A Part and Apart: Hawaii and Domestic Satellite Broadcasting, 1967-1971
Selena Dickey / University of Texas Austin

Engineers Ready the Intelsat Satellite

Engineers Ready the Intelsat Satellite

In the “International” section of Broadcasting’s July 24th, 1967 issue, the industry trade journal reported the blast off of “A second synchronous Pacific communications satellite…a twin to the present Intelsat II satellite now providing 24-hour commercial service between the U.S. mainland and Hawaii, Australia, Japan, Philippines, Thailand.” [ ((“Sept. 20 Blast off for Pacific Satellite,” Broadcasting 73, no. 4 (1967): 58.)) ]

In this nearly unnoticeable notice, Broadcasting alerted readers of the most recent step in satellite communications: with a second successful launch, engineers had proven their satellites could achieve and maintain geostationary orbit (that is, reaching an altitude of approximately 22,230 miles and moving at the same speed and rotational direction as Earth so that it stays in place over a single location). But yet subtly, this small announcement also shows how Hawaii is rhetorically configured as a part of and apart from the United States: though the 50th state in the Union, it is lumped together here with various Pacific island nation-states, marking it as not really domestic but, instead, as the section title reminds us, “international.”

The a part/apart-ness of Hawaii is nothing new. Many have looked at the pop culture representations of the island state, from tourism and airline campaigns showcasing the wahines with never-ending supplies of leis to the films of Elvis and Gidget hip-thrusting and surfing across the sandy beaches to the television shows featuring McGarrett and Magnum P.I. chasing criminals through the palm trees. All of these images have created a myth of Hawaii, an escapist’s multicultural utopia so utterly different from the mainland and yet so a part of it that, unlike Australia, Japan, the Philippines or Thailand, no passport is required.

What makes Broadcasting’s coverage different, however, is how its rhetoric configures Hawaii as a part/apart in a discussion of off-screen processes. Similar to the images of island exoticism that filled television and cinema screens, here the industry discourse surrounding the role of developing satellite technology also blurs Hawaii’s connection to the mainland and blends it with the foreign. That both onscreen and off-screen logics function in this way is significant. Both reveal how ideology operates not only within visual discourse but also within industry, policy and technology discourses. In other words, analyzing hula girl and tiki hut tropes is important, but it isn’t the whole luau.

For instance, other industry trade journals focusing on the novelty of satellite transmission also configured Hawaii in rather ambiguous terms. As a Variety article covering the sat-casting of the 1968 Presidential election put it,

[T]here is no reason why foreigners can’t see U.S. election returns live… With foreign newsman commenting on the pictures relayed by pool cameras, 18 1/2 hours of coverage were arranged for Europe and 9 hours and 20 minutes for Hawaii, 2 hours and 25 minutes for Australia, 6 hours and 30 minutes to Japan and two hours to the Philippines. [ ((“Election Via Comsat,” Variety 252, no. 13 (1968): 122.)) ]

Clearly, one of these things is not like the others.

Hawaii is, once again, slipped into a list of foreign regions and countries, its status as a U.S. state overlooked, reconfigured as a foreign body vying for satellite transmission time.

Sat-Casting the 1968 Election Results

Sat-Casting the 1968 Election Results

Even though the number of Broadcasting and Variety articles covering satellite technology and its connection to Hawaii is limited (approximately 30 stories from 1966-1971, the era when television broadcasters first began using satellite transmission), the rhetorical maneuvers and slippages of these longstanding trade journals, subtle as they may be, reveal how the industry conceptualized the island state at a key moment of telecommunication development: Hawaii as Other, as foreign. And this, paired with the findings others have made about onscreen representations of Hawaii, only further reinforces how Hawaii’s identity has been shaped and deployed in certain ways—ways often laden with explicit and implicit power dynamics. If evidence of this can be found in such a small sliver of writing on the development of satellite technology in this brief moment of history, how many other off-screen contexts have, over time, merged and mixed to shape the popular mythology of Hawaii?

For broadcasting industry insiders (network executives, affiliate station general managers, advertising and marketing firms, policy makers, etc.) reading these stories in the late 60s and early 70s, Broadcasting and Variety‘s rhetorical strategy of “othering” Hawaii had real world effects. Satellite technology was new; the role these key stakeholders would play in its development was still undecided; and the way these publications framed the issue within their pages—Hawaii not as a state but as a foreign market—influenced programming, advertising, and telecommunication policy decisions.

These decisions then rippled out to viewers and the general public, shaping their access and exposure to programming. That Hawaiians glimpsed the results of the 1968 Presidential election through the same satellite feed as Europeans and Australians, for example, marks their television experience of this event as significantly different from that experienced by Americans in the continental United States. Sure, Hawaiians were a part of the election—they voted in it, after all—but so too were they excluded from it, receiving national election coverage on an international satellite feed. Put another way, Hawaiians were a part of the mainland, exercising their voting rights as American citizens, and yet apart from the nation’s televisual “flow.” The consequences of this ambiguous—and uneven—televisual relationship with the mainland are complex and the subject of my ongoing research, but what can be said here is that, in the three-network era, access to and participation in a common national television “cultural forum” wasn’t so common, or even so national.

Paumalu Earth Station, Hawaii's Satellite Access Ground Station

Paumalu Earth Station, Hawaii’s Satellite Access Ground Station

Looking at the ways off-screen practices shape regional identity has gained traction in television studies, with Victoria E. Johnson’s, Steven D. Classen’s, Yeidy Rivero’s, and Myles McNutt’s work particularly standing out. All take into account different elements, from policy to production to local politics, and each considers the ways those elements—operating beyond the frame of yet shaping what appears on a television screen—nuance and reshape our understandings of regional identity. Similarly, Broadcasting and Variety‘s coverage of newly developing satellite technology and its effect on Hawaiian identity reminds us that not only are there other regions still left to explore but also other off-screen practices to examine. It reminds us that to conceive of a homogenous televisual flow, of unhindered participation in a national television cultural forum, fails to consider the unique position Hawaii occupied during this particular historical moment and opens up the need for further investigations into the way region shapes understandings of technology, television, and culture, and vice versa.

Image Credits

1. Engineers Ready the Intelsat Satellite
2. Sat-Casting the 1968 Election Results, Broadcasting 77, no. 8 (1969): 32.
3. Paumalu Earth Station, Hawaii’s Satellite Access Ground Station

Please feel free to comment.




Know Your Audience: The Quest for Digitally Addressable Systems in India
Shanti Kumar/University of Texas at Austin


Satellites

DTH Players

In the shift from analog to digital television in India, much of the discussion in the media industries and policy circles has focused on whether the new digital addressable system (DAS) will be a revolutionary transformation in the delivery of programming services, as its proponents claim, or a mirage that critics argue the Indian cable industry will be chasing in futility for years to come. This is a debate I have covered more extensively in an earlier Flow essay.

To briefly summarize, the Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Amendment Act of 2011 made it mandatory for analog Cable TV systems in India to switch over to a new Digital Addressable System (DAS) by December 2014. The advocates of DAS view digital addressability as an ideal new technology to overcome the problems posed by the current analog systems in the cable television industry, and to offer television content providers and audiences the ability to directly interact and communicate with each other. It doesn’t matter whether you get your TV through broadcasting, cable, direct-to-home satellite systems or the internet, direct addressability seems to be the fix-it-all solution to problems of analog television like limitations of bandwidth, delivery of digital HD, 3D, interactive services, targeted advertising, standardization of TV rates, reliable billing practices and so on. (( Consultation Paper on “Issues related to Implementation of Digital Addressable Cable TV Systems” ))

For the critics of DAS, the elevation of digital addressable system as a technical fix to all the problems in Indian television is rather problematic. Their criticism of the DAS policy has at least four dimensions to it: The first is an argument about the inherent difficulties in uniformly implementing DAS as a new technology in a politically, economically, culturally and linguistically diverse country like India. The second strand of criticism comes from those who question the assumption that giving cable companies greater access to television households through DAS will automatically improve the quality of services for the viewers. The third strand of criticism comes from those who argue that the kind of “choice” proposed by the advocates of DAS is a menu-driven format of click-and-choose options that does not fully exploit the interactive potential of digital addressability. The final strand of criticism is that the menu-driven format of choice does not promote the interests of the television viewer at home, but instead serves the commercial interests of the powerful media industries and their elite allies in the government.

Although advocates and critics in the media industries differ in their assessments of the ways in which the new DAS regime is being implemented in India, there seems to be little disagreement in these circles about the potential of new digital technologies to overcome the many problems posed by the old analog mode of delivering broadcasting and cable television services. Therefore, not surprisingly, much of the debate on the shift to DAS television system in India has been framed in technical terms about the relative advantages and disadvantages of digital set-top boxes over the current analog cable technologies. Underlying this consensus about the ills of the analog world is a common view that the attempt to realize the full potential of the broadcasting revolution of the 1970-80s, and the satellite television revolution of the 1990s is being hindered by the inability of television content providers to directly address the audiences at home.

In this essay, I want to move debate on DAS away from the focus on the pros and cons of digital technologies for the delivery of television services where the digital is seen as a technical fix-it-all solution for the problems of the outdated analog system. Instead, I want to pay closer attention to the distinction between addressable and non-addressable systems of communication, and critically analyze the cultural implications of the wholesale shift toward digitally addressable systems in Indian television. I argue that the shift from the current regime of non-addressable analog systems and hybrid analog-digital systems to a uniformly digital addressable system is taking place in the television industry in conjunction with similar transformations in other allied and equally crucial sectors of the Indian economy and culture. This generalized shift toward uniformly digital addressable systems is visible most prominently in the unique identification number system called “Aadhaar” launched by the government of India, and in the “Know Your Customer” (KYC) system promulgated by the Reserve Bank of India for use in the banking industry to prevent financial fraud and other criminal activities.

Aadhaar (meaning support in Hindi) is a 12-digit unique identification number (UID) issued to all residents in India on a voluntary basis by the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) The UIDAI agency was established by the government of India in 2009, and began assigning UID numbers in September 2010. The aadhaar numbers are stored in a centralized database and linked to demographic and biometric information such as photographs, ten fingerprints and iris scans of every individual with a UID number. The stated goal of the Aadhaar project is to serve as the single source of verifiable identity for the delivery of various public services by using the UID numbers and the associated database information to uniquely address each individual resident in India. (( uidnumber.org ))


AADHAAR

Aadhaar

The Know Your Customer (KYC) system is used in the banking industry to individually identify each customer and verify his/her identity by using uniquely identifiable data such as a photograph, residential address, marital status and so on. Introduced in 2002 by the Reserve Bank of India, the KYC system is now used by all banks to ensure that they are fully compliant with the government of India’s regulations aimed at preventing money laundering, terrorism financing and identity theft schemes. (( Know Your Customer (KYC) Guidelines ))

Know Your Customer

Know Your Customer

Similarly, the Digital Addressable System (DAS) is being promoted in the television industry as a way to uniquely identify each subscriber on the cable delivery system. DAS comprises of a set of digital hardware and software tools used in satellite and cable TV industries for the transmission of television channels in encrypted form to their subscribers. All subscribers get set top boxes with authorization to view free, paid or on-demand encrypted channels on the satellite or cable network. Authorization is given and controlled by the Multi System Operator (MSO) who owns the DAS but may work with Local Cable Operators (LCO) in different markets.

While the current interactions and intersections among the television industry’s DAS platform with the aadhaar system and the KYC system are limited, the future potential for integration of these digital addressable systems in India is immense. According to a study released by the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) in April 2012, Telecommunications companies can save over Rs. 1,000 crore (( 1 crore = 10 million. 1 US dollar = 55 Indian rupees )) every year if they use Aadhaar to verify the identity and address of new subscribers. The report claims that the Telecom industry can save this money by going paperless in back end processes, and by avoiding the fines that the Telecom Enforcement Resource and Monitoring (TERM) cell imposes on companies for failing to verify subscriber identity in a proper and timely manner. (( http://www.business-standard.com/india/news/using-aadhaar-as-kyc-norm-can-save-telecos-rs-1000-cr-says-study/471088/ )) Recognizing the potential benefits of such digital integration, DISHTV – the leading provider of DTH services in India – embraced the aadhaar UID and the KYC IDs for uniquely identifying its customers, and rapidly expanding its subscriber base across the country. “Dish TV is proud to align with UIDAI to recognise and support the country’s largest movement to provide unique ID numbers to its residents. Aadhaar will also serve an additional payment option as the UID has a direct connect to the banks and financial institutions,” said Dish TV COO Salil Kapoor in statement released to announce the implementation of the new policy in February 2011. (( http://www.business-standard.com/india/news/dish-tv-alignsaadhaar-to-accept-uid-number-as-id-proof/124598/on ))

The development of new digital technologies to communicate with citizens, consumers and audiences in nationalized systems such as Aadhaar, KYC and DAS respectively, requires a new understanding of the emerging modes of digital address in India today. However, the debate over digital addressable systems cannot be simply reduced to the positive versus negative effects of new technologies at home, or more generally in media culture and industries. Television viewers are ambivalent about the potential threats of DAS to their privacy and may also be vaguely aware of the possibilities of greater surveillance by the media industries in the digital world. But at the same time, television viewers recognize that many everyday conveniences of better programming services, efficiency of delivery mechanisms, and greater security in the television household depend greatly on digital addressable systems. As is evident from the recent attempts of major players in the media industry like DISH TV to integrate the DAS platform with KYC and Aadhaar systems, the rise of digital addressable systems and their ability to uniquely address viewers as consumers and citizens raises new questions about the changing relationships between public and private spaces, privacy and surveillance, and the state and its subjects. These are questions that Indian media scholars need to address by extending our analyses of television more broadly to the changing mode of digital address in systems like DAS, KYC and Aadhaar, as well as to the increasing intersections and the growing interdependence among various digital platforms.

