Canadian Journal of Communication
Vol 38 (2013) 457-458
©2013 Canadian Journal of Communication Corporation
The study of communication is undergoing a major ecological reorientation (see Maxwell & Miller, 2012). This of course can be observed at several levels, with the previous issue of the CJC taking the perspective of mediatized Earth (and sea) observation. At the furthest ontological point of distance away from the observation of the Earth, today’s so-called new materialisms place a renewed emphasis on the corporeality of both things and persons (Coole & Frost, 2010), and often at the bio-levels of the biosciences, bioethics, and biotechnologies.
The present issue aims to explore a wide variety of midway points on media ecological change in a number of very different contexts. The issue opens, appropriately, with a review of the idea of “media ecology” in the form of a dialogue between Eric McLuhan and Peter Zhang from a neo-Batsonian, orthodox McLuhanite position. If ecology can be understood as a stance or state of consciousness vis-à-vis the environment, here McLuhan and Zhang employ the dialogue as a form of performance of their ecological stance.
The performativity of differing ecological stances also characterizes several important articles in this issue. Tony Richards’ challenging Derridean “Ecanomie, Autoimmunity, Signification” explores the “excremental” nature of the contemporary ecology as an autoimmune system of garbage-in, garbage-out. And Liam Cole Young’s article undertakes a fascinating examination of the epistemological work of lists as a materialization of ecological knowledge, in his “Un–Black Boxing the List: Knowledge, Materiality, and Form.”
From there, we tack to another performative approach to a very different communication ecology—Sufi mysticism—as Oumar Kane reconsiders it in the light of the ancient quarrels over the Image. Jeff Heydon’s elegant meditation, “Through the Window,” offers a philosophical take on the abiding problem of media representations, specifically the idea that media is a position that creates subjects appropriate to themselves. Fleshing out these ideas, Gábor Szècsi argues that electronically mediated communication has altered the relationships between self and community and in the process changed the very nature of contemporary language to what he terms “a specific, pictorial language” of mediated communication. And so we move from general theoretical aspects of changing media ecologies to specific case studies.
Several articles examine examples of new media subjectivities and linguistic transformation. Melonie Fullick’s Research in Brief, “Gendering the Self in Online Dating Discourse,” offers a qualitative analysis of the new kind of literacy required to negotiate the now intertwined elements of gender, identity, and consumption. Lindsay Bolan and Daniel Robinson track the dramatic rise of both the study of marketing and the marketing practices in five Ontario universities since the 1990s. As they remark of one recent attempt at “rebranding” a university’s image, not long ago it would have been considered a form of “satire.” And Delia Dumitrica shows how contemporary Internet users draw upon a concept of the “cyber-imaginaire” so as to allow the technology to work a place into their lives through a series of conflicting dualisms (work/personal, for example). Both the voice and the environment come together dramatically in Marcellina Piotrowski’s Research in Brief, “Rhetoric of Oil in Canadian News: Framed for Indigenous Care.” The recent Northern Gateway pipeline debates have been represented as an issue fit for “indigenous care.” In so doing, the idea of indigenous care entails concomitant claims about “voice” and “giving voice” that can also be deployed tactically to appease political affect. Piotrowski argues that this has been the case here and, ironically as a result, concerned non-indigenous people in Canada and beyond have been marginalized from a discussion claimed to be beyond their understanding.
We move to the more familiar tactics of broadcasting and public opinion management in the remaining articles of this issue. Steven May and Catherine Middleton draw our attention to the increased opportunities broadcasters now have to deliver over-the-air signals to mobile handsets (or MDTV). Why, however, have no Canadian stations actually done so as of early 2013 is the question they examine. Looking also at government action (or lack of), Alex Marland analyzes the “outlier” case of the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador’s fascination with monitoring local talk radio programming, rather than the usual practice of commissioning scientific public opinion polls. He suggests that the popularity of “hyper-local” political talk radio may be a response both to the closing of community newspapers and the shrinkage of local coverage through media conglomeration.
Finally, Ira Wagman turns to the transformations of format television with a comparative study of the differences between Canadian and American versions of the game show Deal or No Deal. He draws out these differences through a broader argument that Canadian television viewing has long been characterized by under-studied differences, some of which are technological and commercial (such as signal substitution of U.S. commercials with Canadian-made advertising). But more broadly still, he argues for greater study of the circulation of local and non-local broadcasting in the new contexts of broadcasting practices that have allowed outlier countries like the Netherlands, Sweden, or Denmark to become major sources of programming. While not disregarding the tensions between local versions and standardized ones, Wagman suggests that Canadian viewers have in fact had far greater tolerance for decoding circulation differences than policy initiatives have tended to recognize. Wagman’s work has consistently drawn attention to the large gaps between policy discourse in Canada and audience practices, one of the first salient characteristics of that particular media ecology.
Coole, Diana, & Frost, Samantha (Eds.). (2010). New materialisms: Ontology, agency, and politics. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.
Maxwell, Richard, & Miller, Toby. (2012). Greening the media. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.