Gershon & Manning—Language and Media

Language and Media

by Ilana Gershon and Paul Manning

[Gershon, Ilana, and Paul Manning. 2014. “Language and Media.” In The Cambridge Handbook of Linguistic Anthropology, edited by N.J. Enfeild, Paul Kockelman, and Jack Sidnell, 559–76. Cambridge University Press.]

Points

examines media in terms of the materiality of the medium and how that affects mediated communication

in three parts:

  1. Materiality of the Medium
    • Bauman’s entextualization basically makes an utterance material:
      • “because it is “the process by which a text is bound and made available for circulation in other contexts … serving to “objectify it as a discrete textual unit that can be referred to, described, named, displayed, cited and otherwise treated as an object” (Bauman 2004: 4, emphasis added)” (561).
      • So—in turning to materiality “one can begin to focus on some aspects of entextualization as a process in which the ways in which a text is a material form is integral to how a text can be separated from its context and integrated into other contexts” (561).
      • thus, in the process of decontextualization and recontextualization, the slight variations of the text that cause intertextual gaps are often the direct result of a material change in medium—like a printout of a document with hyperlinks, for instance
    • Goffman’s participant framework views the materiality of media as such:
      • instead of simply a ‘speaker’ and a ‘hearer,’ Goffman breaks the message down into the
        • Principal—“someone whose position is established by the words that are spoken”
        • author—“someone who has selected the sentiments that are being expressed and the words in which they are encoded”
        • animator—“the talking machine, the body engaged in acoustic activity” (1981:144).
        • figure—not always present (a role which we argue usually complements the animator, namely the character animated by the animator
      • in this framework, “the medium will influence who can be the author of a statement, how many people can be the author, as well as who is likely to be considered the author” (564).
      • This is based partially on the affordances given by the medium
        • Through the use (trial) of the medium new uses emerge
    • “the material structure of a technology often becomes a resource for people on the ground to analyze communication itself, which in turn influences, but does not predict, how people communicate. A communication technology is not only a medium, but is also a technology that people find good to think with” (567).
      • “Every medium provides a rich supply of metaphors for analyzing unmediated communication, and in doing so, every technology also offers new ways of thinking about what it means to be human” (567).
  2. Mediation as Absence of Presence: Presence and Telepresence
    • “spoken language is aligned with the immediacy of co-present interlocutors engaging in the prototypical, indeed primordial, form of spoken language, face-to-face conversation”
    • whereas—“mediation” comes to denote what is lost when situated conversation is removed from the multi-channel indexical moorings of the face-to-face context” (568).
      • In other words—”immediacy here is once again about materiality: about the range of material channels (and associated richness of indexicality and evidential possibilities for mutual monitoring) available in face-to-face conversation. Conversations that are “mediated,” then, would be those that show a reduction of this plenitude of materiality glossed by “presence” or“situation” (568).
      • many researchers find the binarization of social and mediated/technological/etc. helpful, as they can use the social face-to-face as a baseline for communication
        • personally, I don’t understand why f-t-f  gets privileged here.
    • this opposed situation can recursively hybridized into Ito and Okabe’s “augmented ‘flesh meet'”:
      • “a face-to-face social situation that is bracketed on both sides, and sometimes permeated throughout, by telephone-mediated technosocial situations …”
      • instead of being mutually disruptive (as when one receives a cellphone call in the middle of some other social situation), or “disjunctive,” instead become “contiguous,” parts of a larger technosocial gathering” (569).
    • SO—instead of a loss of presence,‘ mediation can form new styles of telepresence, as well as affordances of “new genres of presence in public which mediate relations to urban space and infrastructures, making them analytically useful in the way their use makes the often invisible domain of urban infrastructure powerfully present and visible for mobile technology users” (570).
  3. Media, Intermediaries, and Mediators
    • speech is not only realyed over space through technological mediation (telepresence) but can also be relayed through humans themselves in ‘mediational performances
      • This involves speech passed from one person to another along a spectrum, “so that the whole routine cannot be analyzed as separate dialogs but as one synthetic dialog including both a “source dialog” and a “target dialog” (571).
      • like Occupy’s human megaphone
    • according to Latour (2005:39), there is a difference (in this sitch) between:
      • intermediary—”what transports meaning or force without transformation: defining its inputs is enough to define its outputs. For all practical purposes, an intermediary can be taken as a black box, but also a black box counting for one, even if it is internally made up of many parts …”
      • mediator—cannot be counted as just one; they might count for one, for nothing, for several, or for infinity. Their input is never a good predictor of their output … Mediators transform, translate, distort, and modify the meaning or the elements they are supposed to carry” (571).
    • this system of intermediaries draws attention to the way we can “establish a symmetry between human and non-human mediation: delegation”
      • Delegation involves, essentially, the question of whether a task or competence will be assigned to a human or non-human actant.”
      • Figuration is the related ontological question of whether the actant to which the task is delegated is viewed as a human (anthropomorphism) or a non-human (technomorphism) (Latour 1988, Akrich 1992)” (572 bullets added).

