This article examines the visitor experience of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter (WWOHP) theme park at Universal Studios Orlando. The park is hugely popular and has been embraced by the series’ devoted but critical fanbase. Prior research on theme parks has generally focused on critiques of their form, leading to a limited understanding of their appeal. This article asks how fan-visitors interpret this simulated environment, and what leads them to embrace it. It does this with an ethnographic approach, utilizing in-depth interviews with 15 visitors combined with participant observation. We show how WWOHP is understood by its visitors as an adaptation of the series into physical space, via the medium of the theme park, and how the visitor’s experience is shaped through use of ironic imagination. In doing so, we present a new understanding of the immersive media experience of theme parks.
The Ryder Cup is a biennial golf match between Europe and the USA that was staged in Wales for the first time in 2010. This article considers the representation of Wales within tourism texts through an analysis of the place of an individual. To date, little scholarship has examined the position of individuals within such discourse and explored the ways in which they can be (re)positioned as representative of a broader (supra)national configuration. In drawing upon the work of the cultural theorist Raymond Williams, it looks at narratives of Wales and the significance of an individual as relates to the interplay of nation, class and place. It argues that Ian Woosnam was centrally important as a ‘Welsh European’ in providing a physical and symbolic link to an event where no Welshman was a part of Team Europe.
This article argues that the definition of the political and its role in on- and offline public spheres calls for a conceptualization that takes into account the networked connections established between lay and professional political actors, mass media and mobile media. While acknowledging the importance of popular and mass media’s impact on participatory and democratic processes, this article focuses on the cultural citizen and proposes that a rethinking of publics affords a new understanding of the idea of networks as a series of connection points fostering a dynamic and relational view on the political. We illustrate this conceptualization through a case study mapping the agonistic and antagonistic frontiers in communication in a variety of publics and counter-publics in the context of Danish minority culture and politics.
In Trinidad two distinct bodies scar everyday cultural life. One is the Carnivalesque – a naked, commodified, and sexualised body of the popular bikini and beads type of Carnival portrayals called ‘pretty mas’. The other body is the grotesque – a dead, maimed, and murdered body appearing frequently in news media and in daily discussions on social media as the murder rate locally reaches one person every day. From the mid 1980s to the present, the numbers and visibility of these bodies in the same everyday spaces has increased. While there is no causal connection, fieldwork suggests cultural conversation between two representations of the body, between laughter and grief, jouissance and mutilation, celebration and fear exists in Trinidad. Through ethnographic fieldnotes, historical data, discourse analysis and the cultural theories of Guy Debord, Mikhail Bakhtin, Lloyd Best and Antonio Benítez-Rojo, this article explores the cultural correlation between everyday images (sexual and violent) of the body in Trinidadian society and their impact on the constitution of subjectivity, nationhood and segregation locally.
This article examines the recent emergence of the genre of ‘cute metal’ through the Japanese teen girl group Babymetal. Drawing on Sianne Ngai’s theories of cuteness, I explore notions of cuteness on two levels: Babymetal’s cute, and at times childish, vision of metal that evokes cuteness’s intertwining with violence and aggressiveness and the critical, yet ambivalent, reception of Babymetal by some in the global metal community as inauthentic or suspect. The critiques and affective responses to Babymetal’s music reveal the inherent power of cuteness to make viewers feel as if they are being duped. As I argue, Babymetal’s complex performance aesthetics invoke cuteness as inherently weak, vulnerable and tied to girlhood. At the same time, however, they deform these qualities in jarring and unexpected ways, ultimately transforming cuteness and the genre of cute metal into a powerful and subversive affective form.
This article examines the online circulation of the slogan ‘Je suis Charlie’ which went viral on social media after the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris in January 2015. Building first on recent literature on digital virality, it approaches the slogan’s circulation in terms of the transfer of affective intensities among network connections and with consideration to the function of social media algorithms in bringing about network encounters. Two samples of tweets using the slogan are analysed to highlight the emergence of subjective relations to Charlie from within networked circuits of affect. The declaration ‘Je suis Charlie’ is argued to be a performance of affective citizenship in the name of social cohesion while also constructing ‘affect aliens’.
In October 2012 a group of non-governmental organizations formed a Campaign to Stop Killer Robots. The aim of this campaign was to preemptively ban fully autonomous weapons capable of selecting and engaging targets without human intervention. The campaign gained momentum swiftly, leading to different legal and political discussions and decision-makings. In this article, we use the framework of cultural techniques to analyze the different operational processes, tactics, and ethics underlying the debates surrounding developments of autonomous weapon systems. From reading the materials of the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots and focusing on current robotic research in the military context we argue that, instead of demonizing Killer Robots as such, we need to understand the tools, processes and operating procedures that create, support and validate these objects. The framework of cultural techniques help us to analyze how autonomous technologies draw distinctions between life and death, human and machine, culture and technology, and what it means to be in control of these systems in the 21st century.
To introduce economic justice into global trade, fair trade organizations strive to ‘shorten the distance’ between producers and consumers through mediation. This article problematizes the idea of ‘shortening the distance’ through the notion of maintaining the ‘proper distance’ in representing distant others. This perspective is used in narratological analysis of the content that fair trade organizations curate on their Facebook pages to represent Southern producers. The two organizations studied are: (1) Fairtrade Finland, a non-governmental organization (NGO); (2) Pizca del Mundo, a commercial brand in Poland. This article identifies the discursive and narrative forms of mediated agency that are offered to producers. The analysis revealed that Fairtrade Finland utilized Facebook to extend the narrative of producers as active subjects. By using the affordances of Facebook, Pizca del Mundo increased the mediated agency of producers but problematized the maintenance of the proper distance in their representations.
This article makes a contribution to a growing number of works that discuss affect and social media. I use Freudian affect theory to analyse user posts on the public Site Governance Facebook page. Freud’s work may help us to explore the affectivity within the user narratives and I suggest that they are expressions of alienation, dispossession and powerlessness that relate to the users’ relations with Facebook as well as to their internal and wider social relations. The article thus introduces a new angle on studies of negative user experiences that draws on psychoanalysis and critical theory.
This article pertains to the concept of prosumer capitalism, a term which refers to practices among companies of using consumers’ unpaid work (prosumption refers to the mixing of consumption and production). In the literature, this type of capitalism has been treated generally; how pro-prosumer activities differ among producers has been overlooked. This article illustrates these differences by showing the ways in which Polish pop culture producers approach prosumption. The research was conducted through in-depth interviews with representatives from different Polish popular culture companies and the results show that prosumption orientation is determined by what is being produced – films, games, comics, books, television programmes, or music. Producers of video games and comics are most prosumption-oriented – in other words, they may be called ‘natives’ of prosumption – in contrast to ‘tourists’, such as producers of films, television programmes, and books. This article shows that developing the concept of prosumer capitalism requires that consideration as to the prosumer orientations of producers should be specified on a case-by-case basis.
Following from a public lecture at City University London, the articles discuss the interface between creativity, urban transformation, precariousness and social networking. This introduction places the lecture within the framework of North–South academic exchanges and in relation to how Latin American cities are responding to the rise of the creative economy in urban policy development. The main article, written by Néstor García Canclini, provides the foundation for an anthropology of precariousness and creativity in the context of globalised urban discontent and the transformation of space through information technologies. Voicing classical cultural studies concerns about identities, economy, global imaginaries and political resistance, he examines the strategies and networks that young creative producers, cultural entrepreneurs and artists use to navigate contradictory transnational processes. The article offers a renewed critical perspective into creative urbanism, connecting local cultural practices with global processes of neoliberal economic restructuring, urban violence and social exclusion. In doing so, it delineates the possibilities for an emancipatory transformation of urban space in times of increasing uncertainty.
The withdrawal of state funding from public health care in post-Mao China has resulted in individuals taking responsibility for their own health. In this article, we first trace the emergence and development of the main health-related advice genres on radio and television during the latter half of the reform era (from the 1990s onwards). We then discuss the content, form and themes of health information and advice, first on radio and then on television. Drawing on interviews with radio and television producers and audience members, as well as a number of medical practitioners, we take an approach that is at once political-economic and cultural. Our intention is to uncover the distinctive challenges facing Chinese individuals as risk subjects, and the strategies they adopt in response, thus highlighting the major ways in which specific media and cultural forms and practices are constitutive of China’s unique journey to modernization.
Scholarship has largely been conducted on publics’ ‘offline’ public art encounters, while public art practice has become increasingly integrated with virtual dimensions. This article aims to fill this gap by focusing on digitally mediated public art engagement. A case study on the travelling Rubber Duck exhibition (2012–present) interrogates how this artwork is appropriated and narrated through digitally networked spaces (mainly social media, forums and news platforms) after its repeated on-site installations. This article argues for the need to expand on ‘virtual relationality’: the communication, (re-)negotiation and (re-)siting of public art’s roles and meanings through (mainly text- and image-based) social mediations within hybrid, online-offline contexts. Public art encounters are examined along fluid cybergeographical understandings of its social and spatial publicness, temporalities and uses, which deconstruct binaries including material/digital space, permanence/ephemerality and human/non-human.
This article examines the emergence of the themes of shame and guilt in Irish print and broadcast media in the wake of Ireland’s 2008 economic collapse. It considers how the potential search for explanation of the crisis as a manifestation of unregulated banking and development sectors was displaced onto a confessional discursive pattern in which emphasis was placed on rampant borrowing and consumption as reflective of collective narcissism and acquisitive greed. Hence the logic that ‘hubris’ led inevitably to a national fall from grace and the corresponding resurgence of postcolonial shame; and the interplay between cultural nationalist and neoliberal discourses of redemption through confession of guilt and disciplinary self-regulation as the purging of excess.
The purpose of this study is to examine the stardom of Li Yuchun, a star from Super Girls’ Voice (an American Idol-type show), from the perspective of media power. Based on Couldry’s framework of media power, which focuses on the symbolic boundary between the media world and the ordinary world, this study compares the stardom of Song Zuying, who represents party stars; the stardom of Jay Chou, who represents commercialized stars; and the stardom of Li Yuchun to explore the ways in which audiences construct the stardom of Li Yuchun. Their implications for the Chinese entertainment industry and popular culture are also discussed.
Popular music constitutes an important mode of public expression which can stimulate not only a change in the public image of place but also wider social and cultural communities in shrinking cities. Focusing on the internationally successful indie-rap band Kraftklub from the Eastern German city of Chemnitz, we analyse how they visually, rhetorically and musically address shrinkage and the GDR as a critical comment on municipal memory and identity politis. Contextualizing Kraftklub’s oeuvre with the official city marketing campaign, we show that popular music scenes help establish a new, inclusive and confident post-industrial identity as well as contribute to a more positive urban image.
Feminist campaigns on social media platforms have recently targeted ‘manspreading’ – a portmanteau describing men who sit in a way which fills multiple seats on public transport. Feminists claim this form of everyday sexism exemplifies male entitlement and have responded by posting candid online photographs of men caught manspreading. These ‘naming and shaming’ digilante strategies have been met with vitriolic responses from men’s rights activists. This article uses debates around manspreading to explore and appraise some key features of contemporary feminist activism online. Given the heat, amplification, and seemingly intractable nature of the argument, it investigates the usefulness of Chantal Mouffe’s agonistic pluralism to unpack the conflict. Ultimately, however, agonistic theory is found to have limits – in terms of this case study as well as more broadly. Some final thoughts are offered on how feminists might best navigate the pitfalls of online activism – including the problem of ‘false balance’ – going forward.
This article identifies the challenges community archives of popular music face in achieving medium- to long-term sustainability. The artefacts and vernacular knowledge to be found in community archives, both physical and online, are at risk of being lost ‘to the tip’ and, consequently, to ‘cultural memory’, due to a lack of resources and technological change. The authors offer case studies of the British Archive of Country Music, a physical archive, and an online Facebook group Upstairs at the Mermaid, to exemplify how and why such groups must strategize their practices in order to remain sustainable. By including both online and physical community archiving in the scope of this research, the authors find that despite key differences in practice, both archival communities face similar threats of closure. The article concludes with an overview of the general outlook for community archives, and possible solutions to this ongoing issue of sustainable practices and processes for this sector.
