As we continue reading Gilbert’s Anticapitalism and Culture, we are attempting to deepen our understanding how political-economic changes affect the cultural conditions for social (and environmental) change.
Much of this entry will review the political-economic shifts we examined in class this past week. For those who’d like to review any of the videos we watched (or who were not in class), I’m including links to the videos and to further readings. Specific pointers on this week’s Gilbert readings are presented below.
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.”
So far in this course we have been mapping out three different approaches to understanding new media: a political economy approach, a cultural studies approach, and a media ecology approach. (The latter, so far, has been identified with the medium theory of Innis, McLuhan, and the “Toronto School” of communication studies. We will expand on that in weeks to come.)
Last week we began considering the political possibilities afforded by “media convergence,” in all its forms. This week we look closer at the relationship between politics and new media.
This week’s readings provide an overview of the many kinds of “media convergence” occurring with new/emergent/digital media. The Jenkins and Boler articles will be required reading; the latter begins our process of thinking about the political uses of new media, which we’ll focus on more next week.
(Note to non-UVM blog readers: Both the Jenkins and Boler chapters are freely available online; just do a pdf search for them. The Jenkins piece is also readable here.)
Note: I’ve changed this post title from “Glossary” to “Scrapbook.” Since we didn’t get to the online posting of glossary items in our Jan. 22 class, we can keep this page for posting miscellaneous items that don’t fit into weekly themes or that come well after those theme discussions have occurred. If they’re more appropriate elsewhere (such as links that can be added to our “Links” list on the right), I will add them there later.