video, virtual reality documentaries, transmedia identities, film festival and live cinema scholarship.

Roundtable discussions on Photography and Urban Image Making, the Climate Crisis, Diversity in the Media, and Sound, Music, Space and Place reflected the interests of the School of Media’s research community, the conference theme, and the MeCCSA community. The conference made full use of the newly refurbished Edward Street building, and included stalls from Emerald Publishing, Palgrave Macmillan, Polity and The MIT Press. Thanks to the work of the Practice Network we were able to install several exhibitions in the gallery spaces, including work by Marina Wainer, Nick Cope, Richard O’Sullivan, Tim Brown and Fergus Heron.

Overall, the conference reflected a huge collective effort from staff at the University of Brighton, the MeCCSA committee, and the academic community. Special thanks are due to Irmgard Karl, Head of the School of Media; Claudia Kappenberg for all her work managing the exhibition space; Patricia Prieto Blanco for liaising with Real Junk Food; Jordan Snowden for designing the conference logo; the catering staff at Grand Parade; and Laura Williams and the South Coast Event Support team for all their work throughout the event. Without the combined efforts of all these people none of this would have been possible.

Richard Haynes, 
Lucia Hubinska
Sophia Narron
University of Stirling

The University of Stirling’s Communication, Media and Culture Division was proud to host the Scottish debut of the MeCCSA annual conference, which took place from 9 to 11 January 2019 at the Stirling Court Hotel. This was the first time the conference had been held in Scotland.

The conference brought together 223 academics, scholars and professionals from more than 90 universities and other educational and professional institutions based in 19 different countries, reaching as far as Australia and New Zealand.

The conference theme “Continuity and change: Media, Communications and Politics” was designed to speak to different fields represented within MeCCSA, whilst also speaking to specific anniversaries significant to Scotland, including the 20th anniversary of the reconvening of the Scottish Parliament.

The event kick-started with a pre-conference reception at the Scottish Parliament, where Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs, Fiona Hyslop MSP, addressed 30 delegates at the Scottish Parliament sponsored by former journalist Joan McAlpine MSP. Addressing the conference theme of ‘continuity and change’ Hyslop noted: “In terms of change, the biggest challenge facing the UK at this time is the decision to leave the European Union”. With the Scottish Government striving to prevent or at least minimise the damage of Brexit, Hyslop expanded on the importance of good communication to a healthy political landscape. “Language matters”, she commented, “and there’s a responsibility for the media to articulate what things actually mean.” Delegates were subsequently treated to a tour of the debating chamber by Joan McAlpine, a first for most who attended.

The conference itself featured four keynote speeches, four roundtables, and 42 panels with 152 individual papers, practice-based explorations and a film screening. The event was rich in intellectual and thought-provoking discussions, as well as in opportunities to network, socialise and come up with innovative ideas for further research in the field.

The opening keynote speech, given by Philip Schlesinger of the University of Glasgow, tackled a range of contemporary issues for communications, public deliberation and democracy defined by political and economic turmoil. Another powerful keynote lecture, by Shohini Chaudhuri of the University of Essex, dealt with the creative challenges in contemporary filmmaking from and about the Arab World and Iran. Leshu Torchin, of the University of St. Andrews, tackled questions of genre and geopolitics and offered some interesting examples of economies of fact, finance, and the body in popular culture. Hannu Nieminen, of the University of Helsinki, questioned the relations between the media, democracy and informed citizenship by examining the Nordic model. The keynote speeches can be viewed on the MeCCSA YouTube channel https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCDsXEQ2O-VUn0xm09_pa-IQ/featured.

Four intriguing roundtables with prominent speakers from academia and practice addressed the topics of media and nations in transition; women in media and politics; media production in Scotland; and the intersections of journalism and public relations.

In a variety of panels and events, delegates questioned the role of traditional and digital media and communications in maintaining continuity and advocating for change. The central topics included digital cultures, participation and change; ethics and credibility in the media; gender issues in communications, media and politics; media activism and civic engagement; media, ethnicity and racism; media populism; ways of witnessing; and crisis and change communications, amongst many others.

There were social and networking events Scottish style aplenty. In addition to the visit to the Parliament we had a morning walk to the National Wallace Monument, an opening reception in the Pathfoot building which houses the university’s art collection and to which delegates were delightfully piped across campus from the Stirling Court Hotel. The popular MeCCSA pub quiz followed the early evening reception at the Meadow Park Pub, which was followed up the following evening by whisky tasting delivered by local Bridge of Allan store Woodwinters. The venue for the conference dinner was quickly transformed in to a dancefloor for a traditional Scottish Ceilidh and MeCCSA delegates should be applauded for the vigour in which they swung each other across the floor in to the early hours of the night.

