Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Fall Booknotes (2009)

Abolition and the Press: the Moral Struggle Against Slavery, by Ford Risley (Northwestern University, 2008). This examination of nineteenth-century journalism explores the specific actions and practices of the publications that provided a true picture of slavery to the general public. From Boston's strident Liberator to Frederick Douglass' North Star, the decades before the Civil War saw more than forty newspapers founded with the specific aim of promoting emancipation. The reach of the abolitionist press only grew as the fiery publications became objects of controversy and targets of violence in both South and North. These works kept the issue of slavery in the public eye as the nation went to war, up to the end of slavery.

The Anime Machine: A Media Theory of Animation, by Thomas Lamarre (University of Minnesota, 2009). Presents a foundational theory of animation and what it reveals about our relationship to technology.”

Children and the Internet: Great Expectations, Challenging Realities, by Sonia Livingstone (Polity, 2009). "Looking beyond exaggerated hype and panic, Sonia Livingstone offers a balanced and comprehensive assessment of the role of the internet in children's lives. Combining rigorous quantitative and qualitative research with a critical awareness of broader theoretical questions, this is a definitive work that takes the debate to a new level."--David Buckingham, Institute of Education, University of London

Communication Beyond Barbie and Mortal Kombat: New Perspectives on Gender and Gaming, edited by Yasmin B. Kafai et al. (MIT, 2008). Collection of 18 essays and five interviews that revisit, update, and extend the earlier book's exploration of still-relevant issues relating to gender and digital gaming. This book recognizes the increasing number of female gamers and game designers, adopts a complex approach to gender's social and cultural constructions and constraints, and acknowledges evolutions such as increasingly user-driven, multiplayer gaming communities and the growing importance of transmediation. The editors divide these scholarly essays into four main sections: "Reflections on a Decade of Gender and Gaming," "Gaming Communities: Girls and Women as Players," "Girls and Women as Game Designers," and "Changing Girls, Changing Games." A fifth section, "Industry Voices," rounds out the critical perspectives with anecdotal interviews featuring women who directly participate in video-game design and game-related businesses.

Electric Sounds: Technological Change and the Rise of Corporate Mass Media, by Steve J. Wurtzler (Columbia, 2009). Discusses the changing atmosphere of social interaction brought about by a revolution in sound and delivery, which changed not only the radio world but the cinema and more. The 1920s and 30s represented some of the most important developments in American mass media, offering new roles for those who saw in it opportunity for education and cultural expression, and bringing with it fears for changes in public standards and social mores. --Diane C. Donovan, Bookwatch

Electronic Elsewheres: Media, Technology, and the Experience of Social Space, edited by Chris Berry, Soyoung Kim, and Lynn Spigel (University of Pennsylvania, 2009). “In exploring how world populations experience “place” through media technologies, the essays included here examine how media construct the meanings of home, community, work, and nation. Tracing how media reconfigure the boundaries between public and private—and global and local—to create “electronic elsewheres,” the essays investigate such spaces and identities as the avatars that women are creating on Web sites, analyze the role of satellite television in transforming Algerian neighborhoods, and take a skeptical look at the purported novelty of the “new media home.”

Family Violence: Communication Processes, edited by Dudley D. Cahn (State University of New York, 2009). “Focuses on the communication processes that occur before, during, and after episodes [of domestic violence]. Contributors to the volume include both established scholars and newcomers to the communication field who use quantitative and qualitative approaches to unravel the complexities of the communication processes that are at the center of violence in families.”

Fanatical Schemes: Proslavery Rhetoric and the Tragedy of Consensus, by Patricia Roberts-Miller (Alabama, 2009). “Analyses, firmly based in theory, of the communication of southern proslavery rhetorics during the 30 years prior to the Civil War…extensive examples of a variety of forms of communication to support conclusion that the South became trapped in its own extremist rhetoric. Systematic suppression of any discussion of slavery both in the South and, thanks to gag rules, in Congress magnified the difficulty; as a result, decisions were made without deliberation. The author points out that an underlying feeling of moral ambiguity about slavery may have led to the alarmist, hyperbolic, and irrational pronouncements about (nonexistent) threats to the "Southern way of life."

Finding the Right Place on the Map: Central and Eastern European Media Change in a Global Perspective, edited by Karol Jabubowicz and Miklos Sukosd (University of Chicago, 2009). “An international comparison of the media systems and democratic performance of the media in post-communist countries. From a comparative east-west perspective…analyzes issues of commercial media, social exclusion, and consumer capitalism. With topics ranging from the civil society approach, public service broadcasting, fandom, and the representation of poverty, each chapter considers a different aspect of the trends and problems surrounding the international media. This volume is an up-to-date overview of what media transformation has meant for post-communist countries in the past two decades.”

