Saturday, February 28, 2009
2- The media construction of subcultures is complex. On the one hand, if subcultures are radicalized, represented as threatening for social order and society, they are being trivialized, highlighted as Other. On the other hand, if the media minimizes their Otherness (e.g., portraying punks with their families), these subcultures are being defined in terms they sought to resist (Hebdige). Although cultural studies approach tends not to “patronize,” I wonder whether there is any way or suggested way on how to better represent these subcultures?
3- Barthes (1972, as cited in Hebdige) characterizes the petit-bourgeois as a person “unable to imagine the Other.” As a result, the Other is trivialized, and the difference is simply denied. In social psychology, it has been demonstrated that the in-group/out-group dynamic is almost intrinsic to any social being. That is, people tend to see out-group members as less-diverse Others because they are exposed to a fewer number of them (among other reasons). This eventually would explain the reproduction of stereotypes. In sum, besides the cultural and ideological reasons that may explain why the petit-bourgeois is unable to imagine the Other, this social psychological approach suggests that having difficulties to imagine the Other is almost constitutive of being social, although people can do efforts to be exposed to a larger number of different people, so as to understand their diversity and complexity. Anyway, both approaches –one being more psychological and individualistic and the other more structural and ideological— seem to focus on the same problem. How do they interact with each other? Is it possible that interaction (I don’t mean convergence in Ang’s terms)?
4- Ang poses that the hidden agenda of audience research has been its commercial or political usefulness. Then, she wonders how can cultural studies develop insights –she avoids the word knowledge-- that “do not reproduce the kind of objectified knowledge served up by market research”? (p.183). Although the phrase “hidden agenda” is negatively charged, empirical audience research certainly has a commercial or political value. But my question is: Isn’t it true that any kind of research produces knowledge or insights that ultimately can serve a commercial goal? Ang, for example, asserts that the interpretation derived from cultural studies ethnography revealed that gendered television-viewing practices are not just expressions of different needs, as the uses and grats approach would suggest, but are a product of interactions and power relations between men and women. This finding or interpretation provides information that may be used by, say, market companies. It is new information on how the social “black box” works. For instance, they may generate a message or an ad that resonates with these social interactions to be more persuasive.
5- Parameswaran suggests that one of the reasons why feminist cultural research has neglected journalism is because scholars “challenged the centrality of journalism and its association with privileged masculine forms of address.” (p.97). As a result, it focused on popular culture. What were the less-masculine characteristics of pop culture that attracted feminists?
Sunday, February 22, 2009
I also believe Bauman has negative view toward globalization. Of course there are certain confusion and conflict associated with cultural collision, but in a long term I believe globalization leads world into a better place. The main reason, I think, is probably the massive competitions globalization creates. And this extensive competition often leads faster technology development. At the same time, however, I still think perseverance of a country’s own culture is important. Localizing products from different country sometimes solve this. What could be efficient methods to accept globalized product and preserve the country’s own culture? Is extensive censorship necessary to control this?
2. Roland Barthes
Once myth has been settled or perceived, what is the best way to change the existing myth? I believe the process takes much time since most myths are formulated over extensive period of time. Are there any ways to dispel myth in a short period?
3. Marshall McLuhan
On page 107 he says, “The essence of automation technology is the opposite. It is integral and decentralist in depth, just as the machine was fragmentary, centralist, and superficial in its patterning of human relationships.” Do you guys agree with this statement? I am bit confused because automation technology seems still centralist to me. Maybe I got these centralized and decentralized concepts wrong. But don’t machines still need centralized control such as maybe human supervisor to function efficiently?
4. Dorfman & Mattelart
The article inspired me to think of the cross-cultural differences. Most of Disney movies are imported around the world. Conflict can be spawned because of this. Not a lot of countries share similar culture as American culture. However, most countries still import Disney movies. So if children see some of American culture from specific cartoons that conflict with their own cultures, how is this going to affect children? Will they simply ignore it? Or will they be adapting to new culture just based on what they saw on TV?
5. Marshall McLuhan
ON page 108, he says “the medium is the message” because it is the medium that shapes and controls the scale and from of human association and action. The content or uses of such media are as diverse as they are ineffectual in shaping the form of human association. Indeed, it is only too typical that the content of any medium blinds us to the character of the medium.” I couldn’t agree with this more. I also think that we tend to underestimate how much message media itself can represent. For example, CNN and FOX have certain point of view they want to convey. Coverage on Iraq war is different from channel to channel and country to another country because media has certain agenda or message they want to deliver. So is this ethical that media (especially news channels) has certain standpoint? Or should they try to always be balanced politically?
This question is probably a cliche for journalism stduents, but it still is one of the many questions I keep thinking as I study journalism. What do you think?
Q2) I agree with David – I think that it’s difficult to determine how much credit media deserve for influencing popular action, and researchers can always find examples if they’re looking for them. McLuhan, I think, feels the scale is greater than it really is, but his point about format is more accurate – it’s not the size of the water pipe, really, but the kind of pipe. People don’t attach hoses to sinks, for example, and the water coming from each outlet is used differently. So my question is, how could you measure that – anecdotally it makes perfect sense, but have there been any efforts to cross reference media formats and news presentation?
Q3) I agree that Bauman has a pretty negative view of globalization, and I think there’s a real risk in pursuing utopian or dystopian notions of globalization and technology. And I think McLuhan’s “global village” took it a bit too far – it’s true information can travel the globe, but there’s no uniform standard of interpretation. So, following Teresa’s point, even if Disney is mass producing fairy tales, those films and stories don’t mean the same things to everyone. A quick example – The Mummy with Brendan Fraser was a bit hit in the Middle East, and that’s a pretty classic, orientalist horror genre. Arabs liked it because it was A) about their part of the world, and B) the Arabic in the film was either God awful or deliberately mistranslated. I’m not sure which, but the Bahrainis I saw it with kept laughing whenever the mummies spoke. So why is McLuhan being such a generalist, why did he insist on making his theory so universal?
Q4) Plus, there’s also the argument that globalization actually reduces crime in the long run. People with jobs are less likely to take to the streets, and bringing up the third world – particularly Mexico, from an American standpoint – will go a long way toward reducing the drug trade and lowering consumer costs here. Granted, the long run is a reaaaallly long run, and it can take years for the rubber to meet the road, but there is evidence that expansion of commerce and connectivity brings prosperity with it. So why are all these theorists fixated on the “cultural imperialism” angle? There’s certainly an element of that, there’s no question, but why not include the positives in the discussion as well?
And, if globalization were all bad, then there would only be two students in this class – David and myself, which I suspect would become very predictable very quickly. So there’s a bit of an irony that we’re studying theorists that criticize the very raison d’etre of the class, in a lot of ways.
Q5) Gabino’s dystopian tendencies are right on, I think – there is a big difference in how media are used. Television can, for example, beam out brain-numbing content 24/7, or it can provide absolutely essential information during severe weather or a crisis. It’s not at all “the numb stance of the technological idiot.” McLuhan is right that the media influences that presentation, but he’s again giving way to a universalist perspective. I think the real meat of his work is that media content is, to a degree, contingent upon format, and we need to be conscious of that … but beyond that, I think the work gets pretty fuzzy.
Is this examination echoes McLuhan’s medium is message? In this case, is that the media habits cultivated by internet technology could even influence the habits of reading traditional newspaper? In terms of medium is message, is that “dominating” medium is message?
(2) “I even suspect it may be dangerous in the long run: it gives people who are engaged, committed, wishing to change something important in the world, an illusion of action. It is though, I suspect, not an action (certainly not an effective one), but a substitute of action. ‘I signed a petition. I contacted 200 other bloggers. I am active.’ There was no shortage of Internet petitions objecting to the folly and cruelty of Iraq invasion . . . And yet the politicians could ignore all that and send troops to kill and die nevertheless.’’(Bauman)”
One of the advantages of interactive technology today is that they can mobilize people in various places, influencing public opinion or even decision making. But it seems that Bauman saw this “advantage” as just “illusion of action”. My question is: If there are consistent anti-war opinions gathered in the internet, is it a counter example of “liquid modern society”?
“For if we penetrate the object, we liberate it but we destroy it; and if we acknowledge its full weight, we respect it, but we restore it to a state which is still mystified. It would seem that we are condemned for some time yet always to speak excessively about reality. “(p106)
“The effects of technology do not occur at the level of opinions or concepts, but alter sense ratios or patterns of perception steadily and without any resistance. “(p114)
“When analyzing the spectacle on speaks, to some extent, the language of the spectacular itself in the sense that one moves through the methodological terrain of the very society which expresses itself in the spectacle. “(p118)
In these three paragraphs, Barthes, McLuhan and Debord all addressed some pessimism in terms of media culture, though from different perspective and extents. I know it is dialectical to speculate on concepts such as demystification vs. re-mystification. But it seems that in this certain world, it is hard for us to change anything due to the myth rules, the certain technology and spectacular feature. My questions are:
(3)We are always constructed by the culture. And myth construction is based on the culture. Therefore, every time we are going to demystify some objects, we run the risk mystifying the objects again in which case we don't even notice. How can we handle mystification and demystification? Is there “good” myth and “bad” myth?