Image Credits:

1) DTH Players
2) Aadhaar
3) Know Your Customer

Please feel free to comment.




“Cibercultura” y cibercultur@

por: Jorge A. González / Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México

(for English, click here)

Gráfico del sitio web Imaginify

Gráfico del sitio web Imaginify

La concepción de la cibercultur@ que presento aquí no necesariamente está ligada con el mundo de las computadoras o a las redes de Internet, como ya se le entiende en todas partes, sino que resalta las tres direcciones de sentido de los elementos que la componen: el prefijo griego “Kyber” (ciber), la palabra latina “cultur” y el signo tipográfico “@” (González, 2003).

• Tomo literalmente el sentido de director y timonel del vocablo “Kyber”, pues desarrollar cibercultur@ implica generar, incrementar, perfeccionar, mejorar y compartir las habilidades para conducir, dirigir y “pilotear” relaciones sociales, en un ejercicio de autogestión colectiva, horizontal y participativa.

• Tomo el sentido original de “cultivo, cuidado, atención y desarrollo” de la palabra “cultura”. La habilidad para pilotearse y dirigirse con otros hacia soluciones más inteligentes frente a los enormes retos del siglo XXI, se puede aprender, se puede compartir y se puede cultivar con otros y para otros.

• El signo de la arroba “@”, que hoy se ha vuelto familiar entre quienes utilizan la red, y precisamente por su semejanza gráfica a una espiral, utilizo “@” por su semejanza para representar un bucle de retroalimentación positivo, un proceso abierto y adaptable que genera una respuesta emergente que surge de la densidad de las relaciones del sistema y no se reduce a la suma de sus componentes.

Propongo el neologismo cibercultur@ (con la arroba “@” incluida) para designar una serie de procesos específicos que implican una doble cualidad complementaria y simultánea: cibercultur@ entendida como un objeto de estudio y cibercultur@ entendida como un valor de desarrollo y empoderamiento social.

Cibercultur@ como objeto de estudio

Como objeto de conocimiento, el estudio de los fenómenos de cibercultur@, se dirige a describir, analizar y explicar los diversos procesos de relación entre las ecologías simbólicas de sociedades determinadas en el tiempo y en el espacio con el vector tecnológico.

Con la noción de ecologías simbólicas designo el conjunto total de relaciones de sentido que en una sociedad se construyen en la historia con un entorno físico, biológico, psicológico, social y cultural a través de la actividad cognitiva y sus dimensiones más complejas, como la mente, el discurso, y la actividad modeladora y adaptativa de las identidades y alteridades de los diferentes y variados colectivos sociales. Esta dimensión cognitiva y simbólica sólo se puede lograr dentro de un ecosistema de soportes materiales de la actividad de representación de la sociedad. Sin ellos, la eficacia de la cultura en la construcción de identidades, en la reproducción de la sociedad, en el establecimiento de las tradiciones, en las vanguardias es, impensable.

Cybersociology

Cybersociology.com

La especie humana es la única que para poder sobrevivir necesita construirse diestramente una “segunda naturaleza”, a todo título sígnica y plena de actividad interpretativa, es por eso que la historia de los ecosistemas materiales de la cultura debe ponerse en correspondencia con la historia de la generación de sus públicos, es decir, la historia de la distribución social de las disposiciones cognitivas para operar en esos ecosistemas.

El concepto de ecologías simbólicas intenta dar cuenta, tanto de las formas sistémicas (estructuradas y ordenadas), como de las formas enactivas (en proceso de estructuración) de la signicidad, tal y como la ha definido Cirese desde la antropología cultural italiana.

Por la interrelación intensa entre los significados, las normas y el poder, me interesa estudiar esta relación desde la perspectiva de las sociedades que han sido desplazadas y excluidas en el espacio social, y ello significa que han sido (o están siendo) explotadas en lo económico, dominadas en lo político y dirigidas en lo cultural. Excluidos desde la noche de los tiempos de los beneficios de la globalización, a enormes sectores sociales dispersos por todo el mundo sólo se les ha globalizado la miseria y la degradación, y se han convertido en lo que Castells llama “los agujeros negros del capitalismo informacional”. En la perspectiva que propongo, describir, analizar y explicar los procesos sociales e históricos de la génesis y desarrollo de las modulaciones simbólicas de la relación de estas dos dimensiones, es crucial para potenciar cualquier desarrollo científico que, además de interpretar y teorizar el mundo, busque la transformación del mismo mediante el empoderamiento de los sectores sociales más numerosos y deprimidos.

Con el nombre de vector tecnológico denomino todos los procesos y efectos socio-históricos de fuerza con dirección que se han verificado y verifican cotidianamente en procesos de adopción, adaptación, imposición o rechazo de dispositivos y complejos tecnológicos entre sociedades con recursos y posiciones disimétricas y desniveladas en la estructura desigual del espacio social mundial.

Me interesan en particular dos de las dimensiones más agudas y que verifican un crecimiento exponencial de dicho vector, a saber, las llamadas tecnologías digitales y los procesos de comunicación mediada por computadoras debido a la difusión y penetración de capilaridad creciente que se experimenta en todas las esferas de la vida pública y cotidiana de las sociedades contemporáneas.

Las ventajas y potencialidades que aporta la forma digital de procesar, empaquetar, enviar, recibir y acumular la información, se ven incrementadas por la comunicación instantánea a través de redes de computadoras que — con el acceso al conocimiento y práctica que requieren necesariamente para su operación funcional — permiten coordinar, dirigir y orientar con toda destreza la dirección y sentido de los flujos mencionados. Estos dispositivos o complejos socio-técnicos, conforman parte crucial de los resortes tecnológicos que generan la aparición y la dispersión global del “cuarto mundo”, de los excluidos y los prescindibles que han sido diseñados desde arriba del sistema como terminales tontas:

“…en este proceso de reestructuración social, hay más que desigualdad y pobreza. También hay exclusión de pueblos y territorios que, desde la perspectiva de los intereses dominantes del capitalismo informacional global, pasan a una posición de irrelevancia estructural” (Castells, 1999a).

No hay tal periferia pura, ni centro inmaculado de este proceso — verdaderamente global — de exclusión social potenciado por la tecnología, que lejos de ser meros aparatos, implican toda una fuerza constituida con dirección y con efectos constituyentes multidimensionales más allá de la técnica, muy poco estudiados en tanto que innovaciones radicales. El vector tecnológico es producto del movimiento de la sociedad mundial y al mismo tiempo configura y ayuda a producir los mundos sociales que progresivamente toca y transforma y desde luego genera resistencias múltiples en sentidos diversos y “aberrantes” e inesperados. Por ello mismo, no se debe tomar esto como una denuncia de un plan organizado y conciente de dominación y sometimiento del mundo a los “malos” del “centro”: una vez que despegó históricamente, el desarrollo tecnológico ha adquirido sus propias “leyes”, su propia autonomía e impulso, con costos y beneficios, que desde luego nunca — y menos ahora — se han gozado aquellos, ni pagado éstos, de manera equitativa en el mundo moderno.

Lab Complex

Lab Complex

Esta primera delimitación de la cibercultur@ como objeto de estudio, comporta varios supuestos y antecedentes.

• Por un lado, partimos de un complejo cognoscitivo caracterizado por la desigualdad de la estructura de relaciones del sistema mundial, en el que observamos vastas y múltiples zonas pluri-distribuidas del planeta, históricamente colonizadas y depauperadas por relaciones sociales de explotación, dominación y exclusión, que proveen y nutren de energía social (capital) a diferentes ciudades/nodos atractores de enormes e intensos flujos de personas principalmente, pero no solo a través de la migración y los consiguientes flujos de capitales financieros. Estas “ciudades/nodo” (ciudades Alpha) del sistema-mundo además de ser concentradoras de volúmenes inmensos de capitales, también concentran crecientemente a millones de miserables (y otros no tan miserables)[i] que se desplazan para vivir mejor hacia tales ciudades/nodo. Estos centros globales que capturan crecientemente los flujos de personas y capitales, operan también como generadores y difusores masivos de flujos permanentes y “globales” de información e imágenes mediados tecnológicamente y que sirven como materia prima básica para metabolizar y representarse de diversas formas el mundo, quién es cada uno y cada cuál de los actores sociales y de qué forma se hacen visibles o invisibles en el escenario de la vida pública.

• • Estos procesos de elaboración discursiva y simbólica son indispensables para poder narrar los hilos y editar el valor y el significado de los hitos de la memoria social, las definiciones de la situación presente, así como la factibilidad y densidad de otros mundos también posibles.

• Con y desde estos procesos simbólicos se establecen en la historia diversas relaciones sociales de hegemonía, subalternidad, alteridad, resistencia y en algunos casos y períodos determinados, se establecen también relaciones de contra-hegemonía que requieren y generan formas emergentes para la organización de diversas estrategias simbólicas que buscan atraer y modular el discurso social para la dirección intelectual y moral de toda la sociedad, como bien lo señaló Gramsci en el siglo pasado.

Nota
El aluvión inicial de mano de obra barata, no calificada y con escaso “cosmopolitismo” que se ha movido históricamente en los flujos migratorios, por efecto de la globalización forzada ha ido “enriqueciéndose” con el alarmante desangramiento en sus países de origen de profesionistas calificados, pero desempleados o con un gris futuro laboral, como lo documenta la migración educada de Ecuador y otros países del sur de América hacia los servicios domésticos en España y en general a la Comunidad Europea (Pellegrino, 2004: 12 y ss.).

Castells, Manuel (1999). La era de la información. Economía, sociedad y cultura: La sociedad red, Madrid, Alianza Editorial.

Cirese, Alberto (1984). Segnicitá, fabrilitá, procreazione. Appunti etnoantropologici, Roma, CISU.

Gramsci, Antonio (1976). Quaderni del carcere, Roma, Einaudi.

Pellegrino, Adela (2004). Migration from Latin America to Europe. Trends and policy challenges, International Organization for Migration, Migration Series, No. 16

González, Jorge (2004). “Cibercultur@ como estrategia de comunicación compleja desde la periferia“. Cibersociedad.net.

González, Jorge (2003). Cultura(s) y Cibercultur@(s). Incursiones no lineales entre complejidad y comunicación, México Universidad Iberoamericana.

Web
Lab Complex (Sección productos realizados)

Imágenes
1. Gráfico del sitio web Imaginify
2. Cybersociology.com
3. Lab Complex

Jorge A. González es profesor en la Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México.

Favor de comentar.




by: Jorge A. González / Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México

Against the current conceptions of cybercultur@ I propose here a sort of meaning that is not necessarily related to the universe of computers or to the Internet. Instead, I shall emphasize three directions of meaning from the elements that compose the neologism: the Greek prefix “Κψβερ” (cyber), the Latin word “cultur”, and I will take analogically the spiral form of the sign “@”.

• I take from the word “Kyber” the meaning of steersman, because developing cybercultur@ implies to generate, to increase, to perfect, to improve and to share the abilities to steer, to direct and “to pilot” social relations in an exercise of collective, horizontal and participative self steering.

• I will also take the original earthly meaning from culture, understood as the action of cultivation, taking care, paying attention and motivating transformations from the soil. The first junction between Kyber and Cultur, points to the ability to pilot ourselves and to go with others towards more intelligent solutions facing the huge challenges of the 21st century; it is possible to learn, to share, and to cultivate along with others and for others.

