Challenges Facing Online Journalism in Saudi Arabia
Online journalism imposed itself on the media scene in Saudi Arabia as a strong competitor to traditional newspapers, partly due to the emergence of a new generation that does not bother to read the news in traditional newspapers. Online journalism has an advantage over traditional newspapers by publishing text and images together to deliver a message, which will attract the attention of the visitor as much as possible. There are other advantages provided by online newspapers for their readers; for example speed in publishing the news and monitoring of it moment by moment contrary to traditional newspapers that take longer, as well as an absence of censorship of the press materials that are published because the Internet is an open world.
In fact, Saudi online journalism faces many difficulties and most important challenges, for example:
Many online newspapers in Saudi Arabia suffer financial difficulties related to inadequate funding and paying their expenses.
There is a lack of planning and clarity of vision for the future of this type of media.
The scarcity of specialist online journalists. This meant a difficult beginning for some online newspapers in the early years and put them in the Indictment Chamber and questioned about their credibility and professionalism by their competitors in the traditional media.
– There are no profits for online journalism through advertising as is the case in the traditional newspapers, as advertisers still lack confidence in online journalism. Additionally, traditional newspapers still dominate the ad market in Saudi Arabia, despite the limited distribution of paper-based newspapers in Saudi Arabia, the largest of which does not exceed 300 thousand copies, while some Saudi online newspapers are visited by a million visitors per day.
Magic, Suggestion and Immersive Experience
Magic and theatre began as expressions of a world beyond the human and, in their finest forms, allow us to experience moments of wonder. Over time, these forms diverged, with theatre elevated to high art and magic relegated to mere spectacle. Despite this, magic has developed a collection of extraordinary, yet little-studied, techniques that make practical and intuitive reference to a cognitive approach to performance and provide a unique insight into what happens in an audience’s mind when they experience a piece of performance. In particular, this paper will make reference to the technique known as suggestion; the creation of embodied experience through the use of language and gesture. Examples of this technique include the alteration of memories and the induction of physical sensation. Magic has long made use of these techniques, and they are only now starting to be analysed in a theatrical, psychological and cognitive context.
Located within this largely unstudied area of performance studies are a series of powerful tools that directly relate to the highest ideals of a genuinely immersive theatre: to seemingly have the mediators of the experience removed; to have the experience reach out beyond the confines and conceits of the event, and to experience genuine embodied sensations and physiological responses generated only by words and thought and expectation.
Conducting The Rite of Spring
The Rite of Spring is widely viewed as one of the most influential pieces of Twentieth Century Classical music. The ballet’s explosive and technically challenging score, along with the primitive, folkloristic choreography by Nijinsky, proved to be a deadly concoction for the conservative Parisian audience in 1913. In fact, a ‘riot’ broke out in the theatre. Conductor Martyn Brabbins also stated that with the piece ‘Stravinsky single handedly changed the role and function of the conductor’. In this presentation I will investigate whether this is the case, whilst simultaneously exposing any myths that have developed around the ballet’s revolutionary impact.
I will attempt to reflect my methodology in the way I deliver the presentation, by incorporating some score analysis, performance observation, hermeneutic analysis (i.e. interpretative issues) whilst remaining aware of the ballet’s historical context. This will enable me to demonstrate how Stravinsky’s particular innovations in instrumentation, rhythm and choreography adjusted the expectations made on the conductor, as well as exposing the inevitable ‘myths’ that surround any composer of such prominence.
Tablet computers as scientific instruments
This paper is based on my current research into the use of tablet computers by laboratory-based research scientists. The paper analyses current laboratory uses of tablets by combining a historical outline of the study of scientific instruments with a philosophical account of what makes an object ‘scientific’. I conclude that tablet computers can be scientific instruments, and propose a new way to categorise instruments that better accommodates the complex role of these devices in the practice of science.
