The Wizards of IAMCR

lauren_dyll_myklebustLauren Dyll-Myklebust (South Africa), one of the young scholars to be awarded an IAMCR scholarship to attend IAMCR's 2010 conference in Braga tells us about her experience at "a conference ‘with a heart’ where the social events are enjoyed by all and people from diverse backgrounds, passionate about their fields of study, relax with each other, laughing and learning together".

I was one of the lucky and grateful young scholars to be awarded an International Association for Media and Communication Research (IAMCR) scholarship to attend this year’s IAMCR conference in the beautiful city of Braga. The University of Minho did a sterling job of hosting the conference where the careful organisation of both the academic and social aspects of the conference were evident throughout the four days (18-22 July).

The opening ceremony took place in the magnificent Theatro Circo where the approximate 1200 delegates were welcomed and the theme of “Communication and Citizenship: Rethinking Crisis and Change” came to life by the different speakers, including IAMCR President, Annabelle Sreberny. Another speaker was Jorge Sampaio (UN High Representative for the Alliance of Civilizations). He was not able to be there, but in a very Wizard of Oz-esque fashion his image was projected onto a big screen at the front of the theatre. This was when the likeness of my experience in Braga to Dorothy’s adventures in Oz first became clear.

“I’ve a feeling we’re not in South Africa anymore” is a feeling Keyan Tomaselli, Ruth-Teer-Tomaselli and I couldn’t shake when following the cobblestone roads of Portugal’s oldest city. Not knowing when exactly to cross the road, trying to order food in what little Portuguese we knew, and taking in the sights and sounds of this old city with its ancient cathedrals were constant reminders that indeed we were in a place very different to home. Bom Jesus, the venue for the Conference Dinner where Cees Hamelink and The Burgundian Combo entertained us with their festive music, indeed seemed to be a magical far-away world, set on top of a hill overlooking Braga and filled with mazes and emerald green gardens. I didn’t want to click my heels and go home. I wanted to experience more…and I did just that.

The conference was attended by who I’d consider as the wizards of media and communication research. I met the scholars whose work I have been reading since the start of my studies, and was able to engage in discussions and network with other young scholars. The list would be too long to include here, but I do need to mention that Denis McQuail was present and a tribute ceremony was held in recognition of his immense contribution to the field of communication theories. Manuel Pinto opened the tribute referring to the way in which McQuail “inspires people”, Helena Sousa thanked him for his constant interest in other people’s work and his humanity, and Peter Golding ended by noting that McQuail’s analysis of press content and performance “remains a masterpiece”. I was delighted to later discover that I would join Ruth Teer-Tomaselli (as IAMCR Vice President) and Keyan Tomaselli to share a meal with McQuail and the IAMCR Executive Board at the Café Astoria – a unique café where the stairs to the top level run adjacent to a well preserved ancient Roman wall

Theory and Ethics and Methods, oh my! There were 31 different parallel sessions to accommodate for the diversity of sections, working groups and themes. Amongst these were; Communication Policy and Technology, Ethics of Communication, Health Communication and Change, Islam and Media, Digital Divide, Political Economy, Comic Art and Communication and HIV/AIDS. The multi-lingual/-national/-cultural/ethic audience ensured that a variety of perspectives were heard and critical debate encouraged.

Like the Cowardly Lion, in spite of my fears, I was able to present my paper, “Decolonising Methodologies in Development (Communication) Studies: !Xaus Lodge as a Case Study in Critical Indigenous Qualitative Research” in the Participatory Communication Research Section. I was fortunate to have Pradip Thomas as my discussant who offered insightful comments that will add much value in the continuation of my PhD.

In Oz, the Tin Man’s desire for a heart notably contrasts with the Scarecrow’s desire for brains, reflecting a common debate between the relative importance of the mind and the emotions. Symbolically, because both characters remain with Dorothy throughout her adventures she does not have to choose between them and the lesson to be learnt is that perhaps both brain and heart are vital. This is apparent in the IAMCR conference - although it attracts the top media and communication scholars, it is also a conference ‘with a heart’ where the social events are enjoyed by all and people from diverse backgrounds, passionate about their fields of study, relax with each other, laughing and learning together.

Lauren Dyll-Myklebust