Posted: January 17th, 2013
The Society for Cinema and Media Studies has awarded Useful Cinema (Duke University Press, 2011) an honorable mention in its 2013 Best Edited Collection Award competition. Useful Cinema was edited by Charles Acland (CURC Communication Studies) and Haidee Wasson (Cinema Studies), and the volume grew out of an SSHRC-funded workshop held at Concordia University in 2006.
The book consists of fourteen essays that explore how mid-twentieth-century institutions, including libraries, museums, classrooms, and professional organizations, helped to make moving images an ordinary feature of American life. The SCMS awards committee praised the volume for helping to open up a new research domain and noted the consistently high quality of the historical research across the essays.
This is the first time an SCMS Best Edited Collection Award committee has recognized work from scholars at a Canadian university. The award ceremony will take place in Chicago in March.
Posted: January 8th, 2013
What are the political and aesthetic dimensions of video art, documentary, and global cinema in contemporary image culture? In her first book, Krista Geneviève Lynes makes visible how sites of political struggle, exploitation, and armed conflict can be theorized and interpreted through a feminist politics of location, attentive to the frictions and flows within transnational circuits of exchange. Prismatic Media, Transnational Circuits traces how formal modes of experimentation provide prismatic visions of sites of political struggle – multiple, mediated points of view – and thus open space for complex and emancipatory relations among cultural producers, activists, and viewers in a globalized present.
“Krista Lynes’ Prismatic Media, Transnational Circuits unties the vexed knots joining experimental visual media and situated political struggles, including controversial feminist strategies for making women potent as subjects in local and trans-local worlds. Her knowledge of diverse practices and materials in specific historical ecologies across zones of sharp conflict is impressive. She makes keen theoretical arguments expressed with passion, clarity and power. Lynes examines how heterogeneous visual media produce the fraught visibility of women in law, culture, and politics. She shows how global audiences get constructed and operationalized through visual imaging at local sites of political struggle, especially where the abuse, exploitation, and agency of women are in play and at stake. The complexity and urgency of Lynes’ subject compel the reader. In short, this is a vivid, innovative, and important book.” – Donna Haraway, Distinguished Professor Emerita, History of Consciousness Department, University of California, Santa Cruz, USA
“The exposure of the mechanisms of power in dominant visual culture is executed in an exuberant and non-linear way and from a transnational perspective through an extensive use of optical metaphors such as “prismatic,” “refraction,” and “diffraction”. Lynes skillfully and confidently compounds semiotics and structuralism to feminism and complicates the binary visibility/invisibility by shedding more light on the emergence of complex vision in contemporary moving-image media and the existing different modes of representation in conflict zones.” – Suzana Milevska, visual culture theorist and curator, Skopje, Macedonia
Posted: January 7th, 2013
From Gran Turismo to WWE SmackDown, sports-based video games represent a wide variety of pursuits. When it comes to the people who actually play those games, however, little is known. How do sports video game players fit their games into a larger sports-related context? And how does their playing of video games inform their media usage and general sports fandom?
That’s what Concordia University communication studies Associate Professor Mia Consalvo sought to discover when she embarked on a large-scale study of video game players, the results of which were recently published in Convergence: The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies.
Along with Abe Stein and Konstantin Mitgutsch from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Consalvo, who also holds a Canada Research Chair in Game Studies and Design, conducted an online survey of 1,718 participants to pin down demographics, habits, attitudes and activities of sports video game players.
The researchers found that the majority of those who play sports video games are male (98.4 per cent), white (80 per cent) and in their mid-20s (average age of 26 years). In comparison with other representative video game player demographics, the field is less diverse and the average player is younger. Based on the data about the larger game-playing population, it seems that the sports gamers are drawn from a more traditional demographic of game players, at least when it comes to console and certain personal computer-based video games.
