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Reviews: Theorising Media & Conflict

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This post compiles extracts of published reviews of the edited volume Theorising Media & Conflict (eds. P. Budka & B. Bräuchler, Berghahn Books, 2020).

Younes Saramifar (Free University Amsterdam) notes in the journal Media, War & Conflict

The editors upend the conventional and normative approaches limited to discourse, visual, content, reportage or policy analysis through anthropological analysis and ethnographically rooted methodologies. By way of telling ethnographic narratives and edited via a thorough theoretical inventory of current debates, the authors argue that a non-media-centric approach traces how the complexities of media technologies, sensory perceptions and social life are interrelated (p. 9). In other words, this volume encourages scholars and media researchers to think about how media becomes social and how it produces the social fabric of conflict.

They [the editors] have broadened the notion of conflict beyond the limits of contentious clashes and push readers to see conflict through lived experiences and everyday encounters. They aptly show how articulations and representations of conflicts in the news or other media platforms differ from witnessing and experiencing conflict.

There are wonderful ideas and reminders across the book hidden like Easter eggs, making reading a theory-driven academic volume a jubilant experience.

Overall, Theorising Media and Conflict is a promising and path-opening contribution to media and conflict debates which have ignored conflict ethnographies and interdisciplinary conversations for too long. This volume is a welcome addition to security and war studies, communication, journalism and social sciences at large. All students who wonder how to study conflict without coming under fire could highly benefit from this book.

Saramifar, Y. (2021). [Review of the book Theorising media and conflict, by P. Budka & B. Bräuchler]. Media, War & Conflict. https://doi.org/10.1177/17506352211004012


Christine Crone (University of Copenhagen) comments in the Global Media Journal

The book urges us to acknowledge the importance of ethnographic methods if we are to understand the integration and mutual constitutive power of media and conflict in the twenty-first century. Rather than looking at media and conflict as two separate spheres, the overall aim is to investigate media-related everyday practices in contexts of conflict as social processes.

Half of the contributions are made up of anthropologically informed media research and the other half consists of qualitative media and communication research and thus attempts through its structure to establish a dialogue between the two traditions on how to study media and conflict. This approach allows for new and inspiring ethnographic material that offers an insight into everyday media practices of people who live and navigate in this decade-long conflict while new media technologies change the ways of communication.

The volume brings new perspectives to the table and helps us move our attention from quantitative evaluations of the role of media in conflicts to the everyday media practices in conflict areas. This sets us free to investigate the fascinating interlinking and interplay between the two – or rather to dissolve what seems to have become an artificial division of one coherent phenomenon. The book is an ethnographic contribution to the study of media and conflict, adding qualitative research to a field where quantitative studies traditionally have dominated.

Crone, C. (2021). [Review of the book Theorising media and conflict, by P. Budka & B. Bräuchler]. Global Media Journal. http://globalmediajournal.de/en/2021/02/16/rezension-theorising-media-and-conflict/

Interview: Theorising Media & Conflict

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In an interview for the University of Vienna’s Uni:view Magazin, I am talking about the edited volume Theorising Media and Conflict (Berghahn Books, 2020), its purpose, conclusions and significance for understanding recent crises (in German).

Theorising Media and Conflict brings together anthropologists as well as media and communication scholars to collectively address the elusive and complex relationship between media and conflict. Through epistemological and methodological reflections and the analyses of various case studies from around the globe, this volume provides evidence for the co-constitutiveness of media and conflict and contributes to their consolidation as a distinct area of scholarship.

The book’s introduction is accessible for free:
Bräuchler, B., & Budka, P. (2020). Anthropological perspectives on theorising media and conflict. In P. Budka & B. Bräuchler (Eds.), Theorising media and conflict (pp. 3-31). Anthropology of Media. New York & Oxford: Berghahn Books.

Films & videos on media activism & more

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This is a selection of films and videos on mediated activism, anthropological perspectives on media and culture, and globalization and (de)colonization in relation to media.
Compiled by Philipp Budka with the generous support of colleagues of the EASA Media Anthropology Network and the EASA Visual Anthropology Network.

