Call for Papers: Re-visiting the Communication Commons

Popular Communication: The International Journal of Media and Culture
Call for Papers: Re-visiting the Communication Commons

In the last decade, the concept of the commons has become prolific, if not popular. There are millions of references to the commons in a very wide range of literatures, from the academic, social activist, to the UN-and other multilateral institutions, think tanks, and popular literatures. However, in most, the idea of the commons is rather vague, a stand-in for public resources that avoids any references to specific collectivities of people, places, political economies and systems of power, and/or the historical and conflict-ridden origins of the commons at the dawn of the capitalist era in Northern Europe.

The record within communications, media and cultural studies is much better. Here, the commons, and related concepts of commoners and enclosure, have been taken up by a smaller but significant number of researchers, who have, for the most part, theorized about the historical and contemporary commons or “the common” as an alternative to capitalist productive and social relations. Researchers have studied the collective management, production processes and forms of cooperative social organization in a number of artistic, media activist and designer communities, and especially with regards to digital software and hardware, and the operation and governance of information and of media platforms. A similar framework has been used in studies of the cultural and communications practices of social change movements that have actively worked against the privatization and “enclosure” of public goods or other commons-based resources and of the exploitation of labour (i.e., the Landless Workers’ Movement in Brazil, the Zapatista movement in Mexico, Ecuadorian indigenous movements and the Chilean student movement). Linking these studies has been a theorization of the commons as sites of emergent value systems in which a new subjectivity, characterized by mutual aid, care, trust, and conviviality, may be reproduced over time through ‘commoning’ activities.

This special issue calls for a re-evaluation of the communication commons, especially given the major changes in geopolitics and global communications economies, ecologies and cultures. To do so, articles will examine the history of the communications commons, and interrogate its contemporary applicability and relevance.

*   In what ways and how do communications commons constitute a new political, social and cultural project?
*   How effectively, for example, have communications commons been able to negotiate their relationship with the state and the capitalist market, and with what consequences?
*   How is the concept utilized in different world regions, cultural traditions and languages?
*   How are communications commons changing, given the new generations or communities of practice, and especially the increasingly precarious conditions of work and life?
*   How do commons negotiate intersectional differences of economic, social, technological and cultural power?
*   In what ways can commons-based projects be used to inform novel ways of collectively organizing productive activity?

The submission deadline is June 15, 2019. Article length should be 7,000 words, all-inclusive. Authors’ instructions and submission guidelines are available at

Contact Benjamin Birkinbine at and Dorothy Kidd at  for more information.

Benjamin Birkinbine and Dorothy Kidd, Guest Editors
Patrick Burkart and Christian Christensen, co-Editors in Chief

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