Recent controversies around identity and diversity in digital games culture indicate the heightened affective terrain for participants within this creative industry. While work in digital games production has been characterized as a form of passionate, affective labour, this article examines its specificities as a constraining and enabling force. Affect, particularly passion, serves to render forms of game development oriented towards professionalization and support of the existing industry norms as credible and legitimate, while relegating other types of participation, including that by women and other marginalized creators, to subordinate positions within hierarchies of production. Using the example of a women-in-games initiative in Montreal as a case study, we indicate how linkages between affect and competencies, specifically creativity and technical abilities, perpetuate a long-standing delegitimization of women’s work in digital game design.
Recent debates about hospitality and religious diversity frequently hinge on unspoken notions of home. This is especially true in the Canadian province of Quebec, where citizens have worked to establish a secular state after a history of domination by the Catholic Church. In the last two decades, as religious minorities have grown, controversy has arisen about requests for accommodations made on religious grounds. Here I examine responses to those requests and ask what notions of home underpin them. One is grounded in history: its adherents contend that immigrants are guests and should conform to the norms of their new home. It expands the geography of home by linking secularism to collective identity. A second is grounded in political-legal thought: its adherents contend citizens are at home even if their views differ from the majority’s. It recognizes that long-time residents and newcomers mutually influence each other and, over time, people’s identities change.
Over the last few years in Egypt, female cartoonists have ventured into the traditionally male-dominated arena of political cartoons. For the first time, a group of female cartoonists has emerged, and is expressing its opinions about global, local, and female-related issues. This article discusses the works of young Egyptian female cartoonists and some of the initiatives in which they have participated. I explore their works as sites of resistance that challenge the power hierarchies within the patriarchal structure in post-revolution era Egypt. I use Karl Mannheim’s concept of generation style to suggest that their works will have long-term ramifications for the political scene in Egypt over the coming years. For, in spite of the aborted revolution, a young generation is still carving space that resists the dominant masculine structure in an effort to re-sculpt notions of equity in terms that appropriately reflect the gendered interests of women.
This article explores the concept of ‘queerbaiting’, a term employed by media fans to criticise homoerotic suggestiveness in contemporary television when this suggestiveness is not actualised in the program narrative. I confront the negative connotations of the term and point to the agency of audiences, using the practices of ‘slash fans’ within the Merlin fandom as my case study. I trace definitions of queerbaiting in recent scholarly work and suggest comparison with another term, ‘hoyay’, which has more positive connotations. My central argument is that as this concept begins its inevitable permeation into academic work, worth considering are the queer readings that ‘queerbaiting’ in fact make possible, even plausible, which is an understanding of the term that is in line with the ‘poaching’ and ‘playful’ spirit of media fandom.
Piracy is taking on an entirely new character in the age of media in the cloud. Global technology and business models are evolving rapidly, while regulators and lawmakers are catching up in attempts to work out a new set of rules of engagement. In this article, I explore the divergent developments between a retrograde global copyright governance regime and cloud-based media distribution that focuses on connectivity and access. I also examine attempts at business model innovation that seek to effectively embrace and control the continually evolving user–content–platform interaction in the cloud. This article will contribute to our understanding of this rapidly changing ecosystem and the dynamics between technology, law and market.
While it has been suggested that tattoos and piercings have gone mainstream, there remains a body modification subculture dedicated to more extreme forms of modification than are accepted by the majority of society. I present data from an ethnographic study of the subculture, focusing on various attempts to uphold group boundaries in a virtual community designed for body modification enthusiasts. As the website began to shift away from its subcultural roots, members increasingly criticised the new administration and mainstream body modifiers. Emphasising the social distance between themselves and those with discreetly modified bodies, members of the subculture ultimately abandoned the online community they helped build. This study contributes to the understanding of the significance of virtual spaces to real-world subcultures.
This article is dedicated to an analysis of Russian cultural borrowings from the Natives of Alaska and Aleutian Islands during the second half of the 18th century until 1867, when these territories were sold to the USA. As this research shows, the Russians, in the process of their colonization of the New World, borrowed objects of a predominantly utilitarian character in the sphere of material culture. Most of these borrowings took place in the 18th century, when the Russians had weak connections with the metropolis and there was a scarcity of European goods. The spiritual culture of the Natives, with the exception of some linguistic borrowings, chiefly of a toponymic character, remained outside the cultural circle of the immigrants from Russia.
This article focuses on fan fiction as a literary experience and especially on fan fiction readers’ receptive strategies. Methodologically, its approach is at the intersection of literary theory, theory of popular culture, and qualitative research into practices of communication within online communities. It characterizes fan fiction as a type of contemporary reading and writing. Taking as an example the Russian Harry Potter fan fiction community, the article poses a set of questions about the meanings and contexts of immersive reading and affective reading. The emotional reading of fan fiction communities is put into historical and theoretical context, with reference to researchers who analysed and criticized the dichotomy of rational and affective reading, or ‘enchantment’, in literary culture as one of the symptoms of modernity. The metaphor of ‘emotional landscapes of reading’ is used to theorize the reading strategies of fan fiction readers, and discussed through parallels with phenomenological theories of landscape. Among the ‘assemblage points of reading’ of fan fiction, specific elements are described, such as ‘selective reading’, ‘kink reading’, ‘first encounter with fan fiction texts’ and ‘unpredictability’.
This article explores and critiques mainstream speculative news surrounding personal technologies. We focus on news concerning bionic contact lenses, a hardware invention prototype by Google Inc promoted as a ‘future’ personal computing device. Technology is increasingly normalized and configured as inevitable through representations across consumer media outlets. In our analysis of a large corpus of online and print news coverage, we identify three rhetorical strategies that justify it as either a medical/assistive device within a discourse of health, or a device for transhuman enhancement within a discourse of transhumanism. Employing Roland Barthes’s critical theory of myth, we argue that the first medical justification obfuscates but ultimately promotes the second justification, transhuman enhancement. This transhumanist vision endorses enhancement and augmentation without an identifiable purpose or disclosure concerning how people as users might be affected in the future. New media are subtly promoted during invention; yet, their social function, implied ideologies, and commercialized agenda are rarely challenged. We problematize these omissions, and highlight the need for critical dialogue.
In contrast to previous post-quake revitalization initiatives in which urban redevelopment is emphasized, cultural projects and their non-market benefits have recently garnered increased attention. In the past, when post-quake revitalization cultural projects were evaluated, the non-market benefits of these projects were not considered. Consequently, we have adopted a contingent valuation method (CVM) as a process that can evaluate the non-market benefits of cultural projects. This article reports research on Jiji Township, which is the epicentre of the most severe earthquake recorded in Taiwan in the past 50 years. The study’s results verified that creative cultural projects generated numerous non-market benefits, and that local identity value is the key factor influencing residents’ valuation of the projects and the amount they are willing to pay. This study proposes an economic valuation process that helps establish a method for promoting creative cultural projects based on residents’ opinions and needs.
This article analyzes the Newseum’s attention to questions of the international in an attempt to answer two related research questions: (1) how does the Newseum represent the ‘world news’ story, and (2) how does it represent the world’s various journalism industries? In order to answer these questions, the article first reviews the existing scholarly literature on museums and tourism with the goal of clarifying the Newseum’s positioning within a larger tradition of engaging (and governing) the museum visitor. The article then provides some background information on the Newseum’s creation, shedding light on the very specific sociocultural context that engendered the Newseum – and its view of the ‘world’. Finally, the article discusses the author’s findings from a site study of the Newseum’s 9/11 Memorial Gallery and its Time Warner World News Gallery.
Following growing bodies of scholarship concerned with the social and cultural lives of economic forms, this article tries to recover some of the complexity of contracts in creative work. While contracts might seem to reflect narrowly economic determinations, as mere instruments of commerce, sociological models emphasize their contingency and artifice. Moving toward and forward from such models, this article synthesizes a more sociocultural model, approaching contract as a scene of contestation, communication and constitution. It develops these themes in a series of engagements with predominant legal, economic and sociological models of contract; across these engagements, it draws upon and draws together cases of recording artists and film stars, while also drawing broader comparisons with other creative workers.
The main objective of this article is to lay the foundations of a theory of grotesque transparency that looks into the aesthetics of ‘ocular politics’. Inspired by Ramón del Valle-Inclán’s definition of the esperpento – a grotesque representation of the hero – this interpretative schema uncovers the rhetorical, narrative and iconic mechanisms that constitute a form of political communication that creates the illusion of total affective disclosure. We tested the premises of this theory by studying a public performance of the now-deceased Venezuela President Hugo Chávez where discursive genres overlap (presidential speech, comic soundbites and preacher’s homily), dissolving the ‘truth’ in an ‘excess of transparency’, and also performing a function of social criticism through desecration of institutional formalities.
This article explores the concept of the binge as viewing protocol associated with fan practices, industry practice and linked to ‘cult’ and ‘quality’ serialised content. Viewing binge-watching as an intersection of discourses of industry, audience and text, the concept is analysed here as shaped by a range of issues that dominate the contemporary media landscape. In this, factors like technological developments, fan discourses and practices being adopted as ‘mainstream’ media practice, changes in the discursive construction of ‘television’ and an emerging video-on-demand industry contribute to the construction of binge-watching as deliberate, self-scheduled alternative to ‘watching TV’.
The study of transmedia storytelling has in recent years turned towards a more historicized understanding of its object of study, and also shifted to a wider perspective on narrative and narrative elements, focusing more on the transmediality of story-worlds and world-building rather than just narratives (‘plots’) in the stricter sense. This article combines these interrelated perspectival shifts in an analysis of story-worlds/world-building in two transmedia franchises: The Shadow (1931–present) and Transformers (1984–present), with a focus on the mechanics and processes of world-building in relation to transmedial change (i.e. how world elements are transformed over time as well as when story-worlds move across media platforms).
Anticipating the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, this article uses the triple axel jump, one of the most challenging moves in women’s figure skating, as a heuristic device to track representations of Japanese skaters Ito Midori and Asada Mao in the New York Times and Asahi Shimbun. Ito and Asada are two of only six women to have landed triple axels at international figure skating competitions. Employing affect and feminist theories, I argue that constructions of the skaters’ bodies are not just gendered and heteronormative, but also sexed, raced, and affective. Using discourse analysis, I trace how media representations of Ito and Asada redraw global color lines and national boundaries in sport and negotiate different femininities, underscoring excessive feelings and physical appearance. Contributing to feminist sport studies and transnational feminist cultural studies, this comparative analysis offers new perspectives on women’s sports in Japan and athleticism’s relation to race, femininities, and national identity.
This article examines the art and travels of two contemporary Chinese artists – Ai Weiwei and Cai Guo-Qiang – to explore how each of them successfully navigates the rapidly shifting terrains and interests of the Chinese state and the global high art industry while simultaneously articulating a distinct politics and practice of creative ambivalence. We argue that these two artists’ creative productions and strategies: (1) refute various western critics’ critique of Chinese artists as inauthentic imitators of western art who produce exotic representations of China and Chinese identity for western consumption; (2) call into question the Chinese government’s numerous efforts to simultaneously promote and control Chinese contemporary art for nationalist/statist purposes. Furthermore, we unpack how both artists deploy various resources to produce complex works that interrogate and demonstrate the clashes of power, culture and identity in global spaces of encounter.
While research on youth media offers persuasive arguments about what young people are doing with information and communication technologies (ICTs), a significant absence from the literature pertains to the general neglect of Palestinian youth engagements with inexpensive ICTs and digital media forms. Despite a few perceptive analyses, several studies ignore the role of popular culture in Palestinian refugee life-worlds. This article explores how Palestinian youth living in a refugee camp in the West Bank appropriate old and new media to create personal and social narratives. Drawing insights from Paul Ricoeur’s work, non-representational theory, feminist, media, and cultural studies, the article probes the issues through a set of interrelated questions: What are the salient features of the Palestinian youth media initiative? What kinds of media narratives are produced and how do these relate to young people’s notions of identity and selfhood? How do young people refashion the notion of the political?
This article explores the way in which producers of digital cultural commons use new production models based on openness and sharing to interact with and adapt to existing structures such as the capitalist market and the economies of public cultural funding. Through an ethnographic exploration of two cases of open-source animation film production – Gooseberry and Morevna, formed around the 3D graphics Blender and the 2D graphics Synfig communities – we explore how sharing and production of commons generates values and relationships which trigger the movement of producers, software and films between different fields of cultural production and different moral economies – those of the capitalist market, the institutions of public funding and the commons. Our theoretical approach expands the concept of ‘moral economies’ from critical political economy with ‘regimes of value’ from anthropological work on value production, which, we argue, is useful to overcome dichotomous representations of exploitation or romanticization of the commons.
