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Lissabon: Rethinking Power in Communicative Capitalism

Lissabon, 2015 Foto: H.S.


Critical Perspectives on Media, Culture + Society: The proliferation of digital media in the 21st century has once again shown the deeply ambivalent and contradictory potentials of technological development. Digital technologies have been celebrated for enabling new levels of democratic communication, participatory media production, community building and media activism. From Wikipedia, to open source programming, open access publishing, and peer-to-peer file sharing, we have witnessed the rise of a range of alternative forms of communication and media production that seemed to challenge established media business models and momentarily contested corporate power.

However, far from decreasing the dominance of corporate media, the expansion of digital culture, the Internet and social media further strengthened the power of multinational corporations over media culture and human communication. Despite the rhetoric of ‘social’ media, sharing, community and collaboration, the majority of the digital mediasphere remains privately owned and controlled. In this corporate media system, multinational corporations maintain almost exclusive control over large parts of the media and communication technology, infrastructure and content.

Power in communicative capitalism is uneven and corporate control confronts us with a range of problems such as the systematic surveillance of Internet users, an increasingly commercialised online environment, devastating environmental impacts of the production and usage of media technologies and the global exploitation of digital labour. (Digital) media technologies are deeply entangled with the on-going economic, social, environmental and political crises.

Mobilising the empowering qualities of digital technologies and their potential to contribute to progressive social change requires an effective critique of corporate dominance, challenging power inequalities and strengthening radical alternatives.

Rethinking Power in Communicative Capitalism. Critical Perspectives on Media, Culture and Society: This conference invites contributions that offer a critical analysis of corporate media culture and alternatives to it and thus contribute to rethinking power in communicative capitalism.

Questions that can be addressed include, but are not limited to the following ones:
- Theorizing communicative capitalism

How does power work in communicative capitalism, how can it be theorised and rethought?
- Ideology in communicative capitalism

What are the main forms of ideology in communicative capitalism and how do they operate in the media? Which forms and approaches of ideology critique do we need to understand them? How are contemporary right-wing extremist, far-right populist, fascist, neoliberal, patriarchal, racist, anti-socialist, pro-capitalist and religious ideologies expressed on the Internet and social media and what are strategies for challenging them?
- The environmental impact of communicative capitalism

What are the environmental impacts of the production of media and communication technologies along global supply chains? What are the environmental impacts of media usage and ‘cloud computing’? What are key drivers of negative environmental impacts and how can they be confronted?
- Labour in communicative capitalism

How does exploitation and alienation work in communicative capitalism? What is the relation between various forms of digital labour? How do working conditions look like in the global production of media and communication technologies? What are the limits and potentials of a global solidary labour movement in communicative capitalism? How can we best think of the relation between work and communication, labour and ideology, the economy and culture? How do we have to rethink or even revise the concepts of the “base” and the “superstructure”
- Marxism and communicative capitalism

What is the role, importance and legacy of Karl Marx’s works and Marxist theory in the age of communicative capitalism?
- Gender and sexuality in communicative capitalism

What is the role of and relationship of identity politics and anti-capitalism for feminist media sociology today?
- Global perspectives on communicative capitalism

What global power inequalities and asymmetries shape communicative capitalism?
- Communicative capitalism and the public sphere

How can we best theorise and understand potentials and limits for the mediated public sphere in communicative capitalism?
- Media and communicative capitalism

How have the media changed in recent years? Are there perspectives beyond the capitalist media? How can we best use critical/Marxist political economy and other critical approaches for understanding the media today? What is the role of media and communication technologies in the acceleration and globalization of the capitalist economy? What are the conditions of working in the media, cultural and communication industries in the contemporary times? Who owns the media and ICTs? What are peculiar characteristics of knowledge and the media as property?
- Resisting communicative capitalism

What are strategies for left politics to effectively resist and challenge communicative capitalism? What is the role of media activisms today? And the relation between the street activism and the media activism (“Tweets and the streets”…)? And how the unions and other kind of non-governmental associations use the media? How their uses differ from the uses made by the newly social movements? Which are the opportunities and the limits of media activisms?
- Alternatives to communicative capitalism

What are the problems and post-capitalist potentials of alternative projects such as cultural and media co-operatives, left-wing and radical media projects, alternative social media, alternative online platforms, alternative media, community media projects, commons-based media, peer production projects, etc.?
- Communicative capitalism and the common

What are the potentials or the common to challenge and offer an alternative to communicative capitalism? How can the threat of co-optation be resisted?
- Communicative capitalism and state power

How does the relationship of media, communication and state power’s various forms of regulation, control, repression, violence and surveillance look like?

