Friday, October 27, 2006

Participatory Political Cultures - Flow Conference

Chuck Tryon (Fayetteville State University) - I entered this discussion by living in DC an d the political junkie culture that exists there. In particular the political blogosphere and how it relates to television, etc. This is something like these clips being placed in YouTube and Media Matters and Crooks and Liars. Think about Colbert's in character speech on C-span that got lifted onto the web and got as large an audience as Cspan... also think about Chris Wallace's interview with Clinton on Fox News. How are these clips being used and to what effect. The political blogs many of us read, at least I do, is reinforce my politics and there are questions of dealing with the public sphere. We often see these clips out of context in the context of online forums of discussion. And, of course, who gets to participate. You need broadband to work fully in it.

Todd Fraley (East Carolina University) -- I am also interested in this topic in how it defines participation and how alternative viewpoints can find their way into the discussion. Traditional forms of media is key here ... also what about public access and free speech tv. How do people use this technology? Who uses them and how they use them helps expand participation in politics.

Kelly Kessler (Queens College-CUNY) -- I came to this topic as a hostile lurker/poster. Think about this space as a place on network sponsored boards such as the L Word or American Idol. Yes, these boards give us a space that did not exist before and we get more of a "two way" conversation. But what I ultimately question is how "two way" and useful this conversation is. When I post something it is just because it is out of anger. I have a vitriolic moment and I have something to say... but how do these add something to the political discussion. Is this just a place to hear me talk. It's not providing us a two way conversation, or is it? I was also thinking of Douglas Gomery and the "made-for-tv" movie who say that this is a watered down way of thinking of it where Jarvik argues about the issue of accessibility. Is this the same as the boards for the L-Word or Amer Idol. Where are real issues in here. People are dealing with things here that are often "actually real" so these boards may be dealing with issues that are therapeutic. The "really real" is a place to think about these things that actually talk and have real crises. So what is going on here has stakes. SO what kinds of spaces are we creating?

Jonathan Nichols-Pethick (DePauw University)-- Most of my work is about mainstream issues and practices in TV. Think about NBC cancelling "The Book of Daniel" -- Terre Haute, Ind was one of the first affiliates to cancel it and after cancelling it had little to do with the religious right and mostly about institutional concenrs. And I want to think about it in terms of the level of affiliates. So let us think about the change in the relationship between nets and affiliates and these old relationships are breaking down. WTWO saw the "BOD" saw it a a place to push back at the nets as nets are placing pressure on them. Also, issues of localism are key in a new mainstream commercial television econ. It could go either way. If the stations are uberlocal we could have some real bad precedent such as the PTAR problems. BOD was replaced with the 700 Club but they had a lot of money and WTWO thought it was easy and luicrative. Also, issues of consolidation are something to consider.

John Turner (Goucher College) -- One of the things that interests me is the issue of niche marketing in participatory political issues. I am interested in issues of the panoptic. As we move into this convergence moment and we go into a "one platform" move, there is something abot the individual nets use the indy individual as a place to gather information. And this is key: at one of these levels in a political season the two major parties are collecting data on people in a moment where the country has been easily divided. The swing voter has diminished. To what degree are we all being jacked in and niched into where we fit. We couldn't really base any definitive idea in the old model, in the new models we get more surveillance every 15 minutes and take our pulse. I am paranoid of certain degree of what can be done as we identify through these particpatory channels.

Moderator: Katherine Haenschen -- The notion of politics is being talked about proudly. Is it hit counts or interacting.

Jonathan -- one of the position papers was interested in the myth of interactivity and what does this mean in mainstream media activities. In mainstream media it is to vote or cvonsume something for or from a program. Often the network will create their own site., I am troubled with this notion of participation... it may be a matter of branding

Kelly - After the succcess of the first year of Amer Idol they no longer just had their shops and began to dress to their contestant so that you could get their outfits. By last season the whole thing had been commodified. A great participatory moment?

Chuck -- Why do we measure interactivity in terms of media use rather than just general conversation about Amer Idol? Why does the technology count so much?

Kelly -- Well, we are limited and we are basing it in a way that has to do with the techs that we have. We change the technology and the conversations are key. I am often semi engaged and I may have nothing else to do and sometimes people develop relationships through these boards. It's not just about the medium and this is an important place.

Audience -- We are hitting up against an issue that is a particpatory model, but these may be benign and certainly not acivist in the mainstream sense. How can we build something with mainstream television that gives us Mainstream TV. Is this a dead end?

kelly -- I don't necessarily disagree with you. I think that this is possibly one way in which ...

Audience -- Is there any way to do it in TV and free speech TV seems not necc to make two-way TV...

Todd -- I think free speech tv is a way that deals with issues of protests that utilizes new forms. It is all combined and this is interesting that utilizes the media and creates more particpation and something eles.

Audience -- Participation creates a consciuous move -- in that sense it is a conscious move and this oten mobilizes something others time not

Todd -- how do we define participation? If you have soemthing that I want it to air, will it count

Kelly -- CNN is doing tyhis

Jonathan -- This is all participation and thsi is all about distribvution though and the distribution

I mention MYDD and Googlebombing

Moderator -- Is there something about the beauty of the niche gourp and preaching to the choir. Does this have an impact to mobilize viewers

Kelly -- This is about Television. And this seems to be a slothful medium ... the starting point is problematic.

Audience -- here is a pre-nich example and this is 1968 and I was a dropout and I would always have my radio on WBAI and I would listen and one night I heard about the Columbia bust and people just called in and I got on the train and it was mobilizing and the niche part was that WBAI FM was niche. Politics is about doing something and this is a high level activity. Who is that question to take it as a question and who is it? This is something

Audience -- What is more effective -- anti war protests or something like googlebombing. This is about creating the climate and it is a kind of protest. So is googlebombing and it is specific in its goal. There may not be one way. How about this happening in every different community and how you mobilize for different goals. Let us allow for change in different ways. Let us activate this and enrichen the landscape. We want a multiplicity -- virtual or real. This gets back to the idea of participation about movement.

Kelly -- I think Oxygen was trying to do this at the beginning. It was really connected to the web. The crawl was doing this in a representative way that was a mainstream media. By the time Oxygen got Fabio it seemed to go down the tube (but sex talk with Sue Johansen is still on). Zstill it was about driving people troward thinking about things.

Turner -- This is part of this cooptive model and frito lay will give a million dollars for YouTube users to create a commercial.

Audience -- It sounds like the more we participate the more we are inscribed?

Turner -- The minute I sent in money to the DNC I am bombarded.

Jonathan -- Yeah and there are people like you -- that's what advertisers want to do... find people like you.

Audience -- The other thing this seems to suggest is questioning the terms of participation. We are trained to be dutiful. And We understand how we question to reframe the terms of participation. Is it possibl;e

Chuck -- Googlebombing and posting commercials on YouTube (see Allen's Macaca) and this is key in reshaping the senate base. The Michael J Fox is also key as well. Media reporting is always key.

Audience -- The blogs are utilized to amplify it over and over. This is key.

Kelly -- How do we get people to make this a particpatory culture. Preaching to the choir is key throughout. How do we get people doing this.

Audience -- You can push this stuff out and piggyback the internet on top of TV.

Audience -- Is it key to get more politics?

Audience -- Dissemenation of knowledge is not the same as active participation

Chuck -- Is voting participation?

Audience -- Well, no, not in this sense.

Audience -- Another way of thinking about this is knowledge does not chnage the structures. What has changed structurally?

Kelly _- Who is seeking this information?

Audience -- But it also means we need other models about information. There needs to be other spaces of production, Revamp old models of participation. The luddites weren't anti tech but they were against losing their jobs. We need other modes. The other thing I want to talk about is as a human I need things I relate to. I am a desiring subject. How am I being reached?

Audience -- I want to go back to the issue of structure and the change of this in politics. the structure in this case was Dean and the ascension to the DNC chair. And he is financing his campaign through t-shirt sales. One mode of participation and there is a certain way that we can think about it.

Audience -- The Dean campaign made a lot of noise about how this also had to do with bottom up policy proposals. Did this actually happen?

Audience -- It is interesting to think about this in ways of e-mail and in terms of votes.

