Search results for "media "

Selves and computers

Author: joe

Saturday, 20 October, 2012 - 22:38

Sherry Turkle's work is amongst the most influential analyses of people's emotional engagement with online environments. Her ethnographic work on computer users in the 90s depicted the encounter of her background in psychoanalysis with the techno-utopianism of the MIT community in "Life on the Screen: Identity on the Age of the Internet". Her analysis of the relationship between selfhood and computer-mediated interaction started with the earlier work, "The Second Self: Computers and the Human Spirit" and has continued most recently in "Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other". Although some have characterised the trajectory of her work (in some ways, Turkle does this herself) as a movement from optimistic embrace of the possibilities that machines offer towards a more problematic view of how machines permit their users to become narcissists, the structure of these tensions can be seen throughout her work: Technically mediated control over human relationships can allow us to replace importantly liminal experiences with less risk-laden interactions. If such substitutions allow us to explore our identities, inhabit imaginative selves and bypass meatspace prejudice, so much the better; if they allow us avoid important coming-of-age rituals or maintain artificially arms-length distances to the people around us, then perhaps something is amiss.

Turkle finds an analogy between the interface of the modern computer GUI and the postmodern condition of the self. She finds that her respondents are able to switch between different selves by switching windows on the screen, and thus they are able to express and perform on their desktop interfaces the fragmented predicament of the self in postmodernity. The way that the enframing logic and style of media technologies reflects the conditions of subjectivity is a theme taken up in the work of Steven Shaviro whose analysis of networked culture (Connected: What It Means to Live in the Network Society, 2003) represents in its form the distributed, decentralised nature of both the network and the "fragmented and multiplied" self. Most recently, Shaviro's work on post-cinematic affect explores how the mirroring between subjectivity and mediation continues as cinematic editing styles demote concerns for continuity in favour of a mode which emphasises not only the non-linearity and glitch aesthetic facilitated by digital technologies but the neo-liberal tropes of precarity and just-in-time production. The artefacts of mediated culture now reflect a world in which not only is the casual employee's labour alienated, but also the specific instance of the self is, just like the media products consumed by the viewer, produced on-demand.

The encircling of media affordances and selfhood within similar frames of reference receives its most contemporary expression in the smartphone. The mobile phone is pervasive not only in the digitally advanced consumer societies of the developed world, but is also the technology of choice in developing countries as its practicality has leapfrogged other more bulky and expensive computing devices. The penetrative capacity of the smartphone ensures that people's lives in all their dimensions are accompanied into every corner of time and space with two-way media. Thus Urry's term "networked mobilities" is applicable equally to the identity of the owner as it is to the media products and interactions that the device enables. The pervasiveness that mobile computing brings about is a genuine shift from the previously separated and distinct experiences that constituted online life. Access to digital spaces is no longer a discretely portioned parcel of life but a continuous augmentation of most everyday activities, leading some commentators such as Nathan Jurgenson to argue that the diagnosis of technically mediated aspects of life as separate and inferior to "real life" in some way is guilty of a "digital dualism" which is at best anachronistic and at worst doesn't appreciate the entwined interlacing of physical and virtual life. Nevertheless to erase the distinction between the digital world and the space of embodied existence is to beg the question that Turkle and others would raise.

Categories: Turkle, Shaviro, Jurgenson, self, digital, media, affect, narcissism, mobile,
Comments: 0

The eye of the mannequin

Author: joe

Tuesday, 02 August, 2011 - 22:41

Dziga Vertov's Man with a Movie Camera is, according to the first title frame's final parenthesised subtitle, an "excerpt from a camera operator's diary". It is a re-presentation of the records of the man with his camera, an excavation of an naively created archive - authentic and unspun. The film unfolds reflexively in its very name and subtitle, its title sequence, and its opening scenes which present a cinema theatre filling with spectators, gathering to watch the moving images on the screen.

An orchestra is frozen in time, the camera cutting between individual musicians poised and waiting, in tension with their instruments. Vertov stretches the sequence in time, pausing on the horns and the fingers resting on the valves, the double-bass straightening its player through the bow, the timpani, violin and trombone holding their humans taut as they anticipate the still conductor's movement at the prompt of the rolling of the film. The elongated duration in which the inert players remain motionless, braced for the introductory notes, outlasts the sense of natural time elapsing: life is fixed fast and rigid.

