Vox the News Cycle

vox storystreamInteresting discussion at Nieman Journalism Lab triggered by a recent post by Vox Media’s VP of Engineering, Michael Lovitt, on launching Vox.xom as a nine week development project. Vox.com has some very cool features, not least of which is the threading of topically related stories into ‘StoryStreams’, including the stream of “How We Make Vox“. Co-founder of Vox, Melissa Bell, explains:

If we wanted to build a digital startup journalism entity, we would behave like the technology company Vox Media truly is: launch fast and tweak often.

The launch of Vox.com has been framed in terms of it being a technology company. It would be interesting to see a breakdown of how they actually approach stories and the production of content. Hopefully, it is not like David Eun’s 2011 master plan for AOL.

Eun used an ‘engineering flow’ type approach to integrating SEO and analytics information into the production of news-based media content. Not very many people were happy about this. As one recent commentator described it:

It’s telling that throughout “The AOL Way”, the emphasis is on what managers and technology employees can do to maximize pageviews, and not on actual writing or video production, itself. That is, the presentation implies that AOL management took its content’s quality for granted.

Bell describes the work of Vox.com as addressing the problem of having to catch up after dropping out of the constant flow of the news cycle.  She became aware of this problem after being promoted into her previous role at The Washington Post as ‘director of platforms’ and ‘blog strategy’. From the same Guardian piece:

“It was amazing to me as a reader how quickly I felt I fell off the news cycle,” she says. “If I wasn’t paying attention to the rapid developments, it was difficult for me to understand what was happening in major news stories. When I took that step back I realised the challenge of being a reader.”

What is the news cycle according to Vox.com? There seems to be more or less topical news stories being explained through the website, but there is also “7 things the most-highlighted Kindle passages tell us about American readers” as the ‘most read’ story.

vox kindle

The news cycle used to be organised around the habits of consumers. The evening broadcast television bulletin, the morning newspaper, or the hourly radio bulletin. It was structural to the rhythms of industry and cultural expectations of news consumers. Not unlike the difference between the ranking of books in the New York Time’s Bestsellers list as compared to the highlighting of book passages through Kindle as an index of popularity, has there been a shift in the character of the news cycle?

Journalism Jobs

The ABC is reporting on a leaked “issues paper” from the University of Queensland (UQ) and that UQ apparently plan to merge most of their Communications offerings. Part of this process is allegedly dropping the journalism course (although the leaked document states the contrary: they have no intention to drop the BJournalism degree).

“Issue paper” author and UQ Dean, Prof Tim Dunne, has definitely isolated some issues that are worth engaging with:

Demand for journalism is declining globally as employment opportunities diminish in the era of digital and social media. In recent years, there has been widespread job loss in the journalism profession in Australia. The Australian Government Job Outlook suggests that job openings for journalists and writers will be below average over the next five years, with an overall decline in the number of positions. At the same time, there is increased visibility (on-line, through social media etc) and new kinds of employment opportunities are emerging, including areas such as data analytics.

I am not sure how Journalism is taught at UQ but I find it very hard to believe that students are not equipped to take on the challenge of new “on-line” platforms in addition to traditional media forms.

Prof Dunne presents a bleak picture for journalism, but it is not entirely correct. What is the current state of the news-based media industry, formally known as ‘journalism’? Absolute numbers are very hard to discern, but trends are relatively straightforward:

The ABS Employment in Culture, 2006 – 2011 captures some trends over the five years 2006 to 2011.

[table caption=”Table 1: Employment in Journalism” width=”500″ colwidth=”20|100|50″ colalign=”left|left|center|left|right”]
Newspaper or Periodical Editor, 4844, 5059
Print Journalist, 6306, 5510
Radio Journalist, 671, 603
Television Journalist, 1059, 1123
Journalists and Other Writers (nec), 1279, 1705
Journalists and Other Writers (nfd), 1414, 2125
Totals, 15573, 16125

Much has been made over recent high profile lay-offs at Fairfax and News Corp, as if they are the only places that hire journalists. For example, the current #fairgofairfax social media campaign to generate support for Fairfax employees has a high degree of visibility on Twitter. Indeed, the number of print journalists declined by 800 in the five years 2006 to 2011, but as a field the numbers went up. I shall return to this below.

When we turn to the Australian Government Job Outlook data it is clear that this increase in the number of journalism jobs is not surprising.

