Annotated Bibliography

Assignment 1- Annotated Bibliography
Name: Taras Rego s3604578

I declare that in submitting all work for this assessment I have read, understood and agree to the content and expectations of the assessment declaration –

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Annotated Bibliography

Selected text 1 – Networks (word count 639)

Lister, M, Dovey, J, Giddings, S, Grant, I & Kelly, K 2009, New Media: A Critical Introduction, 2nd edn, Routledge, New York.

Sections: (pp. 163-169; 204-209; 197-200; 221-232)

In this text the authors argue that the internet and therefore networked media has been developed through various factors and therefore its continuous evolution is a product of tension between those factors. They assert that “the desire for communication and the pressures of commercialisation have interacted to bring us Web 2.0 and its expression in the form of social networking sites” (pp. 163). The authors outline the progression of the internet from Web 1.0 to Web 2.0, utilising case studies including the study of Computer Mediated Communication to provide a deeper understanding of previous and current theory. The authors argue that the shift from Web 1.0 to Web 2.0 can be “characterised by co-creativity, participation and openness” (pp. 204). They illustrate this by making reference to the way in which the internet facilitates a “symbiotic relationship” (pp. 221) between user and audience. Asserting that new technologies and networked media have allowed for user to deploy the web for “community building, intellectual exchange, cultural distribution, and media activation” (pp. 222) and that these factors have contributed to further technology development. The authors utilise a number of case studies and real world examples to illustrate and support their findings. One of the case studies outlines the massive wide spread online user community generated by the game Counterstrike. The authors discuss this example as being one of the first successes of user generated content. The users developed a new game from the game engine used to create Counterstrike therefore “participating in the culture of shareware which has been such as significant driver in the development of digital technologies” (pp. 224).

The authors also outline the ways in which commercial interests have driven, and continue to influence, the development of new technologies and networked media. The authors illustrate the various ways in which “the development of interactive new media has been influenced by the introduction of commercial interests” (pp. 169). One way they demonstrate this influence is through taking the example of user generated content and noting its commercial components as “user behaviour itself…creates a commodity” (pp. 2015). They refer to user generated content as “free labour” and contend that “Web 2.0 shows how our creative expression becomes commodified and sold back to us” (pp. 208). They utilise a number of examples, from “game modders” (pp. 225) to the publisher Lucas Arts working with fans to create scenarios for the online version of Star Wars. Displaying how user created content can be capitalised on by commercial producers. Another way in which the authors demonstrate the role of economic interest is through the theory of Long Tail economics. The author’s reference the work of Chris Anderson on the Long Tail who they summarise to have argued that “the capacity of networked communications to connect with a multiplicity of niche markets ensures that lower volume products can attain a sustainable margin of profitability” (pp. 197). The authors assert that digital media has effected marketing through lowering its costs and introducing search engines and recommendation networking. Meaning new technologies and networked media allow for niche markets to be tapped into.

This book was intended to be a source for students, introducing the study of new media. Ultimately, they contend that a number of factors have contributed to the development and continual evolution of technology, but that the tension between economic determination and cultural interests has had significant ramifications. The book provides a wide variety of case studies and examples to demonstrate this tension, drawing on the work of various academics to provide support context for their discussions. However, one area where the book is lacking is through its failure to address future predictions of how the economic and cultural influences might contribute to the development of new media. They assert that these factors will contribute to the evolution of modern media but do not discuss how.

Selected text 2 – Affordances (word count 628)

Norman, D 1998, The design of everyday things, Basic Book, New York.

Sections: (pp. Preface vii-xv; 1-13, 81-87, 177-186)

In his book ‘The design of everyday things’ Donald Norman introduces the concept of affordances, a term previously coined by psychologist JJ Gibson (1977,1979). According to Norman, affordances are both the perceived and actual properties of an object and how those properties dictate how the object is used. He asserts that “affordances provide strong clues to the operation of things” (pp. 9) and for how objects can be or are intended to be utilised. He uses numerous examples everyday objects, one of which being a chair. He states that a chair affords support and thus sitting, but can also afford carrying. Norman applies this theory of affordances to the field of design in order to demonstrate how the concept can be used to improve user-object interaction. He asserts that “when simple things need pictures, labels, or instructions, the design has failed” (pp. 9). Norman contends that our use of everyday objects can be attributed to two main factors; human thought and psychology and the information provided by the appearance of the object. To demonstrate this and generate a more in depth understanding of the theory of affordances, Norman utilises relevant and comprehensible examples. He provides the example of a pair of scissors, asserting that we are able to form a conceptual model of the scissors and how they work in our minds through the clues provided by their visible structure.