So—

  • “When linguistic anthropologists have focused on the intersection of language and media, they often found it useful to assume a fundamental distinction at play—be it a distinction between mediated and unmediated or situated and unsituated. “
  • “choosing to think about the contrast in terms of mediation and absence led to productive explorations of how a“community of time and space” (Goffman 1983: 2) often presupposes certain interactive aspects (such as immediacy) that participants must compensate for when not present. Analyses of media fromthis perspective explore what aspects of co-present communication a particular medium occludes or amplifies, affecting how people will communicate. Choosing, by contrast, to analyze conversations in terms of situatedness led to other, equally productive, investigations of how the social and the technical are co-constructed.”
  • “In both cases, analysts could figure out what was significant precisely because they were using co-presence as an analytical baseline. As we have shown, these two epistemological choices set the terms for much of the subsequent intellectual explorations of how language and media intertwine, and how materiality plays a part.”

Annotation Summary for: Language & Media, Gershon & Manning

Page 2, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “Language and media Ilana Gershon and Paul Manning”

Page 2, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “Media as a category has in the past often only been visible as an analytical object when one moves away from a co- present situation, and thus when media’s materiality helps distinguish it fromlanguage.”

Page 2, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “the fact that the mediality of language is rarelyexplored in media studies, Eisenlohr notes, is partially an inheritance of aview of language in which “language becomes a seemingly transparentmediumof sense, not because …the linguistic sound was considered to bethe most ‘immaterial’ of all media” (Eisenlohr 2011: 267).”

Page 2, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “This canlead one to think of the semiotic “essence” of language as belonging to whatever is left over when analysts factor out these materializations in differing media, as belonging exclusively to a dematerialized Saussurean langue, Peircean types or legisigns, or Jakobsonian code. Media in this sense thus might be reduced to an epiphenomenal or accidental issue of differing material realizations of the code, Saussurean parole, Peircean sinsigns, and Jakobsonian message.”

Page 2, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “As Spitulniknotes, while media can be defined in the sense of a “transmitter”/”medium” as mentioned above, it currently has such a wide range ofadditional meanings – including “communication channels, technologies,formats, genres and products” (Spitulnik 2000: 148) – that it becomesdifficult to delineate a coherent object.”

Page 3, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “Materiality in some form often becomes the basis for analytically dis-tinguishing language from media for many theorists, even when thesescholars disagree over the basic definitions, including what language is,what media is, and thus, inevitably, what materiality is.”

Page 3, Underline (Red): Content: “Charles Pierce,”

Page 3, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “for Charles Pierce, materiality denotes all that is “outside” of the semiotic.”

Page 3, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “For Kittler, humans ontologically are cyborgs, existing in terms of how what they communicate is transmitted and stored. Humans are one with the media they use to communicate, and thus ontologically different selves when newtechnologies are introduced.”

Page 3, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “The people who wrote with pens prior to the introduction of the typewriter were different selves than the people whotyped.”

Page 3, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “Inlarge measure, the difference for Kittler lies inthe ways that the pen and the typewriter store information: the material structures of each transforms how people can exist within discourse net- works.”

Page 4, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “Kittler, in short, by beginning withmedia and only turning to semiotic representation as an afterthought,ends up taking the representational aspect of language to be a leftover inwhat is important in communication, an almost exact inverse of Peirce.”

Page 4, Highlight (Cyan): Content: ” In the first section, we examine the topicsthat one studies when focusing on the materiality of the medium itself,aspects such as entextualization, participant structure, and remediation”

Page 4, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “In the second section, we discuss analyses that result when one takesmediated communication to be the opposite of immediacy, when thecentral analytical dichotomy is between mediated communication andco-presence. ”

Page 4, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “In our third section, we discuss how a focus on materialityhas the potential to transformwho or what counts as a mediator, framingin unexpected ways the roles humans and non-humans might play inmediating communication. ”

Page 4, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “Materiality of the Medium”

Page 4, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “Attention to materiality can allow scholars to ask: to what extent are scholars analyzing how people separate texts from the contexts for circu- lation, and what ideas about authorship, authenticity, and circulation accompany these processes of producing intertextuality?”

