Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Postcolonial and Transnational Cinema

Here are some recently published books on postcolonial film, third cinema and transnational cinema. If you have any other recommended books feel free to comment and add any suggestions below.

Barlet, Olivier.
African Cinema: Decolonizing the Gaze.
Translated by Chris Turner.
New York: Zed, 2000

Bernstein, Matthew, and Gaylyn Studlar, eds.
Visions of the East: Orientalism in Film
New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1997.

Brunt, Rosalind (Editor), Cere, Rinella (Editor)
Postcolonial Media Culture in Britain
Palgrave Macmillan , 2010.

, Natasa; Kathleen E Newman.
World cinemas, transnational perspectives 
Routledge 2009  

Ekotto, Frieda (Editor), Koh, Adeline (Editor) 
Rethinking Third Cinema: The Role of Anti-colonial Media and Aesthetics in Postmodernity (Kultur Forschung Und Wissensch) Lit Verlag, 2010.

Ezra, Elizabeth (Editor), Rowden, Terry (Editor) Transnational Cinema, the Film Reader (In Focus: Routledge Film Readers)
Routledge, 2005.

Fanon, Franz.
Black Skin, White Masks
Translation of Peau noire, masques blancs.(1967).

Griffiths, Alison.
Wondrous Difference: Cinema, Anthropology, and Turn-of-the-Century
Visual Culture

New York: Columbia University Press, 2002.

Guneratne, A. & Dissanayake, W (eds.)  
Rethinking Third Cinema
London & New York: Routledge, 2003. 

Hunt, L. & Wing-Fai, L.  
East Asian Cinemas: Exploring Transnational Connections on Film
London & New York: I.B. Tauris, 2008.

Hjort, M. & Mackenzie, S.  
Cinema and Nation
London: Routledge, 2000
Iordanova, Dina (Editor), David Martin-Jones (Editor), Belen Vidal (Editor)
Cinema at the Periphery (Contemporary Approaches to Film and Television Series)
Wayne State University Press , 2010.

Kaplan, E. Ann.
Looking for the Other: Feminism, Film, and the Imperial Gaze
New York: Routledge, 1997.

Kauer, R & Sinha, A (eds.) 
Bollywood: Popular Indian Cinema Through a Transnational Lens
New Delhi: Sage, 2005.

King, John, Ana M. L and Manuel Alvarado, eds.
Mediating Two Worlds: Cinematic Encounters in the
London: British Film Institute, 1993.

Knopf, Kerstin.
Decolonizing the Lens of Power. Indigenous Films in North America. (Cross/Cultures).
Publisher: Editions Rodopi BV.  2009

McIlroy, Brian. Ed. 
Genre and Cinema: Ireland and Transnationalism
London & New York: Routledge, 2007.

Naficy, Hamid.
An Accented Cinema: Exilic and Diasporic Filmmaking
Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2001.

Nestingen, A & Elkington, T. (eds.)  
Transnational Cinema in a Global North: Nordic Cinema in Transition
Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 2005.

Oksiloff, Assenka.
Picturing the Primitive: Visual Culture, Ethnography, and Early
German Cinema
New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2001.

Pisters, P. & Staat, W.  
Shooting the Family: Transnational Media and Intercultural Values
Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2005.

Rony, Fatimah Tobins.
The Third Eye: Race, Cinema, and Ethnographic Spectacle
Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1996.

Said, Edward W.
New York: Vintage, 1979.

Sherzer, Dina, ed.
Cinema, Colonialism, Postcolonialism: Perspectives from the French
and Francophone Worlds
Austin: University of Texas Press, 1996.

Shohat, Ella, and Robert Stam.
Unthinking Eurocentricism: Multiculturalism and the Media
New York: Routledge, 1994.

Shohat, E & Stam, R. (eds.) 
Multiculturalism, Postcoloniality and Transnational Media
New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 2003.

Sison, Antonio D.,
Screening Schillebeeckx: Theology and Third Cinema in Dialogue.
Palgrave Macmillan, 2006.

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Postcolonial Media Culture in Britain

New Book
Postcolonial Media Culture in Britain 
£19.99 Palgrave Macmillan 2010

Edited by ROSALIND BRUNT (Visiting Research Fellow in media studies at Sheffield Hallam University, UK); RINELLA CERE (Lecturer in media and communication studies at Sheffield Hallam University, UK).

"This fascinating text introduces readers to postcolonial theory using the context of British media culture in ethnic minority communities to explain key ideas and debates. Each chapter considers a specific media output and uses a wealth of examples to offer an absorbing insight into postcolonial media for all students of cultural and media studies."

