Letter from the President

Janet Wasko, IAMCR President

IAMCR Newsletter - June 2020

Dear Colleagues, 

Hope you are staying safe and well in this time of ongoing challenges.

IAMCR has experienced key moments and memorable periods over the years. A quick review of the history of the organisation reveals periods of reform, renewal, and now resilience. This year, it appears that we are continuing to move into an era of reimagining the roles, responsibilities, and relationships of communication research within the 21st century. 

The upcoming online conference and meetings are key examples of the organisation's resilience. As we have previously communicated, the current Executive Board (EB) and International Council (IC) made the difficult decisions to move our annual conference first from Beijing to Tampere, and then to shift from Tampere to a fully digital event, in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic that has transformed our everyday world. While this year we will be further exploring virtual modes of gathering and sharing our work, we hope that it will be possible to meet face-to-face to celebrate 64 years of IAMCR in 2021. 

In fact, virtuality has increasingly become a feature of our conferences and our organisation. At least since Durban 2012, this has been discussed in conjunction with ecological concerns, represented concretely in the motion passed by the General Assembly (GA) that year to minimise the environmental impact of our activities and to contribute analyses and solutions to these issues. Among the specific recommendations at the time was to develop “increased options for virtual conference participation, including virtual GA attendance.” This idea was also emphasised by the newly formed Environmental Impact Committee (EIC) and was included in the Guidelines document for greening conferences that the committee produced in consultation with the EB.

Since then, a variety of sustainable and digital practices have been adopted by the organisation and by Local Organising Committees (LOCs), with recent conferences featuring themes such as sustainability in 2018, disputed rights and contested truths in 2019, and this year, the digital future. However, the implementation of virtual participation in conferences has been accepted slowly and only with much reservation, limited to a handful of Sections and Working Groups (SWG), as well as a few special panels.

Thus, when the EB considered possibilities to confront the growing realisation in January that IAMCR2020 could not take place in Beijing, I proposed a “fifth option” of a fully online conference, but it was not considered desirable or necessary at that time. A brief reprieve came with the proposal to move the conference to Tampere, but when a face-to-face event became unfeasible, the EB, IC, and SWG heads eventually accepted the fully digital option. In other words, it took a global pandemic emanating from environmental and social issues for IAMCR to develop and institute the EIC’s recommendations for a virtual conference.

The organisation will also welcome new leadership during this next phase. It is a pleasure to congratulate the newly elected EB and IC members, who will move into their positions on July 17th at the 2020 GA – a (live) synchronous meeting that will take place online. I would also like to personally thank the new board and council members for their willingness to contribute their time and volunteer their efforts to the association for the next four years. I trust that they will continue to cultivate sustainable practices and adaptive strategies, despite the emerging challenges of maintaining the special IAMCR collegiality that we all cherish.

Our responses and adjustments during the last months have demonstrated IAMCR’s vitality and resiliency. We remain committed to promoting media and communication research throughout the world and providing opportunities for us to share our work. However, we will need to continue evolving our vision and the role of research as unforeseen issues and emerging technologies materialise. Our work may require furthering interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary approaches to address systemic problems and to respond to crucial needs for a more equitable Earth.

It has been a great honour to serve the organisation as President during a period in which we have increased diverse representation and membership, made considerable progress in the administration and organisation of the association, and expanded and improved our international conferences. Of course, there is always more to be done and I send my best wishes to the new EB and IC as they guide us through the complex and uncertain times in which we reside.

Looking forward to connecting with many of you through IAMCR2020 next month.

Very best wishes and please take good care,

Janet Wasko

Read the rest of the newsletter at https://mailchi.mp/iamcr/june-2020