Al Jazeera (2017). Podemos vs the Spanish Media. (10.27 min.). https://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/listeningpost/2017/04/podemos-spanish-media-170429123101624.html (openly available)

Balmès, T. (2014). Happiness. (80 min.). https://thomasbalmes.com/happiness/ (not openly available)

Bardet, S. et al. (212). The Himbas are Shooting!. (52 min.). https://www.association-kovahimba.net/en/maps/50-bande-annonce/trailer/70-les-himbas-font-leur-cinema-6 (not openly available)

Bishop, J., & Prins, H. (2003). Oh, what a blow that phantom gave me! (52 min.). https://search.alexanderstreet.com/preview/work/bibliographic_entity%7Cvideo_work%7C1876691 (not openly available)

Cavallone, E. (2016). Media & conflicts: Dangerous liaisons, an INFOCORE study reveals. (8 min.). https://www.euronews.com/2016/11/21/media-conflicts-dangerous-liaisons-an-infocore-study-reveals (openly available)

CBC News: The National (2012). Idle No More. (2.39 min.). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SpBdZtwH_xc (openly available)

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Book: Theorising Media and Conflict

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Budka, P., & Bräuchler, B. (Eds.). (2020). Theorising media and conflict. Anthropology of Media. New York & Oxford: Berghahn Books.

Theorising Media and Conflict brings together anthropologists as well as media and communication scholars to collectively address the elusive and complex relationship between media and conflict. Through epistemological and methodological reflections and the analyses of various case studies from around the globe, this volume provides evidence for the co-constitutiveness of media and conflict and contributes to their consolidation as a distinct area of scholarship. Practitioners, policymakers, students and scholars who wish to understand the lived realities and dynamics of contemporary conflicts will find this book invaluable.

This is the second “Theorising media and …” book in Berghahn’s Anthropology of Media series. The aim of the series is to place media anthropology at the forefront of theoretical advances in both anthropology and media and communication studies.

Table of Contents

Preface
Philipp Budka

PART I: KEY DEBATES
Introduction. Anthropological Perspectives on Theorising Media and Conflict
Birgit Bräuchler and Philipp Budka
Chapter 1. Transforming Media and Conflict Research
Nicole Stremlau

PART II: WITNESSING CONFLICT
Chapter 2. Just a ‘Stupid Reflex’? Digital Witnessing of the Charlie Hebdo Attacks and the Mediation of Conflict
Johanna Sumiala, Minttu Tikka and Katja Valaskivi
Chapter 3. The Ambivalent Aesthetics and Perception of Mobile Phone Videos: A (De-)Escalating Factor for the Syrian Conflict
Mareike Meis

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CfP: Engaged media anthropology in the digital age

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The EASA Media Anthropology Network is organizing an official network panel at the European Association of Social Anthropologists (EASA) 2020 conference in Lisbon (21-24 July). Find the call for papers below and online:
https://nomadit.co.uk/conference/easa2020/p/8591

For more general information about the call and the conference, navigate to:
https://easaonline.org/conferences/easa2020/cfp
https://easaonline.org/conferences/easa2020/

The call closes on 20 January 2020.

Engaged media anthropology in the digital age

Organizers
Philipp Budka (University of Vienna) and Sahana Udupa (LMU Munich)

Abstract
The relative ease of access and potential disruptive features of digital media have opened up new opportunities for media anthropologists to extend their field relations into durable public engagement. These possibilities have encouraged anthropologists to collaboratively design various public engagement initiatives to harness digital media technologies and infrastructures for social justice goals including health, education, environmental protection, gender parity and political inclusion. Such direct interventions have gone hand in hand with critical perspectives on how “the digital” has played a key role in enabling political cultures of indignity and injustice – from online extreme speech to digitally enabled surveillance and algorithmic bias. This panel will foreground these two distinct, yet interrelated, aspects of engaged media anthropology: community projects that involve direct participation of anthropologists in designing digital platforms and applications, and in supporting local forms of media/digital activism; and studies that envision an inclusive future through public intervention strategies of critique and discursive resistance. A key question that drives this panel is whether the latest examples of engaged media anthropology that are enabled by digital technologies and infrastructures have signaled a break from the imperial logic of upliftment and betterment as a means to consolidate colonial power or whether enduring injustices are questioned through new means of collaboration and dialogue. What are the promises and limitations of engaged media anthropology in the digital age?