[table caption=”Table 2: Journalists and Other Writers (Job Growth)” width=”500″ colwidth=”20|100|50″ colalign=”left|left|center|left|right”]

Time Period, Occupation (per cent growth), All Occupations (per cent growth)

5 Year Growth, 37.8, 7.8

2 Year Growth, 28.7, 1.9


It seems that the Prof Dunne pays particular heed to this page of the Australian Government Job Outlook data regarding prospects:

Over the five years to November 2017, the number of job openings for Journalists and Other Writers is expected to be below average (between 5,001 and 10,000).Job openings can arise from employment growth and people leaving the occupation.

Employment for Journalists and Other Writers to November 2017 is expected to decline.

Employment in this large occupation (29,800 in November 2012) rose very strongly in the past five years and rose strongly in the long-term (ten years).

Journalists and Other Writers have an average proportion of full-time jobs (75.3 per cent). For Journalists and Other Writers working full-time, average weekly hours are 41.6 (compared to 41.3 for all occupations) and earnings are above average – in the eighth decile. Unemployment for Journalists and Other Writers is average.

So after witnessing jobs growth four to five times the average for the past five years or so, and 10 times the average over last two years, there will ‘only’ be between 5000 to 10000 new positions available.

The broader journalism industry seems like it is in a pretty good state of affairs, which contradicts popularist conservative narratives about an oversupply of journalism graduates. Two years ago The Australian newspaper attacked Journalism Schools and attempted to open up another front of the Culture Wars (or return to old ground after the earlier ‘Media Wars‘). They suggested that Australian journalism schools produce too many graduates, when it is apparent that universities were actually servicing demand. The Australian newspaper does not represent journalism in Australia; in fact, it is a tiny vocal minority.

The bottom line is that there has been an explosive growth over the last decade in journalism and other jobs relating to the news-based media industry. The biggest growth measured in the Employment in Culture statistics for Journalism is in the ‘Not Elsewhere Classified’ category of just under 500 new positions; occupations include blogger, critic, editorial assistant and essayist. The key point is that this growth is not in the legacy media industries areas where journalists have traditionally worked. Most people who work in the media industry know this to be intuitively correct. More media content (writing, filming, recording, producing, etc.) is created and distributed now than at any other point in history.

The real question that Prof Dunne asks, and which is implied by his remarks about the rise of new employment areas, what combination of skills and competences shall serve our graduates in an era that produces more media content than ever before in human history? Or as he states: “What is likely is that there will continue to be a need for strong and vibrant courses in journalism that are practice-based”.

He gestures towards data analytics as an example. Many research projects show how newsrooms have learned to appreciate analytics information about their websites, and increasingly about individual users (in the era of paywalls and required logins). Students report that they feel empowered after the workshop where I give them as editors the task of setting up a ‘dashboard’ in Google Analytics so as to create reports for their team of student journalists. They can see how older forms of journalistic ‘gut feeling’ map onto new analytics information.

Another example is regarding the delegation of editorial responsibilities to more junior staff. Reading into the Employment in Culture figures there has been an increase in the number of editors from 2006 to 2011. Occupations in this role include features editor, news editor, pictures editor, subeditor, and (importantly) website/blog editor. One way to interpret this shift, which is congruent with other observations, is that there has been a ‘flattening out’ of the journalism industry with less medium-specific silos and more network-based cross-platform media enterprises. We train graduates to be prepared to take on some of the responsibilities that used to belong to senior journalists as editors but are now graduate level positions.

Based on proposed five tier funding arrangements there will be a refocus on design and audio-visual studies as the core units of journalism and communication studies. Part of this is because of the very strange separation of Audio and Visual Studies from the other discipline areas in the 1007 Field of Education code so it is in the funding tier that receives greater federal government funding.

The Map is the Territory

Mel has a very interesting work in progress paper up on her blog on “The territory of the post-professional“. We sometimes share very similar research interests. I’ve also looked at questions of territory and technological assemblages in my Communications Technologies & Change unit this semester.

In one week we looked at the relation between predictive algorithms and the individuation of subjectivity. Here is the entry for that week:

Buying Stuff Online and How Your Credit Card is You

Transformations of economy, emergence of global market. Globalisation. Function of credit cards as technology of communication/identity. eBay, Steam and online commerce. Amazon.com and the algorithmic production of surplus value.

