Media, culture and identity


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Media, culture and identity

  1. 1. Media, culture and identity: A reviewof concepts covered in lecture 4 SOWK 1105
  2. 2. What is culture? Despite of confusion and complexity, one point is clear: culture is no longer merely elite, intellectual and artistic; it is now everywhere. Culture does not only refer to the general human development, but also to any particular way of life. Culture is ordinary! Culture is both material and symbolic. Cultural materialism (Raymond Williams, E.P. Thompson, Richard Hoggart)
  3. 3. The Circuit of Culture (Du Gay et al., 1997) Meanings are produced at several different sites and circulated through several different processes or practices: How a cultural artifact is represented, what social identities are associated with it, how it is produced and consumed, and what mechanisms regulate its distribution and use. Marxist assumptions Culture as mass deception (Adorno & Horkheimer, 1979)
  4. 4. The Circuit of Culture (Du Gay et al., 1997) Representation: Production of the meaning of concepts in our minds through language. We give things meaning by how we represent them – the words we use about them, the stories we tell about them, the images of them we produce, the emotions we associate with them, the ways we classify and conceptualize them, the values we place on them. Identity: Meaning gives us a sense of identity, of who we are and with whom we “belong” to – how culture is used to mark out and maintain identity within and difference between groups. Production: Meaning is constantly produced and exchanged in every personal and social interaction in which we take part. It is also produced in a variety of different media, these days, in the modern mass media in a global scale which circulate meanings between different cultures on a scale and with a speed hitherto unknown in history. Consumption: Meaning is produced whenever we express ourselves in, make use of, consume or appropriate cultural “things”. Regulation: Meanings regulate and organize our conduct and practices – they help to set the rules, norms and conventions by which social life is ordered and governed.
  5. 5. Questions Who is now in control of the media? Increasing concentration of economic capitals in a few capitalists or a diverse ownership of capitals through the invention of joint stock companies? Does popular culture show homogeneity? Or, does it carry multiple and even conflicting representations (discourses) – with some being dominant and others being opposing or alternative? Are people really so passive vis-a-vis mass culture that they are simply manipulated by it? How do culture industries turn people into commodities? How people turn the products of industry into their popular culture serving their interests”?
  6. 6. Identity (as Grace Lee, as post-80s) Self identity: The conception we hold of ourselves. Meaning gives us a sense of identity, of who we are and with whom we “belong” to – how culture is used to mark out and maintain identity within and difference between groups. Social identity: Social expectations, normative rights and obligations ascribed to individuals form our social identity. The notion of what it is to be an individual is social in character and identity is formed from social and cultural resources, notably language.
  7. 7. Identity projects Identity projects – the ongoing creation of narratives of self- identity relating to our perceptions of the past, present and hoped for future. Giddens (1991) suggests that self-identity is constituted by the ability to sustain a narrative about the self, thereby, building up a consistent feeling of biographical continuity. Identity is something we create, something always in process. Identity as temporary fixations: Identity is a temporary stabilization of meaning, a becoming rather than a fixed entity. The suturing or stitching together of the discursive “outside” with “internal” processes of subjectivity. Points of temporary attachment to the subject positions which discursive practices construct for us. Identifications: Contingent and temporary points of attachment or emotional investment which, through fantasy partially suture or stitch together discourses and psychic forces.
  8. 8. Subjectivity Subjectivity: The conditions of being a person and the processes by which we become a person, that is, how we are constituted as subjects. As subjects, that is as persons, we are “subject to” social processes which bring us into being as “subjects for” ourselves and others. The de-centred or post-modern subject: Persons are composed of not one but several, sometimes, contradictory, identities, pulling in different directions, so that our identifications are continually being shifted about. (Hall, 1992) Axes of identity: class, age, gender, ethnicity, disability, sexuality, education, urban/rural, cultural background,
  9. 9. Identity theories Essentialism vs. social constructionism debate Essentialism - assumes that descriptions of ourselves reflect an essential underlying identity Anti-essentialism – identity is plastic. Identities are discursive constructions which change their meanings according to time, place and usage. Social constructionism – identity are socially constituted or socially constructed. We should develop a more sophisticated mindset, for understanding the complexity of people, culture and society: undo prejudices, problematize ‘common-sense’
  10. 10. Theories of culture Think about these oppositions: black vs. white; East vs. West; HongKongers vs. Mainlanders; Christians vs. Muslims vs. Buddhist; homosexuality vs. heterosexuality… How essential these differences are? Are they inborn? Fixed? Unchangeable? Always significant for every daily action and decision of ours? Where do these differences come from? Are they just natural? Or man-made? Are they essential? Or constructed?
