Communication and the City: Voices, Spaces, Media

  • Date: Friday 14 - Saturday 15 June, 2013
  • Location: Institute of Communications Studies, University of Leeds
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An international conference organized by the Urban Communication Foundation and the Institute of Communications Studies in association with the ECREA Media and the City Temporary Working Group.

In the course of two days there were over 70 papers by presenters from 20 different countries and representing a number of perspectives related to urban communication. With nearly 90 participants, the conference featured both academics and practitioners working in rhetoric, geography, cultural policy, activism, journalism, media studies, digital media and technology, cultural studies, sociology, architecture, and urban planning.

Keynote speakers

  • Professor Alessandro Aurigi (Plymouth University)
  • Professor Carole Blair (University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill)
  • Professor Gary Gumpert (Urban Communication Foundation)
  • Professor Cees Hamelink (University of Amsterdam)

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By the middle of this century 7 out of 10 people in the world will live in cities, and it is in cities that we find major centres of political, economic, creative and ideological power. For these reasons, in recent decades an increasing number of scholars have come to see cities as powerful texts and contexts for communication research. Drawing from across the humanities, the social sciences and the arts, urban communication has become established as an interdisciplinary field in its own right. Within communication studies, scholars have adopted a variety of approaches to the study of the urban environment. These include social interaction and organizational outlooks, rhetorical and discursive frameworks, and technology and media studies. While it remains vital to keep pursuing distinct lines of inquiry about the city within and beyond communication studies, we believe that it is also crucial to foster a sustained dialogue among the various perspectives that inform scholarly, practice-based, institutional, and professional endeavours in the field of urban communication.

Conference themes

We invited submissions that address one or any combination of these three broad questions:

  1. What are the ‘voices’ that animate contemporary cities? How do different identities, groups, cultures, and constituencies interact, intersect and/or compete in mediated and non-mediated urban contexts?
  2. What are the communicative dimensions of urban ‘spaces’ in their own right? How does space mediate specific ideologies and subjectivities, and how is urban space constructed and communicated as place?
  3. What is the role of the ‘media’ in relation to both the symbolic and material existence of cities? How do both traditional and new media contribute to representing and experiencing, but also financing and structuring the urban environment?

We were interested in submissions that addressed these questions through various lenses, including technology, policy, aesthetics, and social / cultural / artistic / professional / political practices. In this regard, we welcomed a range of theoretical, critical, empirical, and practice-based papers on any of the following topics:

  • The communication of cultural and social differences in the city (e.g. gender, class, race, ethnicity, sexuality, political and religious beliefs) along with the communication dynamics of related negotiations, divides and conflicts
  • Identity politics, intersectionality, and intercultural communication in the city
  • Political, countercultural, and social movements in the urban environment
  • Power and urban space (e.g. urban regeneration, segregation, gentrification)
  • Aesthetic, semiotic, rhetorical and discursive dimensions of urban spaces and places, including visual, material, aural, sensorial, and multimodal dimensions
  • Urban space and the communication of memory, heritage, tradition
  • Spaces of production, consumption and/or citizenship
  • The relationship between urban, suburban, and rural spaces
  • Representing and communicating the city (e.g. tourism and travel media, city and place branding, cinematic and televised urban spaces)
  • Media and technology usage in cities and their role in the experience of urban space (e.g. geo-location, new public and private spaces, augmented reality)
  • The presence and impact of media and communication technology in the urban environment (e.g. new forms of “media architecture”, security/surveillance technologies, urban screens)
  • The relationship between cities and the media, cultural, and creative industries (e.g. strategies of attraction of media companies into cities, impacts on communities and urban landscapes, connectivity and infrastructure, the local/global nexus)