• The sign “@”that today has become familiar between those who use e-mail, and precisely by its graphical similarity to a spiral, I use “@” by its similarity to represent a positive feedback loop, an open and adaptable process that generates a range of emergent answers that arise from the density of the relations of the system and it is not reduced to the sum of its components.

Given that, I propose the neologism cybercultur@ (with the sign “@” included) to designate a series of specific processes that imply one twofold complementary and simultaneous qualities: cybercultur@ understood as an object of study, and cybercultur@ understood as a value for development and social empowerment.

Cybercultur@ as an object of study

• As an object of knowledge, cybercultur@ implies the study of complex phenomena in social, historical, symbolic and contextual levels than can be described, analyzed and explained facing multi level processes of relations between the symbolic ecologies of specific societies with the technological vector.

• With the notion of symbolic ecologies I designate the total set of relations of meaning that in a specific society are constructed along history with physical, biological, psychological, social and cultural environments. Through the cognitive activity and its more complex dimensions, like the mind, the speech, and the modelling and adapting activity of social identities. This cognitive and symbolic dimension can only be generated within a kind of ecosystem of material supports that make possible the activity of symbolic representation of any society. Without them, the efficacy of culture in the construction of identities, in the reproduction of the society, in the establishment of traditions and avant-garde movements is just unthinkable.

The human species is unique in that, besides the satisfaction of the material needs (feeding, covering, drinking, housing…) in order to survive it must generate a totally meaningful “second nature,” composite by simple and complex signs, texts and discourses that shape the human interpretative activity.

That is why the history of the material ecosystems of culture must be related with the history of the generation of its audiences, that is to say, the history of the social distribution of the cognitive dispositions operating in those ecosystems.

The concept of symbolic ecologies gives account, both of the systemic forms (structured and ordered) and of the enactive forms (in structuring processes) of the “signicity” (segnicitá), as has been defined by Cirese from Italian cultural anthropology.

In the intense interrelation between meaning, norms and power, I am interested in studying that relation from the perspective of the societies that have been moved and excluded in the social space, and it means that they have been (or they are actually being) economically exploited, politically dominated and culturally directed.

Excluded from the beginning from the benefits of the globalization, enormous and dispersed social sectors have been “globalized” by the misery and the degradation, and they have become which Castells calls “the black holes of informational capitalism.”

In the proposed perspective describing, analyzing and explaining the social and historical processes of the genesis and development of the symbolic modulations of the relation of these two explained dimensions. It is crucial to harness any scientific development that, besides to interpret and to theorize about the world, looks for the transformation of the world itself seeking the empowerment of the more numerous and depressed social sectors.

With the concept of technological vector I describe the socio-historical processes and effects of forces with direction that have been verified in processes of adoption, adaptation, imposition or rejection of technological complexes and devices between societies with resources and dissymmetric and uneven positions in the unequal structure of world-wide social space.

I am particularly interested in two of the more acute dimensions that have prompted an exponential growth of this vector: the so called digital technologies and the processes of computer mediated communication. Both have a large diffusion and penetration in public sphere and into everyday life of contemporary societies.

The advantages and potentialities provided by the digital form of processing, packing, sending, receiving and collecting data are increased by the instantaneous communication through networks of computers that — with the access to knowledge and practice that they necessarily require for its functional operation — allow coordinating, directing and orienting skilfully the direction and meaning of the flows. These socio-technical complexes shape a crucial part of the technological springs that generate the appearance and the global dispersion of the “fourth world”, of the excluded and disposable social settings that have been designed top-down of the system as dumb terminals:

“… in this process of social reconstruction, there is more inequality and poverty. Also there are exclusions of villages and territories that, from the perspective of the dominant interests of global informational capitalism, occupy a position of structural irrelevance” as Castells has pointed out.

There is nothing as pure periphery, and no immaculate center of this process — truly global — of social exclusion prompted by the technology, that far from being mere mechanical utilities, implies a constituted force with direction and multidimensional constituent effects beyond the technique. These aspects have been little studied as radical social innovations. The technological vector is an outcome of the movement of the world-wide society and at the same time, it forms and helps to produce the aberrant and unexpected social worlds that touch and progressively transform, and generates multiple resistances. This is precisely why this should not be taken as a conspiracy plan organized and conscientious for domination and submission of the world to the “bad ones” of the “center”: once it took off historically, technological development has generated its own “laws,” its own autonomy and impulse, with costs and benefits, that never have been enjoyed in to an equitable way within the modern world.

This first boundary of cybercultur@ as object of study implies several assumptions and antecedents:

• On the one hand, we depart from a cognitive complex, characterized by inequality of the structure of relations of the world-system, in which we can observe vast and multiple multi-distributed zones of the planet, historically colonized and impoverished by social relations of exploitation, domination and exclusion, that provide and nourish of social energy (capital) to different cities/enormous attracting nodes of intense flows of people, but not only through the migration and the consequent flows of financial capitals. These “cities/node” (Alpha cities) of the world-system in addition to concentrating immense volumes of capital, also concentrate increasingly millions of poor (and others not so poor)[i] moving towards such cities/node in order to get a better life. These global centers that increasingly capture the flows of people and capital, also operate like generators and massive diffusers of permanent and “global” flows of information and images technologically mediated that serve as basic raw material for metabolizing and for representing the world, who is who and everyone of the social actors and how they become visible or invisible in the scene of the public life.

• • These processes of discursive and symbolic elaboration are indispensable to be able to narrate the threads and publish the value and the meaning of the landmarks of social memory, the definitions of the present situation, as well as the feasibility and density of other also possible worlds.

• With and from these symbolic processes, relations are established and transformed in history, social relations of hegemony, subalternity, alterity and resistance, and in some cases, counter-hegemonic relations that require and generate new and emergent forms of organization of the diverse symbolic strategies trying to attract and to modulate the social discourse for enabling the intellectual and moral direction of all the society, as Gramsci illustrated so well in the previous century.

Note
The initial excess of cheap and unskilled handwork with scarce “cosmopolitism” that has been historically moved into the migrant flows by means of forced “globalization,” has been “enriched” by the flight of “qualified professionals” (but still unemployed or with rather grim higher wealth expectations) from their original countries, as documented by the “educated” migration from Ecuador and other Latin American countries to Spain and in general to the European Community (Pellegrino, 2004: 12+).

Click here to see the author’s Bibliography

Image Credits: (located in primary Spanish text)
1. Graphic from the website Imaginify
2. Cybersociology.com
3. Lab Complex

Author: Jorge A. González is a professor at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (the National Autonomous University of Mexico).




La televisión mexicana y la transformación del poder en México en el siglo XXI

por: Javier Esteinou Madrid / Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana, Unidad Xochimilco

(for English, click here)

Napoleón Gómez Urrutia

Napoleón Gómez Urrutia

Con la introducción de las tecnologías electrónicas de información de masas en México, con la radio en 1920 y la televisión en 1950, el poder ideológico de las industrias culturales paulatinamente desbordó la esfera de control y de orientación del Estado tradicional. De esta manera, éste moderno poder entró en una nueva fase de desarrollo vertiginoso que rápidamente rebasó los límites de los controles políticos y jurídicos convencionales creados por el Estado mexicano y se fue conformando paralelamente como un poder ideológico independiente que se enfrentó a los otros tres poderes republicanos formales que constituyen al Estado nacional (Poder Ejecutivo, Poder Legislativo y Poder Judicial), e incluso en algunos casos los reformuló y en otros los substituyó.

A partir de este momento histórico que se constató que si a mediados del siglo XX el Estado mexicano estaba constituido por 3 poderes formales como fueron el Poder Ejecutivo, el Poder Legislativo y el Poder Judicial; a principios del siglo XXI, en términos reales, el Estado mexicano ya está compuesto por 4 poderes: 3 poderes formales tradicionales que son el Poder Ejecutivo, el Poder Legislativo y el Poder Judicial; y un reciente poder fáctico, que es el nuevo Poder Mediático. Este último poder, cada vez más, silenciosamente frente a nuestras narices, se convirtió en el Poder del Poder que progresivamente subordinó y presionó al resto de los 3 poderes constitucionales formales de nuestro Estado-Nación para someterlos a su voluntad mediático empresarial e imponer su proyecto de construcción de sociedad, de economía y de seres humanos.

En éste sentido, si la lucha por nuestra independencia nos dio la edificación de la Primera República, la realización de la reforma Juarista aportó la cimentación de la Segunda República y la Revolución Mexicana colocó los fundamentos de la Tercera República en el país[i]; con la consolidación del nuevo poder mediático, especialmente de 1960 en adelante, se conformó lentamente en nuestro país la Cuarta República que dio origen a la nueva República Mediática en el siglo XXI con su respectiva mutación estatal y social. Dicha entidad poco a poco, creó culturalmente un país opuesto al de los anteriores espíritus constitucionales de nuestra historia nacional e incorporó una mentalidad únidimensional de la vida funcional para el proyecto de super acumulación económica.

Eugenio Hernández Flores

Eugenio Hernández Flores

De ésta manera, sí en el terreno comunicativo la sociedad mexicana pasó de la declaración del espíritu de los Sentimientos de la Nación de 1800, que buscaban fundar la nueva República Federal para darnos un nuevo orden civilizatorio superior a nivel nacional, con el reconocimiento de los nuevos derechos civiles y creación de modernas instituciones públicas; en la etapa del 2000 se pasó a la declaración de la pragmaticidad de los sentimientos del mercado autorregulado, regidos por la Mano Invisible de la ley de la libre oferta y demanda informativa, que lo que pretenden es la consolidación del modelo de mercado como regla básica para vivir, relacionarnos, comunicarnos y ver la vida en comunidad.

En éste sentido, las primeras 3 Repúblicas Nacionales se gestaron por necesidades históricas consensuadas de la mayoría nacional para darle forma estructural equilibrada al proceso de gobernabilidad social en México y de maduración de diversos procesos históricos colectivos de participación socio política que buscaron la creación de contrapesos a los poderes públicos para gobernar armónicamente en el país. En cambio, la 4a República Mediática emergió por la introducción de la fuerte revolución tecnológica en el terreno comunicacional del país, por la formación de los monopolios de la comunicación electrónica, por la concentración de grandes cuotas de poder de las industrias culturales a nivel comunicativo, por la incapacidad del Estado mexicano de poner bajo un orden jurídico justo a los poderes mediáticos salvajes, y finalmente, por la necesidad unilateral de la ampliación de los requerimientos del mercado, a escala ampliada, en la esfera ideológica de nuestra sociedad.

De esta forma, a diferencia de la construcción de las otras 3 Repúblicas anteriores que significó un avance democrático para darle forma y organización al funcionamiento colectivo de la sociedad mexicana, bajo la estructura de tres poderes federales diferenciados, autónomos y complementarios; la creación de la 4a República Mediática no es un avance democrático, sino que es la fuerte imposición de un nuevo poder fáctico y “autorregulado”, e incluso salvaje, que compite en el campo de acción y de influencia de los otros 3 poderes públicos establecidos constitucionalmente. Es decir, es un nuevo macro poder ideológico-político independiente que interviene significativa y crecientemente en la dinámica por la disputa de la estructuración, la conducción, el reparto y la explotación de la nación.

En éste sentido, mientras que durante el siglo XX el Estado mexicano cuidó celosamente que las redes de su poder tradicional no se debilitaran a través de la corporativización de las centrales obreras, la seducción de los intelectuales disidentes, el control de los brotes de insurrección campesina, la manipulación de las movilizaciones populares, la canalización de las protestas estudiantiles, la coptación de los descontentos burocráticos, incluso, la represión de los movimientos populares, etc; paradójicamente no pudo ver que el verdadero poder real que se construía y consolidaba abiertamente frente a sus narices ya no residía en las viejas dinámicas de los movimientos sociales de oposición, sino que se gestaba alrededor del avance de la revolución tecnológica que introdujo la presencia del modelo comercial privado de la radio y la televisión en nuestro país. Así, paralelamente al tejido de poder corporativo que construyó durante más de 70 años el Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI) para gobernar a la sociedad mexicana, se cimentaron y desarrollaron las bases del Primer Gran Poder Ideológico en la historia del México moderno, que escribió la otra historia mental y política de nuestra sociedad: El Poder Mediático.

PRI tachado en graffiti

PRI tachado en graffiti

Con la emergencia de la 4a Republica Mediática en México a través de la incorporación de los medios electrónicos de difusión colectivos en la estructura de conformación básica del Estado mexicano, éste se transformó sustancialmente para adquirir paulatinamente los rasgos de un Estado mediático que es el que opera cotidianamente en la fase de la modernidad nacional. Así, el ejercicio ideológico político del poder cotidiano quedó mediado por la acción concreta del Estado mediático desde mediados del siglo XX en México.

