Friday, 28 June 2013

Mad and Bad Media

Simon Cross recently gave a conference paper on press representations of the 'mad and bad' at a Conference on Language, Culture and Politics in Krakow.

--> Simon argued that, in the wake of the UK’s Leveson Inquiry into the ethics and practices of the popular press, journalism educators must reconsider whether ‘poor’ journalism practice can remedied. A case in point concerns media reporting on mentally disordered offenders, which is pock-marked with infected consequences of ‘mad and bad’ clap-trap dished out by pathological tabloids. The idea that tabloid reporting on the mad and bad is a condition of ‘poor’ journalism not only misdiagnoses the problem but also reckons it has remedy to improve the condition: educating editors in the error of their ways. Drawing on original research his paper shows that instead of educating tabloid editors and journalists we need a radical response to eradicating tabloid pathology. His ideas aimed to counter a tendency in journalism studies reluctant to criticize tabloid populism on mental disorder. By doing so it moves beyond a heuristic dictated by tabloid logic on mad and bad and speaks to our need to develop a political sensitivity in journalism education beyond the status quo. 

SImon Cross, 'Mad and Bad Media: the Pathology of British Tabloids', 5th Annual International Conference on Language, Culture and Politics, Tischner European University, Krakow., 6-7 June 2013.  

Friday, 21 June 2013

Value, Measurement and the Power to Act

Andrea Wittel recently gave a paper which reconsiders Marx's notions of 'value' in relation to digital capitalism.

While his paper is grounded in Marxian theory, he argues against Marx's attempts to measure or even explain the value of commodities.The paper consists of three parts. In the first part Andreas briefly reviews and contrasts Marx' s approach to value in Capital vol 1 with his approach to value in the Grundrisse. While the labour theory of value (as developed in Capital vol 1) is by and large unable to explain value in cognitive capitalism (replace cognitive capitalism as you like with post-fordism, immaterial production, the information age, or digital capitalism), his concept in Grundrisse is much more promising: In Grundrisse, Marx argues that 'the creation of wealth comes to depend less on labour time and on the amount of labour employed […] but depends rather on the general state of science and on the progress of technology […] Labour no longer appears so much to be included within the production process; rather the human being comes to relate more as watchman and regulator to the production process itself' (p704) What comes to replace labour is the 'general intellect'.

While such an approach seems to be better suitable for an explication of value, it also remains rather vague. In the second part of this paper Andreas argues that this vagueness is at the same time its real strength. In digital capitalism value is beyond measure. 'What has irreversibly changed however, from the times of the predominance of the classical theory of value, involves the possibility of developing the theory of value in terms of economic order, or rather, the possibility of considering value as a measure of concrete labor.' (Negri 1999: 77-8). The measurement of value, understood as an economic term and as a category of exchange is the problem of capital only. Marx's (labour) theory of value is not a trans-historical theory, but a theory of value in capitalist societies only. The task of today is a more generic understanding of value. Rather than focusing on free labour (Terranova) or audiences (Smythe) to understand the production of value in media environments, we are better off to give up on this project and develop alternative models of value that include processes of counter-commodification such as the digital commons.
Negri suggests to transform the theory of value from above to a theory of value 'from below, from the basis of life' (1999: 78). Drawing on the work of Spinoza, Negri sees value as the power to act. What does it mean to understand value as something that empowers people to act? 

The third part of this paper attempts to respond to this challenge. This is an attempt to rethink value not just as a theory but as a theory of practice. In the current crisis we need to strengthen an understanding of value that links it tightly to political engagement.

Andreas Wittel, 'Value, Measurement and the Power to Act', VII International Conference on Communication and Reality: Breaking the Media Chain, Universitat Ramon Lull, Barcelona, 13-14 June 2013.

Friday, 14 June 2013

Film Comedy and Italian 'Cinema of Migration'

Monica Boria has just delivered a paper on contemporary Italian comedy in a post-national context at the AATI Conference in Strasbourg.

The context for her paper is the  so-called ‘cinema of migration’ in Italy, in which the comedy mode has rarely featured and comedy films have only recently began to emerge. These films were all made in the last decade and have so far received scant attention. In her paper she presented the preliminary results of her investigation of a body of approximately 15 films where the comedy mode and the theme of a multicultural Italy can be considered predominant. Initial analyses shows that, in contrast with the realist films, which tend to offer an intimate and deeper take on the migrant as subject, the comedies revolve mostly around Italian identities, which the juxtaposition with the immigrant ‘other’ makes stand out with ridicule. 

Her methodology brings together the analytical tools typically employed within screen studies, with those offered by humour studies. She also attempts to frame this new production within the wider debate of so-called ‘accented’ cinema and referred to concepts of displacement and deterritorialization. Typical research questions include: how is migration represented through the lenses of humour?  Has the unprecedented context of multicultural Italy affected the mechanisms of the production of humour? Do these comedies offer new or alternative discourses to mainstream realist film? Monica uses several comedies to illustrate hwe findings, but she focuses on two especially poignant and innovative examples: Che bella giornata (2011) by Gennaro Nuziante and Checco Zalone and Into Paradiso (2011) by Paola Randi.

Monica Boria, 'Contemporary Italian Comedy in a Post-national context', AATI Conference, Strasbourg, 30 May - 4 June 2013

Friday, 7 June 2013

'There now follows...'

Simon Cross recently gave a paper on gender and British party election broadcasts at the 'Watching Politics' symposium at the University of Warwick.

His paper explores how the story of the British party election broadcast (PEB) from 1924 is inextricably linked with a paternalistic vision of broadcasting central to the new developing politics of mass participation. When the PEB on TV literally comes into focus in the early years of the BBC’s post-war monopoly TV service, broadcasting was still dominated by Reithian public service ethos. Like public service broadcasting itself, the PEB on TV survives though both have become entwined with forces of commercialisation. This paper considers the durability of the PEB on TV, illustrating continuity and change in segmented televisual appeals to women viewers/voters vis-à-vis changes in the British public service broadcasting ecology such as regional broadcasting on ITV and recent fragmenting of terrestrial TV audiences.

Simon Cross, 'There Now Follows...': Continuity and Change in British TV party election broadcasts to women, Watching Politics symposium, University of Warwick, 31 May 2013.