The projector's shutter is shown slowly to open and to begin beaming light, whereupon the conductor brings his orchestra to life: the once motionless musicians now burst and flail over their charges. Although when released the film was accompanied by live music in theatres, and subsequent audiences have enjoyed the film with a variety of audio interpretations as its soundtrack, the film artefact itself is silent, and has an extraordinary effect when viewed without sound. In silence, the orchestra works wildly, and the projector swallows its reel of film noiselessly, before finally the cinematic vision appears: a single numeral '1' is erected into view and we begin moving through a window of a house. The eerie silence augments the distances we travel: we are watching a film-maker watching a film-show. The camera watches the audience watching what the camera has seen.

Some minutes into the film within the film, we see the eyes of a mannequin, peering from a store-window, gazing out on the world. Eyes, windows, camera. The lifeless figures in the windows and the dressed busts, the posed dummies at the sewing-machine or astride a bicycle - even a stuffed dog articulated so as to seem expectant and watchful: all look out at the world, whose alienated form reflects on the inanimate almond shaped bumps painted to look like the organs of sight in a facsimile human face. The camera sees for them: their own images, their view of the streets, the paraphernalia of commerce which surrounds them, the sleeping bodies of the otherwise absent human race.

It is a puppet show in a world of matter with a transcendent intervening cinematic machinery providing an occasionalist vision and sense. An outside force runs through the world, causing actions and events, permitting sense to be made, prompting beings into life: mediating. The world's continued existence is brought about by machinery with a roving eye.

Categories: dziga-vertov, man-with-a-movie-camera, film, time, eye, window, mediation, cinema, puppet, mannequin, occasionalism,
Comments: 0

Stingless and making no honey

Author: joe

Friday, 29 July, 2011 - 21:50

The drone is a male of the bee species, "stingless and making no honey".

drone (n.)
O.E. dran, dræn "male honeybee," from P.Gmc. *dran- (cf. M.Du. drane; O.H.G. treno; Ger. Drohne, which is from M.L.G. drone), probably imitative; given a figurative sense of "idler, lazy worker" (male bees make no honey) 1520s. Meaning "pilotless aircraft" is from 1946. Meaning "deep, continuous humming sound" is early 16c., apparently imitative (cf. threnody). The verb in the sound sense is early 16c. Related: Droned; droning.
Harper, D., 2010, Drone, in Online Etymological Dictionary, []

The stingless, unproductive bee is an idler, feckless and lazy. What does he do but bumble and buzz, with a deceptive lethargy, the wings beating hundreds of times every second: what an expenditure on inactivity. His bumbling is a monotony, a drone, the long low hum of the sustained repetition of difference, working into the hertz of audibility. The drone is reproduction, mediation, perception, sensation, representation, simulation.

The "sightless gaze" of the unmanned system tends to acquire exceptional power since its bearer cannot be pinned down. The reinforced gaze of the embedded eye acquires its power precisely because it can.
Perhaps it is both that turn out to be equally "unmanned" -- the latter being more insidious because it traffics in the guise of its opposite.
Crandall, J., 9 April 2003, Unmanned - Embedded Reporters, Predator Drones and Armed Perception, []

The drone as idler is adopted to signify the drone as mindless worker: one is unproductive, the other is not. Why the apparent contradiction? The unproductive effort of one points to the futility of existence; the productive effort of the other points to servitude, the mindless repetition of actions controlled by another, a master. The drone is thus pointless through self-indulgence, or powerless through exploitation. The drone is alienated and emasculated.

