Comet 25 years: Discussing futures of journalism, media and communication research

Welcome to our 25th anniversary seminar online on Thursday, 2 December.

Tampere Research Centre for Journalism, Media and Communication (Comet) has conducted research for 25 years. During this time media and communication companies have changed significantly, with digital platforms harvesting user data, recommendation algorithms automatically deciding which content to show, and end-users carrying their media devices everywhere they go to. At the same time, matters of concern are increasingly global: climate change, biodiversity loss, the Covid-pandemic and authoritarian regimes can be found around the globe, just like the media technologies used for communicating about them.

Today, our research focuses particularly on journalism, media, (speech) communication, visual cultures and the effects of digitization. Celebrating our 25th anniversary, we have invited a number of distinguished scholars to reflect on media and communications from their respective perspectives, so that we can discuss what these changes mean for future research.

The Comet research centre believes, that an understanding of the impacts that media and communications have on society, the public, and our shared foci of attention is needed more than ever. This includes broadening our understandings of both media and communication too.

Time and venue: Thursday, 2 December 2021 at 2–5 pm (GMT+03:00), ZoomSign-up:

For abstracts and information on the speakers, please see below.


Welcome and introduction
Scientific Director, professor Asko Lehmuskallio, Tampere University / LSE

Flow and a Rising Tide: Communications, Media, and Acceleration
Professor Caroline Bassett, Cambridge UniversityNew self-censorship practices observed in Russia and beyond
Senior Lecturer Elisabeth Schimpfössl, Aston University

Informed citizens or engaged citizens? Exploring the meeting points of Quality discourse and Innovation discourse
Professor Irene Costera Meijer, VU Amsterdam / University of Bergen

Free speech, freer noise
Senior Lecturer Gavan Titley, Maynooth University

Discussion led by professor Lehmuskallio

About the speakers

Caroline Bassett is Professor of Digital Humanities and Director of Cambridge Digital Humanities at the University of Cambridge. She researches, teaches and writes about computational technologies and cultural and social forms. Recent publications include Furious, a collaborative monograph about feminism and technological futures. Current research focusses on AI and artificial writing, re-enchantment as a response to automation fever, and cultural histories of technological anxiety.Elisabeth Schimpfössl is author of Rich Russians: From Oligarchs to Bourgeoisie, published by Oxford University Press (2018), and senior lecturer in Sociology and Policy at Aston University, Birmingham, UK, where she teaches media sociology. Currently, she is co-writing a monograph on media elites in Russia, as well as undertaking research into the relation between wealth and power, both in Russia and the United Kingdom.Irene Costera Meijer is Professor of Journalism Studies and head of the Journalism Studies section at Vrije Universiteit  Amsterdam. She is a world leading journalism and media scholar having recently set the agenda for the audience turn in journalism studies. Her research appeared in many journals and books and  focuses on what news users value about journalism. She also works as a professor II at the Research group for Media Use and Audience Studies of the Department of Information Science and Media Studies at University of Bergen (Norway). Her research interests focus on audience studies and in particular on the impact of digitalization on changing practices of media consumption, media experiences and news use. A recent book is: Costera Meijer, I., & Groot Kormelink, T. (2021). Changing News Use.: Unchanged News Experiences? London: Routledge.Gavan Titley is Senior Lecturer in the Department of Media Studies, Maynooth University, and a Docent in the Swedish School of Social Sciences, University of Helsinki. His books include Is Free Speech Racist? (Polity 2020), Racism and Media (Sage 2019), After Charlie Hebdo: Terror, Racism, Free Speech (ed., Zed Books, 2017) and The Crises of Multiculturalism: Racism in a Neoliberal Age (with Alana Lentin, Zed Books 2011).