MeCCSA 2019 was a truly international, diverse and all-encompassing occasion with a Scottish essence and of high significance in the world of academia, research and practice.

You can watch the videos from the conference here https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCDsXEQ2O-VUn0xm09_pa-IQ/videos or alternatively look for the hashtag #MeCCSA2019.

This post was adapted by Richard Haynes from our blogpost written by Lucia Hubinska and Sophia Narron, MSc students in public relations.

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.

We were delighted to welcome delegates to the University of Leeds for the MeCCSA 2017 conference (11-13 January 2017) would like to thank everyone for contributing to three special days of events.

Delegates were welcomed on 11 January by Dr Katy Parry (convenor), Dr Lee Edwards (Acting Head of School) and Professor Jay G Blumler (Emeritus Professor). Dr Lee Edwards touched upon the conference theme of ‘Culture, Media, Equality and Freedom’ in her address, with some poignant reflections on today’s political and social climate, and the freedoms that are under threat; freedoms that we as media and communication scholars have an important role in actively defending.

The conference attracted scholars from as far away as USA, South Africa, China and Australia, with over 230 attendees in all. As summarised by Professor Blumler, the papers covered 17 different countries and topics included:

‘creative and arts production, music and the popular arts, citizenship, politics and political activism, media economics including advertising, the environment and climate change, representations of women, ethnic minorities, young people and the disabled, documentaries, soap operas, ideologies such as neo-liberalism and populism, humour and professional wrestling!’

We felt that a particular strength of the conference was the passionate and socially committed keynote addresses, all of which pushed us to think beyond our disciplinary boundaries and to consider the ethical and political dimensions of how we as academics communicate our ideas and research.

roundtableonOfcom_and_collaborationProfessor Andrew Ross (NYU) started the conference exploring the limitations of artistic rights for a variety of people working in ‘creative labour’, including the tensions between global universities and academic freedom of expression. Dr Shakuntala Banaji’s (LSE) keynote on ‘Techno-emancipation and the youthful poor’ asked academics to think further about their own stories about digital empowerment, progress and use of ICTs. For example, how do we engage with some of the powerful common sense assumptions about digital empowerment and the ‘rising’ middle class in India?

As PhD researcher Jen Carlberg summarised in her report for the MeCCSA 2017 live blog, in his keynote Professor Paul Gilroy exhorted listeners to refocus their attentions upon the ways in which neoliberal capitalism has impacted upon struggles of race and gender, for instance by transforming politics into types of commoditised expertise, labelled as ‘diversity management’. But we think it’s also important to take heart from Professor Gilroy’s later remark: ‘I think our job is to imagine a better set of possibilities in this world’.

One profession which appears to be facing a serious dilemma in the way it imagines the world is journalism, and our final keynote from Professor Barbie Zelizer (University of Pennsylvania) considered how to ‘reset’ journalism in the aftermath of Brexit and Trump’s victory. Professor Zelizer argued that not only had UK and US journalists failed to serve the public, but there was an urgent need to find critical and ‘evolving answers to what journalism is for’.

These challenging and provocative deliberations also continued within our many panels and roundtables, not to mention at the social events, with local beers helping to keep the conversation flowing at the beer festival and pub quiz.

MeCCSA Chair Professor Natalie Fenton (Goldsmiths) expressed her heartfelt gratitude for a conference that was ‘engaging, rigorous, politically attuned and lots of fun to boot!’ whilst MeCCSA Executive member Professor John Downey (Loughborough) commented that we had ‘raised the bar for MeCCSA conferences’. Indeed, there were delegates at the conference who remarked that they had not attended a MeCCSA conference before but now planned to make it a regular part of their conferencing calendar. It has been a real pleasure to play a part in showcasing the excellent and challenging scholarship undertaken in our field, and we look forward to our School continuing to contribute to such dialogue and debates.

