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Wednesday, November 27, 2013

My Rough Draft of My Book Review

Well, I was able to overcome my writers block from last week and finish my rough draft of my first ever book review for The Journal of Broadcasting and Electronic Media. I think it turned out pretty well. I'm sure there is a few areas that I will need to polish over the coming weeks before I turn it in. But for now, I wish to savor this victory!


"When our society hears the term “communication”, it typically thinks of one of two areas: 1) Interpersonal communication, or 2) The medium of broadcasting. The medium of broadcasting is still in its infancy, and a number of studies have been done to better understand the effectiveness this new medium has on audiences. However with the increase of these new studies, one area of communication has fallen from the forefront of study and discussion. Yet this activity is so fundamental, that we often take it for granted. The forgotten activity is listening. Let’s face it, if we are not good listeners, we run the risk of misunderstanding the message.
           
            This is the topic of a new book written by Kate Lacey entitled: Listening Publics: The Politics and Experiences of Listening in the Media Age. Lacey’s book is an engaging and thought provoking study that asks the question: “Why has listening been so over looked in recent communicational studies?” Lacey hypothesizes that listening is currently viewed as a passive activity. In actuality, listening is more of an active and engaging activity. “Despite the growth in ‘sound studies’, academic treatments of listening rarely attend to the sensory experience of listening and a political philosophy of listening.” (p. 8) Lacey continues by challenging “… such a restricted understanding of the listening public by identifying listening as a category that bridges both the realm of sensory, embodied experience, and the political realm of debate and deliberation.” (p. 8)

            Lacey begins her case by defining listening as: “the active direction of the sense of hearing to discern meaning from sound…” (p. 22) She then focuses on how communication is interconnected with political practices through cultural practices. For centuries, groups of individuals would gather together to discuss new ideas and policies. This became an integral part in the development of democracy. However with the rise of new technologies beginning in the Industrial Revolution, listening habits began to change. Phonographs, telegraphs, telephones, print, and radio began to give audiences more control over what and how they listened.  For the first time, individuals could return to their homes and listen in private to news, information, or entertainment. People no longer needed to participate in public discussions in order to stay interconnected to the outside world. They were now able to get their information privately.

Lacey turns her focus to how these new technologies were integrated into the societies of three countries, America, Great Britain, and Germany, at the beginning of the 20th century. In Great Britain and America, these new technologies were viewed as the “great equalizer” amongst the classes, and would bring about a more educated public. This would be accomplished through “Group Listening”. “A Central Council for Broadcast Adult Education was set up in 1928 to supervise programs to be listened to by ‘discussion groups’, be that a small group of friends listening ‘by the fireside’ in one of their homes, to groups of 40 or so meeting in a public library, or groups organized by existing associations like the YMCA, the Co-operative Society, the British Legion, trade unions or groups of unemployed miners.” (p. 140) While in Germany, these new technologies were many used as tools of propaganda. 

However these educational theme programs did not become as popular as their creators intended them to become. As society was given more control over what they listened to, listeners began to choose entertainment over civil discourse. “Radio needed to respond to the moment and whose ears had been ‘tortured for eight long hours by the noise of machines’, ears which were tired and worn for the delicacies of cantatas and classical odes.” (Schirokaure 1929) With educational programs not being listened to, broadcasters knew they had to make a decision. They began to focus more on entertainment programming than educational/civic programming. And this is where the paradigm shift in how listening is viewed occurred.

According to Lacey, it was here with the rise of privatized listening that passive listening became the dominant view of what type of activity listening is. “During the formative years of broadcasting, this passivity was understood by some as being imposed on the listener by the mass address that spoke to no-one as someone, and everyone as anyone, denying the possibility of active engagement, personal development or equality of response.” (p. 114) Lacey continues “…the privatization of the listening public had obvious affinities with the privatized reading public which was understood not as passive, but as actively engaged in critical reason and the development of public opinion.” (p. 115)

As audience passivity was further reinforced, individuals began to accept being talked at more, and question less. This passive view of listening has caused three problems: “The problem of property, the problem of dialogue, and the problem of consensus-building.” (p. 169) Individuals are no longer willingly to try and understand another person’s perspective. For Lacey, our society has become more concerned with making sure we can speak, than worrying about whether or not people understand the message we are trying to communicate. “What is actually at stake here is the freedom of shared speech or, to put it another way, the freedom to be heard.” (p. 165) “To start simply – without a listener, speech is nothing but noise in the ether.” (p. 166)

Lacey concludes that by shifty our paradigm view of listening back to viewing it as an active activity, can we begin to better understand the spectrum of communication and of politics. “Here, although it is not stated explicitly, is a recognition of the political action of listening in and on the mediated public, and an indication of just how profound a change to politics, and to political subjectivity, would be enabled by the re-sounding of the public sphere.” (p. 161)

In the age of the Internet, where any person can publish their opinions and find an audience, this book is a great reminder of the importance of listening. It is by listening, that we become engaged in ideas, and moved to action. But if it is more important for us to just to be able to speak and not be understand, that our message joins the countless background noise that attacks people everyday."

