Call for Papers: Public Relations and the Visual

Myself and fellow colleagues/members of the The Network for Public Relations and Society have been busy planning our Summer conference over the past few months and we’re delighted to reveal the date and theme of the event and issue a call for participation as well.

Titled Public Relations and The Visual: Exploring Identity, Space and Performance, the conference is a one-day event being held on Wednesday 9th July 2014 from 10am-4.30pm at London College of Communication, University of the Arts London.

The aim of the conference is to bring together PR industry experts and academics to explore and debate the role of visual dimensions in public relations theory and practice. From media representations of PR professionals to branded spaces; issues of identity and performance, the conference will explore these and other visual themes from a societal perspective.

Participants will explore a variety of viewpoints to conceptualise the industry and debate new ways of thinking about and visualising practice. The overarching aim of the event is to encourage collaboration and partnership between practitioners and academics to develop new thinking across the field.

We welcome proposals undertaking an analytical and/or critical examination of the PR industry and practice focused on any aspects of the visual or representational dimensions of public relations. Submissions can be made by individuals, groups or organisations.

Moreover, we encourage challenging and thought-provoking proposals from both practitioners and academics that seek to critique existing areas of PR and help the industry and practice move forward.

The event will be led by two keynote speakers (currently being confirmed) and two broad themes each containing three debates will be explored in greater detail during a morning and afternoon session.

We are looking for academics and practitioners from a range of disciplines who are interested in presenting 15-20 minute papers covering some of the following areas:

Stream 1: Visualising the PR Profession

a) Public Relations in Popular Media
How is PR and its practitioners represented in fiction, television and film? What impact do these visualisations have on the way PR practitioners see themselves and the ways in which the public comprehends PR? Does this change professional and personal identities and the way practitioners behave?

b) Public Relations Identities
How do PR practitioners view themselves?  What are their self-identities and how do these identities shape contemporary professional and personal practice? Moreover, what are the dominant and marginalised identities in PR and how do they shape the industry and the wider professionalisation project?

c) Visions of Future
 Practice
With the boundaries between PR, advertising, digital marketing and search engine optimisation blurring at a frenetic pace what does the evolving landscape of PR look like? Is it possible to sketch a vision for PR practice in a digital world? What knowledge, skills and competencies does such a vision require?

Stream 2: PR as Visual Practice
a) Dramatising society: creating immersive environments
How can PR practitioners use theatre and performance as a communications tool? What role does creating new physical realities play in changing behaviour, beliefs and galvanizing word of mouth?

b) Branded spaces: PR as place identity and spatial communication
How can space be used as a PR tool?  PR practitioners are used to creating and using exhibition and event space but what more can be learned about the way the built and designed environment creates narrative and discourse?  How can this be used as a creative PR component?

c) Designing stories: PR as visual communications
How can the PR and design relationship be used to full effect?  From traditional graphic design to poster and film; from comic strips to animation; how can visual storytelling be used to persuade, influence and stimulate relationships?

If you would like to present please email: s [dot] collister [at] lcc [dot] arts [dot] ac [dot] uk by 30th April 2014 to express interest in participating. Fuller papers and presentations will be due by 31st June 2014.

Let me know below if you have any questions!

PR and Disruption: Embracing and Surviving Change

It’s been little while since I last posted – and one of the reasons for this is because I’ve been helping organise a one-day conference exploring future directions for public relations.

PR DISRUPTION logo Teal 1The event, PR and Disruption: Embracing and Surviving Change, takes place on 10th July 2013 at LCC in central London and aims to generate debate and reflection about PR’s identity and the future role it should play in the contemporary world, characterised by disruption. You can book a place here.

More specifically, the day will explore and map the knowledge, strategies and skills that communication professionals need to operate successfully and – ultimately – transform society. But we don’t just want the conference to be a talking shop so there will also be a series of workshops encouraging delegates to learn the skills necessary to survive in a disruptive world.

Speakers and participants will include:

This great line-up and others will be involved in delivering by a range of keynote presentations in the morning, followed by three parallel streams in the afternoon: ‘face-off’ debates, case studies and the practical workshops. The complete list of speakers is on the conference website and a full itinerary can be found here. The day wraps up with a drinks reception and networking.

We’ve kept costs deliberately low as we are well aware of the time and budget limitations people have at the moment, so full-day attendance is £125 (inc. VAT) and half-day (morning or afternoon) is £75 (inc. VAT). On top of that I can offer a 10% discount on the full price. Just book via the alumni rate and enter ‘SCblog’ when prompted for ‘year of graduation’. What are you waiting for? Book a place now: http://bit.ly/PRdisrupt

As a footote, the event is designed by the BA and MA academic course team here at LCC to help shape the future direction of the PR discipline at LCC – and ideally – create a theoretical and practical platform from which we can establish a research institute that will be positioned to explore PR from its wider societal and cultural perspective, rather than just as a business function. The idea being – ultimately – to push forward the conceptual agenda and help organisations and practitioners (from multi-nationals to grassroots movements) better navigate and deal with the challenges and complexities of the modern world.

Anarchism & Social Technology: Contextualising the (non?)-field? – Full conference paper

I blogged a couple of months ago about hosting and facilitating a conference stream at the Anarchist Studies Network’s conference, Making Connections, about the relationship between anarchism and social technology. We had two presenters come along and discuss their research which focused on and explored some novel theoretical approaches to social media and technology from a distinctly anarchist or libertarian communist perspective.

