What are the ‘media’ doing to our politics? The future of journalism in the public interest @ Birkbeck Clore Management Centre, B01
Feb 25 @ 6:00 pm – 7:00 pm

Jean Seaton is a professor of Media History at the University of Westminster and the official historian of the BBC. She has written widely on the history and role of the media in politics, wars, revolutions and religion, among other things, and is particularly interested in the impact of the media on children. She is the author of Power Without Responsibility and Carnage and the Media. She is the Director of the Orwell Prize for political writing, having taken over from founder Bernard Crick in 2007.

Lecture details:

Since Dr George Birkbeck created the London Mechanics’ Institution in 1823, the organisation that is now Birkbeck, University of London, has been the gateway for ambitious people to study in the evening. In so doing they change their own lives – and make an immediate impact on business, the economy and our entire society.

In February 2020 Birkbeck will mark 100 years since the College officially became part of the University of London.

Join us for a series of celebratory events on the theme of “opening education” showcasing Birkbeck’s unique commitment to access and excellence.

The lecture will last approximately one hour, followed by a drinks reception

Tickets are free of charge but booking is essential.

Data Colonialism and the Hollowing Out of the Social World @ University of Westminster (Room UG04)
Mar 5 @ 5:00 pm – 7:00 pm
Data Colonialism and the Hollowing Out of the Social World @ University of Westminster (Room UG04) | England | United Kingdom
Nick Couldry (London School of Economics and Political Science) – Data Colonialism and the Hollowing Out of the Social World

This talk will introduce the argument of Nick’s recent book, The Costs of Connection: How Data Colonizes Human Life and Appropriates it for Capitalism (co-authored with Ulises Mejias, Stanford University Press, August 2019) and foreground its implications for the social world and social knowledge. The talk will argue that the role of data in society needs to be grasped as not only a development of capitalism, but as the start of a new phase in human history that rivals in importance the emergence of historic colonialism. This new “data colonialism” is based not on the extraction of natural resources or labor, but on the appropriation of human life through data, paving the way for a further stage of capitalism. The new social and economic order being constructed through data processes make most sense within the long historical arc of attempts to appropriate resources and knowledge within colonialism. This new order creates new dependencies on platforms through which data is extracted, and also produces new forms of social discrimination, based on a reinvention of social knowledge. The result is a hollowing out of the social world, which for corporate capitalism takes on the paradoxical form of an emerging new social domain available for endless exploitation and manipulation. Resistance requires challenging forms of coloniality that, even if in different material forms, decolonial thinking has foregrounded for centuries.


Nick Couldry (@couldrynick) is a sociologist of media and culture. He is Professor of Media Communications and Social Theory at the London School of Economics and Political Science, and from 2017 has been a Faculty Associate at Harvard’s Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society. In fall 2018 he was also a Visiting Professor at MIT. He jointly led, with Clemencia Rodriguez, the chapter on media and communications in the 22 chapter 2018 report of the International Panel on social Progress: www.ipsp.org. He is the author or editor of fourteen books including The Mediated Construction of Reality (with Andreas Hepp, Polity, 2016), Media, Society, World: Social Theory and Digital Media Practice (Polity 2012) and Why Voice Matters (Sage 2010). His latest books are The Costs of Connection (with Ulises Ali Mejias, Stanford UP 2019) and Media: Why It Matters (Polity 2019).

Reimagining Journalism: Commercial Collapse & Post-Capitalist Alternatives @ University of Westminster (Room UG05)
Mar 19 @ 5:00 pm – 7:00 pm
Reimagining Journalism: Commercial Collapse & Post-Capitalist Alternatives @ University of Westminster (Room UG05) | England | United Kingdom
Victor Pickard (University of Pennsylvania) – Reimagining Journalism: Commercial Collapse and Post-Capitalist Alternatives

As local media institutions collapse and news deserts sprout up across the US and beyond, commercial journalism is facing a profound crisis. Meanwhile, continuous revelations about the role that major media outlets—from Facebook to Fox News—play in the spread of misinformation have exposed deep pathologies in American and global communication systems.

In his new book, Democracy without Journalism?, Victor Pickard argues that we’re overlooking the core roots of the crisis. By uncovering degradations caused by run-amok commercialism, he brings into focus the historical antecedents, market failures, and policy inaction that led to the implosion of commercial journalism and the proliferation of misinformation through both social media and mainstream news. The problem isn’t just the loss of journalism or irresponsibility of Facebook, but the very structure upon which our profit-driven media system is built. The market never supported the levels of journalism — especially local, international, policy, and investigative reporting — that a healthy democracy requires. Today these long-term defects have metastasized.

In this book, Pickard presents a counter-narrative that shows how the modern journalism crisis stems from media’s historical over-reliance on advertising revenue, the ascendance of media monopolies, and a lack of public oversight. The book envisions what a new kind of journalism might look like, emphasizing the need for a publicly owned and democratically governed media system. Amid growing scrutiny of unaccountable monopoly control over media institutions and concerns about the consequences to democracy, now is an opportune moment to address fundamental flaws in commercial news and information systems and push for alternatives. Ultimately, the goal is to reinvent journalism.


