Second Refresher Course on Media Studies & Governance (Day 3)

Centre for Culture, Media &  Governance, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi (CCMG, henceforth) in collaboration with Academic Staff College, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi conducts and organizes  every year the University Grants Commission Refresher Course  on Media Studies, Culture and Governance for the in-service faculty across the country. The first such RC was organized in February 2013.

The 2nd Refresher Course 2014 on Media Studies and Governance started on 14th January and will continue till 4th February, 2014.

Day 3/ 17 January 2014

 As per the RC programme, Prof. Saugata Bhaduri, Centre for English Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, delivered spoke on “Cultural Turn in Social Sciences” and “Communication Studies in India”. The second lecture of the day was delivered by Prof. Simi Malhotra, Department of English, Jamia Millia Islamia on “Language, Culture & Media”.

1st  Lecture : Cultural Turn in Social Sciences

bhaduriClassical western philosophy morphed by bicameralism, a certain dichotomy which could be called ‘the mind’ one hand and ‘the matter’ on the other. One camp asserts that mind, reasoning or ideations are the only valid epistemology. If we want to know something, we can do it by reasoning, using our mental faculties. The other camp which stresses on the importance of sensation or empirical means of knowing things by using one’s own sense faculty.  ‘Cultural turn’ belongs to domain of ideas, and is not connected to the material domain.

What would be the basis of knowledge: “I” would be the basis of knowledge. ‘I am there’ therefore objects of knowledge exists. The object was already present. The knowledge about the object became possible because of ‘I’. After Schopenhauer, the question of the knowledge existence became neither idealist nor materialistic. It became the individual’s idealistic capacity to know, i.e., the will to knowledge or truth.

Let us take the example of Zulu language. The Zulu language was present before the said individual knowledge. But the individual does not know the Zulu, nor has the desire to learn it. It may be concluded that the knowledge about Zulu will be existed on the capacity of the individual to know.

Fredrick Nietzsche differs on the aforementioned issue. According to him, the power structure determines the route of knowledge, who have power, know and decide knowledge. The “will to power”, where power makes entry in the domain of knowledge. Will to powerIn this, the power is ‘material domain’ whereas knowledge is ‘idea’s domain’. It was Marx who made an amalgamation of idealism and materialism in his philosophy of dialectical materialism. In that he differs with the classical western philosophical proposition of power as alienable to community, and that operates in cohesion. He said, power operates by consensus. It was through consensus the colonial Britain ruled India.

The consensus creates consent in form of Ideology which acts as false consciousness. Ideology which is a sum total of the idea, accepted and legitimized by a large group of people and is dispersed through literature, culture and art. Ideology holds the key. There is a singularity in the phrase;   “medium is the message” by Marshall McLuhan.

‘Cultural turn’ happens because of the variation of the cultural texts.  Culture and ideology are not synonymous; culture is one aspect of ideology. Due to ‘cultural turn’, there is a suprsession of plurality. One of the main objectives of culture is to civilize people. Plurality is of the genesis mode of the culture. Culture was antidote to mechanization.  But since technology and culture have come together; bridging the gap has brought disastrous outcome in form of ‘mass culture’.

Folk culture and mass culture are different. Folk culture is something that a member of the folk generates. Culture has gone in the hands of the industry, and is called ‘mass culture’. No member of folk can muster enough resource to produce a film. There is no culture by the people. There was a possibility of the ‘people culture’ by adopting resistive mode in form of protest songs and counter- culture. One who owns the industrial  production, produces the object that are appealing to the masses having all kinds of problematic values.  It has become storehouse of cheap culture. The people have to take what is given to them. That, they subsequently indoctrinate.

Mass culture is produced by the classes who own, control and regulate it.  In order to counter this, we have to cultivate high culture. Industrial multiplication made accessibility of  cultural symbols more easy, earlier there was one Monalisa. But possibility of multiplication leads to pluralisation and one could have an ‘n’ number of Monalisa. This has led to reduction and dispersal of a high culture. Anyone can have his or her copy, of an art piece. The time is to make distinction between high culture and mass culture—bad taste, making the mass displace. But in a way these things are an extension of Man’s faculties, his ability to listen, see and feel.

