Category: political economy

Communications and Geography: An Ever-Closer Union?

Communications and Geography: An Ever-Closer Union?

Here in an extract from his editorial Doug Specht in the latest issue* of Westminster Papers in Communication and Culture  reflects on how space has not gone away or been ‘annihilated’. He considers how communication theories may help understand a world in which maps of all kinds are being reconfigured with the aid of the users and suppliers of Big Data  as space in all dimensions is being mediated and reshaped. 

Late twentieth century communication and information technologies have produced such a blurring of what is real and what is representation that the two can no longer be distinguished (Corner, 1999), leading to persistent questions over how human behaviour is constituted through space and time, and within specific social contexts (Dear, 1988). Our mappings of the world, be they through cartographic representations and data visualizations (Space-in-media), or mediated senses of place (Place-in-Media, and Media-in-Place), are in-between the virtual and the physical. A distinction not to be confused with a distinction between real and fake, ‘as we would not claim that our bodies are real while our minds are fake’ (Smith, 2017: 30). Did you find the world or did you make it up? asked Winnicotts (cited in Corner, 1999), a salient question indeed. The information super-highway agenda of the 1990s was designed to change the very fabric of society (Robins, 1997), to create a homogenized flow of communications transcending geography (Greig, 2001). This post-modern condition of ‘space-time compression’ (Harvey, 1989) would annihilate space. Yet, space has not disappeared, but has re-established itself in new spheres, created of ever larger data, and increasingly mediated, and must then be understood through the use of semiotic and communication theories, such as the Marxist spatial frameworks of Castells and Lefebvre, or the Ideologiekritik of the Frankfurt School (Lagopoulos, 1993). The postmodern creates tensions between all theories in an attempt to best understand the conditions of existence, at its core, perhaps, lies the dialectic between space and society; a geographical puzzle in which structures, institutions and human agents operate on different scales to define spatial patterns in any given locale (Dear, 1988). The individual does not disappear in the midst of the social effects caused by the pressures of the masses, but is instead affirmed (Lefebvre, 1991). It is seeing that establishes our place in the surrounding world; we explain that world with words, but words can never undo the fact that we are surrounded by it, as Fuchs (2018) states: ‘means of communication are (just like social space) means of production through which humans produce social relations and therefore also social space’ (p. 19). The relation between what we see and what we know is never settled. Each evening we see the sun set. We know than the earth is turning away from it. Yet the knowledge, the explanation, never quite fits the sight (Berger, 1972/2008). While human geography has always been a maze of diverse interests (Dear, 1988), the use of Geographic Information has changed dramatically in the past decade, and continues to do so; increasingly it is used in mediated practices, to shape stories, to transcend boundaries, to develop new ethereal networks, as well as to produce maps. But even in those maps, users themselves are being encouraged to crowdsource data, be that to add to the ‘usefulness of the map’ or to create counter maps. Data has become the standard way in which the world is ordered (Thatcher and Dalton, 2017), with those that link location and temporal information being seen as fixes for capitalism’s tendencies towards over-accumulation (Greene and Joseph, 2015). As the scholars in this issue demonstrate, there is much to be gained from the combining of communications theories and those from the geographic disciplines. Bringing the two together allows for an alternate, nuanced, and a spatially grounded approach to envisioning the myriad ways in which the digital age mediates social, economic and political experiences and, in particular, in the increasingly technologically informed media and communications sector.

[*’GEOGRAPHY AND COMMUNICATIONS‘  the full open access issue can be viewed or downloaded at the WPCC website ]

REFERENCES

Berger, J. (1972/2008). Ways of Seeing, . London: Penguin UK.

Corner, J. (1999). The Agency of Mapping: Speculation, Critique and Invention. In: Dodge, M., Kitchin, R., & Perkin, C. (eds.), The Map Reader: Theories of Mapping Practice and Cartographic Representation, 213–252, Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell. 

Dear, M. (1988). The postmodern challenge: Reconstructing human geography. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, 262–274. DOI: https://doi.org/10.2307/622990  

Fuchs, C. (2018). Henri Lefebvre’s theory of the production of space and the critical theory of communication. Communication Theory, 1–22. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1093/ct/qty025  

Greene, D. M., & Joseph, D. (2015). The digital spatial fix. tripleC: Communication, Capitalism & Critique, 13(2): 223–247. DOI: https://doi.org/10.31269/triplec.v13i2.659 

Harvey, D. (1989). The Condition of Postmodernity: An Enquiry into the Origins of Social Change. Malden, MA: Blackwell. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1191/030913298669028680

Lagopoulos, A. P. (1993). Postmodernism, geography, and the social semiotics of space. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 11(3): 255–278. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1068/d110255

Lefebvre, H. (1991). The Production of Space. Blackwell: Oxford

Robins, K. (1997). The new communications geography and the politics of optimism. Soundings 5, 191–202.

