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Communications Commons Seminar Series

2009 Seminars

March 16

‘Remix My Lit’: Towards an Open-Access Literary Culture

Simone Murray

The publishing buzzword of recent times has undoubtedly been ‘open access’. But typically this has referred to scientific journal publishing,
only recently expanding to include humanities research. This paper goes further in asking what might an open-access “literary” culture look
like? Developments around online publishing, electronic-books, print-on-demand and digital libraries see publishers facing challenges on every
side. How might publishers’ traditional role as gatekeepers of literary culture be similarly usurped in an environment characterised by
networked books, wiki-novels and fictional ‘rip and burn’ practices? Outlining three exciting recent experiments in open-access literature,
Simone Murray’s illustrated talk investigates what the digital future of literature might look like, and what its impact will be on writers,
publishers and readers.

Dr Simone Murray is Senior Lecturer in Communications and Media Studies at Monash University. Her research examines the interface of the book
with other communications media, particularly via digital multiformatting of content. Her current research project focuses on the industrial
substructures of book-to-screen adaptations of literary prize-winners, and how such research can combine book history, print culture and media
studies perspectives. She is currently engaged in a three-year Australian Research Council Discovery project on the adaptation industry,
titled ‘Books as Media: The Cultural Economy of Literary Adaptation’. The monograph arising from this research, The Adaptation Industry: The
Cultural Economy of Literary Adaptation, is forthcoming from Routledge US in 2011.

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April 20

Altered States: Communication and Mobility

Eduardo de la Fuente, John Budarick and Michael Walsh

We propose in this paper that the study of communication and the growing social science field of ‘mobility studies’ can profitably benefit
from a deep theoretical (and empirical!) engagement with each other. We take inspiration from John Urry’s influential book, Mobilities, which
recommends inserting ‘communications into the study of travel and transport’ and examining some of the ‘ways in which they [communication and
mobility] are always intertwined’. However, we propose that communication and mobility converge not only through particular technologies
(e.g., the use of mobile phones and iPods while being ‘on the move’); rather communication and movement are linked at a very fundamental
level. Communication has its own rhythms, tempo and dynamics; and, at its most basic level, involves perception of an altered state: you make
a gesture and someone responds; you flick a switch and the television is on; you enter a shopping mall and notice music is playing. We also
argue that communication is linked to movement in the sense that communication denotes connection and mediates ‘presence’ and ‘absence’. In
explaining the role of communication in making us feel connected, we will draw on Urry’s concept of ‘dwelling-in-motion’; and add our own
concept to describe the experience of movement during sedentary communication practices: that of ‘motion-in-dwelling’. Our aim is to show that
without movement there is no communication; and that communication is entangled with both physical and imaginative movement.

July 20

The Condition of the Modern Research University

Peter Murphy

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August 17

What Are We Doing in Afghanistan? Military-Media Relations, National Mythography and the Reporting of Australia’s War

Kevin Foster

This paper will examine the origins, practices and effects of Australian military-media relations in Afghanistan. It will compare and contrast
the Australian Defence Force’s (ADF) news management strategy with those of its coalition allies, the US, British, Dutch and Canadian forces.
It will consider the Australian media’s marginal role in the provision of news from Afghanistan, explain why and how they have been sidelined
and analyse its consequences by looking at specific examples of ADF news management practice. It will explore how Australian media coverage of
the war in Afghanistan has been shaped by Anzac mythology, how ADF coverage of the the war has been directed more to the reinforcement of
national myth than than the provision of a sober accounting of events in Afghanistan, and how as a consequence this has distorted the public’s
understanding of just what it is we are doing in Afghanistan.

Kevin Foster is Head of Communications and Media Studies in the School of ECPS. He has published widely on the conflict and the projection of
national identity. He is the author of Fighting Fictions: War, Narrative and National Identity (London: Pluto, 1999), Lost Worlds: Latin
America and the Imagining of Empire
(in press, London: Pluto, 2009), and the editor of What are we doing in Afghanistan? The Military and the
Media at War
(Melbourne: ASP, 2009). He is currently trying to persuade the Department of Defence to join him in a comparative analysis of
military-media relations among the ADF’s main coalition allies in Iraq. They aren’t keen.

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September 14

Visceral Literacy - Body Language, Mind Reading, and Surveillance in a Savvy Era

Mark Andrejevic

This presentation explores examples of various forms of monitoring, from lie detection and voice-stress analysis to neuro-monitoring as
techniques for bypassing conscious strategies of manipulation or deception. It does so within the context of a broader interest in the social
role and cultural portrayal of surveillance technologies in the digital era. It describes the portrayal of monitoring techniques as
characteristic of an emerging genre of television programming that might be described as "securitainment" which instructs viewers in
monitoring strategies and their proper uses. This genre includes fictional formats like "Lie to Me" as well as reality formats and even some
forms of news programming. The presentation offers an interpretation of the role of such programming in the contemporary context of savvy
reflexivity about the manipulated character of mediated representation in an era of ubiquitous risk.

