Thursday, September 25, 2014

September CommQuote

Richard Kearney wrote a very thought provoking piece in The New York Times last month on the sense of touch in the virtual world. Dr. Kearney,  a philosophy professor at Boston College, teaches a class on eros beginning with Plato on up through the digital age. Talking to students about modern dating practices involving services like OkCupid, SpeedDate, and the like led to these musings:

"We noted the rather obvious paradox: The ostensible immediacy of sexual contact was in fact mediated digitally. And it was also noted that what is often thought of as a ''materialist'' culture was arguably the most ''immaterialist'' culture imaginable -- vicarious, by proxy, and often voyeuristic. Is today's virtual dater and mater something like an updated version of Plato's Gyges, who could see everything at a distance but was touched by nothing? Are we perhaps entering an age of ''excarnation,'' where we obsess about the body in increasingly disembodied ways? For if incarnation is the image become flesh, excarnation is flesh become image. Incarnation invests flesh; excarnation divests it...

For all the fascination with bodies, our current technology is arguably exacerbating our carnal alienation. While offering us enormous freedoms of fantasy and encounter, digital eros may also be removing us further from the flesh.

Pornography, for example, is now an industry worth tens of billions of dollars worldwide. Seen by some as a progressive sign of post-60s sexual liberation, pornography is, paradoxically, a twin of Puritanism. Both display an alienation from flesh -- one replacing it with the virtuous, the other with the virtual. Each is out of touch with the body." 
--August 31, "Losing Our Touch," The New York Times

Friday, September 12, 2014

American Consumer Culture: Market Research and American Business, 1935-1965

This summer Penn Libraries added to its digital collections, American Consumer Culture: Market Research and American Business, 1935-1965, a rich trove of market research reports and supporting documents of Ernest Dichter, “the era’s foremost consumer analyst and market research pioneer,” and his Institute for Motivational Research. These materials derive from research commissioned by advertising agencies and global businesses from around the world. “Immensely influential, Dichter’s Freud-inspired studies put the consumer “on the couch” and emphasised the unconscious motives behind consumer behaviour. The Institute of Motivational Research employed trained social scientists and used established methodologies to conduct psychological research. Dichter’s career reached its peak after Vance Packard’s bestselling exposé The Hidden Persuaders (1957) presented Dichter as a mastermind manipulator who could exploit the emotions of consumers for the benefit of any advertising agency or big brand.” –from the Archive’s Nature and Scope section

With this resource communication students (as well as researchers of consumer culture, marketing, advertising, and psychology) can not only access final reports and pilot studies for the great campaigns of advertising’s golden age, but also peer behind the scenes via proposals and letters back and forth between the Institute and its clients. The campaigns under scrutiny cover a wide range of industries—automobiles,cleaning products, electronics, energy and utilities, food and drink, hair and beauty, personal products, tobacco, toys and games, and more.  Research on communication industries are also in the mix--advertising itself, broadcasting, media and publishing, and motion pictures. That the Institute employed a variety of research methods, some in their early stages of development, is especially appealing to social scientists who are able to isolate methods (interview, focus group, case studies, test, questionnaire, and diary) regardless of products or brands by a simple key word search strategy. Of course, one can also search the archive by titles, brand names, companies, and commissioners. Searches can be restricted by industries, document types (letters, reports, etc.), or language.  Bear in mind the scope of this resource is not limited to the United States as Dichter had offices in Paris, Rome, Zurich, and Frankfurt.
I did a brand search on Volvo and retrieved two reports from 1969: Why Does an American Buy a Volvo? A proposal For a Motivation Research Study; and How To Make It Even Better—A Motivation Study of Ten New Opportunities for Marketing Volvo in the USA.  Keywords assigned to the latter report are: automobile, marketing, car, brand choice, reputation, price, pricing, word-of-mouth advertising, corporate image, market segmentation, symbolism, name.

Political campaigns also called on Dichter and his people so I thought I'd try a quick “anywhere” search on the word “presidential.”  29 results appeared including reports on what can be done to make more Americans vote (1952), the personality characteristics of undecided voters (1969), and FDR’s radio history (1945) which contains a table illustrating the parallel between the number of radio sets in use and the number of ballots cast in presidential elections from 1920-1940. 
This is really an interesting resource to browse (check out the Ad Gallery) and if you are going in for something specific you may be richly rewarded without having to travel to the Hagley Museum and Library in Wilmington where Dichter's papers reside.

