What is media?

There was an interesting seminar today in the University of Tampere where a number of media, communications, film and also one games scholar met to discuss ‘media’ as a “crossroads term” in academia. The multiple interesting presentations and discussions can not be adequately paraphrased by myself, here, but it was interesting to note how e.g. ‘digital media’ was related to convergence developments, and also to the ubiquity or pervasiveness of media – it was becoming difficult to say what was not media any more. This was philosophically linked to the question of mediation and presence; e.g. Jacques Derrida for one has emphasised that there is no access to ‘original’, or authenticity – our human existence is to exist within systems of signification that are always also systems of ‘re-presentation’ (when we become conscious of something, we already have some, even minute reflexive distance to that thought or sensation). Ok, maybe in some extreme experiences (strong pain, pleasure, intoxication) that sense of reflexiveness is in marginal position, but you get the idea. Even having a body means that we have that (“first person”) media always with us.

I presented some views of media as seen from Interactive Media / New Media perspective(s) and from those of Game Studies: e.g. the sometimes tensed relations and borderlines between game/narrative and game/media. Where I did not have time to go, however, was the growing interest in the rhetorics of games, and the study and application of games not to communicate direct messages, but to create conditions for expressive action. The posthuman views on the complexity of human agency I did mention, as well as the application of Game Studies into the study of everyday life (should have gone both to Goffman, and to gamification debates there, but did not have time). Great seminar, thanks for the organisers (Seija Ridell, Taisto Hujanen)!

Link: http://www.uta.fi/cmt/tutkimus/seminaarit/mika_ihmeen_media.html

Updates in Articles

I decided to let go of the idea of using the Articles page as a work-in-progress writing platform (I never seemed to find that extra time to work on those article drafts). Instead, I have now included links to some recent published articles by myself and those co-authored with others in to this page (https://fransmayra.fi/articles/). There is a longer list available here: http://www.uta.fi/~frans.mayra/publications.html

About politics

There were parliamentary elections recently in Finland, and as the news from the results have already told: there was a massive shift of power to “True Finns”, a nationalist populist party with openly anti-immigrant (sometimes racist) and anti-EU agenda, pushing extremely conservative values to all areas of Finnish society. Currently the National Coalition Party (Kokoomus) as the biggest party is leading the negotiations to form a government with True Finns and Social Democratic Party.

My own response, like that of hundreds of other people, has been to join to a party that is supportive of multiculturalism, liberalism and is politically responsible in a way that a group with a simplified, populist message cannot be. I joined the Green Party of Finland, but also the Left Alliance has been getting many new members after the elections. I have never been a member of any party before, but it felt like the political situation is getting so bad that everyone who does not agree with the current development needs to do at least something.

It is perhaps easy to wave away such reactions as short-lived responses that will have no real significance to our way of life. Political alienation has been a growing concern for decades in Finland, as well as in many other Western countries, but when the alienation of the 1960s produced an outburst of ethnic, racial, female and student radicalism, no similar march to the barricades appears realistic in the political climate of 2010s.

Politics is closely related to values, choices and conflicts of interest in different areas of life. Politics is easily emotionally charged, and political decisions do not necessarily boil down to logical calculations of benefits and losses. Even the perspectives different people have to the politics are multiple: for some, politics is primarily about the individual advantage and concerns of daily life, for some it is about issues that primarily relate to class, social group, of some wider societal level.

My own personal history has been very apolitical; I have mostly been concerned with the academic work that deals with art and cultural theories, and have been drawn to discuss e.g. the posthuman future of humanity, or the different trajectories of techno-culture. Not very down-to-earth. Like many others, I have vaguely felt that politics is something that needs professionals to be done properly. Expressing any fixed, definite views about taxation, legislation or other political issues has felt often uncomfortable and even intellectually dishonest – economic and social systems are after all rather complex, and it is not easy to say what the real, long-term consequences would be, if one variable is changed in the system. (I would love to try out a detailed simulation of our society, or rather the entire globe, where it would be possible to see in action the street-level consequences from various high-level political decisions.)

Yet, like these elections have proved, lack of knowledge or certainty does not stop people having views about the direction of their lives. And it should not: we all are competent political subjects, however imperfect our understanding may be.

I have voted the Greens for my entire adult life, and their/our failure in these elections has led to a bit of contemplation, why I continue to do so.

There have been many different analyses in mass media and social media of the reasons behind the current situation: the growing dissatisfaction towards the rising economic cost of supporting “irresponsible” economies in the European Union, failing public sector and growing insecurity in the society – which paradoxically led to the political right wing prospering, rather than the left, which would have been the logical direction to strengthen the welfare society. This was a “protest vote”, and the Greens had been in the previous government, making there perhaps too many compromises to stand out as a credible alternative to the dissatisfied protesters.

The traditional political axis between the political left and right has become messier, and the axis between conservatives and liberals has become the more dominant one. It is suddenly the right thing to do to question the rationale for development aid, and claim that no money or effort should be spent outside of Finland, before everything wrong in our own society has been fixed for good.

For me, the left-right division line between the strong state and the individualistic (capitalistic) freedom has not been particularly interesting, but when coupled with extreme cultural and social value statements, even those classic questions come to new light. What kind of vision of good life and the future society provides the guiding principles for our political decisions? It is suddenly the details, such as the statement of taking state support away from contemporary “postmodern art” and instead providing state support to educate people to the works of Albert Edelfelt, Akseli Gallen-Kallela and Jean Sibelius (all national-romantic classics from the late 19th and early 20th century Finland) in the True Finns’ programme that start to feel symptomatic.

There are thousands of reasons to vote or not vote for some political coalition or another; the major reason of one voter may be a minor issue for another. I think that the essential distinguishing factor in the Greens is that it is a party based on a global vision, and one where the human place is not at the centre of the universe, but rather as one species in an inter-dependent web of life. It might be that in the days of economic recession it is not the most burning message that people want to hear, but I believe that several viable alternatives for daily politics can be based on enhanced awareness of how all people are dependent on all others (and other life-forms) on this planet, not set apart from them in some imaginary isolated bubble. And as long as the Greens pursue to clarify what such a vision means for our social, economical and ecological politics, I will continue to support them.

Interested in joining? More information about joining the Greens of Finland can be found here: http://www.vihreat.fi/liity-jaseneksi

Visits to Mikkeli and Pori

I will be visiting and speaking in two interesting events this week:

Hope to see you over there!

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