New Books in Communications
Summary: Discussions with Communications Scholars about their New Books
Peter J. GloviczkiView on AmazonHumans have coped with tragedy using ritual and memorials since the Neolithic era. Doka called a memorial a space invested with meaning, "set aside to commemorate an event such as a tragedy." Memorialization is a ritual of bereavement, the creation of a place, permanent or not, that facilitates the persistence of memory. This space allows for the restructuring of the social network between the living, those who create the memorial, and the dead, those for which the memorial is created. Memorialization happens in both the analog and digital contexts. In fact, some now decline to recognize a distinction between the on- and offline worlds. In his new book, Journalism and Memorialization in the Age of Social Media (Palgrave MacMillan, 2015), Peter J. Gloviczki, an assistant professor at Coker College, conceptualizes online memorials as networked remembrance spaces. These social media posts and groups are "immediate, interactive and public and they function across a great distance." Online memorials are both user-driven – the users drive the conversations and are responsible for keeping up the sites – and story-driven – the sites are places where users tell stories related to the subject(s) of the memorial. Thorough, fact-based journalism plays an important role in the maintenance of online memorials. According to Gloviczki, news reports provide the foundation for the discussion of events, as well as being central to making sense of those events. So significant is journalism for online memorials that, in some cases, a memorial will cease once coverage of that event ends. But many online memorials continue long after media interests concludes. The persistence of these sites demonstrates how online memorials "disrupt the notion of a finite end."
Chris WellsView on AmazonHow has the digital revolution changed communication? In The Civic Organization and The Digital Citizen: Communicating Engagement in the Networked Age (Oxford University Press 2015), Chris Wells examines the ways that organizations have negotiated the changing communications landscape, sometimes failing to fully understand the expectations of younger people. Wells is an assistant professor in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Megan PrelingerView on AmazonMegan Prelinger's beautiful new book brings together the histories of technology and visuality to ask the question, "What cultural history of electronics can be extrapolated from a close look at the associated graphic art?" Inside the Machine: Art and Invention in the Electronic Age (W. W. Norton, 2015) treats the commercial and advertising art of the mid-twentieth century as an archive to explore the social and cultural engagement with electronics technologies during a particularly vibrant moment for the American graphic commercial arts. Incorporating text and image as sources to be read, Prelinger's book moves from the beginnings of FM technology and vacuum tubes, to televisions and quartz crystals, to transistors and circuit boards, to digital computing and into space. Of special interest is the attention Prelinger pays to to the importance of graphic designers and staff artists at major labs and research centers. The book models an innovative and inspiring way to read graphic images as historical documents, and the story is a pleasure to read for specialists and non-experts alike.
Jérôme BourdonJérôme Bourdon's Histoire de la télévision sous de Gaulle (Presses des Mines, 2014) is a revised version of a book that first appeared in 1990. This edition has been revamped, and includes a new introduction in which Bourdon explores the historiography of the medium in the years since the book's original publication. A history of television that is also a history of the De Gaulle presidency and the early years of the Fifth Republic, Histoire de la télévision sous de Gaulle examines a range of issues, from government legislation to programming and content, to the variety of personnel (directors, producers, technicians, administrators) who made television happen during this "era of professionalization". Exploring the medium as both information and entertainment, the book considers the relationship between television and the cinema, situating television within the broader cultural and political history of France during this critical period. Covering key events and turning points, including the introduction of a second channel in 1964 and a key directors' strike in 1965, the book also charts the years leading up to 1968 in France, exploring the impact that TV and les événements had upon one another. This new edition considers the history of TV in light of the technological and cultural developments of the last twenty-five years (reality TV, the Internet) and the new (especially audiovisual) archival material available to researchers of television's past in France. Bringing together the analysis of government policy, culture, and labour, the book is vital reading for anyone interested in the history of the French media and/or the Fifth Republic's crucial first decade.
John Durham PetersView on Amazon[Cross-posted from the NBN Seminar] John Durham Peters' wonderful new book is a brilliant and beautifully-written consideration of natural environments as subjects for media studies. Accessible and informative for a broad readership. The Marvelous Clouds: Toward a Philosophy of Elemental Media (University of Chicago Press, 2015) is structured as a series of meditations on and explorations of water, fire, air, earth, and ether media. After a chapter that sets out some of the foundational ideas shaping the book and charts an intellectual landscape for rethinking media, each of the following chapters offers a carefully curated series of studies of particulars – dolphin jaws, candles, towers, watches, clouds, feet, bells, weathermen, Google, and more – as a means of examining the significance of infrastructure, forgetting, technicity, and other modes of understanding media. Peters asks us to come with a fresh perspective to notions that we otherwise take for granted, and the result is a thoughtful and inspiring account that brings together media studies, theology, philosophy, and the natural sciences in thoroughly compelling ways. Among other things, the book is a call for a "greener media studies" that "appreciates our long natural history of shaping and being shaped by our habitats as a process of mediation." What if, Peters asks, we took nature instead of the mind as the "epitome of meaning"? What are the stakes of doing so? The result is among the most exciting and enjoyable books that I've read in some time.