You can re-live highlights from the conference via the ‘live blog’ archive: https://meccsa2017.org.uk/live-blog/. We are very grateful to Ian Bucknell and two Broadcast Journalism students, Harvey McMillan and Kathryn Underwood, for curating the blog; and to Jen Carlberg and Charlotte Elliott for providing reports on the keynotes. Many staff helped in organising the event but special thanks go to Anna Zoellner’s excellent proposal and planning as the original convenor, and to committee members Chris Birchall, Lee Edwards, Julie Firmstone, Sarah-Joy Ford, David Hesmondhalgh, Steve Lax, Ian MacDonald and Kate Oakley. The conference committee would also like to thank all the postgraduate helpers for their professionalism, hard work and enthusiasm, welcoming delegates with a smile despite the bitterly cold weather, and led by the exceptional James Mason.


agnes-570Àgnes Gulyàs
Canterbury Christ Church University

The MeCCSA Annual Conference 2016 was hosted by Canterbury Christ Church University, Canterbury, 6-8th January 2016. We would like to thank everyone for their contribution and for attending! Special thanks to those who were involved in presenting, chairing panels, and reviewing abstracts. We have recorded and uploaded all plenary sessions to MeCCSA’s new youtube channel, where you can relive the experience or if you did not make to the event you can catch up on what our great speakers said. You find the videos here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCDsXEQ2O-VUn0xm09_pa-IQ/videos

Further highlights can be found at the conference website (https://www.meccsa2016.co.uk/) as well as on MeCCSA’s Twitter feed (@MeCCSA2017).

Many members of the hosting School helped organising the conference, but the core organising committee included Dr Andrew Butler, Dr Agnes Gulyas, Sarah O’Hara, Dr Ruth Sanz Sabido, Dr Craig Smith, Julia Bennett, Dr Tim Long.

16Over 200 hundred delegates attended the conference. During the three days there were 140 presentations in the parallel sessions, one end of project workshop, 2 screenings and one poster presentation. The breakdown for the three days were: 39 presentations on the Wednesday, 62 on Thursday, and 39 on the Friday. We had 14 student helpers who were essential for the smooth running of the conference. There were two social events, on the first night we had a reception and a quiz night (the quiz was reportedly rather challenging). On the second night we held the conference dinner at the Cathedral Lodge on the grounds of Canterbury Cathedral.

Plenary sessions

Originally five plenaries had been planned but a sixth was added relatively late in the planning cycle on the Future of the BBC because of the importance and currency of the topic. Plenary 6 only had one speaker on the day as Mark Deuze withdrew in the last minute. Because the external speaker, David Walker could only do Friday we moved the AGM from its traditional Thursday afternoon slot. Apart from the traditional three speakers’ plenary we also had three roundtable plenaries with four speakers each of whom had ten minutes to present followed by a discussion. We feel this variety of the plenaries worked well and we had some positive feedback from delegates who appreciated the longer discussions.

  • PLENARY 1: Communities and activism
    Hilary Wainwright, Prof Jeremy Gilbert, Phil Cohen
  • PLENARY 2: Roundtable: Local and community media
    Adam Cantwell-Corn, Dr Peter Lewis, Ian Carter, Dr Andy Williams
  • PLENARY 3: Communities on the margins
    Dr Leah Bassel, Dr Helen Thornham, Prof Claire Wallace
  • PLENARY 4: Roundtable: Communities, academic research and impact
    Prof George McKay, Prof Claire Wallace, Dr Leah Bassel, Kathryn Geels
  • PLENARY 5: Roundtable: Waiting for the BBC White Paper – What’s missing?
    Prof Patrick Barwise, Sophie Chalk, Bill Thompson, Prof Des Freedman
  • AGM with David Walker, Head of Policy, Academy of Social Sciences,
  • PLENARY 6: Communities in the digital age
    Prof Helena Sousa


The plenary explored examples of communities that have arisen from social activism agendas.

Phil Cohen 

The ‘labourhood’, a phrase coined by Phil Cohen, has, he proposed, its roots in a very English form of socialism, and it is characterised by urban and rural communities that embrace the spirit of self-governance. This has given way to new practices of democracy through forms of dispersed sociality that have emerged in and against the deregulated city. Communities of lifestyle, livelihood and leisure that have associated online presences. Phil proposed that an order of sorts is emerging through variety, and is not being imposed from powers above. This ‘order of sorts’ can be identified in the community initiatives Phil detailed: urban explorers reclaiming unused urban zones, guerrilla gardeners, skateboarders reclaiming the city, and groups mapping subterranean London. A gay community initiative in East London has used both physical and virtual mappings of popular cruising grounds, and this characterises the hybrid qualities and extended reach of self-initiated communities that are established through a common need. Each of these current communities in their own ways, Phil suggested, are indebted to Situationist precedents that also sought to discover new ways of articulating the experience of urban life and urban communities. These mappings of the environment for the purpose of identifying and bringing together disparate individuals to form new communities is an agenda developed by the activities of Common Ground. These practices can point the way to optimistic new possible communities that in turn communicate with other similar communities creating common ground that maps the ways that otherwise uncharted and unrecorded live and labours are recorded and understood.

