Wednesday, 7 March 2007

A Response

Hi there,

From my [materially aware discursive-constructionist] position the debate David’s paper has generated, over how things can mean, or how they might be, is inevitable. Yet, despite a certain heat within posts [do we need to be rude?] I am not sure that positions are so radically different from one another in what is being said. They all highlight, in various ways, the complexity of media, the range of forces in play, and key developments. They also highlight what happens when someone puts a stake in the sand, especially one that can be wilfully interpreted as overly simplified. However, there is a resonant common core that makes these voices recognisable as those of media scholars coming holding a reasonably common ‘lens’. It is this consonance that makes me wonder if this debate is being defined through an overly narrowly view of what constitutes the field of ‘media studies’.

Other voices can be collected under the heading ‘media studies’, voices from a wider field of definition and activities. They represent people and practices that are not being engaged with here but I would argue that they need to be part of what is being debated if we are considering what is ‘outdated’ or deserving of challenge. What ‘media studies’ constitutes is defined not only through the ‘academic’ but also through practices in other fields, fields where different logics have dominance. Though it is pretty unfashionable to speak about it these days the positivist-post-structuralist/social constructionist division is alive and well in much of what is funded as research and published as ‘media studies’. In fact, the majority of tax funded research informing the development of Western media policies is still structured through logics that most of academic media studies would not recognise as legitimate. Shouldn’t we challenge the vast, ongoing production that is touted as meaningful media research that so directly contradicts the logic of what we espouse? It certainly has a significant impact on shaping lived experience. Believe it or not post-structuralist/constructionist positions are still radical in psychology, mainstream marketing, and corporate capitalism. The logics and practices of the mainstream continues largely untroubled by challenge from media studies ‘proper’, because just as much of mainstream media research sits outside of what is recognised as media studies by us what we do sits outside of dominant logics. All media research is media studies and we are part of a much bigger debate. Perhaps the constant division between academic theorisation and ‘real world’ research, in part, reflects the problem with the logic that there can be any division between theory and practice? Whether anyone ‘likes’ it or not theory is vitally important because all practice is theory.

Things are changing, yes. But histories remain important. Within histories lie the logics and struggles that are structuring much of present debates. Contents may well be engaged with in fascinatingly diverse ways, structured through complex positions and experiences, not least of which can be length of time lived. But it is not all relative. Certain ideas resonate, sometimes across age and gender; ideas, for example, about age and gender. We should not lose sight of the issue that contents deserve attention for their implications, despite the uniqueness of contextually located interpretive engagements.

I am a proponent of a meta-theoretical position within which a range of other contingent theoretical possibilities are realised through ‘realities’ of contexts and experiences. Meta-theory is also unfashionable but, I would argue, disingenuous to refuse when it is always already implied in our positions. It is at a fundamental meta-theoretical level of how we make sense of the world that I see much media research as needing challenge. Meta-theory has very important implications for how people live and are treated in their worlds. Media contents perpetuate meta-theoretical logics of the subject/s, gender, ethnicity and class. Media, capitalism, economics, politics, they are all structured through dominant logics. Let’s debate these concerns as parts of the bigger picture within which media sits. However ‘real’ or sensible a way of seeing the world seems to be it is always in debate with other ways of knowing and there are no guarantees of outcome. Debate needs to be outside as well as within….