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New media and cultural change: the three literatures

March 27, 2010

On surveying the vast corpus of work around new media and cultural change I am beginning to think that we can distinguish three main literatures:

1. Communication studies

Centred in the US with offshoots in other regions, especially in the global South. Preference for quantitative and ‘applied’ studies about the effects of media technologies on processes of socioeconomic change and modernisation. Communication, ICT, mobiles, etc, for development.

2. Media studies

British heartland, rooted in Cultural Studies: Birmingham, Glasgow, London… since 1980s tensions and mutual influence between ‘critical’ (Marxist) and postmodern strands. Late 1980s ethnographic turn (from text to context), current media anthropology sub-genre originating here.

3. Media visionaries

Back to North America. Innis, McLuhan, Rheingold, Castells, B. Anderson, C. Anderson, Shirky… Popular non-fiction on new media and their cultural consequences; widely read by academics and the general public alike. Knack for catchy terms bordering on the oxymoronic: global village, virtual community, network society, imagined community, long tail, etc.

What have these literatures contributed to our present understanding of new media and cultural change? Erm, I’ll have to give this question some thought.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Melone permalink
    March 28, 2010 4:39 pm

    Hi there,
    May I suggest: 4. Media materialism: from Shannon&Weaver through Hayles to Haraway, Kittler, Terranova and the like?

  2. March 28, 2010 7:09 pm

    Hi Melone. I recognise some of those names but could you say a bit more about this literature? Many thanks, John

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