CONFERENCE

SACOMM & HIGHWAY AFRICA CONFERENCE 2017

Dates: 31st August – 1st September 2017

Venue: Rhodes University, Grahamstown, South Africa

This year the annual South African Communication Association Conference (SACOMM) will be hosted in conjunction with and parallel to the annual Highway Africa conference, at Rhodes University in Grahamstown. While these two annual events ordinarily take place separately from one another, this year the parallel staging of each conference provides the opportunity for the promotion of engagement, the creation of a vibrant networking platform, and the fostering of new connections amongst delegates working within the sphere of mass communication.

CONFERENCE FORMAT

Since the Highway Africa and SACOMM conferences will run in parallel, you will be free to attend any session of the two conferences if you are registered for either event. There will a joint opening plenary session and keynote address. SACOMM’s conference programme and other details will be available on both www.highwayafrica.ru.ac.za and www.sacomm.org.za.

Using keynote addresses, plenary sessions, panel discussions, training workshops, book launches and networking dinners, Highway Africa 2017 will be at one level a celebration of twenty-one years of the existence of Africa’s premier journalistic assembly and at another level an occasion for reflection on media and accountability. The Highway Africa and SACOMM conference will be preceded by high-level meetings of editors from various associations.

ABOUT HIGHWAY AFRICA

The Highway Africa Conference is hosted by Rhodes University’s School of Journalism and Media Studies in partnership with Corporate South Africa, development agencies and media associations. For twenty-one years the Highway Africa conference has been at the centre of Africa’s debates on journalism, media and Information and Communication Technology (ICT). The conference has over the years become the largest annual gathering of African journalists in the world.

CONFERENCE THEMES

The theme of the SACOMM 2017 conference is Locating the power of communication in a time of radical change.

The post-truth, and decidedly digital, world is rapidly shifting the way we understand ourselves as media producers and consumers. We see billions of people now with communicative power in their hands actively shaping our world, its politics, its societies, its beliefs and ideas. We see people making their own audiences and speaking directly to them without recourse to the institutions of communication. We see the president of the world’s most powerful nation speak his thoughts and feelings directly to his followers via social media with no filter. Communication institutions of all kinds are being forced to prove their worth and usefulness and account for their methods, particularly when these methods are of the fact-based, verification variety. But media institutions of all kinds are compelled to adjust their social role, to work with and alongside new platforms and to think of their audiences as active and capable of speaking back, or even as competitors. At SACOMM 2017 we shall use the ‘post-truth’ moment as a backdrop against which to explore the idea of the power of communication at this moment in South Africa’s history. As global and local political, cultural and economic antagonisms and modes of resistance are ever-more visibly and quickly processed via the media.

The theme of the Highway Africa 2017 conference is Media, Accountability and Local Governance.

Bringing together journalists, civil society activists and local government practitioners (policy, management) the event will explore notions of public and social accountability and the role of citizens, policymakers and journalists. It will then move onto how to build the capacities of the different actors within an accountability framework.

We see the conference then as providing:

  • A platform for deep engagement with the concepts of public and social accountability;
  • An opportunity to develop concrete capacity building interventions;
  • Training of trainers workshop: providing training for different actors/champions who will go back to their respective selected Southern African countries to engage in capacity building in partnership with identified stakeholders.

The deeper issues to be explored relate to:

  • The capacity of local media to generate news and information in the public interest;
  • The capacity of journalists covering the local government beat to understand the intricacies of policy, budgeting processes, expenditure and operational processes of municipalities;
  • The capacity of journalists to understand the concepts of public accountability and social accountability;
  • The capacity of the communication function of local government to service the information needs of residents and journalists.

In addition to the above, the financial sustainability of local media plays a significant role in how that media can cover local government. Given the pressures on advertising (largely due to the digital revolution), local power politics (which can involve a municipality starving a newspaper of advertising revenue) and the lack of management skills, the local media operate from a point of weakness and disadvantage.

CONFERENCE REGISTRATION

Registration for the conference opens on 5 June and closes on 7th August. Registration fees are as follows:

R2900: academics/researchers

R700: tertiary students (South African institutions only)

The above fee covers conference materials, group meals, local transport, and your annual SACOMM membership fee. The registration fee does NOT cover accommodation which you have to book directly for yourself.

Register for the conference here.

