UKZN hosts Media Cities ConferenceGeneral

Professor Cheryl Potgieter (centre) with participants at the Media Cities: Mapping Urbanity and Audiovisual Configurations Conference.Professor Cheryl Potgieter (centre) with participants at the Media Cities: Mapping Urbanity and Audiovisual Configurations Conference.

UKZN’s Centre for Communication, Media and Society (CCMS) recently hosted a seminar linked to the Media Cities: Mapping Urbanity and Audiovisual Configurations Conference.

The Conference facilitated synergies between media theory and textual considerations on the one hand and political economy and urban spatial considerations and imagery on the other.

Opening the Conference, Deputy Vive-Chancellor and Head of the College of Humanities Professor Cheryl Potgieter said the conference was ‘important because it engages with theory, practice and intervention, linking to transformation of the country and social cohesion’.

Emeritus Professor Keyan Tomaselli said: ‘Cities are now analysed as networks by geographers and town planners, architects and civil engineers. Included in this mix now are media and cultural scholars, film students and tourism researchers.’

According to Tomaselli, the international Media Cities Conference brings together scholars of all these disciplines who discuss cities as communication networks, representation, cultural nodes and tourist destinations.

‘This event to some extent emerged out of a three-year study by CCMS students of Durban as a Film City. Some of the research presented arises from UKZN students who worked on the project. The UKZN partner in this conference was Bayreuth University in Germany, where staff and students have also been working on the topics. Bayreuth and UKZN are linked by a formal inter-institutional collaborative agreement,’ said Tomaselli.

Delivering one of the keynote addresses, Professor Tom O’Regan of the University of Queensland in Australia spoke on: “Revisiting Film Cities and Film Services”.

O’Regan gave an overview of the concept of film cities and the distinct policy and industry development approaches and trajectories associated with it.

He  discussed opportunities, challenges and limitations place-based actions and actors face in facilitating production, noting that ‘film cities logics have become a broader way of describing and thinking about the multifaceted ways places can facilitate their film and TV participation’.

The other keynote address was made by Professor Gustav Visser of Stellenbosch University who provided a spatial analysis of the filming industry in urban South Africa and related it to general economic and social geographies in two South African cities Cape Town and Johannesburg which have identified the filming industry as a key development strategy.

Visser outlined an agenda for future research, in particular pertaining to urban South Africa. ‘There is a broader urban planning and geography project at hand. Questions need to be asked about how the filming industry interacts with other government programmes and the ongoing transformation of physical and symbolic spaces in urban South Africa.’

Selected papers from the Conference will be published in the Journal of African Cinemas while Urban Forum has offered to consider more papers on political economy and geographically.

An outcome of the Conference was the development of a research group whose work can impact city, provincial and state policy.

Melissa Mungroo