Required reading Merskin, D. (1998). “The Show   for Those Who Owe: Normalization of Credit on Lifetime’s Debt.” Journal of   Communication Inquiry, 22(1), 10-26. [Particularly the section “A brief   history of credit”.]Merskin offers a critical reading of the reality TV show called Debt and the ways credit card and personal debt have become ‘normalised’ in US society. Read the section “A brief history of credit” (pages 11-16) for a quasi-genealogical account of the development of the credit card. What is the ‘credit card’ assemblage?
Recommended reading de Vries, K. (2010).   “Identity, profiling algorithms and a world of ambient   intelligence.” Ethics and Information Technology 12(1):   71-85.This is another tough reading, but useful for thinking about the way the everyday technological assemblages of communication contribute to or produce our identity. ‘Identity’ here is meant in a cultural sense. The classic example that de Vries explores to some length is the use of algorithms to predict consumer behaviour on shopping websites and suggest commodities we might be interested in purchasing through   online shop fronts like Amazon.com. The relevant section is “Identity in a world of   profiling algorithms and ambient intelligence” (pages 76-79), but it is   worth exploring at length to gain a critical understanding of the ways   complex internet-based commercial interactions can affect the production (and   prediction) of identity.

In the lecture I did a kind of archaeology of the credit card in terms of the shifting composition of socio-technological relations across the long histories of some of the elements that constitute the ‘credit card assemblage’. The required research for this, so as to do the lecture, was a bit crazy. I learnt a great deal! Then I shifted gears a bit to talk about the function of predictive algorithms that are part of online shopping platforms. The de Vries reading is very good on this (and also pretty tough for third year undergraduates). In the context of predictive algorithms and algorithmic-based platforms (that aren’t necessarily ‘predictive’) there are two points I want to make with regards to Mel’s paper, specifically the paragraph introducing ‘algorithmic living’.

Firstly, unlike previous forms of self-knowledge in familiar ‘quantifications of the self’ (Weight Watchers, etc.) determined by a medium/average (statistical sense) of rough (molar) demographic categories, algorithmic indicators are far more mobile and the level of quantification is determined by the ‘resolution’ of the algorithm. ‘Resolution’ in this sense pertains to the ‘machinic affects’ of the ‘counting assemblage’; what are the forms of machinic visbility afforded by the technological assemblage of which the algorithm is but one (protocol) level? What are the ‘actions’ or ‘gestures’ being indeed by the algorithm?

Secondly, the (algorithmic) map (of aggregate molecular ‘actions’ of user-mulitiplicities) has become the (existential) territory (for the individuating assemblage of an ‘app’ or ‘platform’ user). Yes, the map is the territory (I’m phrasing it like that just to fuck with the old school semioticians a little bit:). The classic examples of this are Amazon.com or Google. Amazon indexes various ‘actions’ by users and users this for the ‘suggestions’ section. The capacity to index such actions are one of the affordances (action possibilities) of the platform or what I would call the machinic affects of the algorithm. The machinic affects are determined by the resolution of the algorithm. What actual action does the algorithm index? Visits? Location of mouse pointer or scrolling behaviour? Maybe. Definitely (in the case of Amazon): purchases, wishlist contents, ‘Kindle’ sharing behaviour, and so on. The aggregate map is produced by a multiplicity of such actions, this map then serves as part of the ‘territory’ by which other users of the same platform are individuated (as ‘dividuals’, cf. Deleuze). ‘Territory’ in this context is derived from the later work of Guattari.

What is interesting about Mel’s focus on ‘time’ and its management as a mode of self-governance is that by taking into account the above process of individuating there are two versions of temporality are in play: intensive and extensive. Management of time is traditionally ‘time’ as extension; there is  a range, which is divisible into ‘units’ of time. The individuation of a subject is an intensive process and operates at the level of ‘anticipation’ (relations of futurity) and ‘retention’ (relations of pastness). The ‘past’ in this context is literally and practically active; a multiplicity of ‘pasts’ from a multiplicity of users indexed according to their actions ‘feed’ (‘feed’ in the sense of both ‘appetite’ or ‘appetition’ (Whitehead) and ‘user feeds’ ie who you follow) into the pure present of algorithmic mapping and serve as a dynamic/selective virtual architecture that scaffolds the embodied process of the individuating subject who is actively anticipating his or her ‘next’ action. The ‘next’ action is the subject of such operations; this ‘next’ is an intensive temporal relation.

