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.