PODCAST: From access to data – Smartphones & digital access in Global South

The adoption of mobile phones in the global south has provided consumers with greater access to interpersonal communication. The shift from basic handsets to smartphones has corresponded with a move to data usage where smartphone users produce, consume and circulate content ranging from images and social media posts to music and videos. Drawing upon recent research in Fiji and Papua New Guinea, this talk examines the consequences of data usage and questions the extent to which smartphones and the demand for data may mitigate some of the meaningful digital, financial and social inclusion that emerged in the access era of mobile telecommunications.

Heather Horst is Professor in the Department of Media in Communications at the University of Sydney, Australia and an Adjunct Professor at the Digital Ethnography Research Centre at RMIT University, Australia. A sociocultural anthropologist by training, her research explores transformations in the telecommunications industry, emergent mobile media practices and the use of digital media for learning across the Pacific, Caribbean and Australia. Her recent publications examining these themes include Digital Anthropology (2012), Digital Ethnography: Principles and Practices (2016), Locating the Mobile (Forthcoming) and The Moral Economy of Mobile Phones in the Pacific (Forthcoming).

PODCAST: Moral decline of the British press

Centre for Media History’s 10th Anniversary Seminar
in association with Media@Sydney

The phone hacking scandal that engulfed the British press was the culmination of a moral decline that began in the 1980s. This was manifested in the rise of fake news, phony medical scare stories, migrant fables, and irresponsible reporting that wrecked the lives of innocent people. By 2015, trust in the press in Britain was lower than in any other European country.

This moral collapse had multiple causes: pressures exerted by new proprietors, the bullying of journalists to get results, an industrial culture of impunity, a weak countervailing professional identity, and increasing staff insecurity. Above all, it was a response to the press’s deepening economic crisis, caused by collapsing sales and haemorrhaging advertising.

James Curran is Professor of Communications at Goldsmiths, University of London. His work focuses on media history and journalism studies. He is the author or editor of over 20 books including Power Without Responsibility (with Jean Seaton, 8th edition due March 2018), Media and Power, Media and Democracy, Culture Wars and Misunderstanding the Internet (with Natalie Fenton and Des Freedman, 2nd edition published 2016). His books have been translated into multiple languages, including Arabic, Chinese, Greek, Hungarian, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese and Spanish.

PODCAST: Online movements in Africa – Emerging trends & challenges in digital activism

Mobile communication is increasingly playing a leading role in the coordination and mobilization of social and political protests around the world. Smartphones are changing the way political protests and movements are organized as geographical boundaries continue to diminish as citizens and activists unite in adopting digital tools provided by social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube to invigorate protest communication. In this regard, like everywhere else, social media is helping spread ideas and information exponentially from one user to another among Africans. Information that previously was inaccessible to citizens as a result historically of a tough media regime, is now readily available online. The availability of online movements provides a firsthand opportunity to critically examine current digital engagements among citizens and activists seeking political reform in several African countries. This paper is a case study analysis of the trends, opportunities and challenges facing the online activism movements in Africa, where in spite of widespread poverty, access to technology is growing fast.

Bruce Mutsvairo is an Associate Professor in Journalism at University of Technology Sydney. He previously taught journalism and media at Northumbria University Newcastle, Amsterdam University College and Leiden University, where he earned his PhD in 2013. His research explores the role of technology particularly social media in galvanising political and social changes across Africa. Bruce is a former correspondent for the Associated Press in Amsterdam.

PODCAST: The continuing fascination with Erving Goffman – Presentation and face in online interaction

Erving Goffman’s work has always been influential in media and communication and is experiencing something of a revival in studies of self-presentation and face in social media. Intriguingly, key concepts from Goffman’s analysis of social life as drama, ritual and game developed to understand social interactions often between strangers in the cities and suburbs of mid twentieth century US are providing rich resources for the analysis of contemporary digitally mediated social interaction. Face, impression management, front and backstage, communication frameworks, frames, footing and self-presentation appear as relevant as they ever were, providing a nuanced account of the forms, contexts, ethics and realized identities of social interaction.

The deployment of Goffman’s ideas goes beyond their undoubted value as sensitising concepts to reflect his broader theoretical interests and concerns, which are illustrated through two examples of the appropriation of Goffman’s work. The first examines the shift in the study of social media from the emphasis on control of self-presentation to the analysis of facework online. The second responds to Hogan’s critique of Goffman’s self-presentation in relation to Facebook, which is contrasted to the idea of the curation of the self. An alternative, based on Goffman’s Gender Advertisements distinguishes the genre conventions of portraiture and pictures and suggests an analysis of posts as depictions of mis-en-scene rather than portraits of self-presentation.

From these considerations, I suggest that the continuing relevance of Goffman’s work is not reducible to his having coined some evocative concepts but reflects the contemporary resonance of his (implicit) social theory. His roots in Simmel, pragmatic principles from James and Mead, a reading of Durkheim’s sociology of law that links ritual to human rights, his view of the social self and account of the rationalizing social tendencies of cultural forms make his work relevant to contemporary media life.

Peter Lunt is a professor of Media and Communication at the University of Leicester, UK. His research interests include audience research, media regulation, social theory and the media and consumption research. He has written a number of books including Talk on Television and Media Regulation (both with Sonia Livingstone) and is currently working on a book for Polity Press: Goffman and the Media.