Recently, scholars have proclaimed the rise of the platform society (Van Dijck, Poell, & De Waal, 2018). In it, affordances decide what message the medium is; algorithmic intermediaries, commercial corporations, and influencer bloggers compete in bypassing news agencies; and platforms impeach politicians. A myriad ways of simultaneous communication, both individual- and mass-oriented, create extreme connectivity which may lead to extreme power – and may not lead to meaningful conclusions.
Yet, despite this seeming communication singularity where everything happens in parallel, a range of works emphasize the return of structure into communication – or even a new era of hierarchization. Structurally, what are we facing? Is there horizontal co-existence of communication platforms, a multi-level complex of arenas, or a brave new world of (re-)emergent hierarchies?
However, proliferation of platforms, whether horizontal or hierarchical, is only the surface of transformation. As in a house with glass walls, communication continues to be dependent on whether the public/private curtains are drawn or open. And, today, technologies of shaping publics work on dozens of levels, from locking your post for close friends to global targeting on Facebook. At some point, quantity becomes quality: variability of public/private options available for a single communication act changes the nature of human messaging.
Perhaps we need to re-assess not only the elemental complexity of the communication world. It is the fundamental formulas of communication acts, the metaphor of communication flow, the fabric of micro- and macro-deliberation that demand rethinking. And, crucial as never before, the person-level, societal, and global roles of communication architectures – and architects – need to be tied together when envisioned in academe and policing.
Fortunately, communication structures, including transnational platforms, are increasingly studied in context, pressured for transparency, and subjected to neo-imperialist and neo-Marxist criticism (Fuchs 2014). And still, there is scarce evidence of how architectonics of the mediatized public spheres relates to spread of innovation, public memory, or turnovers of public opinion. Cumulative effects of countless likes and shares, just as longitudinal impact of platform constellations, remain under-researched. This is especially true for comparative media studies.
CMSTW'2021 is dedicated to assessing communication architectures on all levels in comparative perspective – from message itself to global information infrastructure, as well as to linking structural and platform features of media and public spheres to policing, knowledge of social inequalities, and theory of human communication. The four traditional tracks of the conference will re-conceptualize the 'platform society' (Theory), question the pluses and highlight the minuses of 'architectured' communication (Political & Social), put journalism and media into comparative platform perspective (Media Industry & Journalism), and develop approaches to detection of communicative structures (Methods).