Por todo lo anterior a principios del siglo XXI el poder de los medios dejó de ser una variable de presión aislada e importante sobre el Estado Mexicano y de reconducción anímica de la sociedad en general, para convertirse ahora en un poder fáctico que forma parte de la columna vertebral del poder para estructurar ideológica y políticamente de forma cotidiana a la sociedad mexicana, especialmente en las grandes ciudades. Dentro de ésta perspectiva, entramos en la fase histórica de vivir bajo el imperio del nuevo poder informal de los medios de difusión colectivos, donde su fuerza fáctica compite permanentemente con el desempeño y las funciones de los otros 3 poderes constitucionales del Estado mexicano , hasta llegar, en ocasiones, al grado de minimizarlos, subordinarlos o disputar con ellos su centralidad y rectoría, para imponer a la colectividad su proyecto de desarrollo social y de vida que fijan las exigencias del mercado desregulado.

Nota
Martínez Álvarez, Jesús Emilio, Discurso de Posicionamiento del Partido Verde Ecologista de México (PVEM), IV Informe de Gobierno del Presidente Vicente Fox Quesada, Primer Periodo de Sesiones del Segundo Año de Ejercicio de la LIX Legislatura, Palacio Legislativo, México, D.F, 1 de septiembre del 2004, versión estenográfica, páginas 5 y 6.

Imágenes
Imágen cortesía de autor.
3. PRI tachado en graffiti

Javier Esteinou Madrid es Investigador Titular del Departamento de Educación y Comunicación de la Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana, Unidad Xochimilco, México, D.F.

Favor de comentar.
Por favor comente.




by: Javier Esteinou Madrid / Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana, Unidad Xochimilco

When electronic mass information technologies were introduced in Mexico, including radio in 1920 and television in 1950, the ideological power of cultural industries slowly overcame the sphere of control and orientation of the traditional state. Thus, this modern power entered a new period of frenzied growth which quickly overcame the limits of the conventional political and judicial controls created by the Mexican state; it thus developed in a parallel fashion as an independent ideological power that faced the three formal republican powers, the powers that embody the national State (Executive Power, Legislative Power, and the Judicial Power). In some cases, it even reformulated or substituted these powers.

In this historical moment, one can recognize that in the midst of the 20th century, the Mexican State was constituted by 3 formal powers: the Executive Power, the Legislative Power, and the Judicial Power. At the beginning of the 21st century, however, one recognizes that in real terms, the Mexican state is constituted by 4 powers: 3 formal and traditional powers, the Executive Power, the Legislative Power, the Judicial Power, and another, recent factual power, the new Media Power[a]. This last power, with increasing frequency, both silently and before our very eyes, became the Power of Powers, a force which progressively subordinated and pressured the other three constitutional powers of our Nation-State in order to subjugate them to its entrepreneurial and media-infused will; it attempted to impose a project which involves the construction of society, economy, and human beings.

In this manner, one can argue that our struggle for independence resulted in the First Republic; the Juarista reforms brought about the establishment of the Second Republic; the Mexican Revolution built the foundations for the Third Republic in the country[b]; with the establishment of this new Media Power, especially after 1960, our country slowly saw the establishment of a Fourth Republic, which resulted in the new Media Republic of the 21st century, with a resulting political and social mutation. This entity slowly created a country that was culturally opposed to the previous constitutional spirits of our national history; it incorporated a one-dimensional mentality, one that dealt with the functional life of a super-accumulation economic project.

Thus, one can state that from a communications perspective, Mexico used to embody the spirit of the Sentimientos de la Nación of 1800, which sought to establish the Federal Republic in order to give us a new, superior civilizing order on the national level, recognizing a group of new civil rights and the creation of modern, public institutions. In 2000, we stepped into the declaration of the practicality of the feelings of the self-regulated market, ruled by the Invisible Hand of the supply-and-demand law. These forces attempt to consolidate the market model as the one basic rule through which one must live, relate, communicate, and envision the existence of the community.

Thus, the first 3 National Republics emerged through historical necessities that received consent from a national majority, allowing them to give a balanced and structural form to the social governance process in Mexico. These processes also allowed for the growth and establishment of a diverse group of collective historical processes, which included socio-political participation which sought the creation of counterweights to the public powers, thus allowing for the country to be governed harmonically. In contrast, the 4th Media Republic emerged through the strong technological revolution which took place in the communications arena of our country, through the formation of electronic communications monopolies, through the concentration of huge power quotas in the cultural industries on the communications level, through the incapacity of the Mexican State to impose a fair judicial order to the savage media powers, and finally, through the one-directional necessity of amplifying the requirements of the market in the ideological sphere of our society on a broad scale.

In this manner, the construction of the 3 previous Republics served as a democratic advance which brought about the establishment of the collective functioning of Mexican society under the three differentiated, autonomous, and complementary federal powers. In contrast, the creation of the 4th Media Republic is not a democratic advance, it is a fierce imposition of a new factual and “self-regulated” power, one that even qualifies as savage, which fights within the field of action and influence of the three other public, constitutionally-established powers. In other words, this is a new, independent, macro-power, one that intervenes in growing and significant ways with the dynamics and debates around the structuring, conducting, distribution, and exploitation of the nation.

In this way, during the 20th century, the Mexican State jealously guarded the networks of its traditional power, ensuring that these webs would not be weakened, fostering the bureaucratization of worker syndicates, the seduction of dissident intellectuals, the control of farmer insurrections, the manipulation of popular mobilizations, the channeling of student protests, the co-opting of bureaucratic discontent, even the repression of popular movements and more. Paradoxically, the Mexican state was not aware that the real power that was building itself and consolidating within its midst did not lie in the old interactions of opposition-based social movements; this new power was growing within the advancements of the technological revolutions that lead to the establishment of a privatized, commercial-market model of radio and television in our country. Thus, even as the Partido Revolucionario Institucional [The Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI] built a network of corporate power for over 70 years in order to rule over Mexican society, a parallel power network was growing, developing the foundations of the First Great Ideological Power in the history of modern Mexico, a power that wrote an alternative mental and political history of our society: the Media Power.

Thus, we see the emergence of the 4th Media Republic in Mexico through the incorporation of electronic, mass media into the basic structure of the Mexican State. This entity was transformed substantially in order to slowly exhibit the characteristics of a Media state, which is the one that operates on an everyday level in the national modernity phase. Thus, the political-ideological exercise of everyday power was mediated by the concrete actions of the Media State as far back as the middle of the twentieth century in Mexico.

Because of all of the above, in the beginning of the 21st century, the power of the media stopped being an isolated and important pressure variable over the Mexican State; it stopped being a catalyst of feelings and states of mind of society in general. Instead, it became a factual power which belongs to the very vertebrae of power, allowing it to politically and ideologically structure Mexican society in the realm of the everyday, particularly in large cities. From this perspective, we are entering a new historical phase, one in which we live under the empire of the new informal power of collective mass media, where this factual force permanently competes with the development and function of the three other constitutional powers of the Mexican State. At times, this new power can minimize, subordinate, or threaten its domains and centrality, allowing the new power to impose a project upon the community at large. This project consists of a social development and life that is set by the demands of an unregulated market.

Notes
Poder Mediático in the original Spanish. [Translator’s note.]
Martínez Álvarez, Jesús Emilio, Positioning Speech of the Partido Verde Ecologista de México (PVEM), 4th State of the Union Speech by President Vicente Fox Quesada, First Period of Sessions of the Second Year of Legislature LIX, Legislative Palace, Mexico, Mexico City, September 1, 2004, Stenographical Version, 5-6. [Original: Discurso de Posicionamiento del Partido Verde Ecologista de México (PVEM), IV Informe de Gobierno del Presidente Vicente Fox Quesada, Primer Periodo de Sesiones del Segundo Año de Ejercicio de la LIX Legislatura, Palacio Legislativo, México, D.F, 1 de septiembre del 2004, versión estenográfica, páginas 5 y 6.]

Image Credits: (located in primary Spanish text)
Images 1 and 2 provided by author.
3. PRI written over with graffiti

Author: Javier Esteinou Madrid is a Researcher in the Department of Education and Communication in the Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana [the Metropolitan Autonomous University], Unidad Xochimilco, Mexico, Mexico City.

Translator: Alberto McKelligan Hernandez is a Ph.D. Student in Art History at the City University of New York (CUNY).




To Watch a Predator

by: Eric Freedman / Florida Atlantic University

To Catch a Predator screenshot 1

Views from outside a Dateline house

This essay is not a defense of pedophilia. But on Tuesday nights I find myself pondering the plight of reality television’s latest celebrities — men who are the unsuspecting players in Dateline: To Catch a Predator, investigative journalism’s response to America’s Most Wanted and Big Brother. Their broadcast debut is always framed by a dramatic dialogic volley between co-anchors Ann Curry and Stone Phillips. On the February 13, 2007 episode their exchange opened with the remark, “Some have seen it, now they’re on it, and our hidden cameras are all over it,” before moving on to the provocative fragment, “The teacher, the oil man, the ex-cop.” NBC’s Tuesday night lineup has become the occasional home of To Catch a Predator, which periodically joins the evening’s legal drama pairing of Law & Order: CI and Law & Order: SVU. First aired in November 2004 as a Dateline segment titled “Dangerous Web,” and with an undercover operation located in New York City, To Catch a Predator has since traveled to Washington, D.C., California, Ohio, Florida, Georgia, and Texas in the first ten installments of the investigative series.

My fascination with the series stems from the obvious questions associated with the network’s collaboration with law enforcement, and the common legal questions posed about this liaison. Are these participants the victims of a multilayered plan of entrapment that leads from chat room decoys, to hired actors, to correspondent Chris Hansen? Do these suspects have any right to privacy, or can they be freely featured as part of the flow of network television? In light of the serious nature of the potential offense (the victimization of children), these questions are often assumed to be irrelevant. Yet the show’s popularity, borne out by its ratings (Predator installments peak the Dateline viewership) and its entrance into popular discourse (parodied on YouTube and quite recently by Conan O’Brien at the Emmy Awards, and now in a stage of self-aggrandized historicizing with Chris Hansen’s recent book culled from his experiences on the series), makes an analysis all the more pressing. What are the cultural implications of a program that circulates information about an assumed public crisis?

To Catch a Predator screenshot 2

Views from inside a Dateline house

In his discussion of epidemics — one form of crisis situation — Michel Foucault points out that the determination that a situation is epidemic is typically a political determination, one made by those with access to statistical data and the authority to make and circulate such determinations. Such an authoritative discourse governs NBC’s investigations of Internet predators, calling forth the dispensation of resources and the justification of tactics of surveillance and regulation as part of the broadcast serialization of pedophilia. Children are indeed being victimized, but the labeling of the situation as a crisis has depended upon the collection of data—tabulated and interpreted by “experts.” As part of this evidentiary process, visibility is simultaneously a problem and a solution. The show’s visibility has focused public concern on the crisis (in a sense bringing the crisis into existence by making it visible—though the program is certainly not responsible for the incidents themselves, and is only one flashpoint for its being called out) and allowed the authoritative discourse to take hold (made manifest in the mobilization of dollars and resources and the willful embrace of the network as protector of the public interest); indeed as part of this movement, citizens willingly surveil each other, and watch others being surveilled, perhaps part of the general neoliberalist spin down that once again turns the public interest over to private industry (consider, for example, the teen lingo cheat sheet on MSNBC.com, written to help parents understand the acronyms their kids use on the Web), and the unsurprising result of a neoconservative turn that gives information technologies significant leeway as tools of surveillance and discipline in the name of national security — “no privacy, no problem!”

Perverted Justice thong

From the Perverted Justice gift shop

Concern about the online exploitation of children has created a new growth industry of its own, with a complete line of products related to helping parents monitor the activity of their children. For its part, Dateline calls on the services of Perverted Justice, an organization that exposes men who sexually target minors online. Perverted Justice works as a consultant for Dateline (and is paid a fee for its services), setting up computer profiles and populating chat rooms with volunteers pretending to be underage teens interested in sex. The dystopic and utopic discourses about new technology converge in the Dateline narrative, as we are once alerted to the dangers of cyberspace yet told a tale in which technology is deployed as a productive social instrument. The paranoia of online identity as deceptive role play is displaced by the positive yet parallel action of the Perverted Justice decoy that plays a part to lure the predator. Predator and savior use parallel tactics that have evolved in tandem, and are positioned as the yin and yang of the digital age.