The article discusses the potential contribution of (critical) discourse analysis to cultural studies. The textual/discursive approach to media reception is advanced as a way of investigating the semiotic and sociological concerns underpinning cultural studies. The article demonstrates the expediency of exploring the socio-cultural implications of media consumption by embracing its complexity. Understood as related to the textual/discursive, affective, cognitive, ideological and embodied aspects of identity, the complexity of individuals’ engagements with media is examined by means of discursive psychology. The advantages of this approach over other methods of investigating media reception are illustrated and discussed in relation to the concept of ‘cultural intelligence’. Relatedly, the importance of the proper understanding of the media consumer’s reflexivity is stressed, as well as an accurate operationalization of this concept in critical research.
This special issue, entitled ‘The Trickster Activist in Global Humour and Comedy’, investigates the relevance of the concept of the trickster for explaining activist expressions that emanate from comedians, or that appear in comedy and humour more generally. Comedy has traditionally been viewed as an aesthetic or entertainment medium. It has often been charged with encouraging stereotype and the affirmation of mainstream audience beliefs. Despite this, we argue, there have been moments in recent history where comedians have given their performances an increased level of social and political consciousness that resonates with the public at large, or with sections of the public. Comedians, we argue, are able to reach this level of social commentary due to their potential to become tricksters. Paradoxically, the mythical trickster is a liminal entity, one that is adept at destruction as well as creation, or at conservativism as well radicalism. The articles in this issue explore the complexity of the trickster concept, showing some of the polysemy involved in the social activism enabled by comedy and humour.
This article argues that social activism is inherent in the nature of the trickster figure, namely through the productive and therapeutic power of the imagination. Analysing the author’s style of writing, the novel’s composition in the broader context of Czech folklore studies, artistic and literary movements inside the socialist bloc in the 1960s and 1970s, the Jungian archetype, and the Lacanian mirror-stage theories, I explore how the trickster serves that social purpose in Bohumil Hrabal’s novel I Served the King of England. Enabling an externalization of the problems accompanying the process of individual and collective Self-development, the trickster provides for both the author and reader a shelter for reflection and a possible reconsideration of Self. The trickster character and narrative thus presents a soothing action and, through that, a warning and a suggestion for society. Of course, such externalization creates the possibility of neither overcoming the distance nor understanding the warning a trickster sends.
In the context of contemporary European labour migration, where the most publicised pattern of labour migration sees Eastern European migrants move West, the dominant scholarly interpretation of Polish jokes is not applicable for the analysis of much of the joking by or about the Poles. Humour scholars frequently categorise jokes about ethnic groups into stupid or canny categories, and the Poles have been the butt of stupidity (‘Polack’) jokes in Europe and the United States. Today, in the European Union, Polish stupidity stereotyping in humour is less active and the Polish immigrant is hard working and a threat to indigenous labour, yet joking does not depict this threat in a canny Pole. The article applies the liminal concept of the trickster – an ambiguous border crosser or traveller – to elaborate some of the characteristics of jokes told by and about Polish migrants in the EU, mainly in the British context. A more robust explanatory framework is thus offered than is currently available in humour studies.
Jaime Garzón was a comic ahead of his time. While his comedy lifespan barely covered one decade (abruptly interrupted by his untimely death), his legacy in Colombian comedy and social activism remains strong. This article, rather than discussing his death, will focus on his life as a comedian who was the quintessential Colombian trickster. Through a framework of what it means to be a trickster in the Latin American and Colombian contexts, this article analyses the social commentary present in Heriberto de la Calle, Garzón’s most celebrated alter ego. Through de la Calle, Garzón was able to raise questions about our society and confront politicians about daily issues, both becoming a voice for average Colombians and establishing a new consciousness of comedy as a tool for social accountability. A discussion on the impact of Garzón’s legacy today will complete the analysis of his comedy and trickster discourse.
This article considers Canadian comedian Debra DiGiovanni’s self-deprecatory humour as a performative strategy. In keeping with a performance tradition of self-deprecation as established by women like Phyllis Diller and Joan Rivers, DiGiovanni offers ‘failure’ as a comic strategy. Her comedy is heavily reliant upon the framing of her lack in relationships, in self-control and in body image (in relation to normative gender standards and expectations). At the same time, however, DiGiovanni also engages critically with gendered expectations of heteronormative desirability, lampooning thin women, superficial men and celebrity culture. Although her comedy is generally characterized by self-deprecation, her humour also leaves space for an ambivalent politics of gender.
This article examines the relationship between language, humor, and postcolonial affect in the work of British performer and satirist Sacha Baron Cohen. His four major characters, Ali G, Borat, Brüno, and Admiral General Shabazz Aladeen, each uses an intentionally unreliable pattern of inter-ethnic word substitutions as a defining characteristic of their performances. Guttural word-sounds, invented ‘foreign’ gibberish, and fractured English collectively offer a metatextual critique of the power of western spectatorship in contemporary global media. This linguistic fracturing technique, defined in this article as ‘transcomedy’, uses the incongruous sensibility of humor to visualize what Homi Bhabha describes as the bifurcated status of the colonized subject. An earlier example of transcomedy is located in this article in the work of Native American essayist Gerald Vizenor.
North Africa has a long and rich history of using satire as a tool of dissent, although those practices slowly died out during the colonisation period. Fatima Chebchoub, a Moroccan academic and theatre-maker, was one of the few contemporary directors to use traditional performance practices, and the only trained female hlayqia, coming from a family of storytellers. Chebchoub was a real pioneer, often performing one-woman shows on sensitive issues such as female sexuality and transgressing social boundaries to take on a variety of personas. At the centre of her large repertoire was comicality: in a country where a harsh censorship was still in place, Chebchoub was able to use humour to deflect attention and make political statements despite risks to her safety. Her performances, including enacting men on stage and challenging Morocco’s patriarchal system, were deeply subversive in a conservative environment. In the tradition of Vizenor’s trickster, Chebchoub used performance to engage with society and open dialogues. Both in her professional and private life, she refused to conform and continuously criticised the dominant paradigm, reclaiming a voice for women as well as for impoverished and marginalised parts of Moroccan society. I examine the strategies used by Chebchoub to address controversial issues while drawing from the local performance heritage, and discuss how her legacy lives on through the work of other female performers in Morocco. In particular, popular comedian Hanane Fadili and theatre companies such as the feminist troupe Théâtre Aquarium use humour and satire to challenge oppressive traditions and promote the emancipation of women. Their role in the context of democratic transition is important: they create alternative models of womanhood and identity, and they campaign against corruption and domestic violence using theatre as a tool for change.
This article explores a special type of trickster discourse, networked spoof videos and the ‘narrative dissidence’ embedded in their construction of an alternative memory in China. I start with a review of the relationship between memory and power, and the changes that the internet as a mnemonic system has brought to their configuration, before turning to memory policy in contemporary China and the challenges posed to this policy by active users on the internet. I argue that the control of memory in China is realized through the monopoly of the media and the language system. I argue that this constructive process negates the official version of memory, strips bare all falsities and pretensions, and signals an emergent model for the construction of memory and truth in China.
Through interviews with 45 self-described Little Monsters, we explore fan identification with Lady Gaga’s interest in and messages about politics and philanthropy, Gaga’s influence on fans’ attitudes toward activism, and the role activism plays in the Little Monster community. Our findings suggest both that fans can be deeply impacted by celebrities’ political values and actions, particularly when expressed through social media, and that the online, networked fan communities that develop around celebrities are socially supportive and politically engaged. We assert that fans’ identification with celebrities’ political values and actions, and the engagement of networked fan communities, demonstrate that the enforced distinctions between ‘audiences’ and ‘publics’ are outdated.
The implications of using satellite imagery like Google Earth to illustrate biographical narratives has scarcely been explored. The Wilderness Downtown, an interactive video by the band Arcade Fire that was launched in 2010, raises questions in this respect. The project uses geolocalization to demonstrate various points of view shown on Google Maps while shaping both the narrative and the generation of personal memory. However, in spite of the aesthetic novelty of this experience, the mental processes being activated are not without precedent, as we can see with the telling example of Robert Musil’s The Man Without Qualities. This opens a broader issue. To what epistemology of spatial distribution does such an encounter between satellite imagery and individual storytelling subscribe? We will see that Google Earth’s interface has a lot more in common with the city than we might initially think. Ultimately, we will see that the nature of the city involved is culturally specific and is in some ways confining.
Instead of artistic or poetic license in general, millennial novelists and filmmakers have been taking a particular kind of "aspic license" in their use or abuse of Asperger’s Syndrome for characterization and plot. A mental disability turns out to enable lead characters in their respective pursuits, as in the British TV comedy Doc Martin (2004-2013) and Mai Jia’s Chinese spy thriller Decoded (2002). Doc Martin associates Aspie with Asiatic, both betokening the Other, the opposite to neurotypicals and Western universalism. When the mystique of Orientalized Aspies in Western texts morphs into that of their doppelganger of Occidentalized Aspies in Eastern texts, qualitative changes occur. Whereas Asiatic Aspies in the West don the Asiatic like the emperor’s new clothes, skin-deep and stylized, Asiatic Aspies in the East flaunt Asperger’s Syndrome like an imported luxury to boost the value of the East.
Mega-events such as the Olympics and international expositions have long been understood as staging platforms upon which host countries offer displays of nation-state splendor. This article examines representations at the 2010 Shanghai World Expo, a largely state- and corporate-funded mega-event, to consider contemporary China’s particular narrative of the nation as it emerges as a global power in the 21st century. Through an analysis of Expo films, displays, and architecture, this article argues that the Shanghai Expo offered a model for the future that linked future progress to past glory, wedding traditional Chinese practices and belief systems to contemporary economic growth and technological advancement. While recognizing that the representations at the Expo were largely aspirational, the article demonstrates that studying such idealized forms of national identity can reveal much about China’s attempts to position itself as a prototype for global futures.
The article explores theoretical and methodological understandings of the archive, drawing on a research project that investigates reminiscences of using and encountering pornography in Finland. The contributors’ reminiscences of what they have done with porn can be seen as forming an archive of feelings, which sheds light on attachments and practices often considered ephemeral and hidden, and focuses attention on the queer significance of those practices. We further consider the blurred boundaries between an archive, a collection and a stash in terms of their secrecy, publicness and affective intensity. Finally, we propose that the notion of somatic archives allows for analysis of how encounters with pornography layer through time in our bodies, contributing to forms of sexual knowledge. The article thus examines interconnections between memory work archives, personal porn stashes and somatic archives while analysing the importance and power of pornography in and for everyday life, sexual histories and cultural memory.
This article uses empirical research conducted on MegaTotal, a crowdfunding platform operating in Poland, in order to demonstrate the complexity of the relations between project initiators and contributors in equity/royalty-based crowdfunding. The presented research shows how differences among crowdfunding models have an impact on relations between project initiators and contributors as well as the collection process for funding by comparing MegaTotal and Kickstarter. The article proposes an analysis of these relations depending on crowdfunding type, the size and structure of the pre-existing fanbase, and the project initiator’s opinion on the role played by contributors. Our research shows that elements both suggesting that crowdfunding empowers fans and that it can be used as a means of exploiting them may be found in the analysed model of crowdfunding.
The domestic worker’s room, or ‘maid’s room’, was ubiquitous in apartheid-era white South African suburbia. In the post-apartheid era many of these outdoor rooms have been reinvented as so-called garden cottages. Their histories of racialised labour have ostensibly been erased by a middle-class discourse in which garden cottages are rented to people who are seen to legitimately ‘belong’ in the suburbs. This article uses a combination of historical material, contemporary advertising texts and interviews to discuss the transition from maid’s room to garden cottage, considering how these spaces have been (in some cases literally) whitewashed. It argues that this discursive shift masks a continuation of the exclusionary politics of identity that have long motivated white South African suburban dwellers’ collective attempts to police the boundaries of the suburbs.
In response to the digitization and corporatization of the record industry, Record Store Day brands music consumption as an ethical decision, coordinating the release of exclusive vinyl records to independent, locally owned retailers and framing an engineered collectors’ market as an annual holiday. In this article, I evaluate Record Store Day as an ambivalent brand culture – a perspective highlighting the affective and relational components of brands without privileging exploitation or authenticity. At once, Record Store Day is a commercial platform for the development of media ideologies and political subject positions on independence and a capitalist operation that compartmentalizes its corporate intermediaries and offloads financial risk onto small stores. Record Store Day’s success suggests that ambivalent brand cultures provide a productive framework through which to analyse the political and cultural possibilities of media formats and independent retail.