There is also a notion of hot media and cold media. Hot media is something in which one cannot interfere e.g. Movies, radio, and newspaper. Cold media have some scope of intervention. Hot media are very high definition and have little scope for interpretation. Cold media are exactly the opposite. This is the time to convert hot media, cold, inserting activities into the hot media.

2nd  Lecture : Language, Culture & Media

smalhotra20120824200531_lThere is a shift in the domain of Humanities from literature to culture. The discipline of humanities is defined as the production of artistic and cultural texts.  There are two opinions about the humanities as a discipline; one, it is in crisis, and another, there is a huge investment of time and money in producing texts like movies, books, blogs, gaming, old/new media, etc. Accessibility to the text is another thing. But the humanities is breaking and making old and new boundaries respectively and it is not in crisis.

There are two kinds of humanities that one comes across; humanities outside the universities and humanities within the universities. All the texts of humanities are produced outside the universities and the humanities practiced in the universities do not consider all aspects of humanities and cultural texts. The method most of the universities follow is just the reading of the text. They do not train people in literature.  As the locus of production is somewhere else, there is a struggle with the student to be interested in Shakespeare or in Facebook. The student just comes for attendance, and the scope of getting jobs (besides teaching) is not certain. Furthermore, many posts are not filled up. So one can say that there is a disconnect between humanities outside the university and within the university. The category of enjoyment is not considered positively. It is described in some pathological terms as ‘addicted’: say, he/she is addicted to Facebook or mobile. The text which is endearing to masses is taken as tasteless in humanities classrooms.

For past hundred years the objectives of humanities is to do an ideological critique of race, class, gender, minority, marginality, etc. Show any text to a professional of literature, s/he will definitely find an ethical or political aspect behind it. This used to be the job of social sciences. The cultural and literature professional have become some sorts of legislature, pronouncing judgment on texts, dubbing this of that ideology or that of this ideology. But this is a fairly myopic way of looking at things, that has substituted aesthetics for the political. This has improvised the discipline by reading the same text as social science. There is a disjunction outside; it is the time to step down from the ivory tower of the serious to the domain of popular. That is to read not only Shakespeare and Chaucer but consider Chetan Bhagat too. The theorization work by people like Max Weber, The Frankfurt School, Habermas, etc., the theory of modernity, has led to rationality. There is a disconnect of art and culture from lived world. Cultural rationality is splintered between science, ethics and aesthetics and humanities are byproduct of this splintering. The urge to produce specialization with the extent of fetishism has secluded the discipline into the ivory tower of high and might. It is time for the Humanities to rediscover itself and to be with popular culture.

Nowadays a trend is rising, that is, of inter-discipline and multi-discipline studies; for example, pursuing mathematics and mass communication together. Toeing to these lines, there is Digital Humanities, incorporating and blending of scientific technology and humanities. It is making Humanities more radical and democratic. Open Source Initiative is a good example of Digital Humanities,  Cathedral-and-the-Bazaar-book-coverthat stresses on sharing and collaboration of knowledge, against the private property and intellectual property rights. Eric Raymond in his book The Cathedral and Bazar says to move away from the rigid, sacred closed spaces of specialization and expertise and come to the open space which is more democratic and egalitarian. Digital Humanities would make this world more egalitarian and a better place to live. It will help to preserve and share the texts, old and new. So far as the accessibility is concerned, in the beginning it may be in the hands of few but gradually it will disperse among the masses. As it happened with the printing press technology or mobile technology. So far as the material aspect like a book as an object is concerned.

Now more texts are produced and preserved digitally, and the technology of the printing press is four hundred years old. Before the printing press, cultures have been produced and continued. The process continues in the contemporary times as well. It would be laughable to ask for a print-out of a Facebook page, because it is produced and referred online or digitally. Digital Humanities which is based on Wikiphilosophy, a philosophy of open sources, that would make this world a better place to live and grow.

Image courtesy

1.   www.jnu.ac.in

2. http://www.amazon.com

3. www.jmi.ac.in

4. http://www.wikimedia.org

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