(4) In terms of medium is message, I feel it convincing that in the certain era with certain media technology, our perception and our thinking are largely restricted. But is it true that we can do nothing in terms of certain technology? For example, if TV determines that we percept based on image rather logical thinking, does it means that any alternative production or anti-viewing could not change TV’s medium message?
(5)By the same token, how can we overcome the obstacle in which we can only use spectacular language to analyze spectacle?
I found the tautology point very eye opening. I feel like this concept could be married to Becks society of risk: the lack of explanations “creates a dead, a motionless world” (p. 102).
Next we read the more than famous “the medium is the message” by McLuhan. I guess this could be a painful read for researchers everywhere since most of us are concerned with the effects of the content itself. I found terribly interesting his discussion about the way we use media:
“Our conventional response to all media, namely that it is how they are used that counts, is the numb stance of the technological idiot. For the “content” of a medium is like the juicy piece of meat carried by the burglar to distract the watchdog of the mind” (p. 114).
Very powerful words. Being an apocalyptic, I’m a bit torn between this powerful reply to Sarnoff’s idea that: “We are too prone to make technological instruments the scapegoats for the sins of those who wield them. The products of modern science are not in themselves good or bad; it is the way they are used that determines their value” (p. 109). There are strong arguments that could be wielded in defense of both ideas, but I believe McLuhan would come out on top.
I agree with McLuhan… but there is a tiny rebellious morsel inside me that insists on the idea that the way we use media can have a very immediate and potent effect on its value. Am I alone in this one? If he was right, why keep on paying so much attention to content? But then again, if he was right, does that mean that if we drastically change the content of television programs it would not show up in Cultivation studies in a few generations?
The Debord reading was short and a tad confusing in the sense that it read like a shorter version of something bigger. In any case, I started thinking about something when I got to #6: “…the heart of unrealism of the real society.” (p.118). Then it grew stronger as I read on. Anybody want to take a guess? It made me think of that spectacle we call reality television. Isn’t society today as “spectaclist” (p. 120) as ever?
Next, I will confess that I’m terribly biased: I love Mattelart. How to read Donal Duck: Imperialist Ideology in the Disney Comic (the book we are discussing here), The Information Society: An Introduction and many other great books by Mattelart helped me push on through when I was labeled as a die-hard pessimist. I was even introduced to Fukuyama through his work.
Also, in August 2008, I got to meet him and chat with him a while after attending a conference he gave in Puerto Rico (how I fought my boss for a week so that he would let me cover this is another story; “too dark” he said, “nobody will be interested in that”… now you know why I decided to pursue a PhD!). A funny thing is that he is now deliciously cynical about the way people have turned the Disney book into such a classic. He thinks it’s not that good. The presentation I went to was titled “Pluralism in Journalism: imperative or utopia?” For about two hours he torn journalism a new one and, in that perfect Spanish with a deep French accent that immediately reminds you of Jacques-Yves Cousteau, he stood and screamed: “So is pluralism an imperative or a utopia? It’s both!” In any case, for those of you that can read a bit of Spanish, here’s the link to the article so you can read about what he was up to in 2008: http://www.universia.pr/portada/noticia_actualidad.jsp?noticia=37108 I trust that imperialism through media will be a heated debate tomorrow.
Last but not least, I think the introduction to the Bauman interview if a very smart critique of journalism that could be extremely difficult to debate. I also really liked the way Bauman deconstructs time. I agree that time is not cyclical but not linear either and that “nothing repeats” (p. 4). But what does this represent for our research? We can study this past election until we are blue in the face, but it will never happen again: there will never be a repeated moment in history, even if we insist that history repeats itself. What generalizing theory can we work with if we accept a “pointillist” view of time? How effective is reporting when it is immediate yet transitory? What would be the final purpose of our “pointillist-without-configuration” way of doing things?
Finally, I’m pretty sure the discussion on negative globalization is going to pop up in class… so I’ll leave my comments for later.
Q2. Barthes and McLuhan: I am trying to find similarities or dissimilarities between Barthes’ view of myth and McLuhan’s definition of the medium. According to Barthes, “the signifier is empty, the sign is full, it is a meaning”: form is empty, but meaning is full and that creates myth, a mode of signification. The electrical light escapes our attention because it appears to have no “content” like television news or newspaper stories, but McLuhan argues that activities like brain surgery or night baseball serves as the “content” of the electrical light and that makes it a “medium” that changes social life. If the medium is defined by its use, like myth is defined by its intention, why does McLuhan put so much emphasis on the medium itself than the content? Why does he think the medium is the message? Did I lose some of the important points while I tried to understand these readings?
Q3. This is a question from outside of our assigned readings. McLuhan’s book was misprinted as “The medium is the massage” but he found the term “massage” rather supportive of his point. He later punned on the word changing it to “mass age” or “mess age,” and many scholars who are against his arguments say those terms make more sense than his famous phrase “the medium is the message.” Anyone familiar with the discussions relating to this? I’d love to read more about it.
Q4. Debord and his colleagues promoted “an overcoming of all forms of separation against this passivity [observing the products of social life] in which individuals would directly produce their own life and modes self-activity and collective practice.” He defines the spectacle as “the moment when the commodity has attained the total occupation of social life (pg 121).” Then how is it relevant for analyzing contemporary society? Kellner has an article on the interactive spectacle and he points out how the distinctions between artificial and the real, and the abstract and the concrete are blurring. This is something I’d like to look into in relation to Debord’s work.
Q5. Bauman claims that “liquid life prompts journalists to behave in the way they do” and that “they heavily contribute to life’s liquidity by doing what they do.” Then what are the elements of a better journalism in a liquid society? Some of his answers can be found on pages 676 and 677, but they make me question whether today’s journalism is “the effect of the conscious motive of action” or an “unanticipated consequence.”
In Roland Barthes Myth Today P100, “bourgeois myth” seems a negative term. But, for me, bourgeois class is the basis of liberal democracy==maybe they are kinds of conservative. But they are stable power of a society. I don’t know why critical theories always tag bourgeois negative term. Or I misunderstand the meaning of “bourgeois class”.
Question about Marshall McLuhan
In page 100 the third paragraph, “ The message of the movie medium is that of transition from lineal connection to configurations.” I am wondering the impact of Internet. I agree with that browsing internet is not the lineal connection or thinking. However, we can browse internet by non-lineal thinking, but we still adopt lineal thinking when reading E-newspaper or writing something on the Internet. From this perspective or my experience, it seems that the development of new technology doesn’t overturn original way of thinking.
Question about Guy Debord
In page 118, “the spectacle is the present model of socially dominant life.” Here Guy Debord indicated a situation like what the Frankfurt school indicated. I am wondering his attitude about audience. Passive? Or Active ? Will they challenge this spectacle? Or they will accept what the spectacle illustrates.
In page 119, section 12, “The attitude which it demands in principle is passive acceptance which in fact it already obtained by its manner of appearing without reply, by its monopoly.” It just show the spectacle asks audience to be passive. It doesn’t mean that audience will be passive.
Question about Zygmunt Bauman’s negative globalization
In page 675, his opinion about negative globalization is too Euro-center for me. He believes globalization is “only” negative. I don’t agree with that. For some classes in the third world, globalization is a helpful power to change their status.
Question about Zygmunt Bauman's journalism of liquid modernity
In page 472 he gave a definition of liquid modernity. In page 677 Mark Deuze said the “it doesn’t fit with the contemporary lifestyle an all anymore. Basing on this definition and Mark's question, I am wondering if the new era of mass media is coming. “Fordism” of media organizations can’t fit the need of our audience today. Are there more opportunities for media professional workers to establish their own business? Or it is just a myth.
3) Anyone else wonder if Barthes has a little contempt for the middle class? On p. 101 in D&K, he alleges that the 'petit-bourgeois is a man unable to imagine the Other"; on p. 102-103 he writes of the "irritable dignity" of the bourgeois theatre, etc...I assume he thinks the bourgeois is a creation of manipulation of some sort, but he sure seems to leave little room for the simple taste of the masses or any discussion (much less contemplation) of any inherent values.
