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Sunday, December 29, 2013

The Third Draft of My Book Review

If you would of told me back in October that writing this book review would prove to be so incredibly difficult, I would not of believed you. Well here we are on December 29th, and I am on my third draft of the book review. If I had to summarize what is posing me the greatest difficulty, it's summarizing a 200 page book in about 500 words, and then using the rest of my word allotment to discuss my opinion on the theories.

I do believe that this third draft is my strongest draft, but I will be so glad when it is completed.


According to Kate Lacey’s new book, Listening Publics: The Politics and Experience of Listening in the Media Age, listening has become a forgotten area of study in the field of communications. And for Lacey, this lapsed in understanding of listening has had far reaching consequences, not only in the field of communications, but the realm of politics as well.

Lacey’s central argument is that listening is currently viewed as a passive activity by the communications field. What is key to understanding Lacey’s argument is her definition of passive listening. This can be difficult, as she does not clearly state her definition forthright. But for Lacey, characteristics of passive listening include: little concentration, lack of involvement, and does not move an individual to some sort of action. The evidence she gathers to support her conclusions come primarily through historical research. In fact the majority of the text focuses on the development of privatized listening habits over the last century and a half, and only somewhat on the correlation between listening and politics.

What her analysis shows, however, is that as new technologies developed, society began creating new ways to use the technology to communicate with one another. New techniques pertaining to these devices were created, and demand increased. Hence they became more commonplace and affordable.

As technology became more affordable, it began to be marketed more for private use in the home. By doing this, listening began to be viewed as more of a “private” activity, where an individual would be in control over what she or he listened to. Lacey states “…the dominant trend through this history was towards the privatization and individualization of the listening public via the technological and textual inscription of an idealized and domesticated listener…” (p. 132) Previously listening was viewed as more of a public activity, where individuals would have little control over what they heard, but where more openly engaged in the politics and activities of the community.

As technology grew, society began to see it as the great class equalizer, which would be able to assist poorer classes reach new heights of success and education. According to Lacey, as broadcasters began to conduct market research and ratings polling, they noticed that the more “intellectual/educational” programming was not receiving the listenership broadcasters had hoped for. Hence they began to replace these programs with shows that would have more of a mass appeal. This shift in programming focus had a fundamental effect. “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)

But why is passive listening so important to Lacey? And how does it tie into the political realm? If you are active, then you are engaged in the world, according to Lacey. “Listening is at the heart of what it means to be in the world, to be active, to be political.” (p. 163) This individualization that had occurred began to take the individual out of the world. They were no longer engaged. And the culture of listening as a passive activity took prominence. To reverse this trend, Lacey concludes that the communications field needs to review its standpoint on listening. “The politics of listening is an important corrective to conceptualizations of public participating that are restricted to notions of speech, dialogue, and text… theories and practices of media communication and public life miss too much if they don’t give the politics and experience of listening a fair hearing.” (p. 199)

Listening Publics: The Politics and Experience of Listening in the Media Age, raises many thought provoking questions, and presents ideas/ theories that the communications field should study more. Portions of her argument on the interconnectedness between listening and politics are especially intriguing. Lacey’s research gives credence and support to the statement: “To state simply – without a listener, speech is nothing, but noise in the ether.” (p. 166)

However this book leaves many questions unanswered. Lacey’s identification of a lack of understanding of listening is provided. But then what? What can the communications field do to improve this lack of understanding, other than more research? She ties the societal concerns into her argument, but then discusses how to alleviate the societal concerns. Is passivity the only explanation? How does an individual’s attention span play into how she or he listens? Additionally the historical research does weigh the text down. It would have been helpful to have additionally insights and descriptions on how listening effects politics.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Book Review Draft 2

Well I after sending my rough draft to some friends, and getting their advice, I've completely changed the direction of my draft. I actually feel way more confident with this new draft. There's more of me in it. More of my opinions. So we will see how this one floats.


