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Ready for Blue-Sky Thinking?

  • 1.  Ready for Blue-Sky Thinking?

    Posted 04-14-2023 11:13

    President-Elect's Column: Ready for Blue-Sky Thinking?

    By Eun-Ju Lee, ICA President-Elect (Seoul National University)

    We've all heard of it, but did you know why "Blue Sky Workshops" were named as such? To my embarrassment, I didn't. So I asked ChatGPT (OK, who else would you ask?) what "blue sky" means. According to ChatGPT, the term "blue-sky" is used "to describe ideas, plans, or proposals that are not yet grounded in reality or practicality." It is often associated with "visionary or idealistic concepts that may be desirable but are not yet achievable." As such, "blue sky thinking" refers to "creative thinking that is not constrained by conventional boundaries or limitations." 

    This year at #ICA23, you will have access to a variety of "blue-sky" sessions that encourage and facilitate out-of-the-box thinking. Several sessions will address the challenges and opportunities communication scholars are facing more intensely than ever, due to rapid technological advancement. "AI in the Communication Discipline: Next Challenges and Opportunities" raises important questions about how recent developments in AI affect the way we teach, conduct research, define divisions, run our journals, among other areas, with a view to prioritizing future agendas for ICA. Then, some sessions will deal with technology-induced changes in various facets of our society as a research topic. For instance, "The Sociality of Working Robots: Researching How Robots 'Work' in Public" aims to extend social robotics research by developing a "framework for analysis and research collaboration examining the relationship between the public and working robots," while "Tackling Synthetic Media with Content Authenticity: Insights from Civil Society, Academia, and Industry" highlights the threats posed by synthetic media and the strategies adopted by different sectors to rebuild trust in online content. Other sessions address technology-induced changes in research practices, such as ethical considerations when conducting research with digital artifacts ("Ethical Dilemmas in Research Using Digital Data: New Directions for Communication Scholars") and the common issues when recruiting research participants through social media ("Managing Scammers, Bots, and Ineligible Participants from Social Media Recruitment"). 

    Another recurring theme that spans several sessions is diversification. Both "Globalising Research and Teaching of Media and Communication Studies: Building a New Network" and "Decolonizing Communication Pedagogy: Principles and Practices'' critically evaluate the status quo of our discipline in terms of globalization and introduce ongoing efforts to redress remaining issues. While these workshops approach diversification from a de-Westernization perspective, "Institutional Support and Guidance for Multimodal Scholarship" workshop pursues diversification in the modality of knowledge production, by promoting the significance of multimodal scholarship that pushes "the boundaries of scholarly communication beyond written texts'' and inviting discussion on what institutional strategies can support it. Similar attempts to transcend traditional boundaries are also found in "Workplace Communication Researchers Making Intradisciplinary Connections: A Blue Sky Workshop," which will bring together scholars interested in "the communication practices that enable productive, collegial, collaborative, functional, and/or efficient work environments'' from many different Divisions and Interest Groups of ICA to share and receive feedback on their ongoing research projects. 

    Last but certainly not least, the skills workshops on grant writing ("Show Me the Money: Grant Writing 101 in an Era of Shrinking Academic Budgets") and network building ("Building your Academic and Professional Networks as a Student or Early Career Scholar") will be particularly beneficial for the professional development of students and early career researchers. Unfortunately, I can't elaborate on what all the blue-sky workshops have to offer in this limited space, so let me encourage you to search the conference program for more details and mark them on your calendar! 

    Tom Mankowski
    Washington DC
    United States