4) In D&K on p. 108, McLuhan summarizes his 'medium is the message' with the explanation that "the medium shapes and controls the scale and form of human association and interaction". Clearly written in a pre-'Wired' world, it got me thinking about 'Flash Mobs' (groups of people who get instructions from a web blog or Craigslist to go down to, say, Whole Foods and at the stroke of 10, freeze in place for 5 minutes, or something similar...surely you've heard about this...?) I can, on one level, see how McLuhan is right...but can't human association and interaction always be extrapolated to effects in the 'real world' beyond the medium itself? Or is McLuhan saying something smaller akin to "what you get out of the spigot is directly controlled by the size of the city's water pipes"? (That, too, is a way of saying 'the medium is the message', but philosophically much
5) In D&K on p. 121, DeBord explains that the spectacle he has in mind is a kind of world view in which the objectification of commodities (stuff to have) becomes dominant: "the total occupation of social life". In general, I agree with his critique, but I know its in that finger-wagging (almost Puritanical) way that DeBord really connects with me---which makes me suspicious. It makes me wonder what DeBord thinks we're missing. DeBord seems to think we'd all be better off if we were creating rather than consuming, non? It's very French, I suppose, to suggest that life is art and art is life, but I think its fair to wonder if DeBord's critique is grounded more in realistic v. romantic expectations.
David D. Brown
Saturday, February 21, 2009
2- Also, McLuhan criticizes Wilbur Schramm because he tried to analyze the effects of TV content on some areas where TV had not penetrated before. According to McLuhan, it is not possible to analyze the real effects of a medium on society in a short period of time and by focusing on the content. How do we explain, then, that famous study in Fiji which found that people changed their perceptions of beauty after the introduction of TV? Aren’t these two approaches complementary rather than mutually exclusive?
3- Debord asserts that spectacle culture is an instrument of pacification and despolicitization, which ultimately stupefies people. To what extent this idea differs from Adorno and Hokheimer’s culture industry?
4- Bauman (Deuze, 2007) asserts that is a fallacy to think that a particular technology, such as the Internet, is a wondrous alternative to the fading political democracy. In contrast, he poses that this powerful flow of information may be more threatening to democracy. To pose that the Web is the “panacea” for political participation, civic engagement and democracy is indeed a fallacy. It is also true that the overflow of information may overwhelm people and eventually disengage them. But Bauman, like Putnam, seems to be anchored in the past. These new technologies, although not as cohesive as belonging to the bowling club, may allow people to organize themselves and provide companion. How can we explain the fact that the government of Turkey and Saudi Arabia are trying to ban some Web pages because many feminist women are organizing themselves through the Internet?
5- Bauman also sees globalization as a negative phenomenon because it brings smuggling, criminality, mafia, terrorism. Other authors (Adorno and Horkheimer) also suggest that globalization bring uniformity. Using McLuhan’s metaphor of the “global village,” I wonder whether globalization —and even the “imperialist culture industry”— allows people to talk a common language, share experiences (music, movies, characters), and understandings. Also, do these shared experiences and understandings have positive aspects for people’s coexistence or not?
Monday, February 16, 2009
Sunday, February 15, 2009
Anyway – here’s my definition/discussion topics for “Postmodernism,” or “PoMo.” I think these were supposed to go on the blog? My memory could be fuzzy, but even if it is, this is another topic to discuss.
Postmodernism, in short, is an art/media form that is very aware of itself as an art/media form. It draws its basis by rejecting the foundation of every other art/media form, and in doing so acknowledges its existence as a new art/media form. But Quentin Tarantino can explain it better than I can, so I’ll start there and pull it back to this class afterwards.
Traditionally, movies have all followed the same format – liner plot progression, predictable characters, commonplace circumstances, that sort of thing. There is an established formula, with a beginning and an ending and a good guy and a bad guy, and most movies follow that rubric pretty closely. But there have been a few directors – the best recent example being Tarantino – that have rejected those cliché standards. When Pulp Fiction came out in ’94, it turned every one of those elements on its head. He chopped up the plot, starting near the middle and jumping around sporadically so audiences only got a piece of the story at a time. His main characters were “bad guys” that had humanity to them – they weren’t cutout gunslingers, they were hitmen that worried about religion and their boss’ temper. Oh – and they discussed European Big Macs. Not exactly intimidating bad guy conversation.
So, back to media and journalism. All the conventional notions of society, government organization, and media follow fairly predictable patterns. Gabino summarized them well earlier – “idealism of a perfect humanity, the belief in a essence and the blind trust that they had in the idea that through rational management and a controlled development of new technologies we could achieve a better world.” It’s the classic ‘I can change the world if I just work hard!’ sort of attitude. Postmodernism rejects that, arguing that perfect humanity doesn’t exist, that absolute truth doesn’t exist, and that such ancient rhetoric is just tying humanity down. Marx, you could argue, was a powerful postmodern thinker because he rejected so many of his society’s accepted notions.
Now, as for modernism being “dead,” there’s still a problem with that argument – sure, I’ll agree that justifying political policy with morality or theology is very dangerous, and I’d like to think recent events have made American society a bit more pragmatic. But let’s say, for the sake of argument, that that’s true – modernism is dead, and we’ve all accepted a thorough rejection of its principles. Well, then PoMo becomes standard fare, and it’s not postmodern anymore, it’s the status quo. Pulp Fiction worked because nobody had seen a film like that in years, but if everyone and their dog started copying his rubric, it would lose its originality. Then we’d have something else, post-post-modernism maybe, or neo-modernism, that rejects all those notions and establishes its own status quo. It’s all cyclical, so I’m still not sure we can declare any one of them “dead.” People will always give structure a certain authority, and how we individually feel about that structure is a matter of personal preference, not societal identity.
Also, I happen to like capitalism. It’s not perfect, but I’ve lived in company towns that came very close to a practical form of socialism, or even communism. It was really, really boring. And unfair. Just throwing that out there.
And now that I’ve babbled for a bit, here are my questions for this week. I’m trying, again, to play off y’all a bit to spark discussion. It was really Tereasa and David’s idea originally though, not mine. –
1) I agree with Seongbae about Horkheimer and Adorno’s article on media violence. It’s certainly true that television is more violent now than it was in the past, and I’ll agree that people are getting used to it. But there’s a serious difference between watching Bruce Lee beat up an army, which everyone knows is a movie, and watching Baghdad explode on live television, which everyone knows is very real. Their argument hinges on serious immersion – that audiences are really connecting with the fantasy of film, and it desensitizes them. But even a kid knows the difference between real and make-believe. How can researchers split those two, and why haven’t they tried to do so more often? Or have they, and I’ve just missed it?
2) I still have an issue with this concept of “low” and “high art.” David mentioned it in his post on Kellner. I think he’s right that the British Cultural Studies are more okay with “low art,” but I still think it’s more a matter of perspective. Art is, by definition, impossible to define. A blob of paint thrown against the wall could be a great metaphor for the decline of individual creativity among workers trapped between the bars of the modern cubicle … or it could just be a blob of paint. Isn’t there a way to discuss culture without being so judgmental?
3) And how, too, thinking about that, did Kellner and like-minded theorists come up with that distinction? I understand the argument that “low art” is designed for mass consumption and is (arguably) designed just to sedate them. That’s why we get sequel after sequel after sequel in the movie theaters. But where do you draw the line? A great deal of HBO is predictable and base, but no one calls it low brow. But if someone makes an enjoyable film without including controversy, that’s somehow different?
4) I think Gabino’s analysis of Kellner is right on, and I like his question about a possible new theory. But, as I mentioned earlier, how could you tell? Would a new theory really revolutionize the way we see the world, or just influence how we talk about it?
5) Picking up on Tereasa’s comment about Hall’s point – perhaps British cultural studies resonated better with Americans has more to do with the cultures than the actual studies. For one thing, the two use a common language, and for another, there have been times in our history where the German perspective wasn’t considered very credible. Since my name is Funk, I am, of course, appalled by that bigotry. (Not really). But I wonder if it’s even simpler than Hall suggests, and it was just trade connections and common language bonds?
1. Kellner says cultural studies tries to avoid cutting the field of culture into just ‘high’ and ‘low’ culture, or ‘popular’ against ‘unpopular’. This seems reasonable considering that culture often involves many layers of subcultures. What I don’t understand is the distinction between ‘high and popular’ and ‘low and unpopular’. If I understood the article correctly, it seemed to me that ‘high’ and ‘popular’ weren’t meant for same concept. So does popular culture become ‘high’ culture by default? Or can high culture be completely opposite of popular culture?