Discussing the (then) recent materialist turn in the history science, Van Helden & Hankins state “we assume that [instruments] are not merely tools for testing theory or exploring ideas. Because instruments determine what can be done, they also determine to some extent what can be thought” (1994: 4). The question of whether any given laboratory object is a tool or an instrument thus becomes incredibly important. If tablet computers are regarded as tools, then we can exclude them from the scientific process – ignore them like we ignore pencil and paper used in the lab to note down results. If they are regarded as instruments, then we must examine how they affect what can be thought.
Interview responses suggest that research scientists tend to treat their own tablets as tools. Yet increasingly popular apps such as LabGuru, Molecules and Wolfram Alpha demonstrate that tablets are being used in such a way that they may indeed determine what can be thought. I therefore argue that the tool/instrument dichotomy is insufficient to categorise tablet computers as scientific instruments, and ask whether tablets may be better considered as a new type of laboratory object.
Gender framed: exposing the thin ideal in pro-anorexia online spaces
The pro-anorexia or ‘pro-ana’ phenomenon has developed over the last decade as a result of new forms of networked communications, and continues to be highly contentious, although critical analysis has been limited. It operates across a raft of websites and forums which treat anorexia nervosa as a lifestyle choice; as such it has been accused of perpetuating anorexia and is subject to deletion by internet moderators. In this paper I critique the motivations behind such moves to censor, by calling into question the boundaries between mainstream deployments of the thin ideal and the ‘marginal’ pro-ana sites that such acts of censorship construct. I argue that pro-ana illustrates an extreme response to achieving a thin body while, simultaneously problematising the gender ideals to which it aspires.
Drawing upon examples from the sites themselves and mainstream popular culture, this paper will seek to show how the pro-anorexia phenomenon both acquiesces and resists the strictures of normative femininity, and in so doing reveals the illusory nature of gender ideals. I will explore pro-ana’s appropriation of everyday advertising and images of well-known celebrities; arguing that calls for censorship of the sites merely highlight anxieties around the ownership of the female body. I suggest that the condemnation of the pro-anorexia phenomenon implies that women do not have the authority to self-starve; instead they must passively accept such demands from a culture which perpetuates and profits from the thin ideal to justify hegemonic gender ideals.
The Currency of Cuteness: Innocence, Interval of Animal and Spatiality – Depictions of the Adorable Tomboy in Transnational Cinema
Cuteness has been embedded in the characteristics of the tomboy figure in literature, cinema and television from the start, think of the endearingly tough pose, the mischievous smile, a cheeky quip, the baggy boyish clothing, and endearing earnestness and courage under pressure. Cute children, and indeed cute tomboys have had a hold over popular culture, and in particular film audiences for many decades, and the tough yet adorable tomboy character has been well established. This tomboy is to be found, sometimes clothed in rags or practical clothing, tough and physically capable, dirty faced and stoical, as sidekick, alone, or as part of a family, but often undeniably adorable, and often with an equally raggedy and adorable animal in tow. In this paper I shall examine two transnational 21st century transnational films The cave of the yellow dog (2005) and Stray Dogs (2004). The Cave of The Yellow Dog, analyzing specific segments to reflect upon and question the value of “cuteness,” and the central tomboy trope of the dog and child/tomboy kinship. Also how cuteness takes a particularly queer form when it is embodied by the tomboy child of colour in a non Western and cinematic context. Rejecting the concept that there is a universalized and essentialised understanding of the “child” or of a “childhood.” There are many gender, race and age paradoxes and intersections, and historical and cultural precedence of the powerful hold of this tomboy character speak volumes about the need that any given culture has had for such big screen refections of the cute and innocent child.
