Communication & Professionalization aims to present work that addresses changes in communication professions, in light of the extensive use of digital platforms in professional practices and organisational transitions. This phenomenon, known as ‘Platformization’ (Casilli & Posada, 2019; Gillespie, 2010) can be defined as a significant technical (Helmond, 2015) and organisational process within the digital economy that seeks to facilitate the match between supply, which involves a multitude of options, and demand, which involves individualised practices (Benghozi & Paris, 2016). One of the side effects of this platformization is to facilitate, or even force, new forms of collaboration (Mabi & Zacklad, 2021). The major platform companies at the forefront of this digital mediation economy, the GAFAMs, encompass multiple industries (entertainment, knowledge, advertising, crowdworking, hardware, etc.) and provide information and communication services (storage, syncing, outsourcing, Web 2.0, Web 3.0, artificial intelligence, metaverse, etc.) that are now essential for organisational operations.
Against this background, both traditional and emerging communication professions are undergoing constant change, requiring professionals (Cheney & Lee Ashcraft, 2007)to acquire new skills and competencies (Alloing et al., 2021; Bouillon, 2015; Deighton, 2017; Kondratov, 2018; Venkatasawmy, 2018). In the cultural industries (Nieborg & Poell, 2018), where several of these communication professions are located, new phenomena of deprofessionalisation and re-professionalisation are emerging. Platforms impose a set of production and consumption logics that are perceived and managed differently depending on the level of economic dependence of professional users (Schor & Attwood-Charles, 2017). Thus, communicators can simultaneously feel subjugated to algorithmic management when their work is subjected to the evaluation regime of these platforms (Bucher et al., 2020), while at the same time deriving a sense of fulfilment when the functionalities of these platforms support their work. In both cases, new configurations of communication professions emerge, leading to complex processes of transformation (Baillargeon, 2019; Coutant & Domenget, 2015). If, as Bullich (Bullich, 2021) points out, platforms are “manifestations of the organisational logic of mediatised communication” (p. 49), we must now question their functionalities, particularly for those whose work involves producing content for these platforms (social media) or benefiting from them (marketplaces for skills and content).
The journal has already published several papers on this topic, including the work of Domenget & Sire (2016), which focuses on SEOs and highlights the need for constant renewal of skills in response to the changes brought about by Google, as demonstrated by Peirot and Roginsky’s (2019) study and Alloing’s (2022) study on measurement and evaluation. Similar arrangements can be observed among managers of online communities (Alloing & Pierre, 2019), where professional skills are evaluated on the basis of metrics derived from publications. Several years later, do platforms stabilise the required skills, or is there still a need for continuous adaptation? Are new professions emerging alongside content moderators (Leveneur & Pélissier, 2020), as suggested by Larroche (Larroche, 2015)? And with them, “atypical careers” (Baillargeon & Coutant, 2018) and “hybrid skills” (Anciaux et al., 2018)? How do discourses of support (Grignon, 2015) contribute to operability, especially when they are addressed to professionals? To what extent do they shape the careers, skills and everyday practices of those who work (or aspire to work) for and through platforms? Do communicators also adopt an ethical code when supporting their clients in the media or when engaging their subscribers in their work (Coutant et al., 2021)? Have current training offerings successfully bridged the gap between procedural knowledge and critical approaches (Alemanno, 2015; Morillon et al., 2020)? Can the question of the digital transformation of organisations, where communicators and other professionals are largely dependent on platform services (Meese & Hurcombe, 2021), be conceived exclusively through the lens of collaborative innovation, as explored by Zacklad (Zacklad, 2020)?
These are just some of the questions that Communication & Professionalizationaims to address, focusing particularly on the impact of digital platforms on the practices of communication professionals and vice versa. Has the influence of digital platforms on digital communication, which has already been widely discussed in these publications, further exacerbated the described tensions? Does platformization impact the communication profession as a whole, beyond just digital communications professionals, including roles such as press relations and internal communications? Furthermore, platformization can be examined in terms of its effects on workers’ bodies and personal lives, from the psychosocial risks associated with hyperconnectivity and constant accessibility (Carayol, 2019) to burnout , which can lead to resistance and individual and collective strategies to effect change (El Bourkadi, 2022).