2. To me, Kellner’s “Cultural Studies, Multiculturalism and Media Culture” sounds somewhat ideological. For example, he says “cultural studies allow us to examine and critically scrutinize the whole range of culture without prior prejudices toward one or another sort of cultural text, institution, or practice” (Kellner, p.2). I am skeptical about this vague statement. In my opinion, it is impossible to examine culture without prior prejudices. Everyone has some kind of prejudice toward certain culture. As human beings, researchers are no exception to this. Also, results of cultural studies might enhance stereotypes of races, gender and culture by confirming it. So how is disregarding cultural prejudice even possible?
3. Stuart Hall in his “Cultural Studies and Its Theoretical Legacies” talks about feminism as one of the ‘interruption’ that hindered cultural studies at that time. Feminism tries to explain women’s position by examining power struggle and social expectation within cultural context, so I suppose feminism was a big disturbance to deal with for the cultural studies researchers. Hall makes a metaphor of feminism as a ‘thief who broke into cultural studies.’ However, if we think back now, feminism is what made cultural studies even more powerful, relevant and famous. It might have been a thief before, but now feminism is one of the major contributors in the field of cultural studies. In my opinion, feminism ended up serving cultural studies better than worse. What do you all think?
4. I have no doubt. Media are pioneers to form a culture. However, I think the researches in this field seem to overestimate power of media to affect cultural stereotypes and hegemony. Perhaps, it’s our stereotype toward certain race, gender, age that led media to depict people as it is today, not vice versa. Well, this is more of the famous chicken-egg question, but I think it’s possible that we as people affect media’s coverage more on certain groups of people than media affects us.
5. This is a continuous question that sprung from the previous question. At the end of Kellner’s article, he warns us that people today tend to think audience is active. “They clam that all audience produce their own meanings and deny that media culture many have powerful manipulative effects” (Kellner, p.9). His exact phrase is not to “romanticize the active audience.” Of course there are passive audiences, but isn’t audiences more of active figures nowadays? People no longer watch or read what is presented to them. They ‘select’ what they want to watch, read and listen by going online. Media has powerful manipulative effects by no doubt. I just think the power is not as strong as it was because audience today became more active over the past decade.
2- Hall in his piece about cultural studies and its theoretical legacies tells that the intervention of feminism, as an external force, was decisive in the work of the Birmingham Center for various reasons: it positioned questions of gender and sexuality as power issues, it reopened the relationship between social theory and psychology, and it demonstrated how gender provokes resistance and activates patriarchal order even within critical academic circles. I still would like to know how feminism emerged as an intellectual movement. What were the processes by which feminism intervened in the intellectual and academic work of that period of time, especially in the cultural studies center? By the way, Hall distinguishes between being theoretical and intellectual. What is the difference?
3- Hardt (1986) asserts that British cultural studies landed more easily in American mass communication research than the critical school. Why did this happen? Are cultural studies less threatening than critical research for the dominant paradigm? Or, is it because research on cultural studies (e.g., gender, race) resonated more in the U.S. because of the feminist and civil rights movements while critical studies (which originally focused on class) did not resonate with the idea of a middle-class country?
4- The political economy approach, which focuses of the production of the media corporate world, argues that the media maintains the prevailing social order. Certainly, the media are organizations and corporations but they are also media workers who work under routines and embedded ideologies. Therefore, from a political economy viewpoint, what are the roles played by intentionality and conspiracy? Does the maintenance of statuo quo is due to intentional forces or not?
On a related note, media are strong tools to reproduce ideologies. But sometimes adding pluralism and multiculturalism, as Kellner asserts, is not enough because some ideologies are deeply embedded in the culture. Therefore, what is an alternative to challenge these ideologies? To me, the only alternative is to show how media transmit us those ideas so as to empower individuals. Is there any other alternative to promote change?
5- Alternative online media or citizen media are thought as tools that may alter the statuo quo allegedly reproduced by mainstream media. To what extent this idea is a real or a theoretical one given that most online media created by citizens (e.g., blogs, homepages) are, as Burgess (2006) shows, personal journals of ordinary people rather than radical media or agents of social change?
Kellner has a way of critiquing that is based on balance and a previous judgment of all potential outcomes. On page 16 of the Theory Wars he has some very simple statements that more or less serve as a description for the conundrums we face today as communication researchers and the need for new theory. When he states that technology has “changed the patterns of everyday life and powerfully restructured work and leisure” or accepts bravely that computers and other “electronic eyes and systems” are the new Big Brother, I can’t help but read more attentively in order to fish out the possible remedies he might offer.
With ongoing internal struggle in academia about postmodernism depicted by Kellner, I was surprised at the ease with which he handles the concept. In fact, I believe he describes the concept perfectly and then ends the chapter overthinking it a just a tad, or at least bringing into play what can only be considered some of the regular practices in academia.
It also gave me the sense throughout that he has a very positive outlook, a hope for “more positive futures” (p.19). As far as I’m concerned, that positivism collides a bit with my apocalyptic outlook. Earlier discussion on how academia has turned out molds and fallen into the repetitive practices that characterize cultural industries, my first question would be: where can we expect new theory (not just re-worked theory or theory applied in a slightly different way) to come from?
Next, Kellner states that “postmodern nihilism enunciates the experience of defeat, of disappointment, of despair, over the failures of the 1960s movements to more radically transform social and cultural life” but that there also is a “more positive version” of it (p.23). My first reaction was to agree, but as I kept thinking about it, I couldn’t help but feeling like most of what I read from Barthes, Lacan, Foucault, Derrida and Baudrillard were things that definitely hovered over whatever the results of the 60s were. All these men contributed knowledge that is still applicable and important to postmodern theory… and semiotics, sexuality, psychology, linguistics, etc. Are theorists today as specialized as doctors? Are we looking at a new era of one-idea thinkers?
Are my scientifically/quantitatively inclined friends in class thinking about the utter immeasurableness of this? Just wondering…
Next, we read this: “Contemporary societies require constant mappings and remappings because of the intensity of change and speed of current social transformations” (p. 26). How can we make theory develop just as fast? If we compare the time it takes for an idea to become a recognized and tested theory to the sheer velocity at which society evolves, how can we ever hope to develop “new” theories that are bound to be almost obsolete by the time they’re out?
Further down on that chapter, Kellner goes on to discuss all the shortcomings of critical theory. I agree with all of them. So how do we fix it? On our individual research or should we make our work the fixing per se?
Another point I want to discuss is the fact that the way society has (and had even before the coming of critical theory) arranged culture in a way that certain things are forced to be related to money and certain social hierarchy is still very much in practice today. How do we tackle this? How do we come up with new theory for culture if, as the gap between rich and poor grows, so does the “difference” between high/low culture in the media (and the media further pushes this idea with its practices)?
Moving on, the idea that “pleasure is learned” (p. 39) is very important when we look at Cultivation. Maybe we have been focusing too much on the fear of an evil world and we’ve forgotten a bit about other things?
My last issue is with the idea that “difference sells” (p. 40). Granted, it does. The again, cultural industries, as is discussed in the readings, also re-create the same thing over and over again if it worked the first time. For the love of God, we just resurrected Jason!!!!!!!
The last part of the reading, the postmodern dilemma, could’ve been shorter. It was a nice critique of how a historically real thing can become a buzzword, but some many pages on it was kind of overkill for my taste.
The Hall article was fun to read. The ideas of such an original man on a thing that was born right in front of him let us know that maybe we’re heading in the wrong direction. One thing that is kind of odd for me is the apparent need to contrast British and American cultural studies. My guess would be that different cultures have very different ways of looking at culture.
On the Hearing Ordinary Voices I don’t have much to say other than the author seemed to be romanticizing digital storytelling. Other than that, the introduction and lit review were amazing and I’m even looking for a few of the readings cited for my own work. Redemocratization is something we should really deconstruct in class under the scope of certain realities.
First: perhaps the Hulu Super Bowl ad has already come up in class discussion? If so, skip this next paragraph. If not, you might want to skip it anyway.
Hulu is a 'YouTube'-like video site which is distinguished from YouTube by three main things: 1) run by 'old media' conglomerate (NBC-Universal), 2) pro-shot video only /no user-generated content, 3) and its turning a profit (according to The Economist, Hulu is oversold on ads by major corporate sponsors; hailed as a 'business model').
Back to the ad: I couldn't embed it, but here's the link. Made me
think those Frankfurt schoolers might have been on to something. (And no, I'm not being sarcastic.)
Second: I have to confess great frustration with the library's ebook thing. I'm no Luddite, and rather enjoy reading ebooks, but the library's ecatalog--inconsistent and of various formats--truly frustrating. I experienced several browser crashes, major difficulty saving and/or printing files and just gave up. Lots of time wasted. Maybe its just my laptop...? Anyway, about the third crash it occurred to me that it would be pretty awesome if each week one of us could download the weekly assignments and post them as pdfs (maybe on blackboard?) for ease of retrieval and printing...maybe each of us
take turns? Just a suggestion.
