Connecting the Masses: 100 Years from the Russian Revolution

From Agitprop to the Attention Economy

Call for Abstracts
November 13th, 2017 at the International Institute of Social History, Amsterdam

The relationship between governments and the people they govern has been always hostage to rhetoric, propaganda, and strategic public relations, as well as aggressive marketing and the influence of contemporary media industries, altering the dynamics of healthy political communications. Often, this relationship has thrived on charismatic leaders, the “avant-garde”, who could feel the pulse of their population’s grievances, demands and hopes for the future. Whether the Russian revolution of 1917 is interpreted as a product of class struggle, as an event governed by historic laws predetermined by the alienation of the masses by monopoly industrial capitalism, or as a violent coup by a proto-totalitarian Bolshevik party, the Russian revolutionaries understood and connected to the masses in a way that the autocracy, bourgeois elites and reformists alike failed to do.

In the midst of rage, desperation and harsh everyday life conditions, due to the pressure and failures of WW1 against Germany, food shortages, growing poverty, inequality and alienation, the Bolsheviks felt the undercurrents in the seas of history and spoke to the people, exactly when the relationship between the Tsar and the population, and between the Provisional government and the Soviets were at a crucial tipping point. The Bolsheviks grasped the opportunity to change the world for themselves in the here and now, rather than waiting to reform in the future for their children. They did so violently and unapologetically with the effects of their move running through the Cold War and the confrontation with the West, all the way to the complex and intense relations between Russia and the United States, in terms of failed engagements of the past 25 years since the fall of the USSR, the first socialist state in the world.

Connecting to the masses is critical for the success of any movement, resurrection, protest, and revolution. The communication mechanisms for this connection have some times evolved and other times undergone revolutions of their own. Since the Russian centennial, scholars have examined how media and communication affects this connection to the masses in a double yet complimentary dynamic: how governments connect to the masses and how masses connect to their governments.

Therefore, we invite participants to debate this relationship and the strategies and lessons of “connecting to the masses”, in light of the development in media, technology and communication strategies over the last century.

Potential questions include: Is it still about charismatic leadership and movements that connect to the general population or has algorithmic communication intervened to amplify and commodity populist leaders, without bringing into fruition claims of digital democracy/reform or radical socio-political change? Are the social media protests we witness a flash in the pan or able to sustain movements, parties, organizations in the long durée? What communication and what technologies do contemporary movements need to advance their goals?

Areas the conference addresses are the following:

  • Evolution of propaganda: From leaflet bombs to Twitter
  • Artificial attention, political packaging and the so-called attention economy
  • Tactical media and tech activism in the 20th and 21st centuries
  • Strategies and lessons for the use of ICTs in mobilization
  • Impact of technology on revolutionary social change in the macro-perspective
  • Revolutionary-era media and communist rhetoric and transition to post-communism
  • Mediated contestation, surveillance, censorship and systems of control
  • From journalism to social media gatekeepers
  • Spheres and systems of political deliberation
  • Evolution of the ownership of means of communication, processes of labour reproduction in the media, culture and communication industries
  • (R)evolution of technology at work, digital labour, alternative production models
  • Intelligence and cyberespionage in the 100 years span.
  • Technosocial infrastructures and the politicization of health, illness and biopolitics.

Invited Participants*
Richard Aldrich, Anton Allahar, Franco Berardi, David Berry, Sebastien Broca, David Chandler, Cholpon Chotaeva, Cristiano Codagnone, Gabriella Coleman, Lina Dencik, Anastasia Denisova, Mats Fridlund, Myria Georgiou, Goodwin, Andrji Gorbachyk, Galina Gorborukova, Baruch Gottlieb, Jason Hughes, Arne Hintz, Gulnara Ibraeva, Anastasia Kavada, Olessia Koltsova, Garnet Kindervarter, Iliya Kiriya, Mathias Klang, Maros Krivy, Adi Kuntsman, Adele Lindenmeyr, Geert Lovink, Peter Lunt, Jacob Matthews, Dan Mercea, Galina Miazhevich, Peter Mihalyi, Gerassimos Moschonas, Phoebe Moore, Zenonas Norkus, Alex Neumann, Jonathan Ong, Tamás Pál, Despina Panagiotopoulou, Korina Patelis, Thomas Poell, Vincent Rouzé, Maria Rovisco, Paul Reilly, Ellen Rutten, Michael Schandorf, Markus Schultz, Nikos Smyrnaios, Serge Sych, Irina Tjurina, Marc Tuters, Giuseppe Veltri, Anastasia Veneti, Stefania Vicari, Alex Wood.

*To be updated as attendance is confirmed. Please follow us on Facebook and on Twitter (@cttm_conference) for regular updates.

The conference is organised through a collaboration between Athina Karatzogianni from the School of Media, Communication and Sociology of the University of Leicester; Stefania Milan from the DATACTIVE research group at the Media Studies department of the University of Amsterdam; Andrey Rezaev from the Department of Sociology at St. Petersburg State University; the International Institute of Social History, Amsterdam; and the State Museum of Contemporary Art, Thessaloniki.

Please email abstracts (250w max) and/or any inquiries to Athina Karatzogianni by July 1st 2017 latest.

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