Labels: , , , , ,

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Fall Books

African Americans in the History of Mass Communication: A Reader, by Naeemah Clark  (Peter Lang, 2014). Stories ranging from the Civil War to the Civil Rights Era, which include different forms of media from cinema and music to newspapers and public relations raising questions that generate thought about scholarship and history.

Al Jazeera and the Global Media Landscape: The South Is Talking Back, by Tine Ustad Figenschou (Routledge, 2014). Traces how Al Jazeera English became the go-to channel for following the Arab Spring in 2011, studying production practices, policies and the content of AJE and how they differ from Anglo-American news sources.

Beyond the Checkpoint: Visual Practices in America’s Global War on Terror, by Rebecca Adelman (University of Massachusetts, 2014). Author contends that "in viewing images such as security footage of the 9/11 hijackers, film portrayals of the attacks and subsequent wars, memorials commemorating the attacks, and even graphics associated with increased security in airports, American citizens have been recast as militarized spectators, brought together through the production, circulation, and consumption of these visual artifacts." --Publisher's description

Breaking Bad: Critical Essays on the Contexts, Politics, Style, and Reception of the Television Series, edited by David P. Pierson (Lexington Books, 2014). A collection of essays that address the cultural context and politics of the series as well as its stylistic features (visual, aural and narrative construct). 

Broadcasting Buildings: Architecture on the Wireless, 1927-1945 by Shundana Yusaf (MIT, 2014). “How the BBC shaped popular perceptions of architecture and placed them at the heart of debates over participatory democracy”—Publisher’s description

The Construction of National Identity in Taiwan’s Media, 1896-2012, by Chien-Jung Hsu (Brill, 2014). Comprehensive analysis of the development of Taiwan’s media and the construction of its national identity through the media. 

Copyfight: The Global Politics of Digital Copyright Reform, by Blayne Haggart (University of Toronto, 2014). "Examines the 1996 World Intellectual Property Organization internet treaties that began the current digital copyright regime. Blayne Haggart follows the WIPO treaties from negotiation to implementation from the perspective of three countries: the United States, Canada, and Mexico. Using extensive interviews with policymakers and experts in these three countries, Haggart argues that not all the power is in the hands of the U.S. government. Small countries can still set their own course on copyright legislation, while growing public interest in copyright issues means that even the United States might move away from ever-increasing copyright protection."--Publisher's description

Electronic Iran: The Cultural Politics of an Online Evolution, by Niki Akhavan (Rutgers, 2014).  “…focuses largely on the years between 1998 and 2012 to reveal a diverse and combative virtual landscape where both geographically and ideologically dispersed individuals and groups deployed Internet technologies to variously construct, defend, and challenge narratives of Iranian national identity, society, and politics. While it tempers celebratory claims that have dominated assessments of the Iranian Internet, Electronic Iran is ultimately optimistic in its outlook. –Publisher’s description
Excommunication: Three Inquiries in Media and Mediation, by Alexander R. Galloway, Eugene Thacker, and McKenzie Wark (University of Chicago, 2014). “At a moment when media theory seems both ubiquitous and amorphous, more necessary than ever, yet often trapped in old paradigms or infatuated with new technology, Excommunication makes a timely and provocative intervention. There’s so much intellectual ferment in this historically informed, radically contemporary volume that it might well be a founding document—has the New York school of media theory finally arrived.Thomas Bartscherer, Bard College

Globalized Arts: The Entertainment Economy and Cultural Identity, by J. P. Singh (Columbia, 2014). “Focusing on the confrontation between global politics and symbolic creative expression… shows how, by integrating themselves into international markets, entertainment industries give rise to far-reaching cultural anxieties and politics. With examples from Hollywood, Bollywood, French grand opera, Latin American television, West African music, postcolonial literature, and even the Thai sex trade, Singh cites not only the attempt to address cultural discomfort but also the effort to deny entertainment acts as cultural. He connects creative expression to clashes between national identities, and he details the effect of cultural policies, such as institutional patronage and economic incentives, on the making and incorporation of art into the global market.” –Publisher’s description