Management of time is only traditionally premised on the extensive dimension, as contemporary ‘social’ platform-based apps also include a valorising function which tempers time with a qualitiative experiential dimension. If you had a good time, then you’ll ‘like’ the shared photo. If you ‘like’ the book and ‘rate’ it on Amazon, then you bestow the assumed extensive time taken to read the book with a valorised experiential quality.

Doctor Who is made for Children and Simpletons

“It’s Doctor Who day!” so proclaimed Hugo award-nominated Doctor Who writer Steven Moffat on Twitter last night. I had already watched the five-part “Pond Life” webisode series through the BBC’s Youtube channel, like many other Doctor Who fans, in preparation of the new series. In Australia we were able to watch the first episode of the new Doctor Who series as soon as we woke up this morning thanks to the ABC making it available on their “catch-up TV” service iView. This is exactly what I did, with a coffee in one hand and my iPad in the other. That it coincided with Father’s Day meant my Facebook and Twitter streams were full of Whovian joy crossed over with accounts of fathers watching the show with their children.

And yet there were also the haters. They were in the minority of course, but one comment struck me in particular; the poster said that Doctor Who “is made for children and simpletons”. Obvious troll is obvious, but, still, the elitist platitudes rubbed me up the wrong way… Doctor Who wears its infantile pretensions on its cross-platform global-brand sleeve. To say it is made for children (and, hyperbolically, for simpletons) is to state the obvious. Doctor Who captures a certain kind of stupid that I want to suggest is desperately needed. Hence, this is a defence of Doctor Who by way of a defence of stupidity.

We live in a world in which stupidities attempt to impinge on our mental and spiritual well-being at every turn. Indeed, I used to think of plenty of things were stupid (and still do to a certain extent): elite sport, organised religion, liberal democratic politics, pretty much everything that someone else is doing. A normative appreciation of stupidity, firstly, locates the stupid in someone else, and secondly, works to trace this stupid as the outcome of some kind of failure; a failure of thought, a failure of imagination, a failure of agency and so on.

The greatest stupid is produced by those who think they are a success. This is a kind of existential stupidity that provides security and purpose. Success as an Australian means policing borders. Success as a savvy businessperson means embodying the will of the market. Success as a moral subject means becoming an evangelist of law and order. Conservatism here is not a political category; the politics is just an expression of the ‘claptrap’ (political speech triggering audience clapping on demand) experienced as a collective pat on the back.

None of this is new. To realise this stupidity as an inescapable milieu is pretty much the only quality that is shared by all post-Boomer generations. Some resist through attempts at withdrawal, but this is insufficient. Like the coffee in a forgotten stove-top espresso machine, strategic apathy percolates into a ‘bitter’ generational cynicism. This ‘burnt’ cynic attempts to ward off being swept up in stupidities, but as a result produces their own. The cynicism of youth valorises the stupid of noseless faces.

The performative knowingness of the cynic is balanced with the performative naivety of the existentially enfranchised. This is more about the earnestness of those who transcend the collective stupidities of the individual and rather than choosing success, they choose the struggle. They are working to transcend the conditions of existence that forever turns inward back to the individualising ‘us’: the individual, the family, the nation. The stupid of the struggle is a failure to realise that resistance is futile; worse, it becomes a resource for the ‘winners’, like two cogs turning against each other.

Three forms of ideal stupidity; actual stupid is a combination of the three. If everything is stupid, how can anything or anyone escape or resist or succeed? Embrace your stupidities. In ancient Greece, Socrates called stupidity ‘ignorance’ and wisdom was the recognition of the way ignorance was an inherent character of humanity. Socrates did not live in our world, however. The possibility of ‘wisdom’ is to smuggle stupidity in through the backdoor under the aegis of philosophy. Although, Socrates was definitely on to something. Kant argued for a higher ‘pure’ rationality that transcends stupidity, but he did not recognise the conditions of rationality as being his own stupidity: the unthought of thought that haunts the modernist project. The stupid is the inescapable outside of thought that conditions the possibility of thought. Kant is the Batman of thought. “Why so serious?”

