The members of the International Communication Association make up a diverse group, united in the conviction that media and communication play a pivotal role in society and the lives of individuals. Our work is more relevant than ever. Media and communication, and their relationship to culture, society, and the individual, are in a state of flux. Our adagio ‘everything is communication’ seems to need rephrasing to ‘everything is mediated communication’. This puts our topics of study, our discipline and our organization at the heart of economic, social, political, and cultural developments.
I am honored that I have been nominated as presidential candidate. ICA has had and still has a tremendous impact on my development as a media and communication scholar. In the course of my career, ICA has fulfilled many different functions. I am sure that this holds true for many of us. It would be a privilege to ‘look after’ such a precious - if sturdy – organization. An important professional drive for me is the satisfaction that comes from helping to create an environment where others can thrive. I want to continue ICA efforts in this regard. I believe that my academic experience in teaching, research, and managerial positions, and what some call my ‘high energy levels’, can be valuable assets in realizing my vision for ICA.
My vision for ICA
ICA is a vibrant community and a well-run organization. These two aspects are related. Past and current leadership – with the help of members and staff – guided ICA to become one of the largest representation and meeting of communication scholars from around the world. These are strengths I would want to cherish and build on. As in the academic management positions I held in the past, I would work in ICA within the principles of good governance, including transparency, accountability, rule of law and being consensus-oriented, participatory and inclusive.
Compared to when I first joined in the 1990s, ICA is a more inclusive organization. It reaches communication scholars beyond the dominant groups, be it nationality, ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation. The result is a diverse community in terms of membership, divisions, and paradigmatic positions. However, inclusion is also about attention to issues that may appear ‘local’, ‘in the margin’, or a break from dominant paradigms, but that can contribute to dominant conversations. The attacks on media by Western leaders like Donald Trump and Boris Johnson that command much of our attention, sound all too familiar to scholars from regions with a history of autocratic regimes. Moreover, inclusion is about confronting ourselves with alternative perspectives and approaches. While specialization is crucial in incremental knowledge building, we should be weary of pigeonholing our discipline and our research fields. Mediated sexualization of preteens is a key topic for scholars active in CAM and in Popular Communication but, too often, they are not aware of each other’s work. I want to stimulate such cross-fertilization by building this into the conference program more explicitly, providing slots and plenaries that bring together different paradigmatic and methodological approaches to media and communication themes.
The success of ICA results from the work of dedicated individuals that put in many hours as division chairs, award committee members, etc. Importantly, the ICA is all of us. What we get out of it is determined by what each member puts in: We can expect thorough feedback if everybody is willing to review; we get high level discussions if we produce quality papers and thought-provoking presentations; and we create new generations of top scholars if we contribute to an environment in which junior and senior scholars feel they can discuss their work on equal terms. I want to explore ways to strengthen an organizational culture where nobody takes ICA for granted, and everybody invests some time and energy, for instance by making more than two paper submissions contingent on a willingness to review, by pairing junior/senior scholars in chair/respondent positions, and by expanding mentorship initiatives. The beauty of such participatory community is that we all get much more in return: colleagues to collaborate with, friends to hang out with, networks to share, ideas to exchange, feedback to improve our work.
As a participatory community, ICA is a place where we talk about our concerns regarding our field of study, discipline, or workplaces. In return, the size of the organization allows ICA to identify and speak up as a significant stakeholder. I would continue Terry Flew’s efforts to connect with civil society and Claes de Vreese’s work on Open Science, and would encourage ICA to become an even stronger voice in discussions regarding life-work balance and working conditions for communication scholars.
I am a professor of Communication Studies and Head of the Department of Communication at Drexel University in Philadelphia. I obtained an MA in Communications from the University of Leuven (Belgium), an MA in Mass Communication from the University of Leicester (UK), and a Ph.D. from the University of Leuven. I was professor, head of Department of Communication, then Associate Dean of Research and, eventually, Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences at the University of Antwerp (Belgium), before moving to Drexel. I have been active in various Communication Associations, including the Netherlands-Flanders Communication Association NeFCA (as founding member and former vice-president), ECREA (as former chair of the Communication Law and Policy Section), and the RIPE initiative (as former board member and conference organizer). In the ICA, I have taken up various roles in award committees and theme chair of the 2019 conference.
My research combines expertise in media policies and structures, focusing on the impact of digitization on legacy media, with expertise in media culture and identity, focusing on mediated communication in celebrity and fan culture. As such, I am familiar with and collaborate across various sections of our field. I teach and publish in these areas, and I am a proud and engaged supervisor/mentor for my Ph.D. students. I would bring these experiences to helping to run ICA.
Presidential candidates only find out who else is running during the official announcement at the ICA conference. I’m honored to be on the ballot with Mary Beth Oliver, a distinguished communication scholar, a celebrated mentor and, most of all, a wonderful person. Regardless of the election outcome, I like to think that ICA will be in very good hands.