Recently in Mass Communication Category

In P2P TV - How Independent News Video Producers Will Bypass The Mainstream TV Networks Robin Good brings forth an interesting and almost self evident argument about the potential effect of P2P TV to empower the masses by bypassing the mainstream TV networks.

To further support this position, here are some thoughts build upon Gitlin's (1980), Schiller's (1996), Streeter's (1996) and Fiske's (1996) arguments, emphasizing open communication (i.e. many-to-many) is the liberating technology from the central grip in the way this have been setup so far.

Evident from Gitlin’s and Schiller’s arguments is their emphasis on the necessity of free and open communication among the masses if there is to be any deliverance from the ‘claws’ of the media. On the contrary, it is the one-way communication (radio, TV, cable) utilized by the elites to achieve the subordination and dissemination of the hegemonic ideology. Fiske’s technologised surveillance of the physical goes hand-in-hand with surveillance of the discourse (what issues are raised on TV, radio, etc.) “because unequal access to those technologies ensures their use in promoting similar power-block interests" (Fiske 1996, p. 218). The important point brought forth here, directly or indirectly, is the identification of the closed, unidirectional (with masses on the receiving end) and restricted access of communication technology.

These aspects are identified as necessary characteristics for the maintenance and reproduction of the hegemonic ideology, enabling the elites to set the form, format and content of the public discourse (broadcasting, TV, radio, press, etc.), and as importantly decide who can participate. Therefore, it can be argued that this manifestation of communication technologies, entangled in the web of one-way communication and used by the elites for power control and dissemination of material in support of the hegemonic ideology, has shaped the traditional scholarly and public discourse, as well as their practical use, to view communication technology as intrinsically embedded with features, characteristics and functionalities, for reinforcing and aiding the hegemonic ideology.

This biased view, that communication technologies are inherently suited to help media control, is troublesome and factually wrong. For example, the scholarly and public discourse on early cable technology shows that cable access was intended for use unlike it is being used today (for dissemination popular consumer culture through its various formats with the aims of making profit). Streeter (1997) argues that cable "had the potential to rehumanize a dehumanized society, to eliminate the existing bureaucratic restrictions of government regulation common to the industrial world, and to empower the currently powerless public" (Streeter 1997, p.228). He further notes that the cable system had the potential to enable two-way communication and interactivity, but apparently failed to do so due to the social (un)response on the part of the audience: "Cable television was something that could have an important impact upon society, and it thus called for a response on the part of society; it was something to which society could respond and act upon, but that was itself outside society” (Streeter 1997, p. 225). And then adds that cable should not be viewed as an “autonomous entity that had simply appeared on the scene as the result of scientific and technical research" (Streeter 1997, p. 225). Here we see a distinction between the current social status of cable as profit making machinery and its potentials to have become socially responsible technology that would have empowered the audience with two-way open communication.

Fiske, J. (1996). Media matters: Race and Gender in U.S. Politics. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press

Gitlin, T. (1980). Chapter 10, “ Media Routines and Political Crises.” In Gitlin, The Whole World is Watching (pp. 249-269). Berkeley: University of California Press.

Schiller, H.I. (1996). Information Inequality: The Deepening Social Crisis in America. New York - London: Routledge

Streeter, T. (1996). Selling The Air: A Critique of the Policy of Commercial Broadcasting in the United States. Chicago: University of Chicago press


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(via ShelfLife, No. 160 (June 10 2004))
"Do a little digging into the status of the Semantic Web, and you'd likely come away befuddled and unenlightened, convinced this was a job for techno-geeks, not actual human beings. But in point of fact, the burgeoning number of Weblogs already form a vast source of richly interconnected information that requires little or no knowledge of the Semantic Web in order to be useful. The new Friend Of A Friend (FOAF) project is taking the idea of Weblog communities one step further by explicitly defining them in a way that is more easily machine processible. One of the aims of the FOAF project is to improve the chances of happy accidents by describing the connections between people (and the things that they care about such as documents and places). The idea is to use FOAF to describe the sorts of things you would put on your homepage -- your friends, your interests, your picture -- in a structured fashion that machines find easy to process. What you get from this is a network of people instead of a network of Web pages. When people need to know something that is outside their area of expertise, these personal contacts serve as a way of linking them to the best information available. (FreePint 27 May 2004)"

“The conditions associated with a particular class of conditions of existence produce habitus, systems of durable, transportable dispositions, structured structures predisposed to function as structuring structures, that is, as principles which generate and organize practices and representations that can be objectively adapted to their outcomes without presupposing a conscious aiming at ends or an express mastery of the operations necessary in order to attain them. Objectively ‘regulated’ and ‘regular’ without being in any way the product of obedience to rules, they can be collectively orchestrated without being the product of the organizing actions of a conductor” (Bourdieu, p. 53)

