Reader comments are an online communication format defined by their marginality relative to a primary news or blog article. To investigate their distinctive technical features and social dynamics, I studied large-scale discussions in response to articles about two stories: the death of Aaron Swartz, and the outing of Edward Snowden as the NSA leaker. Using frame analysis and drawing on Hannah Arendt’s theories of judgment and public action, I describe how the these comments by ordinary people give meaning to political action and define a space of political legitimacy.
This thesis examines the mechanisms at play in the hype of genomic science. While media are the primary conduit for scientific information, scientists and scholars claim that a variety of social forces shape this genohype. This in turn is driving unrealistic expectations about the potential application of genomic discoveries. This study will add qualitative empirical evidence about these social forces by examining the scientific process itself, as well as the role of the media and the public opinion. I conducted 12 in-depth, semi-structured interviews with genomic researchers, scientists and clinicians in British Columbia, Canada and used thematic analysis to explore how various social forces are shaping scientific work and the genohype. This study discovered evidence of a third-person effect and highlights how PR departments of universities and research facilities play an important role in ‘pitching’ genomic science to the media. Understanding these mechanisms at play can help manage expectations about the potential application of genomic discoveries. This research will ultimately benefit the media, scientists, decision makers, and members of the public by increasing knowledge and decreasing communicative barriers.
Historically, the primary aim of modern recording technique has been to control the social context in which recording happens. Modern recording technique implements a way of listening that conceptually and spatially suppresses noises that indicate the social context of studio production. While this provides technical efficiency, it displaces political questions and ethical considerations, discursively rendering production practice an activity without social consequences. Rather than teaching recording as nothing more than the technical task of operating devices and “engineering” sound, it is possible for the production studio to support a listening public and become hospitable to a wider range of social concerns. This thesis combines the fields of soundscape composition and media education to explore pedagogical opportunities encountered by focusing on "waste"—the spatial practices, material possibilities, and social meanings gathered around it. The thesis explores “disposability” and “responsibility” as ways that recording practices negate and engage the social production of Vancouver’s livability and the immateriality of the digital realm on which it depends as a global city. Researching a youth art project, this thesis reports how waste figured as a thing for organizing improvisation, and how composing with waste brought together people and places normally kept separate. It is proposed that composing with waste can focus media production as a public practice, encouraging producers in the studio to listen out to compose with those people, things, ideas, and histories that are regularly excluded, displaced, and forgotten in striving to keep intact the cohesive social space supporting Vancouver’s current formulation of a livable city.
Using the lens of feminist production studies, I examine the television show Battlestar Galactica through interviews with show creators to explore the contexts of production. Writers, actors, and producers experience constraints on their creativity. Media producers encode meaning into the texts they create and form their own understandings of social issues and stories. I examine the day-to-day processes and constraints operating in the work lives of television creators as well as their political and social goals for the show. I pay particularly close attention to their understanding of intersecting areas of identity, such as race, sexuality, and gender. My analysis is situated within production studies, postfeminist media theories, and science fiction scholarship.
Meritocracy refers to the idea that whatever our social position at birth, society should offer the means for those with the right “talent” to “rise to top.” In context of celebrity culture, it could refer to the idea that society should allow all of us to have an equal chance to become celebrities. This article argues that as a result of globalization and consumerism in the post-reform market economy, the genre of music-based TV talent shows has become one of the most popular TV genres in China and has at the same time become a vehicle of a neoliberal meritocratic ideology. The rise of the ideology of meritocracy accompanied the pace of market reform in post-1980s China and is influenced by the loss of social safety nets during China’s transition from a socialist to a market economy. By allowing celebrities created by profit-seeking industries to represent and arbitrate the “talent” that should be rewarded by society, TV talent shows normalize the neoliberal notion that all under the market system have the “equality of opportunity” to compete with one another. Thus, the cultural industries of China become dissociated from the working class to fit hegemonic models of culture and market logic. By studying the social and economic context of music-based reality TV talent shows, we can understand the changes of class and market dynamics of China in the last 30 years.
Since the early 2000s, a growing number of charitable organizations has introduced gift catalogues from which donors “shop” through tangible goods (e.g. livestock, mosquito nets) for recipients in need. Building upon the work of Susan Willis, I approach the charity gift catalogue as a form of ideological packaging. This thesis critically analyzes World Vision Canada’s gift catalogues to explore how the consumption-oriented language and format of the catalogue commodify charitable aid and its recipients. Specifically, I examine how the catalogue transforms charitable aid into “products” by a) standardizing quantities b) creating an appearance of use value and c) aestheticizing charitable aid as a “shopping” experience. This project aims to establish an understanding of “shopping” from a charity catalogue as more than a playful metaphor; rather, it is an ideological representation that may negatively shape the way in which donors conceptualize and participate in charitable aid in the long term.
