Follow by Email

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.


Matt Maldre said...

Pete, when you are done with the book; I would sooo love to read your copy. I've been tempted to buy the book, but if yours has marginalia, I would like to read yours.

It's cool to read this review now. I just wrote a blog post that included an allusion to how to encourage comments on blog posts. (aka encourage listeners to be active).

Also, this book (and your review) reveals perhaps why tv news websites never rank that high. It always perplexed me why the websites of local news shows aren't more popular. The answer being that people view the TV as a passive listening activity. So that would then carry over to their website. People would just passively look at the site instead of engaging with it.

Certainly there is more the tv news websites could do to encourage interactivity. I also blogged about that yesterday, in regards to user-submitted weather photos:

I'm writing a new blog post based on the quote you used, "listening went from being viewed as an active activity to a passive one" I'll let you know when that one is up.

So pretty funny that I have three blog posts written this week that are all related to your book review. Nice review. I emailed you a couple more specific little comments on it.

Peter Kreten said...

That is crazy how all of the blog posts are interconnected. And absolutely you can borrow my copy. If you don't mind my notes in them. But yea, as soon as I'm done, I'll lend you the book.