ICA19 @ Washington, D.C.

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The 69th Annual Conference of the International Communication Association (ICA) is over – which means that I had an exciting week of hearing great presentations, visiting an amazing city, and spending lots of time with my academic family. As always, ICA seems to be the place where one meets everyone in one place, and sometimes even too many people to talk to them all. No surprise here – over 3,600 people attended the conference!

For me, the five-day conference (24 – 28 May 2019) began with a pre-conference on Human-Machine Communication, where I presented a paper on the “Reception of automated news: A critical review and recommendations for future research” with Neil Thurman. We got great comments on our work, and we look forward to upcoming studies on the audience reception of automated news that might include some of the recommendations we made. The pre-conference was tightly packed with many other topics besides automation in journalism, including robots in the household and what AI might add to education as a learning tool (check out Sima!).

And then there was the main conference – with panels starting at eight in the morning, going on until the evening, and still there was never enough time to visit all the panels I wanted. There was too much going on the at the same time, but I managed to attend a panels on data journalism and sports journalism, for instance. There, I found new inspiration on what to do in my own research, and bounced around ideas with my academic family – and here we go: there is always a new paper you want to write together. And another one, and another one…

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I also had a lot of fun beyond the conference – Washington is full of things to see. I peeked into the National Museum of African American History and Culture to get a good look at the sports exhibition “Leveling the Playing Field”, and I will definitely incorporate some of what I have learned about the journeys of these athletes into my course on sports communication next semester. I also went to the National Museum of American History, which is just next door, mainly to get a picture with Captain America’s shield (I mean, of course!) in the “Superheroes” exhibit. Moreover, thanks to ICA, conference participants could visit the Newseum for free – which, by the way, would definitely have been worth the quite steep entry fee they charge. The Newseum, which shows everything on journalism and its conditions, is the kind of museum I would love to visit with my students. It’s full of information without making your head explode, and it gets to the core of what it means to be a journalist. The exhibition that impressed me most was on Pulitzer Prize-winning photographs – the museum had many of the pictures on display, many with the accompanying stories. Impressive and depressing at the same time, as most of the photographs showed human tragedy. But there were also more light-hearted exhibits in the Newseum, such as the one on the “First Dogs” of the American presidents, which was probably the most crowded section of the whole museum. All in all, Washington is a great place to learn new things, and I wish I could come back more often.

Overall, ICA19 was a great conference in a great location – a dream combination! And now I’m looking forward to getting those papers on track which I promised during the numerous evening receptions…