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From fan practice to mediated moments

June 27, 2008

blogging on peer-reviewed research white.pngBird, S.E. (forthcoming) From fan practice to mediated moments: The value of practice theory in the understanding of media audiences. In Bräuchler, B. and J. Postill (eds) Theorising Media and Practice. Oxford and New York : Berghahn.

In this chapter, Elizabeth Bird explores some of the potential uses of practice theory for an anthropology of media audiences that does not limit itself to studying the immediate contexts of media reception, e.g. watching television. Unlike Mark Hobart (this volume), Bird does not call for a radical move towards a practice-based approach to media that does away, once and for all, with the idea of system or structure as supplementary to human agency. Instead she follows Ortner (1984) in arguing that a practice-theoretical approach must hold together both ‘the constraints of structure and the power of audience agency’. She develops her case with examples (largely from the US) on the increasingly ‘mediatised’ wedding industry, backyard/indy wrestling, and odd televisual moments that disturb the everyday flow of predictable TV frames. One important distinction made by Bird is that between ‘media practices’ and ‘mediated practices’, i.e. between social practices that originate in and rely on media technologies (e.g. blogging) and practices that are shaped by but not dependent on media (e.g. weddings).

Ortner, S.B. (1984) Theory in anthropology since the sixties, Comparative Studies in Society and History 26(1): 126-166.

(NB to read other chapter summaries, see under “Media and Practice book” category)

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