This article by Joseph Turow explores the new digital media environment that has largely (but not entirely) displaced its predecessor, the television era. The process has been accompanied by the popular rhetoric of “audience autonomy”. The narrative of “audience autonomy” is the assertion that new media technologies re-configure the control of media production back into the hands of audiences/consumers rather than formal producers, thus generating new power structures, relations and creating a cultural hierarchy between advertisers and consumers. (ex. youtube)Turow argues that rather than the technologically determinist “audience autonomy” narrative taking hold and being fruitful in its thinly-concealed promise of power re-organization, the advertising and broadcasting industries are adapting their techniques and methods to continue their hegemonic reign on the cultural landscapeTurow notes that since the advent of modern media forms (print, visual and otherwise), there has existed an industry-internal awareness of audience inattention and dismissal of advertising. In particular, this tension exists due to an implicit “contract” imposed on audiences by advertisers in exchange for the pleasures of media content. Current framework: Audience/consumer = commodity being “sold” to advertisers by broadcasters
-In the early days of television (1950’s onward) when specific programs exclusively sponsored by specific ads, to quantifiably measure the effectiveness of specific programs at delivering ads to audiences and consequently, ratings (supplied almost exclusively by the monopolistic Nielson company) were used to glean statistical data about how many viewers tuned in for programs (though they did not develop commercial ratings until 2007). Nielson ratings developed more precise demographic data through the evolution of TV.-In the absence of a more qualitative ratings system for ad effectiveness, advertisers carried over the “recall” concept from print (pioneered by David Starch). Recall works by exposing a sample of respondents to an ad and then at a later point in time, asking if they remembered/recalled the ad. To encourage recall, advertisers relied on psychological tactics such as psychology, Freudian analysis, neuroscience, etc. -The 1960’s witness a shift away from program sponsorship, advertising slots were purchased for multiple shows at a time. The concept of “attractive audiences” was the “contract” equivalent, between broadcasters and advertisers. The role of the broadcaster was to connect advertisers with the most “attractive audiences” which itself was essentially finding the consumers (or most likely consumers) among the audience. The methods and demographics characterizing “attractive audiences” has changed as television itself has evolved but the contractual obligation for broadcasters to deliver this to advertisers has not. -The rise of TiVo/DVR facilitated selective, customized video recording of television for later playback. One of the most fundamental aspects of TiVo is the ad-skipping feature, where the viewer could skip exactly 30-second segments at a time (the same length as many commercials or two 15-second commercials). The advertising and broadcasting industries responded with fear, gripped with anxiety regarding whether or not this new technology would grant control to the viewer, thereby putting themselves in a precarious position. One executive (Jamie Kellner, CEO of Turner Broadcasting) went so far to lament the DVR phenomenon as to equate the latter with piracy and theft. -The broader fear that new digital devices would return media control to the audiences (the very commodities being sold to advertisers in the original framework) and subsequent decreased trust in Nielson ratings was responded to with several key adaptive paradigm shifts for this digital environment.
-As stated earlier, advertisers did not “give up” with the advent of new media technologies such as the DVR and the internet but rather, adapted their strategies to cope with the new circumstances and remain lucrative not just despite the changes, but even because of them. Three strategies in particular that Turowdelineats are: production integration/cross-media promotion, user generated content and database marketing.-Product integration & cross-media promotion: from product placements to product integration (i.e. “writing” the product into the script and fabric of the show’s content, not merely featuring it as with product placements) and cross-media promotion (ex. Godaddy.com and the superbowl, from television to the web) -user generated content: Engaging creative agency of users to generate interest/buzz and high traffic of target audiences, particularly for websites. Facebook, youtube, myspace are examples of this phenomenon that have proven to be astronomically successful. Ads can be shown directly on the website and data mining techniques are sold by such interactive online networks to advertisers for more direct targeting. -database marketing: The internet is increasingly perceived as a “test bed” for advertisers to gather and analyze data about users in order to target them more effectively and in a customized manner, beyond the capabilities of any other visual media (such as television and the limitations of the Nielson ratings). If the two aforementioned strategies of product integration and user generated content were about adaptation, database marketing is a whole new stage of not just re-gaining but comprehensively dominating leverage in the new interactive market. Database marketing is composed of six interrelated apparatuses, sharing the same logic: “screening consumers for appropriateness, interacting with them electronically, targeting tracking of them, data mining, mass customization of advertising messages and the cultivation of relationships based the knowledge gained” (pg 407-408)
