Conference Report: ECREA 2010, 12-15 October 2010, Hamburg, Germany

Simone Knox, University of Reading

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This, the 3rd ECREA (European Communication Research and Education Association) conference, was a colossal undertaking, with over 1,000 participants from a range of disciplinary and national homes gathering to discuss their research under the overarching focus of 'transcultural communication – intercultural comparisons.' Given the immense scale of the event and its average of 17 parallel panel sessions, I won't even attempt anything striving towards representativeness, but, focusing on the Television Studies section, try to capture something of the flavour and texture of the papers, ideas and discussions that I enjoyed here.

One of the youngest of ECREA's 17 thematic sections, the activities of Television Studies are overseen by chair Lothar Mikos (Hochschule fr Film und Fernsehen, Germany) and vice chairs Elke Weissmann (Edge Hill, UK) and Manuel Jos Damsio (Universidade Lusfona, Portugal). Attending its first business meeting, I can attest to the energy, ambition and enthusiasm that are bound to see this section flourish and establish itself as a leading network for research in television. I would warmly encourage those readers who have not yet taken up the opportunity to join the section to do so. Further details are available on the Television Studies section's webpage.

Apart from its enterprising spirit, what also made the Television Studies section stand out to me is the range of methodological approaches and disciplinary influences invited and encouraged by the team. Papers exploring television fact and fiction via statistical approaches were just as present as papers focused on textual analysis, and although I myself am happily situated within the latter camp, I appreciated the rigour and insights offered by work in the former. This multi-methodological quality reminded me positively of the hybrid origins of Television Studies as a scholarly discipline, and fitted the conference theme very well.

Indeed, the pleasurably unpredictable porosity of disciplinary and methodological boundaries was made evident by the mix of papers. I did not necessarily expect a paper with the title 'Using automatic face recognition to identify presentation patterns of power and hierarchy in U.S.-American and German TV annual reviews' (by Jan Mueller and Martin Stommel) to offer the delightful comparison of the aesthetic construction of George W Bush when depicted as Commander-in-Chief with the boys from Top Gun (1986), but it did. This is a memory I shall treasure for some time.

What I wish to do is reflect on one idea that raised its head in several of the papers and Q&A discussions; this is the notion of 'the universal.' Now, any ideas to do with universality are usually 'no-nos' in academic discourse, and as scholars of television in particular, we are supposed to explore the significance of the local/regional/national; how particular social/cultural/institutional contexts shape and inflect the object of our study. In the face of globalisation, we are supposed to highlight and uphold specificity, heterogeneity and difference.

And yet, precisely because of the multi-national quality of ECREA 2010, which provided the opportunity to compare and contrast so many different contexts, the idea of something that might be universal; the idea that, the more you compare and contrast, the further you probe heterogeneity, the more you are likely to come across something that remains consistent/constant/similar. In research as diverse as Patricia Diego and Mar Grandio's paper on La Chica de Ayer (2009), the Spanish version of Life on Mars (2006-2007), Susanne Eichner's paper exploring contemporary US television drama series through the frame of blockbuster theory, and Lothar Mikos' paper on the numerous versions of Yo soy Betty, la fea's (1999-2001) ugly duckling/fish out of water format, the idea that the universal and the adaptable are conceptually intertwined subtly emerged.

And given the difficulties presently facing Higher Education, especially but by no means limited to the UK, which informed much of the discussion, attending ECREA 2010 made me think that it is perhaps time that we start acknowledging and feel more comfortable when discussing the presence of the universal. With the rising influence of mega-corporations like Rupert Murdoch's News Corp, and a worrying sweep to the ideological right within much of Europe, something important could indeed be gained by scholarly focus not being entirely taken up by matters of difference and distinction.

The universal is allowed to emerge when we compare and contrast, which makes multi-disciplinary and -national events like ECREA so valuable, and the addition of the Television Studies section so pleasing. By coming together, with our differences and particular contexts, we can explore what affects us all. By the time the 4th ECREA conference takes place in Istanbul in 2012, it will be interesting to see where we will be, both as scholars of television and members of Higher Education.



Dr Simone Knox is Lecturer in Television at the University of Reading, UK. Her research interests include the transnational and the audio-visual translation of cinema and television, aesthetics and medium specificity, representations of gender and the body, and postmodernism. She has published in the Journal of Popular Film and Television and Film Criticism, and forthcoming publications include a co-authored essay on the dubbing and subtitling of television drama in Critical Studies in Television.

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