Tomorrow I depart London for my first ever visit to South America; specifically, to Cartagena, Colombia, for the 2017 IAMCR conference. I have the honour of being the respondent to Wallis Motta and Myria Georgiou’s ‘Deep mapping communication infrastructure in super diverse London’ which has won the 2016 IAMCR Urban Communication Grant. The paper is an highly interesting attempt to join a participatory deep mapping methodology with Communication Infrastructure Theory in order to think about the mediation of difference in London’s Harringay/Green Lanes neighbourhood.

I have structured my response around three broad themes: infrastructure, platform and locality. My discussion of media infrastructure will centre on what might be meant by communication infrastructure, and will briefly discuss approaches that emphasise the phenomenological experience of media. On the subject of platform, I will compare and contrast some collaborative research I have been conducting, on social media and neighbourhood politics, with Motta and Georgiou’s study which focuses more so on hyperlocal media outlets. Finally, I sympathetically assess the notions of ‘locality’ at work Communication Infrastructure Theory, in part via a discussion of my own recent research on UK charity Nesta’s Destination Local programme.

I have included the slides below. If you happen to be in Cartagena for IAMCR, please do come to the session! It takes place on Monday 17 July, 4-6pm at Teatro Adolfo Mejía (Centro, Plaza de la Merced 38-101, Cartagena, Colombia). It’s a wonderful building – and it’ll definitely be the most dramatic I’ve ever presented in – as shown in the photos on this website.

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colorful-dirty-computer-keyboardAn edited video is now available for the ‘Ordinary Digital Humanities’ symposium that I organised during Birkbeck Arts Week in mid-May 2017. The event asked what might it mean to think about the digital humanities as ordinary, and focused on the implications of digitisation at the level of everyday academic life – beyond, or perhaps prior to, the ‘cutting edge’. In opens with a presentation by Dr Lesley Gourlay (UCL Institute of Education) on ‘Flickering texts and the writing body: Posthuman perspectives on the digital university’, followed by responses from Birkbeck’s Dr Grace Halden and Professor Tim Markham. The symposium was hosted by Satellite (website forthcoming), a working group in Birkbeck’s School of Arts focused on the critical, creative, academic and pedagogical dimensions of learning technologies.

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IJCSAfter a slightly confusing spate of digital publishing and then re-publishing, I can finally announce that ‘Re-locating media production’, a special issue in the International Journal of Cultural Studies that I have co-edited with Helen Morgan Parmett, is now available online. I list all the abstracts below, and include links to the OnlineFirst page at which the publication is available (subscription required).

Re-locating media production
Helen Morgan Parmett and Scott Rodgers

It was arguably easier in the past to pin down media production in medium- or content-specific locales, such as the studio, the newsroom or the set. Contemporary processes of media convergence have dramatically opened up the ‘what’ and ‘where’ of media production to include all manner of quotidian practices and ephemeral places. This special issue, however, pushes back against the idea that contemporary landscapes of media production have been flattened. Each of the articles collected here accounts for significant transformations in media practices near to those that we would conventionally associate with media production, yet which are also potentially left behind in the rush to describe, theorize, celebrate and critique trends such as ‘produsage’, ‘prosumption’ and participatory media culture. Taken together, the articles in this special issue provide new insights into the locations and relocations of contemporary media production across new and under-researched liminal and peripheral geographies, and around new and unexpected objects.

From ‘animation’ to encounter: Community radio, sociability and urban life in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire
Fabien Cante

Drawing upon ethnographic research on community radio in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, this article argues that tracking production practices outside of the studio allows researchers to better capture radio’s entanglements with everyday urban life. This spatial reconsideration mirrors a conceptual move beyond community media labels and normative criteria, towards a privileging of context. To illustrate both points, the article centres around ‘animation,’ the practice of enlivening social situations. Animation is central to community radio in Abidjan, but ‘animateurs’ also practise their trade in a multitude of venues and events around the city. Following animation’s movements between on- and off-air provides an understanding of how community radio is assembled as a porous ‘micro-public’, and insight into the particular kind of sociability that it produces. The article shows that while this sociability is tinged with the quest for status and social capital, it is mostly characterized by indeterminacy, and valued for the unforeseen encounters it can foster.

Emerging film cultures: Spotlight on post-disaster Haiti
Doris Posch

In the past decade, a new generation of filmmakers has committed to establishing a local film market via the film school, Ciné Institute, in Jacmèl, Haiti. Film production in Haiti today, grounded in a virtually non-existent cinema historiography, is particularly challenged by the neocolonial politics following the earthquake in Haiti in 2010 and Hurricane Matthew in 2016. Via lowest-budget productions, Haiti’s filmmakers are not only contributing to new modes of translocal media production but are also attempting to create economically viable exhibition networks and subsequent distribution infrastructures on a transglobal scale. This analysis draws on the local prolificacy and global orientation of Haiti’s emerging film cultures, and demonstrates that both aspects are influenced by and intervene in the broader contexts of geo-political debates in global cinema. Finally, this study considers the extent to which Haiti contributes to new configurations of film and media cultures in the Caribbean.

