Digital Orientations

Non-Media-Centric Media Studies and Non-Representational Theories of Practice

by Shaun Moores (Author)
©2018 Edited Collection XVI, 194 Pages
Series: Digital Formations, Volume 101


Might it be possible to rearticulate the term digital in digital media, so that it refers at least as much to the deft movements or orientations of hands and fingers (of digits) as it does to the new media technologies themselves? What if digital media are understood as manual media?
Has the academic field of media studies tended to focus too much on media, and not enough on the practices and experiences of daily living that help to give media their meaningfulness? What if media researchers were to pay more attention to knowledge-in-movement or to matters of orientation and habitation, and rather less to those of symbolic representation and cognitive interpretation?
Digital Orientations is a bold call for non-media-centric media studies (and ultimately for everyday-life studies) with a non-representational theoretical emphasis. The author engages here with a broad range of work from across the humanities and social sciences, drawing on Merleau-Ponty’s phenomenological philosophy, Ingold’s anthropology, the geographies of Massey, Seamon and Thrift, and the sociologies of Bourdieu, Sudnow and Urry.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Preface and Acknowledgements
  • Chapter 1. Non-Media-Centric Media Studies and Non-Representational Theories of Practice
  • Chapter 2. Conceptualising Place in a World of Flows
  • Chapter 3. Media Uses and Everyday Environmental Experiences: A Positive Critique of Phenomenological Geography
  • Chapter 4. That Familiarity with the World Born of Habit: On Merleau-Ponty and Everyday Media Use
  • Chapter 5. On the Environmental Experiences of Trans-European Migrants: Knowing How to Get Around (with Monika Metykova)
  • Chapter 6. We Find Our Way About: Everyday Media Use and Inhabitant Knowledge
  • Chapter 7. Non-Media-Centric Media Studies: A Cross-Generational Conversation (with Zlatan Krajina and David Morley)
  • Chapter 8. Digital Orientations: Ways of the Hand and Practical Knowing in Media Uses and Other Manual Activities
  • About the Author
  • Index
  • Series Index

← viii | ix →


Like an earlier book of mine that was published back in 2000 (Media and Everyday Life in Modern Society), the present one is a selection of my previously published pieces, most of them appearing here in an extensively revised form, along with a newly authored introductory chapter in which I seek to advance a distinctive position. Therefore, Digital Orientations: Non-Media-Centric Media Studies and Non-Representational Theories of Practice can be viewed as a second volume of collected essays, written over a period of some 10 to 15 years. Whereas the first volume brought together research that I had carried out between the mid 1980s and the late 1990s, this book assembles a range of my academic writings produced from the beginning of the 2000s through to the middle of the current decade.

Taking a retrospective look now, across the whole 30 years and more since I started out in the field of media studies, I am able to see both continuities and shifts in my work. In some ways, then, following my initial empirical research projects, which were on the arrival of early radio and satellite television in household and neighbourhood cultures, it feels as though I have been doing much the same thing all along! This is because I find myself returning, again and again, to an interest in trying to grasp the significance of media uses, usually the uses of new media technologies, in broader circumstances of day-to-day living, and in that respect the two books of collected essays have quite ← ix | x → a lot in common. With the benefit of hindsight, I realise that I have always had a non-media-centric perspective (rather unconventional for someone in media studies), in which everyday actions and interactions are centred so that media, with their special characteristics and affordances, can be investigated in this quotidian context. In other ways, though, the present volume of collected essays is quite different from the first. This is because, over the past few years, I have become increasingly interested in and engaged with phenomenological and non-representational approaches drawn from fields or disciplines in the wider humanities and social sciences, where careful attention is paid to the bodily knowledges and environmental experiences of inhabitants and, crucially, where the primacy of practice or movement is asserted. What these approaches have increasingly led me to question are particular foundational positions in my own field, where there has been a tendency, occasionally explicit but often implicit, to make assumptions about the primacy of representation, of the cognitive and the symbolic.

If my brief opening statements here appear to be rather abstract, I want to reassure readers that I am committed to discussing the key issues in an accessible way. I want the book to be readable not only for academics but also for students in media studies and neighbouring fields, because, despite the apparent negativity of those two non- prefixes in my book’s subtitle, I am putting forward a positive case that has been developed incrementally over time, for a change of direction or at least a change of emphasis in my field. I think it would be fair to say that the existing academic literature with which I will be dealing in the pages ahead, particularly in the areas of phenomenology and non-representational theory, is not always the most immediately accessible or readable. However, given the importance of the challenges posed by this literature to traditional ways of doing media studies, my view is that these challenges deserve to be set out as straightforwardly as possible. What I hope, then, is that readers of this book will feel sufficiently engaged with my arguments and commentaries to go on and explore for themselves many of the writings that I cite, and to carry out their own non-media-centric research on the practical and experiential dimensions of day-to-day living.