Page 4, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “Entextualization is the process by which a text is bound and made available for circulationin other contexts (see Bauman and Briggs 1990, Silverstein and Urban 1996, Bauman 2004), serving to “objectify it as a discrete textual unit that can be referred to, described, named, displayed, cited and otherwise treated as an object” (Bauman 2004: 4, emphasis added).”

Page 4, Highlight (Yellow): Content: “Entextualization”

Page 4, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “The process of removing the text from its originary context, decontextualization, relies heavily on the structure of the medium used to move a text from one context to another. The structure of the mediumalso affects the practices used to introduce texts into newcontexts, the techniques of recontextualization.”

Page 4, Highlight (Yellow): Content: “decontextualization, recontextualization. ”

Page 4, Stamp (Star (Frame, Red))

Page 4, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “By turning to materiality, one can beginto focus onsome aspects of entextualizationas a process inwhichthe ways in which a text is a material form is integral to how a text can be”

Page 5, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “separated fromits context and integrated into other contexts.”

Page 5, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “The process of recontextualization alwaysrequires that texts be calibrated anew to a particular context and inter-wovenwiththe discursive strands available inthat context (Bauman2004).The degree to whichrecontextualizationalters the text varies – sometimesthe gap created is a major one, sometimes a minor one. These intertextualgaps are oftenaffected by the material structure of the mediumused intheprocess of entextualization.”

Page 5, Highlight (Yellow): Content: “intertextual gaps”

Page 5, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “Some of the work on entex- tualization has focused on how people use different grammatical struc- tures to enable decontextualization or prevent it (Silverstein and Urban 1996). People can pay the same kind of attention to their media choices,”

Page 5, Note (Orange): Think Facebook and screenshots

Page 6, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “Goffman (1974, 1981) suggests that the folk categories of “speaker” and “hearer” can be analytically decomposed, so for example, the “production format” of the “speaker” consists minimally of the prin- cipal (“someone whose position is established by the words that are spoken,” 1981: 144), the author of the words (“that is, someone who has selected the sentiments that are being expressed and the words in which they are encoded,” ibid.), the animator (“the talking machine, the body engaged in acoustic activity,” ibid.), and (sometimes) the figure (a role which we argue usually complements the animator, namely the character animated by the animator). Similarly, the “participation frame- work” (1981) decomposes the hearer into a similarly subtle range of rati- fied and unratified recipients, though Judith Irvine (1996) and Steve Levinson (1988) point out that these roles over-simplify the many different ways in which people relate to utterances in any context.”

Page 6, Highlight (Yellow): Content: “prin- cipal”

Page 6, Highlight (Yellow): Content: “author of the words”

Page 6, Highlight (Yellow): Content: “animator”

Page 6, Highlight (Yellow): Content: “figure”

Page 6, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “the mediumwill influence who canbe the author of a statement, howmany people can be the author, as well as who is likely to be considered the author.”

Page 6, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “Participant structure can be applied both to show the mediation within co-present interactions as well as to explore the way that thevarious roles normally laminated into the unitary speaker are displacedonto different actual persons in non-co-present interaction”

Page 7, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “Technologies can function not only to augment the number and kinds of participants, but also analytically to decompose the integral unity of participants like speaker and hearer into different role fractions which can be distributed across multiple participants (for example, a person with a megaphone decomposes a speaker into human source or originator and a technological animator, and at the same time increases the number of people potentiallyintheaudiencebyanorderof magnitude).”

Page 7, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “These changes can shed light on why new technologies might provokeanxieties. After all, whenpeople discuss the dangers newmedia introduce,be it telephones or texting, they are describing how the technology canensure changes in the participant structures of communication.”

Page 8, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “people are deeply concerned that carefully established par- ticipant structures that had previously enforced certain identities, boun- daries, and distinctions would no longer be possible to maintain as these new technologies shift how participant structure is organized.”

Page 9, Highlight (Cyan): Content: ” “For Gibson, humans, along with ani-mals, insects, birds, and fishes, orient to objects in their world (rocks, trees,rivers, etc.) interms of what he called their affordances: the possibilities thatthey offer for action. ”

Page 9, Highlight (Yellow): Content: “affordances:”

Page 9, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “Hutchby(2001a, b), a sociologist of communication technology, has usefullyexpanded the concept to include designed aspects of the environment.What is important for our purposes is the way that the range of useswe can put an object to emerge from what one might call a materialencounter with or “trial” of their perceived affordances so that the possibilities for use or action that anartifact offers are interpretations of its affordances: “We are able toperceive things in terms of their affordances, which in turn are proper-ties of things; yet those properties are not determinate or even finite,since they only emerge in the context of material encounters betweenactors and objects” (Hutchby 2001a: 27). Affordances are part of thematerial structure of an object that reveals itself in perception and areinterpreted in use, and inherently many affordances exist as potentialsin any object. ”

Page 9, Note (Orange): Isn’t this what Don Norman did in the design of everyday things in 1988?

