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What do we mean by ‘media practices’?

July 6, 2008

Hobart, M. (forthcoming) What do we mean by ‘media practices’? In Bräuchler, B. and J. Postill (eds) Theorising Media and Practice. Oxford and New York : Berghahn.

Mark Hobart calls in this essay for the adoption by media scholars of a ‘radical’ version of practice theory that does away with entrenched static notions such as structure or system with deep roots in Western thought. He is critical of what he regards as Nick Couldry’s (this volume) privileging of media as an ‘anchor’ (Swidler 2001) of social practices, and asks that we abandon the idea that scholars have a privileged vantage point from which to study media power regardless of ordinary people’s own discursive practices.  In the place of Couldry’s ‘media practices’ he proposes ‘media-related practices’ as an open notion that does not limit the researcher to the seemingly bounded world of media organisations. The term media-related practice can refer to anything from film-making or news making to cooking in time for the family’s favourite soap opera or making decisions about household purchases of media artefacts. Contending that Schatzki’s (2001) notion of practices as ‘organized nexuses of activities’ downplays humans’ ability to articulate and order their own practices, he puts forth an alternative working definition of practices as ‘those recognised, complex forms of social activity and articulation, through which agents set out to maintain or change themselves, others and the world around them under varying conditions’. The mass media are important in this regard, says Hobart, because they are centrally implicated in such articulations.

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

Schatzki, T.R. (2001) Practice mind-ed orders. In The Practice Turn in Contemporary Theory. ed. T.R. Schatzki et al. London: Routledge.

Swidler, A. (2001) What anchors cultural practices. In The Practice Turn in Contemporary Theory. ed. T.R. Schatzki et al. London: Routledge.

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