Victor Pickard (@VWPickard) is an Associate Professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School for Communication, where he co-directs the Media, Inequality & Change (MIC) Center. Currently he is a visiting fellow at Goldsmiths and LSE. His research on the history and political economy of media institutions has appeared in a wide range of academic and popular publications. He is the co-author of After Net Neutrality: A New Deal for the Digital Age and the author of Democracy without Journalism? Confronting the Misinformation Society.

Tuning into Media Distortions or, What Do Deviant Media Categories Mean? @ University of Westminster (Fyvie Hall)
Mar 26 @ 5:00 pm – 7:00 pm
Tuning into Media Distortions or, What Do Deviant Media Categories Mean? @ University of Westminster (Fyvie Hall) | England | United Kingdom
Elinor Carmi (Liverpool University) – Tuning into Media Distortions or, What Do Deviant Media Categories Mean?

In this talk Elinor Carmi will talk about the politics behind categories we take for granted such as spam and noise, and what it means to our broader understanding of, and engagement with media. Her book Media Distortions synthesizes media theory, sound studies, STS, feminist technoscience, and software studies into a new composition to explore media power. Drawing on repositories of legal, technical and archival sources, the book amplifies three stories about the construction and negotiation of the ‘deviant’ in media. The book starts in the early 20th century with Bell Telephone’s production of noise in the training of their telephone operators and their involvement with the Noise Abatement Commission in New York City. The next story jumps several decades to the early 2000s focusing on web metric standardization in the European Union and shows how the digital advertising industry constructed what is legitimate communication while making spam illegal. The final story focuses on the recent decade and the way Facebook constructs unwanted behaviors to engineer a sociality that produces more value. These stories show how deviant categories re-draw boundaries between human and non-human, public and private spaces, and importantly – social and antisocial.


Elinor Carmi is a digital rights advocate, feminist, researcher and journalist who has been working, writing and teaching on deviant media, internet standards, (cyber)feminism, sound studies and internet governance. Her second monograph will be out in early 2020 titled “Digital Distortions: Understanding the Power Behind Spam, Noise, and Other Deviant Media”, published on Digital Formation series at Peter Lang publishing.

Currently Elinor is a Postdoc Research Associate in digital culture and society, at Liverpool University, UK, working on several ESRC and AHRC projects and part of the Nuffield Foundation funded project Me and My Big Data: Developing UK Citizens Data Literacies. Before academia, Elinor worked in the electronic dance music industry for various labels, was a radio broadcaster and a music television editor for almost a decade. She also tweets @Elinor_Carmi.

Politics of Location Data, Mobilities, and Algorithmic Decision-Making @ University of Westminster (Room UG05)
Apr 9 @ 5:00 pm – 7:00 pm
Politics of Location Data, Mobilities, and Algorithmic Decision-Making @ University of Westminster (Room UG05) | England | United Kingdom
Didem Özkul (UCL) – Machine Learning on the Move: Politics of Location Data, Mobilities, and Algorithmic Decision-Making

The current global political and economic crisis has allowed location tracking and geo-profiling to grow exponentially, most prevalent in the developments of drones, commercial satellites, border security and geo-fencing, machine learning as well as being embedded in the form of a GPS sensor in every single smartphone produced and used. Location data is high dimension data, which has a very high degree of uniqueness associated with it, and hence it is difficult to anonymise. As users of these systems, we are potentially contributing to a network of sensors, generating real-time location data about where we are at any given point in time. Many sensors and connected devices also produce and use location data. So, the problem is not limited to ‘human’ users of these technologies’ but also other connected and algorithmic practices that somehow generate location data about us. Not surprisingly, efforts to generate a detailed picture of who we are based on where we are have been inherent in many machine learning and profiling algorithms. In this regard, location tracking provides a context for profiling algorithms and whether our movements can be flagged as behaviours of interest or the places we visit can be marked as places of interest. This type of profiling based on location tracking has the potential to categorise not only users, but also non-users of mobile communication technologies as well as places, in order to govern and control societies. The impacts of such algorithmic decision making are broader as they have the potential to create wider gaps and divisions within and between societies.

In this talk Didem Özkul draws on the problematic intersection of machine learning, algorithmic decision-making, and politics of mobilities with a specific focus on location data, and argues that location data is key to all those other types of data. In doing so, she discusses the societal implications of location data and machine learning, which she identifies as a gap that we need to attend to urgently.


Didem Özkul (@didemozkul)is an Assistant Professor in Digital Media & Society at the Department of Culture, Communication and Media, University College London. She holds a PhD from the Communication and Media Research Institute, University of Westminster. She has written extensively about location data and mobile communication and media practices. Currently she is writing her first monograph, The Politics of Location Tracking and Profiling, which presents a critical analysis and discussion of location data, AI, and politics of mobilities (under contract with Routledge).