I was absolutely charmed by Spanish hospitality this July when I visited the city of Madrid for the IAMCR (International Association for Media and Communication Research) Conference. The central theme of this year’s conference was Communication, Technology, and Human Dignity: Disputed Rights, Contested Truths.

The opening ceremony was held at the Cibeles Palace, home to Madrid City Hall, which is covered with an immense glass dome. The venue served as a wonderful opportunity to meet new colleagues and rekindle friendships.

Held from 7 to 11 July at the School of Communication of the Complutense University of Madrid, the conference program included over 30 thematic sections and a wide range of cultural activities. As part of the Participatory Communication Research (PCR) section, I was honoured to share a paper entitled “Shouting in a Whisper: Social Change and Participation in Qatar.” This research speculates on findings from semi-structured interviews with community development leaders in the capital city of Doha about the potentials for participatory processes, power redistribution, and social change in the country.

Other thought-provoking topics explored in the PCR section included “rescuing” the idea of participation and widening our scope of definitions for social change. With many under-examined forms of social and economic life, there is a need to distinguish between processes and outcomes to understand the concept of participation. As such, questions remain about where participation takes place and where participatory moments occur in a process.

A number of presentations also looked at Freirean-based approaches (READ: Pedagogy of the Oppressed) to make the connection between knowledge, power, and culture in enabling more authentic community empowerment and development. Check out Paulo Freire’s last public interview, given to Literacy.org in 1996 to learn more about his perspectives.

Presenters also supported a more critical focus on the role of cultural values as either—facilitating or constraining—development. Other areas of scholarship were discussed related to:

  1. Decolonial Studies: Fals Borda, Escobard, Souza Santos, Buen Vivir
  2. Latin American Cultural Studies (which connects communication to culture): Alfaro Goal, Martin Barbero, Garcia Canclini, Carlos Altam Iran Renato Oritiz, Beatriz Arlo
  3. Communication for Social Change (CfSC): Diffusion of Innovation, Dependency Theory, and Participatory Communication

Many thanks to the IAMCR local organizing committee for planning so many exciting events. I truly enjoyed my time in Madrid and am looking forward to next years conference in Beijing, China!