Christian Pentzold

Approaching datafication through discourse means to understand and to engage with the eminent reality-making power of communication, deliberation, and imagination. It foregrounds the work that goes into rendering datafication a socially relevant phenomenon and problem.

The conference sets out from the idea that the public understanding of datafication is driven by discourses in the media and among policymakers and the imaginaries they evoke. The event invites us to look at what datafication is or should be for a variety of publics and speakers and how they discuss, criticize, or envision the collection and use of data at different places, speaking from different situations, and at different times. That way, the conference does not merely interrogate the status quo of big data analytics. Rather, discourses also involve prospective ambitions and normative stances about potential, desirable, or unwanted innovations. The conference turns its attention to discourses whose programs of thought actively shape the social constitution of Big Data and translate into practices, organizational forms, policies, and institutions. Discourses are in fact integral to how we come to engage with datafication.

Inquiring into the semantics, interpretations, and cultural values that prelude, accompany, and surround investments and innovations into Big Data requires by definition interdisciplinary work. This includes, among others, critical data studies, STS, sociology, communication, linguistics, political science, cultural studies, geography and education, as well as security studies and gender studies.

Confirmed keynote speaker: Minna Ruckenstein (University of Helsinki). Supported by the German Research Foundation. More info and the full CfP here.

Memory is a communicative affair. Media and the forms of interaction and sensemaking they enable shape the ways people come to connect to a collective past, store personal reminiscences, and return to bygone moments. As such, every new wave of information and communication technology has brought about shifts in mnemonic culture. The practices and processes of media remembering and communicative commemoration receive an increasing academic attention across disciplines. Our conference addresses this nascent area of inquiry. It calls for contributions that explore the fundaments of communication memory studies in different academic traditions, map corresponding fields of research, and scrutinize analytical perspectives. The event brings together theoretical and empirical approaches toward the capacity of communication processes and media environments for memory making. Due to the variety of paradigms, we believe that it is necessary to work across disciplines and embrace an international perspective.The conference is open to research related to questions of memory, media, and communication. And it invites senior as well as emerging scholars to contemplate the future of communication memory studies.

Keynote speakers: Karina Horsti (Finnish Academy & University of Jyväskylä), Andrew Hoskins (University of Glasgow), Carolyn Kitch (Temple University), Randi Marselis (Roskilde University), & Anna Reading (King’s College London). The conference took place at the University of Salzburg in June/July 2022.Christine Lohmeier and I organized this event together with our colleagues in the Memory and Media Network; it was funded by the German Research Foundation, Memory and Media Network Grant. More here

Digital networked media are largely financed by advertising. This applied to older generations of online services just as it is normal for digital platforms today. Even if the origins of the Internet were not commercial, its rise and success are closely linked to advertising in its various facets. Today’s dominant corporations such as Google/Alphabet and Facebook base their market power and economic strength primarily on advertising financing.

Against this background, the conference deals with the question of how the structures and dynamics of digital communication are linked to the optimization of advertising communication and marketing. Social media platforms orientate their offers and algorithms towards the highest possible advertising revenue and at the same time organise large parts of our social communication. The currently prominent debates on algorithmic filtering, misformation (“fake news”) and micro-targeting thus touch upon the – by no means new – question of the extent to which advertising financing shapes the conditions of social communication.

Joint annual conference of the German Communication Association (DGPuK) Sections “Digital Communication” and “Advertising Communication” held from 11 to 12 November 2021 at the University of Leipzig.

A defining—yet understudied—feature of digital communication is automation: the production of content, the distribution of information and messages, the curation of media use and the governance of content are all increasingly shaped and influenced by automated processes and automated actors. The conferences addresses two sides of the story of automating communication: the few who are shaping, designing, programming and implementing algorithms and other technologies, and the many who are using and are impacted by automated communication. In this regard, automation raises questions of power and power relations. Automating core features of democracy such as the assignment of relevance and legitimacy to issues, actors, and specific content, based on data and algorithms controlled and operated by a few private companies, challenges notions of transparency, due process, and legitimacy. What are the regulatory measures to curb this power? And are automation, algorithms, and artificial intelligence really meaningful answers to social problems?