Postcolonial and media studies: a cognitive mapping; R.Cere

The Politics of Hip Hop and Cultural Resistance: a British-Asian Perspective; A.Saeed
Alien Nation: Contemporary Black Art and Britain; L.Wainwright
Mainstreaming Cultural Diversity: Public Service Policy and British Reality Television; S.Malik
Voicing the Community: Participation and Change in Black and Minority Ethnic Local UK Radio; C.Mitchell
From Mosque to YouTube: UK Muslims Go Online; G.Bunt
'What a Burkha!': Reflections on the UK Media Coverage of the Sharia Law Controversy; R.Brunt
Engaging Theory; Making Films: Radical Black Cinema in Britain; C.Shin
You've Been Framed: Stereotyping and Performativity in Yasmin; P.Morey
Discourses of Separation: News and Documentary Representations of Muslims in Britain; M.Macdonald
Debating Contemporary Postcolonial Theory: the Limitations of a Culturalist Approach; C.Pawling

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Revolutionary Feedback Loops, Traffic, and Social Engagements

End of the Road for Traffic in Birmingham

“1,400 people across the world have joined the International Community Film Forum Group on Facebook”

In this blog I suggest that the obsession with site traffic is toxic and misguided. Against the bloggers who ‘go for quantity’ I’m trying to understand how we might provide for a system based more on the quality of the voices and the depth of the interaction.

I’ve been noticing that for new converts to digital/internet, or those in the early stages of experimentation, there emerges an obsession with hits and visits; with friends added, and follower counts achieved. Apparently these are the criteria for success. “Stats” become the direct and transparent – the only - measure of impact.

In the fleeting, virtual world, quantitative analysis is triumphant, because it means we don’t have to think about what’s really going on. Click on the stats or the follower count and we know where we are. No wonder that people are writing books with titles such as You are  not a Gadget.

But let’s agree that the desire to be noticed is not just the vanity of amateurs finding a platform and hoping for a big break opportunity. I’m not just thinking about self-promoting individuals who are as boring and tedious in the virtual world as they are in the real. Nothing changes.

Many non ego-driven individuals work selflessly with voluntary, charitable and non-profit groups to secure lasting benefits for their community. It’s not surprising that the result of putting a lot of effort into a project, or tentatively sharing your group’s lifework, leads to a desire to be noticed; with a need to measure your success.

But it’s sad that so often there is disappointment that no one is watching your video on YouTube; that only five people have read your blog (and you already know four of them). Was Web 2.0 really worth all the effort?

How do you cope with the neglect and disappointment? What happened to the instant online fame and virtual media stardom? The success stories of a great video solution to all your fund raising efforts? An end to volunteer apathy?

Many individuals and groups retreat early – at this stage; reflecting that the virtual world and the real are equally frustrating and that the people are unwilling and ungenerous. Nothing changes.

There is perhaps a sense – a reluctant admission – that the traditionalists, sceptics and cynics were right; that the digital opportunities in social media have indeed been thoroughly over hyped.

The first mistake is a retro-active idealisation of traditional media. Remember that newsletters, leaflets, staff handbooks and end-of-year reports etc were also largely unread and often ineffective.

The second mistake is to expect results in the short term. Culture change takes months, not days. My experience of working with community groups suggests that after the excitement of the initial launch, a ‘second wave’ of engagement starts to happen after about six months, not six days. Reaching the second wave takes effort too.

Accordingly, the third mistake is to assume that a social medium tirelessly runs itself. No! Social media, like relationships, require the investment of human time and people effort. Social media relationships evolve and develop; they need to be nurtured as ‘real’ relationships do; they are not simple automated machines exchanging data. That also means working from an emotional angle too, one informed by, and informing, one’s intelligence.

The fourth mistake is simply to present - to put something on display; to show off the product or service to be celebrated. You are looking at the answer. Is a bit dull. While tips, answers, and solutions are initially appealing, it’s more engaging to think in terms of adaptation rather than application. We have to switch our mindsets from finding answers to learning to ask better questions. Asking questions leads to collaboration and co-creation rather than the passive following of slavish converts. One route leads to creativity, the other to the dead weight of custom and convention. The best Roads are not always those with the most Traffic

The fifth mistake is to forget that we are dealing with social media. “i” means interactive, not “ ME ! ”

Which brings me to think about feedback loops and the spectre of revolution that is stalking parts of the world.  Sceptics have foolishly wanted to build barriers between the virtual and the ‘real’ world; rather than seeing them as related, interconnected, and feeding into one another. Surely events beget tweets as much as tweets beget events. Virtual and real interact just as much as individuals and groups do. To demolish one at the expense of the other seems to me a distortion of the fluid, shifting, and indeed unstable feedback loop.

