This evening, Monday 5 December 2022, LSE’s Department of Media and Communications will hold a public event to celebrate the legacy of Professor Emerita Robin Mansell. We have invited some of Robin’s present and former colleagues and students to contribute their thoughts on the impact she has had both on them personally, and on the field of information and communication technologies theory and practice. Here, two professors reflect on working with Robin at different times in her career.
Cees Hamelink, Professor Emeritus International Communication, University of Amsterdam.
Reflecting on the academic contributions and qualities of Robin Mansell requires a book manuscript of many pages. Allow me to add to all the laudatory texts on her work a short note on the Robin I know as friend and colleague. When I did receive the request to contribute to her legacy this meant for me that she had died without informing me. I was deeply shocked not only by the loss of such a valuable friend but also because I always think that friends should warn each other when they leave us. Fortunately it soon turned that my Dutch calvinism had misled me. Robin is alive and as I do hope for many years still.
In the restaurant of the John Knox Foyer in Geneva – many years ago – Kaarle Nordenstreng and I encouraged Robin to go for the presidency of the IAMCR. She hesitated and hestitated but eventually accepted to be candidate and won the elections. The best way to contribute to her legacy – in this blog – is to state why we wanted her as president.
The Association needed a stellar, broadly recognized academic who could inspire its members to take the field of studies in media and communication beyond its present concerns and contents. It was time for the Association to make an effort of contributing to an understanding of the complexities of global policymaking on information media and communication technologies and to explore critically how – worldwide – the changes in the media and communication landscape would impact upon the daily lives of ordinary people, in particular the disenfranchised, the marginalised and the oppressed. Robin could lead the way and she did!
We also needed a thoroughly humanist person who would understand the ‘togetherness-family’ sentiment of the IAMCR and who could in the increasingly unhealthy environment of competitive academic work demonstrate collegial solidarity, cooperation, and conviviality. Thanks Robin for scientific brilliance and the beauty of friendship.
Sarah Banet-Weiser, Distinguished Professor, Annenberg School for Communication, University of Pennsylvania; Professor, Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, University of Southern California.
I am so grateful to have the opportunity to acknowledge and thank Robin Mansell, for all she has done for the field, for Media and Communications at LSE, and for me personally. She is not only a brilliant and highly-regarded scholar, but also a dedicated mentor and friend. I echo the the high praise people have offered about her work. It is not an overstatement to say that she has changed the field of communication in immeasurable ways. Her work has had a crucial presence in my own intellectual life, anchoring me in the politics and economics of technologies and policy, incisively demonstrating the ways that all technologies are structured by power. Robin’s ideas and provocations about how we should understand technology have never been more important for the world; she has demonstrated, time and again, that we can imagine something different from our communication technologies, something more just, more human. Quite simply, she has made our field better, and I am so grateful to her for that.
As hugely important as her work is, here I want to focus on my friendship with Robin, and her invaluable mentorship. I began to work at LSE as Head of Department in July 2018—a new job, a new country, a new bureaucracy. I remember walking to work that first day (in the rain! A wonderful thing for a Californian!), thinking about how generous Robin was in meeting with me, listening to my concerns, and guiding me in my new role. I simply couldn’t have done it without her. In her careful, thoughtful way, she anticipated my every question, wrote copious notes about crucial deadlines in the department, the events we typically had, the forms I would have to fill out. Most importantly, she gave me a roadmap for this new position for how to make decisions that were fair and equitable. She is entirely unselfish in her leadership—for those of you who know her, you will understand this. She refuses to center herself, even when it is so clear that she *is* the center, the compass, the guide, for Media and Communications at LSE.
So, Robin was my mentor—it is because of her patient guidance that I was able to succeed as Head of Department. But she is also my friend—she welcomed me into her home, she showed me some of the best places in London, she listened to my woes, she gave me companionship in a new city. I will be forever grateful for her kindness, and our field will be forever indebted to her legacy.
This article represents the views of the authors and not the position of the Media@LSE blog, nor of the London School of Economics and Political Science.