In my ordering and reworking of (by cutting from and adding to) various pieces that originally appeared as separate publications, I have sought to create a coherent, unfolding narrative or storyline, and, where at all possible, a consistent style for the book as a whole.

As indicated above, Chapter 1 is newly authored for this volume, although I have been guided there in part by my notes for an opening keynote lecture, ← x | xi → ‘Arguments for a Non-Media-Centric, Non-Representational Approach to Media and Place’, which I gave at the Media and Place Conference hosted in 2014 by Leeds Metropolitan University, England. I am grateful to two of the conference organisers, Lisa Taylor and Neil Washbourne, for having invited me to deliver that keynote, providing me with an opportunity to pull together different themes in my work and to set out a statement of my current position and research trajectory. More recently, in 2016, the case that I make in my introductory chapter for non-media-centric media studies and non-representational theories of practice was aired, thanks to an invitation from Thomas Tufte, in a talk given at the New Media, Everyday Life and Social Change International Seminar at Roskilde University in Denmark.

Chapter 2 is based on a piece from which it takes its title, published in 2008 in a book that I co-edited with Andreas Hepp and others, Connectivity, Networks and Flows: Conceptualizing Contemporary Communications. I am grateful to Hampton Press for granting me permission to make use of that previously published material. Much earlier versions of the material in this chapter were research papers given in 2003 and 2004 at the London School of Economics and Political Science, England (thanks to Nick Couldry for the invitation, and also to the late Roger Silverstone for his feedback), University of Rome ‘La Sapienza’ in Italy, where I was a visiting professor in its Department of Sociology and Communication during 2003, University of Milan ‘Cattolica’, again in Italy (thanks to Chiara Giaccardi), and the University of Melbourne in Australia, where I was an associate professor in its Media and Communications Programme and Faculty of Arts during 2004 and 2005.

Chapter 3 is based on an article of the same title that was published in 2006 in Participations: Journal of Audience and Reception Studies, vol. 3, no. 2 (available at http://www.participations.org along with a lengthy response from phenomenological geographer David Seamon). I am grateful to the journal’s founding editor, Martin Barker, for confirming that I am free to draw on my article for this book. Versions of the material were used as a basis for invited talks given in 2006 and 2007 at Goldsmiths, University of London and at Newcastle University, both in England (thanks to David Morley and to Rachel Woodward). Some of the issues raised by the original article were discussed in two subsequent papers, ‘Understanding Media Uses in/as Place-Making Practices’, presented to the Centre for Research in Socio-Cultural Change Conference held in 2006 at the University of Oxford, England, and ‘Media and Senses of Place: On Situational and Phenomenological Geographies’, Media@LSE Electronic Working Paper no. 12, Department of Media ← xi | xii → and Communications, London School of Economics and Political Science, published in 2007 (available at http://www.lse.uk/collections/media@lse). The latter is the text of my inaugural professorial lecture delivered in 2007 at the University of Sunderland, England.

Chapter 4 is based on an article entitled ‘That Familiarity with the World Born of Habit: A Phenomenological Approach to the Study of Media Uses in Daily Living’, which was published in 2009 in Interactions: Studies in Communication and Culture, vol. 1, no. 3, pp. 301–312. I am grateful to the publisher, Intellect, for allowing authors to make use of their own articles in later collections of their work. This piece was based, in turn, on a plenary paper given at the Transforming Audiences Conference hosted in 2009 by the University of Westminster, England, and I would also like to record my gratitude to David Gauntlett, one of the conference’s organisers, who invited me to speak at that event. In part, too, I am drawing on a subsequent paper, ‘Embodiment, Orientation and Habitation: On Merleau-Ponty and Everyday Media Use’, which, thanks to an invitation from André Jansson, was presented to the Online Territories Colloquium at Uppsala University in Sweden in 2010.

Chapter 5 is based on two articles that I co-authored with Monika Metykova, ‘“I Didn’t Realize How Attached I Am”: On the Environmental Experiences of Trans-European Migrants’, European Journal of Cultural Studies, vol. 13, no. 2, pp. 171–189, which was published in 2010, and ‘Knowing How to Get Around: Place, Migration and Communication’, The Communication Review, vol. 12, no. 4, pp. 313–326, published in 2009. I am grateful to Monika for granting me permission to draw on our jointly produced writings, and to Sage Publications and Routledge, respectively, for allowing authors to make use of their own articles in later collections of their work. Earlier versions of the material in these articles were first used for invited research seminar papers given in 2008 and 2009 at the University of Leeds, England (thanks to David Bell), the University of Stirling, Scotland (thanks to Stephanie Marriott), and the University of Bremen, Germany, where I was a visiting professor in its Faculty of Cultural Studies during 2009, as well as for an opening plenary paper that I gave at the Media, Communication and Cultural Studies Association 2009 Annual Conference, hosted by the University of Bradford, England, and the National Media Museum. I would like to thank Mark Goodall and Ben Roberts, the main organisers of that subject association conference, for inviting me to deliver the paper.