Seminar: Media Activism

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For the MA Program “Visual and Media Anthropology” at the Free University Berlin, I am organizing a newly developed seminar on media activism.

Course Description

Activism with/in/through media can be broadly understood as forms of technology mediated activism that intend to spark, create and/or support social and political change. So change (and therefore continuity) is at the heart of media activism, as, for instance, Kidd and Rodriguez (2009: 1) note: “Grassroots media have grown from a set of small and isolated experiments to a complex of networks of participatory communications that are integral to local, national, and transnational projects of social change”. Since media activism is related to a diversity of phenomena – such as power relationships, conflict or globalization – as well as to questions about the conception of time and space, organizational structures, collective identities and different forms of sociality, it has become a broad, interdisciplinary research field. This course gives an overview of media activism from a predominantly anthropological and ethnographic perspective.

When engaging with media activism, a variety of contexts, theoretical conceptualizations and methodological approaches have to be considered. In this course, students learn about these aspects by reviewing relevant literature and by discussing different forms and examples of media activism and related questions, issues and problems:

  • How can we contextualize media activism and related practices in anthropology?
  • What historical developments can we identify? And what does this tell us about contemporary activist processes and practices?
  • What is the role of (sociocultural and technological) change, politics, power, globalization and (de)colonization in an anthropological engagement with media activism?
  • How can we ethnographically describe and analyze media activist processes and practices? What are the possibilities and challenges?
  • How can we understand media activism in digital times and in the age of social media? What has changed?
  • What does it mean to interpret and conceptualize media activism as (a form or a part of) cultural activism?

Reference

Kidd, D., & Rodriguez, C. (2009). Introduction. In C. Rodriguez, D. Kidd, & L. Stein (Eds.), Making our media: Global initiatives toward a democratic public sphere, Volume 1: Creating new communication spaces (pp. 1-22). New York: Hampton Press.

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Book Chapter: Indigenous Media Technologies in “The Digital Age”

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Budka, P. (2019). Indigenous media technologies in “the digital age”: Cultural articulation, digital practices, and sociopolitical concepts. In S. S. Yu & M. D. Matsaganis (Eds.), Ethnic media in the digital age (pp. 162-172). New York: Routledge.

Introduction
Indigenous engagements with digital media technologies have been analyzed from different angles and by discussing a variety of issues, from technology access and literacy, to language, culture, and politics (e.g., Dyson, Grant, & Hendriks, 2016; Dyson, Hendriks, & Grant, 2007; Landzelius, 2006a). By drawing on a literature review and on an ethnographic case study, I am providing an anthropological perspective on the relationship between indigenous people and digital media technologies that focuses on digital practices related to the mediation of culture and the formation of (cultural) identity. Within this mediation process, cultural elements of the dominant, non-indigenous societies are recombined with elements from indigenous cultures. “Indigenized” media technologies promote thus an open and dynamic understanding of culture in “the digital age.” But when it comes to characterizing and understanding non-Western media phenomena and processes, terms such as “the digital age” or “the network society” have their conceptual weaknesses. These concepts are inherently ethnocentric, that is, Euro-American centered, implying an evolutionary world view that tends to ignore culturally different ascriptions of meaning to digital realities. I am following here Ginsburg (2008), who states that these concepts are rather reinforcing the imaginary of “the other,” existing in “a time not contemporary with our own” (p. 291). Thus, this chapter presents an anthropologically informed approach to the relationship between media technologies, culture, and politics that advocates the significance of non-Western perspectives and realities in conceptualizing and understanding the diversity of digital life.

E-Seminar: The digital turn: New directions in media anthropology

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Udupa, S., Costa, E., & Budka, P. (2018) The digital turn: New directions in media anthropology.
Discussion Paper for the Follow-Up E-Seminar on the EASA Media Anthropology Network Panel “The Digital Turn” at the 15th European Association of Social Anthropologists (EASA) Biennial Conference, Stockholm, Sweden, 14-17 August 2018.

