conferences, Emerging Voices


CMCI Emerging Voices Conference 2021 Programme 
Rethinking Culture, Media and Creative Industries in the Era of Covid 

Day One: Thursday 1st July, 10am-15.15pm (BST)  

Keynote speaker: Dr Wing-Fai Leung, King’s College London 

10.00-10.45 am 

Asian Body and the Virus: Decolonisation of Knowledge Production as a Method 

Abstract: The global pandemic has changed the academia from e-conference, curtailed and cancelled fieldwork to numerous online seminars and meetings. Lockdown, home-working and caring responsibilities have made work-life balance challenging for the researcher. These circumstances, however, have prompted rapid responses to long-established research problems in a disruptive way. The impetus of rethinking my research and its place in the UK’s higher education sector as a site of racialised production of knowledge has come from the rising number of racist hate crimes against people of East Asian and Southeast Asian descents in North America and Europe, and the global Black Lives Matter protests in 2020. Epidemics can legitimise strong actions aimed at reaffirming or reinventing a sense of survival and safety within a threatened community (Aaltola, 2012), engendering biopolitical tactics (Foucault, 1978) against the Others, both within and without nations. The discourse behind the term ‘Chinese virus’ renders the East and Southeast Asian body a viral source and institutionalises racism against individuals from the Asian region, which is further weaponised by racists and manifested as aggression and violent acts against those communities. My research during this past year has been inspired by Chen Kuan-Hsing’s call in his seminal work Asia as a Method to ‘transform the problematic conditions, transcend the structural limitations, and uncover alternative possibilities’ (2010, p.211). In this presentation, I will define the ‘problematic conditions’ demonstrated by the shifting media discourse in the early stage of the pandemic in Italy and UK (co-researching with Paola Pofi). The popular and political responses posited a developed, civilised nationhood vis-à-vis an imagined out-of-place ‘Asian body’. This unchanging and essentialist view also denies Asia’s multiplicity, and perpetuates a Eurocentric knowledge hierarchy. I will then use the example of the ‘Racism as a Virus’ project (co-organised with Victor Fan) to deconstruct the binarism within the cultural construction of this Asian body, to highlight the limitations of such a structuralist approach. Finally, I will reflect on how Covid-19 has prompted an urgent need for the decolonisation of knowledge production in an age of global connectedness. 

Biography: Dr Wing-Fai Leung is Senior Lecturer at Culture, Media and Creative Industries Department, King’s College London. Prior to joining CMCI, Dr Leung taught and researched at University College Cork, Ireland; Institute of Sociology, Academia Sinica, Taiwan; University of St Gallen, Switzerland. She was a visitor scholar at the Department of Comparative Literature, the University of Hong Kong (2019-2020). She completed her PhD at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. Dr Leung has researched the Chinese film and media industries, digital entrepreneurship in East Asia, and cultural and creative labour. Her publications include two monographs: Digital Entrepreneurship, Gender and Intersectionality: An East Asian Perspective (2018) and Multimedia Stardom in Hong Kong: Image, Performance and Identity (2014). 

Panel 1 – Conspiracy, regulation and discourse in digital media  

Chair: Niharika Krishna, King’s College London 


Paige Isaacson, Goldsmiths 
Assemblages of Pandemic Populism: the intensification of populist affects via digital media and the COVID-19 pandemic 

