For the past week, Centro Cultural Tlatelolco in Mexico City was humming with conversation about media and communications, and in particular their relation to human rights, democracy, and social justice as the International Association for Media and Communication Research's annual conference played out over four days.
Amongst the many interesting presentations, I'd highlight in particular Melissa Brough and Sasha Costanza-Chock's work, dealing with the much larger MacArthur-funded VozMob (Mobile Voices/Voces Moviles) project that they are involved in. It is a piece of participatory community media research, aiming to build a sustainable communications infrastructure for undocumented laborers in the Los Angeles area, and perhaps "export" it to related communities of workers and activists elsewhere. The project is both intellectually interesting and socially and politically important, and I hope to follow it as it develops.
The theme of the conference was human rights and communication, and there were many interesting discussions of the future of communications and the media. One thing I really appreciated about the project that Melissa and Sasha are involved in is that it seems to me to tackle the question of what communication can and should do in a way that has both more immediate and more concrete implications than abstract scholarly (and potentially irrelevant, if I may be so free) discussions of how communications infrastrucutres and media systems "ought" to be configured. I liked Becky Lentz's presentation for much the same reason. I suspect that the latter grander and more moral question is of greater intellectual than practical importance.