Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Mass Com + Geography - Fledgling Views

Here is a bit of text from the course website: “This class is a reading seminar covering geographical theories, methods, and concepts which might productively be applied to mass communication research questions, and exploring existing mass communication research which has (explicitly or implicitly) drawn on geographic insights.”

Reading this paragraph at the start of the semester did not mean much to me in that I came into the class with very limited background in mass communication, geography, or human geography. In rereading this now, however, I can begin to articulate (at least at a novice level) some of the theories and methods that shape the field of human geography. I can also extend this to the point where I can discuss how and why these theories might be meshed with theories and methods from mass communication. But, as someone who is in neither of these disciplines, it seems important *for me* to ask some key questions: Who would (or more positively, who might) want to listen to me talk about geography and mass communication and why? Ask yourself this as you read my post : ) How can these theories inform my own area of study/research, which broadly speaking, is curriculum and instruction?

Before moving on, let me briefly return to the intro paragraph… I did a quick review of some other course syllabi online and it seems more common to find mass communication scholars/students being challenged to draw from geography than the other way around? Why is this and does it matter? How might the paragraph above be rewritten to make us contemplate how geographers can draw from the field of mass communication? OR is this a meaningful question/distinction?

In the end, I feel that I will be able to bring something back from exploring mass communication, human geography, and the intersection of the two, that will inform my own work and deepen my ability to think critically about education and learning (both of which can, and have been, studied and critiqued from mass communication and geographical perspectives). The title of Michael Streibel’s 1998 article (Information technology and physicality in community, place, and presence) from the journal Theory Into Practice is just one example of this. He argues for the importance of physical place and physical presence in how we construct meaning in our lives, especially in the area of education. One can’t make or critique this argument without touching on some of the themes that we have discussed in class (e.g., theories of place, networks/networking, virtual spaces, placeless communication, etc.). This, of course, is only one example.

As someone from another field it was interesting to see how different theories and methods get taken up across disciplines. I am not sure that I would call it a spatial turn, but it seems that I have seen more references to geographical theories and authors in education over the past few years. I am sure that I will come across more (or at least notice more now that I have taken this class) in the years to come. For example, it is not uncommon to come across articles related to the use of mobile media in formal and informal learning environments that draw from Castells. It helps that he edited a book in 2006 titled Mobile Communications and Society. Why is this becoming more common? In part, because like many others, educational researchers, teachers, students, parents, etc. are trying to make sense of what the “new global, networked, technological society” is (and is not). We are also concerned with the impact(s) that new communication networks/communication technologies are having on teaching and learning. For example, think of the questions we discussed in class related to online learning. We used concepts like scale, place, distance, equity, and power to frame the discussion. It makes sense that mass communication and geography should be used to help frame and explore questions and problems in education – after all, teaching is a particular form of communication that occurs in particular ways, in particular places.

Two final thoughts 1) Another great thing about combing mass communication and geography is that we all have personal connections to many of the topics and concepts we discussed in class. While we don’t want our own experiences to rule the day (read discussions), personal connections can help us make sense of dense theory. 2) Combining two disciplines opens the door to even more configurations.

For example, mass communication/geography/art

Not to mention the ever popular pharmaco-ethnomusicologist - human geographer and mass communication are implied and embedded in this title I am sure!

Speaking of Jake Leg… yet another NPR link…

…and from the vaults

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