Author Archive

Week 9 – Media Audiences

May 10, 2010

Couldry, Nick. “The Extended Audience: Scanning the Horizon”. In Gillespie, Marie. Ed. Media Audiences. Berkshire: Open University Press, 2005, 184-196 & 210-220.

 In his article, “The Extended Audience”, Nick Couldry engages with the idea of the media ‘audience’. He emphasises the need to “understand audiences’ relationship[s] to a new spectrum of media outlets…a more complex interlocking of old and new media” which extends beyond issues of convergence and considers how the things audiences do are being affected by the things with which they interact. Furthermore, Couldry believes “we must make new connections, extending the places and activities we study in order to grasp what membership of the contemporary audience involves”. Finally, we also need to consider the increasing individualisation of audiences’ access points to media…or the increasingly global scale on which audiences are linked because of media’s international flow and the internet’s automatic global link; or the new ways of engaging with media summed up in the word ‘interactivity’”.

 Couldry uses the theories of Abercrombie and Longhurst to discuss the various types of audiences, including the ‘diffused audience’ – the notion that in contemporary society everyone becomes an audience all of the time. Couldry proposes that the term ‘extended’ audience may actually be more appropriate as it “requires us to examine the whole spectrum of talk, action and thought that draws on media, or is orientated towards media”. In particular, Couldry discusses the extended audience in relation to ‘reality TV’. In many respects, there still remains a division between audiences and the media industry. For instance, when audiences travel to various media locations, such as the site of Big Brother, they are still visitors to a different space and “the underlying distance is unaffected”. On the other hand, the invention of new media technologies can be seen to alter the power relationships between media consumers and producers. Any individual with access to a camcorder and the internet has the power to broadcast ‘reality’ footage of their own life. This has the potential to turn ‘ordinary’ people into celebrities. A recent example is possibly Canadian teen Justin Bieber who broadcast videos of himself singing and performing on YouTube. After being accidently ‘discovered’ by singer/manager Scooter Braun, Bieber has become an international pop/R&B singer. Such examples demonstrate how the boundaries between audience and media production are in a constant state of flux.

Week 8 – Networks

May 10, 2010

Castells, M. Excerpts from “Informationalism, Networks and the Network Society: A Theoretical Blueprint” From The Network Society: A Cross-cultural Perspective.  Cheltenham, UK, Edward Elgar, pgs. 3-7 & 36-45.

Manual Castells suggests in his article “Informationalism, Networks and the Network Society: A Theoretical Blueprint”, that the concept of networks has become essential to understanding the organisation of contemporary life. Indeed, networks “constitute the fundamental pattern of life”. One of the benefits of the network is in their “ability to introduce new actors and new content to the process of social organization, with relative independence of the power centres, increased over time with technical change and…with the evolution of communication technologies”.

Castells discusses the concepts of “nodes”, which I interpreted as points in a network where information intersects. He also discusses key concepts such as the “space of flows” and “timeless time”. The “space of flows” is not placeless but consists of networks and nodes, “…of places connected by electronically powered communication networks through which flows of information circulate and interact…” In the network society it is not as if there is no time, but rather that connection is immediate. Indeed, as Castells discusses the sequence of time is negated by either compressing time or blurring its sequences “…the space of flows dissolves time by disordering the sequence of events and making them simultaneous, thus installing society in structural ephemerality” or “timeless time”. In the tutorials we discussed the ‘Casino’ as one instance in contemporary society in which it is easy to ‘loose track’ of time.

The other interesting discussion in this article was on the notion of the “hacker ethic”. Castells discusses some of the key issues surrounding the sharing of knowledge and discovery, theorising that “the culture of the network society is a culture of protocols of communication between all cultures of the world, developed on the basis of a common belief in the power of networking and of the synergy obtained by giving to others and receiving from others”. This notion of “sharing” knowledge and resources is highly contentious and one that I find very interesting. In many respects I think it’s impossible to define hacking as either “good” or “bad” but merely a natural consequence of the quest for information and increased autonomy in contemporary networked societies.

Week Six – Mobility

April 28, 2010

Volker, Clara. “Mobile Media and Space.” In Goggin, Gerard and Larissa Hjorth, Eds. Mobile Media 2007. Sydney: Sydney University Press, 2007, 135-142.

 Ito, Mizuko. “Mobile Phones, Japanese Youth, and the Replacement of Social Contact.” In Ling, Rich and Pederson, Per, Eds. Mobile Communications: Re-negotiation of the Social Sphere. London: Springer – Verlag, 2005, 131-148.

 According to Volker ‘Space’ can no longer be merely divided into the digital and physical as new technologies, such as the mobile phone or ipod, often bridge the two realms. Semapedia is one example of the way in which technology can provide interaction between the virtual and physical worlds. The project allows users to create “cellphone-readable physical hyperlinks” (or barcodes) placed at a physical location which provide access to information on a Wikipedia page. According to the Semapedia website, “Our goal is to connect the virtual and physical world by bringing the right information from the internet to the relevant place in physical space”. Socialight is the second example Volker employs to demonstrate how “…virtual connections between subjects and other subjects or objects are being mapped, transferred into digital virtuality, and reintroduced as virtual spaces into physical reality”. Socialight allows users to create digital messages or ‘Sticky Shadows’ which can be attached to a physical object. Other users are then able to track down and receive the comments/messages attached to this object.