Page 9, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “The termafford- ance, since it refers to real perceptual properties of objects (media) (revealed in vision) which afford them emergent functional potentials (interpreted in the material encounter or “trial” of use), is in some sense similar to the Peircean semiotic term“qualisign,” whichrefers to inherent qualities that similarly afford semiotic potentials.”

Page 10, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “Third, the material structure of a technology often becomes a resource for people on the ground to analyze communication itself, which in turn influences, but does not predict, how people communicate.”

Page 10, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “influences, but does not predict, how people communicate. A communi-cation technology is not only a medium, but is also a technology thatpeople find good to think with”

Page 10, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “Every mediumprovides a richsupply of metaphors for analyzing unmediated communication, and in doing so, every technology also offers newways of thinking about what it means to be human.”

Page 10, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “Mediation as absence of presence: Presence and telepresence”

Page 10, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “conversation, is one of the most salient genres inwhichlanguage is used, and”

Page 10, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “one of the largest single groups of “technologies for communication” are those which either afford technologically mediated conversations or build conversational interfaces into technologies themselves (Hutchby 2001a).”

Page 11, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “spoken language is aligned with the immediacy of co-present interlocutors engaging in the prototypical, indeed primordial, form of spoken language, face-to-face conversation.”

Page 11, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “comparisonwiththe multi-media mutual monitoring possibilities that arise fromsharing a perceptual field (“presence”) – the immediacy of the face-to- face social “situation” – other mediated forms of communication have been treated by scholars as attenuated or derivative forms of communication (Rettie 2009).”

Page 11, Highlight (Cyan): Content: ““mediation” comes to denote what is lost when situated conversation isremoved from the multi-channel indexical moorings of the face-to-facecontext”

Page 11, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “In other words, not to belabor the point,immediacy here is once again about materiality: about the range ofmaterial channels (and associated richness of indexicality and evidentialpossibilities for mutual monitoring) available in face-to-face conversa-tion. Conversations that are “mediated,” then, would be those that showa reduction of this plenitude of materiality glossed by “presence” or“situation.””

Page 11, Stamp (Star (Frame, Red))

Page 12, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “Whether or not one embraces a foundational binary oppositionbetween face-to-face “social situations” and mediated “technosocial situations,” many scholars have found this terminology to be quite useful analytically in treating face-to-face conversation as a comparative baseline for the study of technologically mediated forms”

Page 12, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “Ito and Okabe’s work on the technoso- cial situations associated with mobile phone technologies shows howthe simple opposition between social (face-to-face) and technosocial (telepre- sence) situation can be further recursively hybridized into what Ito and Okabe call the “augmented ‘fleshmeet’,” a face-to-face social situationthat is bracketed on both sides, and sometimes permeated throughout, by telephone-mediated technosocial situations. Here the opposition between “social situation” and “technosocial situation,” instead of being mutually disruptive (as when one receives a cellphone call in the middle of some other social situation), or “disjunctive,” instead become “contiguous,” parts of a larger technosocial gathering (Ito and Okabe 2005: 271).”

Page 13, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “Mobile devices thus not only afford new forms of conversational “telepresence,” they also afford new genres of presence in public which mediate relations to urban space and infrastructures, making them analytically useful in the way their use makes the often invisible domain of urban infrastructure powerfully present and visible for mobile technology users.”

Page 13, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “Media, intermediaries, and mediators”

Page 13, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “speech can not only be made possible across distances by techno- logical mediation (telepresence), speech can also serve as a mediation itself, by “relaying …spoken messages through intermediaries””

Page 14, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “Human intermediaries, in effect, are replacing non-human media, and by so doing, speech and face-to-face dialog moves fromsome- thing opposed to media, or that can be mediated (telephony), to acting as a mediumdoes, to transcend the boundaries of the face-to-face situation.”

Page 14, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “Such“mediational performances” do not simply involve the serial trans- mission of utterances, for example, as in folkloric transmission or gossip (Bauman 2004: 130), but in specific “implicational or indexical relation- ships between a sequence of dialogs,” so that the whole routine cannot be analyzed as separate dialogs but as one synthetic dialog including both a “source dialog” and a “target dialog.””

