Nick Couldry is Professor of Media, Communications and Social Theory in the Department of Media and Communications at LSE. As a sociologist of media and culture, he approaches media and communications from the perspective of the symbolic power that has been historically concentrated in media institutions. He is interested in how media and communications institutions and infrastructures contribute to various types of order (social, political, cultural, economic, ethical). His work has drawn on, and contributed to, social, spatial, democratic and cultural theory, anthropology, and media and communications ethics. His analysis of media as ‘practice’ has been widely influential. He is the author or editor of 12 books and many journal articles and book chapters.
As a sociologist, Proessor Couldry’s main interests are media and communications, culture and power, and social theory. Most of all, he is interested in the consequences for everyday reality of symbolic power’s concentration in particular institutions.
Initially, Professor Couldry’s work was focussed on the power of traditional ‘media’ (particular television and the press) to define political and social reality. More recently, he has become interested in how a range of institutions associated with ‘media’ have, in the digital age, taken over that power. Today, the work of constructing reality is done as importantly through algorithms that work to measure our performance online or while using a networked object (the ‘internet of things’), as through large-scale media narratives about society.
Throughout his career, Professor Couldry has tried to confront a basic paradox: that information and communication technologies, because they present us with a ‘reality’ every day, can easily come to seem like a second nature. As a result, what should always be contestable can end up seeming beyond challenge, a structure of power that is too ‘hard’ to move or break through. His work has looked at many examples of this: ritual forms around media, such as ‘reality TV’ and more recently how, in everyday organizations and settings, the power to measure and define through algorithmic processes is contested, a process he has called ‘social analytics’ (see Storycircle project). For his latest project, see The Price of Connection. Professor Couldry has also researched the politics of representation: are we, through our uses of media, empowered to engage with the democratic process (see Public Connection project)?
Professor Gina Neff is a Senior Research Fellow and Associate Professor at the Oxford Internet Institute and at the Department of Sociology, University of Oxford. She studies innovation, the digital transformation of industries, and how new technologies impact work.
She has published three books and over three dozen research articles on innovation and the impact of digital transformation. Her book Venture Labor: Work and the Burden of Risk in Innovative Industries (MIT Press, 2012) about the rise of internet industries in New York City, won the 2013 American Sociological Association Communication and Information Technologies Best Book Award. Her book, Self-Tracking, co-authored with Dawn Nafus (MIT Press, 2016) focuses on the practices and politics of using consumer technologies to track health and other everyday personal metrics. Her ongoing project on large-scale building architecture and construction examines how new information and communication technologies require new ways of working and the challenges of implementing these changes at an industrial scale.
She holds a Ph.D. in sociology from Columbia University where she remains a faculty affiliate of the Center on Organizational Innovation. Professor Neff has held faculty appointments at the University of Washington and the University of California, San Diego. She has had fellowships at the Institute for Advanced Study and the Center for Information Technology Policy. Her popular writing has appeared in Wired, The Atlantic, and Slate.