Why Privacy Matters

It’s the immediate time after the adoption of the constitution in Philadelphia. A compromise between different ideological factions, northerners and southerners, has nonetheless produced a governing document for the new nation. Part of the compromise involves the listing of rights in a bill of rights. The first amendment, protecting a free press among other rights of expression is encoded.

The young nation faces challenges, and in an effort to maintain order and identify possible dissidents, the President orders all personal and private correspondence to be opened and inspected before it reaches its final destination. Letters are opened, conversations are monitored.

It seems outrageous of course, the government opening each piece of mail and reading its content? Yet, as the Snowden revelations show, this massive scale of surveillance has been carried out by the United States government for longer than a decade. In response to the threat of terror, governments have architected a surveillance system many times more powerful, invasive and global than opening letters.

So what is the difference? Even after the Snowden revelations, Pew has found 46% of Americans still support the mass collection of data (Gao 2015). Fear is a strong motivation, and political leaders have certainly stoked fear to justify the surveillance state. Could it also be the secrecy and mysterious of the NSA? Most users of the Internet have little sense of the technological infrastructure that makes it work. While we would justifiably be upset if our mail was delivered to us opened and searched through, we have no idea if our emails have been seen by someone else. Finally, there is this prevailing sense that if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear.

Should Americans expect privacy when talking to their loved ones, doing business, and discussing politics online? Realistically, and at this moment, they cannot and should not. But normatively? Beyond a doubt. The right to privacy, while not explicitly encoded into the U.S. Constitution, is a fundamental right to the functioning of a free society.

Glen Greenwald in Nowhere to Hide not only details the massive revelatory leak by Edward Snowden of NSA surveillance but argues privacy must be a basic right in democracy. Why should Americans demand privacy online? Greenwald advances several arguments, and I will tie them to my own.

First, our lives are conducted online just as much as they are in the offline world. Sure we watch YouTube videos and brose facebook, mostly harmless activities. But we also bank online, research symptoms of a potential illness, and look for new jobs. The business of life has moved online, and it is convenient in many ways, but we also must expect the same privacy when living online just as much as private conversations. Out of necessity, we should expect privacy. Surveillance of private communications online necessitates the building of systems that break online programs. Surveillance makes online interaction less safe, by creating vulnerabilities in the software systems. For example, the debate over the FBI asking Apple to create a “backdoor” into its OS would have created serious technically vulnerabilities susceptible to malicious actors (Yadron 2016).

Second, free speech, as protected in the U.S. Constitution, cannot be separated from online activity any more. Greenwald notes how any device connected to the Internet can become a surveillance device. And expression of ideas simultaneously requires the use of the Internet. Prior restraint of speech is traditionally understood as censorship before speech can be made, through policy and regulation. For example, think of the Nixon administration tried to block the publications of information revealed in the Pentagon papers, and the Supreme Court found their attempted restraint unconstitutional. Surveillance has a similar effect in changing behavior, so can we consider surveillance a prior restraint?

Finally, privacy is essential to social change. The Underground Railroad was underground for a reason, it had to evade the watchful eyes of authorities seeking to return fugitive slaves back to the South. As Greenwald makes clear, those invested in the status quo, whether it be segregation or the military industrial complex, will attempt to infiltrate dissidents and radicals. They will instill fear, stoke discord and mistrust among leaders of protest movements. The FBI encouraged MLK to kill himself after sending him tapes of recordings of his affairs (Gage 2014). Dissidents, those who are brave enough to speak up against the status quo and risk their safety and livelihoods need the protection of privacy to organize. They need the protection to meet and coordinate, whether it is online or in person. We know from Greenwald that knowing you are being watched changes people, they become less willing to take risks and speak truth to power.

Gage, B. (2014, November 15). What an Uncensored Letter to M.L.K. Reveals. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/16/magazine/what-an-uncensored-letter-to-mlk-reveals.html?_r=0

Gao, G. (2015, May 29). What Americans think about NSA surveillance, national security and privacy. Retrieved from http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2015/05/29/what-americans-think-about-nsa-surveillance-national-security-and-privacy/

Greenwald, G. (2014). No place to hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA, and the U.S. surveillance state.

Yadron, D. (2016, April 28). FBI confirms it won't tell Apple how it hacked San Bernardino shooter's iPhone. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/apr/27/fbi-apple-iphone-secret-hack-san-bernardino

How creating a compelling narrative helped me get to Oxford for the summer

A few weeks ago I received an acceptance to a prestigious summer institute to be held at the University of Oxford in England. Since then I have launched a gofundme page to help cover my travel expenses in between preparing a study visa application and figuring out flights. 

I wanted to share to share the text of my statement of interest for the program. In it, I tried to sum up how my personal journey connects to my academic and professional work. Hopefully it can serve as a guide for developing your narrative. You may notice I go back to the same themes I use on my "about me" page. 

"Statement of Interest

Annenberg-Oxford Media Policy Summer Institute

I am a proud native of El Chuco Town, otherwise known as El Paso, Texas, and a second-generation American. Like many U.S. Latinos, my family has strived to live the American Dream. My father, Héctor Soto, and my mother, Norma Vásquez, come from Ciudad Juárez in México and the south side of El Paso, respectively. My playground growing up was the borderlands between the United States and México, the globalized frontier where geography, ideology, and politics collided.

The interests that guide my research and academic work are tied to where I was born and raised, the people that surrounded me and the challenges and opportunities mi gente (my people) face. Following the completion of my time at university in 2012 I returned to El Paso to serve as the Deputy Campaign Manager for the Héctor H. López for Mayor campaign. While I had many roles, the most exhilarating moments of the campaign involved the rapid communication responses I wrote through press releases and candidate questionnaires along with managing the data and information we received.

I am interested in how the modern tools of communication are used to understand, speak to and mobilize Latinos in the United States. I am interested in what values and perceptions of minority communities like Latino are being coded into voter databases and get out the vote applications. Questions emerge such as; who is deciding what are discreet qualities of Latino voters? How are these digital technologies contributing to the racial formation of U.S. Latinos? The policy implications of these issues have also increasingly interested me. As digital technologies progress and become more integrated into our physical lives (and bodies), privacy will become an even more pressing issue. Policymakers often lack the technical knowledge of the complexity of digital media issues, which increases the urgency of my work.

Since I began my course of study at American University I have gained tremendous insight from my colleagues whose expertise and background differ greatly from my own. My colleagues from Latin America have exposed to me the differences and similarities of our communities. A colleague with with experience in Republican political campaigns has become a close friend and we share political war stories. The primary reason I am applying to the Annenberg-Oxford is to meet and learn from colleagues from around the world. My work would supremely benefit from more technical knowledge of how the issues I care about work at the infrastructure and system level. My work would also benefit from an increased comparative framework from other countries and perspectives.