Nomadism is a key concept employed in the aesthetics of Trinh T. Minh-ha in order to designate displacement within the context of a world linked by both literal and epistemological frontiers that cut across maps and cognitive fields. Nomadism is presented as a condition of displacement, but also as a mean of blurring boundaries and building new bridges. The insufficiency of vocabulary to translate across different poles and different cultures is evident once language itself is established in a rather artificial way. Words crystalize meanings, not accompanying the transitivity of the interjacent lines, the spaces in between what lyes underneath speech and speech in itself. As Trinh observes, silence is often used to describe exclusion. The verb to silence implies a restraint in speech. It is trivially employed as an imperative. Silence has a rather negative connotation. It is commonly employed on the opposite vortex from speech. Trinh points out that silence has multiple faces. It is more complex than mere binary oppositions. In fact, silence can be foreseen as something positive, as it can imply a serene absorbing response to otherness. The human body is inhabited by several layers of silence.
Thrinh T Minh-ha is concerned with the fragility of women identities, in context of coexistent layers of exclusion. Words are loaded of social meaning and stereotypical attributes that reinforce exclusion. The randomness of depreciative attributes must be taken into consideration, yet identities are more complex and imbricate than what falls under specific stereotypes and distinctions. Hegemony operates though the leveling of differences and standardization of trivial contexts and expectations. Identities are marked by these differences. Identity loss is often perceived as danger, and can be associated with a random mental illness, especially in women. This loss requires a new search, threatened by new traps that could capture them into other fixed universal identities
Dead Media and the Shadow Puppet
The puppet is the quintessential dead media. In my present practice and writing I am looking at how acts of puppetry can be restored from abandoned objects found in archives and re-performed with digital performance technology.
In the ‘ShadowEngine’ project, I explore the practicalities of digitising heritage shadow puppets. The projects go beyond simple interactive 3D models and present an approach where game technologies, physical simulations and tactile interactive strategies (multi-touch surfaces) permit the user/performer to animate in real-time articulated screen based figures. Puppets and performing objects ‘live’ in expressive contexts. The ‘ShadowEngine’ software and setup allows kinetic objects to be selected, operated, and placed in a scenographic context.
“… The notion of resurrecting dead media could prove farcical, futile, or more hopefully, deeply fertile. A broad accounting of the evolution of the apparatus, of the media image, of the history of the media effect, of excavating the embedded intellectual history, and so on, is surely the precursor of what will be an invaluable reconfiguration of a history largely focused on the device and its illusory images.” (Druckrey in Zielinski 2008, ix)
Digitisation is central to contemporary processes of archival storage and information retrieval. For books, images and video, digital optical recognition and scanning is commonplace, the act of curating geometry and surface qualities and textures of 3D objects through digitisation is emerging (e.g. the European 3D-Coform consortium). The use of portable 3D scanners to digitise heritage artefacts offers interesting models for the archiving of fragile kinetic material.
Druckrey, T. (2008). Foreword. In Zielinski, S., Deep Time of the Media: Toward an Archaeology of Hearing and Seeing by Technical Means. MIT Press.
Beyond Animal Blackface: Rediscovering the Performed Animal
The adoption of animal personae by human performers is both our most ancient known mode of performance and the most problematic. Since then, performance as animal has suffered at the hands of our ever-more-complex relationships with the animals around us to become a marginalised form unworthy of serious or even adult attention. However, not all anthropomorphism is created equal – animal blackface refers to that mode of performance-as-animal, typified by stereotypical, anthropocentric images and blindness to the genuinely animal, which is demeaning to subject, performer, and audience alike. Recognising that similar political/representational strategies are at work in both 19th century minstrel blackface and a large body of traditional anthropomorphic performance, this term serves not simply to distinguish between different varieties of such performance, but an investigation of the parallels between the two forms casts light on the temptations and dangers of representing the Other on stage, forcing us to reconsider the politics of representation is it applies – or not – to the non-human animal. Labelling such pernicious anthropomorphism as such also draws attention to the possibilites of more authentic animal performance. Far from being twee or naïve, a faithful attempt to communicate the non-linguistic realities of animal life is inherently post-dramatic, offering a counterbalance to the technotopian visions of machine post-humanism.