Smith, T. G. (2017). Politicizing Digital Space. London: University of Westminster Press. DOI: https://doi.org/10.16997/book5

Thatcher, J., & Dalton, C. M. (2017). Data Derives: Confronting Digital Geographic Information as Spectacle. In: Briziarelli, M., & Armano, E. (eds.), The Spectacle 2.0: Reading Debord in the Context of Digital Capitalism. London: University of Westminster Press. DOI: https://doi.org/10.16997/book11.h

Propaganda Model of Herman and Chomsky reassessed in new title

Propaganda Model of Herman and Chomsky reassessed in new title

Still relevant, useful and controversial after 30 years,  Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky’s Propaganda Model is considered afresh in the age of Trump, digital media and social media manipulation. Published within UWP‘s Critical Digital and Social Media Studies series edited by Professor Christian Fuchs the book is a wide-ranging examination of the topic.

Including a new interview with Edward S. Herman before his passing in 2017 the book reassesses the model’s strengths and relative limitations, offers applications to the internet and world of digital media, to sport and screen entertainment in addition to which presents specific case studies on topics as diverse as the 2008 financial crisis and austerity in Britain, Cuba and the use of nuclear weapons. It suggests that there may be a case for considering new filters and outlines reasons for the model’s continuing explanatory power.

In 2009 Westminster Papers in Communication and Culture analysed the PM after 20 years.

Much has changed but has much also stayed the same?

Amilcar Herrera prize won by Knowledge in the Age of Digital Capitalism by Mariano Zukerfeld

Amilcar Herrera prize won by Knowledge in the Age of Digital Capitalism by Mariano Zukerfeld

The Association ESOCITE (Asociación Latinamericana de Estudios Sociales de la Cience y la Tecnología) has honoured UWP author Mariano Zukerfeld in its best book category. The Amilcar Herrera Prize is awarded to the best book by an established author in the association’s field of social studies of science and technology at its annual conference this year held in Santiago Chile.

Also next week via the auspices of the Cambridge-based Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities, the Culture, Politics and Global Justice research cluster has welcome all to join in a reading group which will look at the first two chapters of the book: Chapter 1: Capitalism, Physical Property and Intellectual Property (1-30) and Chapter 2. How to Know Knowledge? Introducing Cognitive Materialism (31-52). The book is available to download digitally from UWP’s website as PDF, ePub or for kindle.

16 October 2018, 16:00 – 18:00 Mary Allan Building, Homerton College

 

 

What to do about the Gig Economy and Mental Health

What to do about the Gig Economy and Mental Health

The latest CAMRI Policy Brief considers policy perspectives on precarity in the light of the findings of the largest nationwide survey of its kind into the impact of the working conditions in the UK music industry.

Authors Sally-Anne Gross and George Musgrave recommend more education regarding mental health challenges in precarious careers, access to mental health support for gig economy workers and in the long term a Universal Basic Income to address the challenge.

Read or download.

The CAMRI Policy Briefs series from the CAMRI Policy Observatory.

 

Q & A event on media policy issues at Westminster University 27 September

An event will launch two new policy briefs published by the University of Westminster Press, as part of the new CAMRI Policy Brief series, in which researchers from the Communication and Media Research Institute (CAMRI) at the University of Westminster will provide insights into their recent research and its findings.

The event will feature two presentations:

Jacob Johanssen will present recent research on attitudes towards disfigurement in the media. In the policy brief ‘Appearance, Discrimination and the Media’, he claims together with co-authors Diana Garrisi and Laima Janciute that the portrayal of disfigurement in the UK media must change. Policy recommendations in terms of editorial practices, media literacy education and regulation will be introduced.

Sally-Anne Gross and George Musgrave will highlight the findings of their project ‘Can Music Make You Sick?’, which investigated working conditions in the UK music industry. Based on the policy brief ‘Well-Being and Mental Health in the Gig Economy’, they will review policy measures that may help or harm gig economy workers. A much-needed debate needs to happen about the psychological implications of precarious work and this presentation aims to contribute to this.

The presentations will be followed by a Q&A session with the authors.

Printed copies of the policy briefs will be available for free at the event.

The event is free for anyone interested, registration via EventbriteGross jpg is required.

About the CAMRI Policy Brief Series:

The CAMRI Policy Brief series provides rigorous and evidence-based policy advice and policy analysis on a variety of media and communication-related topics. In an age where the accelerated development of media and communications creates profound opportunities and challenges for society, politics and the economy, this series cuts through the noise and offers up-to-date knowledge and evidence grounded in original research in order to respond to these changes in all their complexity. By using Open Access and a concise, easy-to-read format, this peer-reviewed series aims to make new research from the University of Westminster available to the public, to policymakers, practitioners, journalists, activists and scholars both nationally and internationally.

The CAMRI Policy Briefs are available free to download at: https://www.uwestminsterpress.co.uk/site/books/series/camri-policy-briefs/

The ruthless pursuit of online ‘likes’ gives you nothing – UWP author says.

The ruthless pursuit of online ‘likes’ gives you nothing – UWP author says.

So declares Kane X. Faucher in a new Conversation post. With social media ‘we are presented with a digital Potemkin village, a constructed sham, where sharing and being social is secondary to numerical proof of social interactions’.

The post has made its way to Australia readers via ABC and to Canada’s National Post attracting readership now upward of 20,000 views – somewhat ironically for a post that argues we should pay far less attention to automated counters.

For more on the topic and positive steps that can be taken to counteract the harmful effects of approbation markers and social media status chasing see Social Capital Online recently publishing in UWP‘s CDSMS series.