Currently, I am pursuing the following research projects related to these issues.

In March of 2016 I began a study of the 2016 Presidential campaigns’ data and information collection policies. The study is a qualitative thematic analysis of the privacy and terms of use policies found on their websites. This project focuses on the question of; what are the data collection practices of the major 2016 presidential campaigns? A second related sub-question is, what are the political and economic relations between campaigns and private data collection firms?

In November of 2015 I completed an initial study of the politics surrounding the creation of Latino music playlists on streaming music services such as Spotify. In the paper I argue “the subsuming of diverse Latin musical styles – each with their own historical legacies of colonialism, folk practices and racial difference, into a Latino genre of music is a metaphor for the process of racial formation of a people becoming Latinos in the United States.” I am currently preparing the manuscript after a round of review for publication.

Finally, in September of 2015 I completed a publishable draft of a study on the rhetorical construction of Latinos by American Presidents. I explored the concept of Latino pan-ethnicism, which is the creation of a singular, racialized identity that subsumes ethnic and national difference. Results showed that (1) Latino pan-ethnic language emerged in presidential rhetoric in the early 1990’s, (2) Democratic Presidents have deployed pan-ethnic rhetoric more consistently than their Republican counterparts, and (3) Latino pan-ethnicism is the dominant discourse in presidential politics today. This paper has been submitted to conference.

I am excited to express my interest in joining the Annenberg-Oxford institute and learning from colleagues from around the world. The diverse theoretical, methodological, professional and other perspectives will help inform my research and career.

Thank you for your consideration,

Arthur D. Soto-Vásquez"

 

The Cruz Campaign has paid one firm over $4.9 million for data analytics. Here's why that's important

Author's Note: This is a very rough outline of an ongoing research project I am investigating. Comments are welcome. 

The Problem

The era of data analytics and computing has been heralded as a new age of knowledge and all purpose tool to solve currently and future issues. While industry and online commerce trace the clicks and purchases of online users to better market and sell products, political campaigns are finding data tools critical in winning close elections. Using data and predictive voter models, campaigns are able to identify factors from a voter’s past political and purchasing history to communicate a specific, tailored message (Kreiss 2012). These sophisticated messages are not only used for voter outreach, but also get out the vote (GOTV) mobilization and fundraising. In the 2016 Republican caucus, Senator Ted Cruz of Texas reportedly outperformed polling and won due to a ground game aided by sophisticated internal data (Hamburger 2016). Similarly, many other campaigns have utilized sophisticated data sets and predictive voter models, prominently including the Obama for President campaigns in 2008 and 2012 (Kreiss 2012). In addition, a private cottage industry of firms has emerged to offer their services to campaigns willing to pay.

However, the rise of sophisticated data analytics presents three major concerns of note. First, there are significant privacy concerns of marrying commercial and political data to each other and making predictive based on that data. Data is not always perfect, and the misapplication of it may leave voters (or entire communities) outside of the political process. Second, even with the accurate application of data, there are troubling implications for democracy. Instead of campaigns speaking to the broadest political audiences, data allows for campaigns to find the voters most sympathetic and persuadable to their message. In addition, campaigns with access to the most financial and technical knowledge resources are better positioned to utilize data analytics to their advantage. Finally, and my own primacy concern, is the redlining potential of political micro-targeting on minority communities. When political micro-targeting is based on past voting history, historically disenfranchised communities of color are less likely to be targeted by future campaigns. Often, non-voters do not engage in the political system because they have never been brought into the system (Need Citation). When campaigns are faced with the difficult choice, bound by limited resources, to either reach out to new potential voters or mobilize likely supporters – they will usually choose to make sure their likely voters get out and vote.

The Question

This paper is intended as an initial investigation into a much larger question. A longer term, large scale investigation into how political micro-targeting practices are being used to speak to (or not speak to) minority communities is outside the scope of this paper. Similarly, attempting to answer what kind of perceptions and values of U.S. Latinos are being coded into the systems and applications presents methodological issues also outside the scope of possibility. As a result, this paper focuses on a narrower, but important, initial question; what are the data collection practices of the major 2016 presidential campaigns? A second related sub-question is, what are the political and economic relations between campaigns and private data collection firms?

Policy Implications

There are significant policy issues at play on the issue of data and political micro targeting. The privacy concerns become more troubling when political data is combined with health and financial data. Limiting political interaction to sympathetic voters also presents issues around a deliberative democracy. Finally, there are issues of equity when it comes to the choice to ignore minority voters.

Specifically, for this paper, political campaigns are utilizing voter data combined with data from other sources, including commercial databases along with user provided and extracted data. Campaigns can extract data not just by user provided information such as age, gender and location but also through browser enabled technologies. For example, campaign websites typically will track which website a user came from (google, facebook, a blog) to review their advertising strategies.

As such, these current practices present serious questions about privacy such as, should campaigns be allowed to use commercial data to reach out to voters? Many campaigns have privacy and user agreements, however many are out of sight and hard to find. In addition, opting out of data collection equates to opting out of use. Thus another significant policy question emerges, should campaigns be required to provide and “opt out” choice to site visitors? Finally, these political leaders often have divergent opinions regarding surveillance policy at massive scale, such as the data monitoring done by the National Security Agency. Should we doubt potential leader’s commitment to privacy when their campaigns engage is similar invasive techniques?

Literature Review

Daniel Kreiss in his 2012 article, “Yes We Can (Profile You)”, argues “gathering and acting on data about the electorate has a long history, but the sheer expanse of data now gathered and stored about the electorate and the modeling and targeted communications it supports are qualitatively new.” Campaigns have long used polls and other technologies of political knowledge gathering to develop a comparative advantage over other campaigns. Polls and in general the goal of quantifying political participation and opinion has long been a feature of American politics. In Numbered Voices: How Opinion Polling has Shaped American Politics, Susan Herbst argues the quantifying nature of polls is expressly linked to maintain a rational democracy. In addition, she argues polls have been used in America to command authority and control political history. Jean Converse in Survey Research in the United States: Roots and Emergence 1890-1960 argues the first modern polls, which emerged in 1930’s, had three historical legacies: the study of social conditions in Britain, the study of attitude by psychologists and marketing research. Technologies and artifacts always have politics embedded within them, even if they remain unseen, (Winner 1986) and in the case of polling technologies – the elevating of quantification and claims to objectivity have political ramifications.

