Keynote abstracts

Phillipa McGuinness

The people formerly known as the audience: power shifts in the digital age

Phillipa_037 BWThe digital age is an age of paradox. Readers have more to read than ever before, in more forms than ever before, yet authors are making less money. It’s never been easier to listen to music, yet musicians making serious money out of recording contracts are scarce, and the idea that touring will fill the gap has turned out to be a myth. Newspapers retrench their best, most experienced journalists in the face of dwindling revenues, even when they have more readers than ever before. Social media and low barriers to entry have made all of us creators now. But most of the money is flowing to the big tech giants who have made all of this possible, while traditional content companies, whose professionally produced work is consumed (and sometimes stolen) by more people than ever before, face declining revenue streams. What does it mean to be a reader, a listener, a viewer in the midst of all this? How have relationships between creators and their publics changed? Are we all producers and consumers now?

Professor Stephen J. A. Ward

“We Just Disagree.” Realizing Global Media Ethics Amid Disagreement

Stephen-WardThis keynote will argue that a digital Fifth Estate has the potential to be an “open” citizens-based media ethics, a powerful development that goes beyond the parochial, closed, professional ethics of a former media era. Yet the digital Fifth Estate can be a force for cultural tensions, xenophobia and racism, and unethical practices. One thing that is needed is the articulation of a global media ethics to guide open discourse on media. We need a radical media ethics. But how? Is this realistic? This talk will put forward philosophical principles for a global media ethics, explain what we can reasonably expect from a global ethics movement, and suggest practices to promote a media ethics that crosses borders.

Professor Amanda D. Lotz

From Distinction to Noisy: Creativity and Change in 21st Century U.S. Television

Amanda LotzThe U.S. television industry began experiencing profound change in the early 21st century, change that was evident in the programs of the era. My talk explores how and why scripted U.S. television series evolved so profoundly at the dawn of the 21st century and what this might tell us about the disruption at hand in the present moment. The talk identifies the industrial practices that propelled and challenged this change and examines how the conditions of creative workers adjusted alongside textual possibilities. Drawn from interviews and archival research, the talk mines the production histories of milestone series in this evolution to assess the shifting competitive norms and the consequences of textual innovation for creative workers, commercial media industries, and audiences.

Dr Joanne McCarthy

Media meltdown: it’s not all bad news

r0_0_3970_2641_w1200_h678_fmaxJournalism is on borrowed time and traditional media is terminal, dying, on life support, or breathing its last. It’s been a brutally short and terrifying decline, with revered print mastheads around the world silenced overnight and barely mourned. The king or queen is dead; long live the online version. Thousands of jobs have vanished and those who remain employed grapple with ‘platforms’ and ‘conversations’ with readers whose numbers are tallied and assessed each morning, with emailed internal ‘shout-outs’ when online figures reach targets. Journalism by score card and eye-catching pic galleries: a daily affront for old-timers who remember the din of typewriters and the haze that hovered over chain-smokers in their first newsroom. But the seismic shocks wrought by the digital age are not all bad news, particularly in regional areas. In this presentation, I will explore how reporting on child sexual abuse in the Hunter region over 10 years from 2006 challenged most norms of traditional media reporting, while honing skills. I will outline how quickly the traditional model of journalist as simple reporter representing a powerful institution had to be remodelled to reach individuals profoundly abused by other powerful institutions. I will argue this new model of the journalist as part of a community of intelligent, articulate people working together on matters of public interest is essential in this period – as governments increasingly outsource responsibilities and good governance is threatened by powerful corporate interests.

Professor Tony Schirato

Digital Media, Fantasy Sport and the Transformation of the Contemporary Field of Sport 

Tony SchiratoThis paper is concerned, generally, with the development of the mass media-field of sport nexus, and more specifically with regard to how the commercial imperatives and logics of the media are shaping the field of sport in what we can call its contemporary phase. Today most supporters and spectators experience professional sport exclusively via the media (increasingly digital media) coverage. Perhaps the most significant recent development in sports media’s attempt to maximise its audience is what is referred to as interactive dimension of contemporary media. In the UK BSkyB’s digital service, for instance, has a facility that allows viewers to choose their own camera angles and frames, and split the screen to display different games or to show a sporting event and the various betting odds available. So as an English Premier League game is being played, viewers can edit the coverage while placing bets on incidents in the game (the first player to be sent off, penalty conversion or save) in real time. The particular technological mediation of sporting contests is used almost exclusively to facilitate and incite desire and consumption: in breaking down each minute or aspect of play into a betting opportunity, the spectator is thoroughly and pervasively integrated into what Baudrillard refers to as “a world of generalized hysteria” characterised by a “flight from one signifier to another” (Baudrillard 2003: 77). The lure of interactivity is particularly germane to fantasy sport, a relatively recent phenomenon that is predominantly tied to and operated through various forms of digital media. I’ll argue that fantasy sport produces an entirely new sets of relations between spectators-as-fans and sporting contests, and transforms what Jonathan Crary would refer to as the ‘visual regime’ (Crary 1998) of sport spectatorship.

I’ll start with two sets of (brief) contextualising introductions: the first will provide a very general history of the development of the sport-mass media nexus; and the second look at the relatively recent phenomenon of fantasy sport. Fantasy sport started in the USA in the 1960s and is played mainly on and through the internet. Managers acquire actual players, or bid for them in auctions, and form virtual squads/teams that usually replicate real numbers and positions. The statistics generated by real games are used and fed, more or less  immediately,  into  online fantasy leagues to determine results. Many leagues are hosted by the sports section of large internet news sites (Yahoo, USA Today, Fox, CBS; and The Age in Australia), although an increasing number are run by private providers as businesses; fantasy sport attract up to thirty million players in America alone (Shipman 2005). They are served by an increasing number of specialist magazines, television sports shows and internet file providers who give advice on who to draft or pick up from the waiver wire, track injuries and statistical variations, and rank players week-to-week according to their fantasy (rather than their actual) value.

This paper will describe and analyse how digitally-mediated fantasy sport produces an entirely different way of looking at, relating to and identifying with, the field of sport.

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