Dialogue, Text and Memory: The Production and Circulation of Literary Responses to the Post-Election Violence in Kenya
As the violent aftermath of Kenya’s 2007 elections unfolded a group of writers came together to form ‘Concerned Kenyan Writers’, a coalition that aimed to document and respond to the events taking place ‘using our writing skills to help save Kenya in this polarized time’. This paper will examine the role of social media in the formation of this group, as well as in the writing, circulation and reception of the literary responses to the post-election violence it produced. Drawing on theoretical frameworks from across memory studies, book history and African literature, it will explore the interaction between social media, literary networks and publishers in the creation and mediation of text and dialogue as cultural memory.
The paper will focus on:
the setting up of the Google group ‘Kenyan Writers’ in January 2008 to discuss, share and shape the writing and publication of literary responses to the post-election violence
the online production and circulation of literary responses to the post-election violence
the publication of literary journal Kwani 5 in 2009, bringing together fiction and creative non-fiction texts with the explicit aim of providing a ‘collective narrative on what we were before, and what we became during the epochal first 100 days of 2008’.
Tracing the complex relationship between the ‘Kenyan Writers’ Google group and the publications emerging from it, the paper will ask: What role did literary networks and publishers play in the creation and mediation of cultural memory? What is the relationship between ‘electronic’ and ‘print’ publication in the circulation and production of creative writing emerging from post-election violence? How might James Young’s idea of the ‘fundamentally interactive, dialogical quality of every memorial space’ have a particular resonance for contemporary Kenyan writing in English?
The Dancing Bodies on K-pop Music Video
The aim of this paper is to promote interdisciplinary research of the dancing bodies on K-pop music videos that are influenced by transnational exchanges across cultural boundaries within the Korean cultural industry. In order to consider the influence of transnational flows, this argument will be explored through body images in aesthetic styles of dancing bodies. This paper will delve into the ‘Korean wave’ and this cultural phenomenon will be explored through the hybrid choreography in K-pop girl group performance.
This paper will focus specifically on the work of K-pop girl group f(x)’s ‘Hot Summer’ to investigate how Korean performance is influenced by western models and how the resulting changes in performance style and structure lead to hybrid forms. The stylistics of K-pop girl groups have been expressed by a hybrid of Korean music and hip-hop through the choreography of their music videos. Underlying the above are issues about the dynamic between the ‘West’ and ‘East’ in terms of cultural representation and influence.
Thus, this paper will be looking at the reasons for aesthetic categories such as cuteness, breaking down the social and economic factors. Relating to the reasons why K-pop girl groups are successful in many Western markets, this paper will also examine what is different or unique about K-pop female groups and how they manage to present ‘Korean-ness’. It examines what is unique about this phenomenon and how this uniqueness/Korean-ness is produced and packaged.
Composition and communality
Any creative act – and all the more so for those involving sound – is a shared act. To sing in the proximity of others, is to force them to hear my voice. With this in mind, my research explores what it means to undertake a creative act in a social context, and probes the idea that the social actions that make up community are in essence artistic acts, that art in fact underpins all relationships and is how we come to know the world. Furthermore, if philosophers such as Emmanuel Levinas are correct when they suggest that it is via the boundary of the other that we can form our sense of self, community is formed exclusively by the simultaneous acting out and forming of self in the communal sphere, and it is here that art resides. To know our world, to treat each other well within it – despite the plethora of obstacles thrown at us by the universe – requires creativity, an artisan approach to living in the day to day, for which our relationship to “works of art” can serve as practise. My related practise explores these ideas by seeking to create sound-based art works that are relational, and promotes issues of awareness and responsibility in social dialogue. I intend to show such a work as demonstration of my practise.
Giving the viewer a voice? Problematising personalised media on commercial social networks
Since their conception, commercial social media have framed their platforms as free public services – accessible and universal tools that facilitate audience participation, allowing individuals to become active agents in setting their own terms of media consumption. Social media thus apparently democratise many of public service broadcasting’s (herein PSB) core ideals – creating a ‘common resource’ that provides individuals with tools for self-expression and self-directed learning. Social media also facilitate the pleasures of personalized media: whereas PSB has long sought to collectively inform a unified public through the transmission of common knowledge and interests (Scannell, 1990), social media informs the individual, tailoring content to suit their taste-specific needs and interests.