A critical view of knowledge gathering situates political campaigns as an apparatus of the state’s desire for more information about its subjects. Even in a liberal democracy, knowledge about citizens is critical to governance – whether for beneficial causes such as public health, (arguably) benign causes such as the census or malignant causes such as segregation. Increasingly, political polls and representations of public opinion have shaped American politics increasingly every cycle, with cable news channels filling more airtime with speculation and punditry based on polls. In a Foucauldian sense, the goal of turning people into easily categorizable subjects through knowledge production is a function of power. In Discipline and Punishment, Foucault says, “There is no power relation without the correlative constitution of a field of knowledge, nor any knowledge that does not presuppose and constitute at the same time power relations.”

In sum, the literature review of this paper will focus on the recent and long history of data collection, the power relations inherent in data collection and application and a brief review of the technical mechanisms of modern data collection and voter micro-targeting in campaigns.

Methodology

Data analytics may invoke images of number crunching, algorithmic calculations and other heavy quantitative aspects. However, this numbers heavy world may actually call for a more in depth, qualitative analysis of what is going on. Qualitative analysis as a methodological paradigm is focused on the meaning making behind social and communicative phenomena.

This investigation is looking at the privacy policies of the major 2016 presidential campaigns[1] as the unit of analysis. Supplemental contextual information will be drawn from publically available interviews, websites and reporting.

The method used to analyze privacy policies will be a summative content analysis, a type of qualitative content analysis (Hsieh, Shannon 2005). Hsieh and Shannon define summative content analysis as a method that, “involves counting and comparisons, usually of keywords or content, followed by the interpretation of the underlying context” (1). While qualitative content analysis does involve counting and quantification, it ultimately focuses on the emergent meaning and themes that come from the text.

David Karpf (2012) notes the difficulty in studying the internet, as “the internet of 2002 has important differences from the internet of 2005, or 2009 or 2012.” Karpf continues arguing, “the medium is simultaneously undergoing a social diffusion process and an ongoing series of code-based modifications. Social diffusion brings in new actors with diverse interests. Code-based modifications alter the technological affordances of the media environment itself.” Indeed, the constant evolving nature of the internet present a methodological challenge. Kriess later in his 2015 article notes “it is exceptionally difficult to generalize findings about digital campaigning from one-time period to another.” And the further adoption of unique user data mining and application also may present different facing internet content that will be increasing difficult to document.

Results

On the evening of February 1st, following one of the longest electoral prologues in American history, Ted Cruz was declared the victor of the 2016 Republican Iowa caucus. While only securing slightly over a quarter of the vote, amongst a field of 12 candidates it was enough to gain a plurality. Cruz’s victory also came as a bit of a shock to some as polls indicated Donald Trump was poised to win the first in the nation caucus. It seems superior data analytics and resulting superior field organization helped Cruz win the day.

            In late 2015, the Washington Post reported that Cruz campaign has organized a,

“team of statisticians and behavioral psychologists who subscribe to the burgeoning practice of “psycho­graphic targeting” built their own version of a Myers-Briggs personality test. The test data is supplemented by recent issue surveys, and together they are used to categorize supporters, who then receive specially tailored messages, phone calls and visits. Micro-targeting of voters has been around for well over a decade, but the Cruz operation has deepened the intensity of the effort and the use of psychological data.”

Cruz who has been critical in the past of the widespread data monitoring and tracking of American citizens by the National Security Agency, has a campaign apparatus which collects much more personal data about its supporters and potential supporters.

            For example, the Washington Post report notes the Cruz campaign was able to identify at least 90 voters whose primary political concern was the statewide ban on fireworks – yes, fireworks. In addition, using psychological data, the Cruz campaign was also able to broadly identify two thematic objections to the ban, “fun-loving” and “libertarian.” Fun-lovers objected to the ban because they viewed fireworks as an essential component of family and community celebrations such at the 4th of July. Liberations philosophically objected to the government banning their sale. Using this data, the Cruz campaign was able to target unique messages to both groups.

            The Cruz campaign website has a privacy policy which details their data collection policies. For example, the website collects personal information such as, “heir name, address, telephone number, cell phone number, email address, voter registration history, or credit card number as well as information about your activities on this site when it is linked with other information that would enable a reader to identify you.” In addition, the campaign also automatically collects data beneath the content layer such as,

“your mobile device’s unique ID number, your mobile device’s geographic location while the app is actively running, your computer’s IP address, technical information about your computer or mobile device (such as type of device, web browser or operating system), your preferences and settings (time zone, language, privacy preferences, product preferences, etc.), the URL of the last web page you visited before coming to one of our sites, the buttons, controls and ads you clicked on (if any), how long you used our website or app and which services and features you used, and the online or offline status of Cruz Crew.”

The campaign also notes they reserve the right to share a voter’s data with service providers, ideologically or politically aligned organizations and analytics companies.

            The Cruz campaigns’ FEC filings emphasize their heavy reliance on digital data collection, analytics, and communication. Cambridge Analytica, the firm mentioned in the Washington Post article, specializes in using,

“data modeling and psychographic profiling to grow audiences, identify key influencers, and connect with people in ways that move them to action. Our unique data sets and unparalleled modeling techniques help organizations across America build better relationships with their target audience across all media platforms”

As of the most recent FEC filing date, the Cruz campaign has paid Cambridge Analytics over $4.9 million since October of 2015. In addition, the Cruz campaign has also paid over a $1 million for a voter list from Targeted Victory, another data firm. Targeted Victory advertises themselves as “audience specific, screen agnostic.” Overall expenditures to Targeted Victory total more than $2.5 million.

            These of course are preliminary results and the other campaigns have yet to be looked at. For example, the Donald Trump campaigns claims not to collect personally identifiable information, but then details all the ways personal data is collected by third parties.

            However, a clear preliminary result is the cost of data collection is incredibly high. Data is becoming extremely valuable, mirroring a digital currency that most users don’t even recognize as currency. If physical currency such as coins and banknotes has implied commoditized value, then data currency has implicit commoditized information value. As a result, the rise of data microtargeting is explicitly linked to the tremendous amount of money raised and expended by political campaigns.

Working Bibliography

Hamburger, T. (2015, December 13). Cruz campaign credits psychological data and analytics for its rising success. The Washington Post.

Karpf, D. (2010). Online Political Mobilization from the Advocacy Group's Perspective: Looking Beyond Clicktivism. Policy & Internet, 2(4), 7-41. doi:10.2202/1944-2866.1098

Kreiss, D. (2012). Yes We Can (Profile You) A Brief Primer on Campaigns and Political Data. The Stanford Law Review, 64, 70-74.

