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Social Movement Media and Media Activism  

John D. H. Downing

Social movements are the matrix of many forms and formats (technologies, genres) of media that contest dominant power. Such media are in many ways the lifeblood of such movements. Media activism denotes collective communication practices that challenge the status quo, including established media. Frequently, such media are underfunded or unfunded and have a much shorter life cycle than capitalist, state, or religiously funded media. They are a “tribe” within a much larger continent of nanomedia (also called alternative media and citizens’ media). Their functions may spill over at times within the operation of established media, especially in times of social turbulence and crisis. The “dominant power” in question may be quite variously perceived. Extreme-right populist movements, as in several European countries, may define the political establishment as having betrayed the supposed racial purity of the nation, or in the case of India’s Islamophobic Hindutva movement, as having traduced the nation’s religious purity. Labor movements may attack capital, feminist movements, or patriarchal and sexist structures. Sometimes these movements may be local, or regional; other times, they are transnational. The impact of these media is still a matter of considerable debate. Often, the debate begins from a false premise—namely, the frequently small size and/or duration of many social movement media projects. Yet women’s right to vote and the abolition of slavery in the Americas were not won overnight, and neither was the dismantling of South Africa’s racist apartheid system. The Hindutva movement goes back over a century. We should not hold social movement media to a higher standard of impact, any more than we should ascribe instantaneous power to established media. Social movements wax and wane, and so do their media projects. But the persistence of some such media activism between the peaks of movement activism is generally essential to the regeneration of social movements.

Article

Space in Critical Communication Studies  

Donovan Conley

Few concerns in critical-cultural approaches to communication intersect with as many adjacent fields of inquiry as does “space.” To talk about space is to share a conversation with philosophers (Henri Lefebvre, Michel Foucault, Gilles Deleuze, Edward Casey, Bruno Latour, Manuel DeLanda), critical geographers (Derek Gregory, David Harvey, Edward Soja, Doreen Massey), historians (Fernand Braudel, Michel de Certeau), sociologists (Pierre Bourdieu, Lewis Mumford, Jane Jacobs), literary and cultural theorists (Fredric Jameson, Meaghan Morris, Tony Bennett, Lawrence Grossberg, Timothy Morton), media ecologists (Harold Innis, Marshall McLuhan, Walter Ong, James Carey), political theorists (Jane Bennett, Nigel Thrift), and rhetoricians (Carole Blair, Greg Dickinson, Joan Faber McAlister, Jenny Rice, Nathaniel Rivers, Thomas Rickert). To talk about space is thus to talk with a plenitude of others about a plenitude of social practices, landscapes, mediums, objects, and configurations, but at bottom a concern with space is a concern with the kinds and qualities of relations between and among bodies and things. To be concerned with space is to be invested in the emergent scenery of arrangement, how groupings of bodies come to assume particular shapes and orderings and not others. The “how” question, in turn, is the question of communication as it leads to issues of influence and pressure: of the historical processes that shape our habits and modes of persuasion and constellations of power. Communication and space converge where the “how” of influence meets the “where” of historical emergence. While we have always lived and acted in importantly spatial ways, however, the critical-spatial consciousness that pervades the humanities today is itself a recent historical emergence.

Article

Speculative Fiction and Queer Theory  

Wendy Gay Pearson

Speculative fiction, like queer, can be an umbrella term; it can cover any writing in which reality is not mimetically represented. In other words, speculative fiction is a fuzzy set whose boundaries are permeable, capacious, and capable of definition and redefinition by readers and writers alike. The set includes science fiction, fantasy, horror, the Gothic, and most or all magic realist writing. Because of its focus on spaces and times that have not (yet) happened, may never happen, and may, indeed, be impossible, speculative fiction as a supergeneric category leaves open a great deal of room for queerness in all its forms. Queer theory illuminates depictions of sexuality, gender, and their intersectionalities as they are represented in speculative fictions of all kinds. In doing so, it traces several specific queer theoretical interventions, including: questions of queer representation; histories in which queer representation has been suppressed; queer dismantling of all types of normativity; queer theorizing about intimacy, kinship, reproduction, and family; questions of posthumanism and the queering of embodiment and/through technology; and issues of queer time versus the power of chrononormativity to reinforce assumptions about linear time and “normal” life. Speculative fiction is a powerful medium for both queer readers and queer writers because it empowers narratives, characters, and/or settings that disrupt the many ways in which dominant assumptions about race, gender, and sexuality are produced by, and in turn reinforce, colonial aspirations and expectations. Some speculative fiction may be dystopian, but some speculative fiction may also read the past reparatively in order to imagine more hopeful worlds.