The fourth response is to follow Socrates, but turn Kant into the Joker, and go ‘meta’ to recognise the limits of the other three kinds of stupidity. The antidote to aggrandised Socratic beard-stoking, while at the same time pursuing an unforgiving self-awareness, is through play. To play is to suspend seriousness in a way that is often utterly serious. Is it a surprise then, that practices of ‘meta’ in the form of play characterise much of the activity found on social networks? “Best cat video.” Or imagining politicians as anthropomorphised animals? This is stupid, without a doubt, but it is obviously so. Almost anything that exists in the online economy of memes is an exchange of stupid. This is an invitation to a playful stupidity that is utterly serious.

Hence, it is a mistake to imagine the audience for Doctor Who as children when it renders explicit its process of infantilising the audience. Using the tropes of popular family-oriented science fiction television, Doctor Who incorporates this outside of thought into an hour or so of accessible television. Doctor Who is a suspension of seriousness that is utterly serious; a playful ‘meta’ of serious television and culture more generally. It is an invitation to become aware of our own stupidities.

Post originally appeared at Limited News.

Communication Technologies & Change unit

Below is a draft weekly schedule for a final year undergraduate unit I am teaching second semester this year. The unit is titled Communication Technologies & Change. I am inheriting the unit and the previous iteration focused on ‘new media’ and the various affordances of online technologies. The brief I was given was to shift from a ‘media’ focus and address ‘communication’ more broadly. There is a relatively diverse range of students, some are studying ‘communication’ and others ‘public relations’, ‘marketing’ and ‘journalism’. Some could come from very different areas of the faculty (design, media arts, writing, etc.). The uni is design to engage with the everyday use of comunication technologies and to guide students to critically reflect on the technologial assemblages of which they are part.

It has not been approved as yet and I am contemplating changing some of the readings and in particular adding some ‘easier’ readings (as some of them are pretty hard core, albeit fun). If anyone has any suggestions or criticisms please leave a comment or email me at glen (dot) fuller (at) canberra (dot) edu (dot) au. The two major assessment items will be an in-class presentation and a final research essay on a particular assemblage of communication technology.

Any suggestions of film clips I can show during lectures in any of the weeks would be greatly appreciated also!


Lecture topics

Week Date Topic
1 15/8/12 Definitions: Communication as Techné
2 22/8/12 Definitions: Technological Objects & Systems
3 29/8/12 Definitions: Change: Obsolescence & Progress
4 5/9/12 Assemblages: Audience & Media
5 12/9/12 Mediated Sociality & Community
6 19/9/12 Home & Away & Work
7 26/9/12 Commerce & the Economy
Mid Semester Break  
 9 10/10/12 The Apocalypse & Other Lessons from Science Fiction
10 17/10/12 Government & Media Policy
12 24/10/12 Information Technologies, Memory & Memorialisation
12 31/10/12 Geographies of Communication Technologies & Reality
13 7/11/12 Crisis & Technologies of Communication
14 14/11/12 Future, practices of anticipation


Definitions: Communication as Techné

 Etymology of technology, ‘techné’ and ‘logos’. Introducing themes of unit: 1) Tactical and strategic approaches to communication technologies. 2) Introducing communication technologies as assemblages.

Required reading Unit outlineWilliams, R. (1976). “Communication” Keywords: A Vocabulary of Culture and Society Glasgow: Fontana. Pages 62-63.

Sterne, J. (2006). Communication as Techné. In G. J. Shpherd, J. S. John & T. Striphas (Eds.), Communication as…: Perspectives on Theory London: Sage. Pages 91-98

Recommended reading Parry, Richard, (2008) “Episteme and Techne“, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2008 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/fall2008/entries/episteme-techne/
Tutorial No tutorials


Definitions: Technological Objects & Systems

Thinking about technology beyond the technical object. Brief survey of different approaches:

  1. Actor-network theory and socio-technical networks, networked economy
  2. Simondon, technics and collective individuation
  3. Delanda and techno-historical assemblages
  4. Parikka, media archaeology and rethinking media and communication assemblages
Required reading Lury, C. (2009). “Brand as Assemblage.” Journal of Cultural Economy, 2(1-2), 67-82.
Recommended reading Parikka, J. (2010). Introduction: Insects in the Age of Technology. Insect Media: An Archaeology of Animals and Technology Minneapolis, London: University Of Minnesota Press. Pages ix-xxv [Particularly the ‘Assemblages’ section xxiv-xxvii]
Tutorial Discussion: Introduction of unit. Details of assessments. Allocation of readings for the presentation assignment. Discussion of potential topics of the research essay assessment.


