Conference 2019
Theme for 2019:
Communities. Audiences. Publics
In the recent decades, proliferation of communicative channels, including digital ones, has led to fragmentation of mass communication and its overarching audiences. Digitalization, on one hand, has brought on stage new audience constellations aligned along new societal cleavages – the process that is often framed negatively in academic literature, as it potentially contributes to social disintegration in the absence of common information denominators. On the other hand, the boom on the market provides numerous opportunities to rethink relations between media and their audiences, focusing on constructing consumer, political, and/or cultural communities around media product on all levels, from hyperlocal to transnational.

In rethinking social groups as audiences and/or publics, one can go even further. When people are exposed to trans-border and multi-channel information flows, it is a person, not a group, who increasingly becomes the ultimate informational crossroads, forming a highly personal and hardly repeatable media diet. How do media survive upon highly individualized media consumption repertoires? Is there a balance between targeting masses and user-centricity? How do we turn a communicatively diverse community into a commercially viable and socially understandable media audience, as well as into a politically efficient public? Do media channels continue to form communities, increasingly shaping lifestyles, or do they fail?

Also, the economic recession, the growing complexity of societal choices, and post-ideological convergence of political markets have recently led to the rise of pseudo-ideological populism in established democracies, as well as to attempts of authoritarian regimes to co-opt Internet communication techniques for their benefit. On what communicative grounds do political publics form today? Do we face the birth of new types of public spheres? How do professional, cultural, and values-based communities find ways to communicate their political messages? And how does platform dependence reshape political and social communication?

And if we, indeed, face the fundamentally new, fragmented, redefined communicative groupings, how do we describe them? Can we actually measure 'a public' similar to the way we measure audiences – and how do we measure the latter, too? Do social media represent publics, and with what limitations? Is community equal to a platform? And can we draw parallels with the recent and no-so-recent past of the media systems when calling a constellation of people a community, an audience, a public?

The conference seeks contributions that deal with describing, measuring, and assessing the deliberative quality and consumer behavior of communicative communities, audiences, and publics, both today and in the past.
The aim of this conference is to bring together sociological, economic, psychological, communicative, and technological perspectives in rethinking the relations between social groups, media markets, and communicative technologies. We especially welcome contributions of comparative nature, while single-case studies are also welcome if they state how the method may be expanded to involve comparisons.

Conference tracks
In 2019, the conference will have four tracks that feature various aspects of the questions posed above. The submissions might orient to but are not limited to the following sub-topics:

THEORY track

Silvio Waisbord, George Washington University, USA
Florian Toepfl, Freie Universität Berlin, Germany

  • (Re)defining communities, audiences, publics: academic vs. industrial definitions of communicative groupings
  • Today's grounds of formation of audiences and publics: towards multi-dimensional assessment of group communication
  • Group communication and its role in social change: national to regional to global
  • New types of democratic and authoritarian publics and their social and political roles
  • Public sphere(s): old, new, (non)existent
  • Communicative affordances and their roles in community building
  • Media effects in fragmented communication


Svetlana S. Bodrunova, St.Petersburg State University, Russia
Anna Litvinenko, Freie Universität Berlin, Germany – St.Petersburg State University, Russia

  • New socio-economic order and communication in the post-recession world
  • Personal vs. group communication: the borders of the social in public discussions
  • Social gaps and political publics
  • Communicating ideology in today's world
  • The state and co-optation of platforms: free speech, communicative authoritarianism, and computational propaganda
  • Communities communicating: practices in comparative perspective
  • Minority, ethnicity, and migration as communicative triggers


Chair: Federico Subervi, University of Leeds, UK

  • Communication as belonging: media consumption as community builder/destroyer
  • Business models for newspapers and beyond: is there an audience?
  • Group interests and media content: new rituals of audience involvement
  • Online journalism and the blurred borders of media consumption
  • Personalized or mass journalism? Decisions for today's fragmentation of media use
  • Community media and their resources for survival
  • Measuring audiences: media metric industries of today
  • The visual: representing communities and creating audience involvement


Olessia Koltsova, National Research University – Higher School of Economics, Russia

  • Platform affordances and community formation
  • Media and their audiences on social networks
  • Communities and computationals: bots, trolls, and their real impact tested
  • Detection of communities and publics: automated and semi-automated methods
  • Measuring publics: conceptualization and instruments
Approaches to comparisons in online community detection

!!! When submitting, please start your title with naming the track,
e.g. 'THEORY A new definition of community building on Twitter'.

Past conferences
'Comparative Media Studies in Today's World' started in 2013 as a pre-conference to the Annual forum 'Media in the Modern World', a conference with an over-50-years history at St.Petersburg State University, Russia. Since then, the conference gathered experts in comparative media research, including Paolo Mancini, Larry Gross, Silvio Waisbord, Katrin Voltmer, Nico Carpentier, Susanne Fengler, Elena Vartanova, Thomas Hanitzsch, Daya Thussu and many others.

In 2019, CMSTW is an integral part of the Annual Forum which will be held by St. Petersburg State University for the 58th time in 2019. Thus, interested audience is ensured, and you may wish to take part in the Plenary Session (with simultaneous translation into English) and all sorts of discussions at the Russian-language Annual Forum on April 19-20.

More information on previous conferences may be found here:
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