The wild and the everyday point at once to twinned aspects of life and, in this article, to a technological imaginary drawing upon the use of the mobile internet in urban slums of India. The article responds to the rather untethered way, from the point of view of state regulation, in which the telecom market in India has devolved to include poor populations, stoking a repertoire of unconventional daily use of the internet by youth living in slums. This article serves to locate the ‘wild and everyday’ as a specific sociocultural space in relation to use of mobile Facebook among young populations invisible to mainstream research on internet and culture. While development, as conventionally understood, is not focused on purposive outcomes of digital leisure practice (romance, play, entertainment), we argue that online engagements such as these are powerful precursors to ecologies of learning, reconstituting our understandings of global and mobile internet practice.
This article examines the extent to which prefigurative ‘horizons of expectations’ shaped audience engagements with Peter Jackson’s 2012 film The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (AUJ). Whereas previous research often focuses on examining prefigurative materials, discussions and debates themselves, this article draws on audience surveys conducted before and after the film’s release to illustrate the impact of prior hopes and expectations on post-viewing responses. While Hobbit pre-viewers were often deeply familiar with various prefigurative materials and intertextual resources, AUJ nonetheless retained the capacity to delight, confound, impress and distress viewers in ways that superseded pre-existing structures of meaning. Thus, while our findings illustrate that processes of reception potentially begin prior to and continue beyond initial moments of viewing, they also affirm the need to engage – theoretically and empirically – with the complex specificity and fluidity of actual reception experiences.
Much has been written about the crucial role attention plays in the digital economy and how to enhance technological features to better sustain user attention for commercial applications. However, we know very little about how myriad factors other than technological ones shape the structure and flow of online attention, and what significant implications the attention economy bears for such authoritarian regimes as China that heavily censor the web. This article fills the gap by investigating how Sina.com – the leading news and entertainment web portal in China – innovatively capitalizes on the attention economy and plays a leading role in popularizing blogging in China. This article proposes the concept of ‘professional digital attention agents’ and investigates in detail the role that these agents play in structuring, directing and publicizing online content. It argues that professional digital attention agents not only effectively popularize blogs as a new self-publishing medium in China, but also foster the ascent of critical voices from a commercially oriented Chinese blogosphere.
Despite widespread interest in the changing technologies, economies and politics of creative labour, much of the recent cultural production scholarship overlooks the social positioning of gender. This article draws upon in-depth interviews with 18 participants in highly feminized sites of digital cultural production (e.g. fashion, beauty and retail) to examine how they articulate and derive value from their passionate activities. I argue that the discourses of authenticity, community building and brand devotion that they draw on are symptomatic of a highly gendered, forward-looking and entrepreneurial enactment of creativity that I term ‘aspirational labour’. Aspirational labourers pursue productive activities that hold the promise of social and economic capital; yet the reward system for these aspirants is highly uneven. Indeed, while a select few may realize their professional goals – namely to get paid doing what they love – this worker ideology obscures problematic constructions of gender and class subjectivities.
Audience research in media and cultural studies has developed alongside a moral economy of fandom, like and love that risks casting intense suspicion upon dislike and disengagement. An inquiry into audiences’ dislikes, though, will at times tell us a great deal about their expectations of, hopes for, and preferred uses of the media. Building on a discussion of the largely Bourdieu-ian framing in media and cultural studies literature of dislike as social ill, and drawing from qualitative interviews, the article moves past ‘poaching’ to see what active dislike tells us about audiences’ relationships to television. In particular, it focuses on audiences who use dislike as a resource to articulate both to others and themselves positions of marginalization and exclusion from a perceived televisual norm.
Drawing upon interviews and focus groups with Asian migrants, this article interrogates responses to ‘diasporic’ films that seek to represent multicultural experiences in contemporary New Zealand. We argue that these responses provide an effective demonstration of the operation of the ‘social imagination’, a discursive process that articulates the fundamental linkage between symbolic representation, community formation and social action. As our respondents narrated the personal meanings that they construct around ethnically specific media, they were compelled to describe known and hypothetical others, to elucidate symbolic and moral codes, and to reveal social empathies and anxieties. In this study, we found that discussions around migrant stories revealed a series of deeply personalised notions of self and place that were always situated in juxtaposition with externalised projections of community formation and the ‘mainstream’ culture. This dynamic reflects what can be conceptualised as the central preoccupations of a ‘diasporic social imagination’. These responses, therefore, constitute a case study of social imagination at work in a multicultural context, underlining the utility of narrative media in providing a public forum for discussing cultural diversity.
Early internet and fan studies theorists believed the New Media context and work of the active fan would bring theories like the Death of the Author to fruition. Contemporary fan studies scholars are more reserved, acknowledging diversity in fan attitudes. Through analysis of a LiveJournal article with comments on authors’ views concerning fanfiction, this article demonstrates the paradoxical investment in various forms of authorial authority espoused across fan communities, as well as defiance and repudiation of them. I argue that while the authors quoted are denied legitimate authority through various tactics, the concept of an originating, proprietary authorship, with attendant capitalist powers and rights, retains much influence. The concept of the author holds more power than the individual figures attempting to wield it, and fans attribute or deny the power of authorship to particular figures according to their public personas and cultural politics. In this sense, fans may withhold or bestow legitimation through the operation of Foucault’s author-function, interpreting text and statements of authority through the public persona of the author.
The convergence of digital and multimodal cognitive technologies offers the possibility to interact in an ‘on-line’ cultural process mediated by new ways of representing our thoughts, emotions, ideas, beliefs, opinions and behaviours. Such technological integration not only alters and introduces innovations in the interactive and representational modes of networked media, perhaps inducing changes in our cognitive functions, but also conditions the global cultural dynamics by potentially organizing, funnelling, tagging and ‘semantically’ predigesting knowledge through the ‘intelligent’ digital technosphere. The ecology of ideas in such complex and accelerating semiotic space will present highly contradictory and dissonant tendencies in cultural processes. This may pose great difficulties for individuals, communities and whole cultural layers when trying to reconcile such tendencies with a sustainable direction that does not disrupt the life-support systems and the cognitive (and physiological) health of individuals and communities.
In his studies of culture, Juri Lotman implicitly expressed several ideas that have been rendered explicit by the contemporary mediasphere. The aim of the current article is to explicate a link between Lotmanian cultural semiotics and transmediality as one of today’s more innovative communicative practices. Transmediality is hereby located in the context of cultural autocommunication as a mechanism serving both creative and mnemonic functions. Thus, the notion is related not only to the questions of textual construction but, even more importantly, to text’s processual existence in culture in diverse media languages and discourses over time. By explaining the roots and developments of Lotman’s concept of autocommunicativity, which is central to his understanding of culture as a whole, the article simultaneously indicates the areas of his cultural semiotic studies that we consider relevant and fruitful for contemporary research into transmediality.
In Yuri Lotman’s terms intertextual relationships as active dialogues among texts and cultures should be the starting point for an analysis of the concepts of intermediality, cross-mediality and transmediality. This article considers adaptations and remakes as intermedial processes and remix practices as transmedial ones. The article demonstrates how the processes of transposition, remake and remix may sometimes be only partial, or in other instances they may shift towards entirely different textual systems/levels. At metasemiotic levels, the strategies that build the narrative worlds may either conceal or emphasize the interdependent relations between source and target texts, as well as between their cultural semiotic systems and their emergent ‘metatexts’ of self-description. In the second half of the article brief semiotic analyses will be presented in order to investigate mechanisms of the intermedial and transmedial networks that start from a literary text, Don Quixote by Cervantes, and continue to cinema and new digital media.
What has been labelled ‘New Horror’ cinema has opened up its boundaries to incorporate signs specific to social and political events that accompanied and followed the events of 9/11. The reality of terror is transported into the fictional universe of horror. This article presents an interpretation of New Horror cinema using Yuri Lotman’s theory of the semiosphere and Wilma Clark’s extension of his theory in order to engage in a critical rethinking of how genres intersect with culture. The primary focus is on contemporary horror films that function as allegories that address post-9/11 and, in turn, to apply Lotman’s theory of the semiosphere and the concept of cultural ‘explosions’ to account for the generic shifts that have transformed the structure of the horror genre.
In the past decade, Cape Verde has been facing severe and growing problems of youth delinquency and gang-related violence. The state has reacted to this challenge mainly with a securitization politics, expanding and modernizing its security forces. As a result, the Cape Verdean prison population has more than doubled over the same period. In the capital city of Praia, more and more youths from the disadvantaged periphery find themselves behind bars, serving long sentences for mostly drug- and gang-related crimes, in what seems to be a replication of the experience of many Cape Verdean immigrants in Portugal and elsewhere. In a personal fieldwork account, the article sketches out parallels between the experiences of immigrant youth in Portugal and marginalized youth in Cape Verde, and discusses the way the Cape Verdean state is presently dealing with the phenomenon of ‘youth delinquency’. Essentialist notions of the country’s supposed culture of ‘morabeza’ (gentleness) are confronted with actual patterns of symbolic and physical violence, revealing a persistent unwillingness of Cape Verdean public discourse to face up to the country’s growing structural socioeconomic disequilibrium.
While much of mainstream hip-hop has been corporatized and commercialized by major corporations, strands of independent hip-hop have attempted to remain separated from the major record labels. Using hermeneutic methods, this article examines the lyrics of independent hip-hop artist Immortal Technique. This article identifies three central themes in Immortal Technique’s lyrics that illustrate how he expresses resistance to class domination. First, he argues that class conflict occurs in hip-hop and thus there needs to be a pull away from major corporations. Second, his lyrics point for the need for independent hip-hop to escape from false consciousness and resist hegemony. Finally, his work indicates that the creation of knowledge through independent hip-hop culture and language present a means to resist class domination.
This article examines the historical truth of the ‘pear of anguish’ – a common exhibit in European dungeon museums that has recently made its way into the popular imagination by way of TV shows and internet sites. Like the ‘chastity belt’ before it, the ‘pear of anguish’ evidences the ‘dark medievalism’ of the modern consciousness, a dystopian view of the Middle Ages that imagines pre-Reformation Europe as a nexus of cruelty and sexual perversion. The historical reality, however, traced here through commentaries and catalogues from the past few centuries, would seem to indicate that both the device itself and its imagined function are creations of the modern world.
This article sounds a cautionary note about the instrumental use of celebrity advocacy to (re)engage audiences in public life. It begins by setting out the steps necessary to achieve public recognition of a social problem requiring a response. It then presents empirical evidence which suggests that those most interested in celebrity, while also paying attention to the main stories of the day, are least likely to participate in any form of politics. However, this does not rule out the possibility of forging a link between celebrity and public engagement, raising questions about what would potentially sustain such an articulation. After discussing the broader cultural context of celebrity advocacy, in which perceived authenticity functions as a valorised form of symbolic capital, the article outlines a phenomenological approach to understanding the uses audiences make of celebrity advocacy, using the example of a Ewan McGregor UNICEF appeal for illustration. It concludes that while media encounters with celebrities can underpin a viewer’s sense of self, this is as likely to lead to the rationalisation of inaction as a positive response to a charity appeal.
Celebrity advocacy has become an important part of the way in which development non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and charities more generally, try to achieve social and political change. Yet research into how different audiences respond to such advocacy is parlous. This article presents findings from two large surveys (1111 and 1999), focus groups (9) and interviews across the charitable sector and celebrity industries to explore those responses. These data suggest that celebrity advocacy is not a particularly popular phenomenon, but it is widely believed to be so. Celebrity advocacy is thus firmly entrenched in post-democratic politics and part of the public alienation from politics that term describes. Nevertheless, because celebrity advocacy also works well with political and business elites it may still be a good vehicle for pursuing some of the goals of development advocates.
How effective are celebrities, not just in helping to draw attention to distant suffering, but in actually regulating spectators’ mediated experiences of the lives of distant strangers? What function does the perceived authenticity of a celebrity play in their role as mediator? This article seeks to address such questions by analysing the results of an audience study involving two phases of focus groups separated by a two-month diary study. The results show that celebrities certainly help to shape our mediated experiences of distant suffering – but not always in the ways and to the extent we might expect. What is clear is that celebrities are generally ineffective in cultivating a cosmopolitan engagement with distant suffering.
