Communication and trust: building safe, sustainable and promising futures

What futures are we building up? What is the role of media and communication in these processes? Considering the pace of technological change and the way it is reshaping economy and culture, what type of adaptations and commitments are being asked of citizens and to what extent are institutions and policy makers engaged in achieving solutions that are both progressive and sustainable? What type of social, political and cultural futures are media and communication inducing and modelling? What relations exist between them and what are their main normative cornerstones? These are questions of critical interest for the 2021 ECREA conference. Scholars are invited to question the relevance of communication studies in face of societal challenges today and for generations to come.

Acceleration, speed and technological development are present in all dimensions of life, everywhere and at every level. Global forms of culture and global market dynamics are intensely shaping the nature of citizens’ lives and altering the way they think and relate to institutions. Trust is being eroded; some of its building blocks, such as communication for freedom, empowerment, development and democratization are being reconfigured and gaining multiple and often contradictory meanings. Thereby, creating new inequalities and vulnerabilities in Europe and around the world whilst institutions seem weaker, more ineffective or late in their reactions. 

There is a general academic perception that citizens everywhere are now inhabiting spaces of higher suspicion, uncertainty and privacy invasion at different levels of their life, which make them easy prey for different types of power brokers. Many relevant questions in communication studies can be addressed regarding ways in which fear, uncertainty, and social isolation affect citizens according to structuring variables such as race, ethnicity, gender or age.

If citizens are experiencing this general state of ontological insecurity, politicians and institutions appear to hesitate in the face of emergent problems requiring systemic, determined and eventually global scale well-sought answers. Climate change and environment urgencies are obviously requiring new insights from the media and communication field with particular attention to medium and long-term effects of human actions. The proactive actions of citizens and social movements also deserve particular attention.

Scholars are defied to address emerging responsibilities of the media and communication field vis-à-vis new social and environmental asymmetries. The quality of public information is obviously key to this debate. What role should the media play deconstruing technological determinisms and finding paths to increase trust, confidence and safety? How to manage the relationships between the local and the global so that internet giants’ activities do not govern the common symbolic environment? How to improve transparency and the defence of the public interest, and what type of public interest is still possible to identify? By proposing the theme ‘Communication and trust: building safe, sustainable and promising futures’, the conference should provide an opportunity to diagnose, discuss and rethink the role and responsibilities of academics and professionals in the reading of present circumstances and in the anticipation of future challenges.