School of Culture and Communication - Theses
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Youths, Digital Media, and the 'New' Knowledge Economy in Africa: Perspectives of Global City Policymakers in Tanzania
This study addresses the conceptualisation of civic public communication as an important component of the paradigm of the ‘knowledge economy’ and examines the way the government of Tanzania manages this emerging knowledge in digital policymaking. The study has a focus on policy experts’ understanding of globalisation and digital engagement among youths who are interacting with smartphone communication in the global digital city, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Specifically, the study addresses policy experts’ understanding of digital social practices of youths in their interaction through smartphone communication in Dar es Salaam, and the implications of this understanding in policy decision practices for managing the knowledge economy for the city’s economic development. The study employs semi-structured interviews with policy experts in Dar es Salaam who are policy decision-makers at different levels of government in Tanzania. Findings reveal that policy experts in the globalised digital city, Dar es Salaam, perceive policymaking from the traditional perspectives of financial and business activities. They also reveal that policy experts understand the globalised digital sphere as a hub for promoting political leaders and governance activities in Dar es Salaam, which therefore impacts policymaking perceptions. The study concludes that policy experts in the study area have limited knowledge of civic public communication as an emerging opportunity for societal development in the globalised digital city. The deterritorialised space and denationalised digital sphere, as drawn from Sassen’s theoretical perspectives on globalisation and digitisation, are emerging as the contemporary policymaking opportunities for societal development in the digital age. The study recommends that an inclusive policymaking approach between citizens and the government be developed among policy experts in Dar es Salaam for the city’s economic development in the emerging digital era. Such a decentralised approach to reaching policy decisions furthers the debate on digital-era policymaking practices in developing regions for societal development.
Seeking Arrangement: Essays on Work
This thesis is about work and collectivity under post-Fordism. It examines social and artistic forms that loosely organise reproductive labour outside of formal institutions. Polyamorous relationships are conducted on a spectrum from spontaneous to Google-calendared to commune to cult. A secret men’s club is comprised of working-class unionists who ban politics from discussion at their meetings. The nightclub is celebrated as a utopian melting pot, but exacerbates as much as alleviates workaday alienation. I explore these sites across five essays; in the sixth and final essay, I turn to the form of the essay itself, arguing that contemporary hybrid nonfiction derives from and expresses its precarised conditions of production in syntax and structure. If post-Fordism is most readily associated with the collapse of work into leisure, as well as the destruction of workplace- and class-solidarity, the polyamorous relationship, the nightclub, the men’s club, and the essay not only take this collapse for granted, but grow from it and reproduce it. They exist in an ambivalent zone of resistance and complicity that runs parallel to, and separate from, organised solidarity. In doing so, they usefully refract contemporary debates around leisure, automation, reproductive labour, and aesthetic production. The creative component of this thesis is comprised of the six essays outlined above. The critical section contains an introduction, a literature review, and exegetical statement contextualising my use of the essay form and my research on post-Fordism.
Solving Suspicion in Mystery Films
This thesis seeks to understand how viewers engage mystery films, and how they are engaged by them. Mystery films present a problem for the viewer to solve, from identifying a killer to uncovering a conspiracy, and engage viewers in solving this problem by arousing suspicion. This feeling of suspicion represents points of fixation for viewers within a film’s narrative. Mystery films arouse suspicion using repetition, isolation, duration, and predisposition, and by playing on viewer expectations surrounding the mystery genre and type. When viewer suspicion is aroused, they engage in a form of problem solving to try and resolve ambiguity in the text and reach a solution to the problem in the film. To address these research questions, this thesis employs a range of empirical methods, including quantitative analysis of editing data, neoformalist analysis of mystery films, and a human experiment to determine how specific film practices influence viewer’s perception of suspicion. By focusing only on what can be observed and comprehended, and not on interpretations of a text, Neoformalist analysis may be considered an empirical research method. This range of methods is directed by a set of guiding principles that underpin the thesis, aimed at contributing to our understanding of the experience-of-film. In total, the thesis examines 87 mystery films from 2004-2013 to provide a comprehensive study of contemporary mystery cinema. The thesis demonstrates that viewers primarily engage with mystery films through a form of problem solving, guided by their experience of suspicion. Mystery films are constructed to arouse suspicion and encourage viewers to attempt to solve the problem at the centre of a film. Mystery films use editing structure, problem types, filmic practices, and expectations of genre to curate the viewing experience, attempting to prevent viewers from reaching a solution prematurely. This is largely achieved by cultivating recognition in viewers, ensuring they identify important clues within the film, but fail to synthesise this information into a solution. Viewers can draw on meta-knowledge in an attempt to decode and decipher these practices, leading to new forms of engagement with mystery films. Finally, this thesis illustrates the potential for an empirically informed, interdisciplinary approach to researching screen texts, and the potential for future investigations into the viewing experience.
