Research and study in the realm of local and global social interaction

news media

Ethnomediology is admittedly an obscure neologism, but I think it does the job of representing the core of my interests and studies in the media by placing people (“ἔθνος”) first, before the media that facilitates interaction, understanding, and frames of meaning. In using the term “ethnomediology” I am developing this concept as it relates directly to cultural and social anthropological studies, focusing on the many varied ways people frame intermediations through the negotiation of narratives, technologies, and archival materials. By media, I mean the plural of “medium,” a human interactive social process. In our time, the primary and most prominent form of media is digital, shared through various machines and platforms regularly integrated in our lives through varying modes of access.

When most people think of the word “media” itself, they tend to think of the “news” media or other authoritative outlets. At their core, news media and authoritative structures normalize narratives relevant to those people who have centralized resources. Increased accessibility to these technologies challenges (even destroys) the old hierarchical rules about authority and bias in mass communication. I think that’s pretty amazing, and it makes reasonable sense to me, considering that all narrative is subjective. Moreover, it is noticeable how much tension and struggle that deconstruction of hierarchical authority creates in our news media’s inherited power dynamic. Including more voices and more perspectives in our media increases equity, but is challenged by entrenched power structures. There is a shift. Large platform comedy and parody shows such as Last Week Tonight with John Oliver and Trevor Noah’s The Daily Show offer a somewhat “realer” look at current events. More recently, individual content creators distributing through YouTube or via podcasts provide reasonable, thoughtful, and aware look at the flow of information than any other “authoritative” news agency. The shift toward access and more widespread distribution of resources destabilizes inequitable power structures. But while broader access to digital technologies and the internet gives more people the opportunity for active engagement with and expression of our own media, large corporations take advantage of the centuries-old inequity by capitalizing on this shifting flow, creating further authoritative models. I think this ongoing struggle of equity is worth our direct attention, and so I study that in media. And as media, broadly speaking, is a text that can be revisited and re-appropriated over time under changing social contexts, archives are an important focus of that study. Whose voices occupy our archives and how do those voices guide our current understanding of ourselves? How does media communicate ideas about communities in other regions or nation states? Representation in media and archives is about social justice, and about who we want to become.

“The basic tool for the manipulation of reality is the manipulation of words. If you can control the meaning of words, you can control the people who must use them.”

Philip K. Dick

#Ethnomediology Posts