Abstract: Throughout the pandemic, we have witnessed the channelling of affective intensities into demonstrations, sieges, and violent outbursts underpinned by far right wing populism including the siege of Capitol Hill, counter-BLM protests and so-called “anti-hygienic protests” against lockdowns and public health measures. These outbursts, as sensational manifestations of the more general turn to populism, attest to the urgency of understanding the structures of feelings underlying populist1 logic and the affective tactics used to spread them. The intensification of these affects by the pandemic and consequent lockdowns requires urgent attention as the associated socio-economic crisis and moral-panic are contributing to far right populist resentments, the long term effects of which remain to be seen. I look here to the way digital media contributes to what has been termed “pandemic populism” in an assemblage consisting of right wing populist logic, digital and particularly social media, the COVID19 virus and associated public health measures. Far right populist media and activists have taken advantage of the confusion around public health measures during the pandemic to blur boundaries between fact and fiction to fit the effects of the pandemic into their own narratives so it is also crucial our understanding of populist communication attends to hyper-partisan media and the power of conspiracy theories, mis- and dis-information and how these forms of mediation engage populations in ways that challenge rational models of communication. Here I adopt a version of affect theory developed by Lisa Blackman in conjunction with Rebecca Coleman’s concept of (infra)structures of feeling to make sense of the affective dimensions underpinning right wing populism which exert pressure on and mediate actions and experiences and which have been exacerbated by the dynamics of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Biography: Paige is a first year doctoral candidate in the Media, Communications and Cultural Studies department at Goldsmiths in London. She has a Master’s degree in global migration from UCL and a BA in international studies from the University of San Francisco. Her research engages with the affective dynamics of Trumpism and uses Facebook groups as ethnographic ‘sites’, employing social media ethnography to disentangle affects from populist assemblages and observe how affects attached to right wing populist logic are created, transmuted and circulated. She critically interrogates the technical mechanisms and embedded cultural elements of Facebook to understand how it guides user experience. She also uses autoethnographic reflection, recognizing the body as affectively entangled with the material world before and with conscious relations, to tap into some of the mundane aspects of technologies which are otherwise ignored, and to better understand the affective tactics used to spread right wing populist ideology. 

Erika Wang, King’s College London 
Resistance or negotiation? The relationship between Chinese fan culture and the state power during Covid-19  

Abstract: Fan culture in China has been booming in recent years, with terms such as fan economy, idol culture, fandom, and “Boys’ Love” (BL) appearing frequently in mainstream media and cultural products. Some social events related to fan culture have also begun to attract widespread public attention and discussion. This research has given an in-depth portrait of the fan communities of BL-adapted stars in China by conducting a Weibo-based digital ethnography, and intend to reveal how the mainstream power discourse including both the heteronormative and the ‘revolutionary’ logic permeates the whole fandom. This research indicates that the female-dominated fan subculture cannot be straightforwardly and monolithically understood as a resistance or negotiation with the mainstream heteronormative culture. Rather, it is reproduction of the mainstream power discourse, which intensifies the internal hierarchies of fandom and even perpetuates the heteronormativity. 

Biography: Erika Ningxin Wang is a PhD candidate in Culture, Media and Creative Industries at King’s College London. She has also obtained an MSc in Social Anthropology at Oxford University and an MPhil in Global Creative Industries at Hong Kong University. She focuses on the contemporary development of fan culture in East Asia, especially the gender, power and politics of fan communities. She is also active in working on cross-cultural migration of popular culture, consumers of creative industries, social media, pop-music, Internet TV drama and so on. 

Hashim Mude, University of Edinburgh  
Green-lighting dog whistles and bullhorns: Does press regulation facilitate the hostile coverage of minority groups in Britain? 

The recent denial of the existence of bigotry in the press by the Society of Editors—which was followed by swift condemnation by more than 160 journalists of colour—has brought press regulation back under the spotlight. Sections of the British press have long been accused of engaging in inflammatory coverage of ethnic and religious minorities, asylum seekers, and migrants. This coverage is problematic as the press wields significant communicative power and is capable of fostering a climate of intolerance towards these groups. 

My presentation will focus on the role press regulation plays in facilitating such coverage. I will argue that unlike the broadcast media which is subject to statutory regulation (including a robust hate speech clause) the press is self-regulating and the codes of practise used by a majority of the industry either do not prohibit discrimination against groups, or do so but interpret the scope of such regulations in line with criminal law prohibitions against incitement to hatred.  

This results in the regulation of only the most virulently hateful content expressed in extreme language, thereby leaving press outlets ample leeway to mock and scorn minorities within the law. In an era where societies are increasingly reflecting on social inequality and exclusion, the time is ripe to re-evaluate the media industries’ own contribution towards these societal ills and the role that meaningful and effective press regulation can play in alleviating them.