63rd EASA Media Anthropology Network E-Seminar: 16-30 October 2018, via the network’s Mailing List.

With the advent of digital media technologies, internet-based devices and services, mobile computing as well as software applications and digital platforms new opportunities and challenges have come to the forefront in the anthropological study of media. For media anthropology and related fields, such as digital and visual anthropology, it is of particular interest how people engage with digital media and technologies; how digital devices and tools are integrated and embedded in everyday life; and how they are entangled with different social practices and cultural processes. The digital turn in media anthropology signals the growing importance of digital media technologies in contemporary sociocultural, political and economic processes. This panel suggested that the digital turn could be seen a paradigm shift in the anthropological study of media, and foregrounded three important streams of exploration that might indicate new directions in the anthropology of media.

More (PDF)

Panel: “Digital Visuality” @ VANDA 2018

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PANEL “DIGITAL VISUALITY” @ Vienna Anthropology Days (VANDA) 2018 (September 19-22, 2018)

Convenors:
Elke Mader & Philipp Budka

Thursday, 20 September
11:00-17:00
Room 4 (New Institute Building (NIG) of the University of Vienna, Universitätsstraße 7)

Paper Presentations:
(Timetable)

Philipp Budka: The Anthropology of Digital Visuality: Notes on Comparison, Context and Relationality

Harjant Gill: Introduction to Multimodal Anthropologies

Petr Nuska: “Changing the Equipment or Changing the Perspective?” – Exploring Film and Video Approach in Visual Ethnography

Katja Müller: Contemporary Photography in India – Post-media Aesthetics, Traditional Art and Economic Professionalism

Uschi Klein: What Does a Photograph Really Tell Us? The Photography of Young Male Adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Fatma Sagir: “We Can See Your Hair, Dina!” – Muslim Female Embodiments of Digital Visibilities

Nadia Molek: Argentinian Slovenians Online: Facebook Groups of Slovenian Descendants in Argentina as Mediators of Identity Performances and Rituals
(via Skype)

Daria Radchenko: Digital Anthropology and/or Digital Traces: Seeing the City Through the Eyes of Locals

Elke Mader: Mediating the Krampus: Digital Visuality, Ritual and Cultural Performance

VANDA 2018 Full Program

Review: Digital environments: Ethnographic perspectives across global online and offline spaces

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Budka, P. (2018). [Review of the book Digital environments: Ethnographic perspectives across global online and offline spaces, by U. U. Frömming, S. Köhn, S. Fox & M. Terry]. Anthropos, 113(1), 303-304.

The edited volume “Digital Environments: Ethnographic Perspectives Across Global Online and Offline Spaces” is a collection of 16 essays by students and graduates of the M.A. Programme in Visual and Media Anthropology at the Free University Berlin. This is the first special feature of the book. The second is the anthropological and ethnographic perspective from which the individual texts discuss a diversity of digital technologies, platforms, services as well as related sociocultural phenomena, events and practices. As Sarah Pink in the book’s foreword notes, these texts and the underlying projects “focus on central issues of the discipline … through the prism of visual and media anthropology” (p. 10). Being not part of the anthropological mainstream, this visual and media anthropology perspective holds the potential of providing exiting new insights in digital culture and our increasingly digitalised societies. The digital ethnography perspective, on the other hand, focuses on “the ways in which technologies have become inseparable from other materialities and human activities” including ethnographic fieldwork, as Urte Undine Frömming, Steffen Köhn, Samantha Fox and Mike Terry note in the introduction chapter (p. 15).
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Paper: Indigenous articulations in the digital age

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Budka, P. (2018). Indigenous articulations in the digital age: Reflections on historical developments, activist engagements and mundane practices. Paper at International Communication Association 2018 Pre-Conference “Articulating Voice. The Expressivity and Performativity of Media Practice”, Prague, Czech Republic: Hilton, 24 May. Full Paper (PDF)

The relationship between indigenous people and digital media technologies is ambivalent and enthusiastic at the same time; reflecting individual experiences and expectations as well as collective sociocultural contexts and developments. Considering indigenous people’s colonial history and colonization’s continuing effects on indigenous communities, it is not surprising that many indigenous representatives are particularly concerned about issues of power, control, and ownership related to digital technologies and new ways of knowledge production, circulation, and representation (e.g., Ginsburg, 2008).

