Refereed Proceedings of the 2013 ANZCA Conference:
Global Networks-Global Divides: Bridging New and
Traditional Communication Challenges

The 2013 ANZCA Conference was held in Fremantle. Click here to go to a list of the 2013 conference refereed papers.

“Global Networks-Global Divides: Bridging New and Traditional Communication Challenges” –  Proceedings of the 2013 Australian and New Zealand Communication Association Conference:

EDITORIAL

By Terence Lee, Kathryn Trees and Renae Desai
School of Arts Murdoch University, Perth, Western Australia, Australia.

Introduction: A Global Theme

In the conclusion to The Rise of the Network Society, the distinguished professor of sociology and communications Manuel Castells wrote:
Our exploration of emergent social structures across domains of human activity and experience leads to an over-arching conclusion: as an historical trend, dominant functions and processes in the Information Age are increasingly organized around networks. Networks constitute the new social morphology of our societies, and the diffusion of networking logic substantially modifies the operation and outcomes in processes of production, experience, power, and culture. While the networking form of social organization has existed in other times and spaces, the new information technology paradigm provides the material basis for its pervasive expansion throughout the entire social structure (Castells, 2000: 500).

While Castells was by no means the first public intellectual to comment on the power and potency of networks, his work captured our scholarly imaginations largely because he was able to articulate the discourse in both sociological and communicative terms. In fact, Castells’ interpretation of the ‘network society’ has influenced many other disciplinary areas in the social sciences, humanities and beyond. The very uptake of his writings and ideas was a result of the ‘network society’ spreading forth both physically and metaphysically. Castells was of course considerably aided by the rise of ‘the new information technology paradigm’, most prominently manifested in the rollout of mass public internet access in many parts of the world – what he subsequently called “the internet galaxy” (2002). The internet enabled the power of the global network society to be experienced first-hand by engineers and information technologists, university-based researchers, students, business leaders and corporates, and soon after, by the wider and general public – although this was restricted initially to first-world societies.

In much the same way, since there is always a time lag in the establishment of new network connections, global divides have always already existed. But because global electronic networks are open structures able to expand without limits, Castells also argues that new nodes can be integrated into existing networks “as long as they are able to communicate within the network” via the same shared communication codes (Castells, 2000: 501-2). Eventually, networks would expand and reach out to those who are without. Nonetheless, a politically critical perspective would see such expanded networks as enhancing the power bases of those who control the ‘switches’, whether these come in the form of global political might, financial and economic capitalist institutional strengths, or of powerful global media empires. But at the same time, communications networks are open structures enabling the development of autonomous communication spaces and helping to forge social and cultural movements potentially overcoming seemingly insurmountable divides (see Castells, 2009).

In Networks of Outrage and Hope, Castells (2012) himself observes and documents the further power of networks as they are played out in contemporary social movements: from Tunisia and the Arab Spring to Iceland’s “kitchenware revolution” and the Occupy Wall Street movement that eventually became global. He argues:
[I]t is essential to emphasize the critical role of communication in the formation and practice of social movements, now and in history. Because people can only challenge domination by connecting with each other, by sharing outrage, by feeling togetherness, and by constructing alternative projects for themselves and for society at large. Their connectivity depends on interactive networks of communication (2012: 229).

Suffice to say here then that networks and divides are really two sides of the same coin.  How we bridge divides often involves the mobilisation of communicative tools to invoke change for the betterment of society at large. Indeed, this notion applies on a global scale, and filters all the way down to the regional, national and local levels.

The 2013 ANZCA Conference

From 3-5 July 2013, the Australian and New Zealand Communication Association (ANZCA) held its annual conference in the port city of Fremantle, regarded by many West Australians as the historically most ‘connected’ or networked centre of Western Australia because of its trade and shipping history, despite the fact that Perth is its official and actual capital city. Colleagues from the School of Arts at Murdoch University played host to the conference, and decided to adopt ‘Global Networks – Global Divides: Bridging New and Traditional Communication Challenges’ as the conference theme. The theme was inspired by Castells’ much-heralded trilogy on the network society, published from the mid-1990s to the turn of the millennium (early-2000s). For some the theme seemed unremarkable initially since the ‘network society’ discourse had been much discussed through the 1990s and the 2000s, and many scholars, whilst recognising the significant contribution of Castells (and others), had moved on to bigger and better things. However, as the conference planning process began in earnest about a year before the event, and as the deadlines for abstracts and full papers drew near, it became evident that many colleagues were – and are – in fact still actively engaging with the communicative powers of networks that Castells had, to a large extent, immortalised (Castells, 2009).