Kreiss, D. (2015). Digital campaigning. In S. Coleman & D. Freelon (Eds.), Handbook of digital politics (pp. 118-135). Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar.

 

[1] For the purposes of this paper, defined as competing in at least one primary or caucus. A campaign that dropped out prior to voting would not be considered.

ReMezcla: The Digital Formation of a Latino Genre of Music (Abstract + Intro)

Abstract 

As streaming music services become more ubiquitous, the ability to configure new listening experiences through the creation and sharing of playlists has implications for how culture and identity is communicated and understood. The rise of streaming is plotted concurrently with the changing demographics of the United States and the ongoing formation of U.S. Latino racial and cultural identity. This paper examines the transformation of Latino communities in America from distinct regional and ethnic groupings, with unique musical genres and tastes, towards an increasingly pan-ethnic Latino identity as Latin musical genres are remixed and mashed up. In particular, this paper asks how users of the popular Spotify streaming service construct their own “Latino” playlists. Embedded within these evolving cultural artifacts are the politics of a Latino population in flux, with social forces attempting to shape Latinos into a marketable and voting entity and marshal its cultural resources towards those goals. 

Introduction

Alongside tabs for EDM, Hip-Hop, Workout and Chill in the “Genres and Moods” section of the Spotify application there is a tab for “Latino.” Neither classifiable as a genre or mood, the inclusion of a Latino tab nonetheless does not seem out of place. Adorned with the silhouette of a Spanish guitar, this tab houses playlists from a mishmash of genres from across Latin America along with top “Latino” hit playlists. 

While gathering more mainstream attention, prompting some to say Latino music has “arrived,” U.S. Latino musical styles have historical legacies in the U.S. stretching into Latin America. The overarching signifier Latino obscures its diverse histories, as “Latino music making has always entailed crossing musical, geographic, racial and ethnic boundaries” (Pacini Hernandez 2010). Yet as an emerging category, “Latino music” deserves some scrutiny.
Examining “Latino music” as social phenomena cannot be separated from the ongoing political reality. There is surging attention in the political mainstream by pundits and politicians towards the “changing demographics” of the nation and the so-called “emergence” of Latinos (Taylor, Fry 2007). The Latinization of America is being met with anti-immigrant and racist rhetoric (Chavez 2013) and paradoxically, a budding optimism that Latinos will rejuvenate and transform American politics (Barreto, Segura 2014). 

The nexus of Latino politics of assimilation, protest, immigration and citizenship and Latino musical expression is apparent in the Salsa scene in New York (Padilla 2004) and the popularity of Narcocorridos on the U.S./Mexican Border describing the drug trade (Wald 2002). For an underrepresented community, there are few prominent Latino political leaders, the onus of speaking up for the gente falls to popular musicians. Spikes in nativist attitudes periodically arise in American political feeling during times of economic uncertainty (Higham 1955). In 2015, the anti-immigrant and racist rhetoric of leading presidential candidate Donald Trump ® prompted the popular bands Maná and Los Tigres de Norte to hold up a banner that read “Latinos unidos no voten por racistas” during a performance of “Somos Más Americanos” at the 2015 Latin Grammys. Although both bands are based in Mexico, their popularity in the U.S. allows them to make political claims on the behalf of U.S. Latinos. Following their performance, the Maná lead singer said to Rolling Stone, “We took this iconic song [of Los Tigres del Norte] and are using it as a weapon of protest to what’s happening here with immigration reform and all the xenophobic remarks made by Donald Trump” (Raygoza 2015).


The other side of privileging popular musicians to speak for U.S. Latinos reveals however that they are not simply avatars for Latino communities but also avatars for commercial interests seeking to create and corner the Latino market. This marketing logic is apparent when Pitbull, a Cuban-American rapper with large crossover appeal, is “shown shilling vodka, Bud Light and Dr. Pepper and says in an interview, ‘We’re a very loyal culture, that’s why products want us so bad because we’re loyal consumers’” in the HBO documentary “The Latin Explosion: A New America” (Hale 2015). This is not an innocent remark on the peculiarities of Latino consumers, the supposed loyalty of Latino consumers is a marketing fiction created by early Hispanic advertising firms to justify mainstream product marketing budgets (Davila 56-87 2010). Corporations and other commercial interests have taken notice of the “emerging Hispanic market” in the United States and seek to capture the immense buying power of over 50 million people. For marketers, Latino attention and consumption is “hot”- engendering a 5 billion dollar marketing industry with growth outpacing general audience marketing  (Davila 1-22 2012).

Thus the gaze of industrial and power relations within and outside of Latino communities cannot be separated from the act of listening to, sharing, remixing and ultimately creating a Latino genre of music in the America. This paper examines how the practice of creating Latino playlists on social music streaming applications such as Spotify by users and sharing them contributes to the construction of the overarching racial signifier Latino.

Users created playlists on streaming applications are fertile ground for critical analysis because they represent creative expressions of everyday people and feature low barriers of participation. Constructed as public representations of musical taste, they also serve as grounded perceptions of what Latino music is versus what professionally curated playlists purport to present. At the same time, even as popular representations of taste, hegemonic categorization of what Latino music is filters in throughout people’s ways of knowing.

This paper presents a literature review covering the key concepts necessary to understand the research problem, a section detailing the data collection and analysis, and concludes with a discussion of the results and other final thoughts including the limitations of the research and future directions. 

A Troll’s Way of Knowing

The advent of the Internet era unleashed a great optimism for people to experiment with new identities beyond their real life selves. The great hope was an imagined new era of empathy as people could virtually see the world through others eyes. In many ways the legacy of this optimism remains a part of web 2.0. Buzzfeed.com’sfounder and CEO Jonah Peretti has written that capitalism needs to be constantly producing identities for peoples if the system is to survive.

Growing up on the Internet, traversing wikis, message boards and article comments I encountered the worst of the identity flux on the net, the troll. Older and wiser net navigators warned newbies not to “feed the trolls” but they kept on multiplying and invading every crevice of the web.

Commercial interests soon took note of the power of trolls. From product reviews to political campaigns, trolls (and the more sophisticated astroturfing) became a way of either simulating support or denigrating others.

Yet trolling eventually confronted the legal system of the real world in serious ways. In one case, a middle-aged woman impersonated a teenage boy on MySpace, met and developed a relationship with another teenager. When the impersonator broke the young girl’s heart – the young girl committed suicide. This was of course an extreme case, but it shows the ways the real and virtual worlds collide.