But feedback needs to be handled with care. Care takes time, and it’s not quantifiable.
(Isn’t there a philosophy of life built around the notion of a care for being and Being?)

In one sense a feedback loop causes the painful noise that blows up the system.

In another sense, an unpleasant feedback loop asks us to re-calibrate the machinery, to re-think the technology, and attend to the quality of the voices. The loudest voices with the biggest and closest microphones may benefit from adjustments to their volume levels and their assumed proximity to the centre of the power struggle.

It’s our old friends Speaking and Listening. It’s about a space between the inputs and the outputs, and an equilibrium between them. It means dialogue

The feedback loop did not turn out to be quite the model or metaphor I was seeking. In one sense it’s the revolution out of control; blowing the system.

In another sense, it is precisely the reflective action (praxis) that might enable lasting change. That might also mean a less violent process of change and more than ephemeral gains. Maybe effective feedback is a qualitative loop rather than just a game of numbers.

What do you think? Is it technological or ideological? What is ‘It’ ?

Friday, 11 February 2011

Interactive Documentary Conference 25 March 2011, UK

Just came across the iDOCS conference - information below -
The final programme of the interactive documentary symposium i-Docs is now online!! On the 25th of March most of the key international players in the world of interactive documentary will be speaking at i-Docs in Bristol! There are 25 speakers, most of which will present their current work. Confirmed guest speakers are well known names in the industry:
  • Nick Cohen - Multiplatform Commissioning Editor, BBC, UK
So… what are you waiting for? Book your ticket now!

"for anybody interested in interactive video and new media documentary this is honestly an event not to be missed!"

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Social Media, Revolution and Historical Consciousness in Tunisia and Egypt

                                           "Tremble all ye oppressors of the world!"

Be warned that the title of this blog hints at its ambitious scope: the relationship between the kinds of communication available and the range of actions achievable. What can history tell us about the spirit of revolution and its effective transmission between individuals and between nations?

Let me say at the outset that I value immensely the opportunities afforded by new media and social media. But I would not claim to be an unqualified cyber-evangelist, and I tend not to confuse virtual and real worlds. But the question of technological hype and social hyperactivity being mixed up with the evolving situation of hyper revolution and regime change is a most interesting one.

Against the geektech utopians we need to assert that social media is not innately liberal or liberating. Web 2.0 has helped to create and promote opportunities for paedophiles and depraved pornographers; to support an economy of cheap and unpaid labour; to exacerbate bullying and abuse; it has served to counter and unmask many of these shameful activities. 

On balance, social media may have positive tendencies, but the wisdom of crowds is not always wisdom. A short time separates the heroic Robespierres from the heroic Napoleans, the idealistic socialist liberators from the totalitarian Stalinists.

History shows that free communication is the first casualty of movements for reform. Moreover, the proof of a revolutionary climate can be demonstrated by the counter-revolutionary measures need to control and contain it. The 1789 French Revolution resulted in strict measures in Britain against liberals and free-thinkers, with arrests, censorship, imprisonment, and the suspension of habeas corpus, all forming part of the ‘terror’ that was a response to the terrors of revolution. Liberalism breeds a counterweight of reactionary forces geared to the defence of privilege and tradition.

The cautionary words of discredited war-mongers such as Tony Blair, on the need to avoid change, and maintain peace at all costs, gloss over the regime of terror that has dominated Egypt for forty years. And how quick are the Western liberals, as Zizek has repeatedly pointed out, to retreat from democracy, for fear of the election, or popularity of candidates who support radical, fundamental, traditional, or fantasy Islam (depending on your political/religious perspective.)

In Egypt, the regime’s switching off the internet, and hijacking mobile communications solely for its own use, argues for the dangerous efficacy of new media and telecommunications. These are supported by the force of traditional new media (film and photography of events, eyewitness reports) which have dominated our screens and newspapers for the last month. Footage of bloody faces; youths hurling stones; chanting, or being shot dead; is still more newsworthy than pictures of someone clicking ‘Join’ on a Facebook Group. 

Yet the networking of isolated youth into organised rebellion was clearly assisted by the virtual assemblies and meetings of like minded individuals that social media facilitates. But we must proceed cautiously and recall that we are dealing with a social media that serves corporate and commercial interests as it gathers data about us in myriad ways in order to channel our choices and desires. There is a sinister side to social media now, and in the future, as ‘monetization’ proceeds. 