Aaron Peters spoke about the network society, public-private spheres and Paolo Virno‘s ‘Soviets of the Multitude‘ in relation to the networked social movements we’ve seen emerge around the globe post-economic collapse. While Thomas Swann discussed the potential for cybernetic theory to be brought into play to account for the decentralised organising seen during last year’s riots and what this might mean for a conceptual model of anarchist organising. You can get download Aaron’s paper via Scribd here and Thomas’ paper here.

Aside from facilitating, I presented a short paper that aimed to contextualise what Gordon (2008) has described as the “ambivalent relationship” between anarchism and technology. This ambivalence as one of the reasons we proposed the stream originally as despite the conference organisers citing the #Occupy and Arab Spring movements as powerful, contemporary anti-authoritarian social media-enabled forces rising from the grass-roots, there were few attempts to engage with and analyse technology directly within the conference’s extensive agenda. My paper attempts to understand why this is and suggest what might might be done:

Ultimately, the paper – and the wider conference stream – aimed to kick-start a debate about the role technology plays (and the potential it possesses) in political resistance and social struggles as well as to stimulate renewed theoretical as well as practical engagements with the topic. What this might look like, I’m not entirely sure yet – although I’m fairly soundly convinced it will need to include a greater level of scholarly and activist reflection and praxis – but I’d love to hear any suggestions.

Anarchism and social technology: conference panel

I’m going to be facilitating a panel on anarchism and social technology at this year’s Anarchist Studies Network conference in Loughborough next week. You can read the abstracts below.

There are a couple of really interesting papers up for presentation that seek to account for the social changes we’re witnessing around the globe. Both papers draw on some really interesting and novel theoretical approaches to social media and technology that – in the true ethos of the internet – hack existing theories to account for contemporary radical projects or event. For example, Aaron Peters takes Paolo Virno‘s ‘Soviets of the Multitude‘ – an extremely far-sighted perspective that appropriates Marx’s notion of the ‘general intellect’ and uses it to account for the decentralised and autonomous techno-social productivity that we’re witnessing with the social web. Thomas Swann, meanwhile, draws on (the often maligned) cybernetic theory to account for the decentralised organising seen during last year’s riots.

Aside from facilitating, I want to use my time to give a short overview of what has been described as the “ambivalent relationship” between anarchism (and anarchists) (Gordon, 2008). This relationship appeared to be manifest when trying to generate interest in this conference panel. Despite the organisers citing the #Occupy and Arab Spring movements as powerful, contemporary anti-authoritarian forces rising from the grass-roots it has not been easy to identify researchers or practitioners to take part.

I plan to address this issue and hopefully put it into some context before attempting to briefly point a way out of the ambivalence!

Maybe see you there :)

Assemblages of Resistance: Network Politics paper (finally)

Dan McQuillan and I presented a paper at Anglia Ruskin’s Network Politics’ conference in Cambridge last May.

I’ve been meaning to sort out getting this paper up for a while but never really found the time to edit/tweak/revise it so just figured I’d post it anyway!

Assemblages of Resistance: new media, old technology and the Egyptian Uprising

It’s very image-led so I heartily recommend consulting the slide notes or this blog post while you review.

In summary, we were interested in the notion of assemblages that draw together material objects/forces as well as communicative components in a fluid network. Our argument addressed the conference’s question of whether the emergence of distinct, proprietary platforms (e.g. Facebook; apps; etc) are undermining the web’s political potential.

We believed that assemblages provide a conceptual framework for accounting for radical ways to circumvent and route around attempts to lock down the web as a networked space. Perhaps more radically, we asserted that the web isn’t just an immaterial networked space but that it’s also imbued with physical effects – from technological infrastructure, hardware to human capacity and material resources.

Articulating this hypothesis we used some good empirical data and insights that Dan had gathered from the Egyptian #jan25 uprising and internet shutdown. We tried to highlight how multiple components – people, technology (crucially, both ‘new media’ such as twitter as well as old media such as ham radio, faxes, etc) and material objects (rocks; lamposts; space; etc) – were assembled to act as a radical, revolutionary assemblage – or more accurately, a network of assemblages.

Importantly, such assemblages contain within them – and exude – a radical potential. This radical potential is firstly that assemblages resist attempts to curtail them (e.g. the Internet shut-down didn’t stop the revolution, merely prompted different arrangements of components within the assemblage(s)) and secondly, that as the effects of fluid (re)assembling of multiple material and immaterial components are based on their capacity to become something when combined with other elements in the assemblage the outcome can never be known beforehand, thus making attempts to predict and put a stop to the revolution near impossible. Still with me?

Finally, we seek to learn from the Egyptian Uprising case study and articulate a way of using assemblages not only as a conceptual framework, but as a pedagogical one too. We do this by turning to the pedagogy of Paulo Freire who argued for a praxis-based learning rooted in experimentalism – the sought we identified being assembled in Tahrir Square. Dan brings this point to life using other examples he has been involved in, such as Social Innovation Camp and The Good Gym, and demonstrates how such approaches not only offer a radical resistance to authoritarian ways of thinking and doing, but also provide a productive route out of the totalising and seemingly inescapable spaces and practices – both in Egypt and the UK.

At least, that’s how I remember the paper coming together. It might have been nothing like that. Why not take a look at the Slideshare above and find out! You can find the original abstract here to make sure I’m fibbing :)