Thesis Info

Thesis Title
Participatory Media: Visual Culture in Real Time
Daniel Palmer
2nd Author
3rd Author
Doctor of Philosophy
Number of Pages
University of Melbourne
Thesis Supervisor
Dr Chris Healy
Supervisor e-mail
Other Supervisor(s)
Language(s) of Thesis
Department / Discipline
Cultural Studies
Languages Familiar to Author
URL where full thesis can be found
digital media, digital culture, visual culture, media art, new media art, reality tv, webcams, news media, computer games, media theory, real time
Abstract: 200-500 words
This thesis argues that contemporary visual media culture is characterised by unique forms that enable – and increasingly demand – qualitatively distinct viewing relations. I offer historical and theoretical explorations of various media technologies and genres, and propose that today’s visual culture may be described as ‘participatory’, primarily in the sense that its ‘modes of address’ function to blur the line between the production and consumption of imagery. Furthermore, I suggest that these participatory relations, underpinned by real time media, are productive of ‘performative’ subjects – composed, under the prevailing ‘media imaginary’, of increasingly individualised exchanges. Thus, I argue that the phenomenon of media participation must be considered in relation to defining characteristics of contemporary capitalism – namely its user-focused, customised and individuated orientation. <p>Organised in terms of historical, theoretical and generic sections, two opening chapters establish, respectively, the technological and theoretical context of the inquiry, preparing for four subsequent chapters concerned with media genres. Chapter 1 argues that contemporary media are home to new image forms that are, as a result of their participatory and networked character, more performative than merely representational. Chapter 2 introduces the concept of ‘indivisualisation’ – referring to participatory visual environments in which the performance of the individual viewing subject is crucial to the nature of the viewing relationship. Drawing on a wide range of media theorists including Jonathan Crary, Margaret Morse, Lev Manovich and Manuel Castells, as well as contemporary sociologists Ulrich Beck and Zygmunt Bauman, I make a connection between the personalised address and coextensive temporal performances characteristic of participatory media and a pervasive social demand for compulsory, ongoing self-transformation. Performative subjectivity, I argue, is the logical counterpart to real-time screens, and its prevailing mode is individualised.<p>The remaining four chapters seek to elaborate and substantiate the dynamics of participation and indivisualisation by exploring a series of exemplary ‘real-time’ media genres – news media, reality entertainment media (reality television and webcams), computer games, and media art. As these chapters demonstrate by a breadth of example, what is at stake in contemporary real-time media may be nothing less than our relation to mortality and ‘otherness’.