Page 14, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “An intermediary, in my vocabulary, is what transports meaning or force without transformation: defining its inputs is enough to define its outputs. For all practical purposes, an intermediary can be taken as a black box, but also a black box counting for one, even if it is internally made up of many parts. Mediators, on the other hand, cannot be counted as just one; they might count for one, for nothing, for several, or for infinity. Their input is never a good predictor of their output … Mediators transform, translate, distort, andmodify the meaningor the elements theyare supposedtocarry. (Latour 2005: 39)”

Page 14, Highlight (Yellow): Content: “intermediary,”

Page 14, Highlight (Yellow): Content: “Mediators,”

Page 14, Highlight (Cyan): Content: ” we needto pay attention to the active agency of both human and non-humanmediation if we want to see the constitutive role of media in relation tolanguage,”

Page 15, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “Delegation involves, essentially, the question of whether a task orcompetence will be assigned to a human or non-human actant.”

Page 15, Highlight (Yellow): Content: “Delegation”

Page 15, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “Figuration is the related ontological question of whether the actant to whichthe task is delegated is viewed as a human(anthropomorphism) or a non-human (technomorphism) (Latour 1988, Akrich 1992).”

Page 15, Highlight (Yellow): Content: “Figuration”

Page 16, Highlight (Cyan): Content: ” “human megaphone,””

Page 16, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “Conclusion”

Page 16, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “When linguistic anthropologists have focused on the intersection of lan-guage and media, they often found it useful to assume a fundamentaldistinction at play – be it a distinction between mediated and unmediatedor situated and unsituated. ”

Page 16, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “choosing to think about the contrast interms of mediation and absence led to productive explorations of how a“community of time and space” (Goffman 1983: 2) often presupposescertain interactive aspects (such as immediacy) that participants mustcompensate for whennot present. Analyses of media fromthis perspectiveexplore what aspects of co-present communication a particular mediumoccludes or amplifies, affecting howpeople will communicate. ”

Page 16, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “Choosing, by contrast, to analyze conversations in terms of situatedness led to other, equally productive, investigations of how the social and the technical are co-constructed.”

Page 16, Highlight (Cyan): Content: “In both cases,analysts could figure out what was significant precisely because they wereusing co-presence as an analytical baseline. As we have shown, these twoepistemological choices set the terms for much of the subsequent intellec-tual explorations of howlanguage and media intertwine, and howmateri-ality plays a part.”

Page 17, Underline (Red): Content: “Bauman, Richard, and Charles Briggs. 1990. Poetics and Performance as Critical Perspectives on Language and Social Life. Annual Review of Anthropology 19: 59–88. Bauman, Richard. 2004. A World of Others’ Words. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing.”

Page 17, Underline (Red): Content: “Coleman, Gabriella. 2011. Anonymous: Fromthe Lulz to Collective Action. The NewEveryday. http://mediacommons.futureofthebook.org/tne/pieces/anonymous-lulz-collective-action (accessed February 7, 2014).”

Page 17, Underline (Red): Content: “Goffman, Erving. 1964. The Neglected Situation. American Anthropologist 66 (6): 133–6.”

Page 18, Underline (Red): Content: “1974. Frame Analysis: An Essay on the Organization of Experience. New York: Harper and Row. 1981. Forms of Talk. Oxford: Blackwell. 1983. Presidential Address: The Interaction Order, American Sociological Review 48(1): 1–17.”

Page 18, Underline (Red): Content: “Latour, Bruno. 1988. Mixing Humans and Non-Humans Together: The sociology of a door-closer. Social Problems 35(3): 298–310.”

Page 19, Underline (Red): Content: “2005. Reassembling the Social: An Introduction to Actor-Network-Theory.Oxford: Oxford University Press. ”

Page 19, Underline (Red): Content: “Marvin, Carolyn. 1988. When Old Technologies Were New: Thinking about electric communication in the nineteenth century. New York: Oxford University Press.”

Page 19, Underline (Red): Content: “Warner, Michael. 1990. The Letters of the Republic: Publication and the Public Sphere in Eighteenth Century America. Cambridge, MA: HarvardUniversity Press.

Spitulnik, Debra. 2000. Media. Journal of Linguistic Anthropology 9(1–2): 148–51.

Peirce, C. S. 1868. Some Consequences of Four Incapacities. Journal of Speculative Philosophy 2: 140–57. (Electronic document, http://www.peirce. org/writings/p27.html, accessed October 10, 2011.)”

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