According to Kate Lacey and her new book: Listening Publics: The Politics and Experience of Listening in the Media Age, listening has become a forgotten area of study in the field of Communications. And for Lacey, this lapsed study/understanding has had far reaching consequences, not only in the field of Communications, but the realm of politics too.

Lacey’s central argument for why listening is a deferred area of study is listening is currently viewed as a passive activity. She gathers evidence to support her conclusions through historical research. In fact, majority of the text focuses on the development of privatized listening habits over the last century and a half. While this is useful for an individual with little knowledge of the development of broadcasting, it can become slightly redundant for someone who has studied the development extensively.  As privatized listening habits rose, individuals began to chose entertainment and relaxation programming more so than political or educational based programming. This is key to Lacey, who states that this is when listening went from being viewed as an active activity to a passive one.

According to Lacey, broadcasters began diminishing the importance of engaging their audiences because they believed people would not listen. “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)

This is an especially intriguing argument when you consider today’s current state of broadcasting, and how the Internet has effected the way we communication with one another. What is the best way to communicate with our audience? How do we view them? Add to the fact that an individual no longer needs formally training or education to create a blog, website, or video, and we can see why listening is crucial. But is the broadcasting industry completely to blame for this paradigm shift? Lacey does not explore this question in great detail.

Instead Lacey concludes her book by exploring the relationship between political activism/democracy, and listening/communications. She does an excellent job of linking these two areas tougher and why they are dependent on one another. “To state simply – without a listener, speech is nothing but noise in the ether.” (p. 166) This is Lacey’s key conclusion, and her main argument for why the Communications Field needs to rededicate itself to understanding the act of listening. If we are not good listeners, then we cannot understand the message that is being communicated to us.

Although Listening Publics proposes many thought provoking and engagement arguments, the historical research does weigh it down. There are many intriguing questions that are left unanswered by Listening Publics. “How does a person’s attention span affect the way they listen?” “How do you engage the public in helping them better understand listening?” But then again, maybe that is the purpose of Listening Publics. To get people curious. To have them ask questions, and then they try to find the possible answers. This research is a great first step in what could be an on-going research study in Communications. Lacey is correct, we do not give listening the attention and focus that is deserves. And Listening Publics may be that first step in changing that.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Arrow

Over this past month, I have become addicted to the television show Arrow. Thank you very much Netflix! Arrow tells the origin story of the DC comics' emerald archer, Green Arrow. Since the programs airs on the CW, I originally thought that it would be very similar to Smallville, and mainly focus on the romantic plot lines. (Causing me to stay away from the show its entire first season.) While romance still is apart of the program, it is only a very minor part. The program is much more focused on showcasing the rice history of this DC character, and creating a compelling narrative.

Now I don't want this blog to turn into what works or what doesn't work for Arrow, because as we are well aware of, there are thousands upon thousands of those articles on the internet. Instead I just want to focus on a single aspect that I think is really cool on the show, and that is the character growth. In the first season of Arrow, Oliver Queen aka the Green Arrow, kills any bad guy in front of him without thinking twice. But as the show progresses, and he becomes more of a hero, he renounces murder, and works with more none lethal means.

I think it is really cool that the show introduced a particular issue in the character, and then allows the audience to see the character grow right in front of him. If you have not watched Arrow, and you are a superhero fan, I highly recommend this action filled, entertaining program.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Billie Joe & Norah Jones= Great Alt Country Music??

Recently Billie Joe Armstrong from Green Day and Norah Jones released a cover album of the Everly Brothers' 1958 album: "Songs Our Daddy Taught Us" entitled "Foreverly". Now when I first heard this album, I didn't think much of it. In fact I assumed that it would not be very good at all. Yet I was still intrigued.

So when I had a chance to give a listen to it, I did. And I am really glad I did. This album is a completely charming, and fun listen. Armstrong and Jones' voice harmonize incredibly well together. My favorite track is the opening track entitled "Roving Gambler". Give it a chance, I think you will enjoy it too.