Now on to my five for the week.
1) On p. 16 of Kellner's "Theory Wars and Cultural Studies" chapter in Media Culture, the author writes: "New media technologies provide powerful forms of social control through more efficient subtilely concealed techniques of indoctrination and manipulation. Indeed, their very existence might sap political energies and keep people safely ensconced within the confines of their home entertainment centers, far from the maddening crowds and sites of mass political action." This was published in 1995, contemporaneous with Robert Putnam's 'Bowling Alone'. Does this perspective idealize some imaginary real-world political interaction? Ten years on, don't we seem more (not less) politically engaged?
2) Also in "Theory Wars" on pp. 32-33, Kellner offers a vivid summary of British Cultural Studies as compared to (esp.) the Frankfurt school. Cultural studies seems distinct in essentially three features: less elitist (embracing 'low' art), advocates subversion as a remedy, and, views all of society's relationships through the lens of subjugation and domination (i.e., 'culture'). Is that correct? Are those the main distinctions? I wonder if we can draw a map/diagram of the evolution of Critical-Cultural Studies? It might be too early, but I'd like to try.
3) In Hardt's chapter on British Cultural Studies' encounter with American mass communication research, the author (on p.112) discusses the ebb of critical studies as both an indictment of the academy and something inevitable because of the inherent rigidity of the BCS ideology. But if the perceived 'politicization' of cultural studies diminishes the perceived value of radical and eclectic thought (which the author seems to concede), is it not possible to relocate the realm (or locus) of cultural studies from the ideological to some "other thing" (i.e., the historical, the individual, the civil, or even the 'moral'?)
4) In the fabulous editor's introduction to Stuart Hall's autobiographical essay (p.97 of The Cultural Studies Reader) Simon During discusses Gramscian understanding of conjunctural knowledge as "knowledge situated in and applicable to specific and immediate political or historical circumstances; as well as an awareness that the structure of representations which form culture's alphabet and grammar are instruments of social power requiring critical and activist examination. Question: how is this definition changed by removing the words "and activist"? Helpful or harmful?
5) In his autobiographical essay, Stuart Hall writes (on p. 100) about the 'dirtiness' of the cultural studies tradition--with some degree of satisfaction. I've noticed that defenders of the cultural studies also approach like to talk about its messiness...indeed, sometimes seem to revel in the description (like Southerners sometimes revel in saying y'all). What is the 'dirtiness of the semiotic game' Hall describes? A lack of scientific precision? Something else? To my 'ears', it rings a little like that phrase Harley riders like to use
to dismiss critics: "If I had to explain it, you wouldn't understand." Seems a cop-out.
David D. Brown
How do we define culture? In Theory Wars and Cultural Studies(page 33 and 34), Kellener indicated the flaws of mass culture and popular culture. And he proposed media culture to replace with them. Does every scholar agree with him? Is there any flaw about “media culture”?
Question about post-colonialism and cultural studies
In Stuart Hall’s article(page 101), he questioned Marx Eurocentrism. He also mentioned Said several times in this article. Can we see post-colonialism as one of member of cultural studies family? But cultural studies’ assumption about hegemony and counter-hegemony confuses me. I remember===but I am not sure. Said believed the relationship between the hegemony and the periphery is kinds of interaction and will create hybrid culture finally. Is his concept similar to cultural studies?
In Kellner’s Theory Wars and Cultural Studies( page 35), in last paragraph, “Media culture is also the site where battles are fought for the control of society.” In Page 40, he quoted Hall’s article. “Encoding/Decoding” and “Deconstructing the popular,” which acknowledge the power of mass media to shape and enforce ideological hegemony, the power of people to resist ideology…
I am wondering if cultural studies assume the relationship between hegemony and periphery is a zero-sum game. And I doubt this assumption is too rough and over-simplified. Is there any other choice? Or is there any pre-condition about this resistance?
Questions about political economy approach in cultural studies
In kellner’s Cultural Studies, Multiculturalism, and Media Culture (page 5), he indicated the limits and shortcoming of political economy in last paragraph. I know there is a voice in cultural studies asking academia to value political economy. And too many scholars focus on textual analysis and forget political economy factors. I am curious about the reason leading to this trend. Do US traditionally empirical research method and micro-level question orientation drive to this trend? How do we overcome those limits proposed by Kellner?
Following former questions, I am wondering there is a conflict between political economy and cultural studies. Cultural studies believed the audience are active== like creative consumers in Burgess’s article, but political economy assume the audience are passive or not so active. How can we include this approach into cultural studies? How do we keep balance between them?
Saturday, February 14, 2009
Most readings in this week points out that cultural studies should not be merely regarded as “academic sub-division”, but a “political project”. The arguments here echo what we read last week about how aesthetic convention of scholarship prevents cultural studies from being political. These readings make me think further about how to look at researchers and researches in the field of cultural studies.
In terms of researchers, Hall, in “Cultural Studies and its Theoretical Legacies”, drew upon Gramsci’s concept of “organic intellectuals”. Gramsci required that the “organic intellectual” must work on two fronts at the same time. On the one hand, they had to at the very forefront of intellectual theoretical work; on the other hand, they had to transmit those ideas, that knowledge, through the intellectual function, to those who do not belong, professionally, in the intellectual class.
It is politically progressive that intellectual work is separated from academic field, which links cultural studies to struggles in real life. My question is, as per the definition of “organic intellectuals”, do researchers regard themselves as “higher” than those ordinary people? Are they what Burgess called “speak heroically on behalf of ordinary voices”?
Q2, Even in the digital storytelling workshop, Burgess argued that “distribution channels for digital stories remain limited and frequently are under the control of the institutions that provided the workshops”. What I am now studying is also a digital storytelling workshop in the context of mainland China. And I found out that although those projects/workshops emphasize citizen participation/ “vernacular creativity”, those people’s media production process would be influenced by the workshop/project organizers more or less. On the other hand, those ordinary citizens cannot be access to media without the help of those intellectuals.
How can we look at the relationship between intellectuals and ordinary citizens in terms of media representations? It seems that we can not avoid the so-called “elitism” both in researches and in workshops.
Q3: Big political project vs. “personal is political”
And I found some tension between two different understandings of politics in cultural studies. In Kellner and Hall’s articles, they greatly value “resistance” . And such “resistance” should challenge existing structure of oppression. While in Burgess’s article, he pointed out a term, “vernacular creativity”. “The central placement of the politics of ordinary participation through everyday cultural production shapes our concerns towards access, self-representation, and literacy, rather than resistance or aesthetic innovation.”
How can we understand these two different focuses in cultural studies? Shall we focus on as if working on a big political project resisting the conservative hegemony both materially and symbolically, or value “personal is political”?
In Kellner’s analysis, it seems that cultural study is a very difficult area, which demands a lot of work. (1) It should be “transdisciplinary”. “Study of culture is intimately bound up with the study of society, politics and economics". (2) It should use different approaches integrating “production & political economy”, “textual analysis”, and “reception and use of cultural texts”. (3) And it should combine different theories within the cultural studies. “The more theories one has at one's disposal, the more tasks one can perform and the more specific objects and themes one can address.”
In terms of such integration of theories and approaches, how can a cultural studies beginner conduct the research? Or, is it too inclusive, thus risking losing the deepness of each approach/theory?
Although Kellner positively claimed that “it is time that media culture overwhelmingly supports capitalist value, but it is also a site of intense struggle between different races, classes, gender, and social groups”, it seems that people in the non-mainstream group don't have the competencies and recourses to compete with people in the mainstream group. Even with the development of new media technology, the same situation occurs. “While this aesthetic and the idea of amateur creativity it promotes are both ubiquitous in contemporary urban Western cultures, the kinds of refusal of ’dominant’ (photographic) culture that lomography endorses actually relies on very particular cultural competencies as well as creative and technological illiteracies that we cannot assume to be shared by the majority of the population—that is, by those whose participation in media culture is relatively peripheral (Warschauer, 2003)”.
How can media culture serve as a site of intense struggles between different social groups when most ordinary people even don’t have the access to participate in the struggle? Is it true that mass media is no longer a battle field since most people turn to alternative media such as the digital storytelling workshop?
Friday, February 13, 2009
Q2. Hall’s discussion about AIDS as an example and indicator of “our marginality as critical intellectuals in making real effects in the world” reminds me of our discussion from last week. How does our theorizing about political matters make any difference to anyone? Does it make any difference especially to those who are suffering from it? We’re given that luxury to relate these matters with theory, but think about how little that could change anything. He probably wanted to emphasize that there are such things cultural studies can address and that those tensions help us further understand what cultural studies can actually do, but this seems to be something I’ll be thinking about for a while.
