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Communications Commons 2011 Seminar Series


Download recordings of papers from the links below. For more recordings, see our podcasting page.

7 March

Bildung in the Burbs – Education for the Suburban Nation

Dr Mark Gibson

Urban policy-makers in Australia are increasingly interested in fostering a more polycentric vision of metropolitan regions, bringing increasing attention to ‘place-making’ in the suburbs. Yet cultural and educational policy for the suburbs has often lacked the imagination that this would seem to require. On the conservative side of politics, the suburbs have been cast as a site of resolute utilitarianism. The animating impulse has been a largely negative one of defending the suburbs from the clutches of cosmopolitan urban ‘elites’. On the progressive side, the dominant policy rhetoric has been one of addressing suburban ‘disadvantage’. This perspective has been shadowed by the risk of condescension and cultural elitism, resulting in a somewhat anaemic ‘equity’ agenda with little interest beyond external indicators of redistribution. The paper suggests that one route out of this impasse might be to revisit some ideas from classical liberal theory about the relation between culture, education and place. Drawing from interviews with creative practitioners for the ‘Creative Suburbia’ project, it argues that there is some truth to the idea that the suburbs are defined by an autonomy from urban taste, but that this should not be equated with an absence of creative aspiration. Rather than setting these terms against each other, we might do better to look again at ideas of ‘self-formation’ or bildung, in the tradition from Wilhelm von Humboldt, in which role of government is conceived as one of supporting and enabling.

Mark Gibson is author of Culture and Power – A History of Cultural Studies (Oxford: Berg, 2007), Editor of Continuum – Journal of Media and Cultural Studies and has research interests in everyday life, cultural geography and creative industries. He has been involved over the last three years in an ARC Discovery project, ‘Creative Suburbia’, on creative practitioners in outer suburbia. He is Coordinator, at Monash, of the Graduate Communications and Media Studies program in the National Centre for Australian Studies and Research Coordinator in the School of Journalism, Australian and Indigenous Studies.

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28 March

Intercommunicating: New media and a shifted communication culture

Professor P. David Marshall

The paper develops a new lexicon for communication theory that responds and makes sense of the changes in the way that we use and interact through new media and digital forms. The key term the paper advances partially through a series of other concepts is what I call “Intercommunication”. What this term identifies is that we now see not only the convergence of technologies but a layering of media and communication where multiple registers from the highly mediated to the interpersonal are now regularised in our uses of social media. Intercommunication implies that the interpersonal is now closely connected and transforming of what we would have seen as broadcast forms. Broadcast forms are now parcelled and divided into segments that are redistributed and reconstructed via elaborate interpersonal networks. The intercommunicative layers include personal photos interspersed with popular media clips drawn and redistributed via Youtube or Flickr, as well as commentary and conversation about the meaning and value of these various media forms often in the context of everyday and quite private and personal conversations via Facebook, Twitter and Myspace. Intercommunication specifically identifies the breakdown of our representational media, where our media forms such as radio and television attempted to embody the populace collectively through news, non-fiction, and fictional narratives – to something that can be labelled as presentational media, where the personal becomes the channel and the filter through which other media are mediated and redistributed as an expression of the individual and their relation to the social. The paper here begins mapping the value of these new terms for describing a shifted and transformed contemporary culture that needs to be understood through the development of a new communication theory.

Professor Marshall is Professor and Chair of New Media, Communication and Cultural Studies, and Head of School, School of Communication and Creative Arts, Deakin University.

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11 April

The Social System of Creativity: How publishers and editors influence writers and their work

Dr Elizabeth Paton

The creation of a book does not end with a draft manuscript. Rather, writers seek out publication and communication with an audience as the culmination of their work. During this phase, individual actors and institutions other than the writer make decisions that can affect the content, style, design and reception of the work as well as the publication of future works and the writer’s career. As such, publication and communication represent a network of relationships an individual writer must negotiate before they may be considered creative. This complies with Csikszentmihalyi’s (1988, 1997, 1999) systems model, which posits that, in order to understand creativity in any area, it is necessary to investigate not only the individual and the domain of knowledge they draw on but also how the social system operates, making judgements on and shaping that knowledge. It also correlates with Bourdieu’s (1977, 1993, 1996) concept of the field as the contexts for social and cultural contestation. This paper investigates two specific points of engagement with the field, namely the publisher and the editor, and how these members of the social system of Australian fiction writing influence both the writer and their work.