Article

Stuart Hall and Communication Studies  

Toby Miller

Stuart Hall was a Jamaican-born, British-based theorist, critic, and activist, who flourished between the late 1950s and his death in 2014. Known both for his theoretical and empirical work on culture and communication and for his role as a public intellectual, Hall produced scholarly writings and charismatic teaching that were matched by his columns and interviews in magazines and newspapers and appearances on television and radio.

Article

Surveillance and Public Space  

Rachel Hall

Current communications research takes up the political and ethical problems posed by new surveillance technologies in public space, ranging from biometric technologies adopted by state security apparatuses to self- and peer-monitoring applications for the consumer market. In addition to studies that examine new surveillance technologies, scholars are tracking intensive and extensive expansions of surveillance in the name of risk management. Much of the scholarship produced in the last 15 years looks at how the establishment and expansion of the Department of Homeland Security within the United States and its international counterparts have dramatically altered security, military, and legal practices and cultures. Within this context what were once science fiction dystopias have become funded research and development projects and institutionalized practices aimed at remote data collection and processing, including facial recognition technology and a variety of remote sensing devices. Private-public partnerships between companies like Google and Homeland Security fusion centers have made it possible to use GPS technology to network data that promises to help manage a variety of natural and man-made disasters.

Article

The ACT2 Program and Eliminating Racial and Ethnic Disparities in HIV and AIDS Clinical Trials: A Case Study in Health and Risk Messaging  

Marya Gwadz and Amanda S. Ritchie

It is well documented that African American/Black and Hispanic individuals are underrepresented in biomedical research in the United States (U.S.), and leaders in the field have called for the proportional representation of varied populations in biomedical studies as a matter of social justice, economics, and science. Yet achieving appropriate representation is particularly challenging for health conditions that are highly stigmatized such as HIV/AIDS. African American/Black, and Hispanic individuals, referred to here as “people of color,” are greatly overrepresented among the 1.2 million persons living with HIV/AIDS in the United States. Despite this, people of color are substantially underrepresented in AIDS clinical trials. AIDS clinical trials are research studies to evaluate the safety and effectiveness of promising new treatments for HIV and AIDS and for the complications of HIV/AIDS, among human volunteers. As such, AIDS clinical trials are critical to the development of new medications and treatment regimens. The underrepresentation of people of color in AIDS clinical trials has been criticized on a number of levels. Of primary concern, underrepresentation may limit the generalizability of research findings to the populations most affected by HIV/AIDS. This has led to serious concerns about the precision of estimates of clinical efficacy and adverse effects of many treatments for HIV/AIDS among these populations. The reasons for the underrepresentation of people of color are complex and multifaceted. First, people of color experience serious emotional and attitudinal barriers to AIDS clinical trials such as fear and distrust of medical research. These experiences of fear and distrust are grounded largely in the well-known history of abuse of individuals of color by medical research institutions, and are complicated by current experiences of exclusion and discrimination in health care settings and the larger society, often referred to as structural racism or structural violence. In addition, people of color experience barriers to AIDS clinical trials at the level of social networks, such as social norms that do not support engagement in medical research and preferences for alternative therapies. People of color living with HIV/AIDS experience a number of structural barriers to clinical trials, such as difficulty accessing and navigating the trials system, which is often unfamiliar and daunting. Further, most health care providers are not well positioned to help people of color overcome these serious barriers to AIDS clinical trials in the context of a short medical appointment, and therefore are less likely to refer them to trials compared to their White peers. Last, some studies suggest that the trials’ inclusion and exclusion criteria exclude a greater proportion of people of color than White participants. Social/behavioral interventions that directly address the historical and contextual factors underlying the underrepresentation of people of color in AIDS clinical trials, build motivation and capability to access trials, and offer repeated access to screening for trials, hold promise for eliminating this racial/ethnic disparity. Further, modifications to study inclusion criteria will be needed to increase the proportion of people of color who enroll in AIDS clinical trials.