There is a strong sense of sociopolitical activism and agency in indigenous people’s collective engagements with digital media technologies which are closely connected to the (re)construction and mediation of cultural identity, cultural articulation, social intervention, and self-determination. At the same time, indigenous people’s digital practices are related to mundane necessities of everyday communication, social networking, family bonding, or self-expression. To understand indigenous articulations in the digital age, the collective and the individual dimension need to be considered.

Idle No More Twitter Account
Screenshot: Idle No More Twitter Account, 2018

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Panel: The Digital Turn: New Directions in Media Anthropology [Media Anthropology Network]

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The EASA Media Media Anthropology Network is organizing a panel at the 15th European Association of Social Anthropologists Biennial Conference in Stockholm, 14-17 August 2018.

The Digital Turn: New Directions in Media Anthropology [Media Anthropology Network]”
Convenors:
Philipp Budka (University of Vienna)
Elisabetta Costa (University of Groningen)
Sahana Udupa (Ludwig Maximilian University)

This panel recognizes the digital turn as a paradigm shift in the anthropological study of media, and aims to push further the ethnographic knowledge into the role that digital media play in people’s everyday life and broader sociopolitical transformations.

  • What’s New? Turns, Re-turns in Digitalization of Danish Right-wing Online Vitriol Language
    Peter Hervik (Aalborg University)
  • Extreme Speech: Online Media Cultures as a Context for Right-Wing Politics
    Sahana Udupa (Ludwig Maximilian University Munich)
  • Populist Masculine Domination in the Moments of Trump and Brexit: On the importance of Big <-> Thick Description
    Bryce Peake (University of Maryland)
  • Rethinking Women’s Agency and Digital Media in the Middle East
    Elisabetta Costa (University of Groningen)
  • Gendering Chinese Digital Media Politics
    Samuel Lengen (Anglia Ruskin University)
  • Gender, Kinship and Mediation in Rural West Bengal, India
    Sirpa Tenhunen (University of Helsinki)
  • An Ethnography of Young People`s Gender Negotiations in Everyday Digital (Sexual) Peer Cultures
    Irene Arends (University of Amsterdam)
  • The Material Dimension of Digital Visuality: Anthropological Possibilities, Challenges and Futures
    Philipp Budka (University of Vienna)
  • Matters of Similarity: Affordances of Digital Visualities
    Christoph Bareither (Humboldt-University Berlin)
  • Digital Visualities Disrupted – Local Photographers in Aleppo and the Shifting Infrastructures of War
    Nina Grønlykke Mollerup (University of Copenhagen)

Seminar: Indigenous Media 2018

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For the 4th time I am organizing the seminar “Indigenous Media” for the MA Program Visual and Media Anthropology at the Free University Berlin.

In this course, students are introduced to indigenous media technologies by actively discussing in 10 units/sessions different questions, issues and problems:

  • How do indigenous people produce, distribute and utilize audiovisual media?
  • How has ethnographic and anthropological film making changed through indigenous media?
  • What role do politics, power, globalization and (post-)colonialism play in the production, distribution and consumption of indigenous media?
  • How do indigenous people utilize media to construct and negotiate their individual and collective identities?
  • How are indigenous cultures and languages represented through media?
  • How do indigenous people appropriate and (co-)develop digital media technologies?

We start our seminar with the contextualization of indigenous media within an anthropology of media. In the second unit students are introduced to selected debates about the meaning and relevance of (mass) media for indigenous people and their sociocultural life worlds. We then discuss ethnographic film making and visual anthropology in the context of indigenous people’s changing role from “objects” for ethnographic films to partners in (collaborative) media projects. The fourth unit deals with (post-)colonialism and decolonization and their implications for indigenous media. This discussion leads us to the self-controlled production of indigenous media and its relevance for issues such as (self-)representation, appropriation, control and empowerment. Globalization, modernity and related questions of collective indigenous identity construction are the topics of the sixth unit. The following three sessions are closely connected, discussing aspects of identity, community, networking, ownership, activism, empowerment, aesthetics, poetics and popular culture in relation to indigenous media. In the final unit, students learn about the significance of digital technologies and infrastructures for indigenous people.