The above quote by Bourdieu, when viewed from the perspective of the society as the ‘habitus’, is quiet informing (in theory as well as in practice) of media’s interplay with the social structures within which they are embedded.  As we have seen throughout our course readings, media technologies—as important instruments at various levels of communication processes in the society, have encountered resistance by various cultural and social norms, and somewhat mixed response from economical and political forces because of their profit making potentials or power generation ability. More then any other type of technology, media and communication technologies have been the subject of public and scholarly debates because of their intrinsic characteristics to be able to convey (asynchronously) content across time and space (at distance), inscribed in form of data, information, images, knowledge, and wisdom, in mediums such as books, data tape drives, CD-ROMS, video and audio tapes, etc. Additionally, synchronous communication has enabled instantaneous communication among people (e.g. telephone, audio and video conferencing, online chat) enabling efficient, but not necessarily effective exchange of information, ideas, thoughts, and concepts.

The pervasive and widespread use of media technologies, often used ubiquitously for symbolic purposes, is also used by the governing elites to maintain the status quo and ensure stability. The necessity to reproduce and maintain a stable state, the habitus (to borrow from Bourdieu whose habitus concept is similar to the stable state produced and maintained by the hegemonic ideology), requires ways for disseminating cultural and political material of the dominant ideology. Similarly to how Bourdieu describes the functioning of the habitus, Gitlin defines the status quo as hegemony, “a ruling class’s (or alliance’s) domination of subordinate classes and groups through the elaboration and penetration of ideology (ideas and assumptions) into their common sense and everyday practice,” and contends that it “is systematic (but not necessary or even usually deliberate) engineering of mass consent to established order” (Gitlin, 1980, pp. 253). Further, elaborating on the aspect of hegemony and clarifying the composition of the elite, mostly government, corporate establishment and those institutions that produce cultural artifacts, Schiller (1996) explains their economic reason for cooperation: “The American economy is now hostage to a relatively small number of giant private companies, with interlocking connections, that set the national agenda. This power is particularly characteristic of the communication and information sector where the national cultural-media agenda is provided by a very small (and declining) number of integrated private combines. This development has deeply eroded free individual expression, a vital element of a democratic society” (Schiller, 1996, p. 44).

This paper will attempt to elaborate on the interplay between media and communication technologies, and social structures and forces (social, cultural, economical, political), whether institutionalized or not, emphasizing that both the content and the channels of communication through which the content is distributed are important factors in the production, maintenance and further reproduction of the artifacts of the dominant ideology. I will argue that the content that is being represented and recorded, when conveyed via open communication (such as the Internet), can show us the liberating potentials of various media technologies. As such, communication technologies are situated as important actors in the process to displacing or shifting the status quo.

TV, Violence and Aggression

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In determining which of the four readings to analyze closer for this exercise, the Robinson, Wilde, Navracrus, Haydel and Varady (2001) article presents a more coherent research piece, in my viewpoint, primarily because the theoretical background is better understood (in comparison with the rest of the articles) considering that I’m not very well versed in behavioral and cognitive sciences which seem to be necessary to fully understand, appreciate and be able to provide constructive criticism. Further, Robinson et al. have gone to a great length to elaborate in details on their methodology, the measures used, and their rationale for using them, including a rather detailed report on the statistical procedure used with the corresponding results. The article ends with a great amount, relatively speaking, of concluding remarks including elaborations of limitations and strengths.

Unlike the other three articles that attempt to understand what happens with treatment group(s) when exposed to intervention that increases the dose of exposure to aggressive and violent media or exposure to media in general, the Robinson et al. article attempts to answer whether reduction in media exposure (reduced television, videotape and videogame use) has the effect to reduce violent and aggressive behaviors.

The basic premise in Robinson et al., as it has been shown by the rest of the articles, is that exposure to media increases violent and aggressive behavior (Centerwall, 1989), especially the exposure to violent and aggressive television and videotape viewing, results in the subjects to exhibit less sensitivity and concern about such behaviors when committed by others (Linz, Donnoerstein, & Penrod, 1984). Thus, Robinson et al. hypothesize that reduction in media exposure in general by reducing television, videotape and videogame use, reduces violent and aggressive behaviors in children.

Where did the technology come from?

Writing a critique on McLuhan’s work and ideas presents the challenge of where to start and exactly what to critique in light of the fact that McLuhan has written so widely and perhaps less coherently than the rest of his contemporaries.