Jeremy Gilbert

Jeremy Gilbert’s discussion proposed that a neoliberalist agenda works against potent collectivity by situating economic factors within the private sector. The activist communities however operate because of, and despite, these overarching agendas. Jeremy identified the ‘Momentum’ movement that led to Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership selection to head the labour party as an example of collective action. The process that led to Corbyn’s leadership illuminated the distinction between movement and a campaign, and although these terms overlap, Jeremy suggested the terms merited further reflection. Corbynism was facilitated by social media, Jeremy argued. By reinforcing shared views, reverberating in their own social media caves as in an ‘echo chamber’, online discussion is possibly limited to like-minded people confirming their own views to each other. Jeremy proposed that an ‘activist imaginary’ can create a sense of collective coherence, where by working together, both formally and informally, new communities can operate effectively outside the neoliberalist agenda.

Hilary Wainwright 

Hilary Wainwright discussed how different understanding of knowledge implicit in communities related to purposeful identification of outcomes that can be acted on. How do Communities relate to power? What is the relation of community to agency? Hilary distinguished two types of power, [centralised] power over and [community] power as a transformative capacity. Hilary argued there are tensions between a tribe or family type closed community or a truly communal base for changing society. Hilary discussed the ways in which the women’s movement set up nurseries that influenced the power of the state. Another example of community initiative identifying local ambitions to act upon is the Exodus collective in Luton established in the early 1990s who won funding for a new deal for communities are an example of a DIY community initiating social housing projects and free community events. Picking up on Jeremy’s paper, Hilary argued that Momentum and the labour party membership’s potential to become agents for change outside of the parliamentary system were welcome developments. The conception of community can create a platform and base for transformative power through which initiative can lead to a wider movement, that is open putting ordinary people’s lives on the map.


Adam Cantwell-Corn 

CYDZkWKWwAASOOhAdam is the co-founder of ‘Bristol Cable’, which has a mission statement that clearly sets out to distinguish their offering from traditional or mainstream media organisations. “Bristol Cable is redefining local media through challenging multimedia, community action, cooperative ownership, online, in print and on the street.” Adam argued that there has been a retreat in the number of local news media in terms of its general availability and perhaps more crucially in terms of overall quality. Bristol Cable are trying to redefine the model for local media on a community basis, and to reassert that media can have a political nature. Their multi-level proposition includes an emphasis on the following:

  • Genuine engagement
  • Social business model
  • Quality, relevance, diversity and accessible journalism
  • Interesting content
  • Trustworthy

Bristol Cable provides workshops and practical skills to their 540 paying members and their social business model includes an ethical advertising charter.

Ian Carter 

Ian, editor of the KM Group, provided an overview of the KM media group; an independent, family-owned publisher with a long history in the Kent area and includes the Kentish Gazette (founded in 1717). While he acknowledged the differences between the KM media group and the Bristol Cable, Ian argued that his organization also valued their readers, the importance of the brand and relationship with the readers. Ian highlighted the 1998 launch of KentOnline “The UK’s fastest-growing regional news network”, and the subsequent period of change and digital disruption that ensued. The growth of their online viewing figures has nevertheless been tempered by numerous online competitors and services like ‘Rightmove’ (housing), and ‘Monster’ (job searches), that have damaged traditional newspaper revenue streams.

The KM media group will look at diversification and partnerships, whilst building upon the traditional strengths. Ian argued that people rely on journalists more than ever to report in an honest and trustworthy fashion, in order to counter some of the more dubious material that often appears on social media. Although the digital era has proved challenging to the KM media group, they believe that their readers are loyal to them and that 100,000 people still spend up to £1.20 per week on the printed newspapers.

Peter Lewis 

Peter Lewis provided a rich history of local community radio and suggested that “British community radio never had the type of explosive origins that we saw in the European mainland.” He also identified the Thatcher years, whereby a short-term business philosophy pervaded community radio projects and short-term licences prevailed. In 2004 the community radio sector was authorised and launched. It took its place within the voluntary charitable sector although it’s administered by the DCMS. Peter also argued that under this government, the sector is at the sharp end of a combination of outsourcing policy and cuts in local government spending. The ongoing policy of austerity was also roundly criticised. Peter raised the awareness of community radio with the audience by asking them “who listens to community radio” and “who if any included it in an academic module or course”.

