Saturday, August 19, 2006

Well, You Did Ask

Here's the abstract for the infamous dissertation. If you like this bit, I'll maybe do a Dickens/Home & Away-style serialisation, with appropriate seasonal cliffhangers:

Blogging: A New Folk Culture?

This dissertation posits the idea that the practice of weblogging has given rise to an online worldwide community of millions of cultural producer-consumers, who are collaborating creatively in the ‘blogosphere’ to create and share cultural products in a non-commercial environment.

It will examine this phenomenon in the context of four interrelated aspects of cultural theory: the idea of the lost organic community with its authentic folk culture; the role played by technology in the ebb and flow of cultural power; Adorno and Horkheimer’s concept of the profit-driven culture industry, and Fiske and De Certeau’s notion of the absence of a dedicated ‘place’ where people are free to create their own culture.

I hope to demonstrate that the blogosphere, as it exists today, embodies some of the aspects of the organic community and its authentic, non-commercial folk culture that many cultural commentators presume was wiped out by industrialisation. I also hope to show that mass access to and use of the internet as a technological tool for cultural production and distribution is tipping the balance of cultural power away from the institutions that make up the media and entertainment industry and towards this millions-strong organic community of bloggers.

However, I also plan to show that this techno-utopian state of affairs may only be temporary; as the powerful media and entertainment corporations that operate what Adorno called the ‘culture industry’ move to appropriate the blogosphere and its underlying technologies for their own profit-driven ends. In doing so, they appear to be on the verge of co-opting the community of bloggers into acting as largely unpaid workers, using them as an audience that can be sold to advertisers, and as poorly-remunerated carriers of advertising. I will examine how these shifting power relations threaten to compromise the idea of the blogosphere as a communal, creative ‘place’.

The dissertation combines established cultural theory with emerging research into the size and nature of the blogosphere, together with a number of first-hand case study examples of ‘grass-roots’ cultural production in this new, but already threatened, ‘organic folk community’.

Gawd.

18 comments:

longcat said...

well... i would read it, particularly in serialised form...

that article you linked to the other day in the wire was very interesting and the notion of consumers of entertainment being a dormant mass a decade ago and being more like producer/consumers now is a resonant one...

rock on patroclus... you fire my neurons...

x

cello said...

Damnit. I've been suspecting this for some time, but you really are cleverer than me.

realdoc said...

and you questioned your eloquence yesterday?
Clear, concise and interesting.(with references to stuff I shall have to look up)
Someone once told me that being in the company of intelligent and opinionated people forces you to up your game. I can only say that I have a long way to climb.

More please.

First Nations said...

rock
on!

bring it, patroclus.

chatterbox said...

I really would read this....please give us more..

Struggles for control of cultural products are always fascinating, and I don't know anywhere near enough about this one.

I'm so interested I've even made the effort to post rather than just read!!

Tim Footman said...

As you know, Adorno really floats my boat; Fiske and De Certeau I don't know at all, but they sounds interesting; and anything with the word "posit" has a sort of endorphin/chocolate effect on my knees. It sounds fascinating.

One thing however: if we're part of a "Folk Culture" do we have to wear chunky jumpers when blogging, and type one-handed (to facilitate finger-in-ear hey-nonny-nonny pose)?

patroclus said...

Yes we do Tim, and if you find the weather in Thailand to be too clement for an Aran jumper, I'm sure one of the vast coterie of knitbloggers could fashion for you a skimpy Aran vest.

De Certeau is worth a look, he's one of those who was into the whole 'secondary production' thing about people making their own meanings and interpretations from TV programmes and stuff. The book (or at least the one I've got) is called 'The Practice of Everyday Life'.

Even just looking at the word 'posits' in the first para there makes me shudder. Brrr.

My favourite idea in the thesis is the one about how there are no free public spaces left in the physical world - like there were commons in the old days. So people have to go online to find free open space in which to create, but even those ostensibly free spaces (like Blogger) are being taken over by Google, News Corp. etc. and their use will shortly be restricted.

Blah blah blah. I'm going for a walk now in the real countryside.

james henry said...

Mmm, I'm a bit worried that Blogger will soon start to put adverts on the blogs or ask for some kind of subscription (which is their right I suppose), and I'll have to jump ship back to my own site and re-start a blog from there. Or I might give it up altogether, not sure.

The 'no commons any more' thing reminds me of a recent Onion headline along the lines of 'MIcrosoft uses copyright law to patent zeroes, ones'.

extemporanea said...

Oooh, Adorno/Horkheimer! and Fiske! I've used their work extensively with analysis of Disney, and also with theorising fan culture and fan fiction. Adorno and Horkheimer are personal favourites of mine, they push all my paranoid conspiracy theory buttons.

Are you using Henry Jenkins, btw? v. interesting on participatory culture.

patroclus said...

Hi extemporanea - yes, Henry Jenkins gets a namecheck...let me see, hang on...

Theorists like Michel de Certeau, John Fiske and Henry Jenkins have argued that even though they are denied the opportunity to participate in television culture, consumers are still capable of being producers of culture through the act of 'secondary production', whereby they create their own meanings and cultural texts from what they see on the screen. Examples of this secondary production cited by Jenkins include fan-fiction, fan art, fanzines and amateur video-making.

Although I wasn't using Jenkins so much, because I'm trying to show that there is bona fide primary cultural production in the blogosphere, rather than just secondary production (i.e. people are making their own original stuff, not simply recycling/personalising the stuff they see on telly, films etc.)

ScroobiousScrivener said...

More! More!

Heather said...

If it wasn't for Fiske I wouldn't have a degree. I can say this with some certainty, he did after all write about half of my textbooks, excellent stuff Patroclus.

Would be delighted to read more.

Homer said...

Cripes. A certain person told me you were insanely brainy.

Should you ever have a Christmas do to which partners are invited, I'm washing my hair.

the whales said...

...more please!...

(just printed it out to take down the pub with me. Because frankly at the moment i don't understand it and it's way over my head but i tend to improve as the evening wears on...)

patroclus said...

Oo, hello Slurker, congratulations on making an honest man of our LC. I think we may actually be planning something of the sort for our Christmas do, in which case it will be lovely to meet you.

Whales: I'd be interested to know what you thought as the evening wore on, although it probably doesn't improve with re-reading. All those things in inverted commas, yuk.

POE said...

Oooh, that sounds good. Can we have more? Preferably without the constant jumping around of Bleak House...

The Fiske and De Certeau theory sounds interesting - which book should I read for more info? Or is there a website somewhere?

patroclus said...

Thanks Poe. The De Certeau book I've got is The Practice of Everyday Life. The Fiske one I've got is the entry-level (I don't go much beyond entry level, to be honest) Understanding Popular Culture.

I see the De Certeau link on Amazon also brings up a whole host of other books about 'place' and 'non-place' which I'm shortly going to wish I'd read.

occasional poster of comments said...

Ah, this is great. And you've reminded me of some people I meant to get around to reading.

My ex was doing a Communications Studies degree when I met her, so she was always talking about De Certeau, Adorno, Baudrillard. Actually Fiske and Horkheimer vaguely ring a bell too. Well, anyway, they all sounded like the kind of stuff I should have studied instead of philosophy. So far I've only got as far as half a Baudrillard book. Ho hum. But one day...