Post-Post Feminism: Gender Images and Our Digital Future?


In the Gender Images and the Media course at Fordham we have discussed the different eras of feminism and gender studies — from equality to radical, to postmodern, and even to post-postmodern ideas of gender. Ranging from online dating to avatars in Second Life, Digital Living has changed our ideas, and possibilities in terms of gender (identity) and relations.

The Last Assignment:

(1) Address an issue you think will be important in terms of gender (images) and the media in the next decade and

(2) relate it to a theory, idea, concept, thought, issue that you found the most important, interesting and/or illuminating during this course.

The blog entry or paper due on 5/3. 1 pg max.

[Image by Radar Communication, Creative Commons license on Flickr]

Back To the Future: Media Studies in the Digital Era

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I have the honour to lecture at Fordham’s annual President’s Spring Review (Dealy 201)

I take my cue from this World Bank blog entry: Communication and Media studies, formerly considered as a messy discipline without a grand theory, work now in our extensively mediatized world. And the study of our brave new world needs interdisciplinarity; changes and issues are so complex.

Think about the road of FB to this point, depicted in this video (thanks go to Emily Arata, one of my students, who made me aware of the clip):

Think about the media diet (depicted in many places in this blog: My students as well as my research subjects went on diet, as did, it turns out, college students in 10 countries, blog page here).

But back to the future. Think about also how much legends such as Artistotle, or the “Medium is the Message” visionary McLuhan (who taught at Fordham), or Fordham’s Professor Parker have done, and how their legacy still matters. Professor Parker’s tribute video:

Digital Diversity @ Macro Level

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One of the key aims of the Digital Living project is to combine micro and macro. Mini Portraits feature interesting similarities and differences of how people relate to their digital life. However, both Amelia and I have also worked on (infra)structural issues such as broadband. I’m in the process of coauthoring with Prof. Hannu Nieminen a paper on the (in)famous Finnish case:

In 2009, Finland made history by becoming the world’s first country to create laws guaranteeing broadband access. The Finnish Government had already decided to make a 100 Mb broadband connection a legal right by the end of 2015. Then, in October 2009, the Government announced that Finland will be the first country in the world to decree the broadband Internet connection as a Universal Service Obligation (USO): Starting as at July 2010, every person in Finland has had the right to a one-megabit broadband connection.

[Check out my earlier blog posts about it here and here.]

I will present our outlook (including an indepth interview with 2 key policy-makers) in a wonderful international expert workshop in New York in May, called ‘Digital Diversity: Serving the Public Interest in the  Age of Broadband’.

I love the pragmatist Finnish honesty:

In a small country of horrible [geographical] conditions we need to turn the reality and necessity into a virtue a bit faster than others.

-Maaret Suomi, Ministerial Adviser, Ministry of Transport and Communications of Finland, on the ‘Broadband for Everyone’ programme

International Communication in the Digital Era: Case Incredible India

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This is a companion blog post to the lecture International Communication in the Digital Era, at St. John’s University, April 11th, for the course International Communication (Asia and the Middle east).

The assigned topic was Int’l Comm in the Internet Era, but I tweaked it a bit, for the following reasons:

– The Internet is a true global platform of convergence, but especially in terms of developing countries, mobile communication has become important (as, for instance, this recent article in the Economist documents). Communication is increasingly digital, the forms of it just mutate to for different distribution platforms and consumption purposes.

– I chose to take one country from which examples could be drawn. I strongly believe that while we are experiencing socio-cultural, economic tendencies that could be called ‘international’ or even ‘global’, and that pertains to communication as well, we need a perspective to understand different dimensions of those tendencies. For me, an interesting way to narrow down examples is to look at international trends, links, flows from a viewpoint of  a country, since (1) that grounds the examples and may even show their interconnectedness, and (2) that opens vistas to other contextual questions: To what extent are things international, transnational, global, to what extend glocal, regional, local?

Incredible India!

For this lecture, we’re looking at India, ‘Incredible India!’ as a tourism slogan goes, referringto the rich and diverse cultural heritage of the country. There are also other ones, ‘Shining India’ (economic success, including the ITC sector), and ‘India Inclusive’ (a new one, addressing the socio-economic disparities of the country).

Some facts about India:

1.2 billion inhabitants (2011 Census). “The Most Populous Democracy in the World”. 7th largest country in the world by geographical area.

– 22 official languages. Literacy rate 65%.

– Some 1/3rd of the people live in poverty (here are some World Bank indicators of the economy and development).

– “Experiment in liberal capitalism!” “India as a laboratory for the world!”

– Very particular media markets: Thanks to the growth of the middle class, the press and radio markets are still growing. Contents are being localized.  Deregulation and globalization are present in India, too. Restrictions on foreign ownership have been lifted; and for instance for the internet protocol television the foreign ownership can be up to 74%. Satellite TV has been very influential in bringing in foreign media conglomerates from Sony to Disney and News Corp.

– ITCs: India is known as a country of outsourcing, software development. Only 70 million Indians are active internet users (some say 52 million); in contrast to 471 million mobile phone users (some say India is particularly well-suited for mobile communication!).

Sources for structural and market information: Kohli-Khandekar’s ‘The Indian Media Business‘; PWC’s market report, Vibodh Parthasarathi’s blog entry about challenges and advocacy.

