Euricom colloquium # 32: The problems with work in communication: discourses, identities, practices, materiality

14-16 October 2016, Piran, Slovenia

Organised by Euricom (European Institute for Communication and Culture), DESIRE (Centre for the Study of Democracy, Signification, and Resistance) and Social Communication Research Centre of the Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Ljubljana.

Euricom Colloquia bring together a small number (up to 25) of invited participants from around the world (there is no open call for papers). The format allows for more intensive and extensive debates than standard conferences as each paper is allocated 40 minutes for presentation and discussion. Euricom has been organising the biannual Colloquia since 1987. Information on past events can be found on the Euricom website:

The 2016 colloquium focused on the discourses, identities, practices and materiality of work. It looks at the mediated discourses through which the social status and meaning of unpaid work and paid work (labour) is articulated and contested, as well as at the discourses, practices and materiality of communication and media work.

The topic ‘the problem with work in communication’ is positioned at the intersection of two clusters of issues. The first arises from the development of new communication technologies that are not only changing communication practices but fundamentally transforming the conditions and notions of labour, both within and outside the media and communication sector (increased precariousness, pressures for constant availability of workers, de-professionalization of media work, the blurring of the distinction between production and use and between work and leisure time, audience labour, etc.). The second arises from the revived social and political contestations of the definition and role of work and labour in contemporary societies (including the dismantling of the welfare state, austerity policies, financialisation, and the ideology of entrepreneurialism and of passionate and hard work as the key to happiness; but also increased contestation by new social movements and by left-wing parties that articulate labour issues in broader populist resistance to economic and political elites, the development of alternative economic models, and increasing attention for work-life balance).

The field of media and communication studies has an important role to play in furthering our understanding of the discourses, identities, practices and materiality of work as these are changed through the use of new communication technologies, constrained by their affordances and economies, and above all articulated and negotiated within institutionalised and vernacular practices of mediated social communication. The colloquium brought together critical contributions focusing on the intersections between discourse, media and communication practices and technologies, and the political as well as broader societal dimensions of the politics of work and labour. In particular, it brought together contributions that explicitly reflect on the discursive, ideological and identity dimensions of work and labour and their relations to the practices and materiality of work and labour.

Topics included:

- The representation of work in journalism and popular culture

- Work and the politics of life

- Discourse and ideology in communication and media work

- Work in political ideologies, and the ideologies of work

- Media, communication and labour-based civil society and activism

- Labour, class and populist politics


The programme looked as follows:

Friday, 14 October 9:00

(Chair:Joke Hermes) 1. Ed McLuskie - Work Gone Missing in Communication Theory: Veils of Fast Capitalism 2. Risto Kunelius and Esa Reunanen - Communicating authority. Political power and media in a turning point of corporatist labor negotiation system in Finland 3. Slavko Splichal - Publicness and Privateness Redefined: The Production of Discursive Visibility in the Digital Age

11:20 (Chair: Jan Zienkowski) 4. Joke Hermes - This is my life: the stories of independent workers in the creative industries 5. Yiannis Mylonas - Race and class in German media representations of the ‘Greek crisis’ 6. Leen Van Brussel - M/F with Ambition. The construction and contestation of ‘ambition’ in vacancies and (popular) media representations: A discourse-theoretical perspective- and analysis

15:00 (Chair: Jernej Amon Prodnik) 7. Paško Bilić - Hidden labour, ideology and profit maximization behind Google's changing algorithm 8. Igor Vobič, Sašo Slaček Brlek, Jurij Smrke - Engineering Robots for Newswork

Saturday, 15 October

9:30 (Chair: Leen Van Brussel) 1. Jan Zienkowski and Benjamin De Cleen - Fantasies of Politics and Democracy in Anti-Syndical Discourse: on terrorist strikes, blackmailing the government, and taking the hard-working citizen as hostage 2. Lina Dencik - Communicative activism and the future of labour unions

11:50 (Chair: Nico Carpentier) 3. Adrienne Russell - Activists, Media Technologies, and the Labor of Prototyping Change 4. Laura Ahva - What anchors participatory journalism?

15:00 (Chair: Lina Dencik) 5. Victor Pickard - Market Ontology and the Erasure of Labor in American Journalism 6. Horst Pöttker - On the Necessary Changes to Journalistic Self-Image in the World of Digital Media 8. Ilija Tomanić Trivundža - On the indecency of photographic labour

Organising committee: Ilija Tomanić Trivundža and Benjamin De Cleen