“Perhaps one of the biggest findings to emerge from this study is unsurprising, but finally documented,” notes Consalvo. “The overwhelming majority of sports gamers – 93.3 per cent – self-identify as sports fans. That identity pushes beyond the playing of sports-themed video games. Attending sporting events, watching them on television, participating in those activities themselves as well as following certain teams or sports were regular parts of their daily lives.”
Consalvo says she hopes to gain more insight into why there is little diversity in the player demographics, and why female players are in a minority. “While this study provides new insights into who sports video game players are and what they play and why, we still lack knowledge on how these players relate their passion for video games to their sports fandom in general,” she says. She hopes to address these questions in her forthcoming book, co-authored with Stein and Mitsgutsch, titled Sports Videogames.
Update: Maria Consalvo was interviewed on March 4, 2013 on Global’s Morning News. You can find the video here.
Posted: February 22nd, 2012
Modern consumers of mass media have long been swayed by the notion that secret, invisible messages are embedded in everything from radio commercials to Hollywood blockbusters. With his new book, Charles Acland takes an in-depth look at the complex history of subliminal influence, and questions what the lasting implications may be for our information-saturated modern world.
For communications professor Charles Acland, the idea of subliminal influence indicates an “extraordinary faith in the power of even the most fleeting words, sounds and images to shape our unconscious.” In Swift Viewing: The Popular Life of Subliminal Influence, Acland, a professor and research chair in Concordia’s Department of Communication Studies, traces the evolution of subliminal influence from a concept in experimental psychology to a mainstream belief about what he calls “our vulnerability to manipulation in an age of media clutter.”
Since theories of subliminal influence first found their way into mainstream culture in the late 1950s, public opinion surveys have shown that up to 70 per cent of respondents think that advertisers use subliminal techniques, whether the message is to buy a particular product or to confirm to a certain way of thinking. For Acland, the idea of subliminal influence, regardless of its existence or direct effectiveness, indicates an “extraordinary faith in the power of even the most fleeting words, sounds and images to shape our unconscious.”
By providing a broad survey of examples ranging from Marshall McLuhan’s media theories to representations of mind control in sci-fi movies, Acland examines the subliminal as “both a product of and balm for information overload.” In so doing, he creates what acclaimed author Fred Turner calls a “much-needed and frighteningly contemporary history.”
Through the historical sweep of Swift Viewing, Acland shows that the concept of subliminal influence has its origins as far back as the late 1800s. His detailed chapter on the tachistoscope, a tool used to quickly slide images past a viewer’s eye to measure the length of exposure necessary for perception, demonstrates that we have had “a fascination with the rapid arrival and departure of texts” for more than a century.
By tracing this fascination through its mainstream adoption and subsequent debunking that there are any actual effects, and following its continued traction in everything from presidential campaigns to episodes of TV’s Family Guy, Acland proves that this concept has staying power and is specifically connected to the way we understand our audiovisual surroundings.
Ultimately, Acland shows that the continued engagement with the concept is one way “individuals share scepticism about their environment,” a scepticism prompted by the daily barrage of information that defines present-day media culture.
Related links: Swift Viewing (Duke University Press)
Posted: February 3rd, 2010
Charles Acland (CURC, Communication Studies) has won the 2010 Kovács Award for best essay in film and media studies. This prize is awarded annually by the Society for Cinema and Media Studies.
The award recognizes the most original essay – published in a peer-reviewed journal during the previous year – that significantly advances scholarship in film and media studies. Acland’s winning article “Curtain, Carts, and the Mobile Screen” appears in the fiftieth anniversary issue of Screen 50:1 (2009). This is the first time this twenty-one year old essay award has gone to a scholar at a Canadian university.
Posted: August 21st, 2008
Communication Studies PhD Candidate Wins Trudeau Scholarship
While working as a journalist for the Daily Monitor, Uganda’s independent daily newspaper, William Tayeebwa covered the armed conflicts in the African Great Lakes region, and he experienced firsthand the profound and devastating impact of war. During his travels to the Democratic Republic of Congo, he realised that during war, not only do humans suffer, but fauna and flora are not spared either. William also witnessed how war provides an avenue for local, regional and international predators to exploit national resources, thus creating even more reasons for some groups to take up arms in a vicious cycle of violence.
