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.
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