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Monthly Archives: April 2014

Thanks to Dirk for reminding me to start posting some of the details on
the Couch-Stone Symposium, held on March 27-29, 2014 at Texas State
University. “Symbolic Interactionist Takes on Music” was a big hit.
There were 41 presenters on the program, and approximately 195 attendees
for the 7 sessions. The Thursday evening BBQ and jam was a lot of fun
(see attached picture), as was the Friday evening dinner and Leon Russell
concert. We are now assembling abstracts from presenters for four
publishers who are interested in considering them for a book or special
journal issue. Overall, we clearly demonstrated the wide range of rich
topics comprising a symbolic interactionist approach to music. But, we
also clarified real and potential collaborations with friends in other
disciplines. I am also attaching the primary symposium poster, designed
by an undergraduate sociology major at Texas State. On the next post, I
will attach the program.

Attendees: Please post your two cents on the C-S!

Joe Kotarba

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In the social sciences as well as media and communication studies there is an increasing interest in everyday technologies, like the cellphone and the webcam. Already in 2004 Paul Levinson, Professor of Communication & Media Studies at Fordham University in NYC, student of Neil Postman, and author of science fiction novels, published his book “Cellphone. The Story of the World’s Most Mobile Medium and How It Has Transformed Everything!“. The book situates the cellphone that in the UK is called “mobile phone” or simply “mobile” and in Germany “handy” within the development of other media before and alongside this highly mobile communication tools. At the centre of this highly readable volume are the new forms of communication and the mobility that the “Cellphone” enables. These characteristics of the mobile phone  have given rise to a number of opportunities and challenges that Levinson discusses, not without comparing them to the emergence of other media, such as the radio and television or the desktop computer.

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Levinson highlights in particular that in the age of the mobile personal communication we have the possibility to reach out to others wherever we are whilst at the same time being reachable by others all the time. In fact, we expect of each other to be reachable at any point in time and have to account for moments in which we do not pick up our cellphone. The further advancement of the cellphone technology that has turned the “handy” into a highly mobile personal computer with access to email and social networking sites has increased the expectation of permanent reachability. Not surprisingly therefore people report that work increasingly interferes in private lives, work email is checked at family dinners and the Internet is being searched for news in sometimes inappropriate situations. Moreover, Levinson discusses the opportunities offered by video-cameras built into cellphones and its potential impact on news reporting, an impact that in recent years, we have seen being played out when news channels increasingly use video-clips shot with cellphone cameras by people present at events such as the  London riots or the London bombings in 2007.

Although Levinson’s ‘Cellphone’ is more than 10 years old it still is very relevant. It could do with an update that reflects the increasingly wide distribution of smart phones, includes research on cellphone use in social situations and discusses some of the solutions that people have developed to deal with the problem of omni-reachability, i.e. the use of multiple-phones for different purposes, phone stacks, digital etiquettes and technology shabbaths.