Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Television on the Borderlands

Dear all, I am very, very happy to announce that my first book has been published :) I had a great stage-fright when it came out in December but now I got used to its presence in bookshops. It is the end of a very long journey. I am particularly enthusiastic about the cover, which looks like this: .
. The funny TV set on the cover is the artwork by Erno Bartha The Triptych from the TV Mania series. I am happy that Erno allowed me to use his work. Firstly because I believe his work, the TV set opening itself is the metaphorical representation of the main argument I make: television by the act of letting in the Other and his own representation (even though within the narrow niche) into the broadcasted main stream communicates interculturally and opens itself and its viewers to the other point of view. Secondly I really enjoyed the TV Mania exhibition that I visited when in Cluj-Napoca, Romania. I found it extremely funny on one hand and theoretically interesting on the other. It is a game with the object that is no longer used and lost its initial function. Now being an empty shell may be filled in with different content, different uses and roles. I have already written about this exhibition earlier on this blog. If you want to see more Bartha’s works visit his site. . The book itself is the shortened version of my Ph.D thesis defended in 2010. It is based on analysis and research conducted in 2008 and 2009 so as TV texts are rather ephemeral ones it is in fact it is rather historical book now. I treat it as a representation and critical analysis of a television scape in a given historical moment. . The main aim of the book is presenting various strategies the Others are presenting themselves in the main stream of television broadcasting. I was not interested in the images of the otherness created by the representatives of main stream television programmes (as travel series) but the selfportraits the representatives of the nondominant societies and groups are allowed to present – even though these representations can be found mostly in niches. In spite of that one can still perceive cracks on the monolith surface of the mainstream media. . The book consists of four chapters. The first one is a methodological one, where multimodal text analysis, content analysis and ethnographical methods are presented and justified. The latter three chapters are case studies of abovementioned cracks in the mainstream media ordered by the geographical scale. . The second chapter regards television texts moving in global scale above administrative borders of states and mental borders of nations: the country promotion spots. They are only one way of national branding but, as I see it, the most global and influential as transmitted by the worldwide news channels as CNN or BBC. I analyse them as Arjun Appadurai’s mediascape elements that has the power of setting in motion the human masses (tourists and investors) due to the stir of collective imagination. . The third chapter regards the phenomenon that I call the trasnborder television. These are the television programmes that are realized in co-productions by the neighbor states. All analysis in this chapter is based on programmes produced by Polish television in cooperation with German, Ukrainian, Czech, Slovak, Hungarian and Byelorussian broadcasters. Some of them are stable and are still on air, some survived only two or three episodes (Ukrainian ones), some did not survive the political tensions (the case of Byelorussian series). . The last chapter is the longest and represents all the methodological equipment I have suggested in the first chapter. It is a monograph of the local scale otherness self-representation in television and regards the national and ethnic minority series in the local subsidiary of Polish Public Television in northern part of Poland Podlasie. It is the most culturally diverse part of the country with Poles, Byelorussians, Ukrainians, Russians, Lithuanians, Roma people and Polish Tatars live together, where three religions – catholic, orthodox and Islam – meet. The research I conducted covers the content analysis, ethnography of the Byelorussian viewers and the journalists creating the minority programmes. . Even though I am now so far away from these issues, into totally different groups and media really love this book :)

Monday, 21 October 2013

The sky is the limit

I really do not know why this is happening, but whenever on the plane my brain starts to work extra-intensively. I may spend a week on the beach with 7 must-read inspiring books but the best ideas come on my way back home, on the plane. Is it the change on pressure in the cabin? Or the lack of oxygen maybe. I really don't get it but if I had some frequent flyer status and was able to fly more often I would have my book and serveral articles already written. It truly amazes me because it is definitely not the case of free time - I may have more of it at home and I am not so productive. Maybe it is the case of the views I experince during the flight? Maybe when you see that the sky is the limit, you act accordingly?:)

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Perfect Sense (SPOILER)

I have just seen a really interesting film by David MacKenzie "Perfect Sense". The Polish translation of the title is just horrible (terrible title translations is our national sport). It is something like "The last love on the world" :/ Apart from gorgeous Eva Green and Ewan MacGregor the plot is very interesting too, especially in the deaf context.