Friendlyvision: Fred Friendly and the Rise and Fall of Television Journalism, by Ralph Engelman (Columbia, 2009). Complex portrait of one of television’s most dynamic figures.

Games of Empire: Global Capitalism and Video Games, by Nick Dyer-Witheford and Greig De Peuter (University of Minnesota, 2009). “The authors trace the ascent of virtual gaming, assess its impact on creators and players alike, and delineate the relationship between games and reality, body and avatar, screen and street. Games of Empire forcefully connects video games to real-world concerns about globalization, militarism, and exploitation.”

Global Technography: Ethnography in the Age of Mobility, by Grant Kien (Peter Lang, 2009). Develops an ethnographic method for studying people’s use of cellphones and other wireless technologies.

Global TV: Exporting Television and Culture in the World Market, by Denise D. Bielby and C. Lee Harrington (New York University, 2008). “That television shows are a global phenomenon is beyond question. However, while research has been devoted to the content, reach, and cultural impact of television programming, less work has been done on the question of how that content becomes available in the first place. Sociologists Bielby (Univ. of California, Santa Barbara) and Harrington (Miami Univ.) attempt to fill that gap by examining the global television marketplace. In other words, their book is on the business of television around the world. The speculation about the spreading of cultural frameworks through programming has created a cultural hegemonic order based in the West, or more specifically, the US. But as the authors indicate, there has not been research to examine the underlying mechanisms that drive the spread of television media. Through an ethnographic examination of the social organization of the global television marketplace, Bielby and Harrington make an important contribution that furthers understanding of the nature of global television business.”

The Grid Book, by Hannah B. Higgins (MIT, 2009). Emblematic of modernity, the grid gives form to everything from skyscrapers and office cubicles to Mondrian paintings and bits of computer code. And yet, as Hannah Higgins makes clear in this wide-ranging and revelatory book, the grid has a history that long predates modernity; it is the most prominent visual structure in Western culture. In The Grid Book, Higgins examines the history of ten grids that changed the world: the brick, the tablet, the gridiron city plan, the map, musical notation, the ledger, the screen, moveable type, the manufactured box, and the net. Charting the evolution of each grid, from the Paleolithic brick of ancient Mesopotamia through the virtual connections of the Internet, Higgins demonstrates that once a grid is invented, it may bend, crumble, or shatter, but its organizing principle never disappears. “Precisely identifies the grid as a tool of human cognitions, which has happened to have a profound effect on our visual culture throughout history” –Lorraine Wild, California Institute of the Arts

Image Bite Politics: News and the Visual Framing of Elections, by Maria Elizabeth Grabe and Erik Page Bucy (Oxford, 2009). "This smoothly-written, data-rich book is a powerful reminder of the importance of visual images in politics. The authors' research taps into multiple literatures including communication, psychology, political science and biology to present an extraordinarily well-rounded analysis of visual framing of elections. This unique study is essential reading for anyone who wants to know how political communication actually works during major electoral contests."--Doris Graber, Professor of Political Science, University of Illinois at Chicago

iMuslims: Rewriting the House of Islam, by Gary R. Bunt (University of North Carolina, 2009). “Picture of the Internet as a vehicle for transformation of mainstream Islam as well as a propaganda and recruitment tool for militants.”

Jews, God, and Videotape: Religion and Media in America, by Jeffrey Shandler (New York University, 2009). “Explores the impact of media and new communications technologies on Jewish religious life from early recordings of cantors to Hasidic outreach on the Internet.”

Journalism—1908, edited by Betty Houchin Winfield (University of Missouri, 2008). “Opens a window on mass communication a century ago... tells how the news media in the United States were fundamentally changed by the creation of academic departments and schools of journalism, by the founding of the National Press Club, and by exciting advances that included early newsreels, the introduction of halftones to print, and even changes in newspaper design….a team of well-known media scholars, all specialists in particular areas of journalism history… examine the status of their profession in 1908: news organizations, business practices, media law, advertising, forms of coverage from sports to arts, and more. Various facets of journalism are explored and situated within the country’s history and the movement toward reform and professionalism—not only formalized standards and ethics but also labor issues concerning pay, hours, and job differentiation that came with the emergence of new technologies.”

Living Virtually: Researching New Worlds, edited by Don Heider (Peter Lang, 2009). Communications scholars and sociologists weigh in on the study of online environments such as Second Life and Warcraft.

The Lure of Illustration in the Nineteenth Century: Picture and Press, edited by Laurel Brake and Marysa Demoor (Palgrave Macmillan, 2009). “Tackles the subject of illustration, technically, metaphorically and historically in nineteenth-century periodicals, displaying the ubiquity of the visual in the press: the articles cover material illustration, graphics, and design and metaphorical use of images in the letterpress, offering specific examples and theoretical approaches.”