In this paper I’m concentrating on few of his ideas and thoughts, namely McLuhan’s technological determinism viewpoint or lack of one thereof—considering his opinionated statement that “… all media, from the phonetic alphabet to the computer, are extensions of man that cause deep and lasting changes in him and transform his environment” (McLuhan interview, p.54, column 3), in conjunction with his statement that “the medium is also the message” (McLuhan interview, p.56, column 1), and his apparent misdiagnosis of the role of the media in the hegemonic process as described by Gitlin.

McLuhan has so much to say about various technologies and their intimate interplay with human and social senses, yet, he does not say anything about how various technologies are constructed. While McLuhan does not necessarily fit the profile of a technological determinist, he appears to be supporting the view that the human society is helpless and must, or eventually ought to succumb to the technological forces: “The computer thus holds out the promise of technologically engendered state of universal understanding and unity, a state of absorption in the logos that could knit mankind into one family and create a perpetuity of collective harmony and peace” (McLuhan, 1969, p.72). The shortcoming of this argument is that McLuhan does not address the process of technological innovation, despite the fact that this very process of innovation provides the explanation of how various technologies come to be constructed via and through the complex process of interplay of various social, human, and non-human entities in our society. The process of technological innovation is constantly in flux, including here various media and communication technologies. Therefore, the lack of the innovation and the social constructionism argument presents a shortcoming in McLuhan’s overall argument that the human society must succumb to technological forces. Media are not isolated entities that spur by and in themselves. Media technologies are invented, created, and deployed by man. Thus, there is a control factor that determines to a certain degree their use and their potential effect. Even if it can be assumed that the social forces and factors in the process of social constructionism of media technologies can totally imbed and manifest themselves through the technologies that they help create, it wouldn’t be the technology that is the instigator. Certainly, in McLuhan’s arguments this seems to be the case and this is precisely the underlying problem that I see with his argument: while media technologies can and do manifest certain socio-economic and political power structures, media technologies do not create those; media technologies merely mediate and/or reinforce the power of the social structures within which they are imbedded and utilized.

MIT for free, virtually: OpenCourseWare

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MIT for free, virtually (serendipitous link discovery via ResourseShelf)

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology is making its course materials available to the world for free download

"One year after the launch of its pilot program, MIT on Monday night quietly published everything from class syllabuses to lecture videos for 500 courses through its OpenCourseWare initiative, an ambitious project it hopes will spark a Web-based revolution in the way universities share information."

Let's see how far (in time and space) this ‘revolution’ will reach! Maybe, if each school does not have to (re)create the course materials from scratch, the tuition will go down! :) Or maybe someone will be making more money.

Nevertheless, in terms of information and/or knowledge sharing there ought not to be any doubt that this is a step in the right direction. Hopefully, the potentials can be utilized to benefit the society in general.

Senate Votes to Repeal New Media Ownership Rules

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From Senate Votes to Repeal New Media Ownership Rules:

"By a vote of 55 to 40, the Senate approved a resolution that would roll back the F.C.C. regulations allowing television networks to own more local stations and that would have permitted conglomerates to own newspaper, television and radio stations in a single metropolitan market."
"The measure faces a tougher battle in the House of Representatives. And President Bush, who has yet to veto a single piece of legislation, has threatened to veto this bill if it reaches his desk."

Why is the president so strongly opinionated about this bill?

Senate Panel Blocks FCC Ownership Rules

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Senate Panel Blocks FCC Ownership Rules

"WASHINGTON - A Senate committee voted Thursday to prevent federal regulators from letting media companies own larger shares of the nation's television market, defying a White House veto threat."

"The Senate Appropriations Committee's voice vote came six weeks after the House approved a bill that would also block the liberalized ownership rules. After Thursday's vote, the Republican chairman of the Appropriations Committee said he believed President Bush (news - web sites) would not veto the measure."

more things to learn in the new semester

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I've just created two new categories: 1) Quantitative Research Methods (for class 194:604), and 2) Mass Communication Theory and Research (for class 194:631).

In these two categories I'll be posting comments, ideas, thoughts, and reflections, pertinent to the two classes I'm taking this semester (Fall 2003).

It would be nice to hear if other bloggers are taking similar classes so we can exchange ideas and thoughts, and help each other. :) So far I've identified Edward Bilodeau who will be taking both Qualitative and Quantitative Research classes this semester.

Update (2/1/2004):
I've renamed the above category Quantitative Research Methods into Research Methods, Methodologies, Issues in order to reflect my targeted interest. In this new category I'll be writing about research in general as it pertains to my dissertation interests (for now) and not necessarily only about Quantitative research methods and methodologies.

By Mentor Cana, PhD
more info at LinkedIn
email: mcana {[at]} kmentor {[dot]} com

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