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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 4. That Familiarity with the World Born of Habit: On Merleau-Ponty and Everyday Media Use


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On Merleau-Ponty and Everyday Media Use

Interpreting audiences?

In this chapter, I advocate a particular sort of phenomenological-philosophical approach to the study of everyday media use, which picks up some of the themes from my discussion of phenomenological geography, exploring what Maurice Merleau-Ponty (2002 [1962], p. 277) has called that familiarity with the world born of habit.1 To begin with, though, in order to provide a context for those who are more familiar with the literature of media studies (especially that on media audiences) than they are with phenomenological philosophy, I want to set out the main ways in which my thinking has shifted since I was writing my first book, Interpreting Audiences: The Ethnography of Media Consumption (Moores, 1993a), around a quarter of a century ago.2 How has my perspective changed, then, over the years between that publication and my work on the current volume?

Perhaps the most obvious shift is that the term audiences is no longer central to my conceptual vocabulary, as it was back then, when I was still starting out as an academic in the field of media studies and when I would have described myself primarily as a qualitative audience researcher. There are two principal reasons for this de-centring of audiences in my work, which I will attempt to explain succinctly. ← 85 | 86 →

One of these reasons has to...

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