Camera Obscura Themed Issue on Reality TV

1_88.coverCamera Obscura’s latest issue (Volume 30, Number 1, 2015) is a handsome offering on reality TV titled: PROJECT REALITY TV.  The Introduction by the issue’s editors, Lynne Joyrich, Misha Kavka, and Brenda R. Weber, offers a playful preshow to the rest of the issue.

“[Project Reality TV: Preshow Special]…interrogates, while also playing with, some of TV’s forms and conventions, particularly those of the “preshow special” and the interview format. Borrowing from this format, it explores key issues around the appeal of reality television and the reasons for approaching it from a scholarly perspective, particularly that of feminist media studies. This version of the studio Q&A format, honed into a sub-genre by reality TV itself, is designed to elicit not only interest but knowledge—in this case, regarding what we see as some of the most significant questions facing studies of reality television, especially the specific studies dealing with health, housewives, “hot bodies,” and “hoochie mamas” that are included in “Project Reality TV.”  –Abstract of Introduction

In that Introduction  Kavka observes: “This demand to ‘be yourself’ for the camera seems contradictory, and yet it is increasingly naturalized in our media-saturated age. Well before  the spread of social media, selfies, and the Twitterverse, the reality TV camera revealed the mediated subject to be positioned somewhere between personal agency and the public gaze, between the  neoliberal hetoric of choice and the sociocultural norms and expectations that constrain such choices at every turn. In a sense, the study of reality television measures this ‘inbetween.’ No matter how formulaic the format is, no matter how cognizant of the camera the participants are, a reality show is ultimatela negoiation between producers and participants, scripted arcs and ad-libbed lines, social norms and individual resistances—all of which makes for very rich viewing experiences of these texts.” (pp. 2-3)

Lineup of articles:

    Reality Moms, Real Monsters: Transmediated Continuity, Reality Celebrity, and the Female Grotesque / Jennifer Lynn Jones and Brenda R. Weber

    Making Television Live: Mediating Biopolitics in Obesity Programming /  Michael Litwack

    (TV) Junkies in Need of an Intervention: On Addictive Spectatorship and Recovery Television / Hunter Hargraves

    Sex on the Shore: Care and the Ethics of License in Jersey Shore /  Misha Kavka

    They Gon’ Think You Loud Regardless: Ratchetness, Reality Television, and Black Womanhood /  Kristen J. Warner

    “I’m Very Rich, Bitch!”: The Melodramatic Money Shot and the Excess of Racialized Gendered Affect in the Real Housewives Docusoaps / Pier Dominguez

     “Quality” Reality and the Bravo Media Reality Series / Jane Feuer


Mapping the Digital Divide

You may or may not be interested in The White House’s Council of Economic Advisers take on the digital divide in the United States but their report issued this summer, Mapping the Digital Divide (July 2015), provides a fair amount of data on internet penetration and demographics. 

From the Introduction:

This report examines the state of the digital divide using new data from the Census’ 2013 American Community Survey (ACS), which we link with the most recent version of the National Broadband Map (NBM). The large scale of the ACS allows us to examine Internet use at a level of granularity that was not previously possible. Our most important findings illustrate how the digital divide reflects factors that influence the demand for Internet, such as household income, and also the costs of providing it (e.g. population density). Although we consider several potential explanations for the digital divide, our main goal is not to measure the causal impact of any particular factor, but rather to characterize disparities in Internet access and adoption as they exist today. Overall, the evidence shows that we have made progress, with the largest gains occurring for those groups that started with the least. While this suggests the beginning of convergence toward uniformly high levels of access and adoption, there is still a substantial distance to go, particularly in our poorest neighborhoods and most rural communities, to ensure that all Americans can take advantage of the opportunities created by recent advances in computing and communications technology.

August CommQuote

Toward the end of The Marvelous Clouds: Towards a Philosophy of Elemental 9780226253831Media (University of Chicago, 2015)–an instant classic that should be on every student of the media’s bookshelf (wooden or virtual)–John Durham Peters calls on journalists to create a new kind of weather report.

“For traditional media scholars, the vision of infrastructure advocated here would encourage us to see media practices and institutions as embedded in relations with both the natural and the human worlds. The digital changes of our times are impossible without mines and minerals, clouds and electrical grids, habits of human want and labor, and global patterns of human inequality and abuse. The mass media of television and radio, journalism and cinema are likewise anchored in human size and shape, optical and acoustic bandwidth, forestry and plastics. If our evolutionary history had not produced the feet, spines, and skulls that we have, our media – and our world – would look very different. Media old and new are embedded in cycles of day and night, weather and climate, energy and culture, and they presuppose large populations of domesticated plants, animals, and humans, to say nothing of an old and cold universe. The digital implies basic facts of biology. We should make a greener media studies that appreciates our long natural history of shaping and being shaped by our habitats as a process of mediation.

