On 20 February, David Ranc was invited to Universitat Pompeu Fabra in Barcelona to be the vocal (external) examiner for the PhD of Hibai López González. The author hoped to have the shortest PhD title in his University (where the economists have the habit of making similarly short and general titles) and called it simply “On Mediasport Consumption”.
This was the first time in the Departament de Comunicació that a PhD was examined on articles. The thesis included four from highly-respected reviews (three have an impact factor above 1). The first paper examined the thesis by Ramon Llopis-Goig (interestingly from the FREE project) that the narrative of the Real Madrid – Barcelona football games is about the opposition between the capital and a province that wants independence. Interestingly, Hibai López González and his co-authors showed very convincingly that the discourse is nowhere to be found in the media narrative. The article is therefore, as Professor Christopher Tulloch pointed out, a great example of what the social sciences are for: examine thoroughly, with strong methodologies, whether some commonly received ideas are true and how this reflects on assumptions about our societies – in this case, the findings may constitute an interesting contribution to a major piece of theory by political scientist Benedict Anderson: the constitution of Imagined Communities through the Press.
One further avenue for research would of course be to check whether this discourse on separatism would have currency with the supporters (who may or may not be readers of the press – David Ranc’s own research having showed that some supporters define themselves against the press and through refusing to read newspapers). Mediasport may be produced, how it is consumed and by whom remains a very interesting issue and a very topical one. The question of the construction (or not) of communities by the press is at the core of many theories on nations and societies in political science. It has gained renewed interest with the advent of online media, which were the topic of the next two articles. Both focused on the construction of online communities – and in the case of the second article, the impact of moderation. The last article was a more theoretical piece on how time is crucial in mediasport.
The oral examination took place very near the Torre Aqbar in Barcelona, on the very modern campus of Pompeu Fabra, which added a lot to the pleasure of taking part in this examination.