Dr Elizabeth Paton is lecturer in creative industries, Monash University

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2 May

Writing, Literacy, and the Episcopal Takeover of Christianity

Professor Peter Horsfield

There has been growing interest in recent years in looking at the intersection of media and religion, with particular focus on how religious entrepreneurs, subversives and new religious movements are building new followings by adapting in highly effective ways to the possibilities being offered by technologies and cultures of new media. While these adaptations of religion to new media, and concerns about the shaping effects that media are having on religion, are widely seen as relatively recent phenomena, a historical study reveals that all religions are, and always have been, mediated phenomena, with the form any religion takes at any time a significant function of contests and negotiation in the processes of its mediated constructions. This presentation explores this historical perspective on current religious activity with a study of the role played by literacy and literate figures in the third and fourth century transformation of Christianity from a pluralistic early movement to a structured political organisation governed by male bishops.

Peter Horsfield is Professor of Communication and Associate Dean,Writing and Communication in the School of Media and Communication at RMIT University. He is the author of Religious Television: The American Experience, one of the seminal works in the study of American religious broadcasting, and a key figure in the development of the study of media and religion from a cultural perspective.

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9 May

Networked Cultures and Participatory Public Space

Associate Professor Scott McQuire

As contemporary cities become increasingly media dense environments, the mode of inhabiting urban space is changing. The growing use of geo-spatial devices and the availability of real-time location specific information favours new forms of micro co-ordination of social activity, but also the extension of surveillance via data-mining and aggregation. As networked interactions become an everyday dimension of negotiating contemporary public space, there is a pressing need to think about how this trajectory transforms the older power-geometries of the city. Drawing on a range of contemporary projects, this talk will examine the contemporary politics of ‘participation’ and will investigate how networked media might be utilised to facilitate ‘participatory public space’.

Scott McQuire is Associate Professor and Reader in the School of Culture and Communication at the University of Melbourne. In 2004, he and Nikos Papastergiadis founded the Spatial Aesthetics research program, to pursue interdisciplinary research linking the fields of new media, contemporary art, urbanism, and social theory. His book The Media City: Media, Architecture and Urban Space (Sage/TCS 2008) won the 2009 Jane Jacobs Publication Award presented by the Urban Communication Foundation in the United States, and his most recent publication was the Urban Screens Reader (2009) co-edited with Meredith Martin and Sabine Niederer.

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16 May

Globalising Lifestyles? modernity, identity, culture and life advice programming in Asia

Dr Tania Lewis

In this paper I provide an introduction to a large, team-based ARC project, which examines lifestyle TV in China, India, Taiwan and Singapore. Lifestyle programming in Asia includes a range of popular factual formats, from cooking and health shows to reality-style make-over shows and consumer advice programmes. What unites these shows, from Singapore's highly popular Home Decor Survivor to the Indian version of MasterChef, is their concern with instructing their audiences in 'good taste', aesthetics and everyday life skills while often showcasing the latest consumer products. These increasingly ubiquitous forms of advice television thus offer a useful lens through which to examine emergent social and cultural identities in the region. Drawing upon a 'multiple modernities' approach, this paper examines the kinds of cultural values and modes of selfhood promoted on these shows, foregrounding the way in which television can be seen to model forms of lifestyle that are shaped by local, national, regional and global influences.

Tania Lewis is a Vice Chancellor's Senior Research Fellow in the School of Media & Communications at RMIT University, Melbourne. She is the author of Smart Living: Lifestyle Media and Popular Expertise (Peter Lang, New York: 2008), editor of TV Transformations: Revealing the Makeover Show (Routledge, London: 2009), and co-editor of Ethical Consumption: A Critical Introduction (Routledge, London: 2011). She has published extensively on the role of popular expertise and lifestyle media in late modernity. Her current research is on global trends in lifestyle and consumption, and, in particular, grassroots suburban sustainability initiatives from permablitzing and community gardening to cohousing and collectivized and cooperative forms of consumption.