This dissertation begins from the premise that Dallas Smythe’s attempt to develop a Marxist ‘materialist’ political economy of media remains a critically important - and unfinished - project. To-date, the debate has largely been concerned with locating the central commodity produced by ad-supported media. This commodity has been at various times identified as either ‘audiences’, ‘watching-time’, ‘ratings’, and more recently, ‘prosumers’ or ‘data’. Building from the late philosopher Henri Lefebvre’s insight that Marxists have too often focused on the production of commodities in capitalist space, leaving them blind to the production of capitalist space itself, this dissertation proposes a different approach. Ad-supported media, I argue, generate rents from the spaces that are produced by media audiences/users around media content. The question of how ‘media space’ is produced and shaped by the stipulations of rent extraction is examined through a case study of the ad-supported music streaming sector. From terrestrial radio to P2P file sharing, music has long facilitated the production of mediated “social space”. Contemporary music streaming services such as Spotify, SoundCloud and Pandora Internet Radio, represent the latest attempt to transform the spaces of listeners into spaces of capital: what Lefebvre referred to as “abstract space”. This dissertation investigates the perceived, conceived, and lived dimensions of the struggle to produce abstract space on music streaming platforms. In particular, the role played by data mining and analysis, as typified by the music intelligence company The Echo Nest, is examined. I argue that the drive to increase advertising revenues leads to the further segmentation and ordering of listeners and content, as sociability is turned upon itself to fulfill the dictates of capital. While social space is never entirely dissolved, abstract space increasingly shapes the potentialities of social space, as our examination of SoundCloud demonstrates. In short, this dissertation develops an alternative materialist political economy of media that shifts focus from the production of commodities to the production of spaces. Music streaming services provide a window into the dynamic and unstable process through which mediated social space is made abstract in the commercial media economy.
In China, square dance refers to a dancing activity named after where it usually occurs, a public square. Contemporary Chinese square dance started in the 1980s, in the wake of the Chinese Communist Party’s Reform and Opening Up policy. My paper explores Chinese square dance as a collective method of expression under contemporary ideological dynamics, which combine earlier socialism and the more recent neoliberalism. It entails the study of Chinese domestic news media, which represent the dialectical tensions of socialist and neoliberal ideologies when presenting the image of square dance. Using Chinese square dance as a focal point to study the interplay between media, society and the party state, we see a dynamic struggle occurring between the often despised, orthodox socialism and the arguably heterodox, yet penetrative neoliberal way of life.
Bin-Zib [in Korean, empty/guests’ house] is an urban housing movement in Seoul, South Korea. In a society where, like many others, home ownership has increasingly become a matter of financial speculation rather than residency, the founders of Bin-Zib attempted to overturn the idea of private property associated with housing by turning housing from a form of property to what this thesis theorizes as the common. Starting out with one rented apartment in 2008, Bin-Zib members have expanded the scope of their communing experiment to include a network of homes, a café, and a cooperative bank, by inventing an array of strategies founded on the primacy of radical politics in everyday life. Based on an extended period of participant observation, analysis of online and print texts, and in-depth interviews with 32 residents, this thesis explores how Bin-Zib’s residents have struggled to create different practices of housing in a thoroughly neoliberalized urban setting. The community’s emphasis on heterogeneity, egalitarianism and openness has both departed from traditional left politics and propelled them to create an experimental and highly successful commune within and against capitalism. Drawing on Jacques Rancière's theory of subjectivation, this thesis investigates the politics of everyday life and expanding communism.
This paper examines women’s struggle to overcome marginalization in a sexist and a patriarchal Nigerian society. It argues that fictional literature can be an effective tool for creating awareness, learning and dialogue among Nigerian women from various cultural, religious and ethnic background towards transformation. Literature, like any medium of communication, can be used to mobilize social change. This argument is illustrated through a literary analysis of three novels by three renowned female Nigerian writers: Efuru (1966) by Flora Nwapa, Second Class Citizen (1974) by Buchi Emecheta and Purple Hibiscus (2003) by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. The authors project womanhood in a positive light, upholding the potentials of women by making role models out of each female protagonist. Women’s efforts to free themselves from the bondage of tradition, politics, marriage and most importantly male dominance are what makes these three novels extremely powerful. This paper intends to show how literature tries to open up the neglected subject of women oppression in Nigeria and create awareness.