The Forest, the Desert and the Road: Chronotopes of American Spaces in Twentieth-century Long-form Poetry; and a Creative Work, 'Hotel America'
Part One (60%): The Forest, the Desert and the Road: Chronotopes of American Spaces in Twentieth-century Long-form Poetry In this thesis I address the following questions: what is an ‘American space’? How is this space represented in, produced and/or contested by literary texts? Using the Bakhtinian theory of chronotopes, I undertake an analysis of the ways in which three twentieth-century long-form poems—Susan Howe’s ‘Articulation of Sound Forms in Time’, Michael Ondaatje’s 'The Collected Works of Billy the Kid' and Muriel Rukeyser’s 'The Book of the Dead'—represent, produce and contest specific American spaces (‘America’ defined as the contiguous United States). The key chronotopes identified for this study are: the forest, the desert and the road. I argue that these chronotopes, each corresponding to a critical place and time in American history, are employed by Howe, Ondaatje and Rukeyser, to unsettle national mythologies and narratives of settlement, in particular the ‘frontier thesis’ advanced by influential historian Frederick Jackson Turner. My thesis, which reads the three primary texts alongside broader cultural and historical contexts, is situated at the intersection between literary studies, American studies, history and cultural geography. Part Two (40%): ‘Hotel America’ In 'The American Scene', Henry James writes: ‘one is verily tempted to ask if the hotel-spirit may not just be the American spirit most seeking and most finding itself’. In the creative component of this thesis, I present a collection of poetic narrative sequences, titled ‘Hotel America’, which centres on the chronotope of the hotel in American history and culture. Each sequence is set within a real American hotel, from geographically and historically diverse locations and times. In this creative work, I extend upon my analyses of the chronotopes in the critical component of this thesis to explore the ways in which the chronotope of the hotel has contributed, and continues to contribute, to the composition of American spaces.
Otherness and Ambiguity: Coding Difference in British Gothic and Sensation Novels
This thesis reads British gothic and sensation novels through their historical contexts, examining Matthew Lewis's The Monk (1796), Charlotte Dacre's Zofloya, or The Moor (1806), and Wilkie Collins's The Woman in White (1860) through the themes of cultural and social transgression, examining how transgressive experiences of religion, gender, sexuality, race, and class are registered in these novels through coded rather than explicit modes of representation. My analysis illuminates these novels' indirect engagement with contemporary discourses – about Catholicism, Orientalism, femininity, sodomy, tribadism, and domestic violence – through the utilisation of similar modes of language and theme. With this combination of literary and historical analysis, I examine how these texts reflect change across time and genre. In particular, I focus on gothic uses of excess and violence in The Monk and Zofloya, and how this facilitates the inclusion of other, more coded, transgressions and marginalised cultural Others in the texts. I then apply the same framework to a central text of the sensation genre, The Woman in White. By analysing this novel alongside its gothic forebears, I examine the different approaches taken by these genres and their authors to the same cultural issues, as well as how they are strikingly similar, in order to unpack the changes caused by shifts in setting and plot from the distant and outlandish, to the familiar, domestic, and contemporary. The thesis utilises a non-binarist approach to analysis that allows for contradiction and inconclusiveness, resisting a critical history which relies on false or restrictive methods of classification and opposition. I emphasise the complexities of the novels, particularly within the full context of cultural debates, rather than attempting to define them as radical or conservative on particular social issues. By allowing the texts to stand within their contradictions, the thesis seeks to illuminate how we can gain a greater understanding of both text and history, and how these dynamic and powerful texts resist categorisation.