Definitions: Change: Obsolescence & Progress

How to think about ‘change’? Think beyond individual objects to the broader networks and social assemblages of whom they are always part. Disruptive innovation, not a new ‘object’ but a different network of relations. Fetishisation of the ‘new’. Planned Obsolescence.

Required reading Packard, V. (1960). “Progress Through Planned Obsolescence.” The Waste Makers. Brooklyn: Ig Publishing. Pages 65-78.Slack, J. D., & Wise, J. M. (2005). Progress. Culture + Technology: A Primer. New York: Peter Lang. Pages 9-25. 
Tutorial Discussion: When was the last time you ‘upgraded’ anything? Why? Is Packard’s critique still relevant? Do you take photos with your phone? Do you use Instagram or similar? How does the aestheticisation of ‘old’ technologies as ‘new’ change our sense of progress?


Assemblages: Audience & Media

This week we think about the relation between technology, media and audiences in terms of assemblages. Further develop assemblage theory. Techno-historical assemblages of the media. Power of the audience, audience studies. Attention economy.

Required reading Goggin, G. (2009). “Assembling media culture.” Journal of Cultural Economy, 2(1-2), 151-167.Crogan, P., & Kinsley, S. (2012). “Paying Attention: Towards a Critique of the Attention Economy.” Culture Machine, 13, 1-29. http://www.culturemachine.net/index.php/cm/article/view/463/482
Recommended reading Bratich, J. Z. (2005). “Amassing the Multitude: Revisiting Early Audience Studies.” Communication Theory, 15(3), 242-265.
Tutorial Discussion: What is your involvement in media assemblages? How does your participation relate to Crogan and Kinsley’s four ways of “thinking about how attention is commodified, quantified and trained” (3)?


Mediated Sociality & Community

Community and communication. Scales of community, local, national, international. Collective intelligence

Required reading Levy, P. (1999). “From the Molar to the Molecular: The Technology of Collective Intelligence” Collective Intelligence: Mankind’s Emerging World in Cyberspace. Cambridge, MA: Perseus Books. Pages 39-55.
Recommended reading Shirky, C. (2010). “Means” Cognitive Surplus: Creativity and Generosity in a Connected Age. London: Penguin Books. [Chapter 2]
Tutorial Discussion: What does Levy mean by ‘molecular’ and ‘molar’? How is the ‘national’ imagined in the contemporary era if it is in part a consequence of the communication technologies of modernity (telegraph, print newspapers, then radio etc)? Do you think the character of friendship has changed because of social media?


Home & Away & Work

Constitution of the ‘home’, production of domestic space. New composition of relations premised on the separation of public/private, work/home. Intervention of the telephone. The flexible workplace. 

Required reading Gregg, M. (2011) “Selling the flexible workplace” Work’s Intimacy. Cambridge: Polity Press. Chapter 1. Pages 23-38.
Recommended reading Yates, J., & Orlikowski, W. J. (1992). “Genres of Organizational Communication: A structurational approach to studying communication and media.” Academy of Management Review, 17(2), 299-326. [Examination of the history of the ’email’ as genre of organizational communication.]
Tutorial Discussion: Do you juggle various work responsibilities with other aspects of your life? Could you do this without contemporary communication technologies? Would you feel comfortable using your Facebook account for work purposes? What relation does Gregg describe between communication technologies and workplace intimacies?


Commerce and the Economy

 Transformations of economy, emergence of global market. Globalisation. Function of credit cards as technology of communication/identity. eBay, Steam and online commerce. Amazon.com and the algorithmic production of surplus value.

Required reading Merskin, D. (1998). “The Show for Those Who Owe: Normalization of Credit on Lifetime’s Debt.” Journal of Communication Inquiry, 22(1), 10-26. [Particularly the section “A brief history of credit”]
Recommended reading Roberts, J. M. (2012). “Poststructuralism Against Poststructuralism: Actor-Network Theory, Organizations and Economic Markets.” European Journal of Social Theory, 15(1), 35-53.
Tutorial Discussion: Have you used your credit card online and felt anxious? Do you have a credit card debt? How important is reputation for online commerce? Have bought items directly from overseas?


