March 20, 2017

What's in a (name) change?

Why we are now the Centre for Cultural and Media Policy Studies
In the last decade studies of media have simultaneously expanded and collapsed. Expanded because the development of social media, smart communications, digital film, radio, TV and journalism, and the rise of the games and animation industries have generated new courses, new research and fresh ways of thinking about how news, entertainment and politics are produced and consumed. Collapsed because the traditional ways of teaching and researching media have come under increasing pressure to adapt to the creation of new kinds of media work and creativity, increasingly layered distribution infrastructures, exploitation of natural resources and environments, and the globality of new value chains, media commodities and connected publics.

If media can go anywhere, should research be somewhere?
In the past, media policy studies have tended to focus on political economy questions of ownership, distribution, the state, governance, commodification and technological growth (Golding and Murdock 1991, McQuail and Siune 1998), questions of the public sphere, democracy, citizenship and freedom of speech (Habermas 1989, McQuail 1994, Miller 1996, Murdock, 1992), or the audience, viewer and consumer (Hartley 1988, Livingstone 1996, Alasuutari 1998, Wicks 2000). Yet, since the turn of the century scholarship has begun to realise the limits of its reach into influencing policy (Friedman 2008, Simpson et al. 2015). What is the social demand we need to research and how should it be done? How much entertainment is needed before a critical mass of finite resources is exhausted? What is the impact of media production, distribution and consumption upon spaces, places, natural resources and environments? How can ‘natural’ environments and events communicate their non-human experience through media, data and new kinds of sensing and ambient technologies? What are our media needs (really), are they being met and if so by whom, and if not, why not? What new kinds of global citizenship grow out of media creativity, activism, popular cultural heritage, social networks and environmental politics? If media are both structuring and agentic then new ways of mapping, tracking, mining, modelling, working through and across media histories, practices, technologies and industries are needed alongside considerations of representation, textuality, discourse and communication. This means inter-disciplinary working scaled up, across, between as well as working down into the vernacular.

It may be time to re-tool
Quite some time ago, Raboy et al (2001, 101) argued that to make a policy intervention in this area then we cannot simply ‘be injected into policy work’ for ‘the trajectory from living room couch to policy chambers requires that the question of how the relationship between audience and text is negotiated be restated in rather different terms’. There are media and cultural infrastructures built into our communication systems that have been ignored and are now being overlaid with new layers of hard engineering and soft politics every day, occupying old and new territories, traversing and consolidating national state containers. There are also those entrepreneurial individuals who may put the question of the relationship of the audience to the text to one side to create a media world of their own choosing, carrying it around with them, and calling upon a much wider range of powerful organisations and networks to mediatize every aspect of their civic life, from finance to football, food-water-energy to film, from journalism to activism and so on. Are cultures still delivered to audiences, like water, electricity and food?

Daylighting our media research and teaching
These are some of the questions the Centre for Cultural and Media Policy Studies is committed to researching and teaching. In daylighting what we have been doing for a while, we see the inclusion of the word ‘media’ in our Centre name as a significant development that addresses how we have been working in areas of media, culture and communications research and scholarship, how media policy is not to be collapsed into cultural policy and has distinctive features that need attention. CCMPS, through its Masters courses, PhD supervision and research culture, attends to key issues often forgotten in the field of media research and teaching more generally, and asks critical questions for those producing entertainment media for industries. In practice, we have been teaching media for some time but within a cultural policy context, and the new name is not so much an indication of a change of emphasis or direction as an acknowledgement of how our practice continually mirrors and aligns with contemporary practice as well as cultural and behavioural shifts.

