Call for Papers

Media access is increasingly woven into the textures and cultural practices of everyday lives. To Raymond Williams (1983), access is an integral part of the ordinary culture. Some of the works on media accessibility seek to see accessibility as an afterthought to address concerns of the excluded and at the same time engage with it as a critical project for all.

While the older notion of access referred to exposure to media technologies, the term ‘access’ has now a reconfigured import with the interchangeable relationship between readers, text and producers dominating content production, consumption and distribution. This has contributed to diversity and plurality of information. But, access is never insulated from grand political and economic imperatives. Access and diversity cannot be understood without predicating them on power, inequity, and exclusionist agenda of media, state and the corporate. In capitalism, the control of media by dominant class has resulted in “monopolised communications industries that in new ways make voice, visibility and access selective and a realm of asymmetric power” (Fuchs, 2017). 

For instance, access to the Internet is de jure right but it is controlled by a country/countries, corporate and the State. Access is thus implicated in control society (Deleuze, 1992). The rise of digital technologies informs how perceptions of control are overshadowed by perceptions of access, resulting in the notion of participatory surveillance or, put in other words, consenting to be surveilled. 

Further, on the one hand, access merely constitutes exposure to spectacles (Debord, 1967), whereas Benjamin (1935) argues for technological reproducibility, an indicator of increased access, as a possibility for political ramifications. If access to excess content has resulted in producing media spectacles thereby denying us subjectivity, the meanings of access needs to be engaged with more critically than reifying it. Access leading to empowerment is also caught in a structural and linguistic dialectic between abundance and alienation, abundance of media, technologies and content on the one hand and alienation and deprivation of people from access to media and its ensemble. 

Access has also received impetus from another perspective wherein media technologies designed and developed are more amenable to normal citizens as well as men (Oudshoorn, 2004). As a result, the disabled and women are excluded from access to technologies. While W3C proposes guidelines to make internet user-friendly to all, the design of technologies enables normal users, characterised by ableism, to produce public spheres that further create and reproduce disability as a deprived category. How can technologies be used for articulations of the subaltern and not merely that of the normative populations? It is quite interesting to engage with questions of hegemonic arrangement of uses of technologies accomplished through their intended user positions, mostly predefined and preconfigured. Does that mean that there is a wilful attempt not to be inclusive because disability can possibly destabilise the intended potential of the medium? Likewise, spatial production in terms of women having no access to public spaces with wifi zones underlie productions of discourses of gendered inaccessibility. 

Another outcome of the advancements in digital technologies is the shift from industrial to post-industrial society, marked by ‘knowledge economy’ and the emergence of the concept of open access. Making knowledge available to everyone became the central tenet of open access. But the politics of open access as we see it in the forms of corporate dominating the market or the State muffling the voices emanating from open access and collaborative tools registers a new highpoint in accessibility. 

Access is also linked to aspirations (Appadurai, 2004); lack of access can lead to crippling of the drive to aspire. Access is an enabler of aspirations and therefore individual preferences and collective capabilities. Media access in the context of social media does strengthen the potential of users to aspire, aspiration that is not linked to material benefits but knowledge, critical inquiry and reflection on future possibilities. 

This seminar seeks to discover several dimensions of media access and related concepts from multiple perspectives, including films, paintings, social media, print, television etc. This year's conference aims at probing into the realms of access and how access has evolved to include the growing derivatives of technology. 

This seminar marks the 100th anniversary of journalism and communication in Tamil Nadu and India. Thanks to the pioneering efforts of Annie Besant, theosophist, journalist, educationist and freedom fighter, the first formal initiative to offer journalism as a course in an institutionalised setting took shape in 1919 in Madras. Though short lived, it brought alive the potential of journalism as a site of education alongside journalism as a site of freedom struggle. Pondicherry University and ACT TNP are proud to commemorate this centenary with a topic of accessibility that was also dear to Annie Besant. Abstracts are invited from interested academicians, research scholars and media practitioners as well as activists.

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