Thursday, September 20, 2012

CFP: Media in Transition 8

MIT Comparative Media Studies and MIT Communications Forum present

Media in Transition 8:
Public Media, Private Media

Conference dates: May 3-5 (Fri.-Sun.), 2013
at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA.

CALL FOR PAPERS
Submissions accepted on a rolling basis until Friday, March 1, 2013 (evaluations begin in November). 

The distinction between public and private – where the line is drawn and how it is sometimes inverted, the ways that it is embraced or contested – says much about a culture. Media have been used to enable, define and police the shifting line between the two, so it is not surprising that the history of media change to some extent maps the history of these domains. Media in Transition 8 takes up the question of the shifting nature of the public and private at a moment of unparalleled connectivity, enabling new notions of the socially mediated public and unequalled levels of data extraction thanks to the quiet demands of our Kindles, iPhones, televisions and computers. While this forces us to think in new ways about these long established categories, in fact the underlying concerns are rooted in deep historical practice. MiT8 considers the ways in which specific media challenge or reinforce certain notions of the public or the private and especially the ways in which specific “texts” dramatize or imagine the public, the private and the boundary between them. It takes as its foci three broad domains: personal identity, the civic (the public sphere) and intellectual property.

 Reality television and confessional journalism have done much to invert the relations between private and public. But the borders have long been malleable. Historically, we know that camera-armed Kodakers and telephone party lines threatened the status quo of the private; that the media were complicit in keeping from the public FDR’s disability and the foibles of the ruling elite; and that paparazzi and celebrities are strategically intertwined in the game of publicity. How have the various media played these roles (and represented them), and how is the issue changing at a moment when most of our mediated transactions leave data traces that not only redefine the borders of the private, but that serve as commodities in their own right?

The public, too, is a contested space. Edmund Burke’s late 18th century invocation of the fourth estate linked information flow and political order, anticipating aspects of Habermas’s public sphere. From this perspective, trends such as a siege on public service broadcasting, a press in decline, and media fragmentation on the rise, all ring alarm bells. Yet WikiLeaks and innovative civic uses of media suggest a sharp countertrend. What are the fault lines in this struggle? How have they been represented in media texts, enacted through participants and given form in media policy? And what are we to make of the fate of a public culture in a world whose media representations are increasingly on-demand, personalized and algorithmically-designed to please? 

Finally, MiT8 is also concerned with the private-public rift that appears most frequently in struggles over intellectual property (IP). Ever-longer terms of IP protection combined with a shift from media artifacts (like paper books) to services (like e-journals) threaten long-standing practices such as book lending (libraries) and raise thorny questions about cultural access. Social media sites, powered by users, often remain the private property of corporations, akin to the public square’s replacement by the mall, and once-public media texts, like certain photographic and film collections, have been re-privatized by an array of institutions. These undulations in the private and public have implications for our texts (remix culture), our access to them, and our activities as audiences; but they also have a rich history of contestation, evidenced in the copybook and scrapbook, compilation film, popular song and the open source and creative commons movement.

 MiT8 encourages a broad approach to these issues, with specific attention to textual practice, users, policy and cultural implications. As usual, we encourage work from across media forms and across historical periods and cultural regions.

Full call for papers and submission instructions available at the MIT8 website.

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