My paper will interrogate the benefits of social media that have so far remained relatively unchallenged by PSB. I will argue that the rhetoric of ‘free self-expression’, ‘personalised media’ and ‘personal choice’ often utilised by social media embodies serious theoretical implications that PSB needs to further scrutinise. I propose that there is an implicit reduction of diversity, common interest and public experience in social media platforms that overemphasise ‘personal’ consumption practices, which serves to reinforce and perpetuate individuals’ already-established forms of knowledge, tastes and cultural perceptions. As such, commercial social media unintentionally creates online spheres determined by exclusion, division and difference; giving the viewer a voice, but a voice that informed by and articulated through ‘echo chambers’ (Sunstein, 2011) of online consumption. Where PSB makes common, unifies and diversifies, personalised social media customises, fragments and familiarises. Public service broadcasters could be defining a digital niche by acknowledging problems with ‘the personal’ on social networks and by working towards a diverse and inclusive online public sphere, perhaps in the form of a social network committed to PSB’s enduring goals.
Is he the last samurai, a fascist or the first gay in Japan? The queer reading of the masculinity, sexuality and nationalism of Mishima Yukio.
Regarding representations of male homosexual desire in postwar Japan, Mishima Yukio is a distinctive novelist/artist. As his sensational first novel was an autobiographical story about a confession of homosexual desire, he is internationally regarded as a “gay” Japanese artist. Additionally, he often represented himself in public as a traditional Japanese man, a samurai. His gender performance, acting samurai in postwar Japan, is well remembered among Japanese, for he published his photographs, collaborated with various artists, and acted in several movies showing his naked body which was trained by bodybuilding. On the other hand, however, Mishima is also famous and still influential as a far-right ideologue in Japan. He wrote several stories and political essays for nationalistic politics in Japan and passionately engaged in right-wing politics. He actually attempted a coup d’état and died by seppuku (“Harikiri”) – ritual suicide of samurai – with his sword, in the commandant of the Tokyo headquarters of the Eastern Command of the Japan Self-Defense Forces. Thus, his gender performance, sexuality and nationalistic ideology seem closely related but popular interpretations of them are either of the anti-nationalistic and heteronormative perspective by the leftist viewpoint or of the orientalist and homoerotic-centred perspective by the Japanese studies. This essay aims to discuss discursive relations among Japanese ‘tradition’, politics and same-sex desire through analysing Mishima’s works and critiques on him.
Mocksim’s ‘Operation Cork’ and Art as Artificial Stupidity
In 2009 I donated one painting to each of twenty five commercial galleries and spaces on London’s famous Cork Street. The works were transported together with a covering letter explaining the reasons for this charitable act, namely: to help alleviate the effects of the current global economic crisis for the art businesses of Mayfair.
The paintings themselves had been developed over a four month period by the artist. The process involved locating second-hand paintings and framed imagery in Charity Shops, modifying through a range of techniques (additive as well as destructive) and employing acrylic paint and other binding agents to resolve each individual piece.
Galleries responded in a variety of ways. Most ignored, others thanked, a number had the work couriered back at their own cost and one responded in a hostile manner. At the time I did not evaluate nor concern myself fully with the significance of the intervention. I’d like to present the initiative, using slides, hang two small paintings returned to be viewed and consider the initiative in relation to my research interests which include feedback loop theory/cybernetics, in critiquing confidence in these arenas as well as focusing on the comedic aspects of human existence, stupidity and error.