Back in Africa in 2003 after his graduate studies at the University of Oslo, Norway, he concentrated on the journalism training of Africa’s future generation of reporters and editors. He did so first at Uganda’s national university (Makerere), and later in 2005 as a visiting lecturer at Rwanda’s national university (Butare). William tried to inject his students with the peace-journalism vaccine, so that their work may deliberately privilege the voices of peacemakers. He sought to educate them outside of the conventional mold that proposes placing political and official elite sources against each other.
He strongly believes that a skilled new generation of African journalists will be able to question and circumvent the structural bottlenecks imposed by corporate media, government censorship and media dependence on advertising revenue — none of which favour a peace-journalism model.
Posted: August 27th, 2007
Caroline Caron, Trudeau Scholar, published an article in the July-September 2006 edition of the international communication journal Telos, a Spanish electronic publication. Her article is entitled “Les autoroutes de l’information : un produit des luttes politiques dans un contexte de mondialisation.” Read the article [in French, PDF] at
Posted: August 27th, 2005
Something New in the Air
The Story of First Peoples Television Broadcasting in Canada
A new book by Lorna Roth
A definitive history of the pioneering efforts of television Northern Canada and APTN.
“A lucid and eagerly awaited account that helps us rethink what the development of a truly diverse media world might be like. Roth’s sophisticated, multi-disciplinary framework makes this provocative book essential reading.”
- Faye Ginsburg, director, Center for Media, Culture, and History,
and professor of Anthropology, New York University
Something New in the Air (at Amazon.com) charts the development of indigenous television from the 1970s to the present. Lorna Roth focuses on the regional, national, and global implications of Television Northern Canada and the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN), the only dedicated aboriginal television service in the world. She shows that First Peoples, by making their programming an integral part of the Canadian broadcasting infrastructure, have succeeded in creating a provocative model for media resistance. Something New in the Air recounts the struggle of First Peoples to attain the legislated recognition of their collective communications and cultural rights that partly explains why they are now acknowledged as having the most advanced aboriginal broadcasting network in the world.
Posted: August 27th, 2005
The 2005 Gertrude J. Robinson Book Prize was awarded to Dr. Peter van Wyck, of Concordia University, for Signs of Danger: Waste, Trauma and Nuclear Threat (at Amazon.com).The prize is awarded annually by the Canadian Communications Association forthe best book in communications written by a Canadian scholar or one who worksand lives in Canada.
In its decision, the jury was unanimous in its praise of Dr. van Wyck. Theywrote, “This is a brave, creative, and mature work that bridges the fields ofenvironmental communications, memory studies, and art. Dr. van Wyck hasproduced an original and highly visionary piece of scholarship that not onlymakes a compelling contribution to the field, but actually propels us forwardinto new vistas of learning and imagination.”
Signs of Danger explores the controversial Waste Isolation Pilot Plant inCarlsbad, NM, where the US government has begun piling nuclear waste in a vastunderground pit. [more]
Posted: August 27th, 2004
Communication Studies Professor Charles Acland has won the 2004 Robinson Book Prize for his book Screen Traffic: Movies, Multiplexes and Global Culture. The prize is awarded annually by the Canadian Communication Association for the best book in communication studies written by a Canadian scholar.
In Screen Traffic, Acland examines how, since the mid-1980s, the U.S. commercial movie business has altered conceptions of moviegoing both within the industry and among audiences. He shows how studios, in their increasing reliance on revenues from international audiences and from the ancillary markets of television, videotape, DVD, and pay-per-view, have cultivated an understanding of their commodities as mutating global products. Consequently, the cultural practice of moviegoing has changed significantly, as has the place of the cinema in relation to other sites of leisure. Acland explores this transformation by investigating the generation and dissemination of a new understanding of Hollywood movies. [more]