Q3. Hardt’s essay provides thorough overview of how the British cultural studies group had a significant contribution to the American mass communication research. Here’s the author’s concluding sentence: “The dilemma of American mass communication studies continues to lie in the failure to comprehend and overcome the limitations of its own intellectual history… by failing to address the problems of an established academic discipline with its specific theoretical and methodological requirements...” (page 111). Todd Gitlin expressed a similar concern specifically on how these requirements have “put the methodological cart ahead of the theoretical horse.” But this made me wonder, we all have – or will have – intellectual, ideological or institutional commitments that shape our own work as scholars. Sounds more like a proseminar question, but how do we find a balance here?
Q4. Kellner’s suggestion that cultural studies should be critical, multicultural, and multiperspectival sounds ideal. At the same time, however, it seems to create a conflict with his statements about “romanticizing the active audience”(pg 9) and “losing sight of the manipulative and conservative effects of certain types of media culture” (pg 10). How can this be done in an ideal way that doesn’t overemphasize any of those three components of critical cultural studies?
Q5. Burgess piece tries to give a meaning to 'ordinary' cultural participation by focusing on its democratic potential. I understand that it has some implications from a participatory cultural studies approach, but does it really mean much considering the nature of its content?
Sunday, February 8, 2009
1. An interesting sentence about media violence caught my eyes when I was reading Horkheimer and Adorno’s article. “The enjoyment of the violence done to the film character turns into violence against the spectator; distraction becomes exertion” (Horkheimer & Adorno, p.53). This might have been true for ancient times. I don’t think this is the case for today’s media violence. People actually enjoy media violence to certain degree that the number of violence depicted on TV keeps increasing over time. George Garbner, who is known for his dedicated works in TV violence, discovered that prime-time TV in 1970s contained about eight instances of violence per hour. In 1990s, it has increased to 13 instances per hour (G. Sparks & C. Sparks, 1994). In my opinion, this is because people keep getting used to media violence that they want more impulses to satisfy their expectations and needs for violence on TV. So is it still safe to assume that TV violence merely offenses audience today? I don’t think so.
2. Their view on media entertainment is rather harsh. “Even by the measure of the existing order, the bloated entertainment apparatus does not make life more worthy of human beings” (Horkheimer & Adorno, p.53). This was a bold statement, and I believe this does not apply today. Entertainment programs on TV have become an essential part of our social life. People talk about ‘American Idol’ at school, at work and even at home. People like to share their thoughts and impressions about entertainment programs or movies with other people. If we count online forums into consideration here, the importance of entertainment program for social life grows even bigger. You are isolated if you don’t know certain movie or certain TV show among certain groups. I don’t know if this is true in the United States, but it obviously is true in Korea. What kinds of TV programs in the United States are included in this ‘must-watch’ program list for different age groups?
3. On page 43 of Horkheimer and Adorno’s article, the authors claim an interesting comparison. “If the objective social tendency of this age is incarnated in the obscure subjective intentions of board chairmen, this is primarily the case in the most powerful sectors of industry: steel, petroleum, electricity, chemicals. Compared to them the culture monopolies are weak and dependent” (Horkheimer & Adorno, p.43). This might have applied before 50 years ago, but now I don’t think culture monopolies are weak anymore because of globalization of certain culture especially American culture. We call it ‘cultural imperialism’ these days, and it indeed imperializes the world. For example, Hollywood movies affect many people from many different countries even more than those commodities the authors made comparison of. Yes, steel and electricity affect us greatly, but not mentally. However, cultural products like Hollywood movies, broadcast of certain sports, radio and advertisements affect us to think and behave in certain way. Often times, a person’s own culture conflicts with a culture that he/she experiences indirectly through movies and music from different culture. I guess what I want to ask here is this: is it safe to say that cultural imperialism is still ‘weak’ to the degree that we can simply ignore it, or has it become a new trend that cultural products can be more powerful than everyday commodity? And which of the cultural products is the strongest form today? A movie? Music?
4. Horkheimer and Adorno talk about advertisements starting from page 68. Their view on advertisement resembles their view toward other types of media including film and radio. They regard customers as extremely passive figures while defining advertising as ineffective mean to persuade people. “Advertising today is a negative principle, a blocking device: anything which does not bear its seal of approval is economically suspect. All-pervasive advertising is certainly not needed to acquaint people with the goods on offer, the varieties of which are limited in any case” (Horkheimer & Adorno p.68). I agree with the authors that many of the advertisements are ineffective and promise too much features and benefits that aren’t really proved. However, I believe the authors tend to underestimate the power of advertisement, which is understandable when I consider that the article was written in 1944. Advertisements, today, I believe are highly effective compared to those in 1944. I wonder what the advertisement is like back in 1944. How bad were those that the authors evaluated it as almost useless?
5. My final question is a general question concerning all of the above. To be honest, I feel kind of bad because all I did here was to refute Horkheimer and Adorno’s point of view. I think their thoughts and ideas are too old to apply to today’s elements and characteristics of media and society. As Sunho mentioned in her post, the essay is a product of a particular historical moment. Most of the authors’ claim about films, radio and advertisements were almost laughable to me. They regarded audience as extremely passive and that media was mostly harmful. As soon as I realized that the article was written more than 50 years ago, I could finally understand why the authors argued such ideas. Do you all think that their assumptions about the traditional media are still applicable to today’s media? If so, what parts?
I have certainly enjoyed our first meeting. I was glad that the class was more of a discussion section than simple lecture. It is always fun to share my thoughts or listen to others’ statements and refutations. The only concern I have for this class is that I don’t have much research background in cultural studies. However, I am surely interested to learn more about this field of research. Coming from a different culture to study in the United States, I have always been thinking about cultural differences especially the differences of Korean and American media. The basic goals for the media in the two countries might be the same: to inform public or entertain them. However, the style of delivery differs greatly. The more I thought about it, I could not find which of the two media forms are more effective. It depends on hegemony, ideology of two different countries, but there is obviously more specific process of cultural production that I need to know to fully understand.
Throughout the class, I would like to know more about what makes culture so important and what acts as a catalyst in determining the differences between cultures. It would be even more interesting if we can share different perspectives from a number of cultures on certain issues since we have many international students in class.
I also would like to thank Dr. Harp for changing the class schedule to only Monday. This has lessened my class burden on the busiest day of the week, creating me an opportunity to distribute my work load during the week days.
I’m glad your idea of a blog goes a bit more hand in hand with mine in the sense that it should be a forum for open discussion instead of a place for one-time postings followed by nothingness and quiet.
For me, modernism refers to the period that spans from the end of the 19th century and the middle of the 20th. Some of the characteristics of it that I consider dead and gone are the idealism of a perfect humanity, the belief in a essence and the blind trust that they had in the idea that through rational management and a controlled development of new technologies we could achieve a better world. In the political arena, modernism created capitalism, which worked out great… for a while. Also, the great debates had to do with that evil communism that could somehow take over the world. Last but not least, artists in all fields began to run away from uniformity as if it was the plague.
This is the way I see things now: we know that a perfect society is a total impossibility (well, maybe not all of us think that but you get the idea), the idea of essences was killed by philosophers as they aimed their guns at God and we have found out (and it has been pointed out by Baudrillard, Fukuyama, Díaz, Abril and, to a certain degree, Negroponte) that there is a very, very evil (yes, I’m a complete Apocalyptic) side to the non-stop development of technology. The political arena? Well, you know a ton about it and I don’t think it usually brings a smile to your lips.
Finally, artists are now nothing but replaceable, recyclable and hollow products of models, making uniformity the undisputable King of Everything.
So, as you see, I really do believe that modernism is dead, even if we still study what was produced in that very-positive era. We also study the Incas, Mayas and Egyptians, the dinosaurs, Cervantes, Blake and Byron… and we consider them to be very, very dead.
Alright, hope to see you all in class and please, lets all follow Marcus’s lead!
Here are my thoughts for this week. I tried to extend the discussion on previous posts while also including my own thoughts, which will hopefully promote discourse a bit more.
1) My reaction to “Revisiting the Classics” was similar to Gabino's, and I think "rubbed me the wrong way" applies to me as well. I felt like Baudrillard and Fukuyama were seeing only what they wanted to see, and it did seem like the subscribed to a kind of revisionist history that is not at all set in stone. I realize that everyone does that to a degree, but I still feel like they were pretty enthusiastic about it. Have they responded to historical criticism in other writings about their data? Am I missing something, or did anyone else feel like the support was a bit gerrymandered?