Andy Williams 

Andy Williams was part of an AHRC funded team that examined the Hyperlocal sector. The research project included an online survey of 180 UK journalists, that asked about their working practices, revenues, and business models. Research revealed that the sector is now reasonably well established (73% of survey respondents have been doing it for more than 3 years). Most (70%) see what they do as a form of active participation in community life, with 57% describing what they do as “local journalism”, and 55% as “active citizenship”. Almost half of participants have some form of journalistic training/experience, which suggests an even split between amateurs and pros (or semi-pros). News tended to be geographically focused, community-oriented form of local news, local clubs, societies, leisure time activities covered regularly. Lots of coverage of local politics – which is declining in mainstream press (mentioned in 27% of posts). 42% of survey respondents have “started a campaign where the site has sought to change things locally in the last 2 years”. Andy’s research culminates in a call for support for the hyperlocal community news sector, arguing that the various groups of hyperlocal news journalists produce public interest news, but that there is a tough market out there that is dominated by established publishers in local advertising monopolies.


CYG7JH-WMAAZVj7Leah Bassel (University of Leicester), Helen Thornham (University of Leeds) and Claire Wallace (University of Aberdeen) delivered the plenary ‘Communities on the margins’. The keynote speakers discussed the intersections between peripheral communities, activism, public service provision, enterprising cultures and the availability of digital tools for community empowerment. More specifically, Leah focused on minority women’s activism under austerity in England, Scotland and France. Speaking about her co-authored work with Akwugo Emejulu (University of Edinburgh), Leah highlighted the different layers of inequality that can be observed not only in the marginalization of certain communities but also in the contestation of that marginalization in the context of the current economic ‘crisis’. From a different perspective, Helen pointed out that having a smart phone is not the same as having access to the online tools and services that people need, particularly when they are already marginalized for a variety of reasons (economic, disability, and so on). This leads to the conflation of digital and social issues that come together to immobilize or discriminate these individuals further. Finally, Claire offered an insight into processes of marginalization of rural communities, which are affected by their remoteness and their lack of broadband access. Based on her research, Claire concluded that there are five common factors that determine the success of broadband initiatives in these remote areas, including human, technological, social, identity and financial aspects.


On Thursday afternoon, we had a roundtable plenary session on communities, academic research and impact, that was led by George McKay (University of East Anglia), Claire Wallace (Aberdeen), Kathryn Geels (Nesta) and Leah Bassel (Leicester). George, as Arts and Humanities Research Council Leadership Fellow for its Connected Communities Programme (2012-18), pointed out that in order to have a successful bid the community partner must be at the centre of the project. Claire also spoke about the importance of working with community partners from the very beginning of the process, as she reflected on regeneration areas and communities in Aberdeen. Kathryn provided an insight into the projects with which Nesta is currently working, focusing particularly on ‘hyperlocal’ media. To round off the discussion, Leah highlighted that the impact agenda poses an important democratic challenge, as we need to consider who is defining the problem. Listening becomes crucial in impactful research, and Leah pointed out that, as academics, we need to talk less in order to listen properly, and we need to talk with – and not in the place of – people.


CYMqztFWMAEkfgQ.jpg-largeHelena provided a detailed account of the world’s Lusophone community. There is a formal structure called the Lusophone community set up in 1996 due to common political will and interests. Helena argued that it is unequivocally a post-colonial reconstruct but Portugal was/is not the leading actor . The various Lusophone countries are located in four continents. Brazil is arguably the most important Lusophone country, with a population of over 200 million. Angola is also considered to be an important Lusophone community.

A map of the World with the Lusophone areas has been used in Portuguese schools to suggest that “Portugal is not a small country”. The authors of this map place Angola and Mozambique on top of an existing map of Western Europe to seemingly promote the importance of the geographical catchment area of the Lusophone community. There is more sceptical literature on the Lusophone construct. Authors such as Eduardo Lourenço believe that Lusophony fulfils an imaginary space of imperial nostalgia so ‘we can feel less isolated and more visible in the world, given that the imperial cycle is definitely over’. Helena referred to Lourenço as a ‘critical’ or ‘skeptical’ author.

Helena argued that Portugal is not the centre of the Lusophone community. For economic reasons, Brazil has over 200 million citizens and is an emerging economy. She stated that Brazil is one example of ‘cultural reverse dependency’. Helena also argued that the Lusophone political community per se does not explain the proliferation of Lusophone micro-communities. But it is through language that a shared discursive patrimony (both divergent and convergent) is developed.