Finding Ourselves at the Movies: Philosophy for a New Generation, by Paul W. Kahn (Columbia, 2014). “A marriage between film and philosophy written without pretension or technical language. Fifty years ago, Pauline Kael famously 'lost it at the movies’; now Paul Kahn has found it. Film, Kahn explains, is not just about losing your innocence, it is about finding your 'self'—and that is and always has been the project of philosophy. You may not agree with Kahn’s interpretation of particular films, but you will always be enlightened." — Alan A. Stone, Harvard University
Human Rights and Information Communication Technologies: Trends and Consequences of Use, by John Lannon and Edward F. Halpin (IGI Global, 2013). Provides broad examination of the use and application of ICTs in the realm of human rights.

Illusions in Motion: Media Archaeology of the Moving Panorama and Related Spectacles, by Erikki Huhtamo (MIT, 2014). “As one of the leading proponents of media archaeology, Huhtamo's achievement is not only to recuperate the forgotten moving panorama to media history, but also to demonstrate how it offers innovative insights into the historical formation of media culture...A model undertaking of media archaeology.” -- Susan Potter Media International Australia

It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens, by Danah Boyd (Yale, 2014). "An exhaustively researched study of how teens use technology . . . and a manifesto on how parents as individuals and society as a whole let young people down when they insist on protection and paternalism over media literacy and critical thinking. Even readers who are not parents, or teens, may well find this one of the most interesting books of the year."—Amy Benfer, Los Angeles Times

The Memory of Sound: Preserving the Sonic Past, by Seán Street (Routledge, 2014) “Explores our capacity to remember through sound and how we can help ourselves preserve a sense of self through the continuity of memory. In so doing, he analyzes how the brain is triggered by the memory of programs, songs, and individual sounds. He then examines the growing importance of sound archives, community radio and current research using GPS technology for the history of place, as well as the potential for developing strategies to aid Alzheimer's and dementia patients through audio memory.” –Publisher’s description

The Multimediated Rhetoric of the Internet: Digital Fusion, by Carolyn Handa (Routledge, 2014). “…argues that as our lives become increasingly digital, we must consider rhetoric applicable to more than just printed text or to images. Digital analysis demands our acknowledgement of digital fusion, a true merging of analytic skills in many media and dimensions. CDs, DVDs, and an Internet increasingly capable of streaming audio and video prove that literacy today means more than it used to, namely the ability to understand information, however presented. Handa considers pedagogy, professional writing, hypertext theory, rhetorical studies, and composition studies, moving analysis beyond merely 'using' the web towards 'thinking' rhetorically about its construction and its impact on culture.” –Publisher’s description

New Media Influence on Social and Political Change in Africa, by Anthony A. Olorunnisola and Aziz Douai (IGI Global, 2014). “Addresses the development of new mass media and communication tools and its influence on social and political change. While analyzing democratic transitions and cultures with a theoretical perspective, this book also presents case studies and national experiences for media, new media, and democracy scholars and practitioners.” –Publisher’s description  

Oil and Water: Media Lessons From Hurricane Katrina and the Deep-Water Horizon Disaster, by Andrea Miller, Shearon Roberts, and Victoria La Poe (University of Mississippi, 2014). The authors examine the quality of the content of  newspaper and television coverage of the Katrina and oil spill disasters and its effect on the public.

Phantasmal Media: An Approach to Imagination, Computation, and Expression, by D. Fox Harrell (MIT Press, 2014). “Bold and audacious view of the relationship between computing and the imagination [that] blends a very broad range of multicultural references with perspectives from the sciences, humanities, and arts to present an unprecedented vision of how people and machines can come together to forge not only new software systems, but a new ethics and politics of the human condition.”—George E. Lewis, Columbia University

Playing with Religion in Digital Games, edited by Heidi A. Campbell and Gregory P. Grieve (Indiana University Press, 2014).  "Games and gods are very old partners, but this book shows they are also on the cutting edge of religious studies today. The editors have assembled a wonderful range of essays that advance the conversation, soar over traditional boundaries, and ought to work like a charm in the classroom. The task of scrutinizing religion in gaming is important because the issues are play, imagination, leisure, and vast sums of capital. If the sacred does not shimmer in the hand-held screens of modern entertainment, then its fire has gone out of the universe—until, of course, it returns in the shape of a dark-caped knight and a gleaming sword…" —David Morgan, Duke University

