Interview by Mazlum Kemal Dağdelen
Anna Gladkova is the Leading Researcher and Director of the International Affairs Office at Lomonosov Moscow State University, Faculty of Journalism. She is also co-chair of IAMCR's Digital Divide Working Group (DID), a member of IAMCR International Council (IC), and the IAMCR Faculty Ambassador in Russia since 2019. Dr Gladkova has published extensively and edited collections on ethnic media, multicultural affairs, digital inequalities, and digital divides. In this article, Dr Gladkova talks about her activities and experiences as an IAMCR ambassador, and she shares her thoughts and experiences about the IAMCR Nairobi 2021 Conference.
Could you please share your experiences and activities as an IAMCR ambassador?
Being elected as an IAMCR ambassador in Russia is a tremendous honour. I am pleased to be involved in this role as a member of the ambassadors' network as well as other IAMCR activities.
My experience has been excellent; I have been excited to work with IAMCR and to foster connections between IAMCR and Russia. Secondly, I am also delighted to work with my excellent colleagues worldwide, including Uma Shankar Pandey and other IAMCR ambassadors in other countries. It is also an immense pleasure to work with all the IAMCR members, members of our working group, the Digital Divide Working Group, and other sections and working groups.
I think it is a significant achievement to have this network of ambassadors for IAMCR because it gives the association additional input and presence in regions where IAMCR is probably not that well-known yet. For instance, when I was elected as the IAMCR ambassador in Russia, I was hoping to enrich and to develop the presence of Russian scholars in the IAMCR network, in IAMCR activities, including the annual conference and other activities such as the IAMCR webinar series; my working group was the first one to organise the webinar on Digital Divide and Digital Inclusion. I am very grateful to IAMCR for providing this additional platform. I think that Russian scholars and scholars from other regions of the world could be better involved in the IAMCR initiatives.
My role as an ambassador is to make the association known to the scholars from every level; to well known or experienced scholars, so to say, and to emerging scholars, to students, to postgraduate students, young researchers, and PhD students, and to tell them about the association to invite them to join and attend its meetings if they are interested. It is great that IAMCR provides an opportunity to be involved in different platforms; there are the annual conferences, webinars, special events, panels and many more. My role is to make there more visible in my community, and I believe my experience has been very satisfying so far.
We have been very fortunate to have IAMCR as a co-sponsor of our events, which we organise here at the Journalism Faculty of Moscow State University. In 2019, IAMCR was a co-sponsor of the journalism conference called Journalism in 2019: Creativity, Profession, Industry. This is the annual conference, which we organise every February at Moscow State University Journalism Faculty. In 2019, for the first time, IAMCR was a co-sponsor of this event. We included IAMCR presence in the presentations, plenary sessions, and the printed materials. This is where we told the Russian scholars more about the association. This conference is primarily in Russian, so it is usually attended by Russian scholars from different regions of the country.
We have also had IAMCR co-sponsor other events, including our well known International Moscow Readings Conference, the biggest international conference, organised at the Journalism Faculty. IAMCR was co-sponsoring the conference in 2020 and it is going to be co-sponsored by IAMCR in 2021. This is primarily in the English language, and this is where we invite scholars from different countries to participate and tell them about IAMCR and make it visible and more present in the academic community. In addition to having IAMCR as the general co-sponsor of the event, I thought it would be great to have specific sections and working groups involved. So, the Moscow Readings Conference is supported and organised in partnership with the Digital Divide Working Group and Communication in Post- and Neo- Authoritarian Societies Working Group. This year, it is also supported and organised with the Journalism Research and Education Section of IAMCR. I think it is essential to have not just IAMCR as co-sponsor involved, but also at the level of specific sections and working groups. As an ambassador, I am working on building these links with different communities within IAMCR and making them more involved and more present in Russian academic life.
We also organise a special event called a topical seminar at the Journalism Faculty of Moscow State University every month. The topical seminars are special events for academic discussions where we have one scholar from Russia and another from a different country. We had, for instance, Nico Carpentier, the IAMCR President, involve and give a talk at one of the topical seminars. We also had other well-known and well-established famous scholars present at these topical seminars. These seminars are also supported and organised in partnership with the Digital Divide Working Group and Communication in Post- and Neo- Authoritarian Societies Working Group. So, we are trying to involve IAMCR at different levels, such as conferences, topical seminars, and special events here in our academic life in Russia.
How do you see IAMCR's position in Russia?
IAMCR is very well-known in Russia as one of the leading associations in media and communication research. More and more people are interested in joining this association. As an IAMCR Ambassador, it is essential to improve this understanding of IAMCR and how important it is to be a member of the academic community worldwide and not to limit yourself to the national community of scholars but also join the global academic community. Honestly, I think there is still something we can do to improve the situation and inform people about the association and its activities. I think it has been going well so far; more and more people are joining the projects.
We organise many events at Moscow State University, but there are also events organised by IAMCR, like the webinar series. When we had our first webinar on the Digital Divide and Digital Inclusion, we informed Russian scholars about this event, and they joined it. So, they were involved there; they were also pretty much interested in learning more about what IAMCR does. Here I would like to thank Andrea Medrado and her team for organising this fantastic IAMCR webinar series.