Article

Theories of Economic Justice in the Rhetorical Tradition  

Catherine Chaput and Joshua S. Hanan

Depending on how you approach it, economic justice is either an extremely old intellectual tradition or a relatively new one. From the first perspective, economic justice is part and parcel of classical political philosophy—Plato’s The Republic and Aristotle’s The Politics, for instance, both discuss property distribution in an ideal society, emphasizing the philosophy of justice over economic precepts. From the second perspective, the one we embrace, economic justice is a uniquely modern inquiry that emerged with the writings of Karl Marx and his revolutionary critique of the capitalist political economy. For Marx, economic justice can be understood as a critical enterprise that attempts to locate contradictions between universal and particular conceptions of human freedom and intervene politically into these contradictions with the aim of creating a more just, equitable, and egalitarian society. So conceived, economic justice liberates the collective potential of humanity from its exploitation and degradation by capitalism as well as the various legal institutions it develops to control human behavior for the purpose of extracting of surplus-value. It is this Marxist perspective and the various historical reformulations that it has authorized that influence the way rhetoricians and scholars of cultural studies conceptualize economic justice in the discipline of communication. While not all of these scholars endorse an explicitly Marxist line of thought, they all attempt to conceptualize economic justice as a normative political category that influences various models of rhetorical agency and social change.

Article

Urban Communication  

Susan J. Drucker and Gary Gumpert

Cities themselves function as media of communication. They are places where messages are created, carried, and exchanged by structures, infrastructures, and people. Urbanity is an age-old phenomenon undergoing radical transformation as developing means of communication redefine traditional notions of place and space. Urban communication meshes population density, technology and social interaction. Urban communication, like urban studies, is an interdisciplinary field that provides a fresh perspective from which to view the city and its transformation. The communication lens offers valuable perspectives and methodologies for the examination of urban and suburban life. It conceptualizes the city as a complex environment of interpersonal interaction, a landscape of spaces and places that shape human behavior, and an intricate technological environment. The development of urban communication research and activities is traceable from the early works a diverse group of urbanists to more current research programs conducted by communication scholars. Urban communication foregrounds communication in the study of the urban landscape. The unique patterns and needs of urban dwellers and communities are examined in an age where cities are layered with media technologies. An increasing number of technologies enable information from the digital world to be layered onto the physical world through augmented realities, thereby altering the person–environment relationship by creating spaces in which users interact with their physical surroundings through digital media. The future of cities is increasingly influenced by media technology. Cities are global, connected, inclusive, livable, green, sustainable, mega, and smart. Cities have been identified as communicative cities. There are many ways of looking at communication and cities and the history and broad parameters of the growing area of urban communication.

