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The Society for Phenomenology and Media (SPM) was formed in 1998 and held its first conference in San Diego, February, 1999. The idea for the creation of the Society came from Paul Majkut. Though not a strict phenomenologist, he was friendly to the approach after studying Husserl under V. J. McGill. McGill, along with Dorion Cairns and Marvin Farber, studied with Husserl in the 1920s. McGill, a former President of the American Philosophical Association, did not consider himself a phenomenologist. Majkut 's interests were confined to transcendental phenomenology and the naturalist and dialectical materialism of his teacher.
Although Majkut believed that Husserl's work would remain the central theoretical lens of the society, this was not to be the case. The first SPM conference was decidedly catholic, with papers inspired not only by Husserl, but Merleau-Ponty, Ingarden, Heidegger, and others. Philosophical diversity was encouraged and came from a wide variety of perspectives: analytic and linguistic analysis, feminist, Marxism, pragmatism, post-colonial theory, semiotic, and other contemporary approaches, as well as the range of phenomenological opinion. Only questions of media theory and practice remained constant.
The society has two publications: Glimpse, at first a publication of conference proceedings, but since 2009 a peer-reviewed jounral, and Outis, a conference proceedings of the SPM Project on Deception.
From its inception, the society has been helped by Professor Lester Embree and the Center for Advanced Research in Phenomenology (CARP). Embree's advice and encouragement have left a permanent mark on SPM, specifically a democratic organizational structure that encourages open-mindedness and toleration of divergent philosophical approaches within the phenomenological movement.
In its early years, SPM formed a close relationship with the Circulo Latinoamericano Fenomenologia (CLAFEN), especially in the persons of Prof. Rosemary Rizo-Patron of the Pontical University of Peru and Antonio Zirion of Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, and continued with the invitation of Julia Iribarne of National Academy of Sciences, Buenos Aires, Argentina.
In 2003, SPM became a founding member of the Organization of Phenomenological Organizations (OPO) at its first conference in Prague, the Czech Republic, and was represented by Prof. Majkut, who also represented SPM at the second meeting in Lima, Peru.
At its inception, the directors of the society decided that a number of papers accepted for presentation at its conferences would be reserved for those working towards a doctorate. It was also decided that as an international organization annual conferences would be held in rotation in the European Union, North America (Canada and the United States), and Latin America. SPM is particularly interested in bringing the work of Latin American phenomenologists to the attention of North American and European thinkers.
Reduced membership and registration fees for members from developing nations and doctoral students were established and a small amount of the society's revenues was set aside for stipends for those with financial difficulties.