We organised a special session titled ‘Early Career Perspectives’, in which Shane Blackman, Asya Draganova, Jane Milton and Chris Pallant discussed academic careers based on their own experiences: Blackman encouraged attendees not only to publish in academic journals but to become involved in the publishing process too. Draganova shared her views on accessing academia as a PhD candidate, while Milton reflected on her experience of joining academia having worked in industry. Pallant offered useful tips for Early Career researchers to develop their careers strategically.

The MeCCSA Postgraduate Network is close to our hearts, so we were proud to offer two Best Paper awards for postgraduate students. The winners were Bethan Michael and Nikita Hayden (MeCCSA 2016 Best Student Paper, for their article on Young People’s Sense of Community in Bedford) and Roger Hallam (MeCCSA 2016 Best Student Paper on Communities, for his research on empowerment of radical campaign groups).

Conference - selfie_fmtRosie White, Karen Ross and James Leggott
Northumbria University

This year’s MeCCSA Annual Conference was hosted by Northumbria University in Newcastle Upon Tyne, 7th-9th January 2015. We started preparing for the event over a year in advance and one of our key concerns was that bad weather (snow, ice, hail, wind or other act of god) would disrupt travel to and from the conference and make transport to the evening venues problematic or even dangerous. Fortunately this was not the case and the weather was remarkably fine and sunny, albeit not warm – it was January in the North East, after all.

DSC_0427_optAround 250 people came, and stayed, and took an active part in discussions over coffee, over lunch, in seminar rooms, in plenaries and in the main foyer. For the planning team, on day one, it was hard to believe that the conference was actually taking place after its long gestation and all the trials and tribulations of planning. At times, there was a sense that we were having an out of body experience: the technology did not turn against us, catering turned up on time (and was good), the speakers were fantastic and, against all expectations, we did not have to engage in hand to hand combat with timetabling in order to ensure access to the rooms. The Northumbria Events team led by Shelley Brunsdon were wonderfully efficient on the day, as were our student ambassadors, all helping to make the event look seamless and professional and of course, making us look pretty good as well.

The opening plenary, ‘My Brilliant Career’, featured Professor Bob Franklin (Cardiff University), Professor Karen Boyle (University of Stirling) and Dr Ruth Sanz Sabido (Canterbury Christ Church University) talking about their experiences of the profession and reflecting upon the current situation post REF and pre-election (see features in this issue). As we had hoped, the speakers were thoughtful, engaging and frank. There was a distinctly autobiographical slant to this first session; in keeping with the conference theme, the debate reflected on generations of academics and provoked further discussion in subsequent panels, continuing outside the conference.

Delegates were then confronted with an almost impossible choice between six parallel panels in the two subsequent sessions on Wednesday afternoon, all offering a smorgasbord of academic delights. Very helpfully, all the rooms were on the ground floor and our outstanding student ambassadors were on hand to guide people from the registration area, to the plenary lecture hall and then to the seminar rooms. The first afternoon closed with a wine reception in the main foyer, allowing delegates to stock up on canapés and essential fluids before venturing out into the chilly Newcastle evening. A brave few continued on to the conference comedy event in the City Tavern, ably hosted by Kate Fox, stand up poet and doyenne of Radio 4’s Saturday Live. There was even a competition to write a comic poem which was, rather embarrassingly, won by one of the conference organizers. No money changed hands – honest, guv’nor.

Thursday morning opened with a stunning plenary about the mediation of age and aging. Professor Dafna Lemish (University of Southern Illinois Carbondale) dazzled the gathered throng with frankly gob-smacking graphics which demonstrated how animation for children is stereotypically gendered even when representing objects. Professor Lynne Segal (Birkbeck, University of London) addressed the representation of aging from a gendered perspective, noting how contemporary media has yet to fully acknowledge or access the possibilities of an ageing demographic. The plenary fed directly into a subsequent panel session on ‘Media and Older Age’ where Tricia Jenkins, Deborah Jermyn and Claire Mortimer referenced Lynne Segal’s recent work in this field.

As is traditional, the MeCCSA Network groups met during Thursday’s lunch break to discuss business and make plans for the coming year. The Women’s Network meeting was particularly well attended and it was good to see academics from all generations contributing ideas and adding to the debate. Thursday afternoon began with an essential overview of ‘the EU funding maze’ from Professor Kirsten Drotner (University of Southern Denmark), before delegates had to make more difficult choices between equally appealing panels, while the MeCCSA AGM at the end of the day featured a presentation by Professor Chris Rojek (City University) on open access publishing.

