Theme for 2021:
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).
Conference tracks
In 2021, the conference will have its four traditional tracks.
The submissions might orient to but are not limited to the following sub-topics:

!!! When submitting, please start your title with naming the track,
e.g. 'THEORY Rethinking media effects in the world of de-contextualized communication'.
This matters for allocation of awards.

THEORY track

Silvio Waisbord, George Washington University, USA

• The 'platform society': criticisms and extensions
• Communication architectures or communication ecosystems?
• Rethinking communication acts and communicative action
• The public/private boundaries in personal posting and globalized media
• Public spheres and their structural carcasses
• Comparing communication architectures across and within nation states
• Personality and its audiences
• Multi-level echo chambers and communication flows
• Mini-publics: small-level communication structures
• Communicative cultures and structures
• Regional perspectives on communication architectures
• Neo-imperialist critique of platform expansion


Svetlana S. Bodrunova, St.Petersburg State University, Russia
Anna Litvinenko, Freie Universität Berlin, Germany

• Social atomization, personal media worlds, and new communication platforms
• Affordances-in-practice: platform use in comparative context
• Communication architects – who are they?
• The power of platform and political power
• Public roles and responsibilities of communication structures
• Identity and its platform-related boundaries
• Public memory and communication structures
• Structural support and resistance to free communication flows
• Dissonance or agonism? Platforms and social conflict
• Linking structure to policy: how the state shapes communication architecture
• Liberation vs. control: platforms and surveillance practices
• Authoritarian regimes and platform society
• Global platforms and national & translational law
• Video hosting and political video content


Chair: Katrin Voltmer, University of Leeds (Emeritus), UK

• Communicative capitalism and user exploitation: neo-Marxist approaches to platform economy
• Editorial strategies in content adaptation and hierarchization
• Platform despotism or protection of public safety? Banning practices of platforms
• Algorithmic propaganda and responsibilities of platforms
• Media as platform conglomerates: channel complexity vs. editorial unity
• Agenda hierarchies: local/national/global news on social media
• Community news and local information flows
• Architecturing access to media content: is paywall alive?
• Measuring success: audience estimation and editorial priorities
• How content travels: in- and cross-platform sharing and multi-level virality
• Blogging and influencing: a comparative look
• Competition of platforms on national and global markets
• Media systems as platform and discourse hierarchies


Olessia Koltsova, National Research University – Higher School of Economics, Russia

• Platform affordances in today's social computing studies
• Detecting cross-platform information flows
• Unpacking platform 'black boxes' for research: policies and audiences
• Methodologies for cross-platform data collection and datasets
• Platform-based journalism and how to study it
• Discussion borders vs. platform borders
• Qualitative methods in platform research
• Platforms as contexts: mixed-method approaches to online discussions
• Digital threats and digital traces in communication architectures
• User experience and social media
Past conferences
'Comparative Media Studies in Today's World' started in 2013 as a pre-conference to the Annual forum 'Media in the Modern World', a conference with an over-50-years history at St.Petersburg State University, Russia. Since then, the conference gathered experts in comparative media research, including Paolo Mancini, Larry Gross, Silvio Waisbord, Katrin Voltmer, Nico Carpentier, Mark Deuze, Claudia Mellado, Susanne Fengler, Elena Vartanova, Thomas Hanitzsch, Daya Thussu, Zizi Papacharissi, Barbara Pfetsch, Karin Wahl-Jorgensen and many others.

CMSTW is an integral part of SMIF'2021 - the 60th Annual Forum 'Media in the Modern World', the Russian-language part of which will be held in June.

More information on the previous conferences may be found here:
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