2) Gabino also made the point that the authors encourage postmodernity because modernity is dead. I agree with the reading, but I'd challenge the author's assertion - declaring an entire movement, or an entire interpretive field, to be "dead" is remarkably self-serving. As an artistic critique, it doesn't really work - artists today replicate works from every imaginable field, and since we're still educating our youth about them, it's hard to call them "dead." The same goes for media. Is news radio "dead" because of television, or did news radio "fail" because of television? Of course not. Declaring modernity a "failure" requires a universal scale and a context of vision that we simply do not have, especially when those espousing that view squarely support another ideology with failings of its own. My question would be, does it really matter - why insist something is dead instead of accept possible diversity of theory?
3) In response to Brian Goss' writing, I'm inclined to agree with David - the critique was lucid, well constructed and effective. But who cares, really? Goss is attacking opinion commentators and trying to establish a link between the media and general and punditry. I'd argue that "journalism" and "punditry" are fundamentally different, and I'd argue that improper connections between the two are a big part of why so many Americans are jaded with the media. By all means, dissect Will and Krugman and Joe Klein and Paul Burka and Sean Hannity and all the rest of them, but it's not at all fair to use them as a benchmark for an umbrella "media." Yes, many of them are Republican, and yes, many others have a special reverence for Marx. I'm willing to bet, even, that somewhere out there is a lonely neo-marxist that voted for George W. Bush ... but they're talking heads, and that's what they do. That's not what the media at large tries to do, even if it sometimes fails.
4) World War II was a popular starting point for several cultural study readings, and I can understand why. I also agree with Yukun that many of those writings emphasized a passive audience, if not an outright bullet theory. But I think they're under-emphasizing something - it's not entirely that German audiences were passive, or that their economy and political structure was bankrupt by the time the Nazis came to power. It's that film, particularly with audio, was still pretty new for most Germans - and "Triumph of the Will" was a very powerful example of new media use. Citizens were awed by the technology itself, not just the message. It's the same principle that game the Islamic Revolution in Iran such fervor - these little tape decks could transport ideas across the world, and most folks had no exposure to that kind of technology. It sounds weird calling movies or tape decks "new media" in 2009, but it's true, and I think it gets overlooked. So where should researchers draw the line - is it audience passivity, or is it awe at new technology? I doubt a tape deck could topple a government these days, but the internet maybe? Or, arguably, did Obama already do just that?
5) Chantal Mouffe's assertions concerning hegemony are interesting, especially his commentary about cultural schizophrenia. She also establishes counter-arguments that perhaps the media is not so much establishing hegemony, but simply reflecting societal norms. While I can understand the logic behind both arguments, I wonder how anyone could measure that distinction, qualitatively or quantitatively. Is this one of those chicken-and-the-egg situations that we can never really categorize, or am I missing something?
On a related topic, in the eighties Mouffe proposed to radicalize democracy. Nowadays, however, she asserts that the situation has changed because the social-democratic ideals have been destroyed. Thus, the efforts of the left-wing project should be devoted to defend and protect the existent democratic institutions from being dismantled. Does this assertion suggest protecting the mainstream media, which is commonly criticized by being agent of the statuo quo?
2- Chantal Mouffe’s idea of agonist democracy posits that disagreements and conflicts between parties should be mobilized and included as constitutive parts of the democratic project (Carpentier & Cammaerts, 2006). Similarly, rhetoricians propose that the public discourse is the process in which different groups dispute against each other (Hanczor, 1997). What are differences and similarities between these two views? Can we conclude that Mouffe is suggesting a rhetorical discourse in public spaces?
On a related note, according to Mouffe’s model of democracy, journalism should foster pluralism and agonism. Why journalism should foster the creation of dissensus rather than consensus? What are the positive aspects for society of this approach?
3- Based on the theory of articulation, Hanczor (1997) concluded that the opponents of the NYPD Blue did not succeed in stopping the program because there were fissures between them. Does this mean that is necessary to build consensus among different constituencies in order to win a struggle, and activate social change? Does this conclusion contradict Mouffe’s proposition that dissensus is necessary to attain a similar goal?
4- Hollywood industry, for example, is nowadays the most evident representation of culture industry. Despite being immersed in the culture of massification, commodification, and standardization (Horkheimer & Adorno, 1944/2006), there are a few attempts to trigger social change (e.g., Spike Lee and his films racial relations). Does this show that social change is possible even within a hegemonic industry, as Chantal Mouffe suggests?
5- Kellner asserts that currently there is lack of new social theories —neither the postmodern theory nor the critical theory of the Frankfurt School provides theoretical resources to explain the events of the contemporary era. Similarly to what is happening in the critical/cultural approach, empirical research is also lacking new theories. Most of the social theories come from 1970s. Why is this happening? What are the factors that explain this lack of social theories to explain contemporary society and events? Does the new academic environment prevent the articulation of new theories? Or the conformity and standardization of our culture, as Horkheimer and Adorno denounce, is limiting our capacity to think creatively?
6- Shugart (2003) criticizes that the academy, even the critical/cultural project, is rooted in the positivist approach. This is true because the peer review system, for example, is based on the scientific method. The author proposes an alternative to the conventional standards of scholarship such as application of methods and a specific jargon. When proposing an alternative, she asserts that rejecting conventional standards does not necessarily mean a “rejection of all standards” (p.300) because it is necessary to assure a valid critical research. Then, the following question emerges: Does the mere institution of standards generate norms, hierarchical relations, and some extent of standardization and uniformity, which eventually yields to the reproduction of power?
In culture industry, the authors believed the audiences are passive. For example, in page60 they mentioned Hitler’s Germany and in page 42 they mentioned the mentality of the public is a part of system. Those reminded me their backgrounds in Germany and hypodermic needle model. I don’t know if we can just view their perspectives as a starting point to understand critical theory in mass communication. Today, what is the opinion of Frankfurt School’s scholars ? Do they still insist their assumption that audiences are passive?
How to define art and entertainment? For me, they are too elite to understand the real people=== maybe I am the part of system as what they said. They spent some pages to criticize the mass entertainment in page 56 and film in 58. For me, their opinion about art is too narrow and too elite. Even Benjamin’s opinion over photography and film are too old-fashioned to explain art and “originality”.
How does The Frankfurt School deal the issue about globalization in post-cold world era? In Douglas Kellner’ Critical Theory Today, he believe the Frankfurt School’s macrotheory could provide better explanation in contemporary era. I agree with that we need a macrotheory to explain our world today. But how does the Frankfurt school explain it? I am interested in it.
In Douglas Kellner’s the Frankfurt School page 2, he indicated Benjamin stressed progressive aspects of new technologies such as photography, film, recordings…. Compared to pessimistic perspective of Horkheimer and Adorno, Bnejamin was more optimistic. What is his opinion about Internet? Or does the Frankfurt School revise their opinions about technology today?
In Brian Michael Goss’s “Jeffersonian Poety”, he quoted, Van Dijk’s thinking that ideologies tend to affirm the status quo…… However, In interview of Chantal Mouffe, she indicated that hegemony will change by time. I am wondering how ideologies change. From the material I read, it seems critical theory is too stable. It never indicate how hegemonies or ideologies change? What is reason driving these changes?
I have been a TA for three broadcast radio classes. All three classes have been more than female-dominated in terms of both numbers and talent (14-2, 12-4, and 15-1). Of a total of 48 students, only three had an interest in pursuing a career as sports journalists. All three were men. Could it be that we should start the process earlier? Maybe by introducing sports in cartoons or books we could bring kids up with an understanding of sex equality when it comes to sports. I also believe, in a line that relates to our other readings, that the culture industry, when it comes to sports, has a sense that the big money comes from sports that are related to men. The NBA, NFL, NHL, MLB, FIFA, etc. are all male-dominated. On the other hand, magazines, television and movies tell girls what a woman should look like: 36-24-36 and feminine. Angelina Jolie is a sex symbol. Lisa Leslie is 6 ft 5in. and 170 pounds. Who shows up more times in magazines and television? We have to fight a long, uphill battle with the way we raise our kids before we can hope to have an equal participation of both sexes in sports journalism.
Moving on. The “Revisiting the Classics” article sort of rubbed me the wrong way. On page 2 we read: “The postmodern notion of the “end of history” advanced by Baudrillard (1987) and U.S. State… Francis Fukuyama (1992) seems odd in an era marked by such momentous historical events as the collapse of communism, the end of the Cold War…” The rest of the article is divided between a passionate call for the development of new social theories and the “glorification” of past theories.