Also, we have a very big Facebook group for IAMCR Digital Divide Working Group; there are more than one thousand members currently. It started a couple of years ago as a tiny community, but now it is pretty big, and this is also the platform that we inform people about IAMCR activities. The group is called IAMCR Digital Divide Working Group, but it is not limited to the digital divide topic. Whenever our colleagues from other sections, other working groups, or other universities organise something, we always share this with our community. Many people from Russia or other countries are being informed about the activities, and they join the events. I think it is crucial to be present on social media because this is how you can attract people, and this is how you can let people know what you are organising, what you are leading or what kind of projects you have. We do not have a Twitter account, but I am considering launching one because it is also one of the most well-known social networks academics widely use. So, I think the presence is fine, but it still needs to be improved and increased in the following years.
How does IAMCR collaborate with other organisations in your region?
We have a well-known association and network of scholars called the National Association of Mass Media Researchers (NAMMI). The President of this association is our Dean, Professor, Academician of the Russian Academy of Education Elena Vartanova. She was also the founder of the Digital Divide Working Group of IAMCR and the first chair of that working group for several terms. It is personally a tremendous honour to continue what she has been doing there with IAMCR in the past. We are trying to develop collaboration also with NAMMI because it includes primarily Russian scholars. When NAMMI organises something, we are also present there. I think we can develop our presence there with the help of IAMCR so that IAMCR can be more actively involved in that regional network. This is something I consider for the future.
At the moment, we focus primarily on our big academic events because these are the platforms where people come together. That is why we are focusing on the Moscow Readings Conference and the Journalism Conference, which I mentioned earlier, as well as the topical seminars we organise every month. Our latest topical seminar was held on 2 November 2021; we had the Digital Divide Working Group, the Communication in Post- and Neo- Authoritarian Societies Working Group involved in that event. Every time we have a seminar, we always mention that these topical seminars are organised in collaboration with IAMCR, the Digital Divide Working Group and the Communication in Post- and Neo- Authoritarian Societies Working Group. Therefore, people also get to know about IAMCR, its sections and working groups, and its community. So, I think this collaboration with regional associations is critical because it is how you can inform people about what IAMCR does, and this is something we should probably consider developing more in the future.
How do you collaborate with other IAMCR ambassadors?
We have collaborated on several occasions. Firstly, I would like to express my gratitude to Graham Murdock, one of the founders of the IAMCR Ambassadors Network. Also, I am grateful to Uma Shankar Pandey; we worked with him on different projects. Recently, he invited me to IAMCR India Webinar Series that he is co-convening. We also invited him to give a lecture at our lecture course, which we organise at Moscow State University, Journalism Faculty. This series is called Current Issues of Mass Media; we organise this every semester for master students. Uma gave a talk in the journalism faculty last year, and it was very well approached and very well attended by our students. I have known Uma for many years, so we are colleagues, and I would say, good friends. So, for me, it is always a pleasure to work with him, not just limited to the IAMCR ambassadors’ network. It is an excellent opportunity that we have in this community. We must have more of these collaborations because it will also help us make this initiative more well-known.
How was your experience at IAMCR Nairobi 2021 Conference?
My experience was very positive. The IAMCR team and the Local Organising Committee (LOC) did a fantastic job. It is impressive what they have been doing in this uneasy and challenging when people are still experiencing lockdown and the pandemic post-pandemic effect and when people are a little bit tired of attending academic events online. Still, even in this uneasy context IAMCR and the LOC in Nairobi did a fantastic job organising this conference. I also particularly liked that there were different formats of participation. So participants could send their online conference papers, participate in the plenary sessions, participate in the pre-recorded sessions, participate in Flow-34.
I do not think that online conferences can fully substitute for face-to-face conferences, but still, I agree with Nico Carpentier saying that online formats do have their advantages, as well. I would say that the hybrid format is probably the best one, because travelling to remote countries is very uneasy for many people, and it is sometimes hard for people to go in the middle of summer somewhere because of other responsibilities like admission campaign or other projects. That is amazing if you can also participate virtually, although it cannot substitute for a face-to-face conference. Also, I think we in the Digital Divide Working Group did a good job organising our panel. I am very grateful to my colleagues, Olga Smirnova, who is the past chair of the Digital Divide Working Group, and my co-chair Massimo Ragnedda, who have been putting together the programme and to all IAMCR community, to Valeria Zamisch, who has been very helpful in organising the membership connections, to Bruce Girard, to Nico Carpentier, and to everybody who has always been there answering our questions, organising and planning everything.
Also, there has been much support in the IAMCR International Council, where we share our thoughts with our colleagues from different regions. I think it is about making new connections in an academic environment, but also about making friends, so IAMCR is not just about academic life; it is also about friendship, in my view.
I am looking forward to developing my personal and my university's involvement in the academic life and academic future of IAMCR. We support the association very much; we think it is doing well thanks to so many wonderful colleagues and so many great people who work in the team of IAMCR. I will do my best to develop these connections between Russian scholars, local scholars, and IAMCR. I think it will be fine, especially as soon as we are back to our real-time, face to face meetings because it is also important for networking for building connections, meeting your colleagues and friends from different regions of the world.