Posts tagged ‘media’

21 January 2011

Performing intermediality

Lovely short video on “Performing Intermediality” at the research centre on Sound and Movement in Munich (in German).


11 April 2010

Integration and the discourse of “concreteness”

The debate on integration in Germany continues. But certain aspects are aggressively excluded from the discussion.

Today a round table discussion on “Tacheles” on Phoenix (state-funded public television channel). Participants discuss, among other things, “positive examples” of educational projects to assist integration. One is a bilingual primary school in which all kids learn subjects in both German and Turkish.

After some comments on the project, Cem Gülay

Cem Gülay

Cem Gülay

says that it is important to remember that education is not the only important aspect to integration. There are over 20,000 young people of Turkish background with university degrees in Germany, but when it comes to getting professional jobs, they are clearly discriminated against. He starts to give concrete numbers: 1 to 3.

The moderator jumps in: wait, wait, wait, we’re talking about this concrete project. And cuts Gülay off, turning to the next participant.

Discursive strategy of “concreteness”: using “the concrete” to disrupt mention of larger systemic issues such as institutional racism. Yet Necla Kelek was not interrupted when she translated the specific project into a mention of women’s position in Muslim societies.

Unfortunately, Gülay’s comments on this topic are not included in the range of clips available on Phoenix’ website.

Hamideh Mohagheghi

Hamideh Mohagheghi

Practical critical discourse analysis on “Islam”

Hamideh Mohagheghi, Chair of the Muslim Academy in Germany, does a nice bit of practical critical discourse analysis (in the video summary below at around minute 3:30) by drawing attention to the moderator’s use of “young people with a Turkish background” and “young people with a Muslim background” as synonyms.

Around minute 7:50 she takes apart the concept of “highly religious people” – what on earth is “highly religious”, she asks. How are we supposed to measure that?

6 February 2009


Groundspark: Igniting Change Through Film. As the subtitle suggests, Groundspark is an initiative offering educational documentary films which aim to engage young learners with what might seem to be difficult topics.

(That these topics are still difficult is an issue worth discussing in itself.). Some films:


Teenagers open up about how they are limited by gender role expectations and their process of finding ways to really be themselves.

That’s a Family!

Breaks new ground in helping children in grades K-8 understand the different shapes families take today.

Choosing Children

Emotionally powerful documentary that challenges society’s definitions of family by exploring the ways lesbians are becoming parents and how they are raising their children.

Let’s Get Real

Examines issues that lead to taunting and bullying, including racial differences, perceived sexual orientation, learning disabilities, religious differences, sexual harassment and others.

Deadly Deception

This 1991 Academy Award® – winning documentary uncovers the disastrous health and environmental side effects caused by the production of nuclear materials by the General Electric Corporation.

And many more. Clips can be watched on site; the films are available for purchase.

3 January 2009

Poster wars

Zeina Maasri’s new book Off the Wall: Political Posters of the Lebanese Civil War was reviewed in today’s The National.

The reviewer, Kaelen Wilson-Goldie, describes it as:

The first sustained study of Beirut’s poster wars, and the first serious and comprehensive investigation of the way that fifteen years of fighting left an indelible mark on the city’s visual culture – one that persists to this day.


Maasri draws on Michel Foucault, Roland Barthes, Stuart Hall, Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe to argue that these political posters in Lebanon are not propaganda campaigns but constitute sites of discursive struggle.

She reads the signs, symbols, texts and images of the political posters that were produced during the civil war as evidence of how different communities and factions fought to define, assert and articulate themselves on Lebanon’s social, cultural and political landscape.

1 January 2009


netEX, the [NewMediaArtProjectNetwork]:|| Cologne, has an incredible amount of deadlines for media/art symposia, festivals, meetings, competitions, and postgrad courses on its website. The selection for January includes 18 announcements.

5 November 2008

Books: Language and news/media

News media receive a good deal of attention from linguistically-sensitive discourse analysts (scroll down for some recent books). Two new reviews of books in this field are available on linguistlist.

