Three-D Issue 32: MeCCSA 2019: A warm welcome from the gateway to the Highlands

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.

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