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Conditions of Mediation: Phenomenological Approaches to Media,
Technology and Communication


2013 International Communication Association (ICA) Preconference

ICA Theory, Philosophy and Critique Division

17 June 2013, Birkbeck, University of London


Conference website (includes full conference programme and registration


Confirmed keynote speakers: 


*         Dr David Berry, Swansea University

*         Professor Nick Couldry, Goldsmiths, University of London

*         Professor Graham Harman, American University of Cairo

*         Professor Shaun Moores, University of Sunderland

*         Professor Lisa Parks, University of California Santa Barbara

*         Professor Paddy Scannell, University of Michigan


Conference Outline:


Media theory seems to have reached a moment in which it is effectively
orthodox to presume we must pay attention first and foremost to the
intricacies of everyday experience. Ethnographic audience studies, for
example, have attacked assumptions that there is a discrete relationship
between media content and audiences, arguing that media forms, content
and technologies have indeterminate and multifaceted significance within
the daily rhythms and spaces of their everyday lives. Studies of digital
and networked media, meanwhile, have put into question the very notion
of 'audiences' as the starting point for understanding mediated


For some, accounting for the intricacies of everyday mediated experience
has implied asking people what they actually do with media. But for
others this is not enough: instead, the question is what constitutes the
conditions of media experience in the first place. How do political
configurations of discourses and inherited dispositions prefigure
mediated action? How do material arrangements themselves constitute
environments for mediated experience? How might we account for nonhuman
agency, for example the ways in which software objects interact not only
with human perceptions but also each other? Such questions point to a
renewed confidence in explaining not just how but also why media,
technology and communication are experienced as they are - all the while
resisting a reversion to functionalism.


These interests in the very conditions of mediation suggest, if
sometimes only implicitly, an emerging interest in a phenomenology of
media. Indeed, phenomenology - broadly the structuring of perception -
has seemingly obvious relevance for recent academic interests in media
experience. Yet its use or invocation in media studies has been
scattered. While this might simply reflect the considerable diversity of
phenomenological philosophies and their applications, there have also
been concerted efforts recently to rethink phenomenology across the
social sciences and humanities. Paired with recent interests in mediated
experience, the time seems apt to reassess what it might mean to
theorize media phenomenologically.


Conditions of Mediation seeks to bring together scholars from a very
wide range of perspectives - such as media history, media archaeology,
audience studies, political theory, metaphysics, software studies,
science and technology studies, digital aesthetics, cultural geography
and urban studies - to reflect explicitly on the phenomenological
groundings of their work on media. The phenomenological thinking to
which participants might connect will be broad-based, ranging from core
thinkers such as Husserl, Heidegger, Merleau-Ponty and Sartre to those
with looser affiliations to phenomenology per se, for example Arendt,
Bergson, Bourdieu, Deleuze, Garfinkel, Ingold, Latour, Whitehead and


In short, the overall aim is that this conference goes beyond a mere
congregation of media phenomenologists. Instead, it will encourage
critical reflection on what various readings of phenomenology might
offer media and technology studies that other approaches cannot.
Conversely, it will also welcome reflections on the limits of
phenomenological approaches in philosophical, theoretical, political and
empirical terms.


If you have any inquiries, please email both:

Scott Rodgers ([log in to unmask]) and Tim Markham
([log in to unmask]) 



Dr Tim Markham

Reader in Journalism and Media

Head of Department, Media and Cultural Studies

Programme Director, MA/PGCert Journalism, BA Media and Business

Director of Graduate Research, Media and Cultural Studies

Assistant Dean for Recruitment and Retention, School of Arts

Birkbeck, University of London

43 Gordon Square

London WC1H 0PD

tel: (020) 3073 8380

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