Wednesday, 7 March 2007

Comments and an explanation

Faye Davies:

I contributed to the MeCCSA board debate and David's blog - these two posting however, make me want to respond.I think the heart of the problem with the 2.0 'manifesto' is that all these points that you now bring out were not discussed - it seemed polarised, and now from your points, overly simplisitic and so it encourages keen responses such as the one you are responding to here.Your last point is rather harsh - and do remember we are all having an academic debate here [accepted. I've removed it. It was a response to a somewhat bitter poster - WM].

Pat Thomas said...

William Merrin's understandably vigorous response to the somewhat provocative anonymous critique is revealing. In defending 2.0 from the allegations of being uncritical and depoliticised, he redefines the original parameters of the new paradigm to include questions of political economy which 'anonymous' had, I think, rightly discerned as being largely overlooked in the manifesto. As Faye Davies has suggested, if media studies 2.0 really is intended to embrace and extend these lines of enquiry, perhaps it ought to foreground them as clearly as it has its other academic priorities. Otherwise, we shouldn't be surprised if it's misinterpreted and criticised. Perhaps our anonymous colleague is calling our bluff though- do the proponents of 2.0 embrace critical enquiry and questions of power and inequality, or are these just peripheral issues to which lip service is paid whenever political economists point an accusing finger?

William Merrin:

I accept the problems I've created here. Many posters are responding to David's article and I can't reply for him and I'm not trying to speak for him or change his original ideas. David, I'm sure, will reply to points made against his article. I was only trying to keep debate going, respond as best I could to points being made and explain what the idea of media studies 2.0 meant to me.

David and I discovered we were both using the idea of a media studies 2.0 and despite the many differences I'm sure we have in our approaches and specialisms we seem to be united in an interest in new media and in the belief that this requires a change in media studies. That's the core of what I mean by a media studies 2.0.

I'd become increasingly disspirited by many of the text books and mainstream monographs I was reading in the discipline - they seemed so complacently limited in their treatment of media - in their lack of history, lack of theory, predictable and ring-fenced references, ignorance of the changing media environment and resort to what were becoming cliched arguments in the discipline (to mention them would be career suicide but there are so many). I was also becoming increasingly interested in how much was changing in media - how there was no media being left untouched and how so few colleagues/texts seemed to be following or thinking about what was changing ... and all the time our students were leaping ahead of us in their knowledge and use of media ... My own call for a media studies 2.0 was a desire to see every part of media studies broaden its knowledge and references and retest and update itself to get to grips with the new media revolution. As such it made me far more accepting of other parts of the discipline I'd had less interest in before and made me think (and hope...) interdisciplinary boundaries might be forced to break down ...

It's been heartening to see many people have been aware of these issues for so long but it's still remarkable to see how any mention of new media produces fear and hostility in many media studies lecturers and a desperate desire to deny anything's going on, to refute the significance of the changes and to de-escalate any argument that threatens their comfortable view of media, laid down over so many years. Common tricks to help in this include historicising developments to make them disappear; references to an implicitly moral position that makes any discussion of new media appear a wrong-headed luxury ('look at how many poor people/countries haven't got it ...'); claiming a moral highground in a different content or emphasis that is presented as more serious or real (this is how that commentator employed political economy); accepting aspects of new media as an add-on but refusing to see any real significance in them or need to change the content or methods beyond updating a few lecture notes to look on the ball; references to hyperbole or uncritical celebration or utopianism (stating that something is happening doesn't make one a fan of it), and finally, petulant insults (I haven't heard 'postmodernism' as an insult for years ... it took me back to the early 90s... Only media studies today could still use that as an insult. Most other discplines worked through it years ago). Let's be clear all of this is intended to avoid or discredit any attention being paid to new media changes. I'm not changing the parameters of David's ideas - he can defend them for himself; nor am I paying lip-service to anything here (as I've said I employ political economy). Nor am I interested in saying what can't be in media studies - I'm more interested in considering how we change what's in it to get to grips with the present; how we expand that content to make it more informed; how we push that content to make it relevant and to keep up and how we frame new questions in keeping with the changes around us and explore new subject areas that traditional media studies never bothered with. To give one example, issues of security have never been part of media studies, nor of our experience of media (beyond the possibility that someone might physically nick your telly!). Today security and threats to one's media, one's information, one's identity, privacy and property etc. are central issues and media studies has to include this. Find me an introductory media studies textbook at the moment that mentions it ... This should be our project and starting point for discussion here: positively framing how we update and reorient the discipline.