War is disruptive. It breaks trajectories of progress. It divides real and imagined communities. In addition to the tragic loss of lives and devastation of cities, its harmful effects on long established communication cultures, networks and infrastructures are fundamental. The disturbing instability of the world order caused by the escalating Russian aggression in Ukraine has led to deep concerns not only about the war itself. It has also highlighted the vulnerability of our global communication infrastructure, the ways to resist information warfare and propaganda, and the need to sustain an ethical media reporting in a deeply polarized world.
Dating back to 1970s discussions within fields such as psychology, pedagogy, and human ecology, the concept of resiliencehas drawn attention to how humans mentally cope with and learn from disrupting changes in the complex systems in which they are embedded. In recent decades, the concept has been tried out in much broader scholarly contexts, for example research on public health or social innovation, critical infrastructure studies, and disaster studies. Although studies within applied communication research and crisis communication may sometimes thematize resilience, it can be noted that in media studies more generally, the concept is yet to be thoroughly theorized and systematically discussed. And particularly the interplay between resilience and resistance needs further exploration, not least to underscore agency and to counter the conservative tendency built into the concept of resilience.
Alongside this lacuna within media studies, historical studies on resilience are also surprisingly rare. Most often, it is framed as a contemporary phenomenon, ideal, and solution. This is remarkable since the term resilience itself implies key issues of change, transformation, adaptability, adjustment, and temporality – and sometimes also the absence of change. By critically investigating processes of resilience and resistance in wartime, media and communication historians can offer deep insights into everything from sustainable communication technologies and infrastructures to cultural memory work and collective trauma. Through concepts such as residual media or remediation, historians can shed light on processes of media convergence and divergence in wars of the past, but also old media persistence, resistance, or resilience in new wars.
The aim of the 2023 ECREA Communication History workshop is to invite a scholarly discussion on war and media resilience in terms of, first, the ability of media and communication agents, cultures, and institutions to act in, resist and recover from disturbances caused by war and armed conflicts. Second, it engages with media technologies and materialities, not least in terms of the stability or instability of analogue or digital communication infrastructures. And third, the concept of media resilience raises issues of media ethics, sustainable war reporting and photojournalism, and the spectacles of suffering. Media in contemporary armed conflicts need to be put in context and analysed alongside their historical precedents. Historical perspectives are necessary since media resilience addresses issues of media change and transformation, the ability of media technologies and media agents to absorb change or the stubborn persistence – or even comeback – of old media in disruptive times.Continue reading