Chris Hansen - To Catch a Predator book cover

Correspondent Chris Hansen as author

With such a paradigm in mind, we are asked to accept surveillance as the principle raison d’être of certain new technologies, though in this climate the technology must be read as not politically or ideologically neutral. Reflecting on Predator’s development over its ten investigative installments, Hansen recalls, “The first investigation was very slick. I mean we had five or six cameras. And they set up a mini control room in like a little back room in the house. And they’re all huddled in there with the monitors.” Tracing the show’s development, one of the volunteers with Perverted Justice adds, “… We went from Frag [Dennis Kerr, the group’s Director of Operations] and I being perched on a single desk in a hallway at the top of the staircase—to having an entire room set aside where we’ve got our Web cams up, and we’ve got our phone verifiers in position. And we’ve got all these new technologies that we’re using. And Frag has gone from having a hallway window to look out of, to having something like 7 monitors pyramided around him.” The show is a testament to visibility, both in its guiding mission (to put faces on sexual predators) and its aesthetics of technological oversaturation. The undercover house in Long Beach, California, the set of its February 6, 2007 episode, featured fifteen hidden cameras, while the program itself split the viewing screen repeatedly, at one point offering home viewers four vantage points, plus those additional screens within the televised screen of the surveillance room.

NBC and MSNBC.com have expanded the Predator franchise to Catch an ID Thief and Catch a Con Man and package safety kits for each series. The Predator safety kit includes a family contract for online safety, culled from Safekids.com, asking parents to pledge, among other things, that they “not use a PC or the Internet as an electronic babysitter” and reminding kids to “be a good online citizen and not do anything that hurts other people or is against the law.”

Brian Massumi notes in his preface to The Politics of Everyday Fear, that “fear is a staple of popular culture and politics.” American social space has been saturated by mechanisms of fear production, a process perhaps hastened by the role mass media has come to assume in this country. Fear and the public sphere are illusive (and intimately bound to one another). But what Predator rather nonchalantly points out, as it produces “the teacher, the oil man, [and] the ex-cop,” is that fear is not simply outside the home, but down the hallway. These men are quite often (though not always) identified as family men, with wives and children. What public service is the network doing for their families? It is the very (virtual) nature of fear and of the public sphere that drives us toward empiricism, toward our need to know, to see, to find the sexual predators among us; yet what we may finally discover is that what we fear most is lying beside us.

Image Credits:

1. Dateline: To Catch a Predator aired 2-6-07

2. Dateline: To Catch a Predator episode aired 2-6-07

3. Perverted Justice

4. MSNBC




In a recent installment, Chris Hansen asks one subject, “Have you seen the show before?” “And what do you think of the stories?” “Did you ever think you’d be on one?”

Michel Foucault, The Birth of the Clinic: An Archaeology of Medical Perception, trans. A. M. Sheridan Smith (New York: Vintage Books, 1973), 23.

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/17601568/

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/11030951/

Brian Massumi, “Preface,” in The Politics of Everyday Fear, ed. Brian Massumi (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1993), vii.

Please feel free to comment.




TiVoing Childhood

TiVo Set

TiVo Set

This winter, my family celebrated the fifth anniversary of two life-altering additions to our household – the birth of our first child and the purchase of TiVo. The celebration for my daughter turning five was certainly more notable than my casual reflection that we’d been a TiVo family for five years. But I often think about these two transformations as somehow linked, a simultaneous immersion into the chaos of parenthood tempered by the order of time-shifting.

Libraries have been filled on the life-changing impacts of having children, and the transformative potential of TiVo has occupied many column inches as well. But I haven’t read much on the connections between DVR technology and young children, a topic worth some consideration.1 So forgive me as I play into the stereotype of both parents and TiVo-owners – that we can’t talk about anything else! – and reflect on the significance of raising children in a time-shifted household.

For new parents, the power of TiVo is quite apparent. A baby’s schedule is far less regimented and predicable than the networks’, so most new parents are forced to sacrifice their dedication to their favorite shows for the immediate demands of a newborn. There is still plenty of time to watch television, as late-night nursing sessions and hours of baby-rocking welcome the company of a glowing screen, but being able to consistently choose these times becomes a rare luxury. So having a time-shifted menu of your favorite shows awaiting your attention is a parental pacifier.

When the baby grows into a little kid, TiVo’s advantages stretch across the family. We use the TiVo as a self-replenishing library of children’s programming, keeping a steady stream of new episodes of Blue’s Clues, Sesame Street, and Higglytown Heroes on demand. So while it may be easier to force a pre-schooler to follow the whims of the television schedule than a newborn, it is still far from ideal. Television’s best uses, both as a child development tool and parenting aid, shine through when you can control both what they watch and when they watch it, not having to choose between a program or a schedule. Personally, my buzzwords for children watching television are “moderation” and “age-appropriate” – goals well-served by the control offered by a DVR. Add the ability to fast-forward through commercials, and it’s hard for me to imagine raising kids without a DVR (assuming you don’t fall prey to the “TV-Free” propaganda).

All of this might just be another in a long line of rhapsodizing paeans to TiVo from a proselytizing early adopter (of technology, not children). But I’ve recently noticed more significant and interesting impacts of TiVo on my children. All of my daughter’s experiences with television have been via a DVR, and thus her entire frame of reference on the medium is shaped by a technology that is still on the fringes of American media – DVRs are only in approximately 7% of television households.

When my daughter asks “what shows are on?”, she is not referring to the TV schedule – rather she means what’s on the TiVo’s menu. For her, the transmission of television via a simultaneous schedule is an entirely foreign concept, even though this has been one of the defining elements of television as a medium for decades. She understands that sometimes certain shows aren’t available, but it’s not tied to a concept of how these programs get transmitted and recorded onto the TiVo.

When faced with the “normal” way to watch TV, she expresses understandable confusion. If I want to watch a football or baseball game in conflict with the normal “time for shows!” in our house – between 5:00-6:00 pm, giving tired parents a chance to cook dinner and chat in relative peace – she doesn’t understand why the timeliness of the game grants it precedence over her menu of programs. For her, all television is part of an ever changing menu of programming to be accessed at our convenience, not a steady stream of broadcasting to be tapped into at someone else’s convenience. (Of course, she also thinks of television as something that grownups study, teach, and write books about, so she might not be representative of most children.)

She also has little concept of channels – if programming is part of a personal menu, what does it matter if it came from Nickelodeon or Disney? She does, however, care a great deal about episode titles, an aspect of programming I don’t think I encountered until well into my twenties – since TiVo offers a title and description of each show it records, she regularly previews what a show will be about before watching it, and judges whether it’s new or an old favorite. Or sometimes she’ll reflect on the vintage of the episode, whether it’s a Steve or Joe Blue’s Clues, a Dora the Explorer with or without Diego. Clearly this is a different mode of consumption then my memories of flipping on the TV to see what cartoons were on.

Recently we had a family meeting to discuss revamping TiVo’s Season Passes for their daily diet of TV. Media literacy proponents talk about making media consumption a conscious and active process–what could be more active than a 5 and 2-year-old discussing whether they’d rather be watching Bob the Builder or Between the Lions? (For the record, Bob won, much to Daddy’s Muppet-philic chagrin.) Even if they’re not the offspring of a media scholar, children in a TiVo household are encouraged to think about what they’re watching and make active choices about their televisual taste and experiences in a way previous generations did not.

Diddy says, \

Diddy says, “TiVo or Die!”

The absence of scheduling as a significant structuring element will leave some experiential gaps in my children’s televisual growth. As a kid, Saturday morning was an oasis of children-only pleasures, with wall-to-wall cartoons and sugared cereal ads that licensed laziness both for kids and their snoozing parents. Some networks have abandoned this strategy in recent years, but it’s hard to imagine children in a TiVo household embracing such a ritual when cartoons lose their scarcity and may be accessed on demand. Likewise, for me a snow day or being sick meant mornings lying on the couch watching a parade of game shows, since nothing else worth watching was on; if the TiVo is full of age-appropriate favorites, the game shows would quickly lose their appeal.

These gaps are clearly no great loss – I’d rather my kids watch things more appropriate to their ages and interests than just what happens to be on. But it’s easy when thinking about new technologies to focus on either their industrial impacts and strategies, or utopian potentials as part of a digitally converged future. These are certainly important, but we should also consider technology’s impact on the everyday lives of its users, and on the way technologies shape the way we think about those mundane, commonplace practices.

I teach my students that media technologies are shaped by the intersection of technological, institutional, and cultural forces, emerging with unpredictable uses and social impacts. It’s hard to imagine a better way of witnessing how new technologies are culturally consumed and shape our perception than watching a child learn how to use them. My oldest is just learning the ins and outs of the remote control – turning the set off and muting commercials while watching sports live – but it will be interesting to see how she takes control of the TiVo once she can fully operate the menu. I expect she will be navigating the technology quite differently than her parents, who clearly see it as an empowering interface to a more normal way of watching the flow of television. If DVRs become as ubiquitous as many believe they will, how will the TiVo generation view the media? If my household is any indication, television will be transformed, but not necessarily in predictable ways.

Both parenting and TiVo transform a household. Personally, we’ve found satisfaction in both, upgrading our family to three children. Our one TiVo remains an only child, occasionally begging for a sibling to allow it to grow, learn to talk to other devices, and walk about the house a bit. But for now, it awaits further discovery from a generation who will think it so odd that we ever needed to watch television according to someone else’s schedule and flow.

1 See this link for a TiVo user discussion on the topic, and here for a brief consideration from USA Today.

Image Credits:

1. TiVo Set

2. Diddy says, “TiVo or Die!”

Please feel free to comment below.




Public Radio Redux

NPR DJs

NPR DJs

Someone once described the period between completion of an academic book and its publication as “the calm before the calm.” In late 1999, my first book was published with the less-than-felicitous title of Conflicting Communication Interests in America: The Case of National Public Radio. The book was an institutional analysis of National Public Radio, focusing specifically on how NPR had configured the “public” throughout its history. Writing the book was like cutting stone; after publication, it promptly sank like a rock from sight. I posted a notice to the public radio listserv with a link to the first chapter, and the only comment came from the fundraising director of a public radio station in New Hampshire: “Jeez, I couldn’t get past the tortured fire metaphor on the first page.” One of the three published reviews referred to it as a “rant.” Subsequent books about NPR ignored it altogether. So much for fortune and fame.

So I left the study of public radio for other endeavors. However, recent rumblings in the popular press regarding flat station revenues and audience growth, political machinations and listener discontent (as well as deadline pressures) have led me to re-examine my predictions for National Public Radio and its affiliated stations. On the whole, my predictions were fairly accurate. NPR’s occasionally tenuous finances were stabilized when it received a $236 million windfall from the widow of McDonald’s founder Ray Kroc in 2003, as well as a recent $7.5 million grant from the Ford Foundation. Yet NPR has been extremely hesitant to share its good fortune with stations. Instead, the network has been pouring more and more money into its news operations, and news continues to trump cultural programming at the local level. Classical music, the traditional mainstay of local station schedules, continues to slide in importance. Washington’s WETA went all-news in 2005 and Detroit’s WDET followed in 2006 (the latter move triggered a class-action suit from listeners against the station).

Predictions for regional consolidation have been borne out. Iowa public radio now operates as an umbrella, rather than as separate stations; other regional powerhouses, such as San Francisco’s KQED and Austin’s KUT, have engaged in aggressive land grabs by acquiring additional stations. Minnesota Public Radio, which introduced winner-take-all economics into public radio, split off from the distributor it co-founded, NPR’s arch-rival Public Radio International (PRI), and, true to form, began jacking up rates for its programming. Overall, the rich got richer, and the poor simply vanished. NPR currently operates two channels on Sirius satellite radio, but the “tent poles” of Morning Edition and All Things Considered remain firmly staked to terrestrial broadcasting. Stations, which purchase programming from NPR and other suppliers, would never allow their two chief moneymakers to bypass them. Local programming is largely an afterthought at the station level (and NPR, to its eternal shame, worked in conjunction with the NAB to hobble the low-power FM movement). NPR also offers streams of canned programming to stations for rebroadcast on their web sites, but the results, as far as I can tell, have been underwhelming in terms of both carriage and listenership.

NPR Ipod

NPR Ipod

The wild card, which virtually no one could have predicted seven years ago, was the advent and popularity of podcasting. The audience research gurus who essentially set NPR and station policies throughout the ’80s and ’90s based their embrace of commercial programming strategies on the belief that listeners approach radio passively, listening to stations rather than discrete programs. However, a director at Boston’s WGBH found that Morning Edition was downloaded approximately 14,000 times a week in December, 2005 despite no promotion whatsoever. In contrast, the program’s RealAudio stream drew less than 50 listeners a week. Yet podcasting is no panacea, either. A micropayment system, implemented for station non-members, may discourage use, and producers may provide their programs through other venues. The economics also are problematic, since stations must add server capacity as they draw new listeners. The existence of a “digital divide” ensures that substantial portions of the population will lack access to broadband technology in the foreseeable future (although NPR historically has had little use for the folks on the other side of the tracks). Most importantly, the local stations that form the core of the public radio system do little more than vend the programs – they don’t create them.