Site-specific television as urban renewal: Or, how Portland became Portlandia
Helen Morgan Parmett

This article addresses the rise of what I call ‘site-specific television’, where the dispersion of television production outside traditional centers results in shooting locations that also serve as the crux of the televisual narrative. I argue that site-specific television constitutes ‘TV renewal’, in which on-location shooting practices are constitutive of urban regeneration efforts that draw on local, alternative, and creative cultures of production to help promote, rebrand, and revitalize marginalized city spaces with, often, gentrifying implications. Taking up Portlandia as a case study of site-specific television, I argue its on-location production practices depend on decentralized and embedded practices of production that align with recent economic and cultural changes in the television industry and in the city.

Digital media reflexivities: The Axel Springer Campus in Berlin
Alexander Gutzmer

This article reads the notion of mediatization through a current example of architectural practice: the Axel Springer Campus in Berlin. Based on current theories of mediatization, it shows how this architectural project for a media firm finds new ways for architecture itself to function as a medium. It argues that architect Rem Koolhaas developed an architectural design that has the capacity to mediate images and interpretations of the productivity of media practitioners, of the relationship between media firm and urban environment, as well as of more general transformations of media work in the digital age.

Digitizing localism: Anticipating, assembling and animating a ‘space’ for UK hyperlocal media production
Scott Rodgers

This article presents an unconventional view of media production, not as the direct production of media content or forms, but the cultivation of spaces for media production taking place elsewhere. I draw on a close analysis of Destination Local, a program of UK charity Nesta, which focused on the implications of location-based technologies for the emergent field of ‘hyperlocal’ media. Although the first round of the program – the focus in this paper – funded 10 experimental projects alongside extensive research, my argument is that Destination Local was less a matter of enabling specific place-based hyperlocal media outlets. Rather, it was an attempt to anticipate, assemble and animate a broader UK hyperlocal media ‘space’, composed of both technical ecologies (e.g. data, devices, platforms, standards) and practical fields (e.g. journalism, software development, local government, community activism). This space, I argue, was anchored to a largely implicit political discourse of localism.

Expanded places: Redefining media and violence in the networked age
Donatella Della Ratta

This article focuses on the relationship between violence and visibility as redefined by the combined action of warfare and networked communications technologies. Drawing on an ethnography of Syrian popular culture conducted at the theme park the Damascene Village, it proposes the concept of ‘expanded places’ to reflect on sites that have been physically violated, while at the same time they have been granted a new online life as a result of the manipulation and redistribution of their images on Web 2.0. The article investigates the dynamic of expansion by relating it to key practices that define internet participatory cultures, such as remixing; and to the theoretical framework of remediation, proposing to repurpose the latter in a networked media context. It discusses expansion in relation to the performance of violence, and reflects on the implications of involving the participatory dimension of Web 2.0 in replicating the latter.

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Louise Amoore talk at Birkbeck 7 June 2017: Cloud futures

May 24, 2017

On Wednesday 7 June 2017, Birkbeck Interdisciplinary Research in Media and Culture and the Vasari Research Centre for Art and Technology will be co-hosting a talk from Professor Louise Amoore on the subject of ‘Cloud Futures’. The event – details of which are pasted below – is free and open to all, but booking via […]

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Satellite research seminar: ‘openness’ in education

May 16, 2017

Next week I have the pleasure of hosting another very interesting research event – a presentation from my colleague Leo Havemann, a sharp Learning Technologist at Birkbeck. Leo will be speaking about just what we might mean when we invoke the idea of ‘open’ in higher education, and in particular how we tend to fall […]

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Urban change: BIMI-PITT research workshop 10-12 May 2017 (with urban media tour 13 May 2017)

May 3, 2017

Next week sees the second edition of the biennial research workshop organised by Birkbeck Institute for the Moving Image (BIMI) and Film Studies at the University of Pittsburgh. It takes place between Wednesday 10 May to Friday 12 May 2017 – and extends into Saturday 13 May with a version of my well-wrought urban media […]

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Ordinary digital humanities: Free event at Birkbeck, 15 May 2017

May 2, 2017

In a couple of weeks’ time I am happy to be hosting an event as part of Birkbeck Arts Week on the subject of ‘Ordinary Digital Humanities’, featuring a talk from Lesley Gourlay (UCL Institute of Education). The publicity blurb below has more than enough information, I suspect, for you to get the idea. The […]

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Call for chapter proposals: Music cities

April 28, 2017

This looks really interesting – a call for chapter proposals towards an edited collection on Music Cities. The deadline is 15 May, so fast approaching. Based on the listserv email I saw, the editors are seeking contributions that look at the city-based music scenes as scenes – i.e. their urban situation, rather than urban representations […]

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Thinking media through the city (Birkbeck Excellence in Teaching Award talk)

February 28, 2017

Slightly last minute here, but if anyone is interested in hearing about an alternative assessment technique in media/urban studies, I have just the thing for you. Tomorrow (1 March 2017) I will be giving a 4pm talk at Birkbeck’s Centre for Transformative Practice in Learning and Teaching, around the ‘urban media inventory’ assessment that I […]

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New academic posts announced at Birkbeck

February 2, 2017

Today a series of new academic posts at Birkbeck have been advertised, on the Birkbeck jobs website (which is due for an upgrade, don’t be put off!) and elsewhere, such as the Times Higher Education website. These look to be a great set of positions, many focusing on globalisation and the transnational, very apropos of […]

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