ACCOMODATION

To book hotel room or lodge go to: http://www.grahamstown-accommodation.co.za/

To book accommodation on Rhodes University Campus, download the form below and send to conference@ru.ac.za. Details on costs are in the form. All payments should be made in advance.

Accommodation Booking Form

TRAVEL

A shuttle service between Port Elizabeth airport and Grahamstown will be arranged by the conference hosts. Please book your flights to Port Elizabeth with the following shuttle times in mind:

Port Elizabeth Airport to Grahamstown (136km) shuttle times are:

  • 09:00am
  • 12:30pm
  • 15:00pm
  • 17:00pm

Return shuttle times from Grahamstown to Port Elizabeth Airport:

  • 06:00am
  • 09:30am
  • 12:00pm
  • 14:00pm

If you prefer to drive yourself, rather than make use of the shuttle option, then please book a rental car directly from one of the car rental companies situated at Port Elizabeth airport.

SACOMM Exhibitors and publishers

Should you wish to exhibit material (books etc) please contact Prof. Anthea Garman (a.garman@ru.ac.za) and pay registration fee of R2500.

All details for publishers are available here.

CONTACTS

For any conference related enquiries please contact the SACOMM2017 conference hosts at Rhodes University: Prof Anthea Garman, a.garman@ru.ac.za and copy in c.kabwato@ru.ac.za
For conference registrations and/or membership applications and renewals contact the SACOMM administrator: Annelize Vermeulen, vermea@unisa.ac.za
For queries related specifically to the Highway Africa conference please contact Conference Director: Chris Kabwato, c.kabwato@ru.ac.za

 

SACOMM 2017 CONFERENCE THEME

Locating the power of communication in a time of radical change.

The post-truth, and decidedly digital, world is rapidly shifting the way we understand ourselves as media producers and consumers. We see billions of people now with communicative power in their hands actively shaping our world, its politics, its societies, its beliefs and ideas. We see people making their own audiences and speaking directly to them without recourse to the institutions of communication. We see the president of the world’s most powerful nation speak his thoughts and feelings directly to his followers via social media with no filter. Communication institutions of all kinds are being forced to prove their worth and usefulness and account for their methods, particularly when these methods are of the fact-based, verification variety. But media institutions of all kinds are compelled to adjust their social role, to work with and alongside new platforms and to think of their audiences as active and capable of speaking back, or even as competitors. At SACOMM 2017 we shall use the ‘post-truth’ moment as a backdrop against which to explore the idea of the power of communication at this moment in South Africa’s history. As global and local political, cultural and economic antagonisms and modes of resistance are ever-more visibly and quickly processed via the media.

The following questions are suggestive of topics to provoke presentations and conversations:

• What is truth? In what ways is truth under assault? Have we lost the power to appeal to fact-based reasoning as a ground for our public, social and political deliberations?

• Communication in its multiple forms is a significant power in our world. But is communication devoid of power in some circumstances?

• How do we think about the full spectrum of communication in this moment? Those who talk, those who transmit, those who listen, the many platforms, the high number of channels, the many forms of consumption and production.

• How do we rethink, in this moment, the ethical dimensions of communicative power? How do we reframe or reimagine the power of the audience to reject, disdain messages, the power to refuse to listen and alter one’s position. How do such questions matter in an era in which freedom of expression is often used as a weapon to force through speech that takes little account of truth and of the values and needs of audiences?

• The power of communication is not just simply the power of making messages, it is also a power to persuade, to grip the imagination, to provoke, to unsettle, to disrupt, to redirect. How do we come to terms with this invisible and often unacknowledged form of this power?

• The communication landscape/environment is very complex now. Minefields open up where different communication paths and social roles overlap/intersect.

• The power to resist change, the reactionary and the resulting messages. What about those who opt out and go into echo chambers? Complicated question: exposure and choice.

• Anger, emotion and outrage: which outrage is legitimate when everything is presented as a cause demanding a response?

• The personal is public and political in volatile and sometimes diabolical ways. The collapse between personal and political.

• In all this manic busy-ness, how do we open up spaces for listening, changing minds, adjusting positions?

• How do we think about the future of the communications professions? How do we continue to educate practitioners and theorists for the future?

Please note that the submission period for abstracts is now CLOSED.

CONFERENCE REGISTRATION

Please register for the conference here.

 

 

 

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