Call for Abstracts

The University of Houston’s Valenti School of Communication is seeking abstracts for its second annual Global Communication Summit. The theme for the event, to be held Feb. 22, 2019, is Media for Social Justice: Journalism + Activism + Technology. The deadline for abstracts is Dec. 14, 2018.

Research shows that mainstream news outlets have struggled to accurately and fairly portray protests: the media’s tendency toward negative protest coverage (known as the “protest paradigm”) demonizes protesters and delegitimizes their demands. How the media cover protests is fundamental to a protest’s viability, influencing the public’s acceptance or rejection of the cause. A recent rise in protests worldwide, coupled with an ever-evolving media ecology, demand a better understanding of the factors that influence protest coverage. In part the paradigmatic coverage of protests, and the resulting complex and tense media-activist relationship, rests with journalists and their identities, practices, and routines. Few journalists, though, are trained in how to cover social movements, thus potentially contributing to the maintenance of the paradigm.

Further potentially exacerbating the problem is that activists are not necessarily trained communicators, and unaware of how best to reach out to journalists or attract positive media attention. A lack of trust and fear of misrepresentation also comes into play.

Recent research has begun considering how journalists and activists can use social media to disrupt the paradigm, especially as digital technologies allow activists to take control of their own messages and bypass mainstream media through the creation of online alternative or activist media. Further, the insertion of social media users into the gatekeeping process has the potential to influence which protest narratives are most circulated online.

In this digital era of increased protest activity—online and offline—, it’s important to consider how new technologies might be changing the way journalists and activists relate, while recognizing that analog tactics still have an important part to play, especially in non-Western and developing countries. With this in mind, we invite abstracts that broadly address the role of media in contributing to, or detracting from, social justice. Possible questions to explore include, but are not limited to:

  • What role do social media play in facilitating and mobilizing activism and community participation?

  • What are the benefits and/or potential pitfalls of hashtag activism? How do the digital and analog complement or compete with each other in the activist’s repertoire?

  • How have activists’ media practices changed in response to new technologies and political challenges?

  • How have journalists responded to the worldwide uptick in protests? How are journalists’ protest coverage and practices changing?

  • How are journalists responding to shifts in media power as more activists, citizens, and politicians use social media to communicate their messages?

  • Ethically speaking, what should the relationship between journalists and activists look like?

  • How do we define the demarcating line between journalists and activists, and is it even worth doing so?

  • What roles and responsibilities do journalists have in contributing to social justice?

  • What role can community, alternative, and activist media play in this age of “fake news”?

We especially invite abstracts that take a de-Westernized approach and/or focus on cases outside the United States. Qualitative and quantitative work is welcome, as are methodological papers.

Abstracts should include:

1.     Paper title

2.     Names, affiliations, and a brief bio of authors

3.     3-5 keywords

4.     A 300-400 word abstract (excluding references) that includes a description of the research project and its significance, with specific research questions or hypotheses, methods, overview of findings (if available at the time of submission), and relevance to the conference theme. Submissions should be in English or Spanish.



1.     Abstracts are due Dec. 14 and should be submitted to Summer Harlow at Be sure to include “Global Communication Summit” in the subject line.

2.     Notifications of acceptances will be sent by late December/early January.

The conference will begin at 9 a.m. on Friday, Feb. 22, with a plenary panel of journalists and activists from Latin America and the U.S. The afternoon will include a workshop for activists and journalists, and the evening will feature a documentary screening. There also will be a keynote speaker during lunch.