The article investigates the relevance of geographical imagination in refugee politics in the Mediterranean coast. It is based on empirical research conducted in Calabria, southern Italy, in a small village that in 1997 decided to host over 300 refugees that shipwrecked on its coast. By welcoming refugees the village, Badolato, appropriated politics of hospitality to gain new cultural and economic value for the village that was suffering from high unemployment rates and an ageing population. The story, exceptional as it was, soon attracted international media to cover the story of Badolato. The article depicts developments in the village over the course of 14 years and shows the force and changes over time of media publicity in the process. It points out the relevance of media for the process of geographical imagination and the contradictory and complex implications of the process.
This article has two aims. The first is to make the case that the ‘universe of the mind’ imagined by Yuri Lotman may be considered as a foundational model for cultural evolution (population-wide, dynamic, autopoietic, self-organising adaptation to changing environments). The second aim is to take forward a model of culture derived from Lotman’s work – a model I call ‘the clash of systems’ – in order to apply it to creative industries research. Such a move has the salutary effect of putting the ‘universe of the mind’ literally in its place. That place, now, predominantly, is in the city. Thus, the article uses Lotman’s model of the semiosphere to link different complex systems, principally the semiosphere with that of the city, in order to explore the productive potential of encounters – clashes – between different systems. Applying these insights to the field of creative industries research, the article proposes that creative culture in the globalised, urban and web-connected era can be characterised as ‘urban semiosis’.
This article introduces a special issue that is dedicated to the renowned Russian-Estonian scholar of semiotics and cultural theory – Juri Lotman (1922–93). The aim of the issue is not only to re-introduce Lotman’s work and his approach – the semiotics of culture – for the international community of cultural studies’ scholars, but also to demonstrate its ‘explosive’ potential and its contemporary momentum – its applicability and unique analytic affordances for interpreting the most modern phenomena of global digital cultures. In this introductory article we discuss Lotman’s original contribution regarding his conceptualizations of the evolutionary dynamics of culture and how his work could be potentially advancing the contemporary cultural studies.
This article discusses the phenomenon of power in the process of media evolution. It argues that Juri Lotman’s ‘semiotics of culture’ is not only useful for interpreting this complex process and the role societal power might have in this, but it might have a potential to innovate the mainstream of western media and cultural studies. The article demonstrates the way to apply Lotman’s framework to interpret the evolutionary dynamics of media and proposes how the textual dynamics of cultural change can be interpreted to contribute to the social dynamic – to the dynamics of social organisation and power relations among social agents. Lotman’s framework is put also into dialogue with the western path-breakers in de-ontologising societal power: Michel Foucault and Niklas Luhmann. The article puts a focus on Lotman’s core concepts such as auto-communication and dialogic communication, and demonstrates how these can be seen to facilitate the heterogeneity (divergence) of systems as well as their striving for homogeneity (convergence).
The purpose of the article is to examine Yuri Lotman’s models of the semiosphere and of semiotic spaces in literature and culture in the context of the spatial turn in cultural studies. It argues that Lotman’s writings anticipate the ‘spatial turn’ in cultural studies. Lotman’s semiosphere is a metaphor, which offers a spatial model for the interpretation of culture. A semiosphere is surrounded by a boundary. Its internal places are discontinuous and heterogeneous as well as homogeneous in some respects. Typical constellations of the locations within the semiosphere are opposition and bipolar asymmetry. Furthermore, the semiosphere is a space which can in some respects include itself in a way in which the included space is an icon of the including space. The article shows that Lotman’s topography of the semiosphere has undergone a change from a structuralist to a post-structuralist conception of culture.
Most accounts of Yuri Lotman’s legacy describe the evolution of his oeuvre from structuralism to a systemic version of post-structuralism. This article, however, suggests that Lotman valued highly the heuristic possibilities of the structural method throughout his career – he saw that, as a methodological approach, it enables the whole sphere of cultural studies to be taken into the realm of ‘science’. Lotman connected structuralism with semiotics and, as a result, produced a hybrid in the form of structural semiotics. Over time he enriched the structural method by making it more flexible, so that it could encompass as many cultural phenomena as possible. The principal difficulties in a structural description of a text arose from a fundamental conflict that exists between the integral and the dynamic nature of the text, and the static and analytical nature of the description. For Lotman, the way to make description more dynamic was to multiply the number of descriptions.
The humor utilized by Quino and Lat, cartoonists who belong to cultures that are far apart, is the starting point of this work. This investigation analyzes the topic of politics viewed from these two different cultural backgrounds and therefore from two different perspectives. The researchers seek to go more deeply into the topic of politics, and aim to uncover the differences and similarities in the way these two artists approach this subject through the use of humor, specifically in four of their cartoons. The main findings are that Quino’s approach can be considered universal, while Lat’s approach tends to be more localized. It is found that cultural predispositions make humor social by nature. Neither of the artists seeks social change through their work, but rather social awareness.
Building on the principles of the digital storytelling movement, this article asks whether the narrative exchange within the ‘storycircles’ of storymakers created in face-to-face workshops can be further replicated by drawing on digital infrastructure in specific ways. It addresses this question by reporting on the successes and limitations of a five-stream project of funded action research with partners in north-west England that explored the contribution of digital infrastructure to processes of narrative exchange and the wider processes of mutual recognition that flow from narrative exchange. Three main dimensions of a digital storycircle are explored: multiplications, spatializations (or the building of narratives around sets of individual narratives), and habits of mutual recognition. Limitations relate to the factors of time, and levels of digital development and basic digital access.
Writing about pain in roller derby challenges us to rethink old dichotomies that separate mind and body, ‘real’ and virtual, feminine and masculine. The ‘tough’ roller derby ‘girl’, willing and able to endure pain for the pleasure of the game, has become a powerful figure in contemporary western popular culture. Our analysis of roller derby reveals women’s complex relation to pain and pleasure, as part of a feminist reimagining of sport. Through an analysis of derby texts we explore how painful affects are mobilized in particular ways: to imagine collective belonging, to invent alternative feminine subjectivities, and to mark out the limits of self and other. In this way we endeavour to think through the affective experience of derby and how sport might become more gender inclusive as a transformational cultural site. The embodiment of pain is not simply one of ‘overcoming’, but a corporeal relation that is productive of multiple feminine subjectivities.
This article deals with the phenomenon of hackerspaces and sheds light on the relationship of their underlying values, organizational structures and productive processes to those of the online communities of Commons-based peer production projects. While hackerspaces adopt hybrid modes of governance, this article attempts to identify patterns, trends and theory that can frame their production and governance mechanisms. Using a diverse amount of literature and case studies, it is argued that, in many cases, hackerspaces exemplify several aspects of peer production projects’ principles and governance mechanisms.
Arts and cultural journalism have been found in numerous debates during recent decades to struggle in the midst of a crisis. This article traces the recorded discourse of professionalism that considers cultural journalism to be in a state of decline. A literature review on academic research and contributions in public debates provides an insight into the ‘crisis talk’ of the last two decades and unveils general controversies in the development of the professional culture of cultural journalism. By mapping the discourse in terms of the unfavourable directions that the development of cultural journalism has moved in, the analysis constructs a model for the future research of this specialized branch of journalism.
This article examines a particular form of popular expertise, one that uses aggressive, face-threatening confrontations as a means of achieving its goals. The specific case under scrutiny is the Swedish home renovation programme The Angry Carpenter (Sw: Arga snickaren), here considered as an instance of what has been labelled belligerent broadcasting. The analysis demonstrates that belligerent outbursts and emotional displays serve essential, but varying functions in the construction of the host’s expertise. Belligerence is both a method to achieve epistemic status and for the enactment of expertise. Paradoxically, through his belligerence the host promotes a common-sense theory of good communication. A key lesson to be learned from programmes like this is the curative power of ‘tough love’. When nothing else works, belligerence is justified as a method for diagnosing problems, dealing with personal difficulties and restoring healthy households.
Global consumers are increasingly enjoying popular cultural products such as music, film, television and other audiovisual media content through online social media community networks. Recently, Korean pop music, or K-pop, has become one of the most dynamically distributed forms of pop culture in the global pop market through these ‘social distribution’ networks. This article explores the ways that this new mode of social distribution is characterised by bottom-up grassroots aspects as well as corporate-controlled top-down aspects by analysing the recent dynamics and practices of K-pop consumption and circulation on social media, using a case study of K-pop fandom in Indonesia and the ‘Gangnam Style’ phenomenon.
This article examines how foresight, hindsight and perception are enabled, modified and compromised by competing intellectual traditions and by social and professional exigencies. Focusing on the example of one scholar, Dr Leonhard Adam, and his essay ‘Has Aboriginal art a future?’ this article charts the trajectory of this question from obscurity to celebration. It explores why such a significant question was unable to ignite debate, at a time when there was considerable interest in the role of Aboriginal art in the articulation of national identity. It examines the intellectual and social conditions that framed Adam’s contribution and explores what enabled him, as a relative outsider, to develop such a prescient understanding of the future of Australian Aboriginal art.
In this article I seek to explore the cosmopolitan foundations of jazz music and ask whether it currently exists as anything other than a postmodern commodity. I seek to investigate the practice of jazz in the 1950s and 1960s and argue that it sought to redefine what was meant by freedom. The aesthetic disputes of this period among musicians and critics around the practice of modernist (be-bop and free jazz) jazz music have played a crucial role in defining the identity of jazz. Critical here remain the attempts by musicians to establish a more autonomous relationship with the culture and entertainment industry. However the radical politics offered by jazz is fraught with ambiguity, caught between cosmopolitan sentiment and the establishment of gendered and racial hierarchies. Further, we also need to carefully investigate the role of black nationalism and the role that it has played in seeking to criticize more cosmopolitan understandings. In the final part of the argument I look at the material and cultural condition of contemporary jazz. Despite the power of the cultural commodification and the culture industry, jazz continues to exhibit a number of cosmopolitan frames that pose critical questions to the dominant neoliberal society.
The article explores the relationship between Slovenian national identity and popular music. A substantial empirical research (150 interviewees from 4 different Slovenian regions) has been conducted to find out what kind of music Slovenians themselves perceive as typically Slovenian and what are for them the defining characteristics of these music acts or styles. The results show that the vast majority of interviewees understand as typically Slovenian just one music style, Slovenian folk pop (narodno-zabavna glasba). The key features that make Slovenian folk pop Slovenian are for them its content (beauties of Slovenia), its contribution to Slovenian national awareness, Slovenian lyrics, etc. Various possible reasons for such uniform and even self-referential answers are discussed. Among them are cultural re-traditionalisation of former Yugoslavian republics (now independent states) after the break-up of Yugoslavia in 1991, recent modernisation of Slovenian folk pop, and the need for a country as culturally, historically, geographically, etc. diverse as Slovenia to organise its symbolic imaginary around simple and understandable signifiers.
This article contextualizes the growth of dollar stores in the United States within multinational corporations’ increased focus on poor people as growth markets. Dollar stores have existed since the 1950s, however they have become increasingly popular and ubiquitous since the 1990s after a decade of economic liberalization policies increased wealth and income disparity around the world. Analysis of retail trade publications, popular press, and corporate documents indicate the contradictions that these retailers and consumer goods companies face in targeting low-income consumers in the United States. They seek to dissociate themselves from US economic decline and loss even as the modes of production and circuits of distribution they employ indicate the erosion of an exceptional American middle-class consumerism. Thus, dollar stores both index the tensions of late capitalist globalization while also obscuring widespread disenfranchisement through the promise of inclusion and access for marginalized populations.
This article will serve to provide a historicised intervention on the configuration of what have come to be known as cross-media characters, fictional story-worlds, and indeed media branding at the turn of 20th-century America. The study will examine a number of innovative cross-media practices that emerged during the first decade of the 20th century, practices encouraged by the slippage of commercial logos, fictional characters, and brands across platforms, which altogether occurred through the broader rise of modern advertising and the industrialisation of consumer culture. I offer two examples of what can be termed respectively as cross-textual self-promotion and cross-media branding during this historical period, grounded in such cultural factors as turn-of-the-century immigration, new forms of mass media – such as, most notably, newspapers, comic strips and magazines – and consumerism and related textual activities.