The singular telescope of Gallileo has evolved into a bug-eyed drone from Northrop-Grumman. It is no longer a research instrument, but an extension of society. Technology is no longer something that can be banned or controlled. Fear of the Swarm is forever joined to love of the Swarm. As Drone Ethnography has liberated our epistemology, from the popular mindset to high level government actors, the drone-mythos captivates our imaginations. The more we use it, the further we leave the point of no return behind us in the slipstream.
Rothstein, A., 20 Jul 2011, Drone Ethnography, []

The drone as unmanned craft is an extension of the mind and body of human beings at war, a distribution of cognition into the framework of equipment. The drone is a delegation of responsibility to the machine, which is at the same time a means of tuning our actions to the agency of technology. The drone is the war of analysis in aerial surveillance, fetishistic transference at 50,000 feet. We watch the machine watching us control the machine controlling us. Drones.

The unmanned system does not eliminate the human so much as redistribute the agencies of warfare. The capacities of sensing, dispatching, analyzing, and alerting -- the intelligence and skill required to interpret and store information and act on the results -- are shared by an affiliation of actors, however algorithmic, organic, or systemic. The focus is on their performative practices within the functional organization of the system. It is a matter of how they are maintained as dynamically stable entities -- sustained, naturalized, and rendered discrete -- and the programs through which this is accomplished.
Crandall, J., 27 Jul 2011, Unmanned, email to nettime-l{AT}, []

Categories: drone, male bee, alienation, powerlessness, mediation, agency, machine, fetishism,
Comments: 0

Media & The Body

Author: joe

Thursday, 16 December, 2010 - 22:36

This week I finished teaching a new unit - Media & The Body. As is often the case when I teach a new unit for the first time, there's some openness and uncertainty about where exactly it will go. I've just written up the essay questions - taking topics which the students themselves suggested they'd like to write about and agreed in the final session, and I've firmed them up into nice academic-sounding words. As I did so, I noticed just how much material we managed to cover and the breadth of ideas the participants brought to each session. The questions tell the story really. Thanks to all students for making it so stimulating!

In games, websites and other online spaces, complex psychological relationships evolve between computer users and their avatars. Discuss these relationships, and the way that the body features in their development.
Contemporary commercial developments in the creation of virtual realities, video-game worlds, and other digital environments are striving to push the limits of verisimilitude and naturalism. Discuss ways in which a consideration of embodiment can inform or explain these developments.
Futurists and other commentators on advances in human sciences speak of transhumanism - the human who is a hybrid of biology and technology. What are the consequences of self-directed evolution for humans and their bodies?
Humans augment their bodies in cybernetic ways. Discuss the nature of cyborg bodies and the practical and ethical challenges they present.
A body is both something that we have, as well as who we are. In what ways are our bodies integral to our identities?
The disembodied performances of identity that online media permit open up questions of authenticity and fantasy. Discuss the issues that are called into question by identity play.
In what ways are the spaces, architectures and environments we produce and inhabit extensions of the body?
By casting humans into a universe of alternative and alien species, science fiction offers a imaginative space for us to meditate the limits and possibilities of our bodies and minds. Discuss.
Contemporary consumer electronics, alongside locative social tools, are fostering a hybrid or augmented experience of public spaces. Examine the nature and significance of these phenomena.
The human, their body, their mind and their technology are fundamentally entwined, and as humans evolve, so do the relationships between each of these aspects. What do past examples of technological, cognitive and embodied change tell us about future possibilities?
The body is a canvas on which meanings can be inscribed - from self harm, through tattoos, to body paint, make-up and adornment. Consider the body as a medium for coping and self-expression.

Categories: media, body, embodiment, learning,
Comments: 3

Draft review notes #3

Author: joe

Saturday, 12 September, 2009 - 15:17

[Some contextual notes for my PhD, regarding the status of participatory media in academia and industry]

So the everyday is always written off: the mass produce trash culture without quality; they fail to rise up and revolt and against the elites; and they are deceived by machinations against which they have no real defence.

A key characteristic of the critiques of the everyday is their insistance on the schism between the real and the ideal, or between appearance and reality. Marxist thought constantly seeks to portray the common man as a duped fool, a donkey of a man suffering under false consciousness: if only we could make him see the world as it truly is, without the miasma of ideology to cloud and befuddle his judgement and ability to act, then he might rise up and take for himself the world that is truly his.

