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PUBLIC RELEASE DATE:
3-Apr-2014

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Contact: Sarah Moore
soc@esf.org
33-038-876-2170
European Science Foundation
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Forward Looks report available 'Media in Europe: New Questions for Research and Policy'

A new report from the European Science Foundation, 'Media in Europe: New Questions for Research and Policy', examines the field of media studies and proposes an agenda for research for the next decade

From newspapers and radio to internet, mobile telephony and digital communications, the media have in recent decades become ever more central to people's activities in personal, professional and social life. In this period of rapid social and technological change, it can be difficult to separate what we really know about the media from our assumptions and feelings about them, and to keep research on media grounded in theory and core disciplines.

The European Science Foundation therefore supported a Forward Look in the area of Media Studies (2011-2013), in order to allow the relevant research community to take stock of its field and to think seriously about what research will be most needed in the near future.

For example, in a period in which coincident crises of economy, welfare, political participation, and private–public provision are all creating levels of uncertainty and social disquiet unknown in a generation in Europe, the role of the media in enabling, thwarting and transforming the nature of political engagement and citizenship is of critical concern.

Furthermore, rather than acting as a democratizing and levelling force, the diffusion of communication technologies may actually be causing what is broadly known as the digital divide to deepen rather than disappear; differences in access to and use of technologies do not only reflect existing social inequalities, in fact, they may also be an element in their reproduction.

The Forward Look thus focussed on a number of key questions or phenomena that media studies can help understand, namely political participation, digital divides, the creative economy and identity formation. These topics were separately addressed in four dedicated expert workshops over the course of 2012.

For example, in a period in which coincident crises of economy, welfare, political participation, and private–public provision are all creating levels of uncertainty and social disquiet unknown in a generation in Europe, the role of the media in enabling, thwarting and transforming the nature of political engagement and citizenship is of critical concern.

Furthermore, rather than acting as a democratizing and levelling force, the diffusion of communication technologies may actually be causing what is broadly known as the digital divide to deepen rather than disappear; differences in access to and use of technologies do not only reflect existing social inequalities, in fact, they may also be an element in their reproduction.

Digital media and communications technology have been heralded as a new domain of and platform for creativity, allowing individuals to be producers and users of content and applications as never before. However, there remains much to understand about changes in content creation and the creative industries, and how they will influence cultural production, ownership regimes, business models, distribution systems and consumption practices, not to mention the economic implications of all these.

Media are furthermore at the same time a resource, an environment and a vehicle for the construction, dissemination and expression of individual and collective identities. New media forms offer new possibilities, conditions and constraints for identity formation and association which are potentially changing the very nature of social interaction and the relationship between the physical and the virtual. It is urgent to develop research that investigates and understands the changes taking place and how they are affecting individual or collective identities and/or promoting new forms of agency.

Once the critical issues in each area had been identified, and based on the tentative conclusions drawn from reviews and discussion of each of these topics, the Steering Committee synthesised the results and drafted an agenda for research and policy. In a final step, a 'consensus conference' involving a broader representation of stakeholders from all sectors of society – academics, policy-makers, industry, practitioners and associations – was convened in Ljubljana in early 2013 to discuss and refine the draft research agenda.

This report thus contains an agenda for research in the domain of media studies for the next five to ten years that, if followed, will equip societies to deal better with existing and imminent challenges, anticipate some potential pitfalls and benefit from developments in digital communication technologies. The research agenda is presented in the form of a set of twelve vital and provocative questions that should be prioritised by researchers, research funders and research policy makers, including: How do key trends in markets and media industries impact on public knowledge and public culture, and how does public policy relate to market imperatives? What are the implications for privacy and the principles of democracy of the increasing use of new media technologies to facilitate everyday social transactions?

At the same time, such a research agenda will not succeed if certain infrastructural conditions are not in place, and this will require the commitment and support of research institutions and funding organisations. The report therefore includes recommendations to research leaders and science policy-makers to help put the right conditions in place to enable the training of new generations of researchers, access to data, international research collaboration and cooperation between researchers, government and companies, which often hold large amounts of data of high value to research.

The ultimate objective of the Forward Look on Media Studies was to raise awareness among researchers and science policy makers of the importance of taking up those essential questions and infrastructural challenges. The authors of the report hope the ideas and challenges raised in it will provoke debate and assist in the development of forward-looking research and policy in these vital fields of activity.

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For further details on the Forward Look, see: http://www.esf.org/mediastudies

Note to editors

For more information, please contact

Sarah Moore: soc[at]esf.org

About the European Science Foundation (ESF)

The ESF was established in 1974 to provide a common platform for its Member Organisations to advance European research collaboration and explore new directions for research. It is an independent organisation, owned by 66 Member Organisations, which are research funding organisations, research performing organisations and academies from 29 countries. ESF promotes collaboration in research itself, in funding of research and in science policy activities at the European level. Currently ESF is reducing its research programmes while developing new activities to serve the science community, including peer review and evaluation services.



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