We seek to push media research further into pragmatic policy debates and discussions across a range of disciplines and sectors by understanding what people ‘do’ with media and culture, rather than only what is done to them, and what media do to people, places, and practices, including how media develop out of materials, environments and resources. For example, our work aims to explore the ways pre-mediatic materialities (Parikka 2014,) and the afterlives of media (Gabrys 2011, Miller and Maxwell 2012, Starosielski and Walker 2015, Cubitt 2017) feed into media policy and practice. We will be looking, in particular, to consolidate the following media themes as part of our teaching and research programmes:

  • media and cultural infra-structures, labour, resource-risk and resilience
  • cultural and political economies of media and cultural entertainment
  • eco-criticism and media-environmental studies
  • entrepreneurship and media management
  • creative media and non-commercial media practices
  • storytelling, media narratives, and performance
  • mnemonics, archives and media heritage

In Bell and Oakley’s Cultural Policy(2015, 157-158) book, they signal a need for cultural policy to move into new directions such that culture is not seen only as the context in which policy acts but that culture acts on policy (and, we would say, increasingly through uses of media):

Rather than seeing culture as a resource to be used economically, as the creative economy of cultural industries traditions generally do, the argument would be to see “economic” resources from water to housing to green spaces in cultural terms, to help understand what they mean to people and hence how they can be valued in terms other than the economic – or through a radical rewriting of the definition of the economic.

CCMPS is exploring how we can re-write what is valuable about media, not simply in terms of economics, politics and entertainment, but in terms of heritage, wellbeing, affect, materiality, or sense of place, environment, and connected-ness to landscape, natural resources and new forms of identity and rights.

- 5 comments by 3 or more people Not publicly viewable

  1. Jonathan Vickery

    I find it useful to think of Jo’s collaborative Blog entry – particularly the comments on policy – in relation to my first encounter with Arjun Appadurai (when I was teaching with David Wright on the Global Media MA), who inspired me to think of how media is internal to contemporary culture, particularly urbanisation and development. Another line of relevance is to the recently published Coventry Cultural Strategy 2017-27 (one Centre fellow—Dr Vishalakshi Roy – was one of the brains behind it). I think it’s a good strategy – vibrant, fresh and specific to Coventry. So many city strategies are based on pre-existing (fashionable) templates, but this one emerges from an investment in research and dialogue with the city and its cultural actors. But…the Blog points to one area that remains opaque to policy-strategy thinking in cities all over – precisely, an understanding of “what media do to people, places, and practices, including how media develop out of materials, environments and resources…”. Why do cities – or cultural sectors in cities – still understand media as a facility, or a hermetic sector of industry, or just a supplementary technological add-on to their range of marketing instruments? Perhaps it’s me that’s behind the thinking needed here – and Vish will now order me to take her Option module ‘Audience Development and Digital Media Strategy’! However, I am currently working with a Coventry theatre and a city festival, and have discovered all too well the limited scope, capacity and lack of resources facing the arts in relation to both media and research. And so a research-grounded media-informed strategy for an arts organisation (as for a city’s urban development policy) is not common. One of my current projects is drawing up a proposal for setting up a research unit in the Albany Theatre, as a way of modeling research practice for city arts organisations – where knowledge can feed into strategy, advocacy, and community development, as well as to partnerships with universities and colleges (which for many arts organisations are remote institutions). Returning to Appadurai, (who for decades has contributed to UNESCO’s policy development): one area in which the Centre’s media research could be valuable – and connect media, culture, urbanism and development – is by offering pointers to the city on the necessary media thinking in any putative plan for strategic cultural development. To quote the Strategy: “Many young people now access their culture on the streets, digitally on phones, on tablets and in their homes. As well as traditional opportunities, culture needs to be accessible and engaging to young people across different media, virtual and physical. Coventry can develop a new generation of young programmers and producers and grow access through youth support agencies, training providers and education services to target hard-to-reach young people.” ( p.61).

    Where the “hard-to-reach young people” are hard to reach not because they are not already immersed in “culture”—they are immersed (and to some extent empowered by) global media and its flows animating the city, probably more so than the organisations trying to “reach” them. The distance (perceived or otherwise) between the arts and those in need of “reaching” needs re-conceptualising, and this is particularly true in relation to social development, immigration and diasporas. Like young people, diaspora communities seem once-removed from the culture of the city, and thus understood an arts market segment to be reached. However, far from detached, they are often more global-media interconnected (often by necessity), an maintain their identity through this mediated interconnection with family, religion and diaspora in other parts of the world. We need to understand the social basis of urban culture, and the relation between arts organisations and the city, and media research as defined in this Blog could do much to help.

