Category Archives: publics research programme

Public memories, public knowledge? Movements, media and shifting formations of publicness

Thursday 7th November, 12.30-14.00
Room NAB 1.14, New Academic Building, London School of Economics

The Publics then, now and beyond network, which was founded at the Open University in June this year, will be kick-starting its 2013-14 ‘travelling seminar series’ with a seminar at the London School of Economics on Thursday 7th November.

The Publics, then now and beyond network is convened by Dr Nick Mahony and Dr Hilde C. Stephansen. It is supported by CCIG’s Publics programme, the Creating Publics project, and the Making Publics Across Time and Space project. The travelling seminar series is also supported by the Faculty of Social Science at the Open University. This seminar is hosted by Media@LSE in collaboration with The Open University and the Publics then, now and beyond network. It will also be part of the Media@LSE Research Dialogues series.

Chair/discussant: Nick Couldry (LSE)
Speakers:
Pollyanna Ruiz (LSE) ‘Memories, secrets and digital archives’
Hilde C. Stephansen (The Open University) ‘Global communication activism and shifting formations of publicness’

About the seminar

This seminar will explore key questions about the making of publics and publicness through the use of media and communications technologies by social movement activists. Focusing on the practices, infrastructures and forms of mediation through which publics are brought into being, it will examine the shifting formations and imaginaries that result from such processes. Moving beyond the more immediate effects of activists’ communication practices on the mobilisation and organisation of protest action, we will consider the potential of such practices to support publics that can facilitate longer-term processes of identity construction, memory formation and knowledge production, at different scales. Papers will explore the uneven and often contradictory dynamics surrounding activists’ communication practices, raising questions about the relationship between ‘mainstream’ and ‘counter’-publics, openness and secrecy, and politics of knowledge.

Memories, Secrets and Digital Archives

Pollyanna Ruiz

This paper will reflect upon these contradictory dynamics surrounding the use of digital archives and in doing so explore the relationship between the past and the present, the activist and the non-activist, the alternative and the mainstream. The digital archive appears to span the ruptures, continuities and discontinuities of contemporary protest by creating a mechanism through which the past is accumulated in the present in order to shape our experiences of the future. According to this view, open archives constitute a space in which contemporary protest movements can draw upon the experience of previous activists and equip themselves with the necessary skills to engage with the mainstream. However digital archives can also be understood as potentially problematic. Archives remove protest discourses from the secure realm of ‘dusty back numbers’, ‘forgotten publications’ and ‘oral interviews with aged political veterans’ (Downing, 2003, p.252) and places protest discourses within a transparent, open and centrally organised system. Consequently digital archives fix, frame and expose alternative ways of thinking which are fragile, untried and still evolving. Digital archives can therefore also be understood as compromising the very existence of counter publics free from the ‘supervision of dominant groups’ (Fraser, 1990, p. 66).
Global communication activism and shifting formations of publicness

Hilde C. Stephansen

This paper explores shifting formations of publicness and globality in the context of the World Forum of Free Media (WFFM) – a process, connected to the World Social Forum (WSF), which aims to support the formation of a global grassroots movement of communication activists. Through a combination of prefigurative politics, organising and campaigning, activists involved in the WFFM are working to achieve the conditions for more democratic public spheres – at local, national and transnational scales. The paper proposes that an emergent version of a decentred ‘global public’ – constituted through a myriad intersecting publics at different scales – is discernible in the WFFM’s efforts to bring together a diversity of actors and media forms under the umbrella term ‘free media’. Such a version of a ‘global public’ contrasts with more liberal – and increasingly institutionalised – notions of publicness implicit in conceptions of the WSF as ‘open space’ or ‘global civil society’. The paper concludes by proposing an understanding of ‘free media’ as central actors in a broader project concerned with ‘cognitive justice’ (Santos) and as informed by an emergent logic of epistemic plurality.

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Public crises, public futures

Co-authored with John Clarke and just published in latest issue of the journal Cultural Studies (Vol. 27, no. 6, 2013) this article begins to map out a novel approach to analysing contemporary contexts of public crisis, relationships between them and possibilities that these scenes hold out for politics. The article illustrates and analyses a small selection of examples of these kinds of contemporary scenes and calls for greater attention to be given to the conditions and consequences of different forms and practices of public and political mediation. In offering a three-fold typology to delineate differences between ‘abject’, ‘audience’ and ‘agentic’ publics the article begins to draw out how political and public futures may be seen as being bound up with how the potentialities, capacities and qualities that publics are imagined to have and resourced to perform. Public action and future publics are therefore analysed here in relation to different versions of contemporary crisis and the political concerns and publics these crises work to articulate, foreground and imaginatively and practically support.

If you’re unable to access this journal, there’s also a preprint PDF version available here.

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‘Creating publics, creating democracies’: workshop programme now available

By exploring how ideas and practices of publicness and democracy are being constituted, enacted, related and reconfigured in different settings, this workshop aims to investigate the modes of public action and democracy being invoked, imagined and struggled over around the world. That there is a relationship between publicness and democracy has often been taken for granted. However, at this time of widespread instability, political upheaval and experimentation, when publics are increasingly being called upon to act, it is sometimes in the name of democracy, but not always.

This initiative is a collaboration organised by: The Publics Research Programme at The Centre for Citizenship, Identities and Governance at the Open University; The Centre for the Study of Democracy at the University of Westminster; The Centre for Global Media and Democracy at Goldsmiths College, University of London.

We put out a call for papers for this workshop earlier this year – to follow-on from the (June 2011) Creating Publics workshop but also as a kind of public creation experiment designed to open out and develop possibilities for collaboration in the process of developing this line of research. We’ve had a brilliant response to the call and the programme for this years workshop has been designed to bring together and into relation a diverse and exciting sample of different research-in-progress and emerging perspectives on this timely theme.

You can access the programme for ‘Creating publics, creating democracies’ here.

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CFP: Creating Publics; Creating Democracies

In collaboration with Sue Pell of Goldsmiths College’s Centre for Global Media and Democracy and Liza Griffin of University of Westminster’s Centre for the Study of DemocracyJohn Clarke, Clive Barnett and me (in our role as members of CCIG’s Publics Research Programme) are helping organise a two-day workshop on the theme of ‘Creating Publics; Creating Democracies’, to be held in Central London on June 18-19 2012. The Creating Publics project has emerged in part through the on-going collective work of CCIG’s Publics Research Programme, of which I’m still a member. See here for details of other members, past events, activities and publications generated by this research group. Further details about this workshop and call for papers available here.

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