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CSM at ICA: Remapping Public Media Research

Each week (or so) for the past few months, I've been posting media maps in anticipation of the June 17 Beyond Broadcast conference. These maps have explored influential web sites, international censorship, media consolidation, online impact, new journalistic forms and more. On each map, I've tried to locate public media as we define it in our Future of Public Media FAQ.

As new forms of media emerge, researchers need fresh theories and approaches to make sense of them. Maps provide one interpretative lens, revealing perspectives, locations, values, networks and stakeholders. Of course, there are are many other ways to examine public media shifts. To find out how others are researching such transformations, we hosted a preconference titled "Remapping Public Media" at last week's International Communication Association meeting.

There, we were joined by more than 30 scholars from around the world, representing a rich variety of academic interests, from journalism education, to public policy, to communication technology and beyond. Together we spent the day thinking through research questions related to an expanded definition of public media, centered on the formation of publics around shared issues.

We started off the discussion with a panel that included remarks from CSM director Pat Aufderheide; Seeta Gangadharan, a Ph.D. Candidate at Stanford University and a co-founder/ board member of the Center for International Media Action; Tarleton Gillespie, an Assistant Professor at Cornell University and a Fellow at Stanford's Center for Internet and Society; Kathryn Montgomery an American University professor and the director of CSM's Project on Youth, Media, and Democracy; and Christian Sandvig, an Associate Professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. We then broke down into smaller groups to discuss research questions and projects related to public media. Topics that gained some traction included international comparative research, infrastructure, technology, media policy, the role of standards in an open media environment, and the pros and cons of participatory media-making. You can read more about the day at the preconference wiki, which we hope will become an enduring resource for collaboration.

In the spirit of participatory media, we also asked attendees to join us in gathering readings to post to the Resource Database on the Social Science Research Council's Media Research Hub. We then categorized those resources via the term "public media."

At the ICA conference, I spoke with Program Director Joe Karaganis about how the Media Research Hub itself serves as mapping project, drawing often unseen connections between researchers, institutions, advocates, articles, data sets, and projects. As a "community-maintained field mapping tool," the Resource Database allows academics and activists to bring new areas of inquiry into focus by uploading related materials and adding new terms to the taxonomy. Karaganis explained that they soon hope to literally map such connections using network and data visualization tools. Media Research Hub staffers also plan to expand the database, adding more records related to international and historical communications scholarship.