Biography: Hashim Mude is a 3rd Year PhD candidate at the University of Edinburgh Law School researching the regulation of hate speech in the British Press. He tutors in International and European Media Law at the university and is a qualified dispute resolution lawyer in Kenya who practised principally in media law and defamation

Panel 2 – Memorialising the pandemic 


Chair: Kirsty Warner, King’s College London 

Taylor Annabell, King’s College London  
Tracing continuities and changes in the performances of digital memory work of young women during Covid-19 

Abstract: The first lockdown in the UK coincided with the midway point of data collection in my PhD project on performances of digital memory work by young women. As such, Covid-19 is entangled in my interviews and focus groups, and the digital traces I have observed and gathered. Given that for many young women their profiles are intentional, aesthetically curated highlights of their lives, the anxiety, disruption and uncertainty associated with Covid-19 falls outside of the usual subject matter and emotions they wish to remember in these spaces. In this paper, I consider how young women remembered living through a global pandemic, tracing continuities and change in their digital memory work.  

Firstly, I explore the extent to which postfeminist ‘feeling rules’ persist in framing how sharing takes place. In particular, I note the intention to create and remember positive ‘memories’ during this time. Secondly, I address a shift in what is worthy of being remembered in the new ‘here’ and ‘now’, considering what becomes memorable about the pandemic. Thirdly, I argue there is an increase in remembering pre-Covid life through sharing throwbacks. Engaging with specific moments in the past allowed for reflection on unlived moments in 2020 – memories that could not be made – and imagining a future in which more memories could be made. This paper seeks to illuminate the interplay of memory and social media platforms in the everyday lives of ordinary users, paying attention to how these dynamics are reconstituted within the spatial and temporal reconfiguration of daily life due to Covid-19.   

Biography: Taylor Annabell is a PhD candidate at King’s College London in the Department of Culture, Media and Creative Industries.  Her research focuses on digital memory work on social media platforms and the worth of remembering in the lives of young women. 

Tracy Adams, Bar Ilan University & Sara Kopelman, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem  
Remembering Covid-19: Memorialization Practices in the Age of Social Media  

Abstract: In April 2020 Historic England (HE) called-out to British citizens to share their experiences of a week in lockdown. The UK government’s statutory adviser on historic environment and heritage assets asked the public to help record “this extraordinary moment in history.” Using the Picturing Lockdown collection as a case study, this research sets out to explore practices of visual memorialization of present, ongoing events. We ask: in an era of social media, how is an archive of an ongoing crisis visually represented? Employing a qualitative method for visual and textual analysis we analyze the collection as it is presented on the official website and on social media via #PicturingLockdown. Findings demonstrate the inherent tensions in memorialization practices in three spheres. In the institutional sphere,the collection portrays a collective experience through institutional work done by individuals. In the temporal sphere, the present is documented to create an archive for the future. In the spatial sphere, HE’s efforts represent a local experience of a global pandemic. Yet, as the archive is shared and disseminated on social media, it turns global once again. Unprecedented times call for unprecedented measures. By using crowd sourcing, HE recruited the public to partake in the national memorialization process. The ongoing crisis is memorialized in the present by memory initiatives that adhere to local considerations. However, in an era of social media, nothing remains local, nor constrained to the past, demonstrating the shifting practices ofmemorialization of an ongoing crisis.

Biography's: Tracy Adams, tracy.adams625@gmail.comTracy Adams, PhD, is a postdoctoral fellow at the Department of Political Studies, Bar Ilan University. Her PhD research focusedon 'traveling’ collective memory and the many ways in which memory is mobilized in political rhetoric. Her research interests include the intersection of memory, conflict and politics, and how meaning is constructed through interactive processes of negotiation. She has been published in high-ranking journals such as Memory Studies, The Sociological Quarterly, and the International Journal of Comparative Sociology. 

Sara Kopelman, Kopelmanis a PhD student at the Department of Communications and Journalism, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and a researcher in the Mandel-Scholion interdisciplinary research group onEvolution of Attention. Under the supervision of Prof. Paul Frosh, her PhD research focuses on the temporality of the GIF and the cultural significance of digital looped videos, which are a common feature of social media, personal and professional photography. Her M.A thesis focused on photography of iconic victorious moments, specifically, how visual rhetoricis used to enhance political power regimes and shape collective memory

Priscila Alvarez-Cueva, Pompeu Fabra University, María José Masanet, Ana Belén Cano Hila, University of Barcelona  
The narratives of the quarantine during the COVID-19 crisis through music: shared emotions and activities by Stay Homas –  