Blaming NPR for the malaise that afflicts public radio is akin to blaming the victim, since it is a membership organization that must follow the directives of its affiliates. And that is where the principal problem lies – at the station level. I’m still convinced that locally produced radio programming remains the key way to reach the “public” NPR was chartered to serve. In 1999, discussing the adaption of “seamless” formats and syndicated program advocated by consultants, I wrote, “Given the development of diverse delivery systems . . . local stations will not be able to survive if they continue their present practices.” In fiscal year 2003, nearly half of all public radio stations in the U.S. operated in the red. A year later, the New York Times noted that “To remain viable, many managers say that their local stations must gain more leverage vis a vis NPR by producing and promoting more of the kind of distinctive, localized programs and segments that help shape public radio’s eclectic character.” Radio is uniquely suited to fill the role of a public medium. Its low cost and mobility afford a sense of immediacy and flexibility that make it ideal for reflecting a community’s history and constructing a community’s possibilities. At the risk of invoking another tortured metaphor, public radio must go back to the future if it is to survive.

Mike Janssen, “Jacking Into Podcasts.” Current, January 31, 2005, p. 1
Lynette Clemetson, “All Things Considered, NPR’s Growing Clout Alarms Member Stations.” The New York Times, August 30, 2004, p. E1.

Image Credits:
1. NPR DJs

2. NPR Ipod

Please feel free to comment.




Speaking to Each Other at Last? The Ghost of TV Past, Present and To Come…

This is my fifth and last Flow column, all of which I have enjoyed writing – I hope you have caught one or two of them. If by some oversight you’ve missed them, they are archived here:

1. Disappointment and Disgust, or Teaching?
2. Flowers Powers: Mars or Venus?
3. To Have and Have Not (You Don’t Know What You’ve Got Till It’s Gone)
4. Laughs and Legends, or the Furniture that Glows? Television as History

There’s not that much space for pleasurable discourse among peers these days. So it was instantly appealing when co-founder Avi Santo (along with Christopher Lucas) offered me a chance not only to write about my own specialist field again, but to engage with the comments of others. The Flow journal wanted us to ‘engage with television at the pace of the medium,’ he said.

Horace Newcomb

Horace Newcomb

It was then that I began to hear the rustle of the Ghost of TV Past. Actually it wasn’t a ghost, it was the Spirit of Horace Newcomb. Here he was, large-as-life, not exactly rustling in those Texan boots, taking me back to 1984 or thereabouts.

I see a big drill-hall of a conference venue somewhere in Michigan, or is it Illinois, where it seems Horace has invited me and another British guy to join with himself and plenty of others – American media academics and a sprinkling of media professionals – to talk about TV.

They’re calling me Fiskan; Fiskan Hartley I was in those days.1 There was a deep chime. I looked at the clock on the wall. It was the very ‘moment’ of High Theory. A shudder went through me, as if from a Ferment in the Field. Everyone began speaking in tongues: I spoke Althusserian, Fiske was babbling away in Certeauvian, young Docrock2 was there too I think, talking in a Birmingham accent. Two giant but shadowy figures – Charlie and Percy – lurked in the background as they Measured our Meanings, muttering:

O Tannenbaum, O Tannenbaum,
Du kannst mir sehr gefallen!
3

Then the Genial Spirit politely rounded us up, I think there was some embarrassed hanging back and a general feeling that we were stepping out of our comfort zones. He wants us to do what? To sit up on the podium; to watch a pilot episode of an as-yet-unseen TV sitcom called 227; and he wants us to review it? There and then, in public, no rehearsals … oh and 227‘s proud producers are sitting there too in the drill hall, waiting with the usual grad-student crowd to hear what Media Academics had to say.

Hell, this vision is turning into a nightmare, surely? But no – it was Horace Newcomb, quietly trying to do what he has never stopped attempting, which is to get the worlds of professional media production and criticism to talk to each other. It has proved to be an uphill struggle.

We got through our ordeal-by-criticism on that night, but I wasn’t very impressed with us. There was just not enough common understanding of what TV criticism in an academic context might be for. So as each of us took our turn on the podium, what came out of our mouths told the audience much more about us than it did about the hapless 227 – which however survived our critique and went on to five successful seasons.

227 was an ordinary product of the network dream factory, with no particular critical, avant garde or oppositional merits to recommend it to the assembled Young (well, mostly older) Turks. Its merits were that it was funny in a sitcommy way, and it proposed to put a predominantly African-American cast, playing working-class characters, in front of Americans each Saturday night. Everyone could think about neighbourliness while they laughed at the vicissitudes of apartment-block life. Check it out.

But someone on the podium thought it was too much like the Cosby Show; someone else thought it had its class analysis all wrong; a third (it might’ve been me) thought it reeked of network values rather than those of the culture it purported to portray.

This was the last time I ever heard media academics doing ‘live’ TV criticism, in sync with the rhythm of TV itself. In fact criticism itself became a nearly forgotten art after that painful night in the wilds of East Lansing (or Urbana-Champaign).

During the long slog through Ideological Critique and the posts- (structuralism, modernism, colonialism etc.), it was hard to get a judgement in edgeways. It seemed that criticism had had its day. It was either an oppressive discourse imposing DWEM [dead white European male] values, or it was self-deluding infantile wish-fulfilment universalising the self of the critic, or both. Just then the Bennett & Miller gang, the tough guys of Cultural Policy Studies, rode into town, shot the place up with their Foucault-45s and declared the unattached universal intellectual dead.

Criticism became the love that dare not speak its name. Those of us trained (as unattached universal intellectuals) to make skilled judgements, both aesthetic and moral, about texts, in order to provide expert guidance in matters of culture and value to the public at large, with due understanding of the context of class, you know, like Richard Hoggart, learnt to keep our big mouths shut.

Until Flow. And suddenly all the memories came flooding back, because Flow has Horace Newcomb written all over it. It is tolerant, open, polite, passionately interested in connecting the industry with the academy and both with the audience, and of course it comes from Austin-Texas.

TV Present

Dead Like Me

Dead Like Me

And all of a sudden I hear an eerie clanking again. This time it’s none other than Toby Miller … oh and I can make out other figures in the modernist gloom … Anna McCarthy, Michael Curtin, Mimi White, Tom Streeter, Sharon Ross, Henry Jenkins … no wonder there’s a big noise.

These are collectively the Ghost of TV Present, and there’s a hell of a lot more of them crowded around. Their ghostly words surround you now, as you read this. Go on, check the archive (it’s one of Flow‘s attractions); read their stuff, it’s terrific.

Indeed this is the other thing that appeals to me about Flow. I like the idea of an interactive but asynchronous and global medium – a useful conversational tool for those of us living and working in Australia.

I especially like the idea of the comments that can be pasted under each column. This had been my own introduction to the site – I’d posted an irreverent comment on a piece by Michael Curtin.

Flow‘s comments are by an interesting mix of senior figures and grad-students, and they often bring some entirely new insight to the column in question, or else they race off at a tangent on some new line of thought entirely, forgetting the poor columnist altogether.

According to Avi Santo, each issue gets about 8000 hits, although as yet there’s no way to tell which columns they’re reading.

But as time has gone on on, it has been interesting to observe how many comments a given column attracted – a sort of beauty contest or instant poll that might tell us who or what topic was hot. Eventually Henry Jenkins won, with a column on the humour of Sarah Silverman that at last count had attracted 58 comments.

The fact that Henry is one of the best and most thought-provoking writers in our field has a lot to do with that. But so, it seems, do extra credits. Someone had had the bright idea of getting a class to post comments as part of a class assignment. Not a bad idea: it made the students think, write, and communicate in public about sexism and racism on TV; a good outcome for everyone and an absorbing read for any educator.

But there is a whiff of ‘insider trading’ about this particular manifestation of conversational democracy. Was it true, as Horace Newcomb had claimed in his own column, that the audience for Flow is ‘predetermined’? Perhaps. Despite the global reach of the Internet we still live in tight little demographic villages, and judging by the traffic on Flow, one type of community simply doesn’t interact with another.

So I thought I’d try to write a column that would speak directly to TV audience-members, about the experience of watching a show that I really liked, which was Dead Like Me. Imagine my delight when comments starting appearing from actual fans. They do read Flow! Posts are still trickling in, five months later. To date there are 22 of them. Not a patch on Henry’s score and of course nothing like what you can find on the comments pages of IMDb, Amazon.com, petitiononline.com and myriad fansites. But here they are – and every one of them shares my feelings about DLM. Welcome, TV fans!

The only fly in the ointment, or clank in the chain, is that there was not a single post from a ‘Flower’ (regular contributor to Flow), or even from another media academic (apart from the obligatory editor’s comment). There were posts from Australia, the USA, Croatia and four from Canada. But from my peers, silence.

So it remained true – we don’t really interact across the demographic boundaries. Academics and audiences can appear on the same site, but academics talk about one thing; audiences another. Professionals are nowhere to be seen (and students are seen but not heard).

Now I see again the lowering bulk of the Ghost of TV Present. I hear the doom-laden voice … of Toby Miller:

Sometimes it appears as though critical public intellectuals in the US are, in the words of the Economist, ‘a tiny, struggling species, whose habitat is confined to a few uptown apartments in New York and the faculties of certain universities’ …

Things are even worse on TV itself, he intones:

There is minimal room for intellection on network television, as the still-extant mass audience is the target, and is assumed to despise universities.

Hell’s bells! What are we going to do about that?

TV To Come

TV Future

Is the promise of Flow – for technologically and critically enabled steps towards an interactive consumer co-created ‘conversational democracy’ – a mere illusion?

Well maybe; certainly the symptoms diagnosed by Miller suggest that the ‘imagined community’ of modernity is in a pretty sick condition, if broadcast news in the USA is the thermometer.

And maybe that’s true – maybe we are nearing the end of the modernist paradigm when public intellectuals, whether critical or universal, could aspire to speak to entire nations. Maybe nations themselves, or big ones like the USA, are evolving past the point where even network broadcasters can hope to address them as a unified whole – the ‘unum’ has gone out of the ‘pluribus.’

And so perhaps we’re reaching the end of the paradigm in which anyone thinks television itself is targeted at ‘the still-extant mass audience,’ whether they despise universities or not.

There’s a whispering breeze at the window; a trail of indeterminate smokey haze slides into the room, across the computer terminal … it’s the Ghost of TV to Come.

I can’t tell you what it looks like, since I have never met Jason Mittell, who in any case keeps morphing into Jonathan Gray … now it’s John McMurria, now Avi Santo … these guys, oh dear, are they really all early-adopter boy-toy guys? … no, here’s Tara McPherson … these guys seem to have got this thing licked.

They reckon TV will evolve from universal broadcasting to customised consumption. Jason Mittell writes:

A sizable, motivated, and demographically desirable audience … awaits the advertisers and distributors who are willing to buck the centrality of ratings as determinant of television’s hits and misses. … By only investing in the traditional currency of ratings, networks ignore the multitude of ways that viewers are already actively engaging with their programs, and forego the option for people to actually participate in the selection of television programming that they want to see.

If they’re right, we no longer have to assume that all television needs to be directed towards something as wide (and anti-critical) as ‘Americans.’ It just won’t matter whether or not ‘most people’ despise intellectuals or foolishly refuse to recognise the things that we like. Good TV shows – such as Dead Like Me, Veronica Mars, Arrested Development – won’t have to be cancelled if they ‘fail’ in the Neilsen lottery.

This new generation of scholars is putting together the case for a television ecology that can exploit the Internet (‘Web2’ McMurria calls it), BitTorrent, TiVo, video-iPods and DVD. It is becoming possible for passionate fans to support their favourite shows directly, without relying on network providers.

Not only that, but fans can use digital equipment and software to make their own TV. In fact I’ve done it myself with ‘digital storytelling.’ Out there now are tribute versions of sci-fi shows, local documentaries, digital storytelling, or even full-length feature films. Some of these will attract their own audiences, driving new distribution options.

And so, alongside, underneath and (at least as far as IP goes) in defiance of the closed expert system of broadcast television, will develop a new open innovation network. You can already inhabit it. Actually Flow already does.