 Both of these examples reminded me of a performance piece by Blast Theory called ‘Can You See Me Now?’ (2001) which also aims to bridge the boundaries between the physical and virtual world.

 Can You See Me Now? is a game that happens simultaneously online and on the streets. Players from anywhere in the world can play online in a virtual city against members of Blast Theory. Tracked by satellites, Blast Theory’s runners appear online next to your player on a map of the city. On the streets, handheld computers showing the positions of online players guide the runners in tracking you down.

With up to 20 people playing online at a time, players can exchange tactics and send messages to Blast Theory. An audio stream from Blast Theory’s walkie talkies allowed you to eavesdrop on your pursuers: getting lost, cold and out of breath on the streets of the city.

Can You See Me Now? draws upon the near ubiquity of handheld electronic devices in many developed countries…As the previously discrete zones of private and public space (the home, the office etc.) have become blurred, it has become commonplace to hear intimate conversations on the bus, in the park, in the workplace. And these conversations are altered by the audience that accompanies them: we are conscious of being overheard and our private conversations become three way: the speaker, the listener and the inadvertent audience.

Can You See Me Now? takes the fabric of the city and makes our location within it central to the game play. The piece uses the overlay of a real city and a virtual city to explore ideas of absence and presence. By sharing the same ‘space’, the players online and runners on the street enter into a relationship that is adversarial, playful and, ultimately, filled with pathos.

With the advent of virtual spaces and, more recently, hybrid spaces in which virtual and real worlds are overlapping, the emotional tenor of these worlds has become an important question. In what ways can we talk about intimacy in the electronic realm?

 http://www.blasttheory.co.uk/bt/work_cysmn.html

 Semapedia, Socialight and even the game ‘Can You See Me Now?’ each demonstrate ways in which virtual space has become “…increasingly embedded into real space. Due to their wirelessness and transportability, digital informational spaces are no longer restricted to fixed places and cable networks…” At the same time, I agree with Volker’s suggestion that new digital media “…do not threaten ‘reality’…they augment real space and thus cause displacements in the conception of space developed under the influence of cabled digital media”.

 I found Ito’s study on mobile phone usage by Japanese youth provided a fascinating insight into Japanese culture as well as a clear example of how a mobile phone technology has been domesticated by a specific social group. Ito discusses how power relations of different kinds of space are enabled by mobile communication. Furthermore, she argues that although the mobile phone “can indeed enable communication that crosses prior social boundaries…this does not necessarily mean that the device erodes the integrity of existing places or social identities”. Instead, the mobile fulfils a social need. It is expensive to have a home phone in Japan and small houses make socialising amongst groups of young people virtually impossible. The mobile phone, therefore, can be seen as a “way of overcoming the spatial boundaries of the home, for teens to talk with each other late at night and to shut out their parents and siblings”. In addition, mobile phone usage does not “challenge or reshape the power geometries of the home”. Instead, Ito suggests that it has become a “…tool for circumventing the normative structures of the home with minimal disruption to its internal logic”. I found this article, really useful when considering notions of space and the ways in which an individual might incorporate a specific technology into their daily routine.

Week Seven – Convergence

April 27, 2010

Nightengale, Virginia. “New Media Worlds? Challenges for Convergence”. In Nightengale, Virginia and Tim Dwyer, Eds. New Media Worlds: Challenges for Convergence. Couth Melbourne, VIC: Oxford University Press, 2007, 19-36.

 Jenkins, Henry. “Buying into American Idol: How We are being Sold on Reality Television”. In Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide. New York, NYU Press, 2006, 59-92.

 Nightengale’s article, “New Media Worlds? Challenges for Convergence”, quotes Jenkins’ definition of Convergence as “a situation in which multiple media systems coexist and where media content flows fluidly across them. Convergence is understood here as an ongoing process or series of intersections between media systems not a fixed relationship”. Nightengale suggests that many media industries, such as television, face a combination of ‘disintermediation’ and ‘deconstruction’ because of their slow responses to the challenges of ‘internetisation’. Nevertheless, linking their offline activities to online ‘enhancements’ is one way in which television has utilized the convergence process to meet these challenges.

I found Jenkins’ example of the reality television series, American Idol to be a particularly interesting example of the issues of convergence. Firstly, the show clearly uses ‘enhancements’ through the building of online communities in internet forums as a way of increasing the popularity of the show. The structure of the program itself is designed to turn casual viewers (“zappers”) into dedicated viewers (“loyals”). ‘Cliff hangers’ are used in each episode and the show itself is a “snowballing phenomenon” with contestants eliminated each week until the show reaches a dramatic climax with the ‘final verdict’ revealed in the Grand Final. Audience participation is another important element of convergence, with weekly voting via mobile phone SMS or ‘phone-in’. This helps to create “love markets” which build strong audience allegiances to individual performers and establishes a fan base for contestants’ ‘post-idol’ careers’. This, in turn, is designed to translate into strong music sales.    

Jenkins suggests that in order to understand American Idol’s success we need to understand the notion of “Affective economics”. Affective economics has both positive and negative implications in that it allows “advertisers to tap the power of collective intelligence and direct it towards their own ends but at the same time allowing consumers to form their own kind of collective bargaining structure that they can use to challenge corporate decisions”. In the case of American Idol, as Heyer discusses, the various entertainment media are brought together creating multiple contacts between brand and consumer through advertising. In many respects, this could be seen as one way in which television has used convergence as a way of expanding its ‘richness’ and ‘reach’.

Week 4 – Mediation: Space

April 12, 2010

Moores, Shaun. “The Doubling of Place: Electronic Media, Time – Space Arrangements and Social Relationships.” In Couldry, Nick. And McCarthey, Anna., Eds. MediaSpace: Place, Scale and Culture in a Media Age. London: Routledge, 2004, 21-37. 

Shawn Moores’ article, “The Doubling of Place: Electronic Media, Time – Space Arrangements and Social Relationships”, applies Scannell’s concept on the ‘doubling of place’ in broadcasting, to a more general analysis of electronic media. The internet and telephone, Moores argues, should be considered alongside radio and television in a single field of investigation “precisely because of the common potential that all these media have for constructing experiences of simultaneity, liveness and ‘immediacy’ in…. ‘non-localized’ spaces and encounters”.

I found Moores’ example of Princess Diana’s funeral was a particularly interesting example of how public events can interrupt both the ‘normal flow’ of television broadcasting as well as the routines of daily life. In this instance, doubling of space occurs through the liveness of the television broadcast for the viewers in their private, domestic settings as well as the physical act of attending the event itself. Lori Kendall’s account of her internet usage is an engaging example of the “pluralizing of space and relationships”. Whilst ‘hanging out’ at BlueSky, a virtual pub, Kendall’s internet usage ranged from being completely engaged with the online content, to moments “when she ceases to be interested in the ongoing ‘conversation’ between participants”. Kendall’s account makes the crucial point that whilst ‘mudding’ in virtual internet spaces “provides for me a feeling of being in a place, that place in some sense over lays the physical place in which my body resides”. Moores elaborates on this, suggesting that virtual spaces should be viewed ‘as part of everyday life’. Computer mediated communication should take into account both the “ ‘presencing’ of places on the screen” as well as “those places in which the screen is viewed and interacted with, including public locales such as Internet cafes”. This is particularly clear when regarding Schegloff’s description of a telephone conversation on a train ride to New York. The level of irony in the statement, “Do you mind?! This is a private conversation!”, again demonstrates the complexities of doubling space. As Moores notes, the young woman on the phone is in two places (“theres”) at once. She is in the railway carriage but also ‘on’ the telephone. This example made it particularly clear to me that virtual space is not a separate entity to the physical, ‘real’ world – the two spaces overlap and are constantly interacting. Indeed, as Moores concludes, “place, and experiences of being-in-place, can be pluralized in and by electrically mediated communication”.

Week 5 – Researching Media in Everyday Life

April 12, 2010

Corti, L. “Using Diaries in Social Research.” Available at http://sru.soc,surrey.ac.uk/sru2.html

 According to Corti “….diaries are used as research instruments to collect detailed information about behaviour, events and other aspects of individuals’ daily lives”. As a research method they have many advantages in that they:

  • provide a reliable alternative to the interview method and a way of recording facts that may be easily forgotten.
  • can allow sensitive/personal information to be collected more easily.
  • can be used to supplement the information collected from an interview (the ‘diaryÐdiary interview method’).

 I found Corti’s article on “Using Diaries in Social Research” very helpful when planning my Diary of Media Use for Assessment 2: Media and Everyday Research Proposal. I agree with Natalie that the main argument within this article is the need to develop a definite structure when undertaking social research. I tried to utilise Corti’s guidelines when planning my diary. I created a small booklet and provided my subject with clear instructions on when, where and how to record information. The diary itself was drawn up in a neat table with columns to record media, location, length of time and content. At this stage I’m considering using the ‘diaryÐdiary interview method’ as part of my further research for this assignment i.e. interviewing my subject in addition to using the diary information.

 Corti’s article also included factors to consider when analysing the data collected from diaries. For instance, she discusses the fact that ‘reporting errors’ can occur as a result of research participants enthusiastically recording information in the first few days (‘first day effects’) but then become less detailed in their responses later in the process. Some may even resort to keeping ‘tomorrow diaries’ in which the information is filled out at a later date. It will be important to keep this in mind when analysing the information collected in the media diary.