1. Martin Conboy (2007) The Language of the News. Routledge.

Conboy situates his book within Critical Linguistics, i.e., the paradigm (as outlined in Chapter 1), which describes news as a socially-situated linguistic activity. Newspapers are considered in this book to both inform broader linguistic trends and be influenced by these trends. The book touches on issues of news language features, the economic imperative driving news media, objectivity, the development of ‘news communities’, argumentation, rhetoric, social semiotics, ideology, gender, narrative, the nation, exclusion and political correctness. The reviewer, Mekki Elbadri, evaluates the book thus:

Evaluation: This book is an important addition to research in the area of critical linguistic analysis of media discourse in general, and news language in particular. It supplements works such as Bell (1991), Fowler (1991) and van Dijk (1988a, 1988b) by providing new insights and considering more recent literature. The book’s methodological orientation places it clearly in the framework of Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) (see, for instance, Wodak 1989, Wodak and Meyer 2001, Fairclough 1995). However the author avoids using the term CDA and opts for the older, and less commonly used, term ‘Critical Linguistics’, as used by Fowler (1991). The author doesn’t specify the audience addressed by his book; nevertheless, the book’s treatment of terminology and theories indicates that it targets beginners, undergraduate students and a generally non-specialized public. Mainly it speaks to those who the author calls ‘critical readers’. The book contains some short analysis activities, although some of them are rather simplistic. Furthermore, the author avoids entering into detailed theoretical discussions and focuses instead on providing extensive practical examples. For instance the word ‘discourse’ is only defined in Chapter 5, page 117. In spite of the book’s title, ‘Language of the News’, it presents mainly the language of British newspapers, with hardly any place for other international news media, other languages, or even media other than newspapers. The British focus makes some of the examples, puns and contextual information incomprehensible for readers who are not well acquainted with British English and British politics. [… The] book constitutes an important resource for learners and teachers of linguistics, discourse analysis and media studies.

2. Sally Johnson & Astrid Ensslin (Eds.) (2007) Language in the Media: Representations, Identities, Ideologies. Continuum.

This collection of chapters on language and the media. The reviewer, Francisco Yus, begins his review by voicing surprise at the very specific focus on the collection, which focus on particular language-related topics within media discourse, not on more general issues concerning the language of media. It deals primarily with media practices/texts which explicitly deal with language. Appraoches include conversational/text analysis, critical and multimodal discourse analysis, corpus linguistics, pragmatics, stylistics, speech act theory, historiography and ethnography. In his evaluation, he reflects on his own change of heart after reading the book:

The book ”Language in the Media” explores language in different media but, unlike my initial impression, it exhibits several underlying linking qualities that give the book a desirable level of coherence, which is also enhanced formally by the fact that there is only one bibliographical section at the end of the book. The book is not the typical book on language and the media, since it focuses on very specific and ideology-connoted aspects of the relationship of language and media, but at the same time it will no doubt draw the attention of readers from a wide range of research perspectives, including pragmatics, (critical) discourse analysis, ethnological approaches, etc. As such, the book is invaluable and no doubt offers interesting insights in a field on which so much has been published already.

A random selection of recent books in this field:

And the classics of linguistically-sensitive critical news/media discourse analysis:

(…apologies for the amazon links… still looking for an alternative comprehensive online bookstore… check betterworldbooks first if you buy second hand…)

4 November 2008

Media, teenage pregnancy and violence

Nov, 3. Reuters headline: “Study links teen pregnancy to sexy TV shows”. Oh, the debate continues, a reader may think. Is television a bad influence on young people? The question has been asked by researchers across the globe for decades, and no conclusive evidence has yet been found. In 2004, a study of the studies (by James A. Anderson) analysed the research papers in a large archive of major studies on correlations between media violence and aggression. Findings:

The analysis found the archive marked by initiatives in governmental funding and private philanthropy, shifting disciplinary interests, cycles of editorial attention, and the economies of disciplinary authentication and professional legitimation.

Analysis of the mainline arguments indicated a shift from an audience-activated effect to one in which the individual is an unwitting accomplice.

Finally, the study showed that the continuing interest in media serves to deflect attention from much more serious (but much more costly to remedy) sources of aggression and to elevate the role of media to that same level of importance.

Yet the Reuters story on the findings of the study announced on Monday begins:

CHICAGO (Reuters) – Exposure to some forms of entertainment is a corrupting influence on children, leading teens who watch sexy programs into early pregnancies and children who play violent video games to adopt aggressive behavior, researchers said on Monday.

