četrtek, 06. december 2007


About interactivity

The debate about the interactivity is older than one might think, for already at the beginning of the century, intellectuals such as Bertol Brecht and Walter Benjamin worried about the limited one-way direction of the new (at the time) electronic media and worked on an agenda of democratization (Schultz, 2000). Many years later, Jürgen Habermas (in Schultz, 2000) was still pointing out the lack of interaction in mass media that were constantly subject to the criticism because of their power and centralization. Today the technological development has taken the opposite direction and has led us to new possibilities of communication so that suddenly we have more opportunities to interact and participate in the public sphere (some would say these possibilities improve democracy) than we are able to deal with.
As Cover (2006) suggests and deeply analyses in his article, the traditional author-text-audience relationship is being redefined, for now the audiences have a great capacity to change, alter and manipulate a text. At some point he refers to such advanced interactivity as a struggle for control over the authorial “purity” and “aunthenticity” of the text and even as a war between media creators/industries and audience participation. I do agree that the questions of authorship, audiences and text may represent a problem in the development of these new media technologies (and consequently in our society) and that we have to find some regulations and solutions in order to prevent it getting completely out of hands but at the same time I dare to say that in my opinion Cover’s fear might be a little bit exaggerated.
I do not deny the fact that nowadays it is possible for everybody to express their views and opinions, to share their beliefs, give non-mainstream voices (which is often anything but negative), participate in a public debate (Gauntlett, 2004) ... We could even say that in a way we are now being part of a global public sphere which not only enables us to publish whatever we have to say but also to consume whatever everyone else have to say. That, however, means that suddenly we find ourselves in a chaos of information and that another problem might occur elsewhere than Cover was suggesting. He did not take into the consideration the scarce and the most valuable resourse in the new era, which everybody on the web is struggling for - attention (Goldhaber in Gauntlett 2004). As Schultz (2000) suggests: “The greater the number of communicators, the less time everyone has to listen to others; the smaller the size of interacting groups, the smaller their significance for society as a whole”. He continues with a thought that with a growing number of information and communication forums, some central sources may become more important. I do agree with Cover that the empowerment of audience represents a threat to media industries and to existing institutions but I also think that we have to look at the problem from a broader point of view. In this aspect, I find the following thought of Schultz (2000) quite meaningful: “Communication and participation alone do not mean much in terms of quality and value of content. Also, communication can remain without any significant effects as long as it is not transformed into communicative power and effective decisions”.

- Gauntlett, D. (2004). Introduction. D. Gauntlett, R. Horsley: Web.Studies, 2nd Edition. London: Hodder Arnold
- Cover, R. (2004). Audience inter/active: Interactive media, narrative control and reconceiving audience history. New Media & Society, 8(1): 139–158.
- Schultz, T. (2000). mass media and the concept of interactivity: an exploratoty studiy of online forums and reader email. Media, Culture&Society, vol. 22: 205-221.


