MiT10: Democracy and Digital Media | 2019

MiT10: Democracy and Digital Media
Media in Transition (MiT) Annual International Conference
Friday, May 17 – Saturday, May 18, 2019
Friday, May 17, 2019 to Saturday, May 18, 2019

Location: MIT Tang Center, 70 Memorial Drive, Cambridge, MA

Sponsored by MIT Comparative Media Studies (CMS)


Paper proposals due February 1, 2019. Registration will open soon after.

In 1998, MIT’s Comparative Media Studies program held the first Media in Transition (MiT) conference and inaugurated a related book series. Research from that first MiT conference appeared in Democracy and New Media, Jenkins & Thorburn, eds., (MIT Press, 2003). Now, twenty years later, we are organizing the 10th iteration of the event. Much has changed over these two decades, but the theme “democracy and digital media” is as urgent as ever. Twenty years ago there was no Facebook, Twitter, or Netflix. iPhones and Samsung Galaxies had not yet hit the shelves. And Siri and Alexa were still in development. Since 1998, media have undergone major transition. We have witnessed a shift from Napster to Spotify, from Web 1.0 to 2.0, from CU-SeeMe to Twitch TV, and beyond. We have experienced the rise of social media, civic media, algorithmic cultures, and have seen ever greater concentration of media ownership. The events of 9/11 catalyzed intensified state surveillance and privatized security using various media technologies. Undergirding these shifts have been major transformations in global media infrastructure, the platformization of the Internet, and the ubiquity of the mobile phone.

In the US, we also have seen changes in the news ecosystem with the likes of ProPublica and community engagement journalism. At the same time, public trust in media has dropped from 55% in 1998 to 32% in 2016, according to a Pew report. For better and worse, a growth of interest in media ritual and a decline in the more familiar transmission paradigm is underway. Given such changes, concepts of participation, trust, and democracy are increasingly fraught and have been powerfully repositioned. How will our news media look and sound in the next decade? What can we learn from news media of the past? What can international perspectives reveal about the variability and plasticity of media landscapes? How are non-traditional sources of learning, knowledge production, and participation reshaping civic spheres?

We are interested in how these issues play out across media, whether as represented in television series and films, or enacted in rule set and player interactions in games, or enabled in community media, music, social media, and talk radio. We welcome research that considers these issues in public media and commercial media, with individual users and collective stakeholders, across media infrastructures and media texts, and embedded in various historical eras or cultural settings.

Paper proposals might address the following topics/issues:

  • politics of truth/lies, alternative facts
  • future of civic media & Indymedia
  • media, authoritarianism, and polarization
  • virtual reality, extended reality, and the return of media effects
  • diversity in gaming / livestreaming / esports
  • new lords of the global village (Spotify, Netflix, Amazon, Alibaba)
  • making or breaking publics with algorithmic cultures/machine learning/AI
  • environmental media (from medium theory to climate change) and activism
  • media infrastructures as public utilities or utility publics?
  • datafication, privacy, and the future of public service media
  • machine vision and biometrics: surveillance without seeing or knowing
  • social media, creating consensus, and bursting filter bubbles
  • designing media technologies for inclusion
  • listening publics: sound, podcasts, radio, music
  • audiences / fandoms and the civic imagination
  • rhetoric and poetics of democracy and civility
  • diversifying creative labor in Hollywood and beyond
  • the #metoo movement and its impact
  • new texts/contexts (Black Panther, Handmaid’s Tale, Blackish, Black Mirror, Insecure)
  • lessons from the 19th century partisan press
  • the ritual of right wing radio
  • social media platforms (FaceBook, Twitter, Instagram, etc), politics, and civic responsibility
  • Twitter, viral videos, and the new realities of political advertising

Submission Details

Please submit individual paper proposals, which should include a title, author(s) name, affiliation, 250-word abstract, and 75-word biographical statement to this email address: -- by February 1, 2019. Early submissions are encouraged and we will review them on a rolling basis. Full panel proposals of 3 to 4 speakers can also be submitted, and should include a panel title and the details listed above for each paper, as well as a panel moderator. We notify you of the status of your proposals by February 15, 2019 at the latest.


Registration will open in February 2019. Participants will be responsible for covering their own travel and accommodation expenses, and there will be a registration fee of $100 for faculty members and $50 for graduate students. MIT participants are exempt from this fee. Coffee and snacks will be provided each morning and there will be a hosted conference reception on the evening of May 18. Further information will be posted on the conference website.

The conference is organized by faculty in the Comparative Media Studies/Writing department and is supported by the MIT School of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences.