We are taking this week off from new readings. Instead the class is concentrating on critical analysis assignments and presentations.
Two of these — one on Banksy and the Critical Art Ensemble, the other on Greenpeace and the movement against the Keystone XL pipeline — were presented in class this past week. We are planning to present the remainder in next week’s class. We will also discuss how and what to share online from these analyses, and what form our final applied media projects will take.
Adbusters’ 2012 Meme of the Year video
This week we begin looking at some case studies of media uses — specifically, by “tactical media” activists such as “culture jammers” and other “hacktivists.”
Marshall McLuhan argued that the world was becoming a “global village.” For the theorists we are examining this week, the world has certainly become global, but it is less a village — which implies a stability and a taken-for-grantedness of “what’s what” and “who’s who” — than it is a tempest or a whirlwind. It is a world of ceaseless flux, flow, and modulation, a world of interconnected networks within which we might not know who we ourselves are, let alone who others are.
After exploring new (digital/social/emergent) media through a variety of media studies lenses, we began looking at the possibilities these media present for democratic political projects. This week we begin our next theoretical turn: into the interdisciplinary field of “cultural studies.” This will provide tools to help us think about the relationship between new media and changing configurations of power. It’s only in the context of the latter that possibilities for social and environmental change can be understood in their complexity.
Since this topic was a popular one, I thought I’d link to an article that usefully contextualizes Habermas’s notion of the public sphere within current research in sociology of media. Many of the issues that came up in our discussion get some nuanced exploration in Rodney Benson’s article.
In particular, Benson offers some correctives to the tendency to think in all-or-nothing terms about whether or not today’s media environment fulfills the function of a public sphere. Drawing on French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu and American “new institutionalist” media sociologists, he points out that there are many levels of influence apart from commercial considerations on media and journalistic practice.
With this week’s readings we move to another meaning of “media ecology” — something that Adbusters magazine calls the “mental environment” and that law professor James Boyle calls the “information environment,” the “informational commons,” the “commons of facts and ideas,” and the “intangible commons of the mind.”