Rhetoric of a Global Epidemic: Transcultural Communication About SARS, by Huiling Ding (Southern Illinois University Press, 2014). "Focusing on the rhetorical interactions among the World Health Organization, the United States, China, and Canada, Ding investigates official communication and community grassroots risk tactics employed during the SARS outbreak. [The book] consists of four historical cases, which examine the transcultural risk communication about SARS in different geopolitical regions at different stages. The first two cases deal with risk communication practices at the early stage of the SARS epidemic when it originated in southern China. The last two cases move to transcultural rhetorical networks surrounding SARS." --Publisher's website

Social Media in Disaster Response: How Experience Architects Can Build for Participation, by Liza Potts (Routledge, 2014). “Focuses on how emerging social web tools provide researchers and practitioners with new opportunities to address disaster communication and information design for participatory cultures. Both groups, however, currently lack research toolkits for tracing participant networks across systems; there is little understanding of how to design not just for individual social web sites, but how to design across multiple systems. Given the volatile political and ecological climate we are currently living in, the practicality of understanding how people communicate during disasters is important both for those researching solutions and for those putting that research into practice.” —Publisher’s description

Twitter and Society, edited by Katrin Well, Axel Bruns, Jean Burgess, Merja Mahrt, and Cornelius Puschmann (Peter Lang, 2014). “…timely collection, bringing together noted scholars and academics who work in the area, offers important insight into Big Data through a focus on the most important real-time stream message bus today, namely Twitter …a key text for providing empirical and methodological reflection on a fast-moving and important area of research.” –David M. Berry, Co-Director, Centre for Material Digital Culture at Sussex University

The Watchdog That Didn’t Bark: The Financial Crisis and the Disappearance of Investigative Journalism, by Dean Starkman (Columbia, 2014).  “Analysis [is framed] in a broad argument about journalism itself, dividing the profession into two competing approaches—access reporting and accountability reporting—which rely on entirely different sources and produce radically different representations of reality. As Starkman explains, access journalism came to dominate business reporting in the 1990s, a process he calls 'CNBCization,' and rather than examining risky, even corrupt, corporate behavior, mainstream reporters focused on profiling executives and informing investors. Starkman concludes with a critique of the digital-news ideology and corporate influence, which threaten to further undermine investigative reporting, and he shows how financial coverage, and journalism as a whole, can reclaim its bite.” –Publisher’s description

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Network for New Media, Religion and Digital Culture Studies

The  Network for New Media, Religion and Digital Culture Studies is a useful hub for scholars and researchers interested in "questions emerging at the intersections of religion, the internet and new, social and mobile media" to meet.

Founded in 2010, the site includes an extensive (500-plus items) bibliography resting heavily on the convenient shoulders of Google Scholar as well as a Scholars Index of around 200 members from around the world. The Index is comprised of the list of members with individual links to brief bio and affiliation info. Expertise tags are liberally applied to these profiles. Art Bamford's expertise lies with media ecology, orality, literacy, music recording technology, music production technology, and Stevie Wonder. Good stuff. 

A nice feature is the News section which is updated on a regular basis. I notice there is a submission today.  The submission before that was 4 days previous and that seems to be about the pace.  The most recent stories feature a gospel app development contest being encouraged by the Mormon Church, a columnist from the Times-Gazette.com calling the Bible "God's Facebook," and a 3-D game developed by the American Bible Society. It looks like these news items are intended to be crowd-sourced but it's pretty much the same few folks posting.

The site is clean and attractive, pushing all the latest related books, even jobs in the field.  The blog section offers more extended (compared to the posts in News) reflections on current research, but these articles are still quite brief. The site is informative and happening, but not time-consuming, especially for lurkers.

That's my little tour of the site. Did I mention it's "located" at Texas A&M University where it was launched with the help of their Initiative for Digital Humanities, Media, and Culture.

Labels: , , ,

Web Analytics