When Big Media Aren’t the Biggest

While buzzing around the University of Wollongong website yesterday, I came across this little news story talking about the role of television in constructing ideas about the nation. The story talked about a seminar at UOW today titled ‘Television, Popular Memory and the Nation’, which is very similar to the topic of my honours thesis. Despite already having plans for the day, I decided to attend and listen to the discussions.

The sessions went like this:

  • Panel 1: Television and the Nation
    This session talked about the role of nation in structuring television studies, and wondered whether other geographies (like regions, states, supra-national areas, etc) had been missed. It asked what the geo-political approaches to television have been and raised television as a site of social practice and as a material object. We were also asked to consider what is ‘Australian’ about Australian television. The panel consisted of Stephanie Hanson, Sue Turnbull, Kate Darian-Smith and Graeme Turner, moderated by Jinna Tay.
  • Panel 2: Television and memory
    This panel raised questions about institutional, personal and popular memories and briefly addressed the CNN Effect and the Vietnam Sydnrome and discussed the importance of government organisations in memorialising television. On this panel were Fay Anderson, Chris Healy, Geoff Lealand, and Paula Hamilton.
  • Panel 3: What is television?
    This question seems pretty straightforward to anyone but cultural studies scholars and students. It covered the ‘limits’ of the object of television, the nature and future of television, and television as users rather than as technology. The prospect of television as a shaper of the ‘modern subject’ was also raised and discussed. The idea of television as a nebulous cloud was discussed by Sue Turnbull, and I made the following tweet, quoting Sue.


    The members of this panel were Frances Bonner, Alan McKee, John Hartley, and Sue Turnbull.

After the last session, a book titled Remembering Television: Histories, Technologies, Memories, edited by Sue Turnbull and Kate Darian-Smith was launched. You can get it on Amazon.

I tried to keep quiet for most of the day (always a challenge for me) in deference to the much more learned people in the room, and the discussions were fascinating. I did take issue with the term user-generated-content (UGC) being thrown around without much distinction as to who the ‘users’ were. I’ve always found ‘UGC’ to be a bit problematic, especially in relation to YouTube as there is a lot of content on YouTube that is created by professional organisations, including mass media. So I think UGC is essentially a misnomer.

Nonetheless, it was a great day, and congratulations to all those who organised it. I only wish it had occurred before I finished my honours thesis!