Making a Difference: A Comparative View of the Role of the Internet in Election Politics, edited by Richard Davis et al (Lexington Books, 2008). Cross national analysis of the role of the Internet in elections.

Mosh the Polls: Youth Voters, Popular Culture, and Democratic Engagement, edited by Tony Kelso and Brian Cogan (Lexington Books, 2008). “Analysis from a variety of scholarly standpoints of the innovative ways in which both the political process and the entertainment industry appeal to voters under 30 and how these endeavors are received by the intended audience.”

The Networked Wilderness: Communicating in Early New England, by Matt Cohen (University of Minnesota, 2009). “Reconceptualizing aural and inscribed communication as a spectrum, The Networked Wilderness bridges the gap between the history of the book and Native American systems of communication. Cohen reveals that books, paths, recipes, totems, and animals and their sounds all took on new interactive powers as the English negotiated the well-developed information trails of the Algonquian East Coast and reported their experiences back to Europe. Native and English encounters forced all parties to think of each other as audiences for any event that might become a kind of “publication.”

Political Affect: Connecting the Social and the Somatic, by John Protevi (University of Minnesota, 2009). “Investigates the relationship between the social and the somatic: how our bodies, minds, and social settings are intricately and intimately linked…applies Protevi’s concept of political affect to show how unconscious emotional valuing shaped three recent, emotionally charged events: the cold rage of the Columbine High School slayings, the racialized panic that delayed rescue efforts in Hurricane Katrina, and the twists and turns of empathy occasioned by the Terry Schiavo case.”

Positioning in Media Dialogue: Negotiating Roles in the News Interview, by Elda Weizman (John Benjamins, 2008). This book proposes a socio-pragmatic exploration of the discursive practices used to construe and dynamically negotiate positions in news interviews. It starts with a discursive interpretation of ‘positioning’, ‘role’ and ‘challenge’, puts forward the relevance of a distinction between social and interactional roles, demonstrates how challenges bring to the fore the relevant roles and role-components of the participants, and shows that in news interviews speakers constantly position and re-position themselves and each other through discourse.

Punched-Card Systems and the Early Information Explosion, 1880-1945, by Lars Heide (Johns Hopkins, 2009). “The technology of the punch-card system and its impact on business, government and social control.”

Queer TV: Theories, Histories, Politics, edited by Glyn Davis and Gary Needham (Routledge, 2009). “Calling to mind Gil Scott-Heron's inspirational composition "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised," this volume fills a significant gap in the literature by addressing queer studies and media studies. Davis (Glasgow School of Art) and Needham (Nottingham Trent Univ., UK) divide the volume into three sections. The first, "Theories and Approaches," comprises essays that draw queerness and television together by discussing changes in the industry, applications of film theory, and the politics of representation. The second section, "Histories and Genres," interrogates particular genres, e.g., the gay magazine show and particular epochs from the 1970s through the 1990s, and sexual fluidity in contemporary television. The final section, "Television Itself," applies philosophy to the medium through queer investigations of timing, sound, and channel surfing (linked to the flaneur and to cruising). Thorough notes and references follow each essay. This book can be read in conjunction with Televising Queer Women, ed. by Rebecca Beirne (CH, Jun'08, 45-5405); The New Queer Aesthetic in Television, ed. by James Keller and Leslie Stratyner (2006); and Stephen Tropiano's The Prime Time Closet (2002).”

The Real Hiphop: Battling for Knowledge, Power, and Respect in the LA Underground, by Marcyliena Morgan (Duke University, 2009). “ Executive director of The Hip Hop Archive and one of the leading scholars of hip-hop culture, Morgan (Harvard) has written a thorough, inspiring ethnographic study that looks at West Coast hip-hop culture through the lens of the underground venue known as Project Blowed. In a series of interdisciplinary chapters (on African American studies, art, culture, politics, history, ethnography, ethnomusicology, and women's studies), the author addresses what she sees as the three intersecting areas of hip-hop culture: language, symbolism, identity; the cultural and social aspects of hip-hop; and the way hip-hop discourse styles affect spiritual, political, and international thinking and movements. The book's strengths are the numerous fascinating primary sources, especially the excerpts of rhymes recited during battles at Project Blowed …and its introductory chapter, in which Morgan offers the best concise scholarly history to date of hip-hop.”

