Department of Informatics and Media

Nico Carpentier

Nico Carpentier is professor in media and communication studies.

What kind of research do you do?

As professor in media and communication studies, my research interests combine a series of approaches. One main area is connected to the logics of representation, discourse, ideology and meaning-production. Here, the questions I am interested in are how we think and understand our social realities, and how this process of social construction constitutes these social realities, in interaction with the material world. One example is a research project on death, which looks at how we in (and beyond) media-contexts give meaning to something that very much structures our human lives, namely death. Another recent example is a visual sociology on the Greek-Cypriot national identity through practices of commemoration. For this project, the sub-website called Iconoclastic Controversies was built.

What other areas are you interested in?

Another main area of my research is more political, and focusses on participatory-democratic practices. Here I'm basically interested in power, and how it is distributed throughout society. If we take decisions, are these decision-making processes on equal footing, or are there power differences and inequalities. And if there are, how do people deal with them? Do they resist them, and try to generate more equal positions, or do they accept these differences? And why? I've been interested in these power dynamics in the context of very different media organisations, ranging from mainstream to alternative media, but also in very different contexts, like museums. One book that was published in 2011, Media and Participation - A site of ideological-democratic struggle, gives on overview of that work, while an older book (which I wrote with Olga Bailey and Bart Cammaerts) Understanding Alternative Media was about alternative and community media, and their participatory practices. But there is also another side to my work on democracy, which is looking at conflict and war.

What does this have to do with democracy?

Well, I think that war is the opposite of democracy, and implies its actual suspension or even annihilation. That's why one needs to study war, and find ways of transforming conflict into confrontations that are not violent but democratic, without denying the existence of societal conflict. We can't erase conflict - it is actually constitutive of our social reality - but we need to harness its destructive forces. One example of this work is the book I edited in 2007; a second (and revised) edition came out in 2015. It is called Culture, Trauma, and Conflict. Cultural Studies Perspectives on War, and it has some really great chapters, written by different scholars. The introduction of the book  is also online, and talks a bit more about my approach.

Is there more material available?

Yes. I do try to publish as much as possible as open access. You will find an overview of my work on my own website, but I'm also the series editor, together with Pille Prullman-Vengerfeldt, of a summer school book series, which is entirely open access. These books can be found at the Researching and Teaching Communication Book Series Website.

Nico Carpentier - biography, publications and contact details