Julian Dibbell in the article “A Rape in Cyberspace” concludes by making a provocation following his observation of the online space after the digital crime;

I have come to hear in them an announcement of the final stages of our decades-long passage into the Information Age, a paradigm shift that the classic liberal firewall between word and deed (itself a product of an earlier paradigm shift commonly known as the Enlightenment) is not likely to survive intact. After all, anyone the least bit familiar with the workings of the new era’s definitive technology, the computer, knows that it operates on a principle impracticably difficult to distinguish from the pre-Enlightenment principle of the magic word: the commands you type into a computer are a kind of speech that doesn’t so much communicate as make things happen, directly and ineluctably, the same way pulling a trigger does. They are incantations, in other words, and anyone at all attuned to the technosocial megatrends of the moment — from the growing dependence of economies on the global flow of intensely fetishized words and numbers to the burgeoning ability of bioengineers to speak the spells written in the four-letter text of DNA — knows that the logic of the incantation is rapidly permeating the fabric of our lives.

What are the implications of trolling for our conception of the public sphere? An identity that exists for the sole purpose of angering and disrupting discourse cannot constitute a rational public sphere.

What are the implications of a person saying and claiming things only as an online persona? Some claim their online persona is completely distinct from their “in real life” persona. How do we understand first amendment protections in such an instance?

My Adventures Campaigning in the Digital Age

In 2013 I helped run a progressive campaign for Mayor of my hometown, El Paso, TX. We were aggressively outspent by the two favorites campaigns, each raised about $250,000, and we raised $40,000. We couldn’t afford any web, advertising or really any consultants so we did everything “in house.” When I indicated my natural affinity for communications, the campaign collectively told me to manage the voter database and work on online advertising. 

The Texas Democratic Party (TDP) maintains a database named the Voter Activation Network and commonly called the VAN in the trade. The VAN was created during the tenure of Howard Dean as the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, in which he pursued a “50 State Strategy” of making the Democrats viable even in red states. Part of this strategy was helping create voter databases in each state, including Texas. Most databases combined publically accessible data with some commercial data and user inputted data. We as a campaign decided to purchase the VAN data and data interface from the TDP. Since we were running a citywide campaign, we only provided the voter precincts we needed and paid roughly $500. 

The data set and interface we received was great at providing the publically available data into easy to use spreadsheets. We would create “walk-lists” of voters in neighborhoods and make calls based on the criteria we believed would be likely voters. My own lack of sophistication with manipulating data at the time prevented me from communicating the best ROI (Return on Investment) voters. In addition, the data lacked city election level data, so we didn’t know if someone who voted in the 2012 Democratic primary voted in the 2011 city elections and would thus be likely to vote in 2013.

Some population numbers for perspective. The El Paso-Ciudad Juarez Border Metroplex region has over 3 million people and is the second largest border region in the world. Within the city limits of El Paso, there are about 650, 000 people. Of that population, about half are registered to vote. Of that registered population, half turn out to vote in presidential election years. In midterm elections, half turn out to vote compared to Presidential years. Finally in city elections, the turn out rate is below 10%. 

We had a constant debate in our campaign, should we just target highly likely voters or try to bring out voters who maybe had never voted for Mayor or city council. We eventually settled on targeting likely voters in precincts that were not being targeted by the other campaigns – usually in less affluent areas. Yet, in the back of my mind I had concerns for democracy writ large when campaigns only target those likely to vote.

Our experience with online advertising was instructive as well. We used facebook advertising to target a population of voters that were female, interested in politics and some other small factors. The utility of facebook data is that the user herself supplies it when she fills out her profile.

My own experiments in data driven campaigning lacked the sophistication of professionals at the highest federal level of elections. While the practices are trickling down, I maintain some reservations for our democracy in the digital age.

First of all, national campaigns have to raise a lot of money. The diversity of platform and the fragmentation of audiences will require much more spending by campaigns in the future. The “money election” de factodisqualifies candidates from the actual election if they cannot get their message out. This of course has serious implications for the health of our democracy. 

Second, presuming national candidates raise the money to advertise on many platforms – it may have deleterious effects on those campaigning for state and local level governing. Whereas Presidential advertisements may become omnipresent, it will become harder for local campaigns to cut through the noise. National campaigns can advertise in video games, online videos, apps and many others yet to be created platforms.

Finally, micro targeting of political advertising threatens turning the great public debate into smaller echo chambers. A democratic campaign armed with data that a household has voted in every Republican primary since 1980, subscribes to Guns and Ammo and shops at Bass Pro Shop will likely skip that household for the next. The sharp increase in polarization in American politics isn’t accidental.

Is Ethnic Media Alternative?

When Univision anchor Jorge Ramos was thrown out of a Donald Trump press conference it was for many Americans their first time encountering the man who some call the “Latino Walter Cronkite.” For many of Latinos in the United States, Ramos is a familiar face. He has delivered the news for years as the anchor of the nightly news on Noticiero Univision. While being just a few channels away from the mainstream networks, Ramos and the rest of Spanish language news remain foreign to most Americans. 

The concept of alternative media, partly outlined by Lievrouw, is media that is not the mainstream media. In practice however, this concept of alternative media is difficult to define. An outlet could publish alternative content; yet follow a hierarchal model similar to other mainstream publishers. Can ethnic media be considered alternative? Instead of targeting a national audience, as mainstream media does, ethnic media targets a niche audience of a particular ethnicity. Ethnic audiences often turn to and trust ethnic media before mainstream news. For immigrant communities, ethnic media connects them to their sending country’s culture and news amidst the foreign and unfamiliar in their new home. Finally, ethnic media also provides important spaces for ethnic groups to form community.

However, there are also some aspects of ethnic media that prevent it from being completely categorized as alternative media. For one, ethnic media outlets are not immune from market forces. In fact they be more susceptible to market fluctuations because of their smaller audiences. Ethnic media outlets are also often owned by major media conglomerates of other ethnic media, mainstream media companies or foreign media companies. Ethnic media also often reuse content from sending countries mainstream media to fill their pages and airtime. Finally, and most importantly, ethnic media can also fall prey to replicating hegemonic discourses on race and power from both countries they operate in. 

I’ll analyze Spanish language media in the United States to be more specific on these claims. Spanish language media is the most prominent ethnic media system in the United States; Univision will often beat English language networks in key demographics in ratings. There is a vibrant network of national broadcast channels, Univision and Telemundo, their local affiliates and Spanish daily and weekly newspapers in most major American cities. An important point, almost all of these outlets was started in the United States not in Latin America, although strong ties remain. 

NBC Universal owns Telemundo. Univision recently partnered with ABC to produce Fusion, a Bilingual channel directed towards Latinos who seek programming in both languages. These moves can be celebrated as American Latinos moving closer into the national imagination and agenda as important player and also be concerning. Univision and Telemundo derive much of their non-news content from Mexico. 

