I was very keen to attend this event, and delighted to have my paper accepted, as I still feel that I’m trying to find the academic community with which my current work on hyperlocal media sits. Could this finally be ‘my people’?
The problem with studying hyperlocal media, or at least with the approach that I’m taking, is that it falls between so many topic areas. I’m interested in the ways in which established discursive repertoires of technology, community and journalism provide a framework of available ideas that can be used to explain and justify hyperlocal media practices. I therefore need to network with colleagues within journalism studies, digital culture and internet studies, alternative media and, I think, media and cultural geography. This event, as its name suggests, gave me a chance to engage with a rounded set of ideas around media and place.
Media & Place was a small event (around 60 people, I would have guessed) but I often prefer conferences that are smaller and have a better focus, so that was a positive for me. Despite being small, much of the conference was held in parallel tracks which were very diverse in their make up. There were two papers that really stood out for me across the two days.
Firstly, Locating the Region: Southern Television’s Application to Serve the ITV Network was a fascinating account of Elinor Groom’s archival research into the negotiation of the idea of a television region. Elinor gave a fantastic presentation of her work that really brought to life the process of enacting the idea of regional commercial television from the framework afforded by the 1954 Television Act. Importantly for me, Elinor’s work provides a useful background to a point I’ve been trying to make with in my own work about the way in which media is organised spatially based on limitations in transmission technology: scarcity of distribution has always provided the boundaries of space, and I’ve been looking at how web-based technologies allow media-space to be reconstituted. I was delighted to hear that much of this work has already been published and I’ll be chasing down a copy soon.
Less instrumentally useful but equally stimulating, it was a real pleasure to attend a panel on media and sport. Irmina Wawrzyczek and Zbigniew Mazur, two colleagues from Maria Curie-Skłodowska University, presented two related case studies on the way in which host cities in Poland were represented by visiting media during the Euro 2012 mens’ international football tournament. Here we heard of the UK media’s representation of Krakow, training base for the English team, and the Irish representation of Poznan (where their team would play two group matches). I worried at the start that this would be hard going as only three people attended: a non-academic, a sociologist and me. I think we all felt a burden here as we were non-specialists but we would surely be required to ask questions and to make insightful points because in an audience of three there is nowhere to hide. In the end our discussion of the work actually had to be brought to a close prematurely. I should perhaps have known that the speakers had the specialist knowledge, what they got from us was a little distance from their own discourse and an injection of fresh angles and perspectives. I did wonder though, and I asked Irmina and Zbigniew to consider this more, what outcome could come from the work. Their study suggested that football journalism was only able to deal in stereotypes and tropes and suggested that this was problematic: how can that be changed, given that the formula seems to help to sell newspapers? I did also realise something which, now I think about it, is obvious. In the build up to a mega-event (an international football tournament, the Olympics, etc.) the media needs a narrative to cover the event but when the event happens that narrative falls away and attention turns to the primary text, i.e. the sport. So we have seen the story of local opposition to the World Cup in Brazil, for example, fall away the moment a ball was kicked. As that tournament ends attention now turns to Russia in 2018, and we should expect to see football fade from the narrative to be replaced again by resistance and critique which in turn will fade when the whistle blows on 8th June 2018.