The conference dinner held at the Copthorne Hotel was, if not quite the highlight of the conference, at least edible, with wine and conversation that flowed well in all directions. Your conference organizers left at a reasonable time, leaving a number of tired but happy delegates still musing over the day’s debates or possibly something else entirely.

A plenary on ‘Digital Futures’ began the third day of the conference and although Dr Donna Leishman (University of Dundee) unfortunately had to withdraw due to illness, the remaining speakers outlined a digital landscape that was by turns terrifying and fascinating. Professor Ian Brown (Oxford Internet Institute) made clear how difficult it is not to be potentially under constant electronic surveillance, offering insights into the current practices of the ‘Five Eyes’ security forces of the UK, US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Dr Paulo Gerbaudo (Kings College London) gave a nuanced overview of shifts in contemporary internet activism, sceptical of the liberal potential of ‘cyberdemocracy’.

During the morning break on Friday there was a ‘happening’ performed by a local community group, Grand Gestures. The event did not appear in the programme as it was designed to be a surprise. Some delegates seemed a little nonplussed at the sight of a bunch of older people who suddenly began rattling cups and saucers, balancing piles of crockery and running off with the muffins. It was fitting that, during a conference about ‘generations’, that this group of pensioners with attitude were able to disrupt, unsettle and amuse their audience.

Many thanks to everyone who participated in MeCCSA2015, as speakers, delegates and supporters – we couldn’t have done it without you. Onwards, Canterbury Christ Church.

Conference photos courtesy of Karen Ross and Jessi O’Donnell

1111Einar Thorsen, Daniel Jackson, Shelley Thompson & Hugh Chignell
MeCCSA 2014 Conference Comm.
Bournemouth University



The MeCCSA Annual Conference 2014 was hosted by Bournemouth University at its Talbot Campus, 8-10th January 2014. We would like to thank everyone who attended for making this such a great conference! Special thanks to those who were involved in presenting, chairing panels, and reviewing abstracts. This was a massive undertaking and we could not have done it without you!!

You can re-live highlights (photos, videos, live blogs, keynote sessions etc) from the conference via our website: https://meccsa2014.bournemouth.ac.uk

Don’t just take our word for it, here’s a brief video with reflections from delegates themselves: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=joyEIiON1nQ

If you have photographs or experiences you would like to share, you can still post them
on our Facebook event group (https://www.facebook.com/events/500155406711675/) or use the #MeCCSA Twitter hashtag.


Hugh Chignell was responsible for identifying keynotes with suggestions from others, whilst Kate Murphy acted as their main point of contact and liaison.

11 keynotes were invited to speak on themed keynote panels. In tune with the conference theme, of those invited nine were women and of the two men one was African and one African American. The relative novelty of all women panels was noted and complimented, for example by Professor Suzanne Franks in her keynote address. Feedback from delegates was extremely positive and this aspect of the conference was considered to be a success.

Two of the invited keynote speakers, Zizi Papacharissi and Zane Ibrahim, had to pull out due to illness. Since one was speaking on a panel of two it was considered necessary to invite a replacement to provide parity with the other keynote sessions. Professor Stuart Allan (at the time a member of staff at Bournemouth University) kindly stepped in at short notice and did an excellent job at pulling together the themes from the conference.

Looking forwards to future conferences the lesson of this part of the conference is that keynote panels provide a valuable buffer if individual keynote speakers drop out. All of those invited to speak had a particular interest in the conference theme or were able to respond to it effectively and this was an important part of the success of the plenary sessions.

Keynote sessions were as follows:

Tim McIntyre-Bhatty, Deputy Vice Chancellor, Bournemouth University

‘Media and cultural studies – where we are now’
Sonia Livingstone, LSE
Suzanne Franks, City University
Roberta Pearson, University of Nottingham
Chair: Stephen Jukes

‘Media and the margins’
Daniela Berghahn, Royal Holloway, University of London
Darrell Newton, Salisbury University
Sarita Malik, Brunel University
Chair: Heather Savigny

Jude England, Head of Social Sciences at the British Library

‘Community, local and alternative media’
Clemencia Rodriguez, University of Oklahoma
Monika Metykova, Sussex University
Chair: Stuart Allan

‘Media and Cultural Studies, Where are we going?’
Karin Wahl-Jorgensen, Cardiff University
Stuart Allan, Bournemouth University
Chair: Iain MacRury


Conference Report, Derry 2013

Magee Campus, University of Ulster, 9-11 January, 2013


151 people registered via Eventbrite, most giving papers. 72 of these delegates also paid to attend the Gala dinner. A further 20 University of Ulster staff and students attended the conference who were helping with the conference. 6 UU people attended who were not helpers.