    29 Mar 2017, 09:22

  2. Christopher Bilton

    Back in 1993, I was one of the first students to take the MA in European Cultural Policy and Administration at Warwick – at the time both ‘cultural’ and ‘European’ were exotic terms for those of us working in ‘the arts’ in the UK. The Centre was also unusual in placing cultural industries at the core of its curriculum on cultural policy. A favourite quote used by our lecturers came from two former associates of the old Greater London Council, writing in 1986:

    ‘while the state concentrates on a fairly limited opera repertoire and a Shakespearean heritage for the tourists, the corporate planners and strategy executives of the multinationals are only too keen to write the real cultural policies for themselves’ (Mulgan and Worpole 1986, 10).

    It has always been the ambition of the Centre to prepare students for the realities of working in the cultural sector, at the same time introducing them to ideas and theories which lie behind changing practices. This has meant steadily expanding the notion of what is meant by ‘culture’ in both our research and our teaching. Some of these changes are reflected in the titles of successive Centre MA programmes: Creative and Media Enterprises (1999), International Design and Communication (2006), Global Media and Communication (2010), Arts, Enterprise and Development (2014).

    So the Centre’s new title, as the blog correctly asserts, is ‘daylighting’ an underlying process of change. We could summarise the evolution as the mediatisation of culture, to the point where the media loom over almost every discussion of creativity, culture, policy and social change in our research and teaching. Our students’ lives too have been transformed by the power of media, especially social media, to shape identities, ideas and values. In my own field of the creative industries, the meaning of ‘content’ has been rewritten by the media technologies which not only distribute it, but shape its value, determining how, where, what and with whom we consume. ‘Creativity’ used to be associated with the creation of new ideas, new cultural forms, music, film, literature, art, theatre. Today creativity has spread along the value chain to encompass every step in the chain, including the creativity of marketing, delivering, personalising and co-creating content. Media have become pervasive, convergent and polymorphous.

    When Mulgan and Worpole spoke of ‘corporate planners’ they perhaps had in mind the Murdoch press, the major record labels, national broadcasters, global publishing empires. Those intermediaries have been replaced by a new generation of intermediaries – Google, Amazon, Facebook, Weibo, Alibaba, Netflix – which shape not the means of production but the means of consumption. To paraphrase one of my PhD students (hello March!), digital media have become like water – we swim amongst them but we only notice their presence when there is a shift in the current. ‘Daylighting’ these forces becomes essential in any programme of research or teaching concerning cultural policy, the creative industries, urban renewal and social change. In the age of Trump, fake news, Brexit uncertainty, we are all students of media.

    So the Centre for Cultural and Media Policy Studies, for me, completes a journey I started in 1993, from arts to cultural policy, from cultural production to cultural consumption, from content to context. The name is admittedly a stretch – we have tried touting CAMPS and C-CAMPS but neither has caught on (yet) – but it captures some of the connections we are trying to uncover in our teaching and our research. I leave the last word to another voice from the past, describing the power of media to transport and enchant us, circa 1961:

    30 Mar 2017, 15:55

  3. Lee Martin

    It has been a great privilege to arrive in the centre just as this name change was proposed; understanding cultural policy requires understanding of media policy and the new name more accurately reflects the work of colleagues in the centre. My research explores how cultural and policy media involves developing the creative potential of disadvantaged communities. Policy is increasingly calling on such creativity to generate economic value, innovation and community development, it is therefore important to provide appropriate evidence for these initiatives.

    This is especially true for policy that seeks to tackle the negative impacts of growth in global economies (such as dealing with climate change) as these attempts can swim against a tide of heavily-funded vested interest that can distort media debate. The introduction of “fake news” into the public lexicon also brings new challenges for those developing evidence-based policy. This means considering the role of media for enabling and preventing community change initiatives, especially those rooted in the arts, is an essential part of understanding how effective cultural and development policy can be produced.

    Arriving in the centre now provides an exciting platform to engage in research that helps facilitate adaptation to global challenges, and to share these insights with the community of scholars and students that arrive in the centre each year. The MA in Art, Enterprise and Development perfectly aligns with the new name, as linking cultural and media policy, within the name of our centre, helps communicate exactly the type of opportunities students have to develop their capabilities for working on arts based community change projects and wider development initiatives.

