Call for Papers – ECREA Communication History Section Workshop, Luxembourg 2022

A ECREA Communication History Section Workshop, co-sponsored by the ICA Communication History Division

History of Digital Media and Digital Media Historiography

2-4 February 2022, Centre for Contemporary and Digital History (C2DH), University of Luxembourg 

The digital turn has had a transformative effect on all media, and it has also influenced the way in which media and communication history is shaped, written and disseminated. 

First, it has had an impact in terms of devices, distribution, production and content, as well as access and participation. Looking at these changes with the lenses of history is beneficial, because it helps contextualizing “revolutions” and continuities with the past. Consequently, the history of digital media can be seen as a new label for media histories related to digital politics, economics, technologies and cultures shaped by digitalisation. But it also deals with analogue media which have been digitised or have resisted digitisation is a new and relevant field. 

But at the same time, the digital turn is also affecting the shaping of media and communication history in various ways. It has changed the way in which media historians work at several levels, from access to sources and the creation of corpora based on digitised press outlets to audiovisual databases and web archives containing online press coverage, social media posts, tweets from journalists, etc. Moreover, the impact can also be seen in the tools scholars use to research and write media history, which often now rely on computational methods (network analysis, sentiment analysis, text mining, etc.) or new forms of storytelling. 

For this workshop, the ECREA Communication History Section is therefore calling for scholarly presentations that shed light on changes and continuities in the process of digitalisation, both now and in the past, or that explore historical practices, with the aim of providing a new perspective on media and communication studies and historiography in the digital age. 

The goal is to improve our understanding of the transition to digital technologies in various media (e.g. computerisation in media devices, digital production and practices, hybrid broadcasting or online switching), the overlaps between analogue and digital and the various issues raised by this transition, and the challenges, patterns, adaptations and controversies that have emerged during the process. 

The legacies of analogue and past models in current digital practices are also crucial if we are to understand the media response to the emergence of digitalisation. Proposals that explore the co-shaping of technological, economic and cultural changes and their influence on media professions, users and audiences are also very welcome. 

The way in which these changes have affected and transformed the work of media and communication historians is also a central theme of the workshop. We will also explore the way in which media and communication historiography has adapted, integrated, questioned and analysed media history in recent decades as a result of digital technologies, whether digitised or born-digital sources, databases, the “data deluge”, computational methods and new digital narratives. The workshop therefore aims to assemble a broad portfolio of perspectives on the topic covering a variety of historical periods, national or supranational settings and media stakeholders. We are interested in research that addresses the full scope of media and communication history from the advent of printing to the digital age.

More specifically, this ECREA Communication History Section Workshop will be open to papers dealing with:

– From analogue to digital (or vice versa). We are interested in studies of how the advent of new technologies played out in various media, settings, companies and countries, and what technological, commercial and temporal strategies, as well as cultural tendencies, may be revealed by the digitalisation of media and society. Are there patterns in specific media, spaces and timeframes? Have media contributed to the digitalisation of societies? How have media organised their transition from analogue to digital and redefined their content, audience, business models, etc.? Why and how in a digital society there is a trend called the “return of the analogue”?

– Reconfigurations or persistence of media practices because of digital technologies. Focusing on professionals and their media practices, on professions (e.g. the production of printed press, TV news bulletins, fake news, entertainment, etc.) as well as on audiences and participation, this topic aims to study the development of media production and consumption in the digital age. How do digital media reach out to their audience? How do they mobilise, inform, stimulate and interact with the public? What is the place and role of amateur practices? Have participation and bottom-up innovations increased? Which are the most evident and surprising persistent practices in media audiences?

– Temporalities of media through digital technologies. We are interested in research that highlights the complex temporalities of media in the digital age, including issues related to programming and broadcasting schedules, replay services, remixing and other forms of media reuse, presentism and updatism in media practices or maintenance and preservation of media devices and content.

– Persistence and discontinuities in communication. What remains from the analogue era in the digital age of media? Is a binary opposition between old media becoming digital and purely digital players relevant or is the reality much more complex? What are the legacies? What disruptions have occurred (in business models, structures of programmes, etc.)? Nostalgia for analogue and early digital media is also a topic of interest for our workshop – this echoes the question of legacies. 

– Conceptual media and communication histories. How can current theoretical and conceptual approaches be transferred to past scenarios? Is research into digital media useful for generating new insights into past media and analogue media? Conversely, are past theoretical and conceptual approaches still relevant for analysing digital media? How might research on digital media give rise to new interests, concepts and approaches that may also provide us with a new perspective on past media and the avenues that media have taken?

– Digital sources, new practices, tools and narratives in media history. How do digitised sources reshape access, analysis, media corpora and communication for historians? How do they influence historians’ research questions and methods? The way in which media and communication historians deal with digitised sources and organise their sources, the tools they use and the way in which these tools change their work, the innovative forms of storytelling they may develop and the need for a “digital media hermeneutics” and critical data literacy are central to this session. We aim to get abstracts focusing on questions like seriality, authenticity, qualitative and quantitative approaches, preservation of and access to sources and corpora, and many other issues at the intersection of media history, computational methods and digital humanities.

Our confirmed keynote speakers for this workshop are: 

  • Claude Mussou (National Audiovisual Institute (INA), France) on the INA’s digitized and “augmented” archive 
  • Niels Brügger (Aarhus University, Denmark) on Media Events: Dayan & Katz Revisited in the Light of Digital Media

Special hands-on sessions and training

The local host (C2DH) will also organise some hands-on sessions related to digital tools and methods during the workshop, on topics such as digitised press, text mining, born-digital heritage, network analysis, etc. 

Abstracts of 500 words proposing empirical case studies as well as theoretical or methodological contributions should be submitted by 30 September 2021. Proposals for full panels (comprising 4 or 5 papers) are also welcome: these should include a 250-word abstract for each individual presentation and a 300-word rationale for the panel. Abstracts should be sent to: Authors will be informed regarding acceptance/rejection for the conference no later than 31 October 2021

Early career scholars are highly encouraged to submit their work. Please indicate if the research submitted is part of your thesis or dissertation project. 

The conference registration fee (for onsite conference) will be €150 (€100 for PhD and Master’s students) and participants will be asked to cover their own travel expenses. This fee includes two lunches and one conference dinner (on 2 February 2022). Depending on the development of the pandemic, the workshop might be moved online, but the goal of ECREA Communication History Section is to have it in presence. A final decision will be communicated to participants when they will be informed about their acceptance no later than 31 October 2021.

Local organisers: Valérie Schafer and Carmen Noguera, C2DH, University of Luxembourg,

ECREA Communication History Section management team: Gabriele Balbi, Institute of Media and Journalism, USI Università della Svizzera italiana (Switzerland),

The workshop is co-sponsored by the ICA Communication History Division. 

Download the call