Article

Violent Media Content and Effects  

Robert Busching, Johnie J. Allen, and Craig A. Anderson

In our modern age, electronic media usage is prevalent in almost every part of the world. People are more connected than ever before with easy access to highly portable devices (e.g., laptops, smartphones, and tablets) that allow for media consumption at any time of day. Unfortunately, the presence of violence in electronic media content is almost as prevalent as the media itself. Violence can be found in music, television shows, video games, and even YouTube videos. Content analyses have shown that nearly all media contain violence, irrespective of age rating (Linder & Gentile, 2009; Thompson & Haninger, 2001; Thompson, Tepichin, & Haninger, 2006; Yokota & Thompson, 2000). It is therefore important to ask: What are the consequences of pervasive exposure to screen violence? One consequence of media violence exposure, hotly debated by some in the general public, is increased aggressive behavior. This relationship was investigated in many studies using experimental, longitudinal, or cross-sectional design. These studies are summarized in meta-analyses, which support the notion that media violence increase the likelihood of acting aggressively. This link can be explained by an increase in aggressive thoughts, a more hostile perception of the environment, and less empathic reaction to victims of aggressive behavior. However, the often debated notion that media violence allows one to vent off steam, leading to a reduced likelihood of aggressive behavior, has failed to receive empirical support. The effect of media violence is not limited to aggressive behavior; as a consequence of violent media usage attentional problems arise and prosocial behavior decreases.

Article

Visuality and Security  

Axel Heck

The term security has its origins in the Latin word securitas, which could be translated as “without care” or “without worries.” Security as a concept used in social sciences indicates a specific political condition or social constellation under which an individual, larger group, or state routinely exists without the worry of being physically harmed, attacked, or otherwise injured. In times of crisis, where civil wars threaten the stability and the security of whole regions, where terrorists aim to kill civilians and millions of refugees leave their homes searching for more secure places, it is no wonder that the concept of security has gained much attention and is debated in political and academic circles. Taking a closer look at the academic debates in political science and communication studies reveals different ontological understandings about what “security” is and a variety of epistemological approaches how to study it. While positivists take security as a fact and an objective condition that can be measured and clearly defined, critical approaches question that security is an objective or given fact. In critical security studies, security and especially insecurity are understood as social and discursive practices. If security and insecurity are not taken as objective facts, but as the result of social constructions, the question arises of how, and under which conditions, security and insecurity are socially constructed and who or what contributes to these discourses in a meaningful way. While the significance of language for the discursive construction of security is well researched in social sciences, the visual dimension of security discourses has caught particular attention in the last decade in political and communication studies. This has occurred because where, what, and how we see (media reports, pictures of catastrophes and war, street crime, violence, suspects, terrorists etc.) significantly shape our understanding of security and insecurity. Alternatively, or more precisely, security discourse is hard to imagine without reference to some sort of visual communication. Communication studies and political science (especially the subdiscipline critical security studies, or CSS) have focused on the nexus between visuality and security for many years now—but in interdisciplinary coexistence rather than in exchange. This article intends to bridge this gap between the disciplines by introducing theoretical concepts and paths in literature of both research traditions. In particular, the concept of visual securitization might be an interesting toehold, as it sheds light on the question of how visual communication (media images, television, films, and other media) contribute to the discursive construction of threats, dangers, and insecurities, thereby enabling extraordinary political measures (from public surveillance to so-called enhanced interrogation techniques and military interventions) to secure the endangered referent object.

Article

Visual Rhetoric  

Zazil Reyes García

The growing field of visual rhetoric explores the communicative and persuasive power of the visual artifacts that surround us. This relatively new branch of rhetoric emerged in the late 20th century, disrupting a discipline that was traditionally concerned with the spoken and written word. The artifacts studied through the lens of visual rhetoric comprise visual images and objects that are human created and culturally meaningful. They include two-dimensional images, such as political cartoons and video advertising, and three-dimensional objects such as museums and murals. Visual rhetoric can also include the analysis of embodied performance and thus examine the body as argument. Although much of the scholarship focuses on the power of images in shaping people’s understanding of the world, there is also a recognition of the power of looking. Meaning does not reside in the images around us; we participate in its construction. To better understand visual rhetoric, it is important to review its emergence as an area of study, its definitions, and some of the recurring themes in the scholarship.