Mark Andrejevic is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the University of Queensland's Centre for Critical and Cultural Studies. He is also
Associate Professor in the Department of Communication Studies, University of Iowa. He is the author of Reality TV: The Work of Being Watched
and iSpy: Surveillance and Power in the Interactive Era as well as numerous articles and book chapters on surveillance and popular culture.

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October 5

Little Boys and Fat Men: Humanising "the Bomb" in Atomic Museums in the US and Japan

Robin Gerster

The dropping of the atomic bombs 'Little Boy' and 'Fat Man' over Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945 occasioned a crisis in representation.
How to describe the indescribable? How should these events be appropriately interpreted and remembered? And how should they be publicly
exhibited? Museum curators are confronted with a problem materially but not essentially different from that faced by writers who retell or
imagine nuclear war. Museums are idenifiably political spaces - especially national war museums, which definitively memorialise and enshrine
military history. Triumphalism and victimhood are staple subtexts. Given the continuing sensitivities in both the US and Japan over the use of
'the bomb' to end the Pacific War, atomic museums provide especially revealing material narratives. This paper examines major museums in Japan
and the US as case studies in nuclear nationalism, and discusses the shortcomings of the museumization of technological destruction.

Robin Gerster is an Associate Professor in Communications and Media Studies at Monash University. He is the author and editor of several books
on aspects of Australian literary and social history, including the cultural intersections of war and travel, and national relationships with
the Asia-Pacific. His latest monograph is Travels in Atomic Sunshine: Australia and the Occupation of Japan (2008). He is presently working on
a cultural history of Australian nuclearism. Forthcoming publications include chapters on representations of Asia, in The Cambridge History of
Australian Literature (CUP, 2009), and on the phenomenon of 'nuclear amnesia', in Philosophy after Hiroshima (Cambridge Scholars Publishing

October 12

Religions, (in)visibility, and communication: toward a multi-aesthetical society

Massimo Leone

Cultures differ as regards the way in which they determine and promote a certain equilibrium between visibility and invisibility,
representation and irrepresentability. Such difference is evident if one compares religious cultures, for example the Abrahamic ones, the
Jewish conception of representability versus the Christian one, but is present also if one contrasts different denominations within a single
religious culture, for example the Roman Catholic idea of visibility with the Protestant one, or even different historical stages in the
evolution of a religious denomination, for example Medieval and Counter-Reformation Catholicism. Religious conceptions of visibility and
invisibility have been often embodied in (1) verbal texts — especially those that religious cultures consider as “sacred”, in (2)
interpretations of these texts — mainly by those to whom religious cultures attribute such exegetic authority, in (3) normative orders
undergirded by these interpretations — particularly systems of religious law and customs, but also in (4) visual artifacts, of both religious
art and material culture.

One of the main hypotheses proposed by the research seminar will be that so far visual studies, from art history to iconology, from aesthetics
to the phenomenology of the arts, from the philosophy of images to visual semiotics, have mostly been characterized by a general bias: since
the background from which these disciplines stem — a complex blending of different cultures, in which the Greek-Latin and the Christian inputs
prevail — emphasizes the role of visual representations, these disciplines have implicitly supported the idea that the best way to know the
visual culture of a religious community is to observe, describe, analyze, and interpret the visual artifacts of this community, the way in
which this community gives an iconic presence to what is absent. On the contrary, the research seminar will claim that religious visual
cultures can and must be studied also from the point of view of what they hide, of what they conceal, of what they choose not to represent, so
giving an iconic absence to what is present.

In particular, the research seminar will deal with the following questions: is an aesthetics of invisibility compatible with the aesthetics of
contemporary (“Western”) media, that seem to privilege an aesthetics of visibility and even voyeurism? How are religious aesthetics changing
in their interaction with contemporary media, and vice versa? How are legal systems currently regulating the interaction between religious
aesthetics of (in)visibility and media? More generally: is a multi-aesthetical society possible?

Massimo Leone is Research Professor of Cultural Semiotics at the Department of Philosophy, University of Torino, Italy. In 2009-2010, he will
be Endeavour Research Visiting Scholar at the School of English, Performance, and Communication Studies at Monash University, Melbourne (AU).
His work focuses on the role of religion in contemporary cultures. Massimo Leone has authored two books (Religious Conversion and Identity,
Routledge 2004 and Saints and Signs, Walter de Gruyter 2009) and more than 100 papers in semiotics and religious studies. He has lectured in
Africa, Asia, Europe and USA.While at Monash he will be completing a research project on “the interpretation of sacred texts and the
construction of moral discourse in contemporary multicultural societies”.

November 23

Creativity and Cognition

Yukari Nagai

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Past and Present Conferences and Seminars

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