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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 6. We Find Our Way About: Everyday Media Use and Inhabitant Knowledge


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Everyday Media Use and Inhabitant Knowledge

A passing remark

My starting point for this chapter is a passing remark of Paddy Scannell’s about broadcasting (see Scannell, 1996, pp. 7–8), which has long intrigued me: ‘Programme output…has a…known and familiar character…we find our way about in it.’1 The reference that he makes there to finding ways about in the programme output of radio and television suggests two important things to me, which, taken together, can help to extend understandings of how listeners and viewers engage with broadcasting, and may also contribute more generally to a reconceptualising of relationships between media and their users in everyday lives. His linked assertion that programme output has a known and familiar character begs a crucial question, too, which I will come to shortly.

Scannell’s notion of finding ways about is significant, firstly, because it suggests that radio and television provide spaces or, better, time-spaces of movement for audience members. Of course, he is not the only theorist to indicate that media have an environmental quality or that everyday media use involves a moving around. As should be clear by now from previous chapters of my book, Joshua Meyrowitz (1985) has referred to media settings or environments, and John Urry’s social theory of mobilities (see, for example, Urry, 2000, 2007) ← 121 | 122 → employs concepts of imaginative, virtual and communicative travel, alongside ideas...

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