If the current media environment makes visible the once invisible work of media spectatorship, it is wrong to assume that we are somehow being liberated through improved media technologies. Rather than talking about interactive technologies, we should document the interactions that occur amongst media consumers, between media consumers and media texts, and between media consumers and media producers. The new participatory culture is taking shape at the intersection between three trends:(1) new tools and technologies enable consumers to archive, annotate, appropriate, and recirculate media content (2) a range of subcultures promote Do-It-Yourself (DIY) media production, a discourse that shapes how consumers have deployed those technologies(3) economic trends favoring the horizontally integrated media conglomerates encourage the flow of images, ideas, and narratives across multiple media channels and demand more active modes of spectatorship. It is important to move beyond the either-or logic of traditional audience research -- refusing to see media consumers as either totally autonomous from nor totally vulnerable to the culture industries. It would be naive to assume that powerful conglomerates will not protect their own interests as they enter this new media marketplace, but at the same time, audiences are gaining greater power and autonomy as they enter into the new knowledge culture. The interactive audience is more than a marketing concept and less than "semiotic democracy." In Collective Intelligence, Pierre Levy offers a compelling vision of the new 'knowledge space', or what he calls 'the cosmopedia,' which might emerge as citizens more fully realize the potentials of the new media environment. Rejecting technological or economic determinism, Levy sees contemporary society as caught in a transitional moment, whose outcome is still unknown, but which has enormous potentials for transforming existing structures of knowledge and power. His book might best be read as a form of critical utopianism framing a vision for the future ('an achievable utopia'), offering an ethical yardstick for contemporary developments. Levy explores how the 'deterritorialization' of knowledge, brought about by the ability of the net and the web to facilitate rapid many-to-many communication, might enable broader participation in decision-making, new modes of citizenship and community, and the reciprocal exchange of information.Levy rejects any notion that the new knowledge communities should be framed in terms of their resistance to the power of the culture industries, even if he also rejects the idea that their activities can simply be subsumed to corporate interests. Levy describes a world where grassroots communication is not a momentary disruption of the corporate signal but the routine way that the new media system operates
-The colonization metaphor is deployed by Jhally to reference the systemic appropriation of cultural spaces by Capitalism and its ancillary mechanisms such as advertising, marketing, public relations, etc. Advertising in particular has overtaken almost every aspect of cultural spaces and is specifically designed to deliver consumers to marketers. -If it is a propaganda, is the largest propaganda campaign ever enacted in terms of scope, visibility and materiality and it is actively shaping public consciousness. Advertising aims to infuse material objects with desire and identity, utilizing massive amounts of labour, creativity and capital in order to do so.-The material world is positioned as a world full of human and social possibilities. This is a process Marx would term “fetishism of commodities”. In Marx’s ideological framework, the dominant force of industrial capitalism was not even capital, the titular word from which the political economic system is derived, but commodities. The whole system itself operates on the basis of producing, marketing and selling commodities. As a result, social and cultural life is “colonized” by this overwhelming trend.
-The more our cultural landscape is inundated with ads and marketing, the more difficult it becomes for specific advertisements to stand out from the “clutter” of ubquitous advertising. To communicate individual messages, ads must increasingly resort to investing ever-greater amounts of capital and labour to make their own message stand out above the rest. Meanwhile, private media content (i.e. the vast majority) and programming are tend to be relegated to cheap-quality, low-budget reality shows. -Jhally insists that we must analyze the cultural role of advertising in order to understand the material reality it produces and from which discursive spheres. Simply studying the market role of advertising misses the point in this regard.-The cultural story that advertising weaves constructs the values that we are supposed to have and connect it with consumerism. Advertising subverts actual sources of human satisfaction, which are social in nature, and makes them seem obtainable through accumulating more material wealth.
-Advertising’s entrenched monopoly of cultural life reinforces this ideology and does not address us as a collective but as individuals with our own buying power. What Jhally refers to as the “real sources of human happiness—family life, romance/love, sexuality/pleasure, leisure, independence and control of life” (pg. 420) are not truly found on the market yet an illusory construction is created by advertising magic that insists they are if you buy the right products.-Advertising doesn’t sell things based on material qualities alone anymore, that tactic was abandoned in the early 20th century. It would be far too narrow and reducionist to say that advertising is merely false and manipulative, it is not reflective of human behaviour but takes human emotions and returns them to us connected to the world of commodities-We in the west are able to live our consumerist lifestyles precisely because of the conditions that others in poorer, developing countries live in. According to dependency theory, we are entirely dependent on them for our lifestyles of comparative extravagance. Like a leech that sucks blood off of its host who suffers as a result, this is a somewhat disgusting analogy of the process.