This brave new world does have a couple of dystopian elements. One is that no-one knows how to fund non-universal TV production. Another is that any future ‘imagined community’ will have to get used to the fact that most people aren’t inside it. There will no longer be one technology of communication that combines broadcast television’s universal access, affordability and appeal with content that – at least in principle – addresses everyone from time to time; from the top of society to the bottom.

Instead, different groups can just ignore each other. Television will become more like publishing, and as is already the case in that medium, no-one will be able to claim any longer that their particular audience equates with a universal subject or with ‘the nation.’

Mind you, it does seem – if Miller is right about the fate of the critical intellectual on American TV news – that the broadcast era hasn’t got much to shout about in this regard anyway. Entire demographics co-exist but ignore or bad-mouth each other.

TV claims a universal subject but viewers increasingly resent that. Flow columnists like Mittell and Jonathan Gray are rebelling against the Neilsen ratings, the ‘representative’ apparatus that levels out national taste.

Back to the Future?

Conversational democracy still seems a long way off. But in fact we do need to recognise that the apparently simple act of ‘speaking to each other’ is quite hard work – it’s not a natural outcome of any technology or ideology.

Luckily, the future-facing folks at Flow are onto this simple truth, and they’re doing something about it. Avi Santo tells me they’re planning a Flow conference later this year (2006).

But it won’t be the usual academic thing. There’ll be no papers, panels or plenaries. Instead, there’ll be conversation. Why?

  • There are too few television and media conferences.
  • Traditional conferences provide too little time for discussion.
  • Wider conversation and the circulation of ideas can promote collegiality, a less polarized discipline, and the promise of engaging real publics with our ideas.
  • Critical media studies will be more effective if it grapples openly with the immediacy and breadth of its object of study.

Says Santo:
The roundtable would be open to the public. … In this manner, we hope to ensure a lively conversation … Our goal is to spark a conversation that is both immediate and consequential.

Presumably it’ll be at Austin-Texas, a place whose drill halls I’ve never had the happiness to visit. But I would love to go – if only to search for the spirit of Horace, for clearly he stalks the corridors still.

It is to their credit that ‘the Flowers’ are looking for more effective means by which we can continue ‘speaking to each other.’ But it is right to recall that this is exactly where cultural studies first came in. ‘Speaking to each other’ is the title of two books by ‘our founder,’ Richard Hoggart.

Notes
1 Fiskan Hartley is a reference to Reading Television (1978) by John Fiske and John Hartley,which enjoyed a moment of academic celebrity in the 1980s.

2 Docrock is Larry Grossberg. Docrock is his email alias.
3 Charlie and Percy are (were) Charles Osgood, inventor of the sematic differential, and Percy Tannenbaum (who co-authored a book called, from memory, The Measurement of Meaning, with Osgood, in about 1967). Both were still around when cultural studies hit America, and neither of them approved!

Image Credits:

1. Horace Newcomb

2. Dead Like Me

3. TV Future

Please feel free to comment.




Reflections on Katrina in Brazil

I think I know where I am. To my university, I am in the Amazon, land of myth and enchanted Edens, in the words of Candace Slater. To Brazilians, I am in Manaus, home to the eighth largest city nationally and the largest free trade zone in the Americas. To residents, called Manuaras, I spend my time in the peripheries of the city, Jorge Teixeira, Sao Jose Operario, and Compensa. Here, I am interviewing workers, mostly women, who work for television set factories. Outsiders to these neighborhoods cannot imagine where I am aside from the usual stereotypes of jungles and Indians or slums and criminals. When Hurricane Katrina flooded my city of New Orleans and occupied the news media here for more than a week, however, insiders no longer understood where I was from.

old world map

Old World Map

I see the satellite image at the cyber-cafe cross the street from the hotel I have called home for the previous month. The swirls of red and green are moving towards a dislocated peninsula somewhere in the United States. The map seems as foreign to me at that moment as the culture of the city I was calling my temporary home.

There’s a hurricane coming, I tell a group of women casually at a sewing collective for unemployed factory workers. It is the Friday pre-Katrina.

Quizzical responses. You get those a lot, no? That’s just a lot of rain, right? They shrug, reminding me of the way longtime New Orleanians have done the same every rainy season.

I try to punctuate the words. No but it’s so big it could destroy the entire city. More shrugs and perhaps an attempt to sympathize. We get a lot of rain too. You should be here from December to June.

“What did she say?” another asks the room.

Some kind of earthquake in her city, responds the first.

*****

Monday I am at the offices for a local newspaper looking at archive photos for my project. In my selections, workers smile through empty TV cabinets on the assembly line. They will reproduce well, I think to myself. Images seem to cajole us into thinking that we can understand a context anonymously. A journalist asks if he can do a short article on me and Katrina.

“What is a levee?” the novice writer asks.

“It’s like a dam, but it looks like a big hill that protects the city from water.” I don’t know how to translate this word.

Sounds very advanced.

“I’m afraid it won’t work and people will die.”

Are you sure that people will die or just afraid people will die? He is trying to clarify my meaning, but he can’t understand. He faces the computer screen as he types and retypes my words. “But you have no family there.”

“But I have my friends, my work, my house,” I justify.

I went back to the cyber-cafe. Two more levees broke and the city has been filling with water all day.

Tuesday morning the newspaper story takes about one-fifth of a page inside. There is a profile shot of me, tan and smiling, like the women behind the TV cabinets. The article read, “She had no family here.” His notes meant that I was not really from there.

*****

The beginning of the week and New Orleans news now dominates Brazilian media over reports of widespread government corruption. Our hurricanes are different, repeat several observers to me. Despite the lack of all communications in the city, Brazilians become completely fluent in the details of Furacao Katreeennaa. The cyber-cafe owner explains the topography of New Orleans to me and the problems with budgetary funding for the levee system. The sewing group recites to me the differences between a Category 4 and a Category 5 storm. Meanwhile it has not rained in the Amazon for months, causing the most dire drought there in 60 years.

In contrast, I continue to be hopelessly ignorant. Four nights and counting, I’m watching CNN (I can’t watch this in Portuguese). I gasp at what I think I recognize. I know that intersection, that building, that neighborhood. But what about my street? My apartment? I have to struggle not to fill the void in my head with the reports of looting, mayhem, and death. This happens every hour as the same images are re-broadcast. I want to save the outdated satellite images of my building from Google Earth as a momento.

*****

Still Brazilians “know” that the U.S. is rich.

“How are you doing?” asks a concerned university professor here at the federal campus.

“I think we may have lost everything,” I sigh.

“Oh but the insurance will pay.”

“I don’t have insurance.”

“Then the government will just give it all back to you.”

The prime-time telenovela passing on the television now is America. Set in against a colorful yet gleaming Miami skyline, the Americans that Brazilians imagine continue to be blessed with easy fame and fortune. Even when the furacao came into the storyline, it brought gentle rain and a light breeze.

*****

Thursday I go to a city-sponsored fair where the sewing group sells their crafts. They have not sold anything today and middle-class people sniff at the prices. The woman that everyone refers to as the happy one, talks to me for the first time since I met her three weeks ago.

“I lost my house last April. We were sleeping when the rains eroded the wall holding it. I’ll never forget the noise. Pieces of the house started falling down the hill. I left with the kids but my husband was trapped in a part where the roof collapsed. The room was filling with water. When my cousin came, he broke through the metal and gashed his foot. When we got to my husband, the water was up to his neck. We survived.”

“And your house?” I ask.

“We lost everything. We live with my mother.”

I take inventory of the luxuries I have in my hotel room: hot water, cable television, and an air conditioning unit. I am not from Miami, nor from Manaus.

*****

New Orleans Under Water

New Orleans Under Water

For me, news bytes become ironic ways of seeing similarities and differences between two cultures that misunderstand each other. On Friday both Manaus and New Orleans are 36-degrees Celsius with over 80 percent humidity. In the former, 80 percent of the city was without water after a power generator that fed the water company had to be shut off. In the latter, 80 percent of the city was under water according to the Mayor. This means that in both cities, bodies are dirty and thirsty. I roll the blue anti-malarial pills around in my hand after a CNN reporter cites the possibility of malaria in Louisiana. Here, the papers cite the highest incidences of malarial deaths in eight years. And I have not even been bitten.

Before the hurricane, I made a class presentation to a university extension class in the periphery. In the question period, a returning student asked what it was like to come from a developed country to an underdeveloped country.

“I don’t like those terms,” I parried in my best professorial voice. Some have called Brazil “Belinda,” part-Belgium, part-India. I think that in some ways Manaus is very developed. To demonstrate, I asked them how many of them owned cell phones. All hands in the classroom of working class people rose affirmatively.

A week later, though, I get the response that the student was expecting. The continuous blog for the New Orleans newspaper reports that my city has lost all modern communications, electricity, and potable water. New Orleans has become a Third World city.

Image Credits:

1. Old World Map

2. New Orleans Under Water

Please feel free to comment.




The Problem of Morality in Media Policy

by: Thomas Streeter / University of Vermont

Janet Jackson
Janet Jackson’s Super Bowl XXXVIII mishap

Much of what passes for discussions of morality in media policy these days is at best silly, at worst reactionary. But it’s not enough to scoff at the shallowness and hypocrisies of moral panics like the recent Superbowl wardrobe malfunction fracas, or to elegantly chart their ideological functions. Of course, there’s little to be gained from the kind of moralizing often associated with academics who cluck their tongues at Howard Stern or Jerry Springer. Condescension of the popular, I agree, will get us nowhere. But completely dodging morality won’t get us very far, either; a rigorous post-Foucaultian moral anarchism, for all its intellectual appeals, can too easily function as an unintentional apology for the status quo or, worse, simply concede the field to naive moral absolutists. Occasionally seeking to distinguish between good and bad is, as Raymond Williams said about culture, “ordinary.”[1] It’s an ordinary part of people’s experience, and as such, moral discourse will inevitably play a role in shaping the future. Ignore that and you write yourself out of the game. Any effort to change media for the better must have a moral component.

So how do we talk about media and morality without sounding petty or holier-than-thou? I think we need to start by getting beyond the typical bifurcation of media matters into structural and cultural issues. On the structural side are questions of law, money, procedure, and technology, stories of big corporations, gadgets, and financial schemes. On the cultural side are hot button issues like pornography, violence, and the protection of children. And too often, I think, US media and cultural studies scholars act as though we agree; we tend to divide our interests and scholarship along similar lines, policy folks over here, textual critics over there. There needs to be an approach that does not take the structure/culture bifurcation for granted. And one place to begin is by talking about the role of the subjective or cultural within classic structural media issues. Let’s do some cultural criticism of what goes on behind the screen. Rhetoric and style — the raw materials of culture — matter behind the screen as well as on it; if those of us trained in cultural and media studies are really going to act on all that’s been learned in the last thirty years, it’s not just that that culture matters, it’s that culture matters everywhere.

Take a current structural issue: the current experiments in wireless broadband, a possible candidate for the media infrastructure of the future (and a personal fascination of mine). At first glance, it seems to be all about technology standards, legal regulations, and money, stuff for self-important white guys in suits. Not what we spent all that time in graduate school deciphering Stuart Hall or Gayatri Spivak for.

But consider the following: in a recent interview, the FCC’s chief of policy development, Robert Pepper, was asked about new wireless networks. “Wireless ISPs,” he replied, “are some of the most exciting companies and developments that I’ve seen in a long time. You have a lot of little companies — we estimate somewhere between 2,000 and 2,500. They are providing broadband service in urban and also rural areas without subsidy. They are being deployed very rapidly at a low cost. They break even with relatively low penetration rates. They can operate on mountaintops. They can operate in inner cities and neighborhoods. This is very exciting.”

Notice that Pepper used the word “exciting” twice to describe Wireless ISPs. I don’t want to over interpret, but his use of the word “exciting” is significant. When someone like Pepper talks about, say, the transition from traditional to digital and high definition television, the talk is in the language of acronym-fluent technocrats: about orderly process, protecting stakeholders, striking a balance between competing interests, and so forth. All that stuff may sound important, but not “exciting.” Basically, Pepper’s description of wireless ISPs — small, fast, numerous, on mountaintops and in inner cities, and growing — follows the narrative lines of the tale of the plucky capitalist entrepreneur.

This is a moral discourse. It invokes a classic liberal narrative in which self-interested individual effort is constructed as a form of moral behavior. From Robinson Crusoe to Poor Richard’s Almanac to the novels of Ayn Rand to Little House on the Prairie, there’s a long and deep tradition of tales in which capitalist entrepreneurial behavior is celebrated as a sign of good character and a source of human progress. In the American context, these narratives have played a role in legitimating the very corporate capitalism that in the end undermines entrepreneurial possibilities. Pepper does not mention that these thousands of wonderful small businesses are eventually doomed to either be pushed aside by other technologies, or — if the technology does catch on — be swallowed up by larger corporate outfits (as has happened to the thousands of small phone-line-based ISPs that sprang up in the mid-1990s).

