Theme for 2020:
BACK TO CONTEXT? Media and communication research between big data and contextual meanings
The 21st century may be called the time of disruptive public spheres. Segmentation and growth of complexity of today's societies in lifestyles, consumer behavior, and media use has coincided with proliferation of communication channels and means of micro-production of media content and meanings. The state of public communication is characterized by loss of fields of common reference – in social life as well as in communication, and public communication is described as hybrid, liquid, transgressive, or post-.

How do we cope with the multiple contexts of living (Deuze 2019), and what is the new role of the media systems in this coping? Are media to reproduce and reflect the complexity of today's societies, or, are they to reduce it to make life comprehensible and safe? Can one speak of 'restricted contexts' in non-democratic societies or 'closed contexts' hardly available for external examination? Is contextualization a new large-scale aim of major media, or is it oppressing diversity? And what, at all, do we mean today by common context and contextualization?

One answer to this seemed to come via big data research. The hope of many scholars was that collecting and running full data would 'tell it all'. But, soon enough, it was realized that dealing with big datasets from both traditional and social media demanded even more local, longitudinal, and discursive knowledge. If so, how do we put together data-oriented research designs and the uniqueness of each case under scrutiny? What would be the rigorous procedure of selecting the proper contextual background for media research? What is the perfect balance between theory, data, and context?

These issues become even more important in comparative perspective where a lot of side knowledge has to be omitted in order to make comparisons possible. The relations between theory and context, context and method, contextual understandings and real-world practices are in the focus of the tracks described below.
Conference tracks
In 2020, the conference will have its four traditional tracks.
The submissions might orient to but are not limited to the following sub-topics:

!!! When submitting, please start your title with naming the track,
e.g. 'THEORY Rethinking media effects in the world of de-contextualized communication'.

THEORY track

Silvio Waisbord, George Washington University, USA

• Media theories vs. context: friends or foes?
• Construction of meanings in media texts: how much of context is enough?
• Media life: the contextualizational function of the press?
• Hybridity, liquidity and other concepts of complexity and instability in media studies
• Media systems as contexts: traditional and social media as contexts for each other
• Contextualization and cross-country comparisons of media effects
• Grounded theory in media and communication research
• Critical approaches and neo-Marxism in media studies: context as basis, media as superstructures?
• Communicative cultures and their impact upon media practices
• Regional perspectives on communication: are there 'macro-contexts'?
• Public spheres: restructuring and re-contextualization


Svetlana S. Bodrunova, St.Petersburg State University, Russia
Anna Litvinenko, Freie Universität Berlin, Germany

• 'Still bowling alone?' Social atomization and personal media worlds
• The fall of the national? Media systems and the challenge of platform giants
• From mediatization of politics to politicization of media: mutual conditionality of media and political life
• Media and social structure(s): hierarchies and hegemonies in inter-personal and inter-group communication
• Media and memory: mediated history and 'memories on demand'
• Communication and cross-cultural understanding
• Ethnic and migrant media inside host contexts
• 'Closed contexts': exploring communication beyond the 'great firewalls'
• 'Restrictive contexts' and their ambiguous impact upon democratic communication, journalism cultures, and survival of media
• Russia as context: media, social fragmentation, pseudo-politics, and cultural diversity


Chair: Michal Glowacki, Warsaw University, Poland

• Communicative capitalism and media life: platform policies and affordances as living conditions
• News personalization: pro et contra
• Context and content: reconstruction of reality in journalistic work and its constraints
• Debunking fakes: contextual knowledge as a weapon of media literacy
• De-professionalization of international journalism? 'Parachute' journalists, transnational broadcasters, and the Bellingcat in the struggle for interpretations
• Media corporations and glocalization of news
• Prosumer practices: self-produced communicative context?
• Communication as belonging: audiences in mediated contexts
• Web analytics and user tracking: the 'audience shift' in editorial decision-making


Olessia Koltsova, National Research University – Higher School of Economics, Russia

• Communication as a post-discipline: embracing inter-disciplinarity and mixed methodologies?
• Data-oriented research designs and their proper contextualization
• From case studies to cross-context comparisons in big social data
• Field media research and big data studies: any links?
• Discursive borders in communication and methods of their detection
• Platform affordances as communicative contexts
• Exploring conflicts and their backgrounds in online discussions
• 'This is what people ask': recommender systems and search engines as context shapers
Past conferences
'Comparative Media Studies in Today's World' started in 2013 as a pre-conference to the Annual forum 'Media in the Modern World', a conference with an over-50-years history at St.Petersburg State University, Russia. Since then, the conference gathered experts in comparative media research, including Paolo Mancini, Larry Gross, Silvio Waisbord, Katrin Voltmer, Nico Carpentier, Susanne Fengler, Elena Vartanova, Thomas Hanitzsch, Daya Thussu, Zizi Papacharissi, Barbara Pfetsch, Karin Wahl-Jorgensen and many others.

CMSTW is an integral part of SMIF'2020 - the 59th Annual Forum 'Media in the Modern World', the Russian-language part of which will be held on April 23-24. Thus, interested audience is ensured, and you may wish to take part in the Plenary Session (with simultaneous translation into English) and all sorts of discussions at the Russian-language Annual Forum.

More information on the previous conferences may be found here:
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