Write-ups of conferences and multi-instutional events


ESRC-funded DATA-PSST! seminars

The ESRC-funded DATA-PSST! inter-disciplinary seminar series held its first full-day seminar here at Bangor University on 6th January 2015. Called Transparency Today: Exploring the Adequacy of Sur/Sous/Veillance Theory and Practice, this seminar saw keynotes from Professor Kirstie Ball, The Open University (world-leading expert in organisations and surveillance) and Professor Steve Mann, University of Toronto (‘father’ of wearable technology and expert on ‘sousveillance’, or watching the watchers). End users attending included PlanetLabs, a San Francisco start-up company that sends tiny satellites into space to take photos of the planet, and digital designer-in-residence Ronan Devlin. Academic attendees came from universities across the UK. We also attracted staff from Bangor University (SCSM, Health, Computer Science, Law, Social Sciences, Chemistry and Pontio). We had a very lively and insightful debate. Outcomes and views are posted on the project website, where we are compiling policy briefs: . This first seminar gave form to an exciting and important new network. It also gave us great impetus for our following seminars. Summaries of these can be found here: . Forthcoming seminars can be found here: 

10-11 Nov 2014 saw MPC hosting the Political Studies Association annual Media and Politics Group Annual Conference. We themed it on Media, Persuasion and Human Rights. This theme was chosen given the intense contestation by liberal democracies (such as the UK) that present themselves as human rights advocates, yet increasingly demand that we willingly give up our rights (for instance to privacy, or for all trials to be held in courts open to the media) in the name of enhancing security. As the state tries to redefine the scope and extent of rights such as privacy and freedom from torture, as it tries to persuade us to give up some of our rights in order to feel a bit safer, clear-thinking and critical scholarship is required to:

-       Document and understand these social and political persuasive challenges;

-       Evaluate if we really do need to give up our rights, and if so, why and by how much?

-       And provide an alternative understanding of why rights matter and how we may best act to preserve them.

Debating these, and a broad range of other issues, this conference was attended by 44 delegates from across academia internationally (Australasia, Europe) and the UK, from diverse disciplines (Media, Communications, Politics, Sociology, Law, Business, Linguistics), and from all career stages, as well as from Bangor University itself. As well as explorations of human rights from the perspectives of security, privacy, freedom of speech, gender, race, class, labour and religion, we saw papers on propaganda, persuasion and spin across all media forms – from music to new media, and across a range of institutional sites beyond media, such as governments, legislatures and the judiciary.

Our Keynote Speakers were inspirational. Prof.Sue Clayton, Professor of Film and Television, Goldsmiths, gave an entertaining, insightful and poignant talk, on Indies and Interactive: how to build new media formats and networks for human rights. This reflected on her tribulations over commissioning, funding and formats in producing her indie documentary Hamedullah: The Road Home, shot with an Afghan teenager, who came to the UK to seek asylum alone as a child, but then was forcibly removed back to Kabul. Prof. Jon Silverman, Research Professor Media and Criminal Justice at University of Bedfordshire, stretched our minds and knowledge concerning the International Criminal Court, and the African Union’s own Court of Justice and Human Rights, with his talk on The Justice Conundrum: redressing human rights abuses in Africa, reflecting on failures to hold accountable the ‘big men’ while in power.

Postgraduate students are the life-blood of the academy, and this conference excelled in attracting and helping them. About half the attendees were postgraduate students. Most panels comprised a mix of both postgraduates and eminent academics in the field, enabling mutual mentoring and cross-fertilisation of ideas and approaches (note that the flow of good ideas was far from uni-directional!). The James Thomas Memorial prizes (100 cheque) for the best postgraduate paper was awarded to Mr Khin-Wee Chen (University of Canterbury, New Zealand) for his paper on Malaysian Kangkung Politics: harvesting Internet visual memes for rhetorical acts. Two travel bursaries (100 pounds each) were awarded to delegates for the best abstract from a postgraduate student: Ruth Garland (LSE) for Beyond the Narrative of Political Spin: an empirical analysis of the workings and purposes of UK government media relations; and Mark Shaw (Durham University) for Discourses on European integration and institutions in the UK press: political entrepreneurialism at work?

We were kindly sponsored by BBC Monitoring and by academic publishers Peter Lang. This enabled each delegate to be presented with a Bangor University memory stick, containing interesting BBC Monitoring footage of propaganda over Ukraine; and sample chapters from delegates who were presenting at this conference and who have recent books out with Peter Lang (Alec Charles’ Interactivity 2: New Media, Politics & Society and Andrew McStay’s Privacy and Philosophy: New Media and Affective Protocol.)

Abstracts can be found in the Programme tab of the conference website: We will have a compilation of the papers and PP slides online soon.

We have a partial photographic record on Twitter, #psampg2014

Big thanks to: Teras Restaurant for a wonderful conference venue and meal; Our invaluable student helpers, Michela Cortese, Katherine Gilder, Aliah Mansor and Xin Zhao who ensured that our delegates were well-looked after for refreshments, and that our panels ran to schedule; SCSM’s very patient administrator, Emma Thomas.

All conferences are a team affair, and this cross-university conference team worked seamlessly across 2014 to produce a quality event. The conference team were: Dr Vian Bakir (SCSM), Dr Martina Feilzer (Social Sciences), Dyfrig Jones (SCSM), Dr. Yvonne McDermott (Law), Dr. Andrew McStay (SCSM) and Dr Kate Taylor-Jones (SCSM).