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LEA Special Issue from PerthDAC: Part 2

Social Media: Narrative and Literacy in Digital Culture

(See also PerthDAC Special Section: Embodiment and Presence)

Guest Editors: Andrew Hutchison (Curtin University) and Ingrid Richardson (Murdoch University)

The six papers here from the the perthDAC (Digital Arts and Culture) 2007 conference analyse the collective phenomenon that we call "social media".

In recent years, a range of digital devices have begun to lose their distinct functions, and their presence in various physical and social situations has gone from being novel to normal. An even greater number of ways of organising data on these merging physical devices have sprung up - blogging, pod-casting, "my space"-ing and "face-book"-ing. These organisational modes inherently collect personal information – not just raw data, but also stories, opinions and memories. Further, they also enable very rapid and frequent links to other individuals’ digital aggregations.

This selection of papers shed light on how our digital media-scape is changing the way we socialise, our use of narrative, and how a new kind of literacy is evolving.

Christy Dena anticipates future cultural practices, and in the process, declares that the study of "new" media is occurring with an unwise disregard for the past (and continuing) importance of "old" media.

Mary Flanagan explores the social and political possibilities of "locative" media - mobile media in a particular physical context - manifested in new media art, with aspects of play and game.

Lisbeth Klastrup discusses the characteristics of "mobile storytelling" - the use of editing, the application of narrative conventions and reader/viewer responses in social media.

Mark McGuire examines the pod-casting phenomenon within the context of other social media, and in particular, how businesses strategies work to ensure that the digital domain continues to support consumption, rather than social communication.

Jill Walker-Rettberg traces the collapse of the separation between private and public spaces that has occurred due to participatory media, and explores the future of social media.

And finally, Suzette Worden examines the role of museums in making history and cultural memory, and how this is impacted by new communication and visualisation technologies. In particular, the role of physical environments that relate to virtual spaces in supporting "memory institutions" are explored.

We hope that you find these papers illuminating.

We would like to thank Leonardo Electronic Almanac for the opportunity to present this unique combination of papers, and also, the over two hundred scholars who were involved in the double blind (abstract AND full paper) reviewing process that produced these papers (see http://beap.org/dac/). And of course, congratulations go to the authors of the papers themselves.

Table of Contents

The Future of Digital Media Culture is All in Your Head: An Argument for Integration Cultures
Christy Dena: University of Sydney, Australia

Although research into digital media culture assists greatly in understanding new technologies, its influences and affects, to continue to do so in isolation of other media shows little regard for the reality of its role and use. ‘Old’ or ‘traditional’ media such as dusty books and smudged newspapers, consensus television, linear films and radio are also part of the daily medial diet of humans. Indeed, this paper argues that an emerging cultural approach is the integration of all media and that this will continue in the near- to long-term future. We are no longer in a Digital Age, we are instead in an Age of Integration. This argument is explored through providing examples of extant integration practices and outlining economic and cognitive influences. Finally, these influences and existing practices are utilized as insights into potential future cultural practices. READ THE FULL ARTICLE

Visiting the Past as a Way to the Future: Virtual Environments for Social Memory Construction
Suzette Worden: Curtin University of Technology, Perth WA Australia

ABSTRACT: In considering the future it is often necessary to re-visit the past. New communication and visualisation technologies have enhanced the ability of individuals and groups to create narratives to portray ideas about the past. Museums in particular have created projects about the past that offer rewarding experiences for their audience in all kinds of contexts. However, in the last few years the results of these activities have moved from being called ‘histories’ to being called accounts of cultural or social memory, where museums and libraries have become memory institutions. This paper will examine how traces of the past can be brought together to inform the future and whether this emphasis on memory denotes a more active and participatory role for those who are involved as visitors or ‘users’ of digital resources. The first part of this discussion is a theoretical examination of history making and within that process, how ideas about physical environments relate to virtual spaces that are created to support the ‘memory institution.’ In order to explore migration in detail, a project that explores memory traces between mining heritage in Cornwall, UK and Western Australia is discussed to show what aspects of past mining heritage can meaningfully be connected to aspects of present economic growth. It is proposed that memory institutions need to provide a rich experience for social memory to be constructed; where ‘history’ might have many ways of telling and is fluid and re-traceable. READ THE FULL ARTICLE

Virtual Communities and Podcasting: the emergence and transformation of public electronic space
Mark McGuire: University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand

ABSTRACT: In this paper, I discuss the Podcasting phenomenon within the context of other efforts to utilize the Internet as a space for social communication. Drawing upon Jürgen Habermas’s work on the emergence of the “public sphere,” and its transformation into a “sphere of culture consumption,” I argue that a similar transformation has taken place in electronic space. Early attempts to construct virtual communities to support open communication have led to private, commercial sites that serve business objectives. A similar transformation can be traced in the development of podcasting, as amateur, volunteer efforts are overshadowed by professional, corporate content. I conclude that, in the privatized environment of the Internet, efforts to engage in open, public communication will continue to be limited as businesses develop new strategies to ensure that the digital domain supports consumption, rather than social communication. READ THE FULL ARTICLE

Blogs, Literacies and the Collapse of Private and Public
Jill Walker Rettberg: University of Bergen

ABSTRACT: Recent years have shown a dramatic shift in the balance between private and public that has distressed many cultural commentators, from scholars like Habermas and Sennett to the mass media. This paper sees participatory media as a significant factor in this shift and compares the transition to participatory media to the transition to print and general literacy several hundred years ago. The spread of literacy and the parallel skills of writing and silent reading led, according to scholars like Eisenstein and Chartier, to the separation of private from public and the development of solipsistic forms of thought. Likewise, this paper argues, the spread of instantaneous publication and social, shared, conversational media such as blogs is intimately connected with the collapse of private and public. What, then, will the future of participatory media, and blogging in particular, be like? READ THE FULL ARTICLE

Telling & Sharing? Understanding Mobile Stories & the Future of Narratives
Lisbeth Klastrup: National Center for Design Research, Copenhagen, Denmark

ABSTRACT: This paper discusses the current characteristics of mobile storytelling based on the study of three different frameworks for mobile storytelling and 166 sample stories. It discusses the characteristics of mobile storytelling and presents a brief framework of analysis. It then for each of the cases present an analysis of how users elaborate on a given theme, the use of editing, the application of narrative conventions and reader/viewer responses. It concludes that people partake of conventional storytelling techniques, when specifically asked to tell stories. People rarely use text and focus on “mundane” content, that is selected for sharing post-facto. There is very little dialogic interaction between storytellers and readers. However, providing concrete frameworks or motivations for storytelling seem to encourage storytelling practices in general. READ THE FULL ARTICLE

Locating Play and Politics: Real World Games & Activism
Mary Flanagan: Tiltfactor, Hunter College NYC

ABSTRACT: This paper explores locative media projects involving play and games, and their potential to act as a tool for empowerment, community building, and cultural change. Locative media, as a genre of projects and as a set of tools and technologies, often offers playful scenarios or actual games with which to explore spaces, particularly the space of the city. What contemporary media artists attempt—to create novel experiences in the space of the urban environment—involves mapping, psychogeography, and the city using new technology for play. In many of these projects, the themes of mobility and play are touted as liberatory. The history of these types of creative projects which engage the city, and the insight they offer to recent work, will be highlighted in this paper in an attempt to flesh out the social and political possibilities of taking play to the streets. READ THE FULL ARTICLE

Updated 25 February 2009

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