In the context of a new economy and the new international cultural division of labor, we must recognize emerging globalization processes, triggered by the rise of a network cities media system in telenovela production comprising by the axis of Miami, Bogota, Mexico. This system has created an economic-socio-cultural production template I term reglocalization within the Spanish-language television industry. Reglocalization is a process through which Latinidad is re-crafted for regional/global consumption, through notions of traveling narratives, multinational settings, and multicultural castings, and transnational co-production agreements in which local entities produce a hybrid version of the region that includes a commodified production of a hemispheric Latinidad for global consumption.
This article presents a case study on the makeover process through the consumption of lifestyle media. Drawing on interviews with consumers of UK food magazines BBC Good Food and Delicious (N = 26), it explores how consumers identify and use the magazines as manuals to make over their food consumption habits, not just shaping their ideas about food but affecting the decisions they make about food purchases and preparation. This is triggered by a change in personal circumstance, including motherhood.
Themes of transformation recur in a wide range of media and more broadly in self-help and makeover culture which invites us to join in with a process of endless improvement that Meredith Jones has described as ‘always-becoming’. The visual effects that are achieved through CGI (computer-generated imagery), Photoshop and 3D printing technologies, as well as a multitude of body modification practices can also be considered as part of a battery of techniques that are widely seen as tools of transformation. This article considers how these techniques are bound up with the interruption of ideas about how girls and women should look and behave, and, more broadly, about age-appropriate appearance and behaviour. It asks how we might consider current debates about the sexualization of culture in this broader context where self-presentation is so closely tied to representational practices and where representational regimes are being radically transformed.
In this article I discuss the relationship between religion, spirituality and processes of makeover and transformation as presented in a number of British reality television shows. Programmes including The Monastery, The Convent and Make Me a Muslim placed participants in scenarios where they experimented with adopting religious or spiritual practices as part of their journey of self-transformation. I argue that the nature of transformation in these programmes is in line with standard reality and makeover television practices. However, it also makes a claim to be more ‘authentic’ than these because of its unfolding within the more traditional environs of religious communities from which makeover culture’s narratives of transgression, repentance and salvation were originally derived.
This article examines the promise of transformation and initial outcomes of Google’s ‘Fiber for Communities’ project in Kansas City, Kansas and Kansas City, Missouri. Through a discourse analysis of industry and popular press, press releases, Google’s official blog and YouTube channel, and user-generated content from Kansas City residents from 2010 to 2012, the article highlights the ways in which Google promised to transform the image and significance of Kansas City, upgrade experiences of internet access and use, and experiment with new deployment models for large-scale fiber optic infrastructure in the US. However, the process of transformation rendered certain pre-existing digital divides and inequities more visible rather than erasing them.
This article examines how the video game character Super Mario has become a key character in contemporary culture and an icon of user-generated comedy in hundreds of YouTube parodies, sketches and visual gags. The transformation of the original figure in user-generated makeovers highlights a vaudevillistic potential that allows Mario’s image to be reinvented, enriching and questioning the limits of fan re-appropriation.
This article explores the intersection between trans identity and technology as it manifests in trans video blogs on YouTube. Taking my point of departure in eight case-study vloggers I analyse the different ways that the vlog can work as a medium of transformation. The vlogs engender the ongoing process of ‘becoming’ man/woman/trans by inscribing the vlogger in multiple and intersubjective reflections, being visible to themselves and others as an image. I argue that the co-production of trans identity in/through the vlog takes the shape of a mirror, a digital diary or autobiography, and as artistic explorations and communications. The article demonstrates how vloggers take advantage of the multimodality of the medium to tell stories of trans that can animate and motivate others to dare to be visible or claim an identity as trans.
For a feminist scholar of technology, contemporary steampunk cultures incorporate several interesting elements. They embrace playful ways of relating to technology. They contain thrifty Do-It-Yourself strategies and ethics of recycling, linking the crafting of sexually specific bodies to imaginative time-play. They involve an intermingling of technological extensions with modes of embodiment and costuming. The corset is an emblematic Victorian, industrial technology in steampunk costuming, altering bodies and affects as well as aesthetics and politics. But how far can white, Victorian, middle-class, imperialist, corseted femininity be ‘punked’, twisted, modified or transformed? And how much do these transpositions in and through time get caught up in a machinery of repetition rather than revision? Or are there ways of thinking the old and the new differently altogether?
In this article I briefly trace the complex and incremental but significant ways that social media platforms have been transformed since the ‘Web 2.0’ moment of the early 2000s, identifying some common trajectories across several platforms, and discussing their consequences for how users – and their capacity for creative agency – are positioned. I argue that the maintenance of balanced tensions between accessibility and openness is important to the ongoing prospects of social and cultural innovation in social media.
A growing interest in environmental issues within the community has seen suburban backyards, streets, houses and curbsides become sites of experimentation around sustainable lifestyle practices. Drawing upon research on various grassroots green initiatives around inner urban and suburban Melbourne, this article discusses what the rise of these kinds of lifestyle politics might mean for conceptualizing scale, citizenship, and social change in the contemporary moment. Drawing on social practice theory and its focus on the embodied, habitual and more-than-human elements of everyday practices, I argue that green suburban lifestyle initiatives such as ‘permablitzes’ are transformational in a number of ways and that they embody, materialize and perform broader sets of changes in people’s lives as they seek to switch from practices of consumption to a focus on self-sufficiency and making do. Video-ethnography and photography are some of the ways in which I have sought to capture such enactments and, in this article, I discuss the ways in which such combined media methods can enable researchers to both document and participate in the politics and practices of lifestyle transformation. Finally, I conclude with a brief discussion of how such a participatory research agenda might be translated into an environmental planning and policy approach that draws upon and enables the distributed agency, creativity and performative energies of community-led green practices.
This article suggests that 1980s American culture was preoccupied with ideas of bodily transformation. It takes a look at the representation of the teenage girl in makeover montage sequences in 1980s teen films, in order to make three main arguments: (1) these sequences shifted their focus from before-and-after shots to make increasingly visible the transformation process itself, (2) they connected the makeover process to the purchase of consumer goods and services, and (3) by presenting the teen girl’s body as able to actively take on and adapt its performance of femininity, they opened up pockets of agency within a seemingly conservative discourse. The shifts created a filmic environment in which conventional representations of women and girls could slowly begin to evolve.
Sleep has long been associated with transformation. Here I review how this manifests in fairytale, science fiction, and managerial/corporate approaches to sleep. I argue that, in line with neoliberal sensibilities that overvalue action, self-control and self-transformation, sleep is increasingly understood not as a state of rest, release, or dreaming but as an active mode of being that needs to be analysed, controlled, used to improve production, and indeed acted within. In the second part of the article I introduce two contemporary texts that work with sleep in transgressive ways: Julia Leigh’s 2011 feature film Sleeping Beauty and Philipp Lachenmann’s 12 minute video SHU (Blue Hour Lullaby). Both works deploy sleep to explore spaces of stasis, of hollowness, and to express what I call the anti-matter of the neoliberal imperative to ‘Just Do It.’
This article adopts an unusual approach to ‘makeover TV’ by suspending the ‘unities of discourse’ linked to discursive clusters of ‘quality’ TV drama and makeover television. These are typically positioned as two completely different arenas of TV output – one concerning valued, aestheticized fictions, the other involving devalued and artificial factual entertainments. While ‘quality’ TV is articulated with notions of auteurist vision, makeover TV is supposedly penetrated by consumer culture and its ideologies. Challenging these naturalized discourses, I argue via two case studies – BBC Wales’ Doctor Who and Sherlock – that celebrated TV dramas significantly engage in makeover modalities. Doctor Who repeatedly displays the branded ‘reveal’ of transformed content (new designs; new lead actors). And Sherlock exhibits an emphasis on transformative individuation rather than fidelity to Arthur Conan Doyle’s original writings, despite generally being discursively positioned by critics as an ‘adaptation’. Whether reinventing a brand or a character, Doctor Who and Sherlock share many of the processes of consumer-cultural ‘makeover TV’, albeit in the arena of ‘quality’ TV drama. By temporarily setting ‘facts of discourse’ to one side, it is possible to illuminate ideological ‘powers of transformation’ running across valued TV fictions and devalued factual entertainment.
This article explores the Caribbean International Network (CIN), analyzing the ideological work it performs for West Indian audiences within the cultural, socio-political and economic contexts in which it operates. I identify the specific messages that the network proffers to its audiences, and the subsequent image of the Caribbean being constructed through its rhetoric and content. The analysis of the network specifically entails assessment of its structural features, the nature and origins of its programming, as well as the manner in which it presents itself in the public sphere through its website and press releases.
This article analyzes how mobile gaming has taken shape within the context of Korea’s particular online gaming culture. It explores some of the sociocultural factors contributing to the growth of mobile gaming on smartphone platforms in Korea. It discusses how the emergence of smartphone usage has further shaped the development of Korea’s mobile games, compared with what one might find in other use cultures and national contexts. It explores the manner in which the transfer to, from, and between online gaming culture and mobile gaming culture is occurring in a specific subset of Korean youth in a highly networked, urban setting.
This article examines the content distribution practices and regulatory anxieties generated by a particular cloud computing technology: the cyberlocker, or one-click file-hosting site. Cyberlockers, which offer an easy and free way to share media files, are widely used for content piracy. Over the last decade, usage of cyberlockers has increased rapidly; however, an intellectual property crackdown in 2012 has had far-reaching consequences for the industry. In this article we provide a short history of this ephemeral digital technology before considering some questions it presents for current media studies debates about sharing and reciprocity. We argue that the cyberlocker, as a non-reciprocal sharing technology, represents a limit case for liberal theories of informational freedom.
This article deals with the engagement of new media users in specific forms of participatory content production, focusing on productive and labour aspects in co-creative endeavours. We present a case analysis of a community-based filmmaking software, Moviestorm, focused on a specific set of practices – modding – and following the controversy that took place when a shift in the company’s business model altered the rules that tacitly constituted modders’ practices, particularly the notion of control over their own labour. We pay attention to motivations and expected rewards expressed by both modders and the company as a part of a negotiation process around the ownership and the affective and economic value of user-generated content. Our central argument is that through the analysis of practices, particularly in moments of conflict and change, we can acquire a more subtle understanding of an economy of affections in co-creative processes as well as observing the clashing models of co-creativity, with different approaches to peer production and hierarchy.
This article is concerned with the relationship between social media and Palestinian politics, focusing specifically on #Palestine. The theoretical background is that of mediation, which understands the relationship as a dialectical one, in which producers/users and contents are part of an ongoing cycle, feeding into, and consequently changing each other. In empirical terms, this article collected and analysed 7557 tweets with the hashtag Palestine. The findings and analysis suggest that the mediation of #Palestine involves the co-construction of a subjective, positioned and emotionally charged #Palestine by a multitude of users, but who are quite similar in their ideological positioning vis-a-vis Palestine. Further, this mediation involves a redistribution of power over the representation of #Palestine from mainstream media that focus on ‘hard’ news to activist, positioned, experience-based and affective news and other content on Palestine.
Laundry, one of the most mundane but most fundamental everyday life activities, has received little attention in cultural studies of everyday life. In contrast it has attracted the analytical attention of sociologists of everyday practices and social relations, and energy and health researchers. Here we suggest that an approach which attends to theoretical turns towards phenomenology, spatiality and materiality can offer a new interpretation of the significance and implications of laundry in everyday life. Drawing on research in 20 UK households, we focus on the example of indoor laundry drying to interpret laundry through a theory of place and materiality. We suggest that such an approach offers new understandings of how home is made and has implications for how cultural studies research into everyday life might be engaged in applied research relating to climate change and the environment.
Originating in 1996, Pokémon has become the second most successful game-based franchise in the world and arguably one of the best-known examples of transmedia storytelling in youth media today. Based around creator Satoshi Tajiri’s love of insect collecting, Pokémon imagines a world where wild creatures exist to be collected, trained and battle with one another. Such an ideology, simultaneously embracing both the conservation and consumption of nature, is emblematic of the larger challenges Japan has had to negotiate as a nation trying to balance economic development and environmental protection. In this way, this article argues that, when subjected to textual analysis, the Pokémon franchise can function as vernacular theory, interrogating the relationship between environmentalism, materialism and sustainable development, a series of popular youth media texts engaging with issues and subjects that are usually reserved for academia.