The critique of propaganda and ideology also hinges on the notion that the popular consciousness cannot adequately grasp the real forces, determining events behind the scenes, hidden from view, available only to the most critically engaged and forensically committed minds. Chomsky's line is exemplary of this - his work is largely characterised by 'exposures' of hidden motives and explanatory forces which most other people fail to notice, presumably because they either choose to ignore the evidence or are too taken up in the ideological hegemony to be able to transcend the deceit.

The paragon of this mode of critique is Habermas, who seems determined to project an image of a utopian world - the world as it might be - which can only be reached by the most stringently impossible means. Citizens must be competent, capable, engaged, critically objective and rational, yet willing to listen to and understand other subjective views. The object of this rational-critical discourse is a endpoint at which disagreements will have been ironed out, intersubjectivities achieved - and presumably we will all just sit around gazing at each other in a stupor of silence since we'll have no differences to speak of or dialectical positions to bother articulating.

At the heart of Habermas' vision of rational progress to some humanistic utopia is Enlightenment: the rejection of tradition and any authority that is handed down, seen as so much dogma, in favour of rationally justifiable positions and truths which are available to us to produce without reference to the tyranny of conservatism and prejudice. What an attractive notion - the worldview of science itself, which takes no article on faith, but only on falsifiable and empirical merit!

I find it almost irresistable - the restive rejection of the chains of the past, and the embrace of a world made of iron ration and reason... and yet, yet... why must we constantly fall for this notion that the world is or should be other than it is? What is it about the way of the world that we must always feel it is inadequate? Why must we diagnose the life of the everyday world as somehow being wrong?

Categories: reality, appearance, idealism, Habermas, ration, reason, utopia, Chomsky, Marx, media, phd, politics, propaganda, ideology, revolution,
Comments: 0

Draft review notes #2

Author: joe

Wednesday, 02 September, 2009 - 21:45

[Some contextual notes for my PhD, regarding the status of participatory media in academia and industry]

So much for the pressure to conserve industry interests: capital ensures 'quality' and disseminates self-perpetuating ideological discourses, while the vernacular and the demotic voices are marginalised and reminded of their powerlessness. It isn't novel to diagnose the manipulative and ideological nature of the propaganda mechanisms which capital-oriented discourses mobilise, nor to articulate the ugly underlying fact that the economic capital base underlies and mutually reinforces the ideological superstructure of the persuasive agenda. Much of the substance of those liberal-arts-based media studies degrees which are chastised by the industry for being frivolous and out of touch (because they aren't authentically in touch with industry 'practice'), or misleading and duplicitous (because they hypocritically sell themselves as routes into industry), are often built around reworkings of these Chomskian or Marxist critiques of society, industry, and government.

Even so, Lenin's tantalising question 'what is to be done' is seldom asked in any kind of forceful way since the money follows political neutrality and technocracy. Discourses of academic detachment and objectivity are put in the service of the advancement of natural sciences or technological innovation, which not only have the convenient habit of disclaiming political interest or historical contingency, but of knowing full well that committing to an overtly apolitical or compliant agenda will both attract and perpetuate future funding.

It has always seemed to me that the grand tasks of 'fighting the superstructure' or 'fighting the base' are far too nebulous and mountainous tasks for the individual to countenance - I absolutely identify with Ulrich Beck's description of modern life as tragic in the sense that the world seems to be too big for any one of us to change it. How might one become a revolutionary? What could that possibly mean at a time when I barely have time to charge my laptop let alone charge my political consciousness? It is one thing to make the argument when the opportunity arises: it is another to be a revolutionary.

That question that so dogs Marxists: why does the common man and woman not rise up and take back what has been confiscated from them? Perhaps the thought that they must, later on today, go home and cook dinner; or that the freedom one has to buy contentment in the form of a iPhone or a hairdo might not be wholly delusional after all; perhaps the simple graspable facts of living are more immediate and more real than the abstract ideals to which revolutionaries must sacrifice their lives. What are these poor addled consumers to do?