More disturbing still has been the ease with which authorities have been able to identify and round up rebels and dissenters and their fellow travellers based on texts, tweets and Facebook affiliations. Authoritarian regimes relish information abundance as much as their radical opponents. Virtual freedom gives way to violent real-world oppression.

For those debating the Jasmine and Twitter Revolutions there have been crossed lines as well as real differences. While net sceptic Evgeny Morozov appears to accept the organizational role of new media in planning actions and resistance to authoritarian and corrupt regimes, his main point about the effectiveness of Twitter hinges on the criterion that it must produce a change in American hearts and souls, and in US foreign policy, in order to be judged to be adequate to its revolutionary claims and credentials:

‘getting Americans to care is likely to push Washington to care as well. This in itself can create powerful incentives for dictators to play by the rules or exit peacefully’
‘As I deconstruct the original hype behind the "Twitter Revolutions" in Iran and especially Moldova, their real promise (aside, of course, from liberating the country from oppressive rulers) seemed to lie in using social media as some kind of a Trojan horse to get their countries onto the front pages of American newspapers  - and then, hopefully, on the top of Washington's agenda’ (Evgeny Morozov’s Blog, 14th January 2011)

Setting aside the delusional sense that mass popular opinion in the US could ever be well informed, and the delusional implication that American foreign policy is necessarily or even potentially a force for good, it would be more helpful to understand the value and effectiveness of new media for the Tunisian and Egyptian people. A liberal intelligentsia demand constitutional reform and regime change; banned faith groups demand rights and the poor protest against poverty and inequality. Such, in different degrees, has been the revolutionary climate in Tunisia, in Egypt, and in the history of revolutions from Paris to St Petersburg.

Inequality in access to and production of news has long been identified as a communication issues for global development. And obviously there are inequalities within as well as between nations. Rural workers are less likely to have access than the urban middle classes. The UNESCO / Macbride report in  1977-1980 identified the globalisation of media, corporate interests and regional inequalities as key issues for the future. The US rejected the report and withdrew from UNESCO. So much for the promotion of liberal democracy and the free flow of information!

The technology of communication has always been crucial for political, social and cultural transformation. The printing press replaced the medieval scriptorium and in  time led to religious reformation and the notion of free conscience, the individual, and rights. Pamphlet wars and graphic satire were a battleground in British culture in the seventeenth and eighteenth century. The popular press and meetings in the new coffee houses established a new political and economic urban middle class. 

It was interesting to read The Guardian’s reports on the Tahrir Square protestors engaged in a Greek style direct democracy by cheering and shows of hands as they map out the precarious new model for a potential new regime based around constitutional rights. 

As protests continue and talks are held in secret, the spirit of reform, flashing from screen to screen and tweet to tweet, stalks the global consciousness. Who can say whether that spirit and its virtual hopes will triumph? 

But we know that true revolutions are viral and irrepressible, and the actors are more than faintly aware of their heroic roles in the making and march of history. 

I conclude my thoughts on an unconcluded chapter of history by offering a selection of quotations from British writers who responded to the events in France; with the sense that their words as relevant today as they were two centuries ago:

I will proclaim my principles, because I am sure if mankind would but act candidly and fairly, and avow the genuine feelings of their hearts, that system of terror and tyranny which has so long subjugated the nations of Europe, must fade and shrink away without a struggle -- without an individual victim. --I glory in the principles of the French Revolution! I exult in the triumphs of reason!  I am an advocate for the rights of man!
(John Thellwall 1795)

What an eventful period this is! I am thankful that I have lived to see it; and I could almost say, Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, for mine eyes have seen thy salvation. I have lived to see a diffusion of knowledge, which has undermined superstition and error -- I have lived to see the rights of men better understood than ever; and nations panting for liberty, which seem to have lost the idea of it. I have lived to see 30 MILLIONS of people, indignant and resolute, spurning at slavery, and demanding liberty with an irresistible voice.
(Richard Price 1789)

After sharing in the benefits of one revolution, I have been spared to be witness to two other revolutions, both glorious. And now methinks I see the love for liberty catching and spreading, a general amendment beginning in human affairs; the dominion of kings changed for the dominion of laws, and the dominion of priests giving way to the dominion of reason and conscience.
(Richard Price 1789)

