February 21, 2020
London School of Economics and Political Science (UK)
Deadline: September 16, 2019
A European Communication Research and Education Association conference co-sponsored by the ECREA Organisational and Strategic Communication section; the Department of Media and Communications, LSE; and the Department of Media and Communication, University of Leicester.
Date/Time: Friday 21 February 2020, 09:30-17:30
Venue: The Silverstone Room, Department of Media and Communications, Fawcett House (7th floor), London School of Economics and Political Science, London WC2A 2AE
We live in a time characterised by uncertainty, hybridity and complexity, when the powerful dualisms that characterised the post-Enlightenment era (nature/society, human/machine, male/female, etc.) are being problematised in a fundamental way. This conference explores how we research the promotional cultures that have become central to the liminal times in which we live. What strategies do we use to explore and attempt to understand the assemblage of technologies, texts, networks, and actors in contemporary promotion?
The moniker ‘promotional culture’ is now well-established as a way of describing the ubiquitous presence of promotional work – whether public relations, branding, advertising or other forms - in all aspects of our lives (Davis, 2013). It is enacted by organisations working in all sectors, from politics to the arts, in non-profit and commercial environments, while individuals also adopt promotional techniques in the ways they present themselves and their lives to others. However, the singularity of the term ‘culture’ belies the fluid and complex worlds that promotion is built on, engages with, and perpetuates. Organisations that use promotional tools in their strategic communication can be implicated in the worst excesses of persuasion and propaganda, yet can also contribute to positive social change (Demetrious, 2013; Miller & Dinan, 2007). Communication campaigns track, survey and instrumentalise our lives through their endless appetite for data, yet ensure organisations can deliver convenience and interest precisely because they know us so well (Turow, 2006). Mainstream public relations and advertising tactics are used to sell us cars, face creams and holidays, but are deployed to greenwash environmental damage, whitewash corporate corruption, woke-wash social causes, and frame political opportunism as strategic thinking. Promotional culture cannot be pinned down to one form, process or purpose, so how do we account for its complex modes of production and deployment in our research questions, methods and sites?
To talk about promotional /culture/ is to acknowledge the deep embeddedness of promotion in quotidian life and the importance of its circulatory dynamics (Aronczyk, 2013). Just as Williams argued that culture is a ‘whole way of life’ rather than an elite set of activities (Williams, 1981), when individuals use promotional tools and tactics on their own terms, those tools are transformed from being a mechanism of elite power and repurposed to serve our own agency. Agentic power circulates through promotional work, via digital and analogue channels, and with unpredictable outcomes (Collister, 2016; Hutchins & Tindall, 2016). In this sense, promotional culture is a continually emergent manifestation of the struggle between agency and structure, a hybrid form of power of which the outcome is never certain. Can research adequately address the tensions and power struggles that underpin all promotional work, including inequalities within and between nations and regions, whether in the Global North and the Global South? To what extent do we incorporate a wide range of sites, voices and articulations of its effects, and where are the gaps in our current practice?
This ECREA interim conference invites submissions that address the challenges of researching the complex, hybrid and liminal nature of promotion in a range of ways. Submissions may include (but are not limited to) the following topics:
- Structures of promotion – platforms, suppliers, industry structures, networked movements, industry hybridity and blurred boundaries between professional territory in theory and practice;
- Technologies of promotion – modes of production for promotional work, including digital technologies (data, AI, algorithms, bots) as well as old (but still current) techniques such as press releases events and sponsorships, display advertising, and their effects on the development of promotional work; the power of promotional industries and the diffusion or limitation of promotional culture;
- Agents of promotion – ‘good’ and ‘bad’ practitioners and organisations; producers and/as audiences; non-human agents and their effects on promotional campaigns, circulation, and impact;
- Representations of promotion – practice, practitioners, organisations, industries and professional fields as good, bad, inevitable, normal, deficient, diverse, or a matter of professional pride, and their continuity and change over time.
- Effects of promotion – from populism in politics to excessive or ethical consumption, to social and political activism and change; from racialised, gendered and classed audiences, messages and images to subaltern discourses and representations that reassert the power of the ‘other’ on a local, national and global scale;
- Ethics of promotion – from deontological, teleological or virtue ethics, to an ethics of practice, feminist ethics, globalised ethics, or, alternatively, contractual ethics, ethics in the digital sphere, and their effects on practice;
- Methods of promotional research – challenges of researching the digital, excavating promotional ideologies, confronting professions, engaging audiences through academic work, and the risks and realities of research that can equally promote change or speak into a vacuum.
To submit to the conference, abstracts of 500 words should be submitted by 16 September 2019 to the conference organisers, at the following email: email@example.com . Decisions on papers will be made by 30 September 2019. Full papers should be submitted by 15 January 2020, to give time for them to be circulated to conference participants.
The Department of Media and Communications at the LSE and the Department of Media and Communication at the University of Leicester are making travel stipends available for a small number of PhD students, to support their attendance at the conference. The application process for the stipends will be publicised closer to the conference date.
If you have any further questions please contact the conference organisers Lee Edwards (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Ian Somerville (email@example.com).
Aronczyk, M. (2013). The transnational promotional class and the circulation of value(s). In M. MacAllister & E. West (Eds.), /The Routledge companions to advertising and promotional culture/ (pp. 159-173). New York: Routledge.
Collister, S. (2016). Algorithmic public relations: Materiality, technology and power in a post-hegemonic world. In J. L'Etang, D. McKie, N. Snow, & J. Xifra (Eds.), /The Routledge handbook of public relations/ (pp. 360-371). London Routledge.
Davis, A. (2013). /Promotional cultures: The rise and spread of advertising, public relations, marketing and branding/. Cambridge: Polity Press.
Demetrious, K. (2013). /Public relations, activism and social change: Speaking up/. New York: Routledge.
Hutchins, A., & Tindall, N. e. (2016). /Public relations and participatory culture: : fandom, freedom and community engagement/. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge.
Miller, D., & Dinan, W. (2007). /A century of spin: How public relations became the cutting edge of corporate power/. London: Pluto Press.
Turow, J. (2006). /Niche envy: Marketing discrimination in the digital age /Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Williams, R. (1981). /Culture/. London, UK: Fontana.