Categories: Chomsky, Marx, media, politics, propaganda, ideology, academia, revolution, what-is-to-be-done,
Comments: 2

Draft review notes #1

Author: joe

Saturday, 29 August, 2009 - 10:09

[Some contextual notes for my PhD, regarding the status of participatory media in academia and industry]

In the early 2000s, following the dot-com crash, the press, the broadcasting, music and publishing industries reassured themselves that 'online' would never seriously encroach onto their activities. I was working in a vocationally oriented university department, among people who repeated and reinforced those attitudes circulated in the received wisdom of industry promotional departments and analysts. The line 'this isn't a media studies degree, it's a vocational degree' was often used when I suggested that we didn't encourage students enough to understand conceptually what they were doing when engaged in 'mediation'. Just as the media industry now disparages degree courses specialising in media, so then, lecturers in vocational subjects tended to be people who had spent some time working in industry and were keen to 'give something back' by teaching part-time, and thereby rescuing industry training from 'out-of-touch' academics.

The attitudes which were thus perpetuated are still familiar: serious journalists should write for print, since online could only ever offer dumbed-down copy and readers never devote time to reading long articles on screen; filmmakers should concentrate on the photographic medium because digital video is inauthentic and poorer quality; digital audio is too compressed to offer the superior listening experience of analogue, and serious musicians will always have a safer career when signed up for a deal in the industry rather than going it alone; online video can't compete with the appeal of broadcast TV - the list of supposedly self-evident truths go on. These truths were enacted in a practical way in the university simply by encouraging the 'left-over' students to take the online modules, allowing the options in broadcasting and journalism to be set aside for the ablest and most ambitious students.

Supporting 'meme-plexes' manifest themselves, sometimes periphally as the common-sense background, sometimes as a moral panic or a manichean harangue, always helping to substantiate the dominant assumptions: piracy is not only theft, but it supports organised crime - as though sharing your files will perpetuate the drug industry or terrorism; or, online sources are unreliable and must be double-checked against 'proper' offline sources such as books; or, online spaces are dangerous - paedophiles stalk your children, hackers are stealing your identity, gamers are getting disturbed into copycat murder-sprees, and even you - yes you, the average, middle-of-the-road, normal, everyday surfer - even you are losing just a little more of your social skills, and maybe even just a little but more of your humanity, every moment you sit in front of your computer screen.

Categories: phd, media, participatory media, academia, propaganda,
Comments: 0

Apoplectic frenzy of self-congratulation

Author: joe

Sunday, 02 March, 2008 - 22:52

So, that Prince Harry bloke. He's suddenly everywhere, denying he's a hero, while the media works itself into a mixture of an apoplectic frenzy of self-congratulation for being able to keep a secret, and a hedonistic binge of royalty-boggling now the cover's blown. Is anyone in this story not a wanker? The media: gobbling up the chance to appear sanctimonious and prurient at the same time. Harry: is he the rebel prince, or the noble soldier? Or maybe he's a hero? Or not a hero, just a soldier doing his job? Actually he's none of these things and less. He's a tedious fuckwit, just like every other braying ass the aristocracy of this country prides itself on producing. I imagine there was once a golden age when the population maintained a dignified silence in the face of the idiocy on exhibit here. Now, here I am making a pointless observation about an insignificant pillock prompted by a vacuous and pompous media vulturemachine. Please someone kill me.

What is particularly warped and distressing about the whole episode is the fact that Harry sees going to war as an opportunity to be a 'normal' person, while the rest of normal humanity wonders why anyone thinks going to a foreign country to kill people is a desirable activity.

With apologies to Charlie Brooker, whose book I have been reading all day.

Categories: media, royalty, fuckwittery, idiocy, imbecility,
Comments: 0

BBC - this is what we do

Author: joe

Thursday, 07 December, 2006 - 18:41

And what do the BBC do? Editorialise and announce. That's what they're good at. Don't get me wrong, there is a place for the institutional voice, and of all the institutions I'll be sad to see go when anarchy finally reigns, it will be the BBC I'll mourn most. In fairness, the only other thing I'll mourn will be a constant supply of Irish Whiskey, since I imagine that when we surface in our future collective mutualism, Bushmills will be hard to source.

