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Visiting Scholar Lunch: The Writing of Culture

April 20, 2011
12:00PM - 01:00PM

Annenberg School for Communication, Room 300
3620 Walnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104

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Categories: Seminar

The writing of culture: media and mediations in the digital context

Lunch will be provided on a first come, first served basis.  Please RSVP by Monday, April 18.

Since the early works of Professors Emmanuël Souchier and Yves Jeanneret on “screen writings” and computer display taken as texts, numerous researchers in French universities have developed a critical approach to new media, including the digital ideologies they rely on, the socio-technical considerations they raise, and the cultural impacts they involve.

Following this school of thought, my research focuses on questioning the role of texts in digital media, in order to understand how these media are currently rewriting culture, and how they come to transform our relations to inherited mediations. Indeed, we have to take into account that computers are developed and coded. Any kind of software implies a writing of code and a structuring of the device, relying on a project, a conception of the world. Thus, studying digital media makes it necessary to question the transformations of social mediations and cultural traditions. Computer scientists, program developers and industry workers in the sector of online marketing tend to become the new cast of scribes, and to define the central mediations of culture today. The debates and criticisms about “social networking sites” are a good example of such a metamorphosis, because they transform the way social relations are written.

In my presentation I will focus on a few concepts in semiotics we are using to analyze the ways web pages and, more generally, electronic objects are written and interpreted. I will particularly describe the fields I’m currently working on in this context. “Tagclouds”, rankings, and top user lists, among other objects, are all familiar, “ordinary” forms that can be studied and understood as central places in meaning-making processes and in the development of digital ideologies.

Etienne Candel is in charge of the Digital Media Communication Master’s Program and research development at CELSA (the Graduate School of Journalism and Communication – Sorbonne University, France). His research focuses on the links between digital innovations and cultural transformations