Norman asserts that along with affordances, there are four main constraints of objects that attribute to understanding of the use of an object. He explains that “affordances suggest the range of possibilities, constraints limit the number of alternatives” (pp. 82). The use of both affordances and constraints enable a user to determine what they could do with an object, even a new one. The four constraints Norman puts forth are physical, semantic, cultural and logical. Physical constraints refer to the physical limitations of an object that might restrict possible actions. Semantic constraints are related to the meaning within the situation and rely on prior knowledge of the situation and the world. Cultural constraints consider the cultural conventions that might influence the situation. Lastly, logical constraints refer to the logical possibilities of an object. In order to illustrate the differences between these four constraints and further explain them he utilises a case study of an experiment he conducted. This experiment involved building a motorcycle Lego set and indicated that each of the pieces of the motorcycle were determined by the set of constraints and the ‘affordances of the pieces were important in determining just how they fit together” (pp. 84). Additionally, Norman applies both concepts of affordances and constraints to a more complex example, computers. He asserts that the “abstract nature of the computer poses a particular challenge for the designer” (pp. 177), meaning the user is often not considered which impacts its ease of use. He contends that computers should be designed with affordances and constraints in mind, to allow the user to see all possible actions and the current state of the system.

In this text, Donald Norman explains the theories of affordances and constraints, utilising case studies, examples and anecdotal evidence to support his assertions. He provides an in depth overview of these concepts particularly in the relation to the field of design. However, the text could have benefitted from a wider range of examples to provide a clearer understanding of the theories he put forth in relation to other fields of practice. Moreover, the text lacks reference to other sources which could have provided a wider perspective on the situations the author described. Moreover, the text was published in 1998 and is therefore dated now, particularly in relation to the references to technology and the advances that have been made in the last two decades.

Selected text 3- Social Media (word count 683)

Siapera, E 2013, Understanding New Media, SAGE Publications, London, pp. 1 – 16.

In this introduction to her book ‘Understanding New Media’ Siapera justifies the use of the term ‘new media’ in relation to the current study of media. Siapera asserts that that the term ‘new media’ “denotes a dynamism and penchant for constant change” (pp. 5) and considers various media formats provided that they evolve. Moreover, she also asserts that “the media are inextricably bound to society” (pp. 2), focussing on the media and its relation to various societal change and progression. The author analyses two other terms; ‘digital’ and ‘online media’, in order to justify her choice to use the term ‘new media’. She contends that the term ‘digital media’ is too focussed on the technological aspects of media, which are significant but not the most important defining characteristic of media. She states that “to posit that the technology is the defining dimension of the media overlooks the ways in which users shape them” (pp. 4). The author then moves on to critically analyse the term ‘online media’ which she suggests has a direct reference to the internet and connectivity. According to Siapera these aspects of media are important but over emphasised and that the term “overlooks the ways in which users shape them” (pp.4).  Siapera analyses the term ‘new media’ and considers its faults, which include introducing a division between ‘old’ and ‘new’ media without explaining the difference between the two as well as not defining what constitutes a new medium. However, she states the term ‘new media’ does not prioritise one single attribute and is therefore the most appropriate choice for the book and its contents.

Siapera moves on to analyse the relationship between media and society. She does so by critically examining four important theorists in the field of media, comparing their varied perspectives on media and humanity. She first introduces McLuhan and explains his perspective that the importance of media is not in the contents but rather in the form of media itself. She postulates that “the relationship posited by McLuhan is one in which technology and media cause and determine the changes and direction of human activity” (pp. 7). She then goes on to question what would cause technological and media change and progression if this were the case. She moves on to examine the work of Kittler whose standpoint expands on the work of McLuhan. She asserts that Kittler examines the way in which we store and process information and data with media technologies and argues that because of this “the media determine our situation” (pp. 9) and “technologies make people” (pp. 10). Siapera agrees with some aspects of Kittler’s views but determines that he fails to address human agency and the role of humanity. The next theorist’s work Siapera examines is that of Stiegler who argues that “the relationship between technology and humanity is one of dynamic mutual composition” (pp. 12) and that “humans and technology are inextricably bound” (pp. 12). It is clear that Siapera supports Stiegler’s overall standpoint as it outlines the dynamic and close relationship between media and society but she critiques how historically oriented his arguments are, asserting that sociological based evidence would provide a wider perspective. She then moves on to analyse Castell’s work; who asserts that technology does not determine society and concurrently society does not determine the evolution of technology as numerous factors are involved.

This text analyses the relationship between media and society, with a particular focus on ‘new media’. The text gives an in depth overview into the term ‘new media’ justifying it’s use as well as exploring the relationship between media and society through examining other scholars’ work. However, at times the text is convoluted and the author’s argument is lost amidst the numerous opinions of other scholars. Too much of this introduction is utilised to summarise other’s work rather than put forth an original perspective on the study of modern media. Moreover, the text lacks reference to specific examples of new media, such as social media, which is an important aspect of the study of modern media and therefore relevant to the context of this book.