Radio 4 is, as Stephen Fry has already said, one of the pinnacles of human cultural achievement (well for an hour or so a day anyway). Its factual programming is excellent and illuminating in a middle-class sort of way. It's where I learn most of the UK political news that I consume, and as Mark Frauenfelder says on BoingBoing, 'In Our Time' is one of the best programmes available as a podcast produced by anybody in the world.

But the BBC doesn't know how not to editorialise and announce. Many commentators, especially in America, have lauded many of the announcements that come out of the BBC, citing it's funding structure and public service remit as a the reason why it is so ready to embrace participation and 'user generated content'. Actually, for all of these announcements, the beeb have failed to do much of it, and revealed a fundamental misunderstanding of what this so-called 'UGC' is really about.

What announcements were these?

October 2006: BBCi to showcase user's content. Right okay, where in the vast fray of people talking to each other on the internet did you get the overwhelming feeling that what they want was for their stuff to be 'showcased'? What are you, butterfly collectors now? When was the last time you went to a gallery to observe a conversation - indeed, how do you 'showcase' communication? Surely all you need to try to do is facilitate it? Sure this happens already on h2g2 and other talk boards hosted on BBCi, in a heavily moderated sort of way. Thanks for protecting us from ourselves. And what makes you think that the creations that people make need to be legitimised by your patronage?

September 2006: BBC sign a 'memo of understanding' with Microscoft. Ah, now here's a clue to the underlying thinking here. Microsoft, king of the embrace-and-extend technique, are called in to help you do your web services. On the surface, there's nothing wrong with seeing new stuff, and wanting to do the same thing better. Under the skin, all that's really there is institutionalisation and monolithic thinking. Microsoft's embrace-and-extend is really only about breaking and pulverising. Excuse me if waiting for this to happen doesn't give me the bends. Besides, the point is to do what you like, how you like.

May 2006: BBC & We-Media. Headlined as talking about 'a media revolution'. Talk on. A conference dominated by bitching about blogging vs journalism, with the BBC's Helen Boaden arguing that journalists sift facts, while bloggers are trying to 'steamroll' their subjective accounts of the world. Way to get all revolutionary.

April 2006: Creative Future of audience participation, so good they announced it (at least?) twice. Mark Thompson tells the world that BBC will spend six years transforming itself into something relevant to the digital age. Ashley Highfield chips in with plans for users to 'contribute'. Central to these announcements is the notion of audience participation and personalisation. Excellent plans. But do you really know how to do it? Honestly, I'd love to see you adopt this approach. But so far the evidence of your ability to deliver on these promises is scant, and I'm not the only one who thinks so...

March 2006: Reinventing web services. And of course, this is typical. Why do you need to reinvent them? They've already been invented. Make better ones. Was your Creative Archive, that brilliant experiment in delivering creative-commons-licensed, mashup-able clips of, um, penguins, proof of your prowess in getting in on the whole creative web thing? The point of these web-services is that they put an end to walled gardens of content. They let people make stuff and spread it around. You don't know how to do it, because it's the opposite of what you do. Remix the schedule? Gee thanks.

You see, after the 2005 We-Media conference, at which Richard Sambrook stated (listen to the 'We News' mp3 download) that he saw the future of BBC news as being a kind of 'framing organisation', harnessing the participation of the 'audience', I was really looking forward to seeing it happen. A few weeks later, Kevin Marsh, then editor of Radio 4's Today Programme, gave a talk at Bournemouth University (which, we were told, was supposed to be off-the-record, well sod them). I asked him about Sambrook's statement, and what plans were in place to start the process of embracing the audience and engaging with 'citizen-journalism'. He said that the BBC planned to sign up 100 people who would be non-professional, and provide them with the facilities to blog on the BBC website. Well, that's a great start. Unfortunately, that was a year ago, and if it happened, it was bloody quiet.

