European Sociological Association (ESA) ‐ Research Network 18: Sociology of Communications and Media Research in cooperation with the Croatian Sociological Association (HSD), the Institute for Development and International Relations (IRMO), and the Department of Sociology, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences (FFZG), University of Zagreb invites applications for the: 

Communication, Capitalism and Social Change: Policy, Practice, Praxis

ESA RN18 Mid-Term Conference 2018, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, Zagreb, Croatia, September 6-8, 2018

Communication is essential to society. There are no social relations without communication, and communication is the key for the inter-subjective understanding of humans. Communication is embedded within relations of production in digital capitalism. It is increasingly commodified in digital networks while political radicalism finds new support in right-wing populism. Open, democratic communication is much needed in times of increasing radicalisation of human existence in conservative discourses and confines of consumer logic. Non-regulated markets, radical politics and corporate technologies distort the social foundations of critical reason, and common-sense. Legacy media, automated systems, fake news, market failures, and global monopolies of key internet services systematically distort the inter-subjective potential of communication. Burning social issues such as rising inequality, poverty, migration, and climate change cannot be tackled without a common understanding of the main challenges facing humanity. While global networks offer the potential for human liberation, we are witnessing a familiar pattern in which political and economic elites take over the means of communication and common understanding. What is to be done remains an open question. Supposedly value-neutral media policies often end up proposing administrative adjustments to communication systems, cater to the existing structures, and offer only minor adaptations of the regulatory framework. The key is to break the cycle in which such reforms perpetuate the fundamentally flawed social system. Systemic tendencies of global capitalism towards creating monopolies, destroying natural resources, increasing inequality, spreading racism and xenophobia are well established. Yet moving from the accumulated critical knowledge towards an actual social change is no easy task. The demand for a better society, and a move from theory to action is a thorny political issue. Open, democratic communication is the starting point for any meaningful societal change. Such a situation makes it increasingly important to revisit the critical ideas of democratic rationalization within policy and the philosophy of praxis.

The ESA mid-term conference is particularly interested in, but not limited to, the following questions:

Theorizing communication and social change

What theories help us to explain communication and social change? What is the role of the philosophy of praxis in establishing a more just and equal society? What are the current and ‘forgotten’ theoretical approaches that can be of use for us today?

Market failures

Why and how do markets fail to provide positive externalities and public goods? Why do commons-based projects become increasingly commodified? What is the role of intellectual property rights in digital capitalism?

Policy failures

What kind of policies regarding communication and the media prevail today? Why do policies fail to promote the establishment of a more just and equal society? What is the future of media policy for bringing social change?

Media frames of key social issues

How are social inequality, poverty, migration, climate change and other issues framed by the media? How do key actors communicate through the media? What are the obstacles and barriers of mediated representations for bringing social change?

Ideological discourses

What are the main obstacles for democratic communication? How is communication distorted by ideological, conservative and nationalist discourses in contemporary society? What is the role of automated systems and algorithms?

Digitized workspaces

How is communication turned into labour? What is the role of global supply chains for digitized work environments? What are the main tensions, contradictions and struggles in digitized work relations?

Alternatives and social movements

Who are the potential actors promoting democratic communication? How is social change in general demanded by the current media development and how by social movements, NGOs and community media with the use of ICTs? What are the main global and local demands for social change?

Abstract submission

Abstract submission deadline: 1 April

Notification of selected abstracts: 15 May

Conference dates: September 6-8, 2018

Abstracts should be sent to:

Dr Roy Panagiotopoulou (University of Athens, Greece)


Dr Thomas Allmer (University of Stirling, UK)

Abstracts should be sent as an e-mail attachment (250-300 words including title, author name(s), email address, and institutional affiliations). Please insert the words “ESARN18 submission” in the subject.

If you want to apply for participation support, please send an extended abstract (300 – 400 words), biographical information (up to 250 words) and indicate this in your abstract submission by adding the sentence “I want to apply for participation support for PhD students / independent researchers”. The notifications about participation support will be sent out together with the notifications of acceptance or rejection of presentations. Additional information to prove your position as a PhD student or independent researcher will be requested.


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