IAMCR 2012 - Community Communication Section Call for Papers

International Association for Media and Communication Research
Academic Conference, July 15-19, 2012, Durban (South-Africa)
South-North Conversations

The IAMCR Community Communication Section invites submissions of abstracts for papers and panel proposals for the IAMCR 2012 conference to be held from July 15-19, 2012 at the Howard College Campus of the University of KwaZulu Natal (UKZN) in Durban, South Africa. The deadline for submissions is February 14, 2012.

The conference will be held under the general theme, 'South-North Conversations'.

The Community Communication (ComCom) Section has been a prominent space in IAMCR for debates on this theme. Bringing together research on community, alternative, citizens' and civil society media studies, the Section deals with a range of non-governmental and non-commercial communication practices such as do-it-yourself media, media for and by communities of locality or interest, communication practices of social movements, and media that form a non-profit 'third sector' next to public service and commercial media. Such communication practices may use a variety of communication technologies, from print newsletters to mobile phones, from community radio to cutting-edge online communication. Typical theoretical approaches come from social movement research, community theory, communication rights, theories of political art, of civil society, citizenship and democracy, and theories from migration studies, among others.

Relevant questions include: How do marginalized groups develop, adapt and appropriate communication technologies? What makes community and alternative media effective and sustainable? What are examples of notably innovative forms of media activism? How do social movements communicate? What is the social, economic, legal and political environment for community and alternative media? What are appropriate theories and research methods for these media? What is their role in the overall mediascape? How can alternative and community media help address the world¹s most pressing problems, from war to ecocide?

ComCom 2012 focus areas

We will consider proposals on any issue within the ComCom research area, but will prioritize proposals for the following focus areas:

1. South-North Conversations

How do community, alternative, citizens' and civil society-based communication practices challenge one-way top-down communication models? How effective are they in facilitating South-North as well as bottom-to-top conversations? What are the power dynamics and information imbalances within such communities? What has existing research said about empowerment, participation, locality and development in community and alternative media, and how should such concepts be reviewed and re-thought? Papers or panels should provide new perspectives, discuss new concepts and approaches, analyze existing research or offer innovative proposals on how to assess and evaluate these practices.

2. Community Communication and Climate Change

With the prospects for political action to stem climate change ever more dire, we need to investigate the interactions between community communication and the already unfolding ecological catastrophe. How can alternative media and civil society-based communication practices help us to mitigate climate change and adapt to its effects? What are some examples of alternative/community communication practices that have had positive psychological, political, cultural or social movement outcomes in relation to climate change? How may they exacerbate the problems? Does the phenomenon of climate change denial challenge some of the field¹s assumptions? Is transformation of the mediascape a necessary part of a solution? What has our field, including previous work on environmental movement media and alternative media at summits, contributed to the climate change debate, and what efforts do we need to make?

The climate summit in Durban just months before IAMCR, and IAMCR¹s aim to become more environmentally sustainable set the stage for this theme.

3. Community Communication and Social Media

At a time of great enthusiasm about social networking and its role in democratization and political change, we call for a critical review of social media from the standpoint of alternative and community practices. How can micro-blogging, social networks, video platforms etc. complement traditional alternative media? How are they used by social movements? What does it mean if Œsocial¹ media are commercial? What are the problems, e.g. regarding privacy and surveillance? Which alternatives to commercial social networking platforms exist or are being developed? Theoretically grounded studies of recent events such as the Arab Spring and Occupy are particularly welcome, as are historical precedents.

4. Theory for Community and Alternative Media

The ComCom Section seeks to advance theoretical and conceptual development. This includes investigating, continuing and challenging the theoretical directions laid out by key thinkers in the field; and developing understandings of relevant emerging concepts. We are interested in contributions that revisit key ideas, questions and approaches of this research area and update them in light of technological as well as social change. What are the relations, connects and disconnects between established theory on 'alternative' and 'community' media and the current discourse on 'social' media? Is there (should there be?) something like a Œcanon¹? What are the differences and communalities between Community Communication and the neighboring field of Participatory Communication?