  11. 11. Essentialism Essentialism – a system of fixed values and beliefs, functioning as a timeless truth about people and things, regardless of any social, historical and political realities. It is assumed that there is a universal essence, homogeneity and unity in a particular culture. A non-essentialist view of culture focuses on the complexity of culture as a fluid, creative social force which binds different groupings and aspects of behaviour in different ways What is the problem of an obsessive emphasis on the “uniqueness” and “difference” of cultures? What is the problem of holding a static notion of culture founded on ethnicity, race or nationality?
  12. 12. Culturism – essentialising culture(s) Culturism takes an essentialist perspective on culture, regarding culture as a fixed system of belief and practice, regardless of socio- historical context. Culturism is often used to explain differences of behaviors and thoughts between different communities. When culturism is pushed to its extreme… - religious fundamentalism - colonialism - terrorism
  13. 13. Culture/Identity is fluid and changing “Culture(s)” refers not necessarily to a national or ethnic essence; but simply to any cohesive social grouping. There is not a culture born or predetermined to be dominant; neither is one essentially marginal or subordinate. We cannot “explain away” all the observations in an essentialist manner, but seeks to interpret the dynamics and the emergence of behaviors in the individual or the social grouping. People from different cultures and communities are not passive. Being active, they both influence and are influenced by the social reality.
  14. 14. What is being gay identity? Are people born heterosexual or homosexual, or does sexual orientation develop as they grow? Gay/woman/Chinese is born or made? Organic defeat, hormonal disturbance, early children experiences? Genetic predisposition? Homosexual taboo, homophobia and heterosexism? The concept of long-term monogamous heterosexual coupledom? Clear and rigid gender roles? A belief system equates morality with sexuality? A label? A means to stand out? What are the dominant representations of sexual minorities (e.g., gay men and Lesbians) in the media?
  15. 15. Essentialist arguments (mainly scientists andpsychiatrists) They viewed sex as an instinctual drive and considered sexual identities as a cognitive realisation of genetic predisposition. Key question: What makes a person homosexual? They studied “homosexuals” initially as “perverted”, then as “sick” and finally as “different” persons. For them, someone “is” a homosexual. They sought for the origin of homosexual: organic defeat, hormonal disturbance, early children experiences, etc. Researches usually had strong clinical implications, with or without sympathy, c.f. Ellis (1920); Krafft-Ebbing (1965); Bieber (1962); Socarides (1978); Kinsey et al (1948); Hooker (1958); Westwood (1960); Bell and Weinberg (1978).
  16. 16. Social constructionist arguments (mainly sociologists, e.g. Simon& Gagnon, 1967; McIntosh, 1968; Plummer, 1981) They stressed the fact that sexuality and sexual identities are social constructions that belongs less to biology but to the world of culture and meaning. They focused on the inconsistency and insufficiency of cause-and-effect relationship between homosexuality and genetic make-up or early socialisation, and pointed to the political implications in the regulation of homosexuality and thus shifted the question to the formation of homosexual taboo, homophobia and heterosexism. Key question: Why homosexuality should be devalued, be invested with so many fears, hostility and rage?
  17. 17. The making of a gay identity Dominant ideology: Compulsory heterosexuality Homophobia: A deep antipathy, disgust, or dislike of homosexuals Heterosexism: Heterosexuality as the ideal form of sexuality in which heterosexist practices are accompanied by a whole conglomerate of linked institutions such as the family, the school, the religion, the workplace, and even “love”. Finally, constructionists move us out of the realm of ontology (what the homosexual is) and into the realm of social and discursive formations (how the homosexual identity is produced).
  18. 18. The Queer turn (90s-) The traditional term “gay and lesbian” apparently assumes a polarised binary between hetero-and homo- sexuality. Queer embraces the multiplicity of sexualities by adding other “non-conventional” sexualities like bisexual, transvestite, pre-and post-op transsexual and includes other outcast positions along racial, ethnic and class lines. Queer includes “deviants” and “perverts” who may subvert hetero/homo divisions and exceed conventional delineation of sexual identity as well as other non-sexual normative practices.
  19. 19. What is traditional Chinese culture? China covers a large geographical region in eastern Asia with customs and traditions varying greatly between towns, cities and provinces. There are 56 distinct ethnic groups in China. In terms of numbers, however, the pre-eminent ethnic group is the Han Chinese. Many within the Han identity have maintained distinct linguistic and regional cultural traditions. What is Chinese society? Chinese culture? Chinese tradition? What is traditional Chinese culture? What is the origin? Is history linear?