European Sociological Association (ESA) - Research Network 18: Sociology of Communications and Media Research in cooperation with: ISCTE IUL - Instituto Universitário de Lisboa Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia DINAMIA’CET - Centre for Socioeconomic and Territorial Studies ICUB - Institutul de Cercetări al Universității din București/Research Institute of University of Bucharest

Keynote Speakers
Jodi Dean: Communicative capitalism and class struggle
Christian Fuchs: Karl Marx and communicative capitalism

Important dates:
Abstract submission deadline: May, 15, 2016
Notification of selected abstracts: June, 10, 2016
Conference dates: September 8-10, 2016

Conference fee:
80 Euros for ESA RN18 members / 100 euros for non ESA RN18 members (conference dinner included)
60 Euros for ESA RN18 members / 80 euros for non ESA RN18 members (without conference dinner)
25 Euros for students (Bachelor and Master) (without conference dinner)

You can become a member of ESA RN18 by joining the ESA and subscribing to the network. The network needs material support, so we encourage you to join or renew your membership. The network subscription fee is only 10 Euros: http://www.europeansociology.org/member/

Participation support for 4 PhD students, early career scholars and independent researchers will be available. This will not cover all costs, but part of them (accommodation and full conference fee). Preference will be given to applicants, whose presentations most suit the overall conference topic.

If you and want to apply for participation support, then please indicate this in your abstract submission by adding the sentence “I want to apply for participation support”. The notifications about participation support will be sent out together with the notifications of acceptance or rejection of presentations.

Conference venue


Av. das Forças Armadas, 1649-026 Lisboa, Portugal


The conference will be hosted by ISCTE-IUL and the organisation will be carried on by DINÂMIA’CET-IUL. The local organising committee is led by Professor Paulo Marques Alves, Assistant Professor at ISCTE-IUL and researcher at DINÂMIA’CET-IUL. The RN18 organising committee is led by Dr. Romina Surugiu, University of Bucharest and Dr. Marisol Sandoval, City University London.

ISCTE- Instituto Universitário de Lisboa (ISCTE-IUL) is a research university with a multi-disciplinary and inter-disciplinary approach, mainly in the areas of Sociology and Public Policy, Social Sciences and Humanities, Management and Economics, Information and Communication Technologies and Architecture, established in 1972. The University has approximately 9000 students enrolled in undergraduate (52%) and postgraduate (48%) programs, 450 teachers, 220 non-teaching staff and more than 500 researchers. The Institution has a strong link to and impact on science, economy and society and has established national and international cooperation with a large number of universities and research institutes as well as public, private and third sector organizations and has been participating in several international European funded projects, research programs and networks of scientific cooperation. (http://www.iscte-iul.pt)

DINÂMIA CET-IUL- Centre for Socioeconomic and Territorial Studies (D’C) is a ISCTE-IUL research unit, evaluated as Very Good. D’C conducts research and graduate teaching (3 PhD Programmes, 10 Master Programmes) on current social, economic and territorial issues from a multi-disciplinary and comparative perspective, in national, European and broader contexts. DINÂMIA CET-IUL is a medium sized research centre, it currently involves over 100 researchers, including around 50 PhDs, with diverse disciplinary backgrounds (architecture, sociology, economics, law, anthropology, geography, quantitative methods and management). As its name indicates, DINÂMIA CET focuses on the study of social, economic and territorial change with the aim of contributing to a better understanding of the contexts, processes, actors and consequences of change. (http://dinamiacet.iscte-iul.pt)

ICUB - Institutul de Cercetări al Universității din București is the main research institute of the University of Bucharest. Its aims are: to promote excellence in social research by means of intensified knowledge transfer and dissemination; to act as a research hub that ensures specialized consultancy in accesing research grants and funding through institutional partnerships; to become an active agent in designing and upgrading the research strategy of the University of Bucharest; to enhance both national and international research projects by means of organizing scientific events such as workshops, conferences and seminars; to support cooperation between researchers and research organizations; to design customized interventions for raising awareness and drive visibility and branding campaigns that promote research proficiency for young researchers; to support research contributions published in high-rank, top-tier publications; to develop, implement, monitor and assess exhange programs with the aid of visiting fellows. (http://socialsciences.icub.ro/)