Specifically, Univision imports popular telenovelas from the near monopolistic Mexican media giant Televisa. These telenovelas, popular and engaging as they may be, have been rightly criticized for the racial order they celebrate – elevating European aesthetics as the most desirable and placing Mestizo and black aesthetics in subservient, if even visible, roles. They also strongly tie the racial order of Mexico and Latin America with the economic order of capitalism, white characters are of capital and are rarely even seen working.

When imported to Latino audiences in the United States, what do these telenovelas represent? Nostalgia, even for a past that didn’t exist, is powerful in telenovelas. Images of working ranches, happy priests, and happier house servants fill the screen. I suggest these nostalgias, when viewed from the U.S. attempt to create a Latin American that didn’t exist and simultaneously draw Latino audiences into accepting Univision as the authentic voice for Latinos in the U.S.

ImpreMedia owns two of the largest Latino newspapers in major markets, La Opinion in Los Angeles and El Diario La Prensa in New York. In addition, La Nacion, the leading conservative newspaper in Argentina, recently bought ImpreMedia. El Nuevo Herald, the Spanish newspaper in Miami, is the sister paper of the Miami Herald. 

To be fair, Spanish language news in the United States cover news that is often “missed” by the mainstream English news. Spanish language journalists have dual loyalties, one to objectivity but also toward representing Latino audiences. For his part, Ramos doesn’t ask, “Univision wants to know…”his questions are usually formatted as “Latinos want to know.” 

Surveilling the Self(ie)

The front facing camera, imbedded and built into almost every cell phone, turns the outward gaze of the photo inwards. Self-portraits, know popularly as selfies, have become the dominant genre of photos. Almost everyone has taken selfies, yet we feel uneasy about them – to the extent that we have to adopt an ironic detachment to the practice. We can silently snicker at those whose “selfie game” (the skills associated with capturing the best self image at the best time) circumscribes their entire body moving through space, were the gaze is not directed forward or sideways to companions but inwards – onto the individual. 

We are living in the most surveilled moment in history. We carry the instruments of our surveillance with us, our phones, into private spaces in which any other camera would be scandalous – our bedrooms, restrooms and homes. Because the social cost of not owning or using a modern feature phone is so high, the phone has become utterly naturalized as an extension of our bodies. We become walking potential images, for at any instance we may be asked to report the condition of our body to our friends.

Self-surveillance becomes the norm, yet the state or other disciplinary agents such as schools or our offices are not fear – our fear is our body not being image ready for the imaginary audiences of our networks. Foucault in Discipline and Punishment describes panopticonism an asymmetrical power relationship where the corporate and/or state entity is both all seeing and invisible. The corporate and/or state entity is all seeing because it can aggregate the personal, social, political, and commercial data of an individual to predict habits and monitor activity. The corporate and/or state entity is also invisible because it can access and utilize an individual’s information subtly and not immediately apparent to the individual. Importantly, this relationship depends on the voluntary submission of information to the corporate and/or state entity rather than the brute force accumulation of information. The voluntary submission of information occurs because the individual perceives some set of personal benefits to be gained through increased online interaction.

The actually physical panopticon, which Foucault derives his inspiration, was a specific type of prison where an all-seeing guard tower stood in the middle of a circle of prison cells. Inmates knew they could be watched at anytime, but the seeing power was invisible and unknowable. They know neither when nor how the gaze was turned onto them. The state agent thus achieved control over its subject not through force but through the possible threat of force at any given time. Foucualt says, “he who is subjected to a field of visibility, and who knows it, assumes responsibility for the constraints of power; he makes them play spontaneously upon himself; he inscribes in himself the power relation in which he simultaneously plays both roles; he becomes the principle of his own subjection.”

The inward gaze of the front-facing camera and the practice of the selfie turn us into the guard of our own imprisonment. We modify our body image through the fear of others not seeing the best version of ourselves.

The genre of selfie images contain post-modern aesthetics, the outward facing camera was designed to capture a moment in time. A moment in which historical context and the political dimension was critical, think of the flag raising at Iwo Jima or the images of violence perpetrated by the state against civil rights protesters in the 1960’s. While the selfie can possibly capture the historical moment, the fixation on the body over everything else disassociates the image from when it was taken.

I take neither a positive nor negative stance towards the selfie; I’ve taken plenty of them - I simply seek to explicate the power relations imbedded in the practice. It provides a more emotive, social message than simple text. They are certainly forms of self-expression, a declaration that the person exists and matters in the depersonalized landscape of political and economic. Yet we cannot also celebrate the selfie without recognizing the inordinate power it endows certain types of representation (person as consumer, as commodity) over others.

Jameson, F. (1992) Postmodernism, or the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism

Fredric Jameson is a prominent literary critic and political theorist and is often placed into the Western Marxist school of thought. Western Marxism emphasizes the study of culture as important to understanding the ideology of capitalism and the interaction between base and superstructure. 

Jameson as a cultural theorist also connects the work of the Frankfurt school (Adorno and Horkheimer) and Birmingham School (Hall) to a wide variety of contemporary texts (films, buildings, etc.) This article was published in New Left Review, founded by Hall himself, and was later written as a full book. My summary reorders Jameson’s article to best explain his theory and reflect my own understanding of the primacy of the political-economic systems to shape culture. 

Late Capitalism

Late capitalism is a distinct reordering of production based around the development of electronic and nuclear technologies. Late capitalism (sometimes called post-industrialism) according to Mendel comes after market capitalism (ordered by steam technology) and imperialist capitalism (ordered by the combustion technology). Jameson argues each of these capitalist eras engendered distinct cultural forms, however he is careful to argue there was a degree of separation between capitalist production and cultural production in past eras, which does not exist in the postmodern-late capitalist order.  

Postmodernism and Postmodernity

The two concepts broadly refer to “what comes after the project of modernity.” Modernity, through the postmodern lens was an effort to create an ordered, rationale political and economic and represent it through culture. The mass production of goods (through Fordism) and the mass production of information and culture (through mass media) are constituent parts of modernity. 

Crisis in capitalism including depression, world wars, conflict with soviet authoritative socialism, domestic social movement for full labor force participation (civil rights, feminist, etc.) ended the fordist regime in capital production and led to the flexible accumulation of late capitalism. The quick moving of labor and capitol in the flexible accumulation regime (popularly called globalization) has “compressed space and time.” See Harvey, D. (1989) The Condition of Postmodernity.

The transformed cultural order resulting from late capitalism and flexible accumulation has distinct aesthetic features which, when analyzed as a category, can be called postmodernism. 

