Participatory Communication Research Section

PCR logoThe Participatory Communication Research Section (PCR) explores the theory and practice of participatory communication, and has played an important role as a platform for new thinking. The PCR section addresses issues related to communication processes within the local, regional, national or international spheres and the ways in which communication, information and/or media foster social change through participation. While the PCR section has traditionally accommodated creative approaches to participatory communication, it has over recent years, intentionally encouraged interdisciplinary methods marked by critique and innovation.

The PCR section will also welcome abstracts for video presentations, as part of an experiment to allow for remote participation. If you wish to submit an abstract for a video presentation, please carefully read the call for video presentations, and follow the procedure explained there.

This year’s conference theme allows the PCR section an opportunity to highlight that participation is a human right, and should be acknowledged as such. This implies that this year, even more than before, the right to communicate will be placed in the PCR section’s spotlight, as a key materialization of, and guarantee for, human dignity. Empowerment, and the redistribution of power that is incorporated in participatory processes, allows for ordinary citizens to gain more control over their everyday lives, validates their humanity and dignity, and prevents them from being subjected to forces that cancel out their subjectivity. This need for a more thorough redistribution of power is not only restricted to the world of institutionalized politics, but cuts through all parts of our socio-political realities, with always a communicative dimension present. Still, we should not forget that participation, and the creation of more just societies, is not to be taken for granted. Even more than before, it is a contested notion, that is threatened by a variety of dark authoritarian, violent, populist, nationalist, racist, misogynist (and many other) voices that seem to be gaining the upper hand all over the world.

In addition to submissions related to the conference theme the section also welcomes contributions that discuss theoretical or methodological perspectives on a variety of participatory communication research issues and specific case studies. In particular, the section invites proposals for paper presentations and panels sessions that engage with any of the following themes:

1. Participatory theory 
The section calls for presentations that develop a deeper understanding of the theoretical backbones of participatory practices. Proposals that ground participatory practices in social, political and/or cultural theory, or that provide a philosophical reflection on participatory practices are most welcome. Also conceptual discussions about the nature of participation, and its related concepts, as, for instance, power, empowerment, interaction and engagement, are welcomed.

2. Transcontinental dialogues about participation
The section invites colleagues working in the field of participatory communication research to submit panel proposals (and, if possible, individual papers) that bring together scholars from different regions, continents and territories to discuss particular aspects of participatory communication (social phenomena, theoretical and paradigmatic approaches, methods, …). Also comparative research and multi-regional case studies that are discussed in individual papers, is called for. The section believes that an intellectual exchange between different parts of the world would strengthen our work on participatory communication.

3. Participation, communication for development and social change
The section invites practitioners as well as academics working in the field Communication for Development and/or Social Change (CDSC) to critically reflect on the role of regional communication, and on its participatory dimensions. What are the similarities and differences in how CDSC is conceived and practiced across the globe? Who are the changemakers, what are their goals and challenges, and how do they articulate and enact processes of change? What is the role of participation in these contexts? And how does the transformation of social, cultural and political territories influence and/or function as a pretext for their work? The section welcomes presentations and studies of a broad spectrum of initiatives, ranging from institutionalised actors such as governments, NGOs, or INGOs, to civil society-driven platforms and social movements.

4. Participatory ethics
The increased opportunities of interaction and (sometimes) participation, also raise questions about how to strengthen the articulation of participatory procedures with core democratic values, human rights and ethics. At the same time, practices such as trolling and flaming, that are highly present, place considerable pressure on the development of more egalitarian societies, as they generate new imbalances by using (and abusing) the mechanisms of participation and democracy. The PCR section welcomes contributions that reflect on the need for, and development of, participatory ethical frameworks, the ethical evaluation of contemporary participatory practices, and critiques on the abuse of participatory procedures and mechanisms for non-democratic aims.

5. Civil society participation: Consumers and citizens voices
Alternative forms of participation in the economic, social and political system have been emerging, originating from a civil society that has been looking for new paths and forums to make its voices heard. Whether in sparse and spontaneous events, or embedded in more organized and strategically designed movements, these phenomena have been gaining prominence and constitute a research topic that is of relevance to the section. Are these more authentic forms of participation and are they representative of social reality? Are they just part of an empowering, awareness-driven discourse for consumer-citizen initiatives, are they part of a media-staged scenario or do they have material consequences in the daily lives of communities? How to they emerge, survive or disappear in the vortex of contemporary existence? What powers do they subvert or create? What issues for academic research and why are they relevant?

6. Methodological challenges in participatory communication research
The section calls for presentations that focus on the methodological challenges that we meet as researchers in participatory communication. Relevant questions are here: What is ‘participatory’, if anything, about the ways in which we conduct research? Is participatory (action) research required for doing participatory communication research? How do we construct our identities as researchers, and negotiate our positions towards research participants and other stakeholders in a participatory-democratic way? How do we design the analytical process, and implement criteria for validating our findings? How can we present our work in more interactive and participatory ways? Submissions to this subsection are preferably grounded in concrete research experiences within participatory communication. All research traditions are welcome, including quantitative, qualitative, ethnographic, arts-based, action-oriented, etc.

7. Participation and the private sphere
The section calls for theoretical or research-based individual paper and panel proposals, from researchers or media practitioners working on participatory communication projects dealing with thematics that challenge the traditional split between public and private spheres. It welcomes innovative proposals that emphasise the importance of discourses of participation and power in areas of social life which are traditionally considered private; or free from political or institutional interference. The section is especially interested in proposals that extend the discourses of the political beyond performativities of gender, sexuality and moral behaviours socially defined as ‘conventional’ and ‘normal’. This may include, but is not limited to, themes of participation, power and decision-making in gender relationships, queer sexualities, intimate personal experiences, religious practices, fetishism and fantastic obsessions.

Submission of Abstracts

Abstracts must be submitted from 3 December 2018 through 8 February 2019. Both individual abstracts and panel presentations are welcome and early submission is strongly encouraged. We ask you to kindly submit proposals in good time at the abstract submission site –


The deadline to submit abstracts is 8 February 2019, at 23.59 UTC and will not be extended.

Decisions on acceptance of abstracts will be communicated to applicants by the Section Head no later than 28 March 2019.

Submission guidelines

Abstracts should be between 300 and 500 words. All abstracts must be submitted through the IAMCR Open Conference System. Abstracts sent by email will not be accepted.

It is expected that each person will submit only one (1) abstract. However, under no circumstances should there be more than two (2) abstracts bearing the name of the same author, either individually or as part of any group of authors. Please note also that the same abstract or another version with minor variations in title or content must not be submitted to more than one Section or Working Group. Such submissions will be deemed to be in breach of the conference guidelines and will be rejected by the OCS system, by the relevant Head or by the Conference Programme Reviewer. Authors submitting them risk being removed entirely from the conference programme.


The PCR section encourages the submission of individual papers and complete panel proposals in any of the three official languages of the association (English, Spanish, French). For queries and comments, please contact the PCR section’s secretariat at