The Impact of ‘Scary’ TV on Children’s Emotional Responses: a Meta-Analysis (Poster presentation)
Children spend a large proportion of their waking hours watching television, with some studies reporting up to 32 hours of viewing per week in young children. There has been a generational rise in children’s anxieties, which has been partly attributed to the increase of threat content in the media. Many studies have been conducted on the effects of violent television content on children. However, despite the general perception that ‘scary’ television causes anxiety in children, there is relatively little literature available on the effect it has on children’s internalizing emotions. The 25 studies in the current meta-analysis measure the effect of scary television on internalizing emotions (fear/ anxiety, sadness/ worry/ depression, posttraumatic stress disorder, sleep problems and physiological measures) and include samples where all participants were 18 years or under. Results show a modest but consistent effect of scary television on children’s fears, with a stronger effect in experimental studies than in cross-sectional designs. There were no significant moderator effects of type of television content, media type, mean age of participant, type of measurement used or type of responder (parent vs. child report). Findings contrast with studies showing severe effects for a minority of children, suggesting individual differences in susceptibility to scary TV. Uncovering these differences is the aim of our on-going research.
Creating Family Practices in The New Normal
The New Normal centres on the endeavours of a gay male couple to start a family with the help of a surrogate. Whilst this is presented as an ostensibly non-normative position, the show’s central characters, Bryan and David, reinforce at every turn how their desires and actions toward creating family are inherently ‘normal’. Surrounded by a cornucopia of gender and racially stereotyped characters, there are a wealth of normative and normalising descriptions provided of what a family is, and how it is created. Considering explicit descriptions of making family, and the implicit characterisations of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ family making present across the first series of The New Normal, this paper will ask how family practices are represented in The New Normal and how ‘normal’ is described against the ‘new normal’ space which Bryan and David identify their family as occupying. In particular, I will focus on how hierarchies of acceptability are used to validate and describe David and Bryan’s parenting aspirations by looking to the gender, sexual, and class value judgements littered through series one.
Experimental silent film – visual properties and their musical implications
My composition research at Sussex is centred around an investigation into early experimental cinema. Experimental silent ﬁlms, especially non-narrative works from the historical avant garde, frequently embody musical processes and forms; this problematises the role of any re-interpretative music/sound accompaniments. Consequently, I am exploring alternative and experimental approaches to ﬁlm music. In particular, my work focusses on the critical nature of the music-ﬁlm relationship and the mutually problematising tendencies of music and ﬁlm in a re-interpretative, non-narrative, silent context.
Viking Eggeling’s Symphonie Diagonale (1924) is one of the very ﬁrst abstract ﬁlms, and uses many devices derived from cinema’s temporal component, such as polyphony and morphological evolution (R. Bruce Elder). My newly composed score begins with highly synchronised, analogous musical gestures. However, as the ﬁlm progresses the music gains autonomy, as it reworks these gestures according to its own logic, whilst maintaining precise contact with the visuals. The result is a mutually revealing counterpoint and critical correspondence between the two media.
Reimagining the 1950s: Heritage, Commemoration and 1950s-mania
My thesis asserts that perceptions and narratives of the 1950s have gained particular power in popular memory and heritage since the early 1970s. This is dominated by aesthetics, a visual sense of the past, objects, myths and the popular imagination, with its roots in 20th century cultures and technologies for reproducing and celebrating the recent past in style, heritage and imagery. This paper is a work in progress of the final chapter of my thesis which particularly considers ideas of the 1950s in terms of the politics of heritage and ideas of a national past. I consider examples of how the 1950s have been imagined particularly in 2012 in terms of a shared British national heritage – the Southbank Festival of Britain commemoration and revival, Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee, and the London Olympics Games. Interrogating the distinctions between history and heritage, I analyse the past-present relation in heritage representations of the 1950s and how they are deployed around nostalgia for the past, pleasure in the present, and hopes for the future.