Abstract: “Desconfinamiento” is the title of the 5 songs-mix tape produced by the Catalan trio Stay Homas, who have been classified as the revelation of confinement in Spain. The present study conceives these songs as personal narratives of the quarantine. Through a qualitative text analysis (Krippendorff, 2004), the study presents five categories of elements that relate to a social reality lived within the time of quarantine in Barcelona. The categories that the study presents include a) wishes, b) emotions, c) people, d) practices and e) reflections, in times of confinement. The study argues that the characteristics described in the analysis connect with emotions and generate responses of interest, empathy, and solidarity beyond the variants of age, gender, and location. Stay Homas songs work as an “antidote” that softens the complexity of the times we live in and its possible consequences. Finally, the study discusses some opportunities for future research, highlighting two considerations: looking at music as an opportunity to identify key elements in emotional accompaniment, and considering it as a tool that contributes to social well-being.

Biography's: Priscila Alvarez-Cuevais a predoctoral researcher at the Department of Communication - Pompeu Fabra University. She is currently working on her doctoral thesis aboutcommercial music and its role in the construction of identities. She has a bachelor's degree in social communication and advertising and a master's degree in international studies, media, power, and difference. She was Coordinator of the communications area of the Ecuadorian National Research and Education Network, and a visiting researcher at University of Porto, Portugal. 

Maria-Jose Masanetis a Serra Húnter Lecturer in the Department of Library Science, Documentation and Audiovisual Communication at the University of Barcelona. She has been a researcher and professor at Pompeu Fabra University (2010-19) and visiting professor at Loughborough University, Université Sorbonne Nouvelle, Central University of Venezuela, and Ghent University. She is a member of the DHiGeCs research group (UB) and the CRICC study center (UB) and has participated as a researcher and project manager in the European projects TRANSMEDIA LITERACY (H2020) and TRANSGANG (ERC-Advanced Grant). She has published her work in different scientific journals such as New Media & Society, Information, Communication & Society, Lear-ning, Media & Technology or Journal of Youth Studies, among others. 

Ana Belén Cano-Hila is a Serra Hunter Lecturer in the Department of Sociology at the University of Barcelona, where she teaches urban sociology, sociology of the environment, urban and community education. She has a doctorate in Sociology and a member of the CRIT research group (UB). Her main research interests are social exclusion, urban inequalities, citizen participation, social transformation, youth, and neighbourhoods. She has carried out research stays at the Università degli Studi Milano-Bicocca, Universidade Nova de Lisboa and Fakultet for Samfunnsfag, Høgskolen i Oslo og Akershus. Currently, she is a member of the RC21 of Urban and Regional Development of the ISA and of the Committee for Youth Studies of the Spanish Federation of Sociology.

Panel 3 – Social media and consumption in the digital era 


Chair: Liang Ge, King’s College London 

Lucia Bainotti, University of Amsterdam 
Managing social status in pandemic times. Micro-influencers and access based consumption  

Abstract: Undoubtedly, the Covid-19 outbreak has challenged the influencer economy, with consequent changes in working and labouring practices within the industry. A category of content creators particularly affected by these challenges is that of micro-influencers, who, for the size of their public’s (under 100k followers) and their perceived relatability, are more similar to regular users than Internet celebrities (Abidin, 2018).In this context, the research analyses how micro-influencers strive to maintain their social status in a time of crisis(Marwick, 2013; Eckhardt & Bardhi, 2019). To do so, they increasingly rely on specific forms of access-based consumption(Bardhi &Echkardt, 2012), which entails a reconfiguration of the acquisition, purchasing,and ownership of goods and services(ibid.).Building onthis perspective, I argue that access dovetails with economic capital, reputational capital (Gandini, 2016) and the Instagram platform’s metrics, and thus becomes a pivotal resource to leverage to create content, perform visibility labour (Abidin, 2016), and acquire social status(Rifkin, 2000).Drawing on data from qualitative interviews with Italian micro-influencers and insights from a digital ethnography of Instagram content, the research shows that, in a time of crisis, micro-influencers struggle to capitalize on access as a mediating mechanism, in order at least to maintain, if not boost, their status and position in the influencer economy. In particular,access can work either as an amplificatory mechanism, and thus accentuate already existing resources in a virtuous circle, or as a compensatory mechanism, by enhancing one’s social position, or the impression of it, through the compensation for a shortage of economic resources and a low position within the industry. An analysis that puts at the forefront how access mediates different existing resources is pivotal to highlight how persisting inequality in the influencer economy, and in the creative industries at large, are exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Biography: Lucia Bainotti is Lecturer in New Media and Digital Culture and post-doctoral researcher at the University of Amsterdam. Her main research interests revolve around digital consumer cultures, influencer economies, digital methods, gender inequalities and gender-based violence online.She is about to defend her PhD dissertation titled “Striving for Conspicuousness. How Micro-Influencers Construct and Display Social Status on Instagram.