For scholars interested in news and journalism, my arguments against content as the essence of communication might at first seem discouraging. But these arguments follow a lineage back to James W. Carey, who saw news as drama and story, habit and ritual. Indeed, survey evidence shows that people are most attached to news about the natural rather than the human world: the weather report. As currently practiced, news is already heavily environmental, perhaps without claiming it, and weather reporting is perhaps the biggest investment in daily science communication that exists. If this book had one policy proposal to make, it would be to call for a vastly enhanced weather report that moved beyond the daily kairos of the weather to the generational chronos of the climate. Like most good policy proposals, this one is wildly idealistic, especially as it faces one of the best-known facts in the sociobiology of news production: its daily short-term bias. As slow-moving stories of all kinds tend to fall out of the diurnal round of journalistic attention, this proposal joins other calls that tie the well-being of democracy to a shift in the culture and business of news. Nonetheless, the pieced are in place: we have a vast weather-watching and –reporting infrastructure that daily puts a human face on complex nonhuman data and could deepen into public drama and information about our climate, atmosphere, and latest co-evolutionary tinkering with our geohabitat. The weather report of the future could cultivate the best attachments to out earth and world. The public sphere has always needed nature as its condition, but today it needs it as content as well.”      from “Conclusion: The Sabbath Of Meaning,”  pp. 377-378


Journal Spotlight: Journal of Survey Statistics and Methodology

3.coverThe Journal of Survey Statistics and Methodology is not brand new but it’s new enough to perhaps not be in everyone’s radar. Sponsored by the American Association of Public Opinion Research (AAPOR) and the American Statistical Association (ASA), the quarterly began in 2013 (only two issues in the startup year). Its stated objective is “to publish cutting edge scholarly articles on statistical and methodological issues for sample surveys, censuses, administrative record systems, and other related data….to be the flagship journal for research on survey statistics and methodology” with topics of interest including “survey sample design, statistical inference, nonresponse, measurement error, the effects of modes of data collection, paradata and responsive survey design, combining data from multiple sources, record linkage, disclosure limitation, and other issues in survey statistics and methodology.”

Editors Joseph Sedransk and Roger Tourangeau point out “of course, there are already journals devoted mainly to survey topics, such as the Journal of Official Statistics and Survey Methodology. However, valuable as these journals are, both are sponsored by government agencies. We believed that the flagship journal for our discipline should have the backing of the largest, most prestigious professional organizations for survey researchers [AAPOR and ASA]  (from A Statement from the Editors).

What makes the journal  multidisciplinary is the broad topical areas of the surveys under the microscope, from business and economics to the environment and health sciences. Here is a sampling of articles from the JSSAM’s first two years:

Item Sum: A New Technique for Asking Quantitative Sensitive Questions
Representative Surveys in Insecure Environments: A Case Study of Mogadishu, Somalia
Bridging Psychometrics and Survey Methodology: Can Mixed Rasch Models Identify Socially Desirable Reporting Behavior?
Real-World Eye-Tracking in Face-to-Face and Web Modes
Comparison of Three Modes for a Crime Victimization Survey
Mobile Web Survey Design: Scrolling versus Paging, SMS versus E-mail Invitations
Distractions: The Incidence and Consequences of Interruptions for Survey Respondents
Language Ability and Motivation Among Foreigners in Survey Responding

Communication researchers interested in this journal probably also keep an eye on Communications Methods and Measures.  All things considered, JSSAM looks like a seriously good read for survey method geeks!


Associated Press and British Movietone Newsreels Come to YouTube

Tmovietonewo world famous newsreel archives, The Associated Press and British Movietone, have just announced they are making their footage available on YouTube, making it “the largest upload of historical news content on the video-sharing platform to date,” more than 550,000 video stories dating from 1895 to the present day, according to the July 22 press release.

Stephen Nuttall, director of YouTube in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, observed: “Making this content available on YouTube is a wonderful initiative from AP and British Movietone that will breathe new life into their footage and no doubt delight our global community–from students researching history projects to curious culture-vultures and the billions in between. It’s an historical treasure trove that will give YouTube users around the world a moving window into the past and I can’t wait to explore it.”

imagesX4U92P2FThe AP portion of these archives is not finite either; it will be continually refreshed with contemporary footage.

Once in YouTube, you can browse the The AP Archive and British Movietone separately or do event or topic searches with the general YouTube content and see what newsreels come up.





May CommQuote

Kaya Genc in the Spring 2015 INDEX ON CENSORSHIP interviews two Turkish poets, Ömer Erdem and Nilay Özer, about the struggles of writers in Turkey today.  Included in the profile are poems from each translated in English for the first time.  I’m taking the liberty to “retweet” this stunning one by Omer Erdem who notes unequivocably,  “Turkey has never treated her poets well.”