View on AmazonBy now it is incontrovertible that new technology has had an effect on how regular people get information. Whether in the form of an online newspaper or a Google search, new technology has allowed individuals to access masses of information faster than ever before. What, then, has been the effect of digital tools on research practices? In their new book Knowledge Machines: Digital Transformations of the Sciences and Humanities (MIT Press, 2015), Eric T. Meyer, Associate Professor and Senior Research Fellow at the Oxford Internet Institute, and Ralph Schroeder, Professor at the Oxford Internet Institute, explore how digital tools have transformed research. To do this, Meyer and Schroeder use case studies to examine how new technology has, and continues to, change research in various fields, and what this means for the future of e-research.
Katie EllisView on AmazonPopular culture has been transformed in its attitudes towards disability, as representations across media forms continues to respond to the contemporary politics of disability. In Disability and Popular Culture: Focusing Passion, Creating Community and Expressing Defiance (Ashgate, 2015), Katie Ellis, a Senior Research Fellow at Curtin University, uses critical perspectives from disability studies to both challenge and celebrate the place of disability in popular culture. The book thinks through ideas of beauty, the role of children's toys, representations in television and music, as well as science fiction and sport. Alongside the range of sites of disability and popular culture, the book closes with a case study of social media and the limits of inspirational images. The book is essential reading for cultural studies scholars, but raises important questions for a general readership.
Hilary NeroniView on AmazonDid you notice that after 9/11, the depiction of torture on prime-time television went up nearly seven hundred percent? Hilary Neroni did. She had just finished a book on the changing relationship between female characters and violence in narrative cinema, and was attuned to function of violence in film and television. This was around the time the Abu Ghraib torture photos were leaked to the public. Over the next 10 years, torture porn appeared in the Saw and Hostel films, and it seemed that torture quickly became a routine element of thriller plots in movies and TV, such as the series 24. In The Subject of Torture: Psychoanalysis and Biopolitics in Television and Film (Columbia University Press, 2015), Neroni makes a compelling case that, prior to 9/11, the stage had already been set for the dehumanizing fantasy of torture to appear in mass culture – via biopolitics. With this book, Neroni takes on the task of defining and understanding torture through a psychoanalytic lens, using films and television as case studies. The book is both compelling and readable, and argues that the fantasy and depiction of torture play a role as an ideology in national politics and policy, and that it's all more complicated than it seems–once you stop averting your eyes. Hilary Neroni teaches in the Film and Television Studies Program at the University of Vermont and is also the author of The Violent Woman: Femininity, Narrative, and Violence in Contemporary American Cinema. Her areas of interest include representations of gender and race in contemporary American film, violence in film, women directors, documentary film/video, feminist theory, psychoanalysis, and Marxism. She has published essays on women directors (in particular Jane Campion and Claire Denis) and on issues surrounding gender and violence in the cinema.
Joseph R. DennisView on AmazonIn late imperial China, how did local elites connect with and influence the central government? How was local information made and managed? How did the state incorporate frontier areas into the empire? How were books produced and read, and by whom? In his new book, Joseph R. Dennis helps answer these questions and more by studying the genre of local gazetteers. Focusing on the Ming period, Writing, Publishing, and Reading Local Gazetteers in Imperial China, 1100-1700 (Harvard University Asia Center, 2015) argues that gazetteers were "important points of intersection between the central government and local societies and one of the main vehicles for transmitting local information to central government officials." In seven chapters that collectively move readers through the life cycle of a gazetteer, Dennis's story informs the histories of the frontier, the state, kinship, the law, material culture, and the book industry. It will be a must-read for all scholars and students of late imperial Chinese history.
Gillian Isaacs RussellView on AmazonAt New Books in Psychoanalysis, interviews are conducted using Skype. As the program is audio rather than video based, it never occurred to me to use the camera on my computer to see on the screen the person I was speaking to. Rather, I kept my ear turned acutely towards the authors, hanging on their every word while privately perusing my list of questions. I have joked with many interviewees that for all I know they are in their pajamas or naked. Truth be told, I have had no interest in seeing the authors during the interview. There was and is something about having the experience that the listener has on hearing, rather than seeing, the interview that may play a role in creating a certain kind of intensity and intimacy. So it was not lost on me that for this particular interview with Gillian Isaacs Russell about a book that looks straightforwardly at the impact of technology on the therapeutic relationship, that we would not be making eye contact. Though we could, I requested that we not do so. And anyway, of course, if you have used it, eye contact is actually impossible on Skype. We can see each other but we cannot lock orbs. Our interview, as you will hear, is full of the same kinds of problems that one might have when working with a patient over the ether. At one point there is a bizarre reverb and everything Isaacs Russell says comes out in triplicate. We did not lose the connection though this has happened to me on several occasions while playing my interlocutory part. And of course we both had our anxieties about the capacity of the technology to connect us and to keep us connected but do bear in mind that we are not analyst and patient. Our relationship is layered with much less meaning or significance than that of the analytic couple. If the technology disconnected us, we would not wonder if it was something that one of us said. No one would have hurt feelings. We could keep it impersonal. In Screen Relations: The Limits of Computer-Mediated Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy (Karnac, 2015), Isaacs Russell asks a key question of psychoanalysts: what might be lost in working this way? The interview explores reasons why analysts have jumped in to use Skype and explores what the implications might be of the loss of two bodies in a room together. Her thinking is clear and the ideas she pits forth I found haunting. The age old question of what makes a treatment psychoanalysis came to mind when reading this book as I wondered if you can't smell the patient, if there is not the risk of touch that is not acted upon, if there is not the walk out the door when the session is over, is essential grist for the mill irreparably lost?