  20. 20. Post-80’s/ ( 八十後反高鐵青年 ) They are being spoiled, self-centered, aloof and rebellious. A troubled generation, brought up in a mixed atmosphere where hot competition coexisted with unprecedented physical comforts. Fully exposed to commercialized society, they are materialistic! With social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, they can discuss and exchange views with others. They are not afraid to express them out in public, even on issues that may or may not directly affect them e.g. the Express Rail, economy and demand for universal suffrage. 政府的計時炸彈
  21. 21. MediaMedium: middle (in Latin)Media: more than one mediumBroad sense: an intermediate agency that enables communication to take place, or to mediate between the reality and the idea. Examples: speech, writing, gestures, facial expression, dress, acting, dancing, etc.Narrow sense: a technological development that extends the channels, range or speed of communication. Can refer to means of communication (e.g. print media, broadcast media); or to technical forms by which these means are actualised (e.g. radio, television, newspapers, books, photographs, films, records)Mass media: more than one source of information designed to reach out to many people (a mass audience) through a technological means of communicationMass communication: the practice and product of providing leisure entertainment and information to an unknown audience by means of corporately financed, industrially produced, state regulated, high technology, privately consumed commodities in the modern print, screen, audio and broadcast media.
  22. 22. Media power vs. audience power (Gauntlett,2002) Within limits, the mass media is a force for change. The traditional view of a woman as a housewife has been shaken by successful “girl power” icons (e.g. Marie Claire) The masculine ideals of toughness, stubborn self-reliance and emtoional silence have been shaken by a new emphasis on men’s emotions, need for advice and the problem of masculinity. Alternative ideals and images have created space for a greater diversity of identities. Modern media has little respect for tradition. Popular media fosters the desire to create new modes of life (within the context of capitalism)
  23. 23. New media New media is a term meant to encompass the emergence of digital, computerized, or networked information and communication technologies in the later part of 20th C. Until the 1980s media relied primarily upon print and art analog broadcast models, such as those of television and radio. The last twenty-five years have seen the rapid transformation into media which are predicated upon the use of digital computers, such as the Internet and computer games. The use of digital computers has transformed the remaining old media, as suggested by the advent of digital television and online publications. Even traditional media forms such as the printing press have been transformed through the application of image manipulation software and desktop publishing tools.
  24. 24. Public vs. private W. Russell Neuman (1991): "We are witnessing the evolution of a universal interconnected network of audio, video, and electronic text communications that will blur the distinction between interpersonal and mass communication and between public and private communication.” The new media alters the meaning of geographic distance, allow for an increase in the volume of communication. It provides the possibility of increasing the speed of communication, opportunities for interactive communication, the potential for a democratic postmodern public sphere, in which citizens can participate in well informed, non-hierarchical debate.
  25. 25. Globalisation Manovich (2001) and Castells (1995) have argued that whereas mass media corresponded to the logic of industrial mass society, which values conformity over individuality,’ new media follows the logic of the postindustrial or globalized society whereby “every citizen can construct her own custom lifestyle and select her ideology from a large number of choices. Rather than pushing the same objects to a mass audience, marketing now tries to target each individual separately.” (Manovich 2001:42).
  26. 26. Interactivity & new media User-to-user interactivity Interactivity between user and information “One-to-many" model of traditional mass communication to the possibility of a "many-to-many" web of communication New Media changes continuously due to the fact that it is constantly modified and redefined by the interaction between the creative use of the masses, emerging technology, cultural changes, etc.
  27. 27. Gay/queer politics A shift from a perverted sad personage to a new cultural cosmopolitan subject:  tongzhi/tungzi (Cant.)  Gay/gei (Cant.), gay/gay lo (Cant.),, ‘member/memba (Cant.)’, jat zai/ling zai (Cant.), gamgong Barbie (Cant.)  lesi, pure, T B, TBG  The queer world:  Self-fashioned notion of cultural citizenship  Heavy undertone of middle-class or bourgeois individualism, intricately related to conspicuous consumption  Creates a hierarchy of queer citizens that privileges certain bodies but advantages others along the line of class, gender performance, age, race and ethnicity, and so forth
  28. 28. Examples  (Stuart Koe)  RTHK Gay Lover (2006)  Nutong Xueshe (2007) In/Out: Hong Kong Tongzhi Art  Hong Kong Lesbian and Gay Film and Video Festival Other popular cultures that touch on LGBT issues:  Novel, e.g., Julian Lee 李志超 , Jimmy Ngai 魏紹恩 , Barry Yip 葉志偉  Film critics, e.g., Jimmy Ngai 魏紹恩 , Maike 邁克 , Yau Ching 游靜 , Anson Mak 麥海珊  Theatre, e.g., Edward Lam 林奕華 , Wong Chi-Lung 黄智龍  Pop music, e.g., Anthony Wong 黃耀明 , Chet Lam 林一峰  Radio, e.g., Wallace Kwok 郭啟華 , Brian Leung 梁兆輝