The story is rather pessimistic one. There are several waves of strange disease striking the humanity. Each attack consists of two phases: first comes the overwhelming emotion (the sadness, rage, hunger, aggressiveness or love) which is followed by the lost of one of the senses. First goes the scent, then taste. The third one the humanity looses is the hearing. Can you imagine? The whole human kind being deaf?

The interesting thing about the film is the adoption process. To each loss people can perfectly adopt sooner or later. The lack of scent and taste can be substituted (in restaurant where the main male character works) with the texture of the food, its humidity or temperature. People still go to the restaurants but are looking for some other experiences then they used to.

The loss of hearing is preceded by the attack of aggressiveness. When infected people wake up after it they realise they are deaf. At first they are being isolated by the services (there are leaflets "If you are deaf stay at home"). They are kept away as unlike the loss of scent and taste deafness is serious loss, that causes the global panic. But even after this plague people can have an ordinary life. With time everything comes back to normal somehow. There are banners in public places with sign language. People are signing in restaurants, they use notes, when attending concerts they are touching the instruments and speakers to feel the sounds.

I am really courious how the Deaf community reacts to this film. On one hand it shows the deafness as a great, horrific loss, a tragedy far more serious than the lack of other senses. On the other hand the idea of deaf humanity is extremely interesting. The deaf communities would lost their uniqueness, the base of their identity and also the ground of their exclusion, but at the same time the whole social life would be organized their way.

I have asked the users of the forum for opinions. I am realy curious what they think about this vision.

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

The d(D)eaf and the Technology

During my stay at York University the emerging idea of my forthcoming project took more concrete shape. Now I can quite confidently state that the main core of my project is the usage of the technology by the deaf communities in Poland.
There are several tricky issues regarding this topic, that I will consider in the following posts. The first one is the group of the deaf itself. It is a very diverse community. The deaf, are not the same as the Deaf, hard of hearing or people that lost their hearing as adults. In fact all these groups are different and separate to the great extend. It seems that the crucial feature here is the disability. While deafness is very often considered as illness, as a kind of lack the group of Deaf, perceiving themselves as language minority, they won't see their bodies as damaged or disabled because of deafness.
It is very hard to find a common ground for researching and analysing the deaf considering this great difference in self-perception and identity creation. It will be - as I suppose - hard to investigate the technology usage within such a heterogeneous group of people. For sure the Internet usage will be the crucial ground for investigation here (including the usage of social media, vlogging, forums) but also the technologies such as hearing aids or implants will be taken into consideration.
So far I have started the participant observation on one of the most dynamic online deaf community, which is the

Thursday, 8 December 2011

November in Schulich School of Business

That is the problem I have always had with writing diaries - discipline and regularity. But now, almost half a year after my last post, here I am again. Last week I have received mail from new media researcher from Budapest proving that actually someone is reading this blog :) So after long months of lack of enthusiasm (and activity here) I am starting up again.

For the whole November I have left my homeland Poland and (thanks to grant from my university) went to York University in Toronto, Canada. The main aim of my visit was Schulich School of Business and especially Robert Kozinets, the author of nethnography method and this book.

I have already discussed the netnographic method of the Internet research here expressing some doubts. Now I had great opportunity to discuss my questions with the team of researchers actually coding and developing the method.

Netnography seems to be most suitable tool for researching online forums. Here the possibilities of observation, interaction, analysis of discoursive practices (access to archives!) and simply gaining access to community (for interviewing) are the best. Netnography however seems to lose its impact when it comes to investigating social network sites as Facebook. How to apply the method to this new form of online social activity?

