Inessential views of art and photography.
On November 16th 2018, 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. Prof. Carpentier’s 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 conference “Post-Representative Participations” was a one-day event 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, Sweeden, 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.
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 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 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.