Kate PahlView on AmazonLiterary practices are often associated with specific social groups in particular social settings. Kate Pahl's Materializing Literacies in Communities: The Uses of Literacy Revisited (Bloomsbury, 2014) challenges these assumptions by showing the varieties of literary practice in Rotherham, England. The book engages with the locally particular to draw out a variety of general findings, relevant to methodological reflection and material culture debates. The book draws on a wealth of projects from the AHRC funded Connected Communities programme, including Fishing as Wisdom, The Imagine Project, and Language as Talisman. The book represents an important intervention into how we understand community, literacy and identity.
Joseph M. ReagleView on AmazonWhat do we know about the individuals who make comments on online news stories, blogs, videos and other media? What kind of people take the time to post all manner of information and context to material created by others? Joseph M. Reagle, assistant professor of communication studies at Northeastern University and a faculty associate at Harvard University's Berkman Center for Internet and Society, examines these online pontificators and provocateurs in his new book Reading the Comments: Likers, Haters and Manipulators at the Bottom of the Web (MIT, 2015). Reagle categorizes the different kinds of comments, thereby organizing the different kinds of commenters into groups. In addition, Reagle considers both the function and value of comments in society. Just listen.
Leonard CassutoView on AmazonThe discontented graduate student is something of a cultural fixture in the U.S. Indeed theirs is a sorry lot. They work very hard, earn very little, and have very poor prospects. Nearly all of them want to become professors, but most of them won't. Indeed a disturbingly large minority of them won't even finish their degrees. It's little wonder graduate students are, as a group, somewhat depressed. In his thought-provoking book The Graduate School Mess: What Caused It and How We Can Fix It (Harvard University Press, 2015), Leonard Cassuto tries to figure out why graduate education in the U.S. is in such a sad state. More importantly, he offers a host of fascinating proposals to "fix" American graduate schools. Listen in.
Nicole StarosielskiView on AmazonNicole Starosielski's new book brings an environmental and ecological consciousness to the study of digital media and digital systems, and it is a must-read. The Undersea Network (Duke University Press, 2015) looks carefully and imaginatively at the geography of undersea cable networks, paying special attention to the materiality of network infrastructure and its relationships with the histories of the Pacific. The book revises what we think we know about the infrastructure of global networks: they are not "wireless," but wired; not rhizomatic and distributed, but semicentralized; not deterritorialized, but "territorially entrenched"; not resilient, but precarious and vulnerable; and not urban, but rural and aquatic. After providing a broad overview of three major eras of cable development – the copper cables of the 1850s-1950s, the coaxial cables of the 1950s-1980s, and the fiber-optic cables of the 1990s on, in each case focusing on the importance of security, insulation, and interconnection – Starosielski analyzes how cables have become embedded into existing natural and cultural environments in a number of specific sites in Hawai'i, California, New Zealand, British Columbia, Tahiti, Guam, Fiji, Yap, and beyond. Countering the rhetorical pull of terms like "flow" that tend to provoke an approach to media that is deterritorializing and dematerializing, Starosielski instead turns readers' attention to the ecological dimension of media and the fixed, material investments grounding today's communication networks. It is a brilliant book that deserves a wide readership. Don't miss the website that is woven together with the book: www.surfacing.in.
Randy NicholsView on AmazonVideo games have become an important cultural and economic force in our media environment. In his new book, The Video Game Business (British Film Institute, 2014), scholar Randy Nichols provides an overview of the increasingly diverse global market for video games. Nichols locates the origins of the video game industry back to the dawn of the computer age in the 1960s. He then explores the emergence of an industry around video games, noting the interdependence of hardware and software across a number of key "epochs": from consoles to computer gaming to the explosion of mobile gaming. Throughout the book, Nichols explores key moments of transition in video games by providing institutional profiles of key industrial players in the industry. His critical analysis of power in the video game industry also explores the role of labor and audiences.