Through several case studies, students are introduced to the similarities and differences of indigenous media projects throughout the world. These case studies take us to different regions, countries and continents: from Nunavut, Canada and the United States to the Caribbean, Guatemala, Mexico and Brazil, to Nigeria, Myanmar, Australia and Finland. The seminar’s assignments include the preparation of an essay at the end of the seminar and short weekly literature and film reviews/critiques as well as an active contribution to discussions during the online sessions, which are organized with the online conference tool Adobe Connect.

Call for Papers: “Digital Visuality” – Vienna Anthropology Days (VANDA 2018)

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VIENNA ANTHROPOLOGY DAYS (VANDA 2018)
September 19-22, 2018

Call for Papers
Session “Digital Visuality”

Prof. Dr. Elke Mader and Dr. Philipp Budka
(Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology, University of Vienna)

Presentations in English or German, max. 15 min.
Abstract of 350 words: https://vanda.univie.ac.at/call-for-papers/
Deadline: 1 June 2018
Venue: New Institute Building (NIG) of the University of Vienna
Universitätsstraße 7, 1010 Vienna, Austria

Abstract

Visual communication and visual culture have been a research focus in social and cultural anthropology for quite some time (e.g. Banks & Ruby, 2011). With the advent of digital media and technologies, internet-based devices and services, mobile computing as well as software applications and digital platforms new opportunities and challenges have come to the forefront in anthropological research, education and communication of visuality (e.g. Pink, 2011). Digital media technologies have become ubiquitous means of visual communication, interaction and representation. For anthropology and its subdisciplines, such as digital, media and visual anthropology, it is of particular interest how people engage with digital media and technologies, how “the digital“ is embedded in everyday life and how it relates to different social practices and cultural processes in human societies. By considering changing sociocultural, political and economic contexts and through ethnographic fieldwork, a continuously growing number of anthropological projects is aiming for a better understanding of contemporary digital phenomena (e.g. Horst & Miller, 2012).
This session contributes to these endeavours by inviting papers that focus on the visuality and visual aspects of digital life and culture. Papers could present ethnographic studies and discuss some of the following questions:

  • What does “the digital” mean for visual anthropology and/or the (interdisciplinary) relationship between anthropological subdisciplines and other visual research fields?
  • How does visual anthropology provide new perspectives on digital visuality?
  • How do specific conceptual approaches contribute to the analysis and understanding of digital visuality (e.g. ritualization, performativity, representation, material culture, practice theory)?
  • What theoretical concepts and analytical categories of sociality can be used to study (differences of) visual culture?
  • How does digital visuality co-constitute and mediate cultural performances and rituals?
  • How do digital platforms and social media services, such as YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or Snapchat, and related practices constitute and change (visual) communication?
  • How does digital visuality impact and redefine ethnographic research (e.g. research techniques, tools, ethics)?
  • What are possible futures for digital visual anthropology and ethnography?

For questions concerning this session, please contact philipp.budka@univie.ac.at
For questions concerning registration, abstract submission and hotel reservation, please contact congress@univie.ac.at

Conference: ICA 2018 Pre-Conference “Articulating Voice. The Expressivity and Performativity of Media Practices”

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International Communication Association (ICA) 2018 Pre-Conference “Articulating Voice. The Expressivity and Performativity of Media Practices”
May 24, 2018, Prague, Czech Republic

Conference Program
Book of Abstracts (PDF)

At this interdisciplinary conference, several papers in the field of media & digital anthropology are presented by researcher who are actively involved in the European Association of Social Anthropologists Media Anthropology Network:

  • Sahana Udupa, U of Munich, Germany: “Enterprise as practice: Fun and aggression in online political discourse”
  • Philipp Budka, U of Vienna, Austria: “Indigenous Articulations in the Digital Age: Reflections on Historical Developments, Activist Engagements and Mundane Practices”
  • Nina Grønlykke Mollerup & Mette Mortensen, U of Copenhagen, Denmark: “The Contested Visibility of War: Actors on the Ground Taking and Distributing Images from the War in Syria”