    11 Apr 2017, 15:52

  4. Pietari Kaapa

    The Centre for Cultural and Media Policy Studies embodies the difficulty – and necessity – of placing or contextualising policy studies as parts of the arts and humanities. Academic factions are well established where scholars within the arts and the humanities distinguish themselves into art historians, literature scholars, film theoreticians, and/or media archaeologists, amongst many other categories. Much of this factional categorisation is premised on methods and perspectives on ideological-textual readings of a range of texts. When discussion turns to practice, policy, production and management, these readings encounter an unexpected factor – most of these readings find it difficult to put theory into practice, or to critically address how the media industries operate in order to produce the messages we as academics critique.

    My academic journey embodies some of these challenges. I started out as a scholar whose work uncovered meanings in texts to explain how certain ideological areas – nationhood, for me – were problematic categories. Academic work on these areas continues to be of fundamental significance, and I continue to do this work – we can never take for granted the kind of societal and environmental destruction a film like The Fate of the Furious espouses as a given. Yet, my work has lately focused on researching different areas of environmental communications specifically the footprint of the media industries. While there has been plentiful work on the content of media production, they rarely consider the resources that go into facilitating the conveyance of these messages. This widely held misconception of the media as an immaterial industry has been challenged by the adoption of standards on Waste Electricity and Energy (WEEE) and Restrictions on Hazardous Substances (RoHS), which emphasize the considerable material footprint that the production, distribution, exhibition and consumption of media entails. Yet, media regulation and policy lags behind in terms of integrating sustainability and the environment into practice. Cultural policy has been generally accommodating of sustainability, and we have seen organisations like the Arts Council of England and Creative Scotland implement this. Here, any arts producer wishing to gain funding from these organisations needs to provide a carbon footprint report. The inclusion of mandatory reporting is a considerable step for the arts sector, yet media only plays a small role here – its complex operations are subsumed into the arts despite all the many notable differences in production practice and modes of dissemination of content.

    In parts of Europe (namely Belgium and France, to date), we have seen organisations establish media specific policy for curtailing the industry’s footprint. For example, the Flanders Film Fund will only pay the final 10% of their production subsidy if an environmental report is completed. The significance of these developments cannot be overstated. They indicate a new area of media policy that ensures that environmental considerations become something more than a novelty, not only to be adopted when a production needs to gain PR credentials. A key argument made here is that not only is sustainability ‘nice’, it will soon be essential for any media production. The suggestion is that one simply will not be able to work in the industry without abiding by these regulations. While a lot of this is still the focus of contentious debate in the industry, the fact that we now see organisations such as the BBC require this from all outsourced productions indicates that the tide has shifted. Here, sustainability initiatives take an important step to becoming a normalised part of not only media production. These developments also mean that sustainable media policy can start to meet the standards adopted in many other areas of the creative industries.

    Continued below….

    21 Apr 2017, 15:01

  5. Pietari Kaapa

    As the industry starts to realise and act on its footprint, so must the field of media studies adapt. This material turn gestures towards a new type of media studies, one that considers the role of the media industries as consumers and utilizers of a range of natural resources. This is just one indication of how we at the Centre study media policy work to understand contemporary transformations in the management and organisation of the media industries. The MA programme in Global Media and Communication offers a range of options that focus on the history and current state of the industry. We try to keep as up to date as possible on current policy developments to understand them as part of a longer historical trajectory. Media policy is integral to our teaching and, we would also argue, to the professional lives of our students as they embark on their careers.

    Accordingly, our teaching feeds into global debates on production and policy developments, facilitated especially by our industry contacts. I actively participate in several networking events in the UK and elsewhere focusing on integrating sustainability in the media. For example, I recently completed the Carbon Literacy training course offered by Bafta, the leading organisation behind UK television. As Bafta has a substantial input into the establishment of domestic media policy, it is only natural we work with them to best effect. I also collaborate with several media agencies in Europe on exploring sustainability in media practice. Our aims for the upcoming academic years is to integrate our analytical work further with these organisations. Activities may include lectures and potential collaborative projects on exploring sustainable media policy. To us, it is significant that students get first hand insight into how these practices come to be established and encourage them to debate policy with experts from these institutes.

    21 Apr 2017, 15:02

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