Course description

The media are central institutions of modern societies, providing channels for corporate and political control and public space for disseminating and consuming information on systemic changes in politics, culture, and economics to the public. The media underwent massive restructuring through neoliberal policies in the 1970s. Introducing new communication technologies such as satellite and cable television, internet, and web platforms went hand in hand with market liberalisation and communication commercialisation. The multiplication of channels and media outlets was accompanied by concentration and centralisation of ownership. Recently, large transnational digital platforms have solidified their position as core companies within contemporary capitalism, restructuring the distribution of media advertising investments, speeding up the circulation of capital, automating global consumption patterns, avoiding national taxes, and siphoning revenues to offshore entities.

At the same time, these platforms benefit from automated management of their diversified and essentially precarious workforces of content moderators, warehouse workers, and gig workers, as well as from software inputs from FLOSS communities.

The rise of platforms reshapes traditional institutional mechanisms that broadly safeguard freedom of expression, media pluralism, and public interests. How these mechanisms will be re-considered and how private interests will shape markets and societies is an open political issue. Alternatives are being envisioned in areas ranging from platform cooperatives and commons projects to strategic calls for technological sovereignty and public wealth creation. However, such initiatives usually need broader political support from the public already accustomed to the commercial logic of the media. The commodification of everyday life through data capture, surveillance and privacy intrusion is easily dismissed by citizens as a minor side effect of free usage and flexibility of ubiquitous digital services.

This biennial course aims to explore traditional (e.g. ownership, production, content, consumption, labour, regulation) and contemporary (e.g. algorithms, platforms, data, artificial intelligence) perspectives on the media from the lens of critical political economy. The course will explore how capital and the state(s) control, regulate and form the media (broadly conceived as ranging from traditional printed press to algorithms and software) in societies shaped by persistent social inequalities. The level of analysis can vary from macro phenomena of geopolitics, transnational, national and institutional dynamics, through mid-range phenomena of the structure(s) of the public sphere(s), to micro-phenomena of class-based conditions shaping inequalities of access and skill for using the media and software in everyday life and for work.

The course will include presentations from keynote speakers and course directors. PhD and advanced MA students participating in the summer school will present their papers. Through lectures and discussions with international experts, students will gain in-depth knowledge about recent communication, media, and journalism developments from the critical political economy perspective. Methods and analytical tools commonly used in the approach will be explained and discussed. Student presentations of their research papers (considered work in progress) will lead to comprehensive feedback that will help students develop their projects further and result in publishable academic writing. Discussions will be carried out collaboratively, with reciprocal assessment by students.

Political Economies of Media

Deadlines and key information

  • Submitting your CV (maximum two pages), title and an extended abstract of your presentation (maximum two pages with references) by 15 April 2023 to
  • Course directors will review applications, and final decisions on acceptance will be sent by 15 May 2023.
  • Accepted applicants will be invited to submit 6 to 9,000-word research papers by 1 September 2023, with an option of future publication of their work.
  • Please note that all participants pay a registration fee of 50 EUR. A limited number of partial stipends and registration waivers will be available. If you are interested in participation support, please indicate this in your application.
  • After completion of the course, the applicants will be encouraged to submit their papers for review in an international peer-reviewed journal in the field of political economy.
  • Only PhD students can receive 10 ECTS points upon course completion, which entails a submitted research paper, paper presentation and full-week active participation in the course.