Audience -- I am thinking about why people have lost interest in politics. More access and information and entertainment is soemthing that may motivate people to participation. Information is not easy to control. When it can relate to your life.

Turner -- I want to respond to the Dean example and it deflates instantly. This is interesting since it has to deal with a significant change. I am reminded of Jodi Dean and her argument and the need to know people and the need to believe people. She looks at the belief as the difference maker that is key. Participation is ok, but to what extent when we walk down in the mall and the confluence of events. What are we left with to believe.

Audience -- In experiments a number os studies show that people who produce information and have a positive attitude toward information in general. The belief is generated here,.

Audience -- People's ability to believe has been disseminated by false information and people do not know what to believe.

Audience -- The consumerist model is key ...

Chuck -- Look the issue of representation is interesting. It also has to do with what is an issue of identity

Moderator -- All particpatrion leaves a trace of identity

Todd -- what participation is key to generator of identity and we need to look at the issue of information and how one generates information

Audience -- Think about packaging...

Jonathan -- Production is good and many of them want to look at this is in terms of production values are issues ... But LonelyGirl got called out as a hoax becuase it was clear that it was too good in production.

Chuck -- yeah it was a too good and people was shown for to be too good.

Audience -- yeah -- but niches are good in many ways. Think of the lesbian who lives in rural community v lesbians who live a city. There was a politics about that for a long time about getting those images out into communities that were not as accepting.

Kelly -- Yeah, but the L Word may be good, but they are still pretty and still feminine. The multiplicity of groups were key to the issue of mainstream television and politics. Niching works, but there are still many communities. The dearth of representtaions of all minority groups is huge.

Audience -- But there is an explosion of self representation on the web...

Kelly -- and we are back to issues of access and issues of finding myself.

Chuck -- Even the search tools are problematic. There was a commercial in Spanish on last night's world series

Kelly -- and it freaked it me out! (laughter)

Chuck -- Think about the rallies for promoting participation and the openly talking about the rallies and this was in Spanish Language Radio.

Patty Zimmerman -- What happens when the words political and participatory are put out in other parts of the world. Other countries such as in Hong King the use of cell phones to mobilize. Buenos Aries and club culture were key to politics. Let us think of the US in multiple ways and displacing ourselves as scholars that re-energize us. There are many places for us to have us listen to what it means to think of this. Some of these models come in public health or NGOs. I find them humbling and having people not understand us. And there is more of an emphasis on "We" and less of an empasis on "I" here. Heck, we only have one multisystem deck at Ithaca. This may be boring but it is a nodal point to make transnational vectors cause the internet isn't everything and de-authorising yourself.

Audience -- Anything that is marginal to the mainstream American culture. What gets shown and what gets taught is central to thinking and teaching.

Audience -- I have a student come in this year with a newsreel film as an exmaple of radical media

Jonathan -- I wnat to plug Williams book "Television Technology and Cultural Form" and he is attacking McLuhan. His last chapter of that book is about alternative media practices. The idea of silence and what Williams was saying was a case that has to deal with copyright for example in YouTube. Copyright is key since Google and YouTube has proprietary interests.

Audience -- How many classes talk about alternative media practices? How many people study it? This is really a major responsibility that communications departments are never met. There are classes in this at times, but this should always be the case --- alternative media need to always be included. It's central to me and any cinema studies class I teach is something that I make it as key.

Kelly - Pretty much in every class I teach some alternative media. But at the same time the repsonses I get from my students is that this is "alternative" and the students know what is and what isn't mainstream media. Their reaction can be problematic.

Patty Zimmerman -- I am going to show my age and we thought that cultural studies in the 1980s were sucking up to commercial media. And we were thinking that we were looking for resistance and we wanted the engagement. Erik Barnouw used to say if you are a professor you have job to be courageous, you need to bomb your students and then give them a cherry. We need to think about multiple media ecologies and we need to think about buying from independent media sources. There should be new heterogenous strategies. I am very disturbed by the lack of enagement that communication scholars have with independent media

Audience -- (Affirms)

I mention Popular Music studies as a place where cultural studies was beneficial and a place of alternative production practices.

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