Somaletheia: Cultural Techniques of Biosensing
Biosensors are sensor technologies designed to produce data about the functions or vital capacity of the body. While biosensing has often been analysed in presentist terms, this thesis attempts to account for the long history of biosensors, the better to frame an understanding of the contemporary ‘sensor society’. This thesis proposes two ‘births’ of the sensor society – the first occurring in the mid-19th century, and the second in the early 21st century. This thesis considers the Quantified Self movement as serving to problematize the conditions of this ‘second’ sensor society, at the same time as critical questioning of the significance of biosensors has exceeded the form of praxis promoted by the movement. This thesis argues that biosensors figure the body as both the bearer of truth, as well as that which frustrates this truth through the exigencies of biological errancy. I refer to this metrological dynamic of bodily veiling/unveiling as ‘somaletheia’, a portmanteau combining the words ‘soma’ for ‘body’ and ‘(a)letheia’ for ‘(un)concealment’. This thesis draws upon cultural techniques theory to genealogically analyse the way that this dynamic has conditioned biosensors’ place in the clinic, the workplace, and the home, from the mid-19th century to the present day. Cultural Techniques theory analyses chains of ontic operations which coalesce into what are referred to as ‘operative ontologies’ – the production of ontological distinctions which are in retrospect understood to function as ‘essential’ truths about a given domain of experience. I trace the cultural techniques of biosensing across the fields of the clinic, the workplace, and the home, demonstrating how biosensing produces a mode of measure which is at once troubled as well as propelled by its ‘working through’ of the difficulty of a body which is figured as errant. I analyse the difficulties surrounding the tools of 19th century biosensors like the sphygmograph and the haemautograph, the techniques of the ‘educated finger’, the tools of the post-Taylorist European Science of Work and Human Relations studies, and early servant-managing home security technologies. I compare these with contemporary digital, networked biosensor technologies like the Apple Watch, the Sociometer, and Amazon Key, to demonstrate how their associated cultural techniques have been reworked and extended as tools of governmentality. This thesis contributes to a consideration of media critique which grapples with the difficulty of aporia and error as a material force. While the vital capacity of the human body has often been argued to hold an immanently resistant capacity, this thesis analyses how ‘biological errancy’ is managed as a productive aspect of the biosensing apparatus. This thesis argues that this dynamic be understood neither from the perspective of media as ‘Enframing’, but nor from the perspective of a normatively understood vital body. Instead, this thesis proposes an approach which charts the genealogical production of a form of bodily truth which emerges in the complex interplay between human activity and an evolving and intimate form of measure.
Democratising orchestras: How do player-governed orchestras sustain their governance?
Player-governed orchestras use democratic and participatory organisational models that give musicians governance control and have sustained these governance structures over many decades. The labour-management literature suggests, however, that worker governance can be difficult to sustain. This study investigates the research question: how do player-governed orchestras sustain their governance structures? Using qualitative interviews with musicians and managers in five orchestras and one contemporary music ensemble, based in Germany and the UK, I investigate the sustainability of governance by musicians and how these organisations have achieved it. My research appraises the economic, artistic, organisational and cultural challenges facing player-governance and the responses to them that these firms have developed. Three key findings emerged from the study. Firstly, the sustainability of player-governance depends on orchestras’ ability to adapt labour-management principles to the parameters of work in orchestras. Orchestras create unique challenges for the realisation of labour-management, but their ability to master these challenges is crucial for the sustainability of player-governance. Secondly, strategies to facilitate and channel the participation and social energy at the core of player-governance are essential to its sustainability. Player-governance is sustained by the fostering of virtuous circles that arise when the opportunities for enhanced governance participation among members facilitate high levels of engagement, commitment and feelings of responsibility. Finally, mastering the challenges of performance optimisation in the context of democratic control is essential to sustaining player-governance in orchestras. Navigating the challenges of managing performance quality in a democratic context is critical for sustaining player-governance. The research applies labour-management theory to creative-industries and not-for-profit firms while isolating and illuminating the strategies involved in sustaining worker control in such a context. The thesis considers orchestras and a contemporary-music ensemble that were established in the last three decades, thus highlighting the viability and potential of labour-management as an alternative organisational form in contemporary performing-arts companies.