Be encouraged, all ye friends of freedom, and writers in its defense! The times are auspicious. Your labours have not been in vain. Behold kingdoms, admonished by you, starting from sleep, breaking their fetters, and claiming justice from their oppressors! Behold, the light you have struck out, after setting America free, reflected to France, and there kindled into a blaze that lays despotism in ashes, and warms and illuminates EUROPE!
(Richard Price 1789)

Tremble all ye oppressors of the world! Take warning all ye supporters of slavish governments . . . . Call no more reformation, innovation. You cannot hold the world in darkness. Struggle no longer against increasing light and liberality. Restore to mankind their rights; and consent to the correction of abuses, before they and you are destroyed together.
(Richard Price 1789)

Dr Ian McCormick is the author of The Art of Connection: the Social Life of Sentences
(Quibble Academic, 2013)

Saturday, 5 February 2011

From Global Networks to Cultural Diversity

At a time when notions of cultural diversity and multiculturalism appear to be under threat it was refreshing to come across UNESCO's Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions (2005).

For Community Media Activists, the Convention is a ringing endorsement of our struggle for greater variety, participation and engagement in a wide range of cultural expression, production, and consumption.

The Convention builds on and updates the emerging global communications networks and opportunities that UNESCO had brilliantly researched in the late 1970s. For ardent humanitarians here is the opening text:

The General Conference of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, meeting in Paris from 3 to 21 October 2005 at its 33rd session,

Affirming that cultural diversity is a defining characteristic of humanity,

Conscious that cultural diversity forms a common heritage of humanity and should be cherished and preserved for the benefit of all,

Being aware that cultural diversity creates a rich and varied world, which increases the range of choices and nurtures human capacities and values, and therefore is a mainspring for sustainable development for communities, peoples and nations,

Recalling that cultural diversity, flourishing within a framework of democracy, tolerance, social justice and mutual respect between peoples and cultures, is indispensable for peace and security at the local, national and international levels,

Celebrating the importance of cultural diversity for the full realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms proclaimed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other universally recognized instruments,

Emphasizing the need to incorporate culture as a strategic element in national and international development policies, as well as in international development cooperation, taking into account also the United Nations Millennium Declaration (2000) with its special emphasis on poverty eradication,

Taking into account that culture takes diverse forms across time and space and that this diversity is embodied in the uniqueness and plurality of the identities and cultural expressions of the peoples and societies making up humanity,

Recognizing the importance of traditional knowledge as a source of intangible and material wealth, and in particular the knowledge systems of indigenous peoples, and its positive contribution to sustainable development, as well as the need for its adequate protection and promotion,
Recognizing the need to take measures to protect the diversity of cultural expressions, including their contents, especially in situations where cultural expressions may be threatened by the possibility of extinction or serious impairment,

Emphasizing the importance of culture for social cohesion in general, and in particular its potential for the enhancement of the status and role of women in society,

Being aware that cultural diversity is strengthened by the free flow of ideas, and that it is nurtured by constant exchanges and interaction between cultures,

Reaffirming that freedom of thought, expression and information, as well as diversity of the media, enable cultural expressions to flourish within societies,

Recognizing that the diversity of cultural expressions, including traditional cultural expressions, is an important factor that allows individuals and peoples to express and to share with others their ideas and values,

Recalling that linguistic diversity is a fundamental element of cultural diversity, and reaffirming the fundamental role that education plays in the protection and promotion of cultural expressions,

Taking into account the importance of the vitality of cultures, including for persons belonging to minorities and indigenous peoples, as manifested in their freedom to create, disseminate and distribute their traditional cultural expressions and to have access thereto, so as to benefit them for their own development,

Emphasizing the vital role of cultural interaction and creativity, which nurture and renew cultural expressions and enhance the role played by those involved in the development of culture for the progress of society at large,

Recognizing the importance of intellectual property rights in sustaining those involved in cultural creativity,

Being convinced that cultural activities, goods and services have both an economic and a cultural nature, because they convey identities, values and meanings, and must therefore not be treated as solely having commercial value,

Noting that while the processes of globalization, which have been facilitated by the rapid development of information and communication technologies, afford unprecedented conditions for enhanced interaction between cultures, they also represent a challenge for cultural diversity, namely in view of risks of imbalances between rich and poor countries,

Being aware of UNESCO’s specific mandate to ensure respect for the diversity of cultures and to recommend such international agreements as may be necessary to promote the free flow of ideas by word and image,

Referring to the provisions of the international instruments adopted by UNESCO relating to cultural diversity and the exercise of cultural rights, and in particular the Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity of 2001,

Adopts this Convention on 20 October 2005.