Focus of the call
We therefore suggest that the proposals for articles should focus on the following four axes.
Axis 1 – Preparing to work for platforms: Training issues
Depending on national or company traditions, access to the communication professions is legitimised by graduation (since the sector’s institutionalisation), professional experience or the availability of a personal network. However, the emergence of platforms that bring together editors, copywriters, social network managers and experts in advertising algorithms is leading to a movement of de- and re-professionalisation in the communication professions, requiring new training, new ways of presenting oneself and new forms of collaboration. How do young professionals experience this change? From a lifelong learning perspective, how do older professionals, for example, or those with limited digital experience, who need to update their skills or be able to assess the skills presented by job applicants, experience this? How are universities and schools dealing with these issues? As teaching tends to morph into apprenticeship due to the emphasis on skills (Duffy & Ney, 2015), what trade-offs are being made between the acquisition of procedural knowledge – demanded by the market – and the development of reflective, critical thinking – demanded by the ethos of the communicator? Another shift concerns the personalisation of the educational pathway: to what extent are institutions not also becoming platforms (Taylor et al., s. d.)? Conversely, to what extent are the main platforms (those of Meta or Alphabet) that drive these capabilities are taking control of the educational market (sometimes in partnership with universities)?
Axis 2 – Collaboration with marketplaces: The challenges of collaboration
These newly acquired skills do not guarantee a permanent job (if this model is still favoured). In order to gain a foothold in the labour market, one has to present one’s training and career on these platforms (e.g. LinkedIn): do those who work in communication have a stronger presence on these professional networking platforms? The use of freelance and outsourced work has multiplied opportunities and thus competition in the skills market, which is now even more open to international competition. New entrants can now attempt to foreign market. These issues have not yet been explored in depth, but a number of questions remain: What trade-offs do professionals, young and old, make between evaluating/marketing their procedural knowledge, management skills, creativity, past performance, etc.? How do they develop a service offer, pricing and production plan? How do marketplaces make themselves known to candidates, especially if they focus on niche skills (e.g. micro-editing)? What support systems do they offer not only to candidates, but also to recruiters and even training centres (as in the case of recruitment or content sites for professionals)? These are new phenomena challenging old questions (Gallicano et al., 2012), and this call is therefore a way to fill the literature on emerging practices. If professional communicators now work with platforms, how are recruiters or their representatives organised? What does it mean to work today with a majority of outsourced professional actors whose contracts and services run through other platforms? Does a new internal organisation need to be created because of new uncertainties (in terms of deadlines, quality of service, confidentiality of strategic data), new opportunities for negotiation and contracting, or the desire to build a loyal relationship with these new service providers?
Axis 3 – Working as a platform: organizational issues.
Is platformization also apparent within agencies and communications departments? While outsourcing and the use of marketplaces may lead to new human resource management processes, is the management of communication projects, especially those involving social media strategies, generally affected? Is the team organisation itself becoming “platform-like”, with a combination of internal consultants specialising in specific formats (“junior newsletter consultant”, podcast, blog, community, etc.) and project managers with multiple skills? How does platformization redefine the boundaries between communication professions? What does it mean to manage a team as a platform, beyond skills, attitude or ethos? Isn’t there a risk that by adopting the platform model, the whole communication strategy will follow it (external communication becomes a brand platform and internal communication becomes a content platform)?
If we look at the use of this platform in the workplace, between the “desk” and the now hybrid meeting room, are we also witnessing a restructuring? Does the reorganisation of workspaces into “compartments” lead to a flattening of activities? What are the implications of these new architectures in terms of notification management, remote working and social isolation? How does this affect the daily lives of professionals?
