The yearly meetings of Brestolon had the following themes and locations:
2018, Prague, 23-28 May
Theme: Possible Futures, Impossible Futures
Description: What contribution can academic and intellectual work, particular work on communications inspired by the tradition of critical theory, make at a time of growing uncertainties, risks and injustice on local, national and global scales?
This was the question that led to Brestolon’s creation in 2012, and this question remains urgent at a time accelerating inequality, empowered authoritarianisms, and dangerous populisms. We have had many passionate discussions in four cities (the three founding cities, plus Lisbon, the city of our kind hosts in 2017), valuing openness, candidness, a lack of hierarchy, and as much freedom as possible from the institutional constraints and demands which normally shape our work.
Now is the time for us, as members of the Brestolon network, to reflect on where these discussions have left us, as testimony to those discussions and as a potential bridge to the next version of Brestolon. In Lisbon, our discussions ended with a shared horizon for reflection: possible futures, impossible futures. That can be our agenda now.
The openness of this heading implies at least three levels:
- The futures which will likely be imposed on the world by powerful forces and which we need to study closely and critically
- The aspects of those likely futures we consider unacceptable, and which therefore need to be contested and resisted
- The (as yet hidden) futures which that resistance might open up, beyond hegemonic visions of the future to which the world is apparently destined.
In short, our reflections need to be oriented to hope, however pessimistic we may be on particular issues. Possibilities for hope are surely what academics and intellectuals need to work together on, defining, sharpening, making concrete.
2017, Lisbon, 18-20 May
Theme: Critical Theory: The Challenge of Digitized Media Worlds
Description: For over two decades, the processes of digitization have been affecting all areas of society, increasingly permeating our lifeworlds, affecting systems rationality, restructuring the social, and influencing cultural expression. How can critical media and communications theory deal with these increased forms of social, cultural, political and communicative complexity? In what ways can we build further on the tradition of critical theory, in its various forms, to understand datafication processes and the practices they encourage, digitized platform markets and the economics that rive them, along with the general politics of information in a rapidly changing social landscape? How can we understand the social, the political and the cultural in times of deep mediatisation?
2016, Stockholm, 12-14 May
Theme: The meaning of mediatized social order and action
Keynote panelist speakers: Nick Couldry (London School of Economics), Natalie Fenton (Goldsmiths, University of London), Andreas Hepp (Bremen University), Espen Ytreberg (University of Oslo)
Description: Social action and social order appear in various expressive forms, and as researchers we are constantly challenged to construct meaningful explanations and interpretations to grasp their complexity. In this fourth BRESTOLON workshop we will focus reflexively on the interpretive dimension of the research process, and the representational forms that it takes. How do we interpret and represent order and action? What are our interpretive tools for doing so? Are there alternative representational forms that we should explore? What are the challenges of understanding social action and order as played out on various kinds of media from traditional broadcast and print media to social networking media? How can citizenship be performed in increasingly commercialized media environments? And, since the industry is so ‘anti-hermeneutic’ in relation to ‘big data’, can we find meaning in ‘big data’? Is it possible to construct non-biased narratives of social processes? Which are the productive normative positions to defend?
2015, London, 7-9 May
Theme: Crisis, Consensus and Conflict: Understanding and theorizing social ordering
Keynote speaker: Adrienne Russel, University of Washington and Beverly Skeggs, Goldsmiths, University of London
Description: The idea is to think through (and discuss) some aspects of crisis conceived in the
broadest possible terms (e.g. crisis of society, crisis of gender roles, environmental
crisis, crisis of interpretation, paradigmatic crisis, etc.). In its medical conception, crisis is
the point at which the patient either dies or recovers. In Chinese, the word crisis has an
element of danger attached to it, but also of opportunity. However, recovery from crisis
very seldom means returning to exactly the same state, but often brings with it a new
form of what has been, where new dimensions (experiences, forms, rules and
regulations) are added to or substitute the old. In our discussions we aim to think
through the theoretical implications of this in terms of social ordering, the role of disorder
and contention in times of crisis and the nature of social change.
2014, Bremen, 8-10 May
Theme: Agency, Reflexivity and Societal Change
Keynote speaker: Tobias Olsson, Lund University, Sweden
Description: The framing topic of our meeting in Bremen will be “Agency, Reflexivity and Societal Change”. The idea is to discuss — in relation to critical media and communication research — the role of agency and reflexivity for the change of society. In Stockholm we agreed to make this meeting more interactive and workshop based, which means that we have to collect your ideas to build up the program.
Theme: Classics of Media Theory
Keynote speaker: Klaus Bruhn Jensen, University of Copenhagen, Denmark
Description: The aim of the workshop was to establish a common theoretical ground, and lay the groundworks for a continuous discussion of empirically founded research. All participants were encouraged to suggest a classic text to which they could relate in their research (a journal article, a book chapter or a book). Based on these suggestions texts were distributed and discussed during the workshop, and the relevance of each text presented shortly by its proposer.