I have worked with both Baudrillard and Fukuyama. I’m still working with both of them in my research and their ideas will be used for a long time to come. First: past theories, even when still applicable, were created to explain past problems and cannot be used without some adaptation and evolution. Second: postmodernism arrived as the result of the failed project known as modernity. Explaining postmodern society requires a new frame of mind that, in my opinion, Baudrillard and Fukuyama clearly provide. Postmodernism quickly became an umbrella under which we stuck everything starting with literature (where it truly began), movies, art, etc. Now we are finally realizing that, as with all eras, postmodernism in coming to an end. Fukuyama calls it the end of history, the end of man, etc., but what he points at is an undeniable truth: postmodernism is coming to an end. How ironic is doing research, criticizing theory and finally publishing articles about the need to develop theory? How can we develop theory when the process gets so held-up in academic practices (the same discussed in Shugart article)? Why is the end of postmodernism not discussed more openly?
Next, I want to discuss the Mouffe interview. On page 967 she says: “…hegemony is positive in the sense that, if we accept that there is no order, if we did not have any kind of hegemony, we would be living in complete schizophrenia” Maybe I’m reading this and interpreting it wrong: is she implying that oppressive government and tricky propaganda have a “positive” aspect? This kind of thinking is what makes people believe that anarchy is impossible, so they start erroneously using it as a synonym of chaos. She does go on to say that “there is no social without power relations”, but do these relations have to be between hegemonic powers and their victims? Is she ultimately saying that there is no “social” without conflict and war?
On the George F. Will article I have little to say. The US has a penchant for giving stupid white men important positions and then complaining about it. One look at George W. Bush (with Alberto Gonzales and Dick Cheney attached) or Don Imus can attest to that.
In the same vein, the NYPD article was really funny. The hypocritical way in which we blame TV for all our problems is something that really makes me laugh. The imaginary line between religion and government also strikes me as an odd myth perpetuated precisely by those that act as if there is no border between the two. How can we work on research that proves once and for all that even if “viewing violent programming will lead to violent behavior” (p.9), we are still violent when you take the programming out of the equation? Why is the research done in other countries in which they have the same programming but are less violent kind of ignored?
Finally, the readings about the Frankfurt School and Horkheimer and Adorno were some of the most interesting ones so far, particularly the on in the book. For my thesis I worked with the concept of molds as they are applied to the construction of cultural products (music in my case). The Horkheimer and Adorno readings made me go back and take a second look at the way things are done and consumed by the “mass”. It also forced me to rethink a question that had been left unanswered then: given the fact that even counterculture produces using the same molds and processes, are the culture industries escapable at all? Can we avoid participating without having to live naked in a cave?
What I enjoyed the most about these readings was the fact that both the “reproduction of sameness” (p. 50) and the fact that these entertainment products are “sought by those who want to escape the mechanized labor process…” (p.52) are things that could’ve been written yesterday. Even if the mechanized labor sounds a tad wrong, we have to realize that even art has been turned into a mechanized process so that the line fits like a glove.
How many repetitions of plastic shorts do we see daily? Aren’t our academic papers a part of the problem in the sense that they have to follow a pattern of production? Scary.
a 'culture industry', which utilizes entertainment (and the technologies of media) as an extension of classical repression ("the prolongation of work under late capitalism"..."withering imagination and spontaneity" in its consumers). Further, they suggest that even the creative space unoccupied by commercial media is corrupted because big media draws the line, which makes non-conformists virtual outsiders (the Tocquevillian analysis on pp. 49-50). What do you think Horkheimer and Adorno imagine to be art free from these corrupting forces? Is there historic precedence? What would they regard as a more wholesome, organic culture (from the standpoint of
media and art)?
2) Horkhemer and Adorno refer to the 'heroizing of the average' forming a 'cult of cheapness' (p.44) that further legitimizes the crassness of commercial media. If most people are, indeed, of average tastes (unless, of course, we assume that we're all above average), then aren't the authors glorifying an elite standard? What sort of art do the authors think worthy of heroization and why? Does that undercut their claim?
3) In Douglas Kellner's excellent short summary of the Frankfurt School, he characterizes Benjamin's more optimistic view that "the culture industry also produces rational and critical consumers able to dissect and discriminate among cultural texts and performances, much as sports fans learn to analyze and criticize sports events" (p. 4 of download). Though we haven't read Benjamin yet (and I'm looking forward to it), I wonder if Benjamin's perspective legitimates the very thing that it also criticizes. Put another way: the culture industry as Benjamin sees it, need not bludgeon the consumer with a message, instead, it can be coded into mass content and read by discriminating consumers. But since we know that not every consumer is a 'discriminating consumer', then doesn't the progressive artist or journalist merely use media for his own agenda (rather than someone
else's?) What makes this surreptitious use of media any more valid? (Do the ends justify the means?)
4) In this updated critique of George Will, Brian Goss, on p. 418, summarizes that "Will's commentary has succumbed to the habits of constructing the world within the template of a conservative, Republican Party meta-ideology...rather than as a commentator assaying to unpack and explain Truth." He seems to make a compelling case, so much so, that I couldn't help but wonder how his methods might be applied to de-construct other commentators of similar status. Can Goss' scholarly dissent apply to other commentators 'assaying to unpack and explain Truth' such as Nobel-winning economist and NYT commentator Paul Krugman? Is it valid cultural criticism to pick apart, say, a decade of Krugman's writing to attempt to show an underlying neo-Marxist meta-ideology? Let's step back: Will and Krugman are easy marks for, as Goss admits, both are commentators liberated from the posture of detachment demanded of mere reporters. But what if one could make a compelling case for a 'neo-Marxist' meta-ideology in the media at large: is deconstruction of the media a constructive pursuit if it exposes only intellectually disfavored commercial or 'oppressive' "discursive manifestations" of ideology?
5) In the revealing, honest and utterly fascinating critique of the state of critical studies, Shugart concedes (on p. 276) that the critical endeavor is compromised ...by features indigenous to the scholarly format itself. That is, by the aesthetic conventions of scholarship." In general, she seems to be calling for a "loosening of aesthetic mores" so that the imitation of scientistic, rigid self- denying patterns be abandoned in the scholarly work of cultural critics. But in order to be successful--in order to transcend the
"inbred" insularity of the cultural critical school, wouldn't this loosening require assent by the whole media studies endeavor? Otherwise, won't it remain marginalized?
David D. Brown
This paper makes me to think about the purpose of the critical cultural study. One of the purposes is, for sure, to contribute to academic literature. But of those studies dealing with marginalized communities, how can those aesthetic convention, such as method, text, and jargon, do any change of the current situation? For this concern, my question is: Is it possible that researches in the field of critical cultural study could serve as one form of alternative press? Is it more appropriate that scholars in this field identify themselves more with activists rather than scholars?
2. In “Critical Theory Today: Revisiting the Classics”, the author concluded that “ we need the sort of systematic historical analysis characteristic of classical critical theory to grasp the changes now occurring, yet a more intense focus on political economy that is found in the classical theory is probably needed.” I have the impression that after examining difference approaches, interdisciplinary social theory approach and philosophical and cultural criticism approach, the author regarded political economy is necessary part in media culture studies. Is political economy approach the current trend of cultural studies? Is this the best way to understand media culture?
3\4.Horkheimer & Adorno: “the culture industry produced cultural consumers who would consume its products and conform to the dictates and the behaviors of the existing society. Walter Benjamin: “the culture industry also produces rational and critical consumers able to dissect and discriminate among cultural texts and performances.”
The difference between the two sides (Horkheimer & Adorno vs. Walter Benjamin) is like the debate of active audience vs. passive audience when they read the media text. However, it seems that Horkeimer & Adorno denied any possibility that consumers could be critical to media product in the society dominated by capitalism. When talking about art, they even claimed that “as long as it was expensive, art kept the citizen within some bounds. That is now over. (67)” Does the "price" determines consumers’ subjectivity? It seems that they themselves neglected people’s subjectivity. Can we say they have elitism, or determinism, that ordinary citizens are supposed to submit to capitalism? How can we understand audience/consumer in cultural studies?
In addition, in their argument, value of exchange and the nature of art are mutually exclusive. Is that possible for us to look at the two things as two separate parts of a media text? For example, is a Hollywood movie which is in the culture industry necessarily without any artistic or social value?
5. One of the focuses of the Frankfurt school is technology. They regard technology as “major force of production and formative mode of social organization and control’. Nowadays, many argued that internet technology could be seen as a force of emancipation in the way that people could select media text as they wish. But it is without doubt that capitalism is gradually eroding the field of internet by its unique techonology (i.e. gmail will keep the record of what you have typed in the email, and it will offer you similar content in the website). Then, to what extent people can achieve subjectivity in the field of internet? And, to what extent those progressive independent media (video, blog, music, etc.) can survive on internet escaping the domination of culture industry? If internet, again, proves that techonology fails to escape corporate control, can we say that techonology is necessarily related with captalism?