Finally, there is the question of the “end of history.” Jameson in the beginning of his article addresses the “inverted millenarianism” which instead of predicting the end of humanity, the inversion predicted the end of ideology (the resolution of dialectic debates) history (the resolution of first-second world conflict) and many other fields. The end of history really stands for the end of modernity, and the postmodern order follows.

Aesthetics of Postmodernism

The overtaking of capitalist production ethos into the cultural sphere (commodification, massification) results in distinct features of art and other cultural products. A brief summary of Jameson’s features of postmodernism follows. 

Depthlessness

Jameson argues postmodern culture exudes a literal superficiality where the cultural product is disconnected from any political or social meaning. Modern culture had “depth” in that what was artistically rendered was imbued with meaning beyond what could be seen. 

Jameson uses the example of Van Gogh’s Peasant Shoes to demonstrate modern art “depth,” as it can be contextualized with countryside impoverishment, agricultural work, and the European working class. He contrasts Van Gogh’s work with Andy Warhol’s Diamond Dust Shoes, which he argues, has no deeper meaning beyond what you see.

Waning of Affect

Another important dimension of postmodern culture is the erasure of personal affect (emotions, feelings, inner thought) in culture. While modern art reflected dialects between the outside and inside world, subjects and objects, postmodern art removes the inner dimension because the individual has been made into an abstraction – reduced to a consumer, node, audience, data packet, etc. 

Pastiche

Postmodern culture draws inspiration from past movements, genres and styles, combines them into “collage” type formations and presents them in new packaged ways. In opposition to modern parody (which through parody of a type of cultural form, creates its own meaning) pastiche has no meaning it self. 

Copies of copies become the norm in postmodern cultural products – think of modern superhero blockbusters, which combine genre film styles (WWII film, heist film, film noir, fantasy) with comic book source material, which was based on mythology, serials, literary characters, etc. Jameson calls this “random cannibalism” of past styles. Historicism, the sense of history like reference without any real connection to history, creates empty nostalgia.

Postmodern society and its consequences

Jameson concludes by stressing the study of postmodern aesthetics is not merely a theoretical issue; there are serious political consequences. He argues that by outlining postmodernism he is not celebrating it, but attempting to make sense of the current world order. Jameson asks both and us to do the impossible see postmodernism as the “best” and “worst” outcome, as the progress and a point criticize.

For students of communication, the important lesson from Jameson is that no cultural text is created outside of the material conditions of a political-economic system. Power flows through and into the cultural products we consume, and even how we conceptualize consumption, creation, identity and taste are all effects of late capitalism. 

Hypertextuality

Deuze (2003) posits online journalism affords unique opportunities that print journalism did not previously offer. Hypertextuality refers to ability to link text using HTML to other websites on the Internet. While Deuze only briefly mentions hypertextuality and discusses some potential issues, I would like to highlight some of the positive affordances of hypertext linking. The practices surrounding hypertext linking in journalism include one news article linking to another on the same site, another article from a different source or theoretically anything on the net.

The digital architecture of online news portals allows for stories to take different shapes and approaches that print journalism stories could. Instead of devoting sentences to explain the context of a story (or ignoring it), an online news article can simply link to a broader explanatory piece. Journalists can also contrast their analysis of an event to other journalists by linking to their article. This places articles into networks of knowledge instead of singular snapshots of a time. For example, a series of stories on the Greek debt crisis in Vox contains the following paragraph on the recent elections:

On January 25, a formerly marginal left-wing party called Syriza swept into office in Greece and unsettled the political arrangements that were used to avert catastrophe. 

In the case of this hypertextual linking, Syriza links to its respective Wikipedia page and “avert catastrophe” links to another Vox article. 

For readers, this allows for potentially deeper engagement with the subject matter in an article. One story opens up several other stories, which could delve into historic context, opposing analysis and related stories. This directly evokes Vannevar Bush’s concept of the Memex, a device capable of mimicking the human ability to link concepts. 

According to Pew, younger generations of Americas have turned to online news instead of print journalism. Hypertext links present a shift in how people will engage with the news. Links are to be expected, articles become less of a encapsulation of a moment and become a jumping off point into larger discussions.

Talking about Football

With a multi medium spectacular of flair, the 2015 season of the National Football League (NFL) arrived this past weekend. Millions of fans across the United States and elsewhere tune into watch their favorite team and follow the unfolding dramas of new quarterbacks and coaches. Fandom crosses all lines of difference in our society and everyone seems to be watching and discussing the results the Monday after. Indeed political philosopher Noam Chomsky has said the energy and level of discussion regarding sports news (in which everyday citizens can participate) exceeds that of political discussion. In Understanding Power, Chomsky writes:

 “You’re trained to be obedient; you don’t have an interesting job; there’s no work around for you that’s creative; in the cultural environment you’re a passive observer of usually pretty tawdry stuff; political and social life are out of your range, they’re in the hands of the rich folks. So what’s left? Well, one thing that’s left is sports – so you put a lot of the intelligence and the thought and the self-confidence into that. And I suppose that’s also one of the basic functions it serves in the society in general: it occupies the population, and keeps them from trying to get involved with things that really matter.”

Our national obsession with the NFL and sports in general demonstrates key components of public sphere theory and key criticisms as well. On one hand, public discussion surrounding the NFL can show the worst of the internet and public discourse – hateful and often racists comments abound in public discussion boards and fandom often limits the public’s ability to objectively discuss controversies regarding their favorite teams. And while there are fans of all genders, the discussion and tropes of the genre often track along hyper masculine lines.

Yet, football has also served as a place where the public can deliberate and understand important societal issues. Think of discussions regarding the name of the Washington football team, “spygate” and “deflategate,” violence against women, mental health and corporate responsibility. There are NFL apologists, social justice activists and a variety of discussants all competing for public attention. Along the lines of Fraser, heterogeneous publics have the ability to determine what is “political” through their discussions. The public sphere of NFL fandom is one of the spaces and is conjoined to other spheres. 

As Sunstein says, there exists only a few days of national importance in America – and the Super Bowl draws more attention than the national holidays that have become “mere days off from work.” Football often provides a common language for different people to engage in and a ritual to participate in. “Watching the game together” perhaps remains one of the most significant social events in a highly individualistic society. 

Our national obsession with football, like many things in our postmodern society, presents multiple contradictions for those concerned with the health of our democracy. It’s a common experience for us but also one utterly dominated by corporate interests. It creates lifelong memories and associations but also quickly destroys and discards the bodies (often black) it needs to power the enterprise. 