Chinese video websites emerged as early as 2005, when video-sharing websites such as the US-based YouTube were launched and sophisticated P2P streaming software became globally available. There were several hundred private Chinese video websites in their heyday, and most operated without authorisation. By 2012, the number of major private video websites had been drastically reduced to little more than ten, all of which had become large-scale businesses. This study argues that the development of Chinese video websites is a story of struggle and self-invention of identity. These websites have undergone a process of oscillation and transformation between piracy and copyright adherence that has involved grassroots Chinese subtitle groups, state intervention and market competition. There are various levels of competition and collaboration inside private video websites, between private and state-owned video websites and between subtitle groups and video websites. In addition, this study also emphasises fan affection and labour invested by some subtitle groups which ambivalently integrates with and yet transgresses the market strategy of video websites.
While user-generated short online videos have existed since the emergence of video sharing sites in China, they have undergone a process of formalisation and commercialisation, culminating in the wave of micro-movies in recent years. By addressing the wider context of globalisation alongside relevant state policies and shifting viewing habits, this article analyses the local and global causes of this wave. It offers evidence that illustrates how online video service providers in China have adapted in a changing industry landscape as they negotiate state policies, advertiser interests and user preference. It then examines the production and distribution dynamics, where professional producers draw on social media, grassroots creativity and creative talents in regional markets. Finally, it discusses the cultural implications of this process in terms of both the nature and flow of creativity. Based on these analyses, the article also sheds light on the interplay between the state and the market in the context of globalisation and marketisation of media sectors, which becomes more complicated when the state-owned or controlled media enter the emerging market sectors.
Posted mostly by consumers rather than industry players, music videos on video-sharing websites like YouTube have been instrumental in expanding the circulation of audio-visual materials in cyberspace. In transnational Chinese pop music, with shared memories engendered by viewers’ nostalgic comments on clips, particularly the older ones, uploads promise the possibilities of transcending existing geopolitical divides between Mainland China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and the Chinese diaspora. However, as evinced in this case study of video clips featuring prominent Taiwanese female singer Teresa Teng, the uploaders are divided between advocates for a ‘Greater China’ and detractors seeking a more indigenised Taiwanese identity. Analysis of some of Teng’s more politically contentious music videos in the highly networked and circulatory media context, this article advocates looking beyond the immediate sensory audio-projections of the music videos to better understand them as historical and ideological texts. To engage with the posted texts, a set of cultural literacies, including prior historical awareness of the posted music video as well as the geo-cultural contexts of the multilingual and gendered responses in the viewers’ comments, is needed. Placed on the seemingly more open platform of YouTube, Teng’s music videos have become part of the broader attempts of her viewers to re-appropriate and re-territorialise her legacy according to new cultural imaginations and desires.
The objective of this study is to organise the range and the content of a cultural studies of games, to find the cultural meanings of game playing in a transnational setting, and to analyse the example of Chinese gamers who enjoy Korean online games. We claim there is a need to pursue the cultural studies of games and introduce the concept of hybridity to assist in the understanding of the circulation and consumption of online games. The case study of Chinese gamers showed a duality of game narratives and a multiplicity of gamers, suggesting that the transnational consumption of games is a hybrid consumption of hybridity.
Amidst highly ambiguous policies governing the creative industry in Malaysia, discourses concerning censorship, funding and distribution continue to implicate popular content within the independent film industry. While independent filmmakers are increasingly looking to the possibilities of online distribution of their work, there is a new generation of filmmakers or v-loggers who are actively using social media to confront a range of national, social and cultural issues within their texts. By drawing upon examples of independent film productions and v-logs made popular through online portals ranging from YouTube to more activist-centred sites, this article considers the ways in which creative products that would have been banned or removed from local screens by the state have in fact garnered millions of online views, and are discussed, referenced and widely shared by the public via social networking platforms. Through the rhizomatic capacities of v-logging, I argue that the emergence of new cultural distribution strategies challenges us to rethink notions of social practice and action. In addition to understanding social media as an alternative platform for public discourse in Malaysia, there is a further need to engage with the idea of the ‘prosumer’, and to consider the changing dynamics of the independent film industry.
Bridging critical race studies with inquiries into media licensing and industrial cultures of production, this research examines the ubiquitous LEGO minifigure as a significant site of identity and power in the construction of both corporate brands and raced bodies. From analysis of the minifigures themselves, as well as press releases, interviews, and other managed corporate disclosures, media licensing can be understood as shaping racialized practices of representation while also acting discursively to imagine that racialization as the work of an industrial ‘other’. This affords LEGO a claim to a ‘pre-racial’ corporate identity that can disavow the politics of bodily representation.
Theorists of blog practices such as Jodi Dean argue that the enunciative regimes of the blogosphere work toward the decline of symbolic efficiency and they often do not, as (counter)public-sphere approaches have it, involve political will, identity and community. However, in order not to universalize the logics of networked communication and their effects, I argue that shock, slur and parody, however nonsensical and trite, should be understood in terms of complex and contradictory relations to institutions, antagonisms and distributions of power extending beyond the blogosphere. By comparing and contrasting three Dutch-speaking blogs each of which mobilizes enunciative regimes to different effects, this article explores the ways in which the blogosphere’s enunciative regimes alternate between ‘making sense’ and generating symbolic inefficiency; between performances of coherent will/identity and subversions of social stratifications and recognized positions of authority. It further maps the political possibilities within this contextually articulated ‘network culture’ in relation to struggles over representativeness, citizenship and belonging.
Paparazzi photography presently constitutes the largest genre of visual celebrity news on the internet along with red carpet photography. With the emergence of digital media, this genre has moved towards the centre of mainstream news and entertainment culture, and the content has undergone a significant transformation. Trademark paparazzi photographs used to be depictions of celebrities deviating from prevailing norms of proper conduct by exhibiting bodily excess and/or transgressing social or moral codes. By contrast, a content analysis conducted for this article shows that snapshots of famous people engaged in insignificant everyday activities hold by far the largest share of today’s insatiable digital, globalized and commercialized market for news pictures of celebrities off-duty. Re-examining the well-known theorization of the tension between the ordinary and extraordinary in celebrity culture studies, this article thus investigates the following research question: How is the ordinary represented in paparazzi photographs as a genre of visual celebrity news in the current, digital media landscape?
This article provides a history and status report of the development of the nearly completed Digital Media City (DMC), a South Korean entertainment and digital contents ICT (information and communication technology) cluster planned with considerable western input at the turn of the 21st century. Using an ethnographic mixed method methodology, this research analyzed the gap between DMC as originally envisioned and the results to date, investigating the user communication practices that DMC supports and constrains. The study found that while the technological infrastructure at DMC makes it possible for residents to engage in new activities as well as different ways of doing standard activities, the original vision of DMC as a Global Creative Cluster was a result of temporary IMF-mandated liberalization. Because of the return to traditional South Korean cultural values and economic nationalism, the ICT has not been implemented as planned.
Thrift used to mean necessary scrimping and saving in order to get by. But more recently, with growing prosperity coupled with a heightened sense of global social and environmental fragility, the meaning of thrift has shifted in advanced economies connecting with various practices geared towards reconfigured modes of consumption and lifestyles – ethical, conscientious or collaborative. Many scholars and commentators have noted this shift and at least as many explanations have been proposed. This provides us with an opportunity to develop a more general theory of thrift by proposing that all thrift behaviours and practices can be understood over three basic dimensions that we identify as: (1) ‘causes of thrift’; (2) ‘meaning of thrift’; and (3) ‘thrift capital/capabilities’. We show how existing but disparate definitions and empirical studies of thrift can be organized with respect to this framework and how this enables us to elucidate the nature of the shift that is currently occurring.
This article examines cultures of anonymity (or ‘nonnies’) and secrecy in online slash fandom through textual analysis of fannish reaction to gay magazine DNA publishing slash content. I use the experiences of infamous slash manip artist mythagowood from the Supernatural fandom community to read this critical moment of online discourse creation. Specific cases on LiveJournal communities spnanonhaven and fandomsecrets are examined to reveal pockets of conservatism, or ‘pearl clutching’, online. Within the context of male slash production, I examine the implications of nonnies and their efforts to keep slash secret, which is the enactment of an online ‘slash closet’; and conclude by considering what cultures of anonymity and secrecy mean for male slashers, many whose slash practice is inextricably linked to direct identity construction.
Despite globalization, television is still bound to the nation-state in several aspects. The international television industry meets the national in the cross-border exchange of television content. Canned programming can hereby run into cultural barriers, which TV formats presumably can overcome, due to localization. Formats are translated to local versions that presumably suit national culture and identity. In globalization debates, localization is being used as an argument against cultural homogenization. However, there is little comparative work reviewing the extent to which TV formats are culturally specific. By comparing linguistic, intertextual and cultural codes in the Dutch and the Australian version of the British reality TV format Farmer wants a Wife, we will argue that localization of TV formats might be overrated as protection of cultural diversity.
It is widely acknowledged that present-day politicians are becoming celebrities. This causes significant effects on the way printed and audiovisual media outlets have started covering them. In fact, political leaders’ private lives are increasingly scanned by gossip magazines and entertainment TV programmes, whose coverage contributes to feed people’s interest over political leaders’ personal sphere. However, as is shown in this case study, in Italy this phenomenon seems to develop in a peculiar way. First, in spite of the fact that both media share the same goal, which is to entertain their public, gossip magazines and TV shows seem to follow very different coverage strategies. Second, and more importantly, only those politicians who belong to the centre-right political area receive a considerable coverage. In the authors’ view, this is due to a greater openness to the use of unconventional political communication forms, as well as a more marked inclination to being affected by political scandals.
Focusing on the structure and influence of transnational sport – namely the Commonwealth Games and fitness culture within the context of contemporary India – we draw on observations derived from empirical research to explore the complex interrelationships between economic liberalization, globalization, and consumer capitalism. Our argument centres on the processes through which contemporary Indian sport culture is being re-made within the image of India’s new middle class; a set of processes that simultaneously contributes toward the hegemony of India’s protuberant new middle class and thereby patently re-inscribes the social inequities and polarities evident within Indian life more generally. Through a contextual consideration of the economic liberalization policies and allied neoliberal ideologies that propelled the emergence of the new middle class (Antonio, 2007), and the consumer culture through which its identities are substantiated and boundaries demarcated (Bauman, 2001), we point to those bodies valorized (productive, consumptive and functional) and those pathologized (impoverished, underserved and disposable) within a transnational sporting culture that espouses the dictates of neoliberal polity, policy and body politics.
In 2008, the activist group Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) produced Operation First Casualty, a piece of guerrilla theater staged on streets and in parks in US cities, in which members performed actions that they had carried out as they patrolled Iraq and Afghanistan. In opposition to representations of war that excerpt violent events from daily life, IVAW portrays military culture as one of habitual brutality. At the same time, Operation First Casualty placed an audience of American bystanders in positions akin to those of Iraqis and Afghanis, in an attempt to engage empathy for, and enable solidarity with, the people whose countries are occupied by the US. Due to what I describe as soldiers’ function as a scapegoat figure in the national imaginary, IVAW’s insight has had little influence on public discourse. To understand the co-determinacy of the marginal status of soldiers and the social framing that gives the soldier figure such pull, I overlay theories of tragedy and political sociology in which scholars explore the ritualistic dynamics of scapegoats, collective identity, and outsiders in democratic society.
Government–media relationships are both symptomatic and constitutive of a nation. In Venezuela the history of Hugo Chávez’s revolutionary government cannot be written without paying attention to its complex relationship with the media in a country in which political polarization defines national life. Existing scholarship about the Chávez–media saga provides analyses at the macro level. We lack, however, studies that illuminate the micro level of the everyday life of mass media in Venezuela’s changing context. Based on 12 years of research (1999–2011), this article examines government–media relations through the study of five successful telenovelas. Each show was written and broadcast at a time that defines a period in the history between Chávez and the media. These five case studies track changes in the legal framework, document instances of self-censorship, tease out the particulars of the difficult coexistence of government and private media, and illuminate the consequences for the writing, production, consumption and international sales of Venezuelan telenovelas, and for Venezuelan television in general.
The article gives insights into the evolution of the dance club scene in the growing urban region of the Finnish capital of Helsinki in the 1990s. The development of two different club cultures – techno and house – is accounted for. Techno culture was to a large degree made meaningful through the social change towards a computerized information society. Its popularity grew rapidly, but this was followed by a steep decline. In comparison, house culture was legitimized through more subtle strategies and slowly built up its symbolic capital, excluding direct references to a social structural meaning-making. Both styles were eventually to become recognized beyond their young clubbing audiences, and were utilized in significations of other value systems. The study shows the interplay between the symbolics associated with the city’s club venues and historical and social developments, and how actors in the field of club culture reposition themselves over time.