In this case participation (so obvious and easily achieved on forums) is much more complicated. The researcher can follow some fan sites and groups - as easy as clicking Like it button. But how can he or she participate in a social group gathered on Facebook? Great amount of users protect their sites from the stranger's eye. First researcher need to become online friends with members of the community he/she is investigated. This situationa quite dramaticaly changes the classical researcher-researched relation.
In traditional ethnographic filed researcher is present in a given (limited) time frames. The relation with the observed community might have been intense and close but ended some time. What should I do with my researched FB friend after my research project is finished? Should I delete him/her? If I "keep" this relationship it will include the field in my everyday life much more than in case of offline filed research. On the other hand deleting such "friend" when the research is done points out vividly the objective, exploitive aspect of the relation (with getting rid of the informant researcher no longer needs).
In general the idea of becoming friends with respondents, gaining access to all their private comments, posts, photos, lists of their friends and their posts, photos is a little bit redifining relationship between researcher and his/her object in offline inquiry. This change is even more dramatic as far as amount (and quality) of information the investigated community has about the researcher. In the offline field researcher plays his/her social/professional role. Researcher shapes the relation with the community basing on this role. What is new in Facebook field is the threat of the loss of authority of the researcher. Not only he/she has open access to community members' profiles but also vice versa. Respondents can easily find researcher's easy comments, favourite songs and films, photos from crazy parties. I do not state it has bad influence on the researcher-community relation, maybe it can even make the communication smoother and easier but I do see some very basic differences between ethnographic and netnographic procedure and researcher-field relation.

It came as a surprise to me, that (as far as I know) most of the netnographic research actually performed by Kozinets and his team is not as participatory as I have expected from the method. It seemed to me that it is rather content and discoursive analysis followed by the interviews than becoming part of the community, "being one of them". To tell the truth it was where I have seen the biggest charm and value of this method.

The chance to talk to the "nethnographic team" at York University was a great opportunity to express my doubts - as it turned out they have similar. Robert Kozinets is now working on application of the method to the SNS as Facebook. I am really looking foreward his new text. At the York University I had opportunity to present my research project (where netnography is one of the core tools). Within next few days I will present it here as well.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Life in a Day - filmed by you

Last time I posted the lacture of Michael Wesch from Kansas State University regarding the new powerful change in peoples relations and the possibilities in oneself representation that is possible due to YouTube. That brought to my mind film Life in a Day I have watched month ago during the opening of the Cracow Film Festival. It is a project (or experiment as it is called by “authors”) undertaken on YouTube. Users were asked to submit the videos showing how did they spend 24th of July 2010. I was wandering how will I bear 1,5hour of YouTube-alike films although I can “watch” YouTube for hours without such dilemmas. I suppose I doubted in the change of format. How will YouTube films act on a big screen? How will I react to this clash of media civilizations? My viewer’s experience of YouTube films is far from my cinema experience (private vs. public sphere, dark space in case of cinema etc).

Surprisingly watching Life in a Day was not painful or unpleasant at all. In fact I really believe I could watch this global flow of images all night long.

The discourse of the organizers of the project is very “you-centered”. They underline it intensively that the real author of the film is the “you” - which in fact means the whole community of Internet (YouTube) users. The film is your (our?) perspective on reality. Life in a Day has the strong taste of the Dziga Vertov’s Kino-Pravda (Cinéma vérité). Now everybody can be Vertov’s Man with a Movie Camera recording the flow of everyday life in which trivial elements and everyday life routine is not destructive but on contrary intriguing phenomenon.

The montage of users’ films from all over the world gives the impression of participation in the truly global text in which the western oppressive perspective is less visible than on the other audiovisual platforms such as news. It looks like the strategy of “global Hollywood”* does not work in this case. We can see images from non-dominant countries (as I call regions usually labeled as Third World) shot by inhabitants of these regions, although some of them must have been shot by western “cameramen” as they reveal the surprise of the local customs and reality. However in fact the questioning the strategy of global Hollywood is quite naïve here because the creator of the project is still the western big production studio under the name-brand of Ridley Scott. It constantly upkeeps the division into creative, vibrant prestigious western center, and the rest of the world where the brilliant ideas are realized. All 4,500 hours of footage sent from all over the world had been seen, selected and edited in the western cultural paradigm.