Communicators and philosophers cannot dismiss the phenomenon when deliberations about power, race and violence are happening offline and online. In many ways, this phenomenon offers some lessons for the maintenance of democracy. There is no barrier to participation other than fandom. Contrast this to the “political” sphere where non-expert opinions are quickly mocked and dismissed and the “bracketing of social position” seems impossible. Yet there also must be a contextualizing of the space and connecting of the energy devoted to discussion towards productive political endeavors.

The Public Sphere - and some thoughts on what it means for U.S. Latinos

Is the public sphere a useful concept in communication and media studies, where it often used as a short hand to describe deliberative spaces (both online and offline) or should it be regarded as an anachronistic and utopian idea of democracy that never was? The public sphere as conceptualized by Habermas and updated by countless others describes the public (open, free, equalizing) space where citizens come together from all sectors of society to contest matters of the state separate from the parliamentary apparatus itself and create “public opinion.” 

The modern public sphere as understood by Peter Dahlgren (2005) functions much closer to a ““a constellation of communicative spaces in society that permit the circulation of information, ideas, debates— ideally in an unfettered manner—and also the formation of political will (i.e., public opinion)” (148).” Dahlgren argues the public sphere concept is being destabilized along multiple vectors – the increasing (or rather legitimation) status of heterogeneous groups, non-political uses of the sphere (or rather the opening up of private spaces to political deliberation) and the blurring of national projects (what could be said of an international public sphere/s?).

Fraser (1990) preceded Dahlgren in her critique of the Habermasian public sphere. She additionally approximated what the public sphere (could) look like in actually existing democracy. She posits the ideal utopic public sphere concept makes four fundamental assumptions; 1. participants will exchange ideas and debate each other as though they are equals, 2. multiple publics are a move away from a functioning democracy, 3. A clear divide between public and private issues is present and 4. civil society (the public) is clearly divorced from the state. From these four assumptions, Fraser constructs a public sphere concept more viable in a heterogeneous society. Her contribution here is the idea of subaltern counterpublics, spaces in which non-dominant, oppressed groups can also come together and deliberate matters. She argues the overarching public sphere must be found at the nexus of the constellation of multiple spheres.

The critical tension in the public sphere is what type of rhetoric, spectrum of ideologies and tones are considered “reasonable” to discuss among reasonable people. Kohn (2000) argues, “reasonableness is itself a social construction which usually benefits those already in power.” Habermas’ legacy of the bourgeois public sphere carries on in the imagination of current democratic deliberation – where certain voices are privileged to discuss what is in the best interests of the “we.”  Think of immigration protestors dismissed at campaigns rallies and told “there will be a time and place” for their concerns to be heard or “if they would just sit down and talk like us” their concerns would be taken more seriously. Fraser identifies this tension when she says “discursive interaction within the bourgeois public sphere was governed by protocols of style and decorum that were themselves correlates and markers of status inequality.” 

My own work challenges the forces of political assimilation U.S. Latinos undergo in order to participate in the American conception of the public sphere. Indeed, there are significant interactional barriers (see Dahlgren) to full participation including language, perceptions of foreignness (Chavez in the Latino Threat Narrative) and the limiting of debate to “citizens” (Amaya in Citizenship Excess). U.S Latinos form multiple counter publics in the United States - Spanish language journalism primary among them. However despite the existence of these counter publics, the hierarchal positioning of the “true” public sphere pressures U.S. Latinos to abandon their spaces (through discursive formations of internalized racism and the delegitimization of Spanish) for the mainstream. 

 

Amaya, Hector. Citizenship Excess: Latino/as, Media, and the Nation. New York City: New York UP, 2013. Print.

Chavez, Leo. The Latino Threat: Constructing Immigrants, Citizens, and the Nation. Stanford, CA: Stanford UP, 2013. Web.

Dahlgren, Peter. “The Internet, Public Spheres, and Political Communication: Dispersion and Deliberation.” Political Communication 22.2 (2005): 147-62. Web.

Fraser, Nancy. “Rethinking the Public Sphere: A Contribution to the Critique of Actually Existing Democracy.” Social Text 25/26 (1990): Web.

Habermas, Jürgen. The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere: An Inquiry into a Category of Bourgeois Society. Cambridge, MA: MIT, 1991. Print.

Kohn, M. Language, power, and persuasion: Towards a critique of deliberative democracy. Constellations, 7, (2000) 408–429.

Carey, J.W. (2009). A Cultural Approach to Communication. Communication as Culture: Essays on Media and Society, (New York: Routledge), 11-29.

“Two alternative conceptions of communication have been alive in American culture since this term entered common discourse in the nineteenth century.” 

Transmission view of communication/Ritual view of communication

In the transmission view, “communication is a process whereby messages are transmitted and distributed in space for the control of distance and people.”

This includes the moving of information across space, transmitting ideas, sending data, etc. 

In the ritual view, communication is the creation of community or the, “is linked to terms such as ‘sharing,’ ‘participation,’ ‘association,’ ‘fellowship,’ and ‘the possession of a common faith.’

Carey uses the Christian mass to contrast transmission (the sermon, the admonition, the church bulletin) to ritual (chanting, singing, the ceremony).
Ritual “sees the original or highest manifestation of communication not in the transmission of intelligent information but in the construction and maintenance of an ordered, meaningful cultural world that can serve as a control and container for human action.” -> See Anderson Imagined Communities – nationalism as the bonds between strangers who see the image of each other in communion.

We have a difficulty seeing this level of communication because of the extreme focus on individual thought in western society.

Carey uses newspapers to contrast transmission (reporting and reading information, advertisements, opinion) to ritual (our place in dramatic action).

Part two is concerned with how “communication is a symbolic process whereby reality is produced, maintained, repaired, and transformed.”

Rather than communication being a reflection of reality, communication creates reality through symbolic ordering. “In the beginning there was only the word”

Carey uses maps to demonstrate the abstract ordering of the reality through symbols, directions, and geographic features into a communicative artifact. Different maps create different possible realities

Thought is not an individual project but rather an individual accessing public thought through symbols (Language, numbers, mathematical functions, theory, etc.)

Communication study is often about communication. And the models we create to understand communication become social institution themselves (the academic paper, the conference, the seminar, etc.)

From "The West Wing" Season 2 Episode 16

    Location: Texas State Capitol, House of Representatives  Event: 2013 Texas Lorenzo de Zavala Youth Legislative Session  Subject: Youth Governor Edgar Warnholtz of Monterrey, MX addresses the delegation.

 

Location: Texas State Capitol, House of Representatives

Event: 2013 Texas Lorenzo de Zavala Youth Legislative Session

Subject: Youth Governor Edgar Warnholtz of Monterrey, MX addresses the delegation.