MEA @ ICA 2023

The 73rd Annual Conference of the International Communication Association will take place this year at the Sheraton Centre Toronto Hotel in Toronto, Ontario, Canada from May 25–29.

The conference theme is “Reclaiming Authenticity in Communication.”

As the MEA is an Association Organization of the ICA, we are automatically granted one panel as part of the conference program. The following is our program for Toronto.

Panel Title:
Media Ecology and Authenticity in the 21st Century

Thom Gencarelli, Manhattan College, USA


“High Heels as Mobile Media? (Im)mobilities and Feminist Ecologies”
Julia M. Hildebrand, Eckerd College, USA

This paper critically explores the high heel as a mobile medium by discussing the contentious footwear through the lens of media ecology. Employing the McLuhans’ “laws of media” or “tetrad,” this paper highlights what the high heel enhances, obsolesces, retrieves from the past, and flips into when pushed to an extreme. This tetradic reading of the high heel also draws on contemporary feminist media studies, critical mobilities research, and fashion history to advance a feminist media ecology subfield. Ultimately, the paper shows to what extent the high heel is an ambiguous and divisive medium that extends the female and male body, shapes and is shaped by past and present cultural, social, and political environments, and affords a range of physical, corporeal, social, imaginative, and affective (im)mobilities.

“You Can’t Say What You Don’t See, Think, and Feel: The Underpinnings of Authentic Communication in Marshall McLuhan, Ursula Franklin, and Sherry Turkle”
Jaqueline McLeod Rogers, University of Winnipeg, CANADA

To be “authentic,” communication needs to be informed. McLuhan, Franklin, and, more recently, Turkle each tell us something about the requirements of authenticity, grounding it in perceptual acuity, mental agility, and emotional commitment. McLuhan often played with the idea that “believing is seeing” to explore perceptual blockages that make some things stand forward while rendering others invisible. He urged us to train ourselves to take in more of the world. Franklin’s approach, more cognitive, placed emphasis on the need for clear and critical thinking to enable the necessary process of discrimination and decision-making. Turkle emphasizes affect and relationships, arguing we need to practice ethical and flexible caring. Taken together as forming the basis of authentic communication, these traits have less to do with heartfelt commitment or moral intensity than with self-educated attention and preparation: authenticity requires perceptual and mental acuity, coupled with caring.

“Canada as Counter-environment: Canadian Democracy in a Digital World”
Phil Rose, Independent Scholar, CANADA

This presentation follows Innis, McLuhan, and others in exploring the concept of space but does so in relation to the survival and evolution of Canadian democracy within our emerging digital world. First considering the spatial implications of Canadian geography, the country’s constitution and institutions, along with the federal government’s spending power, it then considers those associated with economic staples, and particularly how these affect our institutional infrastructure, especially in disturbing cases of “state capture.” Alongside identifying and addressing a number of concerns relating to digital space as now configured and which will require fundamental reform, I also probe the concept of “inner space” or interiority. I will do this specifically in relation to its role as one of the most valuable resources of the digital age, not only in its commercial exploitation, but also in terms of its defense, ultimately in the service of mobilising towards a more democratic culture. In demonstrating how Canada, following McLuhan, might function as a ‘counter-environment’ that makes the “world environment” of the United States perceptible to its global occupants, I maintain that what we require is the exact same cultural remedy that Innis prescribed to counter the biases of the time-annihilating electronic space of his own time. Namely, what is required is the retrieval of what Innis referred to as “oral tradition,” accompanied by the necessary and concomitant re-embedding of people within their local communities.

“The Non-Hierarchical Network as Form/Pattern/Medium”
Lance Strate, Fordham University, USA

The field of media ecology is characterized by a broader definition of the key term “medium” than can be found elsewhere, one that is neither limited to materialist conceptions nor formalist ones, but rather includes both. A medium may be a physical technology, or a technique, hardware or software, a tool or a language, a machine or a symbol system, a gadget or a code, an artifact or a pattern. Form or pattern as a type of medium is associated with Susanne Langer’s focus on symbolic form and Marshall McLuhan’s emphasis on formal cause and pattern recognition, as well as Gregory Bateson’s interest in metapatterns, and Bateson and Edmund Carpenter’s search for patterns that connect, while formal cause and systems concepts such as emergence and autopoiesis also suggest that there are patterns that direct. Over the past several decades, one particular type of form or pattern that has become increasingly more prominent is that of the network, both the decentralized and distributed network. Both are variations on the general category of non-hierarchical network, in contrast to traditional hierarchical patterns. Lewis Mumford and McLuhan both identified electrical technology as decentralizing, while the Internet, dating back to its 1969 origin as the ARPANET, brought the concept of the distributed network into prominence. While best known in the context of computer and telecommunications technology, this pattern has also been applied to interpersonal and group communication, aka network theory; to neurological structure and functioning, to biological evolution, and even to the phenomenon of time as it is understood in contemporary physics.

“Truth as a Base of Authentic Communication”
Laura Trujillo Liñán, Universidad Panamericana, MEXICO

For several years now, communication between human beings has been characterized by unfounded opinions, and by a rejection of the existence of truths that underpin human action and behavior. This has led us to online and offline relativism. Likewise, the lack of clear foundations has led society to lose the meaning of life and to take, as a basis the life, actions and beliefs of the models presented to us by the media. It is for this reason that it is necessary to return to the truth, to know it, find it and put it at the centre of our thoughts and actions. In this way we will be able to redirect our lives, our thoughts, and our actions to make the world a better place.

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