Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Review of New Media in New Media and Society

Following on from a blogging idea form my friend Mark Deuze, I have decided to start including reviews of my books on my blog.

The first is a review of New Media: An Introduction by Helen Kennedy from the University of Leeds. This review appeared in New Media and Society, Vol. 11 No. 3, May 2009.

The full text can be accessed from here, but a sample is provided below.

Flew’s text is an interesting, introductory overview – not the definitive
overview, for such a text does not exist. It is broad in reach. After the
introduction, the first three chapters attempt to define the key concepts to,
key approaches in, and key writers about, new media. In the remaining
chapters, Flew addresses what he sees as central issues in new media today.
These include social networking, participatory culture, gaming, citizen
journalism, creative industries, the global knowledge economy and the law–
policy–governance triangle.

How do you choose 20 key concepts in new media? Like Flew, I would
include convergence, cyberspace, networks, participation and virtuality, but
I am not convinced that all inclusions belong here. Also, how do you do
justice to these important concepts in less than a page? While many authors
have dedicated whole books to the topic of participation, Flew settles for a
couple of paragraphs (although admittedly he does dedicate a whole chapter
later in the book to participatory media cultures). The result is that these
brief summaries are very dense and some of them, such as the section on
surveillance, need a lot of unpacking.

Similarly, the chapter addressing approaches to new media mentions only
five. Flew defines these as: beyond hype and counter-hype; approaches to
technological change; social psychology; technology and culture; and political
economy and cultural studies (this last approach is arguably not one but two
different approaches). Many more exist; or at least, different categorizations
and classifications could be brought to bear. The same could be said for his
list of 10 key theorists. His choice is interesting and I am glad to see that
Tiziana Terranova has made it to the list for her work on the politics of
network cultures, but my choices (and probably everyone else’s working in
the field) would be at least a little bit different.


The discussion of the technologies and modes of production of new
media, found in the introduction to this book, is a welcome change. Other
new media overviews fail to attend to the means by which new media
products are made and, as a result, the production process in the ‘circuit of
culture’ (defined by du Gay et al. (1997) as constituted by representation,
identity, production, consumption and regulation), is left out and
understandings of new media are subsequently limited. In this sense, Flew’s
interest in creative industries approaches makes a valuable contribution in the
field of new media.

If this review contains some gripes, they are not really major ones. The
book is an interesting read and it engages with a broad range of contemporary
debates. It is a thorough and comprehensive volume, shaped inevitably by
the author’s own interests in relation to the canon-free field of new media. I
might have written it differently, but then, I did not write it.

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