Restless Genius: Barney Kilgore, The Wall Street Journal, and the Invention of Modern Journalism, by Richard Tofel (St. Martin’s Press, 2009). From modest midwestern roots, fresh out of college in 1929, Kilgore went to work for the tiny, fledgling New York financial paper the Wall Street Journal. Plainspoken and analytical, Kilgore loved his job, writing his parents frequently with news of the financial world. Tofel draws on that correspondence and Kilgore’s work at the Journal to offer an engaging look at the long career of the man who helped shape the newspaper as it grew in stature and circulation. On the eve of the Great Depression, Kilgore pioneered a more reader-friendly financial journalism, educating the reader and himself as he developed a distinctive voice and created the “What’s News” feature, among others. During Roosevelt’s first two terms, Kilgore gained a reputation as the leading financial journalist in the nation, switching attention from Wall Street to Washington, D.C., where government policy on the economic recovery held sway. Tofel traces Kilgore’s career—columnist, Washington bureau chief, general manager—through World War II, the 1954 showdown that fortified the separation of editorial and advertising, and the creation of the highly innovative National Observer, which failed after Kilgore’s death at age 56 in 1965. The current financial crisis adds to the timeliness of this fascinating look at a pioneer in journalism. --Vanessa Bush, Booklist

Satire TV: Politics and Comedy in the Post Network Era, by Jonathan Gray, Jeffrey Jones, Ethan Thompson (New York University, 2009). “Examines what happens when comedy becomes political, and politics become funny. A series of original essays focus on a range of programs, from The Daily Show to South Park, Da Ali G Show to The Colbert Report, The Boondocks to Saturday Night Live, Lil’ Bush to Chappelle’s Show, along with Internet D.I.Y. satire and essays on British and Canadian satire. They all offer insights into what today’s class of satire tells us about the current state of politics, of television, of citizenship, all the while suggesting what satire adds to the political realm that news and documentaries cannot.”

The Sopranos, by Dana Polan (Duke, 2009). Dana Polan proves that close, careful narrative analysis can provide prescient insights about television’s increasingly sophisticated practices to which broader cultural and industrial accounts are blind.”—John Thornton Caldwell, author of Production Culture: Industrial Reflexivity and Critical Practice in Film and Television

Street Dreams and Hip Hop Barbershops: Global Fantasy in Urban Tanzania, by Brad Weiss (Indiana University, 2009). “Ethnography of barbershops as centers for popular culture in Tanzania.”

Susanne Langer in Focus: The Symbolic Mind, by Robert Innis (Indiana University, 2009). “Study of the American philosopher who explored memory construction through symbolic forms.”

Toward a Sociological Theory of Information, by Harold Garfinkel (Paradigm, 2008). In 1952 at Princeton University, Harold Garfinkel developed a sociological theory of information. Other prominent theories then being worked out at Princeton, including game theory, neglected the social elements of information, modeling a rational individual whose success depends on completeness of both reason and information. In real life these conditions are not possible and these approaches therefore have always had limited and problematic practical application. Garfinkel s sociological theory treats information as a thoroughly organized social phenomenon in a way that addresses these shortcomings comprehensively. Although famous as a sociologist of everyday life, Garfinkel focuses in this new book never before published on the concerns of large-scale organization and decision making. In the fifty years since Garfinkel wrote this treatise, there has been no systematic treatment of the problems and issues he raises. Nor has anyone proposed a theory of information like the one he proposed. Many of the same problems that troubled theorists of information and predictable order in 1952 are still problematic today.

TV By Design: Modern Art and the Rise of Network Television, by Lynn Spigel (University of Chicago, 2009). "TV by Design is an extraordinary examination of television in specific cultural contexts. As in her earlier book, Make Room for TV, Lynn Spigel has uncovered—or recovered—details that alter our histories of the medium, especially as related to other arts. For those who experienced it in the years she examines, the rush of memory and the re-placement of images, scenes, and personalities are sharp reminders of why TV became and remains so important."--Horace Newcomb, editor of Encyclopedia of Television.

TV China, edited by Ying Zhu and Chris Berry (Indiana, 2009). If radio and film were the emblematic media of the Maoist era, television has rapidly established itself as the medium of the "marketized" China and in the diaspora. In less than two decades, television has become the dominant medium across the Chinese cultural world. TV China is the first anthology in English on this phenomenon. Covering the People's Republic, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and the Chinese diaspora, these 12 original essays introduce and analyze the Chinese television industry, its programming, the policies shaping it, and its audiences.

World at Risk, by Ulrich Beck (Polity, 2009). “Beck deploys the concept of risk as a sharply focused flashlight that allows him to see what is typically obscured by dominant notions and explanations. This becomes a process of discovery, rare in the social sciences today, concerned as they are with proof. He brilliantly conceptualizes these discoveries in terms of categories not usually used in risk analysis, such as cosmopolitanism. A must-read book.” Saskia Sassen, Columbia University

Youtube, by Jean Burgess, and Joshua Green (Polity, 2009). “An important and timely contribution to the literature on participatory culture and media.” –Nancy Baym, University of Kansas

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