Sunday, April 24

[notes: Introduction to "Media Worlds"]

as our schtuff-site isn't working well I'll post my notes here - it's gonna be a summary of an article by abu-lughod, larkin and ginsburg:

In their *introduction* to *"Media Worlds"* Ginsburg, Abu-Lughod and Larkin argue, that the anthropology of media is an important field of study, as the "ubiquity of media worldwide means, that anthropologists encounter it in the diverse places where we work." (p. 1)

They assume, that a clearcut topic or area of study exists already and also state that the methodologies are clear too. Inspite of that the discussion about what media anthropology really *is*, is still an ongoing one now. An interesting insight into the matter can be found at the easa-subsection for mediaanthroplogy, in a pdf-document here.

They say that they "have attempted to use anthropology to push media stdies into new environments and examine diverse media practices that are only beginning to be mapped. (p. I) They think that media anthropology will be able to advance theory and method in both anthropology itself and nearby fields that are concerend with the study of media. What anthropolgy can contribute to the study of media is a global, comparative perspecitve. This also is one of their arguments: "the construction of media theory in the West [...] has established a cultural grid of media theory with the effect of bringing int visibility only certain types of media technologies and praciteces." (p. II) So in their book the'll try to show the diversity of media worldwide - or the diversity of the media world. Whatever.

As common concerns with media studies they see “how media enable or challenge the workings of power and the potential of activism; the enforcement of inequality and the sources of imagination; and the impact of technoliges on the production of individual and collective identities.” (p. III)

The next part of the article concentrates on the history of anthropologies concern with media. Important early authors like Raymond Williams Saadia's summarized an article of him here, Hortense Powdermaker, Margaret Mead, and Gregory Bateson are mentioned. The systematic engagement with “media as social practice” only started in the late 1980ies. Background to it’s development is a “relocation of geographic and theoretical focus” i.e. the development of anthropology at home. “These shifts […] catalyzed a critical rethinking of one of our most productive notions – culture – and the parameters of our key methodology: in-depth, intensive, and long-term ethnographic fieldwork. Increasingly, our theory and practice are unbounded, multisited, travelling, or “itinerant” […], a transformation that is particularly evident for those studying media. (p. IV)

Anthropologists, who now work in the field of media anthropology come from different backgrounds. Some of them worked in visual anthropology, others came to an interest in the area, as they realized the importance of media while doing fieldwork, also there seems to be an interesting track of discussion about how the “other” is represented in ethnographic films. Pierre Bourdieus (1993) work has been important for scholars with an interest in “the institutional sites” for the production of media. Another influence comes from Cultural Studies who also turned to ethnography as method – but the use of the term ethnography in Cultural Studies has been quite heavily criticised in our field.

“The work of Benedict Anderson (1991) and Jürgen Habermas (1989) have been central to those concerned with studying and theorizing the cultural effects of flows of people, ideas, and objects, flows crucially mediated by communication technologies.” (p. V) Especially important in this context are their concepts of “imagined communities” and “the public sphere”. Critics (Calhoun 1992; Fraser 1993;Robbins 1993) of Habermas’ work are shortly mentioned. Lacans’ notion of the imaginary (1967) gets also mentioned as something authors from various fields used to understand the construction of “national imaginaries” – “when media are harnessed by state and commercial interess as technologies of personhood.” (p. V) I wonder if there is a connection here to the “technologies of the self” (Foucault and Hutton 1998) – sth. David Brake also will go about to explore in his PhD, here’s his proposal. Appadurai (1991) and Daniel Miller’s (1992) work are mentioned in the context of anthropologys' longstanding interest in exchange. Here’s a post at a blog that hits a similar vein in the context of Open Source Software. And here’s another, more recent, one.

For a further overview on the available literature they point to Dickey 1998 and Spitulnik 1993.

[to be continued]

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