Mapping Gender Relations and Sexualities: Analysis of Contraceptive Advertisements of Bangladesh
In a world ruled by sexual imbalances, sexuality continues to be a taboo topic regardless of the persisting debates surrounding it. Bangladesh is not an exception to this; where gender injustice continues at a high degree in the area of sexualities. Here, sexuality is expected to be kept in private. However, in terms of regulating and controlling fertility and population, sexuality becomes a public concern where it is usually the state, religion or social institutions who determine what should be the ‘ideal’ sexual behaviour for a man or a woman. Within this context this paper is particularly concerned about sexualities as presented in the contraceptive advertisements over a period of 1971 to 2011 in press and electronic media of Bangladesh. It investigates women’s lived experience of sexualities and its “representation” in these contraceptive adverts in a gendered hetero-normative context. According to Foucault (1998) the repression of sexuality through the discursive production is socially constructed, unstable and historically situated. Looking at the nuances of relationship between heteronormative femininity and masculinity as “represented” by these advertisements, I conclude such portrayals of sexualities remained largely political and essentially curbed by the state expectations, religious regulations, certain development agenda, socio-cultural discourses surrounding contraception and all above market interest. Consequently, the heteronormative gendered dynamics of sexualities did not remain static over time; rather, they shifted yet became more colonized by an interlocking patriarchal system where the question of “representation” often remained problematic.
Transient compassion: How humanitarian organisations visually sell action on global poverty
The visual image in humanitarian communication has been widely criticised for inaccurate representations, embodying a colonial gaze and ‘anesthetising’ the public. However the use of visual communication in humanitarian appeals and campaigns indicate that publics still take action through donation and/or petition. Through a case study of the current Enough Food IF campaign involving audience research, this paper will explore the forms of action taken in response to the visual communication used. In so doing, it departs from traditional literature on ‘compassion fatigue’ that locates the media image as responsible for a lack of public response.
I will argue that the current use of ephemeral figures, celebrities and fragile ‘others’, provokes a fleeting form of compassion. Humanitarian organisations use this transient interest to direct audiences to immediate forms of action, for example signing a petition or donating money online. Transient compassion recognises the ‘other’ in need, acknowledging that ‘we need to act now’; however it fails to establish a long-term commitment to be in solidarity with the cause.
This paper is situated in a larger research project, From Spectatorship to Solidarity, which aims to explore the relationship between images, publics and action through empirical audience research.
The Haunted University: digital subjectivity and the mediated academic
In this paper I will consider mediated technoculture as a zone of the Uncanny; I will then go on to discuss how the University and specifically the academic knowledge workers within it are impacted by the culture and practices of communicative capitalism. In particular, I will address the way in which the academic subject is digitally constituted within the contemporary university, which I conceptualise as the shadowy, unheimlich realm of the Haunted University.
In thinking about these issues I will use a range vantage points to consider how the subject is constituted. I deploy critical theory which draws on Lacanian psychoanalysis in order to think about the nature of subjectivity within technoculture; this provides rich metaphors and narratives for considering the fluidity and fragmenting of self. I also consider the academic subject as knowledge worker and the University as a locus of communicative capitalism. Here I will be leveraging ideas about the changed nature of universities and the changing nature of digital labour. I draw on Althusser’s concept of how ideology and the ideological state apparatus operates and on thinkers who have interpreted Althusser’s work for medium theory in considering this aspect of the Haunted University.
“Are We Ready to Move On?”: Dislocating the Utopian in Eat the Document’s Spaces of Performance
Eat the Document (d: Bob Dylan, 1972), shot by D.A. Pennebaker and edited by Dylan and Howard Alk, is a radical “anti-documentary” that deconstructs the musician’s 1966 British and European tour, which introduced his confrontational and controversial electric, full-band sound to riotous audiences. This paper considers the ways in which the film exposes a crisis of form in prevailing modes of documentary production representation of the 1960s, which, most immediately, implicated the observational practice of Dylan’s collaborator, D.A. Pennebaker, and his fellow cinéma vérité and direct cinema practitioners. Firstly, this paper reconsiders American cinéma vérité and direct cinema as a set of discourses, as opposed to a movement or style; upon establishing those terms, I discuss Eat the Document’s dismantlement of the form and ideology of the observational documentary through the levels of its spatial discourse. Eat the Document challenges the idea of the space of performance as a utopian space, and, instead, presents its as one of hostility and provocation. Gaps, dislocation and rupture engender disconnection and discontinuity between performer and audience (both Dylan/concertgoer and filmmaker/spectator). The identity of specific profilmic spaces is apparently irrelevant, as Dylan experiments with montage in a way that refuses to orient the viewer. In the film’s form and structure, a horizontal restlessness that emphasises movement and displacement, artificiality is foreground and the (re)presentation of reality is made unnatural. In Eat the Document, Dylan presents a cinema that examines power, knowledge and representation in a documentary form that so often saw those concepts contested.
