[csaa-forum] Post-Representative Participations conference - report & videos

nico carpentier nico.carpentier at vub.ac.be
Sat Dec 8 00:31:51 ACST 2018

((apologies for cross-posting))

The conference “Post-Representative Participations” was a one-day event, 
which took place on November 16th 2018, and was hosted by MeCCSA 
Postgraduate Network (MeCCSA PGN), the Participatory Communication 
Research section of IAMCR (IAMCR’s PCR), and the Centre for Digital 
Media Cultures (CDMC) at the University of Brighton. It brought together 
upcoming scholars from the USA, Sweden, Germany, Belgium, Turkey, and 
the UK, who are exploring (new) theoretical and empirical research modi 
to the question of participation, participatory research, activism and 
empowerment. The three key themes addressed in the panel discussions 
during the day, “Participation and Activism”, “Participation and Social 
Media”, and “Discursive/Visual Approaches to Participation” resonated in 
Prof. Carpentier’s keynote as he brought together theory, practice and 
personal experiences.

Prof. Nico Carpentier’s keynote “Maximalist participation as the horizon 
to move beyond representation” closed a successful day of presentations, 
questions and discussions about the future of political and social 
representation. His lecture started with an overview of how the 
conceptual term participation has been explored from two different 
disciplinary traditions, that of sociology and that of political theory. 
 From the commonsensical meaning of simply “taking part” to a more 
restrictive definition of participation as “co-deciding”, Prof. 
Carpentier explored the structural conditions of power in contemporary 
practices of decision making. In doing so, he clearly demarcated 
participation from interaction and access, before advocating for an 
approach to participation that goes beyond representation. When 
outlining some of the ways of creating balance between participation and 
representation, Prof. Carpentier argues that representative democracy is 
in fact a system of minimalist participation because although “the 
political characterises every part of our lives”, the logics of voting 
are very limiting  when moving outside of the elections themselves as 
decision-making rests largely in elected officials. His lecture then 
moved onto reviewing the capacity of (performance) art to activate 
audiences and generate participation. Prof. Carpentier’s concluded 
suggesting that “maximalist participation serves as horizon for [...] 
interventions that try to either move us much more towards and away from 
minimalist versions of democracy” by tapping into notions of Lacanian 
fantasy in an attempt to “reaching a better society but always failing 
to do so”.

The video is available here:

Earlier in the day, Dr. Frauke Behrendt delivered a lunch keynote titled 
“Mobile Urban Activism: Creative and Participatory Practices of Digital 
Cycling”. In it, she engaged with growing concerns about the impact of 
urban living on health and their invisibilities in the contexts of 
transport scholarship, policy making and urban infrastructure. Through 
the examples such as Critical Mass, air quality tracking and blockchain 
technology applied to cycling, Dr. Behrendt argued for the relevance of 
“smart velomobility” as a tool to think about the co-creation of 
physical and digital spaces around cycling, which are otherwise not very 
present in the discourse of smart mobility. The activism that sustains 
activities such as Critical Mass and arguably fuels economic investment 
in devices such as Flow air tracker, is built in and around generation, 
collection and storage of data. To conclude her keynote, Dr. Behrendt 
urged the audience to consider activism alongside Corporate Social 
Responsibility as ways to effect change from outside and within 
institutional settings.

The video is available here:

The organising committee of “Post-Representative Participations” was 
composed of MeCCSA PGN members Tianyang Zhou, Umar Suleiman Jahun and 
Emma Kaylee Graves, IAMCR’s PCR member Siddharth Chadha and CDMC member 
Dr. Patricia Prieto Blanco, Senior Lecturer at the University of 
Brighton. Elodie Marandet, Harjeet Singh, Chanelle Manton and Max Taylor 
supported the event with logistics, administrative tasks, design of 
promotional materials and video recording of keynotes.

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