Article

Visual Rhetoric and Semiotic  

Marcel Danesi

Visual Rhetoric (VR) is a field of inquiry aiming to analyze all kinds of visual images and texts as rhetorical structures. VR is an offshoot of both visual semiotics, or the study of the meanings of visual signs in cultural contexts; and of the psychology of visual thinking, as opposed to verbal thinking—defined as the capacity to extract meaning from visual images. The basic method of VR, which can be traced back to Roland Barthes’s pivotal 1964 article “The Rhetoric of the Image,” is to unravel to connotative meanings of visual images. The picture of a lion, for instance, can be read at two levels. Denotatively (or literally) it is interpreted as “a large, carnivorous, feline mammal of Africa.” This level conveys informational or referential meaning. But the image of lion in, say, an advertisement or music video invariably triggers a connotative sense—namely, “fierceness, ferociousness, bravery, courage, virility.” The key insight of VR is that connotation is anchored in rhetorical structure, that is, in cognitive-associative processes such as metaphor and allusion, which are imprinted not only in verbal expressions, but also in visual images. So, the image of a lion in, say, a logo design for men’s clothing would bear rhetorical-connotative meaning and affect the way in which the clothing brand is perceived. This same basic approach is applied to all visual expressive artifacts, from traditional visual art works to the design of web pages and comic books. VR is showing that visual objects are rhetorical objects and that, therefore, they can be used to influence and persuade people as effectively as rhetorical oratory, if not more so. Given its simple, yet effective method of analysis, VR is spreading to various disciplines as a technique, including psychology, anthropology, marketing, and graphic design, among many others, affirming how visual images tap into a system of symbolism that is interconnected with other forms of symbolism and representation.

Article

Women Entrepreneurs, Global Microfinance, and Development 2.0  

Radhika Gajjala and Dinah Tetteh

The 1970s brought forth strong movements for the financial empowerment of women and women’s labor rights protections in rural, developing world regions such as India. For instance, 1972 is when the Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA) was registered as a trade union in India. Its main goals were full employment and self-reliance for women from the unorganized sectors. In the 1970s, several developing world countries saw the rise of microfinance interventions. What started as a public policy strategy and intervention for rural finance in the newly independent India of the 1950s has shaped subsequent patterns for rural credit and microcredit in most of the developing world. For instance, the Bank Dagang Bali (BDB) was established in Bali, Indonesia, in September of 1970, and the Grameen Bank was established in Bangladesh in 1974. Around the same time, the U.S.-based NGO Accion began to give loans in Brazil. The founder of the Grameen Bank, Muhammad Yunus, became a legend and is well known for his belief that women make better borrowers than men because they find ways to repay the loans. As a result, a development model has emerged that focuses on women’s self-empowerment through micro-entrepreneurialism and the promise of microfinance. Simultaneously, in global settings, there emerged a model of “Development 2.0,” which uses Web 2.0 tools and practices to mobilize connectivity, action at a distance, and relational, interpersonal investments through digital and mobile tools. The resulting model of microfinance therefore occurs through Web 2.0 and mobile phone–based technologies and also works to connect women and girls from the Global North (including immigrants) and women and girls from the Global South through movements such as The Girl Effect. What we see here is a paradigm based in a neoliberal market economy framework that mobilizes women’s labor from the Global North and from the Global South in the service of a global digital financial capitalism. This article maps out a literature review that connects the idea of Development 2.0 with the economic and political visibility of the girl child and of the woman as the one who empowers while also still needing to be empowered.

Article

Worry and Rumination as a Consideration When Designing Health and Risk Messages  

Tamara D. Afifi, Ariana Shahnazi, and Kathryn Harrison

Rumination is typically thought of as pessimistic, repetitive thinking or mulling that is deleterious for one’s health. Rumination, however, can take several forms and is not always harmful. In fact, it could actually be helpful in certain circumstances. It is common and often helpful when something stressful happens, like a health scare or problematic health diagnosis, for people to ponder or reflect on why it happened and brainstorm potential solutions to it. This is referred to as reflective rumination. Rumination affects people’s risk perceptions related to their personal and relational health and decision-making about their health. Research on negative rumination and health and positive rumination and health focuses on the impact of these patterns of thinking on health outcomes such as mental health, physical health, and relational health and as perceptions of health messages and risk likelihood.