5. Community Communication Policy

Many countries have recently legalized community broadcasting. We call for critical investigations into these processes, the impact of civil society interventions, positive examples of new legislation around the globe, reviews of the emergence of international/regional norms and standards, but also critiques of the normalization and mainstreaming of community media. At the same time, alternative media continue to be subject to repression, and non-profit online media are threatened both at the level of infrastructure (e.g., through challenges to net neutrality) and of content (e.g., through filtering). We encourage investigations into these issues, and relations between community communication and other policy fields, such as Internet governance and intellectual property rights.


Format: All proposals must include:
1. Title, author/coordinator name(s), institutional affiliation(s) and full contact information (mailing address, email address, and telephone number).
2. Topic area (one of the five above focus topics or Œother¹ within ComCom).
3. Type of proposal:

(Type A) Individual or co-authored paper: Applicants must submit a 300-500
word abstract. The abstract should describe
-       the main question or research problem
-      its significance
-      the theoretical framework
-       what is known from existing research
-       the research method, and
-       expected outcomes
For project presentations (without a theoretical background) we encourage applicants to choose a format under TYPE C.

(TYPE B) Panel proposal: The panel coordinator must submit a well-defined statement of purpose (150-300 words), a complete list of panel participants, and full abstracts (as above) for each presentation in one document.

(TYPE C) Other session/presentation formats: We encourage proposals for innovative formats such as workshops, video screenings, performances,
webcasts or field trips. The coordinator must submit a well-defined 300-500 word statement of purpose and a detailed description of activities, as well as any infrastructure requirements (space, projectors, etc.). We cannot guarantee, at this moment, that all these formats will be feasible in Durban, but we commit to supporting proponents in making them possible. If your submission lacks any of the information above, it may be rejected.

For all applicants: Please indicate if you would be willing to chair a session.
Mode of submission: Online at http://iamcr-ocs.org
Number of submissions: Only one abstract submission as author or co-author of a paper (regardless of whether it will be part of a panel or in an open session) will be considered for review in the ComCom Section. However, you are still welcome to additionally act as coordinator/moderator for a panel (and as such submit the panel proposal), or to submit and participate in a TYPE C proposal.
Submitting the same or very similar abstract to more than one section or working group risks being removed from the conference program.
Across all conference sections, there can be a maximum of three abstracts bearing the name of the same applicant either individually or as part of any group of authors.
Submitting to the Right Section: If you submit your proposal to the wrong section, it may be rejected. Please consider carefully if the Community Communication Section is most appropriate for your proposal (check the list of sections at http://iamcr.org/s-wg/all). Please contact us well before the deadline if you are unsure.


  • Researchers examining community media for development purposes should consider applying to the Participatory Communication Research Section.
  • Researchers studying ethnic community media within a Diaspora framework should consider applying to the Diaspora and Media Working Group.
  • Researchers using a market-based perspective are not encouraged to apply to this section.

Languages: IAMCR accepts submissions in its official languages of English, Spanish, and French, though an English translation (even a brief summary) of your abstract will be much appreciated. For conference presentations, we encourage presenters who wish to talk in a language other than English to prepare slides or print-outs in English to facilitate understanding, interaction and debate.

The section has no funds to hire translators. We are looking for volunteer translators/interpreters for abstracts, sessions and papers. If you can contribute in this way, please contact us.


Submission: February 14, 2012. This deadline will not be extended. The OCS system at http://iamcr-ocs.org will open on December 1, 2011, and will close on February 14, 2012.

Decisions on acceptance of abstracts will be communicated to applicants by March 12, 2012. On the same day, March 12, 2012, conference registration will open for bookings by participants.

For those whose abstracts are accepted, full conference papers are to be submitted via the IAMCR OCS by June 10, 2011.


IAMCR institutional website: http://iamcr.org/iamcr2012cfp

Durban 2012 Conference website: http://www.iamcr2012.ukzn.ac.za/

ComCom Website: http://iamcr.org/content/blogcategory/51/201/

For further information, please contact the Local Organizing Committee (LOC) or consult the Conference Organizers via the website at http://www.iamcr2012.ukzn.ac.za/ or by email at IAMCR2012@ukzn.ac.za

Further information about the Section:
Gabriele Hadl (chair) k70[at]mac.com
Ellie Rennie  (vice-chair) ERennie[at]GROUPWISE.SWIN.EDU.AU
Arne Hintz  (vice-chair) arne.hintz[at]mcgill.ca