The programme and schedule with details and of all the speakers, times, locations and composition of panels is available online (https://www.arts.ulster.ac.uk/meccsa2013/). Because the hard copies of these had to be printed before Christmas there were several last minute changes which went up online after going to press, and which were printed out as Errata in the conference packs. Hopefully this was helpful.

We were pleased with the diversity of the topics, which did eventually come together in reasonably coherent subject panels, and we were also pleased with the international flavour of some of the contributions. The Space and Place theme was dealt with in a variety of imaginative ways, and there was a particularly strong series of panels about virtual space and online creativity, journalism and political activism.

Panels and plenaries

There were 7 panel strands (up from the originally planned 6 due to popular demand) and 5 panel timeslots throughout the three days. There were 7 plenary sessions, which included both single keynote speakers (John Hill, Bruce Brown) and plenary panels with more than one speaker. The keynotes also provided excellent diversity of content, we thought. At the organisations’ request, we fitted in special presentations from the BUFVC in the Research and Pedagogy plenary, and from the Carnegie Trust, prior to the Journalism plenary.

Events and screenings

Because the conference was part of the City of Culture programme, and received a great deal of practical and moral support from the Derry Visitor and Convention Bureau, we wanted to ensure that delegates had an opportunity to see some of the city. Hence we left time in the programme for people to sign up for tours of the walls, and visits to the museums. A majority of delegates did take advantage of this. A number of delegates wanted to show screenings of practice work – and we made sure that screening slots for material (which was of varied timings), were not scheduled against panels. We also provided options for multiple showings – the Nerve Centre arts complex in the city obligingly scheduled a number of screenings during the three days. For future reference, it would help conference planners if producers of practice work could provide advance flyers and/or posters for publicity purposes. Despite requests, we did not receive this, apart from one flyer from Brian Winston. We think we could have used the City of Culture publicity mechanisms to advertise screenings in the city and in the local media, with advance notice, but we did not have the information from producers to do this. So attendance at screenings was less than it could have been. This is a lesson for future organisers.

Venue, website and University support

The Venue, the Magee campus of the University, is not our own campus, and we want to place on record our appreciation of the support we got from the admin, catering, security and technical staff of this campus, and from the Provost Professor Deirdre Heenan. The University did not charge us for the use of the (very nice, we think) rooms in the Martha Magee building. We were also pleased that our Chancellor, James Nesbitt, was able to attend the reception at the Playhouse on the first night, and to participate in the discussion panel on regional film and TV. We had to pay to hire the Playhouse for the venue: the food and drink were paid for by the City Council.

Our conference website, https://www.arts.ulster.ac.uk/meccsa2013/ – designed by Adrian Hickey and Alan Hook, and managed by Rowan Morrey – was a major support in the successful administration and publicising of the conference – thanks to Einar Thorsen too, for backup on this. We owe considerable gratitude to Adrian and Rowan for their attendance throughout, and for their helpful and patient support of delegates through the three days. Adrian and Rowan also arranged to live-stream a number of the sessions and these can be seen at https://www.ustream.tv/channel/centre-for-media-research. The Facebook and Twitter pages facilitated the ‘buzz’ of interactivity that accompanied the event, and this continued for several following days. See https://www.arts.ulster.ac.uk/meccsa2013/tweets.php. Images and photographs can be seen at https://www.arts.ulster.ac.uk/meccsa2013/flickr.php

Our part-time freelance administrator, Zoe Reid, also gave valuable support. She was aided by a very patient and competent team of undergraduate and postgraduate students, who gave guidance to delegates and provided technical support in every room. We had a technical run through the day before the conference with these students and we would definitely recommend this dry run as a way of minimising headaches on the first day.

Derry City support

Finally, as mentioned, we had support from the Derry Visitor and Convention Bureau, especially Aoife Thomas, from the beginning of the planning process in summer 2011. They arranged for the City Council to host the reception in the Playhouse and helped with transport and hotel accommodation arrangements throughout. Our thanks to them too.


We used Eventbrite to handle all registrations and payments. This worked well, whilst also costing a percentage of the income in handling fees. Another slight challenge was the fact that the person paying for registration (e.g. School Administrators) was not always the same person who was giving a paper. Thus the record of names registered was not the same as the names who’d submitted abstracts. This required a fair bit of cross-checking to avoid inaccuracies in the programme schedule.

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