The conference theme in essence recognised that the need to bridge new and traditional communication challenges was both urgent and common across Australia, Aotearoa New Zealand, the Asia-Pacific region, and indeed the world over. As in previous years, the conference provided a forum for scholarly and industry-relevant discussion of the myriad impacts that global networks and other technological developments have had and continue to have on human communication. The global theme meant that the conference organisers were able to extend the call for participation to our colleagues in Asia and beyond. This paid off as we were able to attract a reasonable number of delegates from Asian and Middle Eastern countries, evidenced by some of the papers published in the proceedings.

As it had been 12 years since ANZCA was last held in Perth, it was decided that the conference organising committee should give it a West Australian ‘flavour’. However, at the same time it was not clear what this ‘flavour’ would entail. After some deliberation, it was determined first of all that the host institution, Murdoch University, should take the lead by showcasing its scholarship and staff expertise and strengths in the field. This was particularly pertinent given Murdoch University’s solid reputation in the media, communication and cultural research scholarship that emanated from the late 1980s to the early 1990s (and endured through the 2000s to the present). As a result, Murdoch University was particularly well represented at this year’s conference, with a strong suite of papers and record attendance. ANZCA 2013 accomplished another feat in that, for the very first time, all universities situated in a state were actively involved in supporting a conference. We are particularly pleased to acknowledge the joint support and sponsorship of the remaining four WA universities: Curtin University, Edith Cowan University (ECU), University of Western Australia (UWA) and the University of Notre Dame (ND). This augurs well for communication amongst colleagues in the field and for future collaborative research opportunities.   

One noteworthy innovation this year was the decision by the conference organising committee to trial the use of keywords to group/sort abstracts and papers (instead of relying on streams and stream coordinators) so that the process of accepting presentations would be tight and rigorous. The keywords are:
•   Activism
•   Age and Communication (e.g. children’s media; seniors’ media)
•   Audience Studies
•   Citizenship (and other citizen-led discourses)
•   Creativity/Creative Industries
•   Cross-cultural (interpersonal and intrapersonal communication, etc.)
•   Cultural Politics (including ethnicity, multiculturalism, religion, etc.)
•   Community Media
•   Disability
•   Environment and science (climate change, sustainability, science communication, etc.)
•   Ethics and law
•   Gender
•   Global media and development
•   Health
•   Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs)
•   Indigeneity
•   Journalism
•   New media (including mobile media, social media, digital media)
•   Organisational communication (business, corporate, advertising)
•   Pedagogy (media education, approaches, etc.)
•   Political and Government Communication
•   Public Relations
•   Sports

This keyword approach had the effect of centralising the organisation of abstracts and papers from the early review stages right through to the acceptance of papers (for the conference proceedings) and scheduling of presentations/presenters. The net effect was that each full paper would undergo two rounds of reviews: an extended abstract review at the beginning, followed by a standard dual blind-review process prior to full acceptance. We would particularly like to thank the many reviewers who agreed to review various papers, especially those who stepped in to assist at the last minute despite other competing constraints. The success of this conference owes much to these colleagues far and wide. We are also grateful for the generosity of our three distinguished keynote speakers, all of whom are extremely busy academics and very much sought after on the international conference circuit.

Our final acknowledgement should go to the full Conference Organising Committee comprising Terence Lee and Renae Desai (conference co-convenors and co-editors), Kathryn Trees (joint conference editor), Lauren O’Mahony and Kai-Ti Kao (joint coordinators of the early-career researcher’s pre-conference event), as well as the many staff and student volunteers who assisted during the conference and worked behind the scenes. Chris Smyth, Dean of the School of Arts at Murdoch University, deserves accolades for agreeing to not only contribute the single largest sponsorship amount, but also trusting the committee enough to be the ultimate financial backer cum underwriter for the event.

The collection and collation of papers written and presented by both ANZCA members and non-members in this proceedings cap off an exhausting, but no less rewarding, intellectual journey for members of the conference organising committee. The breadth, depth and quality of many of these papers should give us the confidence that the future of media, cultural and communication scholarship is in safe hands.  

References

Castells, M., 2000, The Rise of the Network Society, 2nd ed, Blackwell, London.

Castells, M., 2002, The Internet Galaxy: Reflections on the Internet, Business and Society, Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Castells, M., 2009, Communication Power, Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Castells, M., 2012, Networks of Outrage and Hope: Social Movements in the Internet Age, Polity Press, Cambridge.

Click here to download the conference program default  ANZCA 2013 conference program (1.5 MB)