It doesn’t seem too far fetched to argue that ‘corrupting influence’ seems to imply some kind of causality. As does ‘leading … into/to’. The article continues:

Researchers at the RAND research organization said their three-year study was the first to link viewing of racy television programing with risky sexual behavior by teens.

The article shifts key here. ‘Corrupting influence’/’leading to’ has shifted to ‘link’. ((And, is this the RAND which describes itself as ‘a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis’, and has also been described as ‘the ur-think tank, the Cold War granddaddy of them all’?)). The article continues:

“Our findings suggest that television may play a significant role in the high rates of teenage pregnancy in the United States,” said Anita Chandra, a behavioral scientist who led the research at RAND, a nonprofit research organization.

“We’re not saying we’re establishing causation, but we are saying this is one factor that we were able to prospectively link to the teen pregnancy outcome,” Chandra said in a phone interview.

Two more shifts. The ‘link’ has been hedged with a ‘may’. And the leading researcher explicitly distances herself from establishing a causal relation between TV and teen pregnancies.

Nevertheless, the RAND Corporation research brief offers guidelines for TV industry leaders (think about sex in the programming), media literacy instruction (teach critical literacy), doctors (teach about media effects) and parents (monitor teens’ TV viewing and talk to their kids about the consequences of sex).

Novel recommendations there.

3 November 2008

Auditory Warnings

If you have a moment to explore one of today’s (many) contradictions, turn off the mute on your computer, and go to Auditory Warnings, an audio-video web project by John Wynne. A beautifully calm piece –which picks up urgency as it goes — Auditory Warnings plays with the increasing amount of buzzing and beeping in our everyday environments, and how this has destabilized hegemonic notions of peace, quiet, danger, warning and silence.

John Wynne is one of the featured artists at Viva Viva, an exhibition opening 8 December at P3, one of the gallery spaces associated with the University of Westminster in London. Viva Viva is:

the first celebration of a decade of completed audio-visual practice based doctorates [AVPhDs] from all over the UK. An innovative exhibition that includes multi and interdisciplinary single-screen works and installations that draw from cultural studies, fine art, anthropology, film and new media (scroll down for showcased researchers). These diverse critical works will be presented together with their written theses.

Opening night: Monday 8th December, 6.30pm-9.30pm. With live VJing, DJing and a performance by AVPhD researcher Anita Ponton.

More on John Wynne at

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24 October 2008

Hegemony and Moskalenko

The mercury found in Karinna Moskalenko’s car may have come from a barometer that the previous owner of the car had accidentally spilled, according to the French authorities (see Le Figaro, BBC, IHT). When Moskalenko, a Russian lawyer whose clients have included Mikhail Khodorkovsky and the family of Anna Politkovskaya, was recently diagnosed with mercury poisoning, she feared the mercury was planted intentionally to poison her and her family. Indeed, she then remained away from the opening of the trial over the murder of Politkovskaya.

Peter Lavelle sums up almost exactly what I was thinking:

When the story broke that the lawyer for slain Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya was allegedly suffering from mercury poisoning, I braced myself for the now standard reaction: “Putin did it”. When it comes to Russia, the West’s commentariat refuses to use logic or attempts to investigate. The fact is, writing sensational stories about Russia sells and serves time-honoured stereotypes, prejudices, and reinforces a sense of Western hubris. Actually, I am a bit surprised the global financial meltdown has not also been pinned on Putin!

At the time, The Washington Post wrote:

Perhaps this was an unfortunate accident; the police in Strasbourg say they are still investigating. But history suggests otherwise. Numerous opponents of Mr. Putin have been killed or gravely sickened by poisoning.

Yes, the standard reaction. But I do disagree with Lavelle on ‘stereotypes’ and the western commentariat’s lack of logic. There most definitely is a logic at work here: a hegemonic logic. In Lavelle’s words:

Some dots were quickly and erroneously connected: “Kremlin critic – dead journalist – lawyer – poison – Kremlin.”

At any one time, and/or in any one place, there will be a set of expectations, conventional understandings, political exclusions and inclusions, sets of norms and values, leading definitions, etc. All this makes up the fully formed hegemonic (in Gramsci’s sense) discourses of that time and place.