Mid-semester break


The Apocalypse & Other Lessons from Science Fiction

Apocalypse as ultimate ‘planned obsolescence’. Technological change of the apocalypse. ‘Industrial-military complex’. Internet as communication technology of the apocalypse. 

Required reading Jameson, F. (1982). “Progress Versus Utopia; or, Can We Imagine the Future?” Science Fiction Studies, 9, 147-158.
Recommended reading Grusin, R., 2004. “Premediation.” Criticism, 46(1) 17-39.Stockwell, S (2011) “Messages from the apocalypse: Security issues in American TV series.” Continuum: Journal of Media & Cultural Studies, 25(2), 189-199 
Tutorial Discussion: What is your favourite representation of the apocalypse? What aspects of this apocalyptic setting are Utopian? Would a world of perfect communication be Utopian? Why or why not?

 WEEK 10

Government & Media Policy

Guest lecture. TBA

Required reading Tapscott, D. & Williams, A. (2010). “The Rise of the citizen regulator.” Macrowikinomics: Rebooting Business and the World. London: Atlantic Books. [Chapter 15]
Tutorial TBA [Check Moodle closer to the date.]

 WEEK 11

Information Technologies, Memory & Memorialisation

 From the ‘Kodak moment’ to the ‘Facebook moment’. Branded behaviours, branded memories. Have our memories become commodified? Databases and access.

Required reading Stokes, P. (2011). Ghosts in the Machine: Do the Dead Live on in Facebook? Philosophy & Technology, 1-17.Munir, K. A., & Phillips, N. (2005). The Birth of the ‘Kodak Moment’: Institutional Entrepreneurship and the Adoption of New Technologies. Organization Studies, 26(11), 1665-1687.
Recommended reading Geissler, C., (2010) “Pix or It Didn’t Happen: Social Networking, Digital Memory, and the Future of Biography.” In V. Chan, C. Ferguson, K. Fraser, C. Geissler, A.-M. Metten & S. Smith (eds.) The MPub Reader. Vancouver: CCSP Press, 135-141. [Also available at  http://tkbr.ccsp.sfu.ca/bookofmpub/pix-or-it-didnt-happen-social-networking-digital-memory-and-the-future-of-biography-by-cynara-geissler ]
Tutorial Discussion: Are we suffering from societal ‘TMI’? What moments do you hope to remember and do you try to capture these moments using technology? Do you ‘share’ these moments?


Geographies of Communication Technologies & Reality

 Maps, spatiality. Political economy of belonging. Borderspaces. Locative media. Augmented reality.

Required reading Buliung, R.N. (2011) “Wired People in Wired Places: Stories about Machines and the Geography of Activity.” Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 101,1365-1381.Williams, R. (1976). “Communication” Keywords: A Vocabulary of Culture and Society Glasgow: Fontana. Pages 62-63.
Tutorial Discussion: Do you use satnav or a ‘map app’ to help you find where you are going? What about planning for holidays, do you know exactly where you are going to go? When was the last time you were ‘lost’? What does Buliung mean by the ‘extinction of experience’?


Crisis & Technologies of Communication

Social media and communication. Data visualisation. Queensland floods and twitter. Japanese tsunami and Google.

Required reading Bruns, Axel, Burgess, Jean E., Crawford, Kate, & Shaw, Frances (2012) “#qldfloods and @QPSMedia: Crisis Communication on Twitter in the 2011 South East Queensland Floods.” [Research report] ARC Centre of Excellence for Creative Industries and Innovation, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane QLD Australia. http://eprints.qut.edu.au/48241/1/floodsreport.pdf [Particularly pages 7-18]
Tutorial Discussion: Have you been caught up in a crisis event? How have you communicated your wellbeing to friends and/or family? How have you found out about and then followed recent natural disasters? What communication channels do you use?


Future, practices of anticipation

Techno-historical assemblages are not only ‘historical’ but co-present. What shall exceed us? What assemblages are not yet fully present but currently emerging? What comes ‘next’? ‘New’ iPhones. What are the new assemblages? Has the future become commodified?

Recommended reading Jones, S.E., 2008. “Anticipating SporeThe Meaning of Video Games: Gaming and Textual Studies New York: Routledge. Chapter 6. Pages 150-173.
Recommended reading Grusin, R., 2004. “Premediation.” Criticism, 46(1) 17-39.
Tutorial Summary and Q&A. Final paper related questions and feedback