[csaa-forum] Report on Monthly MACS launch

Melissa Gregg m.gregg at uq.edu.au
Tue Sep 7 15:14:41 CST 2004

On Friday afternoon Graeme Turner and I launched the first meeting of
Monthly MACS, a new cross-institutional network of Media and Cultural
Studies researchers working across Brisbane. The meetings are aimed at
early career researchers, particularly postgraduate students, postdocs,
RAs and teaching staff, and we hope they will provide a regular platform
for discussing issues which relate to these roles as well as an
opportunity to contribute to wider debates taking place in the field.
The launch was met with great enthusiasm and it was fabulous to see so
many researchers at all levels and from each of the three Brisbane unis
(UQ, QUT and Griffith) in attendance.

Each month I'll be posting a summary of the event here on the forum so
that those interested might feel able to contribute their experiences
and prolong the discussion.

Friday's event was called 'What I did on my holidays' and featured brief
reviews of recent conferences. I spoke about the Crossroads in Cultural
Studies Conference held in Champaign-Urbana <www.crossroads2004.org>.
Amanda Roe, a PhD student here at UQ, talked about the National
Screenwriters conference held in Melbourne
<http://www.screenwriters.com.au>. Ellie Rennie, Postdoctoral Research
Fellow at QUT, described  her experience of the Our Media
<http://www.ourmedianet.org/general/index.eng.html> and IAMCR
<http://www.pucrs.br/famecos/iamcr/indexe.htm> conferences in Porto
Alegre, Brazil (an extended version of this talk is available here:
). Finally, Jean Burgess, PhD student at QUT, spoke about her visit to
the  Oxford Internet Institute <www.oii.ox.ac.uk> summer doctoral

Some of the themes that emerged include:

- Conference mandates and the problems they pose for critical analysis:
I speculated whether the Crossroads mandate
<http://www.crossroads2004.org/cfp.html> set an unenviable task for
cultural studies scholarship in that it implied our work should be
motivated out of a sense of moral obligation. Discussion afterwards led
me to wonder what cultural studies can do to *understand* the current
political climate rather than dismiss its bankrupcy (which doesn't seem
a particularly useful function for intellectual work)

- Wider, circumstantial factors that influence a conference and its
dominant discourse: During the four days of the Crossroads conference,
Michael Moore's film was released in the US, the handover of power in
Iraq took place, and Saddam Hussein went on trial, which seemed to add a
layer of magnitude if not also some unnecessary US-centric heroics to
the conference agenda (remembering that crossroads is the meeting for
the international CS association) 

- The difficulties involved in presenting academic work to a
non-academic audience: In Amanda's case, countering pre-conceived ideas
about whether academic work belongs at a conference for practitioners,
and the joy when practitioners do receive your work 'well'

- How to maintain conviction about the legitimacy of a
scholarly/critical project surrounded by professionals whose work you
greatly admire (as Amanda put it: 'They do what I theorize about')

- Whether community media are more for the producers' sake than
consumers': Ellie mentioned the need to suspend assumptions about the
usefulness of local activism in contexts where the history of media
policy and regulation differs greatly from one's own 

- Despite everything, missing theory when it's not there at a conference

- The curiosity of going to an Establishment institution like Oxford to
learn about and create grassroots networks!

- The dominance of debates over regulation, governance, commerce and
e-democracy when talking about the internet: Are these the only ways to
make internet studies legitimate? (perhaps relates to previous point)

- Cultural studies' vital role in internet studies: To assert the human
side of the medium's use, to provide the attention to the ordinary and
the everyday that's missing in debates over policy, regulation, etc.
These points, so foundational for cultural studies, remain worthwhile
and worth repeating

These issues were part of a wider discussion about what makes a
conference experience *worthwhile* (important when thinking about
funding  applications); also the trends emerging (especially through
technological innovation - blogging, wireless internet access, new
mobile devices) which may improve or significantly change such events in
the future. If the time is immanent when we don't need to go to
conferences to get the latest information, what remains of the
experience that will keep us wanting to be physically present? 

Please feel free to share your responses or thoughts.
The next MACS is on October 1, 3pm at the CCCS. Just ask for more

Melissa Gregg
Postdoctoral Research Fellow
Centre for Critical and Cultural Studies
4th Floor, Forgan Smith Tower
University of Queensland Australia 4072
CRICOS provider number: 00025B

ph     61 7 3346 9762
mob    61 4 1116 5706
fax    61 7 3365 7184

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