And what have we seen most recently? Your News. Whose news? Yours? Ours? Mine? Theirs? That's the first hint, I suppose. 'You' aren't 'us'. Here's us, over here, and there's you, over there. So I watched the first one when it launched on BBC News 24 a couple of weeks ago. I even showed the first few minutes to some undergraduates. We got a countdown of the top 10 stories, measured, I think, by number of comments generated on the BBC talk boards. It was backed by a bit of a racy jingle, which put me in mind of Mark Goodier doing the Sunday night top 40. In the first three minutes of this program there was none of my news, nothing of anyone's news. Just BBC editorialisation and patronisation. What the hell are you thinking? Who the fuck is going to watch this bollocks? Is the premise really that, having made ourselves some news, you'll deliver it back to us like some infinitely recurring mirror nightmare? Do we really need you to tell us what you noticed we gave a shit about? I tell you what, give us that fucking camera if you're not going to do anything useful with it...

As you can see, it actually made me angry.

BBC, I love you really, like I love my bookcase or my box of tapes, or my aging car. But please, just stop making all these fucking announcements! Oh, hang on, that's, um, what you do...

Categories: BBC, announcements, new-media, UGC, conversation, public-service-broadcasting,
Comments: 3

CEMP newsround

Author: joe

Tuesday, 07 February, 2006 - 19:06

For those of you who don't know, I work at Bournemouth University, where the Media School successfully bid for a Centre of Excellence in Learning and Teaching, which is now up and running as CEMP.

One of the projects produced by CEMP is a new set of community portals, including one devoted to Interactive Media. The forum is open to anyone to post commentds, or even ask for permission to be a contributor.

For some lunatic reason I volunteered to do a weekly round-up of news, which I now realise takes a huge amount of time, but on the hand, it is a good, um, discipline for me...

You can read my contributions here.

Categories: news, portal, interactive media, resource, education,
Comments: 3

Richard Dawkins for president of the world

Author: joe

Monday, 09 January, 2006 - 21:41

I have just finished watching the first episode of Richard Dawkins' new series on Channel 4, The Root of All Evil.

Firstly, the most pressing thing to say is that this is the best and most important piece of programming I have seen on the Television since Adam Curtis' The Power of Nightmares.

Secondly, Dawkins must be congratulated for having the courage of his convictions and pressing his views home in the face of undoubted risk from fundamentalist fascists who may now consider him a target.

Thirdly, why did the editors of this programme feel the need to switch a to 'fly-on-the-wall' documentary style whenever Dawkins' exposition veered towards blasphemy? Channel 4 would have shown real conviction by allowing Dawkins to lay out his arguments in the same way that Robert Winston is allowed to present his, or likewise Schama is able to expound on his subject. By using editing techniques to signify that Dawkins is presenting a 'point-of-view', they defeat the entire object of his argument.

Fourthly, I would like to see the BBC dare to produce programming like this in a prime-time slot.

Finally, why are there only two episodes, and not an entire digital channel?

That aside, hurrah, bravo, make the man a mullah, etc

Categories: science, fundamentalism, religion, education, media, fascism, politics, documentary, television, faith, reason,
Comments: 0

The Witchhunt Tendency

Author: joe

Thursday, 29 September, 2005 - 06:50

Watching Scorsese's biopic of Bob Dylan, 'No Direction Home', one thing stuck out was the fact that guidelines issued to the FBI on recognising communists was that they might be carrying guitars.

This pattern - that a person's use of technologies of communication sifgnifies their nefarious intent - is repeated endlessly, most recently in the case of a man with an interest computers and telecoms who became a suspected terrorist.

And today I hear that a man who heckled Jack Straw, the British Foreign Secretary, at the Labour Party conference, was held under the Terrorism Act.

Guitars, amateur radio kit, and now your very voice, are all weapons of dissent which you may want to think about twice before using.

Categories: terror, technology, media, witchhunt,
Comments: 3

Evil Bidet of Elitism

Author: joe

Thursday, 30 June, 2005 - 12:11

Where does the idea that some things are not worthy of 'academic' study come from?

Today on BBC Radio 4's Woman's Hour, Jenny Murray ran a feature on an upcoming 4 day conference at the University of Huddersfield on Buffy The Vampire Slayer. Her beginning thrust was 'Why does Buffy justify 4 days of academic discussion''

A few months ago at the Guardian, Leo Benedictus wrote a piece about a conference dedicated to Morrisey and The Smiths. The reporter scavenged wildly for someone, anyone, who was prepared to slag it off as unworthy of academic reflection, but failed to do so, even when speaking to sources he expected to provide such an analysis, such as the Oxbridge dons of musical study.