Russia is one of the prime examples of media hegemony. By no means do the media speak with one voice (Lavelle and other bloggers are not the only exceptions), but by and large, when something vaguely political happens, the immediate interpretation is that the Kremlin was to blame. Be this Litvinenko, Politkovskaya, Ukraine’s gas, Estonia’s computers. The ‘dots’ are connected and a binary opposition is set up: Kremlin vs. The Others.

New information appearing on a journalist’s radar is embedded into this already existing binary. If someone is not an associate of the Kremlin, they must be in danger from the Kremlin. I am quite convinced that most of these news reports are not ill-intentioned. Journalists see their job as passing on the most recent newsworthy information they receive. Of course the initial news story is more likely to be noticed and remembered than the small correction printed later.

Lavelle challenges the comentariat ‘to grow up and get real’. Maybe there is something in this. If more individuals shift the discourse, as he does in his in-depth analyses of Russian politics, then the current hegemony will be destabilised. But this only addresses part of the problem. Individuals alone can only do so much to change such entrenched discourses. A fundamental aspect of most significant social or political transformations is a serious ‘dislocation’, i.e., a moment when conventional understandings break down and can no longer help us to make sense of events.

I am watching carefully what happens in the wake of the conflict in the Caucasus. The standard reaction there was also that Russia invaded. The Sunday Mail wrote of Russian ‘barbaric’ ‘slaughter’ of civilians. And then it turned out that western intelligence reports answered the Spiegel’s headline ‘Did Saakashvili lie?’ with ‘yes, he did’.

This is a massive dislocation for most western observers. Wait a minute, they have to think, the standard interpretation doesn’t fit. Georgia-the-innocent-victim-attacked-by-Russia doesn’t wash.

Not that Russia was the innocent victim. But now is the chance for new hegemonic projects — new reports which offer a different take on events — to gain media space. In this phase of dislocation, there is less need to argue with the (old) hegemonic account of events. Instead, it’s time to offer new interpretations, new vocabulary, new discourses. This should (optimistically) be the time when even the Washington Post is open to stories from an ‘alternative’ commentariat.

15 October 2008

Should Russia trust the West?

This should prove provocative. has republished Stanislav Mishin’s list of sixteen reasons why Russia should never trust the West. Full details available on his blog Mat Rodina. All the key words are included: Putin, Georgia, Islam, Taliban, Bush, Chechnya, Berezovsky, Khodorkovsky, oil, Kasparov, economy, democracy, Orthodoxy, Nazis, bombs…

  1. The West raped Russia
  2. The West supported Yeltsin as he massacred Parliament
  3. The West backed Chechen and other separatist elements
  4. The West expanded an alliance to include all of the Warsaw pact and parts of the former Soviet Union
  5. The West bombed Russia’s closest ally Serbia
  6. The West back every Jihad aimed at Orthodox Christians
  7. The West over threw Russia’s allies and set up puppet Socialist regimes
  8. The West actively supported sellout candidates in Russia with illegally given financial aid and revolutionary training
  9. The West financed the National Bolshevik (Socialist) Workers’ Party aka Nazis in Russia
  10. The West tore up its military agreements as soon as they became inconvenient
  11. The West stopped Russia from bombing the Taliban and gave them money…that is until the Taliban helped attack the West
  12. The West took Russia’s aid in the WOT, in Central Asia and in usual Western gratitude, tried to oust Russia from the area
  13. The West is putting missile interceptor silos that could as easily hold short range ballistic nuclear missiles right on Russia’s doorstep
  14. The West tried and failed to take control of Russian key oil resources and in revenge has waged a non-stop propaganda war against Russia for 7 years
  15. The West gives regular asylum to Islamic Jihadists wanted by Russia and to Russian criminals and criminal oligarchs while demanding Russia hand over her citizens on trumped up charges (extradition is illegal under the Russian constitution…not that laws matter to the West)
  16. The West despises Russian patriotism and Christianity and works hard to crush both

More recent post on Mat Rodina, in a similar style: The Global Credit Panic Is Russia’s Chance to Reverse the Status of Colony.

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