Wednesday, 7 March 2007

A short response (David Gauntlett)

Glad to see the dialogue continuing! I do strongly agree with all of William Merrin’s contributions to this discussion. I welcome Jane’s point, too, that we should look beyond the field of ‘Media Studies’ – quite right; it’s part of the argument I was making that we should do so.

On the point about political economy, of course we welcome that and are engaged with those issues. I would say, though – and this is one of the points in my original article – that we need to think through the traditional issues to do with power and ownership in a new way, and do it thoroughly. To illustrate what I mean:

One of the more caustic responses to my article, posted on the New Zealand media studies email list I think, simply said “Doesn’t he know who owns YouTube?!”

Of course I do know that a large corporation, Google, owns YouTube, but what I want to explore is what this really means. Does it mean that the YouTube phenomenon can be explained away as just another big corporate enterprise that we simply snub our noses at? How does that help us understand anything?

I want to explore political issues in a meaningful way, rather than simplistically assuming that we can simply read off a diagnosis based on who owns what. There is surely far more going on than that. So this is not ‘de-politicised’; I would see it as a call for a deeper political understanding, really thinking through the questions of what the complex web of ownership and production really means when the people producing the content are not, and have nothing to do with, the owners. I am not sure that conventional political economy could claim to have properly addressed these questions yet.

Finally, William Merrin was quite right to pick up ‘Anonymous’ on ridiculously claiming that we want to live in a postmodern hyperworld! Our argument is quite the opposite – it’s grounded in the empirical reality of the changing media landscape, whereas fanciful non-empirical ‘postmodern’ cultural studies, with its faith in its own expert readings of media texts, is precisely one of the things that I so rudely rubbished in the outline of Media Studies 1.0…