The conference took place from November 6-8, 2019 in Berlin. The event was hosted by the Weizenbaum Institute for the Networked Society (FU Berlin) and the Alexander von Humboldt Institute for Internet and Society. More information on the website

ICA 2018 Pre-Conference. Sponsored by the Philosophy, Theory and Critique (PTC) Division of the International Communication Association

“Media matter most when they seem not to matter at all.” (Wendy Chun) But how can we understand the practices through which innovations in media and digital data move from being unexpected, novel, and impactful to the negotiated, embedded, and habitual? The pre-conference takes issue with the mundane yet pervasive nature of media habits, rituals, and customs. It assesses the purchase of practice-based approaches in order to see under what conditions and with what consequences they enter studies in communication and media. In particular, we invite participants to consider the expressive and performative dimension of what people actually do and say in relation to media and to the wider communication ecologies in which these articulations take place. We are especially interested in contributions that examine how voices are expressed, represented, or muted and that study the ways practices of voice combine, overlap, or collide with other mediated activities in contemporary societies. With this, we strive for an explanation and critical appreciation of media practices whose accomplishment is a perennial exercise in which we find ourselves immersed. Responses to the contributions will be given by Elisenda Ardèvol (Universitat Oberta de Catalunya); Maria Bakardjieva (University of Calgary), S. Elizabeth Bird (University of Southern Florida); Nick Couldry (London School of Economics and Political Science).

Event date: 24 May 2018, 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM, Prague, Czech Republic; Venue: Main Conference Hotel. Organizers: Christian Pentzold (University of Bremen), Kenzie Burchell (University of Toronto), Olivier Driessens (University of Cambridge), Alice Mattoni (Scuola Normale Superiore), John Postill (RMIT University), Cara Wallis (Texas A&M University)

Recent innovations in the digitalization and datafication of communication fundamentally affect how people conceptualize, perceive and evaluate time to create the kind of world they live in. The conference invites participants to think through the interplay of media and data in respect of the way social time is constructed, modulated, and experienced. This allows to appreciate how new technologies and representations deeply affect the temporal organization of today’s media suffused societies, and it also sheds light on transformations in mediating time. We assume that mediatization as a fundamental societal change that interweaves with the development and spread of communication and information technologies leaves its mark on the ways we process and order the pace, sequence, rhythms and of social reality.

The conference was organized by Christian Pentzold and Christine Lohmeier from the ZeMKI, Centre for Media, Communication and Information Research, University of Bremen in cooperation with Anne Kaun, School of Culture and Education, Södertörn University, Stockholm. It was held 7-8 December 2017 at the ZeMKI, Centre for Media, Communication and Information Research University of Bremen, Germany.

Personal and collective memory-making are usually studied on large scales that bridge rather
extensive temporal distances, at least in human time. What is overlooked are the kinds of
ordinary phenomena mundane memories are made of. The routines of keeping and recurring
records, taking notes and planning the proximate future as well as representations thereof
and the tools used to accomplish such activities often seem neither especially consequential
nor important.
The concept of mundane memories provides a lens through which to examine the largely
ignored modes of day-to-day remembering that knit together our activities, events, relations,
materials and places of quotidian life along the chronological axis of past, present and future.
In their continuity and contingency mundane memories are a recurring trivial issue and a
pervasive exercise in which we find ourselves immersed. Often, they are mediated through
material relations involving objects and more or less smart technologies. Rather than being
of merely parochial interest then, mundane memories arrange and enable our daily
occupations in all walks of life. As such, their practices too have become a topic of cultural
representations and artistic reflection.

Addressing speakers from different sciences and humanities, from the arts and literature as
well as from museums, curatorial institutions and public agencies, the workshop explored the
practices and representations of mundane memories in artistic works, social organisations as
well as in media forms and technologies from both historic and current perspectives.

The workshop was organized by an interdisciplinary team of junior members of the KCL faculty.
It involved Mikka Lene Pers-Højholt, Department of Education & Professional Studies, Sanna Stegmaier, German Department, Sandra Borges Tavares, Department of Culture, Media &
Creative Industries , as well as Christian Pentzold, a 2015 Visiting Research Fellow in the
Department of Culture, Media & Creative Industries. It took place at King’s College London.

Upholding daily life is about keeping and recurring records, taking notes and planning the proximate future. Given this continuing dimension of civilisation and cohabitation, the workshop explores the interplay between the practices and representations of the day-to-day activities of remembering and the media forms and technologies people had or have at hand to accomplish the scaffolding of everyday life.

Since the beginnings of human culture, techniques and tools have been devised to schedule and manage the temporal relations that connect people, places, events and things. The workshop seeks to look at the daily routines of scheduling, keeping and recalling that arguably make up a core part of people’s quotidian occupations. It is also interested in representations of such practices as they can be found in artistic works, social organisations or in the affordances of media forms and technologies, both in historic and current perspective.