Caroline Bassett (Cambridge University): Flow and a Rising Tide: Communications, Media, and Acceleration‘There was a sense that something was being brought up to date but whether this was anything better was always a question.”  (Williams)Flow is a concept media studies has often returned to, not least as a comparator used to contrast a before with an after, a then with a new. A fulcrum in these discussions is Raymond Williams’ Television Technology and Cultural Form where Williams argued that the discontinuous programming of early TV had been replaced by flow;  the latter being regarded as an industrial imperative which produced a particular kind of viewing and generated a particular kind of experience.
The 1990s internet provoked new comparisons: surfing (going with the flow) versus the television’s programmed flow, early dial-up with the advent of streaming. Current work brings this into the 2020s, notably in relation to platforms.
This paper takes up questions of flow from two perspectives; the first is to contextualise the Cultural Form discussion within Williams’ other work which enables an exploration of the extent to which flow is more than an industrial imperative and might come to interlink with and express forms of social collective being (structures of feelings), the second, emerging out that, considers flow and the streaming of consciousness as it emerges in contemporary ‘internet’ writing – which is, as the flow of media increases  and mediation becomes perverse, so that we are not only ‘extremely online’ but always already extremely digital, also a writing of an everyday life.

Elisabeth Schimpfössl (Aston University): New self-censorship practices observed in Russia and beyond
Back in March 2013 I conducted interviews with Russian television reporters from entry level to household names. When subsequently analysing the transcripts together with a colleague, we found that all of them referred to something they called adekvatnost, a standard of professionalism they all aspire to, expressed by showing a “feel for the game” (in a Bourdieusian sense). While adekvatnost is very much a form of self-censorship, it is not perceived as such. Instead, “instinctively” sensing what is permissible, while daring to stretch the permissible to its very limits (without ever crossing the line) is like a VIP ticket to an area that allows for professional freedom and creativity.  There might be more to adekvatnost: First, follow-up interviews with major media elites have made us wonder whether adekvatnost might be a practice that organises pecking orders in Russia society more generally. Second, interviews with journalists in Latvia, Hungary and Germany have suggested that adekvatnost is not so much a remnant of communist censorship but rather a twenty-first-century phenomenon. Finally, we suspect adekvatnost not to be the preserve of post-communist countries. More recently, features of it have emerged in countries further to the West, especially in those where populism is on the rise and where ties between business and politics are inextricable. The conclusion we draw from this turns things on their head; for once, a glance to “the East” might be indicative of possible dynamics about to emerge in “the West”.  Irene Costera Meijer (VU Amsterdam / University of Bergen): Informed citizens or engaged citizens? Exploring the meeting points of Quality discourse and Innovation discourse
In today’s world, innovation appears to have replaced quality as the dominant concept in metajournalistic discourse. This substitution appears to involve a shift in the distribution of financial resources, changing working conditions , new job titles, new professional status indicators and new professional remits:  from publicizing important news resulting in the trust of the audience to putting loyalty first and thus strengthening ties with news users.  The final key turning pointy may be the change in the perception of audiences: from being irrelevant (if not a negative concern) in quality discourse to being constantly monitored targets in innovation discourse. In this talk I use my own research  to answer the question how quality discourse and innovation discourse may meet. My suggestion is to focus more on what audiences actually experience as quality or – as I coined it, as valuable journalism. I will make a plea to support those news organizations  that become more open and sensitive towards finding out how to become valuable to audiences, how to open up their minds, how to broaden their horizon, and how to provide them with a quality experience that will enlighten them with reliable information considered worthwhile: Learning something new, Getting recognition and Increasing mutual understanding.Gavan Titley (Maynooth University): Free speech, freer noise
My engagement with media and communications is inseparable from my work on racism and social theory, and a consequence of this encounter has been a consistent and  consistently unhappy return to key normative concerns in Media Studies with publics and the public sphere. The racialised and other silences and elisions of normative theory  – and by more-or-less direct extension, liberal thought – are, of course, established concerns in the field. My focus nonetheless, involves thinking less about exclusion and more about generativity, that is, what these normative concepts of publicness produce, culturally and politically, under certain conditions. These conditions can be summarised, in the European contexts that I study, as the intersection of a fraught postracial sensibility with the abundant communication of digital media ecologies. This talk will examine some of these themes in relation to current concerns about free speech, which has, in recent decades, been simultaneously sacralised as a condition of democracy and racialised as a cultural and civilizational value. Normative discussions of free speech are surprisingly lacking in communication theory, and even in sustained examinations of what speech is taken to be, and to do. Consequently, this talk argues that media and communications can contribute to meaningful thinking about freedom of speech by (re)theorising it in the context of noise – the endless production of ‘speech’ in circuits of digital media production.


Scientific Director, professor Asko Lehmuskallio, asko.lehmuskallio at, +358 50 318 7013