Presentation – Mass Media

Hello Team!

Apologies for the delay.

In this week’s seminar, I will present the chapter on Mass Media by John Durham Peters.  I would also like to incorporate elements from Networks by Alexander Galloway and Imagined Communities by Benedict Anderson.

All three discuss power, control and perception, and therefore I think it would be beneficial to include all three in our discussion this week.   I will start with a review of the chapter readings and incorporate additional communications scholars into our discussion, including Marshall McLuhan, Roland Barthes and Noam Chomsky, who I believe will aid in fleshing out some elements of discussion.

To summarize Imagined Communities (and I’ll provide additional detail where relevant in the presentation):

“In fact, all communities larger than primordial villages of face to face contact (and perhaps even these) are imagined. Communities are to be distinguished, not by falsity/genuineness, but by the style in which they are imagined” (6).

In Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism Benedict Anderson discusses the concept of ‘nationalism’ as cultural artefact – an imagined political community – and quotes Ernest Gellner – “Nationalism is not the awakening of nations to self consciousness: it invents nations where they do not exist’ (Gellner, Thought and Change, p. 169). Using a case study, Anderson describes the 3 institutions of power that were used by the colonial project in constructing the imagined community of the nation. These are: the census, the map and the museum.  These three institutions are described as having “…[P]rofoundly shaped the way in which the colonial state imagined its dominion – the nature of human beings it ruled, the geography of its domain, and the legitimacy of its ancestry” (164).

These three institutions created a classificatory grid, which could be applied with flexibility to a multitude of things. “The effect of the grid was always to be able to say of anything that it was this, not that; it belonged here, not there. It was bounded, determinate, and therefore in principle – countable” (185). Anderson describes this style of imagining to be a product of the technologies of the time – navigation, photography and print, to name a few – and the “deep, driving power of capitalism”.

Some things we may consider are:

What is the  imagined community?

How can we apply imagined community to a broader discussion on mass media and the network?


The featured image is of “Echo House” (2007) by Olafur Eliasson. In “Echo House” a reflective curtain is dropped in front of the audience, showing audience members their every gesture. Each sound they made—from coughs to claps—was mimicked sonically by the orchestra. The audience would soon  take the lead, improvising a score of shouts and ring tones. I thought it was interesting because it was intended mirror the group decision-making found online; and  foster interactivity without the screen.

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