Hello, and welcome to my blog.
I am a professor at the School of Journalism and Communication, Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada. I’ve been researching and writing about media, telecoms and the Internet in one way or another for nearly 20 years. I primarily wear two hats: the first is that of a political economist of the media, telecom and Internet industries. The second is that of a media historian.
I have published widely in academic journals and write a bi-weekly column for the Globe & Mail, the largest English-language daily in Canada. The last book that I co-authored with Robert Pike from Queen’s University in 2007, Communication and Empire (Duke University Press), provides a critical account of the historical rise of the global media industries from the mid-19th century until the Great Depression of 1930. It won the Canadian Communication Association’s ‘book of the year’ prize in 2008 and has been reviewed nearly 30 times in venues around the world, including by the editors of Foreign Policy.
Most of my other work takes a more contemporary look at the media, telecom and Internet industries, in Canada, North America and the world. A new co-edited book The Political Economies of Media: the Transformation of the Global Media Industries that I have organized with Dal Yong Jin from Simon Fraser U. was published in July 2011 by Bloomsbury Academic. It captures the state of what we and the twelve other contributors from a wide range of perspectives feel is the current state of the media industries at the end of the first decade of the 21st century.
I started writing this blog in July 2010, but only in January of this year did I really begin to take it seriously. My main aim is to practice writing and to hone my ideas for a larger audience. So far, it has been a great deal of fun, and definitely not the great ‘time suck’ that I originally feared. The field continues to throw up hugely important issues, whether its the future of the Internet in Canada, ongoing concerns with media concentration, claims regarding the ‘death of traditional media’, Wikileaks, and a whole lot more.
Recent events in Canada surrounding the Internet and what I see as an attempt to lock in the provider controlled, pay per model of the Internet versus the classic user-centric, distributed model of the Internet have put the wind in my sails. I hope to contribute to the public debate over these issues with the goal of creating the most open media and Internet system possible and consistent with the norms and values of a democratic society. I am concerned that we are heading in the wrong direction on that score, for a variety of reasons that will become clear over the various posts that I offer.
Overall, the blog will offer a running exploration of some of my ideas and thoughts on the ongoing transformation that is now recasting the industrial media system built up over the past one hundred and fifty years into the digitally networked media environment of the 21st century. I’ll talk about these trends as they relate to Canada, the United States and, as much as I can globally, highlighting key issues relating to, among others, consolidation and fragmentation of the media industries, network neutrality, copyright, ownership, emerging media uses, and skirmishes between ‘traditional media’ goliaths and new players such as Google, Facebook, Wikipedia, and so on. Always, I will be asking whether these developments portend a radically new media ecology, one where the production of media and cultural goods for the market is increasingly being supplemented by information and cultural production for ourselves (mass self-expression) and for others (social media, Wikipedia, etc.)?
I also adopt what I call an open approach to the political economies of media. By this I mean that this particular scholarly approach is much richer than commonly assumed. I also mean that the ‘objects of our analysis’ — the network media industries — are themselves defined by multiple economies. In other words, there is the commercial media and the Internet, and there are others that embody the ideals of the ‘digital commons’ or what one of my favourite writers, Yochai Benkler, calls the ‘social production of information’.
The idea that all societies and different media are defined by ‘multiple distinctive conomies’ is an idea that Aristotle raised over two millenia ago. My thought is that recent media innovations undoubtedly expand the range of commercial markets but I also see new digital media as also helping to excavate the submerged cultural economies of everyday life.
The media industries are in a heightened state of flux, buffeted by a combination of technological, economic, political and cultural changes. I am particularly interested in the myriad of players, interests and forces that are struggling to conserve the industries, firms, business models and so forth that have congealed around the communication and media in the past one hundred and fifty years versus the rise of new media players, changing technologies, economies and the way we use the media that could lead to what Benkler calls the network media economy, or the radical media political economist Dan Schiller calls ‘digital capitalism’.
One thing that has really got my goat over the past little while is the widespread notion that the media, or more particularly, journalism “are in crisis”. I’m not so sure at all about this claim, especially as it relates to the situation in Canada, but as formidable media players flounder (think Time Warner, New York Times, Viacom, Bell Globemedia, etc.) and others collapse (the Tribune Group, Kirch Media in Germany, and Canwest in Canada) it is clear that something big is afoot. Anyway, there are issues-a-plenty around these themes and hopefully I’ll have time to regularly put my thoughts to the screen and see what we might come up with.
I hope that you enjoy reading my blog and would love to hear from you if you have anything that you’d like to share, comment on, or criticize.