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Media Practices and Their Social Effects: Workshop with John Postill
In this workshop we discuss John Postill's lecture and forthcoming paper that draw from the practice theory and media anthropology literature, as well as from a range of empirical studies, including Postill's own anthropological research in Malaysia and Spain, to discuss the effects of media-related practices in people’s social worlds. Postill argues that these social effects come in two main varieties – mediatising effects and worlding effects – and that this area is ripe for further media ethnographic work, so long as we overcome our customary aversion to the notion of media effects.
The Effects of Media Practitioners: Messy Causality, Digital Ethnography, and the Making of an Anti-Woke Space: Online Lecture with John Postill
Recent advances in the study of ethnography and causality offer media and digital ethnographers a unique chance to overcome their old aversion to the notion of 'media effects' (Postill forthcoming) and study the social effects of media practitioners and their work. In this paper I discuss some of the more intriguing causal thinking developed by contemporary ethnographers and apply it to my current research on the transatlantic 'anti-woke' movement. I take as my cases the trajectories of two leading anti-woke figures, both highly skilled media practitioners - the former New York Times journalist Bari Weiss and the documentary filmmaker Chris Rufo - tracing the socially formative effects of one key media 'event' (Sewell 2005) per practitioner. Each event, I suggest, yields 'luminous' ethnographic data (Katz 2001, 2002) about otherwise obscure causal relations linking individual and collective 'practice careers' (Greene and Rau 2018) across this dynamic space of content production (Johansen 2021). I conclude that digital ethnographers are indeed well equipped to follow 'messy', non-teleological effects wherever they may lead them.
Keywords: causality, digital ethnography, social effects, media practices, media practitioners, culture wars, anti-wokes, culture wars, Intellectual Dark Web
John Postill gained a PhD in Anthropology at University College London in 2000. He specialises in the study of media and sociocultural change and to date has done fieldwork in Malaysia, Indonesia and Spain. He currently lectures at the School of Media and Communication, RMIT University, Melbourne, where he was previously a Vice-Chancellor's Senior Research Fellow. His publications include The Rise of Nerd Politics (2018), Digital Ethnography (2016), Localizing the Internet (2011), Theorising Media and Practice (2010) and Media and Nation Building (2006). He is presently researching the 'anti-woke' movement and writing his first novel, a work of social science fiction titled Life of Piñas. He occasionally (re)tweets as @JohnPostill.
Zoom-link on request
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