Comparison of the two approaches made by Silver and Gauntlett

Although both authors are dealing with the same field of studies they are using quite different approaches. While Gauntlett’s book focuses on practical aspects of the news media, Silver’s work encourages an academic discourse, also by showing us what work has already been done in this area. He provides a wide range of sources and exemplars such as exemplars of different academic organizations, institutes, centers of cyberculture studies, books, anthologies journals ... Thus, he is encouraging us to deeply engage in the internet studies, for as he insinuates, despite of all the work that has already been done and despite of all the academic centers, institutes and undergraduate and graduate courses, we still lack of some theories and methodologies. The book Critical Cyberculture Studies presents us a broad collection of scholars, authors of different articles or essays that want to draw attention to the areas that still need to be researched and should be subject to some future work for which they also present and discuss some useful methods and approaches. For example, Kirsten Foot in “Web Sphere Analysis and Cyabercultural studies” discusses methods of web sphere analysis that can help us explore the complex web of online interactions. What impresses me about Silver’s approach is that he offers us a huge variety of disciplinary perspectives and from this point of view I would say the author has been really thorough and has introduced a broad spectrum of issues that still need to be examined closely. However, from my personal point of view, this work lacks of some practical examples. It is clearly meant to address the academics or let us say, scholars, but is a bit too abstract for all the others.
Gauntlett’s Web Studies however, is a real contrast to all the theoretical, sometimes, over theorized writing. The author switches from the strict academic writing to a more popular style that can be understood by anyone who wants to find out how the web shapes and modifies society. The book focuses on practical examples from the real life and “is designed to address a cross-section of interesting cultural and social things happening on the net”. As Gauntlett puts it: “New media would be nothing if it wasn’t meaningful to people…” And indeed, he tries to deal with the issues that can and should be understood by everyday people who use the internet on a regular basis or are just trying to understand how powerful the new media are in our society by explaining us some of the main issues concerning the web. He presents the possibilities that are offered to us by the internet and encourages us to use them in a practical and creative sense, such as participating in online political debates or in any public discussions for that matter. I find it very useful that the author also presents some basics of the web and so tries to draw attention of the broader public, also with providing some useful websides. The book is very varied, it provides a wide range of topics, from arts and culture, web business, web communities, politics and international relations … The only thing I personally miss in the book is maybe some thoughts about online advertising because I think it’s an interesting field to discuss in the light of web studies and also in my opinion it’s role in the society is not so insignificant.


- Silver, D. (2006). Introduction: Where is Internet Studies? Critical Cyberculture Studies, 1-14. New York: New York University Press.
- Gauntlett, D. (2004). Introduction. D. Gauntlett, R. Horsley: Web.Studies, 2nd Edition. London: Hodder Arnold.

četrtek, 29. november 2007


New media and me

When I'm thinking about my first encounter with new media, more specifically internet, I always remember the time when I was still in primary school in the mid 90s and one of my cousins went on an exchange program to South Carolina. At the time it was still considered a big deal if somebody went so far away and the States really seemed like the end of the world, especially as far as communication was concerned. Luckily the internet was already slowly infiltrating into our daily lives and so we had the opportunity to communicate via emails. I remember how difficult it was for me to switch from the traditional, handwritten letters, to the electronic way of writing, because if nothing else, I found emails so impersonal.

I must laugh at those times now, for a day doesn't go by that I don't ckeck my inbox at least twice a day and write at least a couple of emails. On a daily basis I use search engines for all sort of information, I read online newspapers, use digital libraries and other resources, read other people's blogs (so far I have been to lazy to set up one of my own), participate in online forums, every once in a while I make a purchase online and I almost always buy plane tickets (and other tickets if possible) online ... not to mention that I practically conduct another, virtual life when using (daily) Facebook, MSN and Skype (which in my opinion can be a real life savior!) ... which is terrific because thanks to these new technologies I am able to stay in touch with so many people from all around the world and suddenly everything and everybody seems so close ... As Thomas L. Friedman put it, the world is flat!
The reason I chose the seminar New media and society lies mostly in my wish to constantly learn and discover new possibilities that all the forms of digital communication in this globalized world give us. I find it fascinating how inevitably connected my life (professional and personal) is with internet and how impossible it would be to function without it! It's interesting, because I never thought of myself as a computer or internet "junky", for I have always been (and still am) an outdoor person, I love going to nature and "disconnect" completelly from this world that is spinning so fast ... But no matter how hard I try to avoid this "digitalization", it's always there and sooner or later I had to accept it and make the most of it. After all, even my fantastic trip to South America wouldn't be so perfect if it wasn't for internet (emails, Skype ...) !!!
And so, I hope that this seminar will help me understand even better the impact that internet has had and still has on our way of living, especially on every level of our social lives (different social networks, way of communicating ...). I am interested in researching different fields in the new media but one that draws my attention the most is the role of photography (specifically documentary photography) in the new media. Documentary photography was already a subject of my thesis where I focused on visual representations in the traditional, print media and now I would really like to deapen and extend my knowledge in the aspect of the new media. I hope that attending this seminar, reading various materials and engaging myself in a research will give me a better idea of the position and the role of visual representations, especially documentary photography in the new media.

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