Although many doubts occur (including the question of authorship – on the screeing in Cracow the author of Polish fragment of the film was present, although he was the author of 20-seconds image that neither me nor any of my friends have noticed , is it a real authorship?) Life in a Day seems to be a new quality as far as use the power of networked individuals in creating the new cultural text.

* T. Miller, N. Govil, J. McMurria, R. Maxwell, Global Hollywood, British Film Institute, London 2001 the idea of the mechanism of global Hollywood was inspired by F. Fröbel, J. Heinrich, O. Kreye, The New International Division of Labour, Cambridge University
Press, London, New York 1980.

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Digital Ethnography @ Kansas State University

Below please find great presentation of professor Michael Wesch giving the taste of the anthropological approach to new media platforms.


0:00 Introduction, YouTube's Big Numbers
2:00 Numa Numa and the Celebration of Webcams
5:53 The Machine is Us/ing Us and the New Mediascape
12:16 Introducing our Research Team
12:56 Who is on YouTube?
13:25 What's on Youtube? Charlie Bit My Finger, Soulja Boy, etc.
17:04 5% of vids are personal vlogs addressed to the YouTube community, Why?
17:30 YouTube in context. The loss of community and "networked individualism" (Wellman)
18:41 Cultural Inversion: individualism and community
19:15 Understanding new forms of community through Participant Observation
21:18 YouTube as a medium for community
23:00 Our first vlogs
25:00 The webcam: Everybody is watching where nobody is ("context collapse")
26:05 Re-cognition and new forms of self-awareness (McLuhan)
27:58 The Anonymity of Watching YouTube: Haters and Lovers
29:53 Aesthetic Arrest
30:25 Connection without Constraint
32:35 Free Hugs: A hero for our mediated culture
34:02 YouTube Drama: Striving for popularity
34:55 An early star: emokid21ohio
36:55 YouTube's Anthenticity Crisis: the story of LonelyGirl15
39:50 Reflections on Authenticity
41:54 Gaming the system / Exposing the System
43:37 Seriously Playful Participatory Media Culture (featuring Us by blimvisible:
47:32 Networked Production: The Collab. MadV's "The Message" and the message of YouTube
49:29 Poem: The Little Glass Dot, The Eyes of the World
51:15 Conclusion by bnessel1973
52:50 Dedication and Credits (Our Numa Numa dance)

It is really interesting presentation about anthropological approach to new media platforms with special devotion to YouTube not only as a new media tool, but mainly as a new mean of users expression and a new experience of being in touch (with who – that is completely other issue).
YouTube is not only one application – it is an element of the whole bunch of sites connected in an interactive net, in which all elements can and do influence each other. It is a new relation within mediasphere, that in television would be called intertextuality I suppose. Here the convergence (in the sense Henry Jenkins uses it) is more applicable term catching the sense of the media practices users are performing. Peoples’ activity links platform such as dig,, blogs, YouTube, Facebook…
I suppose YouTube is a great victory of everyday lifa and simple pleasures. As Michael Wesch shows in his presentation most of the videos on YouTube are home videos – simple and funny. On the other hand vlogs present the great deal of self- and technology awareness.

I really like author’s perspective - that shows great deal of anthropological (and ethnographical) sensitivity – presenting media not as its contant or even useful tool of human communication but rather as the milieu of human RELATIONS. I do really wonder if the same tale told a friend face-to-face is different when recorded on vlog or described on blog. If it changes once released to (potentially) hundreds of viewers/readers. If it changes when there is noone physically close to me – there is only computer. I believe there is a change in relation not only the mean of communication. That is the question of human experience which is far more than only the story telling.