Let’s look at the work environment: How does the management of activities through platform-based tools (such as Slack, Trello, Teams, etc.) contribute to making workers, their activities and their output platform-based? Between screens, devices, notifications and digital influences, how does the communicator’s body respond to the platform?
Axis 4 – Working against platforms: Questions of resistance
The term ‘uberisation’ describes a regressive movement within platformization that threatens workplace health through precarious working conditions and algorithmic management, and which deprives work of its meaning. While this phenomenon first appeared in the field of passenger transport, it is now spreading to other sectors and domains. In this sense, communication professions are not exempt from this economic model, which introduces a new form of flexible and accessible work, shaking the social and symbolic foundations of professional groups and eroding the legal norms that structure and protect them. This situation gives rise to individual or collective resistances against the capitalist logic underlying digital platforms, such as centralised management not subject to legal regulation and the lack of transparency and ethics regarding personal data. These resistances arise when technical standards, rules and usage restrictions dictate actions, practices and even biological rhythms. Are there signs of Uberisation in the communications sector? What new workplace health issues can be explored as communicators use these platforms in their work? Can the individual and collective resistance of these professionals lead to alternative changes, as advocated by the platform cooperativism movement? How can the rules and constraints imposed by platforms be circumvented through tactics and tinkering? And what kind of social dialogue can be established between platforms, communicators and authorities?
Given the diversity that platforms and their alternatives promise, a similar diversity is expected in article proposals: diversity in research areas and cultural contexts, diversity in methodologies, approaches, and epistemologies, and diversity in disciplines, as long as the perspective is situated, empirical, and critical.
- Intentions: 15 July 2023
- Complete articles: 15 October 2023
- Return to authors: 15 December 2023
- Final texts: 15 February 2024
- Publication : Spring 2024
As a first step, we invite you to propose an intention to be submitted by 15 July 2023, via the journal’s website https://ojs.uclouvain.be/index.php/comprof/about/submissions or by email to the three scientific coordinators. Intentions should be between 1,200 and 1,500 words long (bibliography not included). They should include the title, the preferred focus of the proposal, the issues to be addressed, the methodology adopted, if any, and the arguments to be developed. A French translation must be attached to all documents. Subject to a favourable response to these intentions, authors must then submit a first version of their complete article by 15 October 2023 at the latest, following the journal’s standards on its website: https://ojs.uclouvain.be/index.php/comprof/about/submissions. The final version, due on 15 February 2024, will also contain a French translation.
- Julien Pierre, Assistant Professor, Department of Communication, Université de Sherbrooke – firstname.lastname@example.org
- Salma El Bourkadi, PhD in Information and Communication Sciences, Dicen-IdF laboratory – LabSic laboratory, Université Sorbonne Paris Nord – email@example.com
- Camille Alloing, Associate Professor of Communication, Department of Social and Public Communication, Université du Québec à Montréal – firstname.lastname@example.org
About Communication & Professionalization
Communication & Professionalization is a recognized scientific journal in the communication field (71st section of the CNU, CPdirsic, SFSIC). It operates on a continuous publication basis: several thematic dossiers are opened simultaneously on the journal’s website, and articles submitted and accepted for publication in these dossiers are published one by one on the website as they are finalized, without waiting for the whole dossier to be ready for publication. The journal is also interested in submissions that are not thematically related.
Communication & Professionalization publishes work on the various dynamics involved in the professionalization of communicators. These dynamics can be approached from different perspectives (sociological, ethical, deontological, critical, economic, organizational), but also through different professional practices (internal communication, marketing communication, public relations, digital communication, media communication, political communication, communication management).
The International Network on the Professionalization of Communicators (“Réseau international sur la professionnalisation en communication” – RESIPROC) aims to bring together communication professionals from the worlds of business, teaching and research, in a project to study the professionalization of communication professions and functions. Bringing together researchers and practitioners from several countries in the French-speaking world, RESIPROC was set up to understand changes in communication practices, to examine the role of university training in communication, and to develop a better understanding of the profession.
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