The details for my departments seminar series are now available for this semester.The talks cover a range of topics, from the iPhone to heavy metal to Manga and draw upon a range of critical perspectives, theories and methods that will be of interest to those working across the social sciences and humanities more generally. Highlights include Professor Robert Hackett from Simon Fraser university coming to give a talk on ‘journalism for a world in crisis’.
If you are in the Newcastle area please come along!
‘Technology as being-with world: an atmospheric account of the iPhone 4S’
Dr James Ash
Monday 1st October
Abstract: Examining developments in context aware computing, this talk rethinks the status of technical objects in media studies analysis. Developing Levi Bryant’s account of allopoietic objects and Peter Sloterdijk’s account of spheres, the article argues that technical objects are not lifeless mechanisms but actively produce atmospheres that shape the potentials for action of both non-humans and humans alike. To unpack these claims, the talk examines one technical object: the iPhone 4S. Through the example, the talk suggests that technical objects operate through three modes of being-with world that it terms indifference, hospitality and hostility. Reflecting on an account of being-with opens new ways for media studies to think through the relationship between human and technical objects and how objects enter into and structure humans concerns and engagement with the world.
‘JOURNALISM FOR A WORLD IN CRISIS: THE ‘REGIME OF OBJECTIVITY’ VERSUS PEACE JOURNALISM AND OTHER CHALLENGER PARADIGMS’
Professor Robert Hackett
Thursday 11th October
Abstract: Vis-à-vis unfolding global crises of governance, violence and environmental decline, we are in need of journalisms that can support both collective action and reinvigorated democratic participation. In light of such needs, this paper critically examines the relevance and status of ‘the regime of objectivity’ in (North American) journalism and its implications for crisis engagement. I then consider the characteristics and prospects for emerging “challenger” paradigms, notably peace journalism as well as environmental communication, that are oriented towards non-violent social change, and that overlap with the project of democratic empowerment in the media field.
‘Metal vs. Feminism: Gender Politics and Extreme Heavy Metal Music’
Dr Lee Barron
Monday 22nd October
Abstract: This paper examines the relationship between extreme metal and gender, specifically the sexual representation of women in a ‘underground’ metal subgenre that developed in the 1990s dubbed ‘porngrind’. This is a subgenre of metal that fuses the lyrical content and sound of death metal with a sustained focus on sexual explicitness, sexual violence and misogyny. The paper explores the relationship between porngrind and feminist positions on pornography, most significantly the anti-pornography approach of Andrea Dworkin. However, the paper contends that the subject-matter of porngrind actually identifies a degree of proximity between it and Dworkin in that they both perceive pornography to be reducible to, and representative of, sex as an act of domination, brutality and the aggressive possession and exploitation of female bodies.
(Fullmetal) alchemy: the monstrosity of reading words and pictures in shonen manga
Dr Lesley Gallacher
Monday 5th November
Abstract: Shonen manga (Japanese comics aimed at an audience of teenage boys) are often teeming with monsters, but the texts themselves are more monstrous still. The monstrous combinations of words and picture dispersed across the manga page seem to expose and challenge a fissure within representation itself—but productively so. Through reading a short section of Hiromu Arakawa’s Fullmetal Alchemist, this paper explores the ways in which words and pictures can be combined to produce monstrous composite texts, which remain open-ended even after they have been recognized and ‘domesticated’ through the practices of reading.
‘Military Videogames: audience dispositions, popular geopolitics and the morality of combat’
Daniel Bos and Dr Matthew Rech
Monday 19th Nov
Abstract: Military-themed video games, such as Call of Duty and Battlefield, have become prominent fixtures within the popular entertainment landscape. These particular videogames have come under increasing scrutiny from various commentators outlining the games sanitization of military action, the negative portrayal of people and places, and as a cultural outlet that contributes to the ‘normalisation’ of militarism within society. These videogames are argued to encourage a ‘culture of consent’ that suppresses player’s deliberation over the use and utility of military violence. Yet, within this burgeoning scholarship, little investigation has sought to establish the actual consumption, interpretation and interaction of the users themselves.
Empirically, using a popular geopolitics-inspired approach to audience dispositions, the seminar will discuss analysis of YouTube comments on the “No Russian” level of the military FPS Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. Here, players are able to participate in a terrorist attack on an airport which involves the killing of unarmed civilians. The level is shown to prompt a range of responses from gamers which both compound and unbalance a reading of players as morally disengaged.
Specifically it will be shown that players, to varying degrees, are able to contextualise their virtual actions relative to broader discourses of terrorism, contemporary conflict and geopolitics, and furthermore, to enact a playful pacifism at times. Overall, the seminar suggests that to more fully understand the efficacy of videogames and gaming as (geo)political events and the connectivity between the virtuality and ‘reality’ of global politics, more must be done to understand individual experiences of military-themed games.