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Writers Block

So I've been working on a review of the book Listening Publics for the last week or so. And I've come to a stumbling block. I think I have a good introduction, but the middle and ending are causing me some interesting challenges. I feel like I am leaving out a few important parts in my description of the book.

Ultimately what the author is arguing is we as a society view listening as a passive activity, not an active one. In actuality, listening is an active activity. But with new technologies, we are able to control who and what we listen to. This is where the problem comes in. Below is my rough draft. I hope to finish it by the weekend. Thoughts or ideas are welcomed.


         "When our society hears the term “communication”, it typically thinks of one of two areas: 1) Interpersonal communication, or 2) The medium of broadcasting. The medium of broadcasting is still in its infancy, and a number of studies have been done to better understand the effectiveness this new medium has on audiences. However with the increase of these new studies, one area of communication has fallen from the forefront of study and discussion. Yet this activity is so fundamental, that we often take it for granted. The forgotten activity is listening. If we are not good listeners, we run the risk of misunderstanding the message.
           
            This is the topic of a new book written by Kate Lacey entitled: Listening Publics: The Politics and Experiences of Listening in the Media Age. Lacey’s book is an engaging and thought provoking study that asks the question: “Why has listening been so over looked in recent communicational studies?” Lacey hypothesizes that listening is currently viewed as a passive activity. In actuality, listening is more of a active activity. “Despite the growth in ‘sound studies’, academic treatments of listening rarely attend to the sensory experience of listening and a political philosophy of listening. This book challenges such a restricted understanding of the listening public by identifying listening as a category that bridges both the realm of sensory, embodied experience, and the political realm of debate and deliberation.” (p. 8)

            Lacey begins her case by defining listening as: “the active direction of the sense of hearing to discern meaning from sound…” (p. 22) She then focuses on how communication is interconnected with political practices through cultural practices. For centuries, groups of individuals would gather together to discuss new ideas and policies. This became an integral part of the development of democracy. However with the rise of new technologies from the Industrial Revolution, things began to change. Phonographs, telegraphs, telephones, print, and radio began to give audiences more control over what they listened to. Individuals could return to their homes and listen in private to news, information, or entertainment.

As technology grew and developed, it began to be seen as the “great equalizer” between classes. Since information was being delivered to people in their homes, it was thought that out of a sense of duty, people would continue to listen to political discourse, and become even more engaged.  And for those who did not have the education, the broadcasting medium would teach them.

This however did not occur. As society was given more control over what they listened to they began to choose entertainment over civil discourse. “Radio needed to respond to the moment and whose ears had been ‘tortured for eight long hours by the noise of machines’, ears which were tired and worn for the delicacies of cantatas and classical odes.” (Schirokaure 1929) With educational programs not being listened to, broadcasters knew they had to make a decision. And this is where the paradigm shift began in how listening is viewed.

Listening became a passive activity. As this passivity grew, individuals began to accept being talked at more. For Lacey, this passivity in listening created three problems: “The problem of property, dialogue, and consensus-building”. (p. 169) Since listening is so interconnected with politics, this can be very dangerous. Lacey states: “the act of listening opens up a space for intersubjectivity.” (p. 179)

            A compelling argument is made for a refocus on the art of listening."


Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Why I'm Glad I Don't Eat McDonalds Anymore

Seeing this picture today, made me so very happy that I no longer eat fast food or McDonalds any more.

Click Here

Sunday, November 10, 2013

My 115th Post

While I was logging in, I noticed on my log in screen that this will be my 115th blog posting. To be frank, I am very surprised I reached this number. Sometimes I have a habit of saying I'm going to do something, and then never accomplishing that particular goal. However I am rather pleased about this one. I started this blog with the intention of improving my writing skills for Grad School. One year removed from Grad School, I've actually increased the number of posting I do per month.  Whether or not I have been successful in improving my writing skills is still up for debate. But the fact that I set a goal and have surpassed the original goal, is a pretty dame good feeling.

To celebrate this blog milestone, I think I will have some ice cream. But before that I must inform you that I just signed up for Tumblr. And I'm not really sure what I am going to do with it. See Facebook is my general social networking output. My Twitter is an extension of my Facebook, only with way more Simpsons quotes that I've retweeted. My Google+ is for the general promotion of this masterpiece of a blog. But with Tumblr, I'm not sure. I was sort of toying with the idea of posting a series of interesting pictures I've taken that have to follow a certain criteria. (Only pictures taken on my mobile phone, no filters, things like that.) The other idea was for my Tumblr to be the place for me to post the short stories I am working on. Or maybe something radio related?

We will have to wait with baited breath while I figure out exactly what I will be posting on there. But until then, here is a great song by this band I've recently gotten into, The Punch Brothers. The name of the track is called This Girl.