I organized the workshop in cooperation with Anna Reading from the Department of Culture, Media & Creative Industries, King’s College London. It was held November 27 2015 at KCL’s Somerset House East Wing.

Media and communicative practice are in constant change. That said, these ongoing transformations move between complexity and simplification and encompass the fields as well as the theories and methods of current communication research and media analysis. For example, information sources diversify in their form but unify in their content. Then, novel media-related activities multiply but work within a limited range of platforms and applications. Moreover, media organizations seek to provide unique services but merge into larger corporations. Regarding these manifold dynamics, communication research and media analysis face a dilemma. Accounting for the environments, circumstances, processes and outcomes of communicative interactions and media-centred actions in their complexity challenges received theories, methods and procedures. Consequently, in order to engage with the empirical variety and variability and to develop meaningful explanations often demands to limit the analytical focus and to reduce the relevant aspects.

Focusing, thus, on the dual movements toward increasing and decreasing complexity, the conference assembled contributions from communication research and media analysis that discuss conceptual perspectives, present methodical approaches, explain empirical research or provide insights into practical issues in fields like media education, business, or media regulation.

The conference started with evening lectures interrogating concepts and methods for understanding and examining today’s complex societies in face of digital media and big data delivered by Professor Mike Savage from the London School of Economics and Isabelle Sonnenfeld, lead of Google’s News Lab in Germany. The event was hosted by the British Embassy in Berlin and a video can accessed from here.

The conference was organized by Christian Katzenbach and Christian Pentzold together with the chairs of the Computer-Mediated Communication Section (Christina Schumann and Monika Taddicken) and the Sociology of Media Communication Section (Jeffrey Wimmer, Marian Adolf and Sigrid Kannengießer) of the German Communication Association (DGPuK). It was hosted by the Alexander von Humboldt Institute for Internet & Society, Berlin, and took place 5-7 November 2015.

The seminar explored the role memories play in conflicts that are increasingly communicated and conducted in and through connective and ubiquitous media. It assembled a rich array of both scholarship and practical advice on the ways memories come to play a role in times of struggle and rebellion, both in terms of re-enactment or remembrance of past conflicts and with regards to the production and circulation of memories of protest via digital technologies and new media. It first considered how the presence of conflict can come to bear upon memories of things past. Second, the seminar asked how memories of conflict and the re-enactments and revivals thereof are utilized by different actors in the present. Overall, the seminar was based on the idea that contemporary social movements, from religious and ethnic conflicts to the current social struggles in all parts of the globe, have been heavily involved, on the one hand, in reviving experiences, ideas and practices of past struggles and, on the other hand, in recording, archiving and disseminating documents of the unfolding contestations for future mobilization. Plots and notes of settled – won or lost – conflicts are, therefore, essential in motivating and moving present struggles and protests, as is the creation and dissemination of (counter-)memories via visual arts and social networks. In other words, frames of memories may become strategic resources in present and future mobilization.

The seminar which I organized together with Andrea Hajek (University of Glasgow), Christine Lohmeier (LMU) and Jordana Blejmar (University of Liverpool) was hosted by the School of Advanced Study, University of London at Senate House. It took place 27 November 2014. The seminar received funds from the School of Advanced Study’s Institute of Modern Language and Research and the Institute of Latin American Studies as well as from Goldsmiths.

The workshop focused on three aspects: First, it looked at the evolving practices of manufacturing program formats for convergent media. Second, it shed light on the policies, regulations and agents involved in protecting formats. Third, it asked how these two developments can be studied by comparing different national and transnational media markets.

The workshop was held in December 2013 at the Alexander von Humboldt Institute for Internet and Society, Berlin. It was hosted by Jeanette Hofmann, Christian Pentzold and Christian Katzenbach from the Internet Policy & Governance working group in cooperation with CREATe, the Research Councils UK Centre for Copyright and New Business Models in the Creative Economy at the University of Glasgow.

Together with Malte Ziewitz, I organized an international and multidisciplinary workshop on modes of governance in digitally networked environments at the Oxford Internet Institute, University of Oxford. Supported by a British Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) grant (EP/FO/3701/1), the workshop brought together junior researchers from different cultures and disciplines, including anthropology, computer science, legal studies, political science, sociology and science & technology studies to explore issues of governance in mediated worlds. A key concern of this project was to better understand how and to what extent different approaches to governance in digitally networked environments perform the worlds in which they have their place and what the implications are for the practice of governance and governance research.

For a report, see Malte Ziewitz & Christian Pentzold (2010): Modes of Governance in Digitally Networked Environments: A Workshop Report, Oxford Internet Institute Forum Discussion Paper No. 19. Full text here