-Margaret Thatcher made the infamous statement that “there is no such thing as society”, implying that instead, we are all just individuals with our respective families. The implicit connotation contained in this assertion is that society does not imagine itself in the collective nor share collective values or goals. Needless to say, Thatcher was a staunch neoliberalist and this reflected in her policy (“trade not aid”). -Jhally points out the grossly unequal distribution of wealth and power that leaves domestic issues such as poverty, inner-city crime, healthcare, etc. and global issues such as environmentalism at the fringes of cultural discourses, seducing us instead with the powerful lure of individual desires which ironically cannot even be obtained through the market alone. However, there is so much capital invested in maintaining this illusion that it becomes internalized within and even naturalized to the public. -Neoliberalism is often used today colloquially to refer to any idea that is pro-market and anti-government intervention, but it is actually more specific than this. Above all, it is the harnessing of such policies to support the interests of big business, transnational corporations and finance. It seeks not so much a free market, therefore, as a market free for powerful interests.-Fostering voracious competition, the modern market entails less regulation and simultaneously, more consolidation of power and capital in the hands of fewer people than ever before.
-This leadsJhally to the austere prediction that is also supported by scientific consensus: we cannot keep up the cycles of industrial production and consumption at current rates for much longer. The earth has a finite amount of natural resources and we are depleting them at alarming rates. In addition, irreparable damage is being done to the environment through destruction of the ozone layer and global warming/climate change. Historically, this is seminal and novel as well. Historical empires, even the greatest ones such as the Roman Empire, never affected the remotest regions of the world such as the Arctic or the Amazon. Today, each time we use our technologies and consume mass-produced products, we are changing the face of the entire planet. -Jhally makes the grim prediction that if changes are not implemented and the individualist, selfish ideology regarding our approach remains, after approximately 70 years or so, we will face a catastrophic economic and environmental breakdown. To address this, he advocates changing our relationship to consumption and non-essential technologies of convenience (e.g. cars). To do this, we must assume responsibility on a collective scale, therefore fostering social bonds that will transcend the immediate and realize a social future. Conversely, advertising’s time-frame is short-term gratification and individualist. Future generations will have us to blame or thank for the world they inherit.
Technological progress enjoys hegemonic status in our industrial capitalist culture, and is thus unchallengingly viewed positively. We are currently experiencing exponential rates of technological development at unprecedented rates. But our industrial technologies are so powerful and so vast, that the actions of one person can affect the lives of million of people all across the world. Unchecked consumption, made possible by technology, threatens to doom the future of our planet and our species.With that being said, we live in a great transitional period. We still have enough bountiful resources, the technology to harness them that thoughts of the future do not touch our day-to-day realities. In a culture monopolized by advertising, completely focused on the gratification of short-term material goals, will technology “save” us? Or is it really condemning future generations to a life of “barbarism and savagery”? Do we not feel the salient need to halt the mechanisms of this impending destruction because we are blinded by the economic-growth-at-all-costs ideology that pervades cultural life and prevents us from forming deeper social ties?
Presentation part 1
Overview• The dialectical shift from the Media Production era (TV) to the New Media era• Rhetoric of greater audience autonomy• Tension between Advertisers/Marketers and Consumer & the “Contract”
The History• The historical evolution of Nielson ratings, recall and “attractive audiences”• TiVo/DVR and Industry fear of audience autonomy• Resulting modifications to advertising paradigm
Industry Responses• Product integration and cross-promotion across divergent media platforms• User generated Content• Database Marketing
Consumer Databases & Beyond• Industry logic: Knowledge is Power• From the Virtual to the Physical (deterritorialization)• Consumer Culture vs “Collective Intelligence” (Pierre Levy) Utopian or Dystopian? Power and Knowledge in Postmodernist Context
Colonizing Culture• “Colonization” metaphor used to describe systemic appropriation of cultural spaces for the propagation of Capitalist ideology• Commodity as the dominant productive force. “Fetishism of commodities” (Marx)• Social/Cultural Life thus “colonized” by this trend
The Comtemporary Cultural Locus• Paradoxical tension between increasing ubiquity of advertising and decrease in communication of individual messages• Cultural role of advertising as the principal storytelling mechanism & constitutive of societal values
Shopping Will Set You Free• Economic growth analogous to human happiness?• Deprivation and the “Third World” (dependency relations not natural)• Translation of human social desires into a commodified variant, creating a “dreamlife” culture based on material accumulation
“There is no such thing as society”• Individualization of collective issues (global and local/domestic)• Advertising’s monopoly of cultural life• Viable alternatives to Capitalist model• Are we Individualist, selfish creatures? Neoliberal & Capitalist contention
Grim Future• Rates of consumption, depletion of natural resources and other environmental concerns• Prediction of “barbarism and savagery” in New World Order• Advertising imagery powerful but short-term
Technological Imperative, Consumption & the Future• http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jp_loigmC uM• “Only when the last tree has been cut down, the last fish been caught and the last stream poisoned, will we realize that we cannot eat money” –Native American proverb