BBC Media Action Resources

p034sf6p (1)BBC Media Action, the BBC’s international development charity whose goal is to use the power of media and communication to reduce poverty and help people to understand their rights, publishes good reports on its research and activities.  Check out the Publications and Resources section of its site for articles such as Humanitarian Broadcasting in Emergencies or How Radio and Distance Learning Built Skills and Knowledge for Cocoa Farmers in Sierra Leone.

If you are interested in media development issues in a particular part of the world you can search this section of the site by region or country; also by type of publication–research, policy, brochures, media action films, and stories of change (personal testimonies of how a certain tool or communication strategy made a difference).

BBC Media Action also has a blog that is quite active with several posts per week.



October CommQuote

Our selection for October  (in just under the wire) comes from George W.S. Trow’s screed on American culture, WITHIN THE CONTEXT OF NO CONTEXT Originally appearing in 1980 as a long, even by New Yorker standards, essay in a special issue of the magazine, it was subsequently published as a book, and in 1997 reprinted with an additional introduction by the author.  

The essay is an indictment of American culture in general, specifically television and, to a lesser extent, magazines. I think the essay holds up pretty well applied to today’s culture.  Where it falls short, in the sense of feeling a little dated, is in the vitriol’s television-centeredness, given how television has become so varied and, as argued by many recent critics, out-performs the movies in storytelling innovation and nuance. But I find his idea of demographics as the “new history” chilling and even more spot-on in the internet age which finds us awash in puerile preferences that are not judged, but merely counted.  More on demographics in two excepts below that position the reader to think about the role of the hit (tv show). 

For 21st century context, you might want to check out Emily Nussbaum’s piece in the October 12 The New Yorker, The Price Is Right: What Advertising Does to TV, which touches on the Trow essay (and got me reading it). 

The New History

The New History was the record of the record of the expression of demographically significant preferences: the lunge of demography here as opposed to there...  (p.63)

False History

For a while, certain voice continued.  Booming.  As though history were still a thing done by certain men in a certain place.  It was embarrassing.  To a person growing up in the power of demography, this voice was foolish.

 The Aesthetic of the Hit

To a person growing up in the power of demography, it was clear that history had to do not with the powerful actions of certain men but with the processes of choice and preference.

 The Aesthetic of the Hit

The power shifted.  In the phrase “I Like Ike,” the power shifted.  It shifted from General Eisenhower to someone called Ike, who embodied certain aspects of General Eisenhower and certain aspects of affection for General Eisenhower.  Then it shifted again.  From “Ike,” you could see certain aspects of General Eisenhower.  From “Like,” all you could see was other Americans engaged in the process of intimacy.  This was a comfort.

 The Aesthetic of the Hit

The comfort was in agreement, the easy exercise of the modes of choice and preference.  It was attractive and, as it was presented, not difficult.  But, once interfered with, the processes of choice and preferences began to take on an uncomfortable aspect.  Choice in respect to important matters became more and more difficult; people had found it troublesome to settle on a mode of work, for instance, or a partner.  Choice in respect to trivial matters, on the other hand, assumed an importance that no one could have thought to predict.  So what happened then was that important forces that had not been used, because they fell outside the new scale of national life (which was the life of television), began to find a home in the exercise of preference concerning trivial matters, so that attention, aspiration, even affection came to adhere to shimmers thrown up by the demography in trivial matters.  The attraction of inappropriate attention, aspiration, and affection to a shimmer spins out, in its operation, a little mist of energy which is rather like a sense of love, but trivial, rather like a sense of home, but apt to disappear.  In this mist exists the Aesthetic of the Hit.  (p.64)

–From: Within the Context of No-Context by George WS Trow, The New Yorker, November 17, 1980


Introducing Kulture

Kulture Asian American Media Watchdog (PRNewsFoto/Kulture Media)

There’s a new watchdog on the block called Kulture, a website devoted to tracking offensive representations of Asian Americans in the media. Explains Kulture’s founder Tim Gupta in the September 28 press release: “Many Asians know TV shows represent them in a bad light. But they may think they’re alone in that view. Kulture spotlights how Hollywood mocks and excludes Asian men while fetishizing Asian women. Kulture helps Asians and those concerned about media racism stay abreast of how Asians are depicted, and we will eventually serve as a platform for them to take action against Hollywood offenders.”