Over the last 30 years there has been an overt movement in academia and, specifically, the study of learning and teaching, which has acknowledged that the biggest barrier to making learning accessible is the disengagement of those with knowledge, their withdrawal to the ivory tower, and frankly, the use of jargon. Such actions lead to a kind of 'us-and-them' relationship between teachers and students.

This has of course run parallel to the 'postmodernisation' of cultural language, where cultural thinkers have cloaked their so-called 'thoughts' in language so obscure that they alone can decipher the true meaninglessness of their writings.

Richard Dawkins brilliantly exposed these quacks in an article, 'Postmodernism Disrobed', reproduced in 'A Devil's Chaplain'. Basically, if someone seems to be talking bollocks, they almost certainly are.

Real communication requires the use of real language - the language that people understand, the language that is accessible to everybody, and that doesn't exclude people simply because they have not been 'indoctrinated' into the jargon, because teaching is about demystification, not initiation, and learning is about creation, not about reproduction.

It may be entirely acceptable to discuss things that are obscure, in order to bring an understanding of them to a wider audience. But surely it is equally acceptable to discuss things that are accessible and easy for everybody to relate to, like Buffy or The Smiths, without our servants in the media telling us to be surprised.

Categories: elitism, media, academia, postmodernism,
Comments: 0

The Other

Author: joe

Monday, 20 June, 2005 - 21:01


In the car from Bristol to Bournemouth, Andrew Marr of Start the Week, Radio 4, guides the discussion from archaeology to genetics to science and ethics to existentialism to the Indian Ocean tsunami of December 2004.

History is written with the cultural references of the historian. That Britain absorbed Romans, Vikings, and Normans, amongst others, can only be interpreted today in the muddy air of the populist media's xenophobia, and the political expediency of the exploitation of "normal people's" fears.

But there is no such thing as "normal" - the existentialists taught us that. They also taught us to deconstruct the discourse of "the Other". The thread of Orientalism which describes foreign cultures as exotic, alien and inhabited by a heart of darkness, and its dissection by feminists and others, has fed into our intellectual legacy - the legacy which in Britain is only admitted to with a shamed face in even the most rarified circles. The Other is still there to be un-foreigned - un-othered.

And so there is still the need for it to be stated, apparently, that "they" understand the scientific reasons for the earthquake and subsequent tidal wave and the destruction it brought.


The utilisation and appropriation of cultural assumptions is not always malign. Sally and I discuss the idea that Michael Burke's land-mark report on the Ethopian famine in the '80s may well have been trawled over by academia and cultural theorists as exemplary of the "Othering" of Africa in the West, but that is not to say that one reporter's use of emotive cultural references which reinforce our stereotypes did not have the desired effect of waking millions of people to the intolerable injustice which operates in the sphere of political geography and real-politik. Just one of those people was Bob Geldof.


BBC 1. Geldof in Africa. How do you express a Western viewpoint on Africa without reinforcing its otherness - the singlemost stubborn obstacle to action? Use your own voice. Geldof superimposes himself onto an exotic, alien landscape, the heart of the dark origins of humanity, with a voice which is inflected with his own awareness, and acknowledges that any generalisations are his own. There is no all-knowing narrator here, who explains to us what we do not know. There is Bob who gives us his understanding of what we already feel.

This is brilliant.

Bob introduces us to a nomadic tribe which has been ever more nomadic since the introduction of a tax which forces them to move on every two weeks, disrupting their tradition of following the seasons. "These people are doing a runner form a poll-tax".

Un-othering can be written with the cultural references of those un-othering.


Radio 4. Ferry across the Mekong. The West has a remarkable ability to stand by and overlook genocide - in Cambodia and Rwanda, to name but two. Here is a fascinating piece of programming which alerts us to a wider world and its concerns.

But, more importantly, will the final of Celebrity Love Island attract a larger audience?

Categories: other, geldof, culture, media,
Comments: 1