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23 May

Scandal, Culture, and the Development of Alternative Public Spheres: The Hong Kong erotic photo scandal and the rise of grassroots political cultures in China

Yang Wilfred Wang

Caused by the released of thousands of photos containing sexually explicit images of Hong Kong pop stars on the Internet in 2008, the Hong Kong erotic photo scandal calls into question the role of the Internet within the broader political economy in China. The online responses to the scandal has a direct and close relevance to the everydayness in China today: as the photo scandal appeared and the Chinese public were fuelled with sensational dramas and emotional disputes, the authorities were humiliated, the role of news media was challenged, and traditional codes in China were breached as the scandal undermined old disciplines and norms. While the photo scandal illustrates a seemingly unregulated, unconventional and irrational public forum in China, throughout this “irrational” civil engagement, the scandal also creates a public arena embraces voices, expressions and opinions that were normally suppressed and excluded in the mainstream discourse. This melodrama-driven and personal interest-orientated scandal requires a revision of the idea of the public sphere and the understanding to China’s political culture in general and the paper aims to look at these areas from a bottom up approach.

Yang Wilfred Wang has completed M.A. in Communications and Media Studies at Monash University. While interested in the political and social significance of popular culture in the new media age, he looks at the new media’s impact on China’s political economy from a societal and cultural perspective. His thesis was titled, “Does the web deliver a sensible public sphere? The Hong Kong erotic photo scandal and the social economic problematic in China” and he is currently writing a paper titled “Who’s blocking the Chinese Internet? The rise of cybercultures and generational conflicts in China”.

1 August

Looking to the past to understand virtual worlds: A genealogy of Second Life

Maeva Veerapen

Tens of millions of people across the world also inhabit a virtual world: they spend hours undertaking numerous activities and interacting with others. Being inworld, or engaged in a virtual world, is a unique experience, shaped differently from other activities. This research examines the factors that allowed virtual worlds to develop into what they have become today. Drawing from personal experience in Second Life and a review of existing literature, this paper maps out an inter-connected web of developments across various fields that influenced the formation of virtual worlds such as Second Life. The advancements identified in the fields of science fiction, video- and computer-games, media, role-playing traditions and communication technologies are analysed as precursors of the qualities of contemporary inworld experience. Previous research has studied the development of individual fields on their own. By undertaking an analysis on a macro level and across fields, this paper offers a new insight in the development of the complex phenomenon of virtual worlds in the 21st century, whereby the evolution adopts the structure of a genealogy. New connections among previously disparate fields emerge.

Maeva Veerapen is currently completing her PhD within the School of English, Communications and Performance Studies. Her current research is focused on understanding the fundamental structure of the experience of being inworld and participating in virtual worlds by examining various constituents of the experience such as the user-avatar relation, the quasi-intersubjective interaction with the computer and the encounter of the Other. Her research interests include the phenomenology of new media and performativity of media.

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29 August

Inaugural Symposium of the Research Unit in Media Studies

Regime Change: Media Rights and Content Distribution

This event showcases major research projects undertaken by members of this newly established Research Unit. Different areas of media production, consumption and representation are used to highlight shared attitudes and distinct challenges facing the media industries and governments in the new century.

Who Owns the Music? Uses and Abuses of Music Copyright Debates
Associate Professor Shane Homan, co-editor of Sounds of Then, Sounds of Now: Popular Music in Australia.

World Rights: Literary Agents as Brokers in the Contemporary Mediasphere
Dr Simone Murray, author of The Adaptation Industry: The Cultural Economy of Contemporary Literary Adaptation (forthcoming)

Piracy Isn't a Crime, It's a Lifestyle: Live Television Sport and the War Against Online Media Piracy
Dr Brett Hutchins, co-author of Sport Beyond Television: The Internet, Digital Media and the Rise of Networked Media Sport (forthcoming)

The Research Unit in Media Studies (RUMS) is a new collective of Monash University researchers committed to the study of media theories, histories, practices and industries. RUMS builds upon existing staff strengths and interests in how media audiences, industries and texts are produced and circulate within contemporary culture and society. A particular emphasis of the Unit is the development and inclusion of postgraduate researchers in events and activities.

Please join us for drinks in Mama Duke Cafe after the seminar to celebrate the launch of the Research Unit.

Contact: Brett Hutchins Phone: 03 9903-2098)
Monday, 29 August, 3-5pm,
S2.32, Caulfield Campus

17-18 November

Symposium: Environmental Politics and Conflict in an Age of Digital Media

University of Tasmania, Hobart.

Past and Present Conferences and Seminars

Visit our archives of conferences and seminars - recordings of many papers are available for download: