President of IAMCR
"Communication and Citizenship - Rethinking Crisis and Change" could hardly be a more apposite title for our 2010 IAMCR conference deliberations in Portugal.

The links between the first pair of concepts are as complex as ever. Despite pronouncements about its demise, national television seems to have made a come-back, particularly with the televising of live political debates that galvanized the electoral process in both Iran (June 2009) and Britain (May 2010). At the same time, the growing range of platforms and programmes that facilitate public participation are producing new technophilic intellectuals in the emerging ‘bloggerati' or ‘twitterati' class. The nature and extent of participation, the links between communicative voice and political process, are the focus of debate and analysis around the world.

The formal practices of democratic citizenship have had a mixed year. For example, and just in the Middle East and Central Asia, Iran's contested election result precipitated a year of unrest. Afghanistan's leader enjoys weak legitimacy. In Kyrgystan, a mix of street-based somatic solidarity and a weak state produced a rapid change of government. Iraqis are still wrangling as to the legitimacy of their recent vote. Elsewhere, Thai protestors are currently challenging the legitimacy of their government. The British electorate produced a ‘hung parliament' and the first attempt at a political coalition in a very long time. Despite its evident difficulties, people everywhere are demanding greater participation and liberty while the transition from authoritarianism to more open societies remains an often bloody process.

Of the four ‘C's in the title, crisis appears to be ubiquitous. Partly a function of media hype and partly a function of real social, political and environmental breakdown, "crisis" seems to looms everywhere, including in Europe. Environmental crisis is manifest in the current plume of volcanic ash confounding European airspace. Financial crisis is threatening economic stability in many countries while the Euro has plummetted to its lowest value in years. And mediatised rhetoric can whip up many more crises, around immigration, terrorism, deviance, so that the very fabric of our social lives can appear strained to breaking-point.

Nowhere seems immune from these social, economic and political crises. So there are challenges to our old analytic models of politics and media, of development and democracy, of knowing how different regions of the world function and the relationships among them. The world is one and yet deeply divided but not by the old geographies. The original Greek meaning of ‘krisis' was ‘decision'. We are badly in need of new critical paradigms, new criteria and forms of judgement and a new ethics in regard to solutions.

IAMCR is a space for the articulation of important issues and this year's programme is rich with diverse and contemporary debates. But our conferences are also places where we enact cosmopolitan conviviality and practice the best kind of global citizenship. Our reflexivity and openness to each other are practices to be cherished and built on.

So I wish us all much agonistic debate and much playful delight.

See you in Braga!
Annabelle

Annabelle Sreberny, President, IAMCR