This presentation has a sound
This presentation/performance uses three cassette recorders, three 60second cassette loops, one metronome, one typewriter, six sheets of paper, five sheets of carbon paper and one presenter/performer.
It presents one aspect of my practical investigation into analogue, or perhaps more accurately non-digital, media.
Here I am interested in the sounds analogue and mechanical media make and have as they carry out their designated functions, how these sounds are shaped by the environment they inhabit, and how these sounds are inherent to, and present in, the very objects that produce them.
Virtual Bodies, Real Sensations: The Remediation of Gaming in Popular Science Fiction Films
The inception of digital technologies in film and broader culture over the past forty years has fundamentally altered the ways in which popular films address spectators and create sensory pleasures. Such technologies also present a challenge to the traditionally ‘passive’ mode of spectatorship traditionally attributed to popular cinema, negotiating the modes of immersion, interactivity and appropriation which have come to define culture and media in the digital age.
This paper examines how three virtual reality films address and remediate the popular and pervasive medium of video games. Tron (1982), eXistenZ (1999) and Gamer (2009) – which span almost four decades since the widespread inception of the digital in film and broader culture – variously engage with their particular cultural moments through varied representations of embodied game-space. Such films variously appropriate, mimic and seek to transcend the immersive pleasures which gaming offers, carving out a space for film to compete with and, in its own way, exceed, the sensory experience of gaming. Drawing from phenomenological film and game theory, I focus on how such films create immersive environments through digital and cinematic audiovisual effects, but also diegetically – by presenting fully immersive spaces which explore and interrogate the degrees of embodied experience, interactivity and agency attainable as a gamer and as a spectator. I argue that such films displace the inherent materiality of embodied experience, refiguring the body in phenomenological terms – as primarily a means through which (material and immaterial) phenomena are experienced. Through an appropriation of the logic and aesthetics of gaming, these films subvert narrative and cinematic expectations, reflecting and contributing to broader shifts in the ontology of cinematic and everyday experience.
My Battery Operated Boyfriend: Sex Toys, Sex and the Body
Is a sex toy a replacement for a ‘real’ sexual body? In this paper I draw upon interviews with women about sex shopping in order to explore the tensions between sexual commodities and the sexual gendered body that emerge through talking about and using dildos and vibrators.
Over the past two decades, sex shops have become increasingly targeted at a feminine consumer (Coulmont and Hubbard, 2010). Over the same period the design of dildos and vibrators has largely moved away from ‘realistic’ flesh like qualities towards ‘cute’ animal designs such as the highly popular Rampant Rabbit (Attwood, 2005), or the abstract colourful silicone shapes of the ‘designer’ vibrator (Smith, 2007).
For the female consumers I have interviewed, purchasing and using a sex toy involves a negotiation of expectations and anxieties around the connection between the sexual body and the commodified sexual object. For women in heterosexual relationships this negotiation often centres around the perceived comparison or competition between the sex toy and their partner’s penis, raising questions about the continuing centrality of the penis to heterosexual sexual practise. Whilst some women spoke about their expectations and disappointments when trying to recreate ‘real’ sex through sexual consumption, others were scathing about what they saw as the simplistic notion of a ‘battery operated boyfriend’. Shopping for and using sex toys necessitates a negotiation of competing values around sexual authenticity and sexual knowledge, revealing much about the construction of the relationship between the commodity and the body in sexual cultures.