Abstract submission deadline (EXTENDED!): 31 January 2017 (500 words max.)
When: Thursday, 25 May 2017, 10:00 – 17:00
Where: Hilton San Diego Bayfront, San Diego, CA
Organizers: Josef Seethaler (Austrian Academy of Sciences) and Linards Udris (U of Zurich)
Keynote speakers: Gianpietro Mazzoleni (U of Milan) and Silvia Pellegrini (Pontifical Catholic U of Chile)

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What will your preconference be about?

The preconference will focus on media performance and its link to democracy from a variety of perspectives. First, it takes into account that the measurement and evaluation of media performance depends on the model of democracy so we want to put special emphasis on the various normative foundations scholars on media performance use. Second, the preconference encourages scholars from all over the world to share their perspectives, regardless of the state of democracy in their countries. Third, we will discuss whether scholars should use an etic, more “universal” approach in evaluating media performance or an emic, more culture-specific approach. Apart from linking this question to the different normative models, the etic/emic question also deals with how to evaluate media performance for different types of media. For instance, we welcome contributions that analyze whether all kinds of social and “alternative” media call for a different evaluation of media performance than for mainstream “legacy” media. Fourth, we should not forget that the analysis of media performance should not be restricted to descriptive content analyses of what the media offer. Rather, we welcome debates about the levels on which scholars should analyze quality, for instance on the level of media system structures, media policy, organizational standards, or quality perceptions of the audience.

Why should we have this conference? Why is the topic covered and/or approach taken by your preconference (a) timely and (b) relevant? Why should people submit their work or plan to attend?

As our keynote speaker Gianpietro Mazzoleni (U of Milan) will argue, the preconference comes at an important time for us as political communication researchers. The issue of media performance is highly relevant because in a lot of countries, not only is trust in the media eroding but trust in the democratic institutions is also generally on the wane. There is an ongoing debate on whether this is a result of legacy media actually performing “worse” than before (for whatever reason) or whether this is a result of (populist) political actors using “alternative” media strategically to exploit grievances, just to name a few reasons.

Furthermore, we believe it is very relevant to discuss the general theme of the San Diego conference, meaning how researchers can make “communication interventions” in public. To underline this, we invited Silvia Pellegrini (Pontifical Catholic U of Chile) as one of our keynote speakers. Working on a large-scale project on media performance in Chile that has been going on for more than two decades and been in the spotlight, Silvia can share invaluable experience on the role of the researcher in publicly discussing and fostering media performance. We are sure that a lot of colleagues have conducted similar work (albeit not on such a large scale) and published policy-oriented research, and we really welcome their submissions reflecting on this.

What do you envision to come from your preconference: In which direction do you expect it to pull political communication scholarship? Does is it aim at fueling new collaboration and/or a specific kind of research?

One of our main goals is to bring scholars together that contribute to the debate about media performance and thus ultimately the normative underpinnings of our research. Of course, political communication researchers always rely on normative assumptions but we think these assumptions should be made more explicit to stimulate more profound discussions. Also, scholars in several countries have been conducting projects on media performance in single countries, producing lots of data and experience which now could be used for comparative purposes. Having ourselves conducted large-scale studies on media performance in Austria and Switzerland, respectively, we, the preconference organizers, are looking forward to these submissions, which eventually should strengthen international collaboration. With our preconference, we also want to bring in more practically oriented researchers, also from outside academia, in order to bridge the theory-practice gap and to exchange innovative ideas to further development of research on democratic media performance.

Media Performance and Democracy – The Debate Continues