Weixiang Wang, University of Nottingham 
China’s “Daihuo” cadres: Why local officials are taking up E-commerce Livestreaming 

Abstract: “Daihuo” (带货) refers to the practice of online celebrities endorsing and selling products through livestreaming. Although ‘live-commerce’ has become widespread on the Chinese internet, its adoption by CPC cadres is surprising, not least because Chinese politics has resisted processes of celebrification. Nonetheless, acting on Xi Jinping’s call to advance the poverty alleviation agenda and boost the post-Covid economy through E-commerce, a substantial cohort of CPC cadres, ranging from provincial to county level, have participated in or hosted E-commerce livestreaming events.

This paper investigates how local cadres engage with E-commerce livestreaming employing a mixed-method research design combining virtual ethnographic tools, participant observation, face-to-face interviews and content analysis, to explore their motivations, methods and understanding of live-commerce activities and their own role within the internet celebrity (wanghong) economy. The findings suggest that cadres share similar motivations under the overarching policy goal of poverty alleviation, but vary substantially in their political behaviours, the “celebritization repertoires” that characterize their performances and the sales revenues they generate through livestreaming e-commerce activities.

The paper argues that there is room for the celebritization of politics in China, as exemplified by the practices of “daihuo” mayors, but only when it is supported by the “political cover” provided by the context of centre-led policy agendas, in this case poverty alleviation and rural development through e-commerce.

Biography: Weixiang Wang is a doctoral student in the School of Politics and International Relations at University of Nottingham. He obtained his BA degree Business English at Sichuan International Studies University (Chongqing, China) in 2019 and passed his MA degree Governance and Political Development with distinction at University of Nottingham in 2020, the same year when he started his PhD. Weixiang's doctoral research focuses on propaganda contents on Chinese social media platforms in different forms ranging from texts, images and videos. He also has a broader interest in the fields of political communication, Chinese internet and social media, celebrity and fandom culture as well as amateur interests in basketball and Japanese animation. 

Aidan Moir, York University  
Marketing the Covid-19 Pandemic to Consumer Citizens: Neoliberal Discourses of Consumption in Social Media and Brand Culture  

Abstract: The last few years have witnessed the rapid growth of influencer culture, with consumer brands increasingly turning to micro-celebrity social media content creators to help ‘authentically’ market products to their followers on platforms like YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok (Holt 2016; Asquith 2018). The relationship between consumer brands, digital culture, and influencer marketing has only intensified with the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, which has drastically (re)shaped how brands and companies market their products in a consumer society that continues to privilege lifestyle as the dominant mediator of class, capital, and citizenship. For instance, scholars such as Francesca Sobande (2020) have identified how at the beginning of the crisis brands tapped into the vague rhetoric of the problematically inclusive “we” in pandemic marketing that worked to conceal the underlying social inequalities exacerbated by Covid-19. Building upon these theoretical understandings of advertising and consumption, this paper analyses the strategic use of social media influencers and content creators by consumer brands like Lululemon and Erin Condren during the pandemic. Specific attention in this paper is directed towards examining how these marketing tactics are dependent upon neoliberal ideas of social citizenship that is used to determine and distinguish acceptable cultural responses to the Covid-19 pandemic, which ultimately reproduces existing hierarchies of acceptability rooted in systemic socioeconomic inequality. The symbiotic relationship between brand culture and influencer marketing evident in the promotional posts by consumer brands and social media content creators illuminates how cultural understandings of the Covid-19 pandemic are predominantly governed by discourses of consumption.  

Biography: Aidan Moir recently received her Ph.D. in Communication & Culture from York University. Her research examines the influence of brand culture on the construction and mediation of identity in popular culture. Her dissertation research analyzed the iconic brand identities of Vivienne Westwood, Barack Obama, and Pope Francis to illuminate how they circulate in media culture as commodities in support of the complex institutional brands of fashion, politics, and religion.