Consuming Media: Communication, Shopping and Everyday Life

Consuming Media: Communication, Shopping and Everyday Life

Consuming Media: Communication, Shopping and Everyday Life

Consuming Media: Communication, Shopping and Everyday Life

Synopsis

Inspired by Walter Benjamin's classical Arcades Project, this book is a pioneering exploration of the interface between communication, shopping and everyday life. Based on a six-year study by over a dozen scholars on a specific site, it analyzes the links between power, media and consumption in contemporary urban culture. Illustrated with rich ethnographic detail, Consuming Media scrutinizes four main media circuits--print media, media images, sound and motion, and hardware machines--to assess how media texts and technologies are selected, purchased and used. Exploring the relations between different media, the nature of cultural citizenship and the power relations of public space, it presents an ethnography of globalization and develops a new approach to understanding media consumption.

Excerpt

Media transgress borders. This is their main purpose and function: to put people in contact with someone or something that would otherwise be beyond reach in time or space – like an image from the past or a voice from far away. Communication implies the crossing of borders – historically across time, geographically across space, socially between people, and culturally between texts within various symbolic forms and genres. Media use belongs to the core of human activities in late modern societies, reconfirming that human beings are transgressing animals. For Georg Simmel, 'the human being is the connecting creature who must always separate and cannot connect without separating' and 'the bordering creature who has no border'.

There is in world history, in the modern era, and most particularly in its current late-modern phase, an accelerating growth, spread, diversification and interlacing of communications media across the globe. Media use constitutes increasingly greater parts of everyday life for a growing number of people around the world. This historical process of mediatization draws a widening range of activities into the sphere of media, making mediation an inreasingly key feature of society and everyday life. All contemporary major social and cultural issues directly implicate uses of media. Debates on war, science, ethics, ecology, gender identities, ethnic communities, generation gaps and socialization – all immediately raise questions of media power. Media no longer form a distinct sector, but are fully integrated in human life. This paradoxically means that their enormous influence can never be adequately 'measured', since there is no media-free zone with which to compare their effects.

The compression of time and space brought on by digital network technologies is one aspect of this process of mediatization. Never before have so much information and so many kinds of symbolic forms been transmitted across such great distances, stored and preserved for future generations, and shared by so many people for such multifarious purposes. Digitalization has also made possible an unprecedented convergence of media branches (institutions), genres (symbolic modes) and uses (practices), which blurs traditional distinctions. Media thus not only move across time and space, but also transgress their own traditional classifications. The very concept of media is diffuse and contested, calling for more integrated forms of investigating. It is increasingly difficult to distinguish communication media technologies from other artefacts and to draw clear lines between main types of media. Mediation . . .

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