Ways of Seeing

International communication can be looked at from different angles. Here are some we discussed:

Pippa Norris talks about cultural flows, diversity, and Cosmopolitan Communications (in this book).

Manuel Castells, among others, talks about the new  global public sphere. Clay Shirky discusses about levels of participation, some are just for fun but some have higher, civic purpose. He believes that our ‘cognitive surplus’ makes us active creators of common good. (see a video here and here).

Evgeny Morozov, in contrast, is skeptical and has coined the term ‘The Net Delusion‘.

Here’s an approach, and a report, by the International Telecommunication Union, on ICTs and development, measuring the situation in 159 countries!


Long Shot: The Tablet!

See also this World Bank blog entry on the theme!

Medium Shot: Citizen Journalism and the New News!

Here’s also an interesting account on the case.

Close-up: Identities

Extra Self Study! Check out this wonderful animation film Sita Sings the Blues, available online:

…and read the director’s interviews. How does that movie exemplify all levels, or camera shots, of ICTs and international communication?

Finally, For Additional Information: This is a wonderful book about Indian Media in  Globalised World.


Diet is going viral! Global research results by a new study!

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The University of Maryland has expanded their study of college students to a global initiative (blog and results here).

Mini Portrait_K: The Global Finn and the Virtual Universe

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This is a part of a set of selected, wonderful and insightful, observations about digital living from our NYC pilot interviewees. Read their experiences of a digital diet here, and their visions of a digital future here.

Note that these mini portraits are just initial ‘samples’. There’s so much interesting material to be processed and analysed. Stay tuned!

And thank you so much, K!

The Global Finn, interviewed in NY, on his way from Vegas to Europe:

“The links [in today’s digital world] are so many that to build the real power you have to understand them.”

Crossing That Digital Border

“My digital life begun at the University of Technology in the late 80s when I was working there as a graduate assistant. I have used online banking since and that to me is a landmark. It’s also there that I begun to use email, as in a communication modality for a larger group of people. We had a great group working at the Uni and we would also play online games together.

So it was, like 1988, 1989 when my digital life shifted to a whole new level. The Internet wasn’t developed content-wise yet but it made my life easier.  And I was more daring then than today, I tried new things (laughs) and I remember I posted something on a bulletin board. So one of the other grad students, a friend of mine, sent me an email to congratulate me: “Great, now you’re on the map too!” 

I think that those bulletin boards were, like Facebook today… that you need to cross a certain border in order to understand the meaning and the seriousness, or the rules of how to act and not act.

I got my first mobile phone around 1991, through work. But GSM, texting and all that came later. At that point, using mobile phones was much more expensive… For me, that wasn’t so revolutionary. Needless to say, now it would be difficult to think a life without cell phones, so that you wouldn’t be reachable nonstop.”

When India’s Not Burning

[K works for an Indian company with a global presence. He lives in Finland.]

“I start my mornings (in Helsinki) by checking my emails on my Blackberry – at that point the day has already begun in India. If India’s not burning I can have a cup of tea. I don’t read the newspaper. The problem is that whatever is there I’ve already seen online, nothing’s new. Newspapers for me are Sunday afternoon entertainment. Actually, the first thing I do when I open my PC is to look at the news first. Both political and national, and then more like business related, so there are a few sites I’m following regularly.

I’m mostly following Finnish sites, and the reason is: I can trust them. It’s funny but there’s still this suspicion. I spoke about this with a (Finnish) friend who lives in San Jose (in the US). He says that his family, they are Swedish-speaking, they are reading Finnish and Swedish sites because they know who publishes the news. In that way, the old media have an advantage. I don’t know where my (teen-ager) son goes for news and whom he trusts, but for me the old media is important in this way.”

The Concrete, Virtual Universes

“Then I go to work and I do altogether 2-3 hours global videoconferencing, I also review presentations, I comment contract and proposal drafts, I send them back and forth (via email). I manage a team (for my company) but they are where they are. I don’t get to meet with them often, we may have one physical meeting with my European team a year.  But that’s also related to the Indian mentality (of the parent company) and their reluctance to finance lots of travel.

For leisure… well, I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s sick and tired of reality TV and yet I follow a couple of them… I love cooking shows but unfortunately 80% is that reality stuff, and the rest cooking.

When I go to India (for work) I buy a lot of spices. Right now I want to buy the seeds and grind them at home because then the aroma is better. So, say, I have  bought these and these spices and the question is, what can I do with them. So then I google, say, garam masala, if I’ve made that spice mix, and chicken, if I want to cook something like that. And then I’ll find a lot of options. So at the moment I don’t use cook books at all.”

Digital Media and Structures

“I think that what digital media has done to structures is highly interesting. We used to live in a hierarchical world,with a clear structure. If you look at most of the first websites, or most of the corporate websites, they were hierarchies. Whereas… now, the way we finds things… I don’t know what to call that… It’s a chaotic mix to all directions. And what that is teaching is a new order for the world.

The Web is not a hierarchy, neither is Facebook, and I think this indicates a shift, how to widen your mind, your thoughts of the world. [The world] is not a hierarchy, there’s not a single point where, well, you could think that, “if I have this power then I’m the big guy.” So it may not be so. And the links are so many that to build the real power you have to understand them.”