The site is easy to navigate and as it builds up more data it will be interesting to track offenders by media outlets, media types (TV shows, TV ads, movies, magazine ads), most recent offenses, and worst offenses. Offense categories include Denigration (Asians are weak), Denigration (Mockery of Asians), Gender (Asian Woman as plaything to White Male), Gender (White Male gets girl over Asian male), and Self-Aggrandizement (Whites as central), among others.  The site welcomes visitor input–anyone who spots an offense is encouraged to file out an Offense Report for refereed inclusion on site. To “join the bleeding-edge of Asian American activism,” simply sign up to receive bimonthly offense reports.

If you read Kulture’s manifesto of sorts–I’m referring to the About Us section–see if you don’t feel the ghost of George Gerbner and Cultivation Theory.  A convincing case is built for their enterprise. Television is 1) a storytelling medium, 2) the average person invests five hours a day watching it, and 3) these message (story-delivering) systems, movies included, harbor deleterious effects over time. The effects are most damaging to minorities since identities are by and large socially constructed. Though some research is cited in tandem with a couple of these points, this is classic Gerbner, going back to the early 70s.  It’s safe to say he would approve of this project. 



The State of Broadband 2015

The Broadband Commission for Sustainable Digital Development (launched by the ITU and UNESCO in 2010) has just released its The State of Broadband 2015. state_of_broadband_2015_chart

For anyone interested in global internet access and technology development issues, there is good cross-cultural, comparative data in this report.

“A large body of evidence has now been amassed that affordable and effective broadband connectivity is a vital enabler of economic growth, social inclusion and environmental protection. Although global mobile cellular subscriptions will exceed 7 billion in 2015 (with nearly half of these subscriptions for mobile broadband), growth in mobile cellular subscriptions has slowed markedly. The total number of unique mobile subscribers is between 3.7-5 billion people (according to different sources), with some observers interpreting this as an indication that the digital divide may soon be bridged.

However, the digital divide is proving stubbornly persistent in terms of access to broadband Internet, including the challenge of extending last-mile access to infrastructure to remote and rural communities. According to ITU’s latest data, 43% of the world’s population is now online with some form of regular access to the Internet. This leaves 57% or some 4.2 billion of the world’s people who still do not enjoy regular access to the Internet. In the Least Developed Countries (LDCs), only one out of every ten people is online. The gender digital divide is also proving incredibly difficult to overcome, reflecting broader social gender inequalities.” –From the Introduction

Women’s Magazine Archive I

Penn Libraries welcomes a new e-resource to its collection, Women’s Magazine Archive I, a searchable archive of five leading women’s interest magazines, dating from the 19th century through to the 21st. Titles are: GH

Better Homes and Gardens (1925-present)
Chatelaine (1940-present)
Good Housekeeping (1887-present)
Ladies’ Home Journal (1887-present)
Parents (1949-present)

All of these magazines were aimed at a female readership and thus are excellent primary sources for investigating the “women’s sphere”–from cooking and decorating to family health and parenting issues, from fashion and beauty to gardening and travel (most likely in the form of the family vacation). These magazines also touched on social issues of the day; individually or taken as a whole they represent a trove of  19th and 20th-century history and culture.

image_4 This from the Archive’s About section: “The magazines are all scanned from cover to cover in high-resolution color, ensuring that the original print artifacts are faithfully reproduced and that valuable non-article items, such as advertisements, are included. Detailed article-level indexing, with document feature flags, enables efficient searching and navigation of this content.”

A search on “lemon meringue pie” turns up 95 hits–one can compare a 1903 recipe to more recent ones. Turning to underwear, the 50s are a decisively bra-obsessed decade. A search on “bras” or “brassieres” over the decades proves no contest with the 50s putting up over hundred hits above its closest “rival” decade. A subject like addiction plays out like this: of 335 hits overall there are 36 in the 50s, 56 in the 60s, 47 in the 70s, 42 in the 80s, 77 in the 90s, and 86 from 2000-2009. 

The Women’s Magazine Archive I is a Proquest Database and you know what parentsthat means: it’s sitting in a suite of many other Proquest databases Penn subscribes to, including the Vogue Archive (1892-present).  If you want to select both of these files together you’ll have another iconic women’s magazine in the mix, all in the same search.

