Following the story of this conference’s success, featured in Three-D last year (November 2012, issue 19) the story continues this year on the 14th June 2013 at the Department of Media and Communication, University of Leicester. The department’s initiative to encourage PhD students to organize and participate in academic research feeds into the wider objectives of the University of Leicester, which aims at achieving quality of learning by allowing a space like this for the postgraduates to experience an academic environment that is enriching to their knowledge. Hence, this event was supported by the Graduate Research Development Fund and the Department of Media and Communication.
The flow of abstracts to the organizing committee foretold that the New Directions Conference this year was going to witness more participants, which necessitated the presence of parallel sessions and a poster session. Two distinguished scholars in the field, Prof. Peter Lunt and Dr. Mirca Madianou gave plenary speeches. Publicity on the event through the university, social media and international organizations, has contributed to attracting more participation and attendance, to the extent that the conference has become international, owing to the number of participants from different European and Asian universities.
The conference themes revolved around: ‘Identity in Media and Communication Research’, ‘Media and Consumption’, ‘(New) Media and Society’, ‘Media and Discourse’, ‘Media and Research Methods’, ‘Technology and Media’, and ‘Media and Politics’. Twenty Four papers were presented in these sessions and the poster sessions showcased five posters. That doubled the number of participants from last year. Sharing the learning, eating or business cards for networking have been among the benefits noted by participants in the evaluation forms.
The papers on each theme manifested the diversity of approaches to media and communication research. Dr. Mirca Madianou discussed the complex link between mothers to children whose identities get constructed over long distance where “a mom cannot hug her child” using new media. Prof. Peter Lunt reflected on how talk shows such as The Jeremy Kyle Show style or general format as manifested through the setting and presenter could set the scene for how family issues could be steered in discussion. This questions whether these talk shows solve family problems or perhaps aggravate them.
The theme of ‘Identity in Media and Communication Research’ has endorsed the complexity of identities irrespective of the contexts investigated. Alakija Oluwafunmilayo ‘Bode’s study revealed how Nigerians immigrants based in the UK embrace hybrid identities which do not seem to belong to a particular country. Rania Alsaggaf informed us how women in Saudi politically and socially represent themselves through social media, Facebook. That has become a sphere to an expression of complex identities which normally conform and at times resist the context where it is navigated. Under ‘Media and Consumption’ theme, Mokhtar Elareshi ‘s study emphasized that young children of Libya consume political, social and etc. news selectively from TV channels. This delineated the importance for local news organizations to consider the needs of the audience. Dana Nassif reflected on Arab talk shows, reading them in the light of public sphere theories. Her study concluded that the sample investigated ‘deviate[d] from public sphere theories’. The application of concepts in a way that is not sensitive to the context investigated could result in a misunderstanding of the context itself.
Lidia A. García confirms that a new medium such as YouTube could contribute to social change under the (New) Media and Society session. Ayman N. Bajnaid’s study of online male-female relationships refers to the kind of change that the Saudi community is undergoing. Whether the Saudi consensus may perceive this as positive or negative is left for one’s own biases. Objectivity, when it comes to beliefs, is not a matter of fact but an entire construction of understanding social realities.
The media and discourse session on the construction of body and environment emphasized that societies construct their meanings based on their consensus. Hye-Won Choo showed us how history contributes to understanding the construction of body. Rahma Al Foori discussed how Omani journalism reverberates through Omani cultural values by its content and the process in which this content has been produced.
The Media and Research Methods session, as investigated by Richenda Herzig, Lawrencia Agyepong and Maya Al Habsi , reflect the kind of challenges that we, as emerging researchers, face in media and communication. It is important for us to be aware of these challenges, not because they are difficult but because they are potential areas for research innovation.
Under Technology and Media, Nur Aliah Mansor explored an under-researched area where technological change appears to allow global fans more freedom to reach the Japanese music industry. Janis Kreicbergs emphasized that although technology in media is a blessing, it could at times ‘cause discomfort’ among employees. Saadia Ishtiaq explored how news access through mobiles has implications for the news organizations in Pakistan. This technology of mobiles, Peter Mhagama asserted, could bring about social change and development.
Jantiga Supapong asked a very interesting question in the ‘Media and Politics’ session; why do we always show disinterest in politics when almost everything in our lives is political? Yupei Zhao focused on citizen information dissemination through online debate.
The five posters ranged widely in their focus. Claudette Hawkins’s study aims to prevent victimization within cyberspace; Lin Song’s presentation increases awareness of how industry must take environmental considerations to protect communities from health problems that may result from pollution. Within the network are constructed virtual worlds, which Serena Bilanceri explores, to analyze interactions within virtual space. Francesca Morosi demonstrated how ads contribute to young girls’ understanding of what it means to be feminine. Navodita Pande from India emphasized that media output has an influence on voting behaviors.
The conference ended with concluding remarks by Rahma Al Foori and Dimitrinkia Atanadova. Certificates of participation were distributed to all participants. The evaluation forms showed what a positive impact this event had on all those involved. The story does not end here and it is to be continued…
To watch some video of New Directions in Media Research Conference, please visit: