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Elizabeth Bird keynote: ‘From media response to mediated practices’

November 8, 2008

EASA Media Anthropology Network 2nd Workshop, “Media Practices and Cultural Producers”. Barcelona, 6-7 November 2008

Elizabeth Bird’s abstract, via Mediacciones site

In the last 10-15 years, cultural scholarship on media “audiences” has moved away from studies of direct engagement with texts, towards a consideration of “mediated practices,” recognizing the artificiality of attempting to dissect media out of the complex web of culture. From this perspective, the relevant questions about media are no longer “what do media do to people and cultures?” or even “what do people do in direct response to media?” Rather, we ask questions about what kind of things people do in relation to media, and also about how media are incorporated into everyday communicative and cultural practices. In this presentation, I briefly discuss example of the kind of activities that may fruitfully be studied as “mediated practices,” focusing on the methodological challenges such studies pose. I suggest that the practice perspective requires us to develop ethnographically-inspired methodologies that dissolve the still-current distinctions between cultural interpretations derived from text-based rhetorical criticism and those derived from ethnographically-inspired audience response studies. Yet this imperative to get “the whole picture” poses significant practical challenges, and invites the question: Is there still a place in audience studies for more focused analyses of specific texts or genres?

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