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Digital Orientations

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


Shaun Moores

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.

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Chapter 3. Media Uses and Everyday Environmental Experiences: A Positive Critique of Phenomenological Geography


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A Positive Critique of Phenomenological Geography

Lifeworld, time-space routines and media uses

I will begin by reproducing a small fragment of what is, for me, some fascinating empirical material on everyday environmental experiences that appears in a book originally published back in the late 1970s, written by geographer David Seamon (2015 [1979], pp. 55–56):

Waking at 7.30, making the bed, bathing, dressing, walking out of the house at eight…so one group member described a morning routine that he followed every day but Sunday. From home he walked to a nearby cafe, picked up a newspaper (which had to be The New York Times), ordered his usual fare (one scrambled egg and coffee) and stayed there until nine when he walked to his office…. ‘I like this routine and I’ve noticed how I’m bothered a bit when a part of it is upset…if the Times is sold out, or if the booths are taken and I have to sit at a counter.’

The group member whose actions are referred to (and whose words are quoted) in this extract was a participant in one of the ‘environmental experience groups’ (Seamon, 2015 [1979], p. 20) which the author had set up in the American city where he was carrying out his research, and the main purpose of these groups was ‘to make the lifeworld…the taken-for-granted pattern...

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