But it’s not all bad. Striking out on one’s own, taking a risk, making something new in a way that has integrity — these are all visions that have provided energy and support to many folks who could use it. The real question is how that discourse gets articulated. Currently, some city governments are exploring ways to build wireless broadband networks for their citizens that would operate on a non-profit basis, and the corporate world is doing everything it can to stop them, seeking to make such efforts illegal through state legislatures. How should struggles like this be framed? The traditional progressive tactic is to make it a struggle of the public good against private greed. But the “public good” can seem like a hollow phrase to many. Why not frame this another way? Isn’t this a case of local folks, through their city governments, setting out to build small and ingenious systems with which they can express themselves and connect to each other? Maybe it’s the cities that are on the side of the little guy and the experimenters, who are struggling against special interests who are using government to restrict the freedom to communicate. Competition is good, but allow the notion of competition to include accountable non-profit entities, like city governments, under its umbrella. (Michael Curtin has argued we need to support more and more diverse forms of public broadcasting; maybe the argument should focus on something like structural diversity; not just “public” channels or more channels, but more freedom in building channels.)

It’s now becoming routine in Hollywood to say that the media will change more in the next three to five years than it has in the last fifty. A struggle is now afoot over the future organization of media, a struggle that encompasses news, entertainment, and infrastructure. Up to this point, progressive activists are entering the struggle with a pretty narrow range of rhetorical tools, mostly focusing on the charge of media monopoly and a weak call to the “public good.” Let’s see if we can’t add a few more arrows, like structural diversity or nonprofit entrepreneurialism, to the activist quiver.

Note
[1]Raymond Williams, “Culture is Ordinary.” In Ann Gray and Jim McGuigan (Eds.), Studies in Culture: An Introductory Reader. London: Arnold, 1997 [1958], pp. 5-14.

Image Credits:
1. Janet Jackson’s Super Bowl XXXVIII mishap

Links
WISPA-Cut the Wires!
Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Home Page

Please feel free to comment.




The Unwired Side of the Digital Divide

by: Faye Ginsberg / NYU

Today, as I write, the United Nations is inaugurating a long awaited program, a “Digital Solidarity Fund”, that will underwrite initiatives that address “the uneven distribution and use of new information and communication technologies” and “enable excluded people and countries to enter the new era of the information society”. What this might mean in practice – which digital technologies might make a significant difference and for whom and with what resources — is still an open and contentious question. Debates about The Fund at the first meeting of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) in December 2003, are symptomatic of the complexity of “digital divide” issues that will no doubt be central to second phase of the information summit scheduled for November 2005 in Tunisia.

Terms such as the Digital Age and the Digital Divide, continue to shape our sense of the world and drive markets for ever greater consumption of the latest digital technologies. Yet, according to statistics from the 2005 World Economic Forum in Davos, only 12% of the world is currently “wired” and only 16% have access to telephone land lines (though cell phone technology is rapidly spreading). Digerati may see those numbers as opportunities for new markets. But for an anthropologist who has spent a good portion of her career looking at the uptake of media in remote parts of the world, the unexamined First-Worldism that has underwritten assumptions about the digital age and its inequalities is discouraging. I am not suggesting that the massive shifts in communication, sociality, knowledge production, and politics that the internet enables are simply irrelevant to the world’s poor and remote communities. My concern here is with how the language smuggles in a set of assumptions that paper over cultural and economic differences in the way things digital may be taken up, if at all, in radically different contexts, and thus serve to further insulate thinking against recognition of alterity that different kinds of media worlds present.

Some iconic cases might provide counterpoints of hopeful possibilities, in a futuristic nostalgic mode. In an article in the NY Times (1/27/04) entitled Digital Pony Express links up Cambodia, James Brooks, describes the work of MIT’s Media Lab and the American Assistance for Cambodia group in O Siengle, Cambodia, a village of less than 800 people on the edge of the forest, a location that is emblematic of life for millions of Asians. Through the Motoman project, the village connects its new elementary school to the Internet. Since they have no electricity or phones, the system is powered by solar panels. Once a day, a ‘Motoman’ rides his red motorcycle with a Wi-Fi chip, around the school, creating a temporary Internet hot spot, enabling e-mail to be up and downloaded. He then takes the data to the provincial capital where a satellite dish allows bulk e-mail exchange with the outside world.

Tellingly, this story was in the Business Section, suggesting that part of its charm is the possibility of new markets. In such stories, the Digital Divide, even as it wants to call well-intentioned concern to inequities, invokes neo-developmentalist language which assumes that less privileged cultural enclaves with little or no access to digital resources – from the South Bronx to the global south — will simply be “left behind” without such attention from epicenters such as the MIT Media Lab.

Remarkably, there are new and unexpected allies to my concerns. Microsoft founder Bill Gates, once the personification of new media evangelism, had, by 2000, demonstrated a remarkable change of heart, offering a serious critique of the idea of the digital divide and its capacity to blind people to the reality of the conditions of the globe’s poorest people. As he put it in a speech in 2000 at a conference entitled Creating Digital Dividends:

O.K., you want to send computers to Africa, what about food and electricity — those computers aren’t going to be that valuable. The mothers are going to walk right up to that computer and say, “my children are dying, what can you do?” They’re not going to sit there and like, browse eBay or something.

Rather than giving out computers, Gates’ priorities for his Foundation are now with health care, in particular the development and distribution of vaccines which account for two-thirds of the grants made.

In their current cover story, no less an advocate for the spread of free enterprise than The Economist features a rethinking of the term (and terms of) The Real Digital Divide, along with a compelling photo of a young African boy holding an ersatz cell phone made of mud to his ear Its lead opinion piece, states that “the debate over the digital divide is founded on a myth — that plugging poor countries into the internet will help them to become rich rapidly … So even if it were possible to wave a magic wand and cause a computer to appear in every household on earth, it would not achieve very much: a computer is not useful if you have no food or electricity and cannot read.”

Ideas about what the digital age might offer look different from the perspective of people struggling to manage to make ends meet on a daily basis. Some qualitative studies suggest that radio and cell phones may be the forms of digital technology that make the difference, once basic needs are addressed. It seems that terms like the digital divide too easily foreclose discussion about what the stakes are for those who are out of power. Rather than imagining that we know the answers, clearly, we need to keep listening the 88% of the earth’s population that is on the unwired side of the so-called digital divide.

Please feel free to comment.




Can the Social History of Audiences Contribute to Media Reform?

by: Thomas Streeter / University of Vermont

Zephyr Teachout, formerly a staffer for Howard Dean’s Presidential campaign, recently published an open memo to the Democratic Party about using the internet to help rejuvenate the Party at the grassroots. Teachout is intervening in a revival of an old argument: we are once again hearing that technology will save us. In recent years, the Dean campaign used the internet to overturn all the rules for political fundraising, internet bloggers have repeatedly made fools out of professional journalists, and internet downloads have been keeping media moguls awake at night. And so, some suggest, the two-way internet will triumph over one-way TV after all, the new media technology will turn us into a nation of active citizens instead of passive couch potatoes. The argument on the table is this: don’t just try to break up media monopolies or pass fairness doctrine regulations, or otherwise try to change the behavior of the mainstream media institutions in the hopes of forcing them to better serve democracy. No, go straight to the newest technologies and find your democracy there. The internet is the solution.

Many FlowTV readers will be aware of how familiar and generally disappointing the tradition of the technical fix has been: the telegraph was going to unite the peoples of the world, the airplane was going to end war (who would attack a country you could easily fly to?), cable television was going to end alienation and rejuvenate democracy (as was the CB radio), and of course we’ve already watched utopian hopes for the internet soar and crash once before, with the stock bubble.

Teachout’s version of the technical fix, however, is both more nuanced and has a twist: her argument is that the internet should be used to organize local, face-to-face Democratic groups, to create local organizations. Use the internet, not to disintermediate, but to reconnect, not to circumvent the local, but to facilitate local meetings of the like-minded, to find those in your community with whom you share a common interest.

This is the meetup.com model, which perhaps represents the one true internet innovation of the last several years. Blogs are just a variation on the personal web page, and political discussion lists are as old as email. The “Dean For America” meetups that occurred across the US were something new, however, and to the surprise of both the Dean staff and the rest of the world, they became a crucial part of the campaign. They provided strategic value, like fund-raising, and quick coordination of local with national efforts, but just as importantly they provided people with a uniquely intense, emotional connection to the campaign. There are now tens of thousands of Americans who will remember their experience of the Dean meetups of 2004 for the rest of their lives.

Teachout references Robert Putnam of Bowling Alone fame, but thankfully also Theda Skocpol’s less nostalgic work on the historical twists and turns of the relations of local community formation to political movements. Local groups, Teachout argues, amplify individuals’ sense of power; non-staffed local community building, she points out, has been central to the successes of the National Right to Life Committee, the Christian Coalition, and the National Rifle Association.

So what’s this have to do with the internet? “The internet,” she writes, “lowers the barrier to finding places to host public events, and telling people about them. If political . . . organizations with incentive and opportunity exploit this lowered barrier, the Internet could power a resurgence of a new version of the great American voluntary association.”

Perhaps. One wonders how much the internet can be the locus of much passion outside what Teachout acknowledges are “the prominent political blogs and sites that attract a primarily upper class white audience,” i.e., groups of people who already spend much of their day at the computer keyboard.

Part of what’s wrong with many instances of the technical fix is its naive view of media audiences: Americans, it is assumed, eagerly await clear access to information, and when new technologies give it to them, the scales will fall from their eyes and they will suddenly behave rationally, at the ballot box and elsewhere. The stereotype of the citizen yearning for enlightenment through information is American liberalism’s equivalent of the heroic worker of socialist realist orthodoxy.

This is where students of media and cultural studies have something to contribute: Fiskean simplicities about active audiences aside, a number of sophisticated ethnographic and, particularly, historical studies of audiences-as-communities have appeared in recent years. Focused on the complex relations of TV to communities and social conflicts, all point to a richer way of thinking about the relation of media to publics, polities, and social groupings. To mention just a few: Lynn Spigel, in her study of the introduction of the television set into suburban homes in the 1950s, argued that trends like the suburb or television should be seen not as the decline of community, but contexts for the formation of new types of communities; these new modes of life have their own distinct pressures and structures, but they are communities nonetheless. Kathleen Newman’s history of the intersections of radio with consumer actions like organized boycotts in the 1940s adds to the picture of the ways that media and new social movements can interact. And Steve Classen’s rich study of the relations of TV to Southern civil rights struggles in the 1950s and 1960s provides a vivid example of how legal and political struggles over the control of TV can become a galvanizing part of local organizing.

This work demonstrates neither naive optimism about audiences nor the sugar-coated cynicism of much marketing research. The TV set in the living room, the neighborhood Church, the hunting club, and yes, the internet-connected personal computer all can become, for various people at various times, not just a backdrop for and tools within the rhythms of our everyday lives, but tools that on occasion help crystallize groups into passionate political action. But the occasion for politically positive action is always complicated, involving a rich stew of struggles, cultural trends, and both self- and public-interests.

Michael Curtin, in his last column for Flow, argued that we need to emphasize “the potential of a public commons as a basic condition for modern democracy.” A public commons, though, is perhaps neither just a place nor a technology; it is a social event, a collective passion, something that bubbles up out of the complexities of social life, not a location or structure that is somehow shielded from those complexities. In the heat of the moment, both romances and revolutions seem like their own driving force and explanation. But years later, when we look back on them, we can recognize all the multiple things that came together to create the conditions for the passion. Making sense of the role of media in understanding how communities do and do not become politically energized, I think, is something our field can offer those working to create a more democratic world.

References

James W. Carey with John Quirk: “The Mythos of the Electronic Revolution,” and “The History of the Future,” in Communication as Culture: Essays on Media and Society, Boston: Unwin Hyman, 1989, pp. 113-141 and pp. 173-200.

Steven Douglas Classen, Watching Jim Crow: The Struggles Over Mississippi Television, 1955-1969. Duke UP, 2004.

Kathleen M. Newman, Radio Active : Advertising and Consumer Activism, 1935-1947. U of California P, 2004.

Lynn Spigel, Make Room for TV: Television and the Family Ideal in Postwar America. U of Chicago P, 1992.

Links
Tom Streeter on Media Left Out?
Michael Curtin on Murdoch
Frederick Wasser on the Fairness Doctrine
Toby Miller on Fox News
Howard Dean’s Democracy for America

Please feel free to comment.