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Prague Conference Theme Highlights

Posted By Patricia Moy (U of Washington), Thursday, March 1, 2018


With the release of the Prague program, attendees now can start planning their intellectual (and leisure) time at ICA. The lion’s share of the four-day conference comprises sessions crafted by ICA’s 32 Divisions and Interest Groups, but the program also includes a number of highlights that transcend subfields and speak to this year’s conference theme, “Voices.”

Thursday Evening Plenary: Communication and the Evolution of Voice

From dyadic, face-to-face interactions to blogs and Twitter feeds, the expression of voice has long played a central role in our social and political lives. Studies of voice – its normative underpinnings, its manifestations, and its micro- and macro-level effects – illuminate how our lives have been impacted and how our scholarship has evolved. More important, the landscape continues to evolve and compelling questions remain before us.

ICA’s Thursday evening plenary features four experts whose presentations paint an arc of significant theoretical, technological, political and social change vis-à-vis voice. Guobin Yang (U of Pennsylvania) analyzes the transformation of New Left radicalism in the US and China, and shows how a fascination with abstract theoretical concepts can harm practical struggles for social justice. Peter Baumgartner (Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty) examines evolving expressions of voice, particularly in Russia and Eastern Europe. Sheila Coronel (Columbia U) focuses on technology and voice, juxtaposing the power of the early web to break the monopoly of information against the current use of social media for disinformation and harassment purposes. Philip Howard (Oxford U) closes by presenting five design principles that allow for building civic engagement and voice into the internet of things.

Monday Noon Plenary: His Master’s Voice

Nearly three-quarters of a century ago, Paul Lazarsfeld’s two-step flow of communication proposed that voting decisions often are made by consulting other individuals, and that many of these others are typically more exposed to the media than those who consulted them. In the 1940s, the tools of empirical research allowed for the study of only two steps. Lazarsfeld’s model has served as a prelude to the empirical study of networks, and to the role of networks in the diffusion of innovation. But implementation of that idea has been thwarted by the obvious contradiction between the design of surveys (whose respondents are few and far apart) and the design of network research (which is based on respondents’ connectedness). Today, it is quite possible for the twain to meet. In this Monday noon plenary, Elihu Katz (U Pennsylvania) discusses the legacy of Paul Lazarsfeld in a discipline where networks and the nature of voice have been transformed.

Theme Sessions

Under the stewardship of conference theme chair Donald Matheson (U of Canterbury), the Prague program includes sessions that speak to voice in markedly different and innovative ways:

  • Agonistic Voices and Deliberative Politics: Contestation and Dialogue Across the Globe

  • A Voice of Our Own: Labor, Power, and Representation in the New Cultural Industries

  • Can You Hear Me Now? Marginalized Voices on Social Media

  • Conceptualizing the Friendly Voice: How to Achieve Peace Through Amicable Communication?

  • Enabling Citizen and Community Voices

  • Indigenous Epistemologies, Positive Narratives, and Divergent Channels of Indigenous Voices

  • Listening as Democratic Practice

  • The Performance of Voice in Marginalized Groups

The April and May newsletters will foreground other events and activities – both at the conference and in the city. Stay tuned!

Tags:  March 2018 

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