Chapter 6 is based on an article of the same title that was published in 2015 in Mobilities, vol. 10, no. 1, pp. 17–35. Again, I am grateful to Routledge ← xii | xiii → for allowing authors to make use of their own articles in later collections of their work. This piece was based, in turn, on a paper given at the Association of American Geographers 2012 Annual Meeting in New York City in the United States, where I was pleased to be able to share a platform with communication geographer Paul Adams, and a version was also presented as an invited lecture at the Dutch-language Free University of Brussels in Belgium in 2013 (thanks to Kevin Smets). The chapter draws, too, on my ‘Loose Ends: Lines, Media and Social Change’, Media Anthropology Network e-Seminar Paper no. 40, European Association of Social Anthropologists, published in 2012 (available at http://www.media-anthropology.net with a full record of the online discussion that followed, including exchanges with Nick Couldry, Sarah Pink and others on the relevance or otherwise of non-representational theories). I would like to thank media anthropologist John Postill for the invitation to contribute to that online seminar series, and also Tim Ingold, for a much appreciated private response to the piece’s critical engagement with his writings on lines, dwelling and modern living. Although I have some specific difficulties with Ingold’s work, which are detailed in the chapter, in my view he is the most eloquent current advocate of non-representational theory.

Chapter 7 was originally published in 2014 as an article of the same title, co-authored with Zlatan Krajina and David Morley, in the European Journal of Cultural Studies, vol. 17, no. 6, pp. 682–700. The text is largely unchanged, apart from a few minor edits and a few inserted words such as the brief linking section which I have added at the end. I am grateful to Zlatan and Dave for granting me permission to include our jointly written piece, and, again, to Sage Publications for allowing authors to make use of their articles in later collections of their work. This article grew out of an academic panel discussion on non-media-centric media studies that was organised and chaired by Zlatan at the University of Zagreb in Croatia in 2013, in which Dave and I were the invited participants and our audience was made up predominantly of staff and students from the university’s Department of Media and Journalism and the wider Faculty of Political Science. Some of the arguments that I contributed to the discussion had been rehearsed in an invited research seminar paper given at Karlstad University in Sweden in 2012 (thanks again to André Jansson).

Chapter 8 shares its main title, ‘Digital Orientations’, with that of the book as a whole and is based on an article from which the longer chapter title is taken. The piece was published in 2014 in Mobile Media and Communication, vol. 2, no. 2, pp. 196–208, and I acknowledge Sage Publications once more ← xiii | xiv → for allowing authors to make use of their own articles in later collections of their work. A first version of this material was presented as a keynote paper at the Conditions of Mediation International Communication Association Preconference held in 2013 at Birkbeck, University of London, England. I am grateful to the event’s organisers, Tim Markham and Scott Rodgers, for their invitation to what was an invigorating day of discussions about phenomenology, media and contemporary social life. For me, this was also a welcome opportunity to meet up with a former lecturer from my undergraduate days in the School of Communication at the Polytechnic of Central London, England (now the University of Westminster), a leading media phenomenologist and fellow keynote panellist, Paddy Scannell, who had been working in the United States for several years. Subsequent versions of my paper were given as invited talks in 2013 and 2014 at the Centre for Advanced Academic Studies in Dubrovnik, Croatia (thanks again to Zlatan Krajina), at the University of Antwerp, Belgium (thanks again to Kevin Smets and also to Philippe Meers), and at the University of East Anglia, England (thanks to Michael Skey). A number of the issues raised were discussed in a later paper entitled ‘The Finger’s Journey: Piano Lessons for Media Researchers’, which was an invited presentation to the Mobile Media Conference hosted by the University of Siegen in Germany in 2014. I am grateful to its principal organiser Tristan Thielmann, for inviting me to speak at that event alongside some distinguished mobilities and media researchers such as Monika Büscher, Larissa Hjorth and Christian Licoppe.


XVI, 194
ISBN (Hardcover)
ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2017 (December)
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, Oxford, Wien, 2018. XVI, 194 pp.

Biographical notes

Shaun Moores (Author)

Shaun Moores is Professor of Media and Communications at the Centre for Research in Media and Cultural Studies, University of Sunderland, England. He is author or co-author of several previous books including Media and Everyday Life in Modern Society (2000).


Title: Digital Orientations
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