September CommQuote

This month’s quote comes from a fascinating book on the avant-garde’s longstanding relationship with information technology. The book is The Poetics of Information Overload (University of Minnesota, 2015) by Paul Stephens.image_mini

“Much of the work of the twentieth-century avant-garde was extremely self-conscious of the rapid changes in technologies of communication and data storage. From Dada photomontage to hyper-text poetry, avant-garde methodology has been deeply concerned with remediation and transcoding–the movement from one technological medium or format to another. As Brian Reed has recently written, “Poetry is a language-based art with a penchant for reflecting on its channels of communication.” For Reed, poetry “offers unparalleled opportunities for coming to grips with the new media ecology. Poets, as they experiment with transmediation, serially bring to light each medium’s textures, contours, and inner logic.” While poetry may seem the most non-technological of literary genres, I show that poets were often obsessed by the changing nature of information and its dissemination in the twentieth century. The news that there is more news than we can process is not so new: while avant-garde poetry may not figure prominently in the global information glut, the global information glut figures prominently in avant-garde poetry. However, marginal it may seem, poetry will long outlast our current media platforms…”

–Paul Stephens, Preface, pp. xv-xvi

DiRT Directory

Don’t let the humanities in digital humanities mislead you. The term applies equally to the social sciences when it comes to digital research tools.  If your research needs have to do with capturing information off the web, cleaning that data, organizing it, contextualizing it….if you need to store data, interpret data, visualize or preserve data, publish or disseminate it, the DiRT Directory is for you.  What is DiRT? It’s a longstanding and well-regarded registry of open access research tools for scholars. 


Overseen by an international steering committee of scholar-volunteers, the Directory is conveniently, and with seeming effortlessness, organized by types of tools and methods.  However, this organization is the result of a complex taxonomy (Taxonomy of Digital Research Activities in the Humanities or TaDiRAH) that was developed by an “iterative process of community feedback” about the research life cycle composed of overarching goals and related methods of achieving those goals.

Some functions on the site work better than others but overall there are more thriving signs on the site than entropic ones.  There is a page devoted to development and recently the Alliance of Digital Humanities Organizations announced the DiRT Directory has been “adopted as the newest centerNet Initiative.”

If you are so inclined, DiRT Directory encourages contributions from its user community such as adding or reviewing new tools.

Routledge Handbooks Online

I’d like to point out a trove of media studies handbooks that lives on the Penn Libraries website. These handbooks are located in an e-resource suite of multi-disciplinary reference titles called  Routledge Handbooks Online. RHO titles in the Communication and 9780203404119Media section include:

The Routledge Companion to Identity and Consumption
The Routledge Companion to Digital Consumption
Routledge Handbook of Sport and New Media
Routledge Handbook of Social and Cultural Theory
Routledge Handbook of Sport Communication
Handbook of Cultural Sociology
Routledge Handbook of Internet Politics
Routledge Handbook of Human-Animal Studies
The Handbook of Comparative Communication Research
Routledge Companion to Media and Gender
Routledge Companion to Media & Gender
Routledge Handbook of Body Studies
Routledge International Handbook of Crime and Gender Studies
The Routledge Companion to Labor and Media
The Routledge Companion to Religion and Popular Culture
The Routledge Companion to Mobile Media
The Routledge Companion to Video Game Studies
The Routledge Companion to the Cultural Industries
The Routledge Companion to Advertising and Promotional Culture
Routledge Handbook of Cosmopolitanism Studies
Handbook of Contemporary European Social Theory
The Routledge Handbook of Emotions and Mass Media
Routledge Handbook of Public Communication of Science and Technology

Works for other disciplines such as Education, Psychology, Security Studies, Business & Economics, Linguistics, Philosophy, Sociology, Sport & Leisure, and Criminal Justice are also available. Users can search across subject areas, that is, search over 11,000 chapters (from over 320 volumes to date) or focus singularly on a selected volume and search just within that.  All chapters are accompanied by an abstract.

In the Life Archive at UCLA

Over the summer The UCLA Film and Television Archive launched a new digital portal of LGBT media materials in concert with the trailblazing TV series In the Life. In addition to a complete collection of In the Life episodes (actually all of the over 190 episodes aren’t up yet), the portal features “other contextualizing material, including a commissioned essay, “The Time of Our Lives: In the Life – America’s LGBT News Magazineinthelifepapers1,” by Stephen Tropiano, Ithaca College; an oral history with seminal indie filmmaker Pat Rocco; a lecture by LGBT scholar  Lillian Faderman; and a list of LGBT media, history and advocacy resources…Jayne Baron Sherman, a board member of In the Life Media, said, ‘This living legacy of ‘In the Life’ provides generations with documentation and history that exists nowhere else and helps chronicle and explain the LGBT movement over the past 20-plus years.'” –UCLA Newsroom

In the Life ran from 1992-2012 and for most of those years followed a news magazine format that provided award-winning journalism for and about lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.  Eventually it aired in over 200 public TV markets.