This article offers a way of understanding not only Festival Cities, but also the Creative City paradigm and to some extent the practices employed through the convergence of culture and urban planning that has come to dominate the logic of urban space. In its exploration of the 20th century’s nascent administrative imaginary of urban cultural festivals it is in part, a genealogy, but I hope it offers more, that it elaborates a re-reading of the urban predisposition towards a culturalized identity and the curation of affective urban space, which despite the economic downturn, continues to privilege its own legibility. In so doing, this article argues that the city promotes not only its cultural capital, but also its administration.
The academization of journalism is dependent on faculty in the field embracing critical research evidenced by publishing in relevant peer reviewed journals. This involves a four-step process, beginning with recognizing that critical research is central to determining the field, which presents a specific challenge to the majority of journalism faculty who transfer to the academy from practice. Journalism faculty who were or had been practicing journalists were asked how they valued critical research. Their responses indicated that, while generally viewing critical research as purposeful, they held it to be weakly integral to their roles in the academy. It is suggested that this reflects their prior experiences as journalists in a particular moment in time; uncertainty about what constitutes ‘research’, and a failure to translate external impetuses to build research into an internal research culture, caused by their shifting and uncertain roles in motley crews of creative and academic production.
This article traces tensions between participants and producers on the official Colbert Report discussion boards. Employing critical discourse analysis, it examines the flow of power between the program’s producers and fans as they struggle over how the parody’s meanings will be interpreted, and how fans’ digital labor and content will be used. I begin by recounting the conflicted history of the message boards, and then analyze a sample of discussion threads in order to illustrate the vibrant and boisterous community created there. Finally, I explore strategies of migration, refusal and offline communication used by participants to express agency and power in relation to the boards’ producers. Throughout, I argue that theoretical approaches to participatory culture must take into account the corporate drive to centralize, manage and profit from users’ communicative desires, as well as audiences’ corresponding efforts to resist such control.
The article explores some of the reasons for the apparent incommensurability of interpretative attitudes in the consumption of Chinese media products in the West. It also addresses the difficulties faced by existing audience theories in explicating cross-cultural media communication, especially as it applies to the cultural and political divide between China and the West, a phrase I use non-reductively as no more than an abbreviation. The focus of ‘politics of reception’ is on the different ‘horizons of expectation’ that inform that politics. I do so by a cross-cultural analysis of the reception of such ‘soft-power’ products as the films of Zhang Yimou; the reception in the West of China’s Confucius Institutes; and the Chinese intervention in the Kadeer incident in Australia. The article concludes with a theorization of the principles that inform the politics of Chinese and western critical and evaluative attitudes.
Recent re-conceptualizations of the ‘public sphere’ facilitated a much needed shift in thinking about identity politics ‘from a substance ... to a movement’ (Weibel and Latour, 2007). This laid the foundation for dissolving the ‘emanatist vision’ (Bourdieu, 1990) of self-explanatory and perpetual systems and structures towards the interrogation of actions and performances that simultaneously constitute and are affected by such wider socio-political realities. Most academic contributions, however, remain on a normative or theoretical level without offering empirical insights.
This article introduces Mana Taonga as an Indigenous Maori concept of cultural politics embedded in current museum practice at the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa (Te Papa). It creates a dialogue between Indigenous Maori practice and Western theory leading to a refined understanding of performative democracy within a museum as forum, or public sphere. The authors argue that a specific museum offers a particular place, space and empirical reality to interrogate seemingly universal concepts such as ‘culture’ and ‘politics’ by blending theoretical notions with an awareness of institutional contexts and practices.
This article introduces some of the problems confronting the popularization of national, civic and cultural heritage in the era of complex digital systems and social networks. Taking contemporary knowledge of John Curtin (Australia’s wartime PM) as its point of departure, the discussion explores some of the broader transformations of the conditions of citizenship, communication, heritage and knowledge production, and considers their implications for civic education and the uses of archives. In a novel thought experiment, the article explores some ways in which the figure of ‘John Curtin’ may be repurposed and reinvented for a new kind of DIY civic education based on user-led innovation.
Cultural Studies has not devoted much notice to one of the keynote developments in modern culture over the last 30 years: namely, the rise of various charity projects fronted and, in the public mind, defined by celebrities. Celanthropy – the transformation of causes into cause celebres via the public involvement of celebrities – is striking for the subtle shift in devolving the responsibilities of the state onto the shoulders of the citizens. It purports to offer ‘stateless solutions’, articulated by ‘Big Citizens’ (celebrities), for domestic problems and the ills of the world (hunger, inequality, injustice, corruption, pollution).
This article aims to fill the media representation gap in identity politics research by exploring connections to different identity politics models in representations of people in world news and relating them to discourses on humanity and notions of globalization respectively. News picture slideshows from Swedish, UK and US web newspapers are studied with an analytics-of-mediation approach. Slideshows of May Day are the focus alongside everyday slideshows. Intersections of identity politics models and discourses on humanity/notions of globalization are in the end sketched in a schematic model. The analysis shows that the reifying identity model dominates, and appears as a shortcut to media attention. It also discloses various possibilities of employing universalism and a focus on people’s status. The key role of images in mediated identity politics is highlighted and it is argued that media studies is imperative for identity politics research, and vice versa.
The article critically examines how people use media when in romantic relationships. By ‘use’ we mean two things: the use of media discourses and the use of media technologies. The main findings are based on analysis of 42 discursive questionnaires and 14 semi-structured interviews consisting of almost 20 hours of recorded material.
The Japanese animation (i.e. anime) boom on US television, which caused a great sensation in the early 2000s, is over. This article explores the business mechanisms that created this boom, the cultural innovations it stimulated, and some of the reasons for its decline. Methodologically, I argue that instead of analyzing the anime boom as an epochal break, it should be analyzed within the context of postwar animation as a global creative industry since the 1960s. By thus reframing it, I can delineate new distribution channels of anime since the 1990s. I also demonstrate that, beyond more series and new genres, the anime boom helped push the envelope of US animation towards adult-oriented productions and that ‘anime’ became a source of inspiration for US animators for formulations of cultural otherness. I argue that the end of the boom was unavoidable because in global creative industries cultural innovations soon become the industry’s mainstay. Finally, I consider the possible futures of the ‘local–global’ nexus in the animation industry.
This article examines the reasons for the Chihuahua breed’s popularity in contemporary western society by looking at two sets of data: Chihuahua handbooks and The Simple Life show, starring Paris Hilton and her Chihuahua Tinkerbell. The article argues that the Chihuahua is a holy anomaly: a creature which can be used in myths and rituals to temporarily alleviate the tension-filled binary oppositions and stereotypes inherent in a particular culture, in order to celebrate and reinforce that culture’s categories and social order. The Chihuahua – or the bonsai wolf – transcends two binary oppositions fundamental to contemporary westerners: subject/object and nature/culture. Although the Chihuahua challenges a number of related binary oppositions, it is generally dismissed as a matter for humor, low-brow entertainment or expressions of sentimentality, rendering ritual encounters with Chihuahuas harmless. The article concludes by asking: what would happen if humans actually started listening to what the Chihuahua is telling them?
The newest incarnation of the My Little Pony franchise, the children’s cartoon program My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic has attracted a sizeable viewership among an unexpected demographic: adolescent men. This article looks at this group, known as Bronies, and assesses how the geek subculture that this fandom exists within frames the fan’s understanding of the show, its pony protagonists, and their own self-reflection. Focusing on the role of anthropomorphic animals, this discussion will explicate how normative notions of gender, attitude and behavior are challenged by interaction with this text. This study aims to highlight the significance of fictional animals as tools for personal meaning-making.
This article seeks to understand the main characteristics of a new kind of agents and the role they played in the transformation of creative industries and how they assume an entrepreneurial status, focusing on the most dynamic spaces of Buenos Aires cultural production fields. It starts by identifying some structural features of the Argentine’s middle class and the latest transformations experienced by this sector, focusing on the impact of the economic crisis of 2001–2. It then analyses in depth the professional paths of some producers who started their businesses within that economic and social context and achieved high levels of recognition. These producers represent a new and unique type of entrepreneur.
This article articulates key ethical issues that may arise in sponsored digital storytelling initiatives, projects wherein participants’ stories are used to promote the organization that subsidized their training. Analyzing a digital story from a public health project in the US, the article suggests that sponsored digital storytelling initiatives require participants, facilitators, and those within sponsoring organizations to make complicated ethical judgments about recruiting storytellers, the role of storytellers in the production process, and if and how to represent proximate others in stories. Critical concepts from life writing and documentary studies are used to explore these issues.
While a growing body of scholarship explores narrative beginnings, much less is known about narrative endings or narrative ‘deaths’. In this article I draw on media studies as well as gerontological and thanatological literature to explore the endings of US serial television, focusing on the criteria required for a ‘good textual death’. Situated in the notion that cultural objects have a biography or a life span much as individuals do, I ultimately explore the implications of a thanatology of media studies.
In recent debates about the ever-growing prominence of celebrity in society and culture, a number of scholars have started to use the often intermingled terms ‘celebrification’ and ‘celebritization’. This article contributes to these debates first by distinguishing and clearly defining both terms, and especially by presenting a multidimensional conceptual model of celebritization to remedy the current one-sided approaches that obscure its theoretical and empirical complexity. Here ‘celebrification’ captures the transformation of ordinary people and public figures into celebrities, whereas ‘celebritization’ is conceptualized as a meta-process that grasps the changing nature, as well as the societal and cultural embedding of celebrity, which can be observed through its democratization, diversification and migration. It is argued that these manifestations of celebritization are driven by three separate but interacting moulding forces: mediatization, personalization and commodification.
This article explores the politics of digital memory and traceability, drawing on Jacques Derrida’s Archive Fever and on queer theories of performance and ephemerality. Its primary example is the Organization for Transformative Works, a successful advocacy group for creative media fans whose main project has been an online fan fiction archive. I am concerned both with this public face and with the activities that fans would prefer to keep out of the official record. For scholars of subcultural artistic and cultural production, the mixed blessings of conservation and legitimacy are necessary considerations for the archiving and meaning-making work of cultural theory. Paying attention to the technological and social specificities that contextualize fandom as a digital archive culture, I trace contradictions and contestations around what fannish and scholarly archivable content is and should be: what’s trivial, what’s significant, what legally belongs to whom, and what deserves to be preserved.
This article examines the public art project One Million Pebbles, which took place in and around Portsmouth, UK, between the mid 1990s and 2010. Conceived and directed by sculptor Pete Codling, the project’s origins, influences and impact are examined from a number of disciplinary perspectives, including history, art and anthropology. An unexpected outcome of the project has been the phenomenon of collecting the individual pebbles that were made, and this is also analysed with attention being paid to its subversive nature when set against the artist’s original aims for the project.
This article explores the way in which the portrayal of gender becomes linked to that of ethno-nationalism on the popular Serbian reality show The Palace. On the basis of a textual analysis of the public reactions to the reality show and its interpretations by the local audiences in Slovenia and Serbia, we claim that the show promotes specifically gendered and sexualized ethno-national identities, and that the interpretation of the show continues to be aligned with discourses of ethno-nationalist belonging. We argue that commercial, ethno-national femininity is currently employed to re-legitimate patriarchal nationalism in the name of freedom and empowerment via self-promotion.
Military reserve service in Israel and the use of cell phones seem to be mutually exclusive. As citizens drafted annually for a limited period, soldiers on reserve duty constitute a unique community on timeout from which family are excluded and during which social status is laid aside. This state of things, I argue, has been challenged by the invasion of the cell phone with its capacity to cross over physical and symbolic boundaries, thereby polluting the air with voices from the hinterland. In this article I introduce a model according to which the affordances of a new technology redefine the embedded traits and constraints of the ‘timeout’. Working in combination with the identity discourse of the participants and the cultural meanings of timeout, cell technology challenges the traditional understanding of reserve duty as a timeout period. I show how the cell phone has polluted the heretofore secluded space of reservist time by reintroducing differences in status, culture and nationality into the isolation, equality and fraternity of miluim (reserve duty), and how participants read this new situation, and sometimes contest it.