Le PReCoM en route pour la conférence ECREA

Plusieurs membres du PReCoM interviendront lors de la 7ème conférence de l' ECREA, l'European Communication Research and Education Association, qui se tiendra à Lugano (Suisse), du 31 octobre au 3 novembre 2018. Les projets de recherche qui seront présentés (ainsi que les abstracts) se trouvent ci-dessous : 




  • Role of communication in social movements: Reaching the center from the peripheries. Présenté par Robin Van Leeckwyck. L'abstract se trouve ici


Informal learning in media production: the case of trans-organizational communities of practice in Brussels' media industry

During the last years, the media industry has been going through massive changes, leading to more competition and less resources available for the whole production process (from content production to supporting tasks). Innovation and creativity (in respect to both technologies and business models) are becoming increasingly crucial for media companies and media workers, the former understanding the importance of being more open to external sources while the latter becoming more individualized, facing precarious labor and willing (and being expected) to train and expand their skills (Deuze, 2016). Such changes impact on the way media workers practice their job and manage their relation with firms, creating a paradoxical feeling of autonomy (i.e. not being necessarily attached to one specific firm) on the one hand while being conscious of their precarious situation on the other hand (Neff et al., 2005).

Against this background, this study seeks to understand the strategies used by media workers to stay up-to-date in their job, thereby contributing to the competitiveness of media companies. Based on the concept of communities of practice (CoP) as developed by Wenger (1998), we focus especially on those communities in which media workers from different companies develop shared practices through joint meetings and activities (e.g. Brotaru, Café numérique). Our objective is to understand why media workers participate in such activities and how they perceive the impact of these on their changing work conditions and practices. 

In the context of this research, “media” was defined broadly as activities directly or indirectly supporting the process from production to consumption of mediated content in four key sectors: print, audiovisual, new media and advertising (Komorowski, 2015). The empirical study is composed of three parts : (1) semi-structured interviews with the organizers (n=8) of the most active CoPs in Brussels’ media sector; (2) an online survey among Brussels media workers (n=577), and (3) in-depth interviews with survey participants selected in order to represent a diversity of media sectors. Our analytical framework brings together seven interconnected parameters of CoPs: Place, Proximity, Pertinence, Profile, Path-dependency, Policies and Performance. Preliminary results suggest that CoPs were created in specific contexts related to new, fast-pace technology developments, and that they seem to work as long as they are relevant, responding to a need and bringing added value to the target audience. Further results will provide a deeper understanding of media workers’ experience of CoPs: what they seek and learn in such shared practice experiences, why these are used instead of, or along with more “formal” kinds of learning (studies, training) or online tools such as co-creation networks (Abhari et al., 2017) or social networks (Rodič, 2016), and which sectors and worker profiles (content production, support, etc.) are involved in CoPs for which reasons. Ultimately this research will shed light on a still largely invisible facet of media workers’ activities in a changing media industry.

This study is funded by the Brussels Region through Innoviris.

Reshaping the discursive practices of office work: communicating the meaning of digital change from the managerial centre to the periphery

The world of work has undergone significant changes under the influence of digitalization and a multiplicity of socio-economic reforms in recent decades. Online and offline spaces for office work have been restructured as worker’s relationships to the time/space of work have come to be mediated through various information technologies and re-organizations of office spaces and routines. The discourse pushing and legitimating such changes is usually shaped and distributed in the managerial centres of public and private organizations where mission statements, strategic plans, workshops and seminars concerning digitalization and new ways of working get conceptualized. The associated documents provide the discursive building blocks for a preferred decoding of managerial change related to so-called new ways of working.

This paper presents the results of a critical discourse analysis of documents and in-depth interviews (N=29) about the digital reorganization of office work collected in five public and private organizations. We offer an analysis of the processes through which managerial discourses about new ways of working get reproduced and/or contested at the centres and peripheries of public and private organizations. The norms, values, identities and contexts articulated in these data have been qualitatively coded with the help of the software package NVIVO. The resulting codes allow us to identify the discursive building blocks actors in public and private organizations draw upon when making sense of themselves, their colleagues, their practices and the contexts through which they move. 

We focus specifically on the way(s) norms, values, identities, power-infused social relationships and contexts of digital change acquire meaning in the discourse of different categories of office workers such as Change Managers, IT personnel, union representatives, Team Leaders and/or Team members. Doing so, we provide an empirically grounded analysis of the ways in which institutional discourses travel and meet with resistance and get transformed by different social actors along the way. We will show how official managerial discourse(s) meet with resistance and critique across different levels of organizational structure resulting in hybrid discourses that testify to internal organizational conflicts and struggles over meaning.

Our analyses show that office workers articulate the way they make sense of new ways of doing office work in rather different - and sometimes conflicting - ways. They all make use of shared signifiers such as ‘autonomy’, but the meanings of these signifiers shift along with the values, identities and contexts they are being articulated with. There are also strong indications that the different understandings of changes in office culture are indicative of ideological and power-related tensions in the organization and in society at large. This project is funded by BELSPO (Belgian Science Policy Office).

Role of the communication of social movements: Reaching the center from the peripheries

In Belgium, the governments follow the European requirements and applies economic austerity by cutting into culture, education, health and agriculture, among other areas. In the midst of these attacks, old and new social movements emerge from civil society. Despite all their communicational efforts, it seems that their significance is not increasing. This counter-power (Castells, 2007) is comprehended as peripheral whereas the power is central. Obviously, these social movements do not have the same impact and are perceived in diverse ways. In this regard, the concept of identity is central, more specifically the 'socio-discursive' identity of social movements (Charaudeau 2005; Serghini and Matuszak 2009). This identity is shaped by the internal interactions and structures (Carion 2007) as well as by the external communications (Bouillon et al., 2007).

This paper investigates how three identity-related characteristics of social movements, i.e. their claim, their organization and their actions, configure their place in the public debates. This question is crucial for social movements as they aim to rise awareness and mobilize citizens for a better society. Our analysis focuses on two Belgian social movements: Alliance D19-20 (‘D19’), which developed in 2013 as an extension of traditional social movements, and Tout autre chose (‘TAC’), which was born in 2014 and is thus a completely new social movement. The methodology is based on interviews with activist communicators, on observations during actions and meetings (in order to get a grasp of the activists’ communication organization) and on an analysis of their discourses.

Both social movements have the same goal (they struggle against austerity) but each develops a different kind of communication. The three characteristics mentioned above have an impact on communication. D19 fights against austerity (negative claim) while TAC promotes alternatives to austerity (positive claim); D19 has a well-structured organization with an isolated communication group while TAC has a more horizontal structure; D19 operates by civil disobedience while TAC is focused on communication and dedicated to the creation of a community of interests.

These characteristics have an impact on the organization of external communication, as is visible for the name (fuzzy for D19 and clearer for TAC), the logo (leftist vs aesthetic), the description (tangible vs idealistic), the presence on social media (Twitter vs Facebook), the kind of actions undertaken (civil disobedience vs discussion), and the preferred discourses (political communication vs political ideality). All these characteristics configure the place of a social movement in the public debate: rather peripheral for D19 and more central (under some conditions) for TAC.

This paper brings to the fore the importance of communication for social movements. Despite their efforts (online forum, mediactivism, conferences, etc.), the activist communicators do not have the time nor the resources to critically reflect upon their communication strategies in order to reach specific audiences and to achieve their goals. More broadly, social movements should take into account the fragmentation of audiences and the polarization of the debates, in a context of ‘over-mediatization’ where it is increasingly difficult to be heard. To this regard, these peripheral counter-powers, or public sphericules (Gitlin, 1998), try to influence the center.