Category: Westminster Papers in Communication & Culture

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

China’s global media expansion reconsidered – major new WPCC issue

China’s global media expansion reconsidered – major new WPCC issue

A new WPCC issue re-evaluates China’s much debated ‘going-out’ strategy as it has developed. It extends the debate about China’s media expansion by focusing on the act of communicating the ‘going-out’ message and how it has been received by residents of Latin America, the USA and Africans studying in China.

Eleven contributions consider television news to radio, Twitter, the financial structures of Chinese internet firms alongside book reviews of publications on Chinese and global media politics offering new data and interview material as well as alerting readers to some of the most useful theoretical tools to develop understanding.

The issue is guest-edited by Vivien Marsh.

UWP reaches 200,000 views and downloads of its publications

UWP reaches 200,000 views and downloads of its publications

On 29 March 2017 we reported that after 18 months UWP had reached six figures in audiences. It’s taken just a little over 11 months to notch up the second 100,000 with the auspicious day being close to the 5th of March and actual figures now in excess of 202,000. Subject to the usual caveats over forecasts we hope to hit the third 100,000 even faster next time as the scope of our publishing continues to grow.

To date UWP has published 9 book titles and distributed 4 others in the fields of media studies, law and history. All published book titles are available to read online, download as ePub and to purchase in print. It has published 2 journals with 56 new articles since inception also making available 392 archive articles from Westminster Papers in Communication and Culture and the Entertainment and Sports Law Journal. The majority of views and downloads are from these 448 journal articles, both of which were open access publications before being published by UWP and have built their audiences courtesy of the internet.

Some useful links are below:

2017-18 UWP catalogue
Critical Digital and Social Media Studies series
Law and the Senses series
All books

Distributed titles:
The History of the University of Westminster Press series (PDF only)

The University of Westminster Press is a micropress one of several new UK university presses that have developed and look like continuing to appear over the next few years in the UK in addition to academic-led publishing and scholarly communications initiatives from University libraries. It is a part of the Ubiquity Press partner network.

Radio and Revolution from WPCC

Radio and Revolution from WPCC


A varied set of articles make up Westminster Papers in Communication and Culture’s latest issue featuring Gretchen King’s survey of the global history of community radio practices and Tiziano Bonini’s analysis of Açık Radyo in Turkey’s Gezi Park protests. Was Twitter or radio more important in the protests, he asks, and how did they reinforce each other’s impact? More contributions are to follow very shortly.

Radio’s role in the liberation movement in Zimbabwe is the subject of Everette Ndlovu’s commentary whereas the motivations of free radio practitioners in Barcelona are hailed in Lola Costa Gálvez’s commentary. She discovers a commitment to the value of non-profit radio as a space for articulating a plethora of views’ supported by music which is shared by an even longer and arguably even more politically charged history of Basque Country community radio analysed in the research article of Jason Diaux, Ion Andoni del Amo and Arkaitz Letamendia of the University of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU.

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100,000 Views and Downloads Landmark Reached For UWP

100,000 Views and Downloads Landmark Reached For UWP

In March 2017 – it happened so quickly as a surprise – close to 18 months after our first publication the relaunch of Westminster Papers in Communication and Culture, UWP’s total views and downloads for our publications have surpassed 100,000. Now the total is soaring past 102,000 for our three publications and numerous further books and journal issues are scheduled for 2017.

UWP will release further information later this year about a range of new publications and the great response to them.

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Reframing Media and Cultural Studies in the Age of Global Crisis-  new WPCC issue

Reframing Media and Cultural Studies in the Age of Global Crisis- new WPCC issue

Exciting times for WESTMINSTER PAPERS IN COMMUNICATION AND CULTURE as a new audio commentary issue on the topic of Reframing Media and Cultural Studies in the Age of Global Crisis for a new era of is to be published in 2017 as January turns to February.

In the words of Dr Tarik Sabry in the edition’s editorial:

‘In an age of ongoing economic and political crisis, military conflict displacing millions of people and systems of governance and democracy in question, a reassessment of the questions posed by the disciplines of media and cultural studies is called for. Traditional paradigms for conceptualising the media are further challenged by shifts in the media environment resulting from the growth of digital and mobile media. This is a defining moment for the field and a time for reflection and re-evaluation.’

The contributors will be: Paddy Scannell, David Morley, Annabelle Sreberny, David Gauntlett, Paolo Gerbaudo, Anastasia Kavada, Jeremy Gilbert, Colin Sparks, Daya Thussu, Fernando Resende, Jaeoho Kang, Viola Milton, Wenshan Jia, Joanna Zylinska, Christian Fuchs and Kaarle Nordenstreng. Further details are available from WPCC’s home page.

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