And then they shut her in a room
And then they shut her in a room
they even bolted it
they dangled a horse from a skyscraper
they crammed a sea into a picture
they wiped the eyes of a photograph from an album
we’ve shut her up they said
we’ve shut her un in a room
they gathered in a park in the evening
they fired up their blood
they spoke here and there
they placed feed in the beaks of birds
and coffins on the backs of ants
she wrapped felt around her tongue
i’ll punch myself to the ground like felt she said
then I’ll sweat tiny tiny drops she said
steam of sweat she said flame of breath
poverty is no rope to my neck
it is a gourd violin she said
a pair of keys in the door
and a hairless wall were her close friends
her arms were longer than her legs
they shut her in a room
with no right
and no left yesterday a shocked sun not informed of winter
came to visit
and for three days she has been wiping
out the walls…

Ömer Erdem


New Journal: Social Media+Society

The inaugural issue of Social Media+Society is out.  SM+S is a new open access, peer-reviewed journal from SAGE dedicated to the study of social media and its implications for home-coversociety. Look for the journal to  publish interdisciplinary work that draws from the social sciences, humanities and computational social sciences, reaches out to the arts and natural sciences,  and endorses mixed methods and methodologies.

Writes editor Zizi Papacharissi in January, “Our first issue, designed to be a manifesto for the journal, is scheduled to come out in Spring 2015. We also have two more special issues  coming out in 2015, one with Tarleton Gillespie, Hector Postigo and the Culture Digitally  group, and a second one with José van Dijk, Thomas Poell and their colleagues on Social  Media and the Transformation of Public Space. We are already working toward two more special issues to be published in 2016, one focused on Infancy Online and guest-edited by Tama Leaver and Bjorn Nansen, and another one guest-edited by Jean Burgess and Ben Light and focused on Gender, Sexuality, and Social Media.”

Of note, our own Guobin Yang and Rosemary Clark’s piece, Social Media and Time, is the first issue’s lead article.

Follow SM+S on Twitter @SocialMedia_Soc.

International Encyclopedia of the Social & Behavioral Sciences, Second Edition

I want to riff off a news item from Penn Libraries News earlier this Spring posted by the Social Science Bibliographer and my good colleague Lauris Olson on the International Encyclopedia of the Social & Behavioral Sciences, Second Edition. Aavailable to the Penn community online, online (James D. Wright, editor-in-chief, 26 volumes, Elsevier, 2015)  this second edition is, as Lauris explains, a “14-year update to a reference work whose first edition was called by its reviewers, ‘the largest corpus of knowledge about the social and behavioral sciences in existence’ and “the atomic bomb of reference works.’” While there are a few “legacy articles” in the second edition, most of the articles are updated or totally rewritten.

000aab3f_mediumThere are over 50 general subject areas in which once can find communication or communication-related topics distributed. I only had to mine a few sections–Anthropology, Applied Social and Behavioral Sciences, Contemporary Cultural Concerns–to come up with the following examples:  Internet and Social Media: Anthropological Aspects;  Organizational Culture: Anthropology of; Popular Culture;  Cyberbullying; New Media, Political Mobilization, and the Arab Spring; Oral and Literate Expression;  Oversharing: The Eclipse of Privacy  in the Internet Age;  Surveillance Studies;  Tattoos and Body Modification; Social network analysis, Systematic reviewing and meta-analysis. The most consolidated area for the field can be found in Media Studies and Mass Communication.  Articles in this section: Advertising Agencies; Advertising and Advertisements; Advertising, Control of;  Advertising effects; Advertising: General; Agenda Setting, Media Effects on; Audience Measurement; Audiences, Media; British Cultural Studies; Broadcasting: Regulation; Celebrity; Citizen Journalism; Communication, Twostep Flow of; Community and Media; Computer Mediated Communication; Documentary and Ethnographic Film; Entertainment, Film and Video Industry; Film History; Film: Genres and Genre Theory; Freedom of the Press; Hegemony and Cultural Resistance; Human–Computer Interfaces; Identity Offline and Online; Information Society; International Advertising, International Communication: History; Journalism; Journalism and Journalists; Libraries; Mass Communication: Normative Frameworks; Mass Media and Cultural Identity; Mass Media and Sports; Mass Media, Political Economy of; Mass Media, Representations in; Mass Media: Introduction and Schools of Thought; Media and Social Movements; Media Effects; Media Effects on Children; Media Events; Media Imperialism; Media Talk Shows; Mobile Communication; Moral Panics; Narrative, Sociology of; New Media and Democracy in the Arab World; New Media and Social Capital; New Media and the Digital Divide; New Media, News Production and Consumption; News Interview; News: General; Online Dating; Photography as a Medium; Political Advertising; Political Communication; Postal Systems; Printing as a Medium; Public Broadcasting; Public Sphere and the Media; Publishing as Medium; Radio as a Medium; Religion and New Media; Reputation; Rhetorical Analysis; Science and Media; Science Communication; Semiotics; Social Media, Social Protest and New Media; Telegraph; Telephone; Television: General; Television: History; Terror and the Internet; Textbooks; Visual Images in the Media.