The impact of the Biennale of Sydney on the collecting habits of the Art Gallery of New South Wales
The aim of this research is to examine the impact of the Biennale of Sydney on the collecting habits of the Art Gallery of New South Wales. While there is research within the area of Biennales and their impact on local economies, there is little research into their impact on how local (in this context, Australian) art is collected by public (State or Federal) institutions, whose role it is to keep safe the culture of the locality they are meant to represent. Biennales are often researched in the context of the Global internationalisation of art, with the ‘type’ of art shown being known as ‘biennale art’ - often spectacular, internationalising, and heeding little attention to the context in which the art is being shown. It can be argued that eventually, artists in the areas where Biennales have become either a source of civic pride or a tourist destination for global visitors, tend to adapt their artistic styles to mimic the work of those artists shown in such arenas. In Australia, this raises questions on how Australian artists see themselves in an international context and how this impacts on national narratives. With this in mind, I am examining, as a case study, the collection of contemporary art in the Art Gallery of New South Wales in correlation with art exhibited in the Biennale, from six years prior to the Biennale’s inception through to Australia’s Bicentennial year of 1988.
The ‘Black ghost’ of bermondsey: gender, crime and murder in Victorian England
This thesis examines the cultural impact of a sensational murder case that took place in London in 1849. The so-called ‘Bermondsey murder’ involved the violent murder of a man by Frederick and Maria Manning, a married couple who were tried, found guilty and executed for their crime. Public interest in the story – and in Maria especially – was enormous, overshadowing both her co-conspirator husband, and also that of five other women found guilty of murder the same year; Mary Anne Geering, Rebecca Smith, Mary Ball, Sarah Harriet Thomas, and Charlotte Harris. Located simultaneously in the fields of feminist, historical, literary and cultural studies, my project examines how six women were imagined in popular discourse and how, in turn, these representations both reflected and—as is especially evident in Maria’s case—contested mid nineteenth-century conceptions of gender, sexuality, class, nationality, religion and criminality. The primary interest of my research is the public representation of female criminals in mid-century England, with a particular focus on Maria’s exceptional status as a ‘great’ criminal of the age, her excessive representation in popular culture and the unusual themes and anxieties evoked by her case. The year 1849 is particularly notable as it saw the highest recorded rate of female executions over a 121-year period, from 1843, when statistics began to differentiate between the sexes, to 1964, when the last hanging took place. While the other women of 1849 were fundamentally comprehensible, Maria by contrast represented a distinctly aberrant female outside the boundaries of existing gendered, social and criminological categorisation. Her case generated its own specific sets of concerns and responses that, in turn, worked to differentiate her greatly from other female homicides of the period. The magnitude of public interest in Maria was exceptional, as too was public ambivalence about her. The press and others moralised about her shocking and atypical criminal behaviour, while marvelling at her, and holding her in awe: she was admired and condemned in equal measure. The figure of Maria Manning defied allocation to the established categories and explanations of the age and can be seen as an example that throws into relief the range, complexity and suggestiveness of Victorian discourses concerning the most violent of female offenders. Just as Maria was rendered exceptional by the press and other popular accounts in relation to other female murders of the period, she was also distinguished from her husband and accomplice Frederick. One of the most compelling features of the Mannings’ case was the construction of a gendered role reversal between the couple. In the decades following the Mannings’ execution, Maria continued to remain a figure of fascination. While her husband Frederick was all but forgotten, Maria’s image inspired an ongoing textual afterlife. The lack of resolution surrounding Maria’s image, as well as the themes evoked by the case fed into later representations, including significant literary contributions by Charles Dickens and others. Most notably, the attendant ambiguities surrounding Maria’s legibility, in terms of her appearance, behaviour, and background, influenced Dickens's portrayal of two violent and vengeful female characters, Mademoiselle Hortense, Lady Dedlock’s murderous French lady’s maid in the novel Bleak House (1852-53) and Madame Defarge, the fearful revolutionary in A Tale of Two Cities (1859). There are numerous thematic and descriptive parallels between popular depictions of Maria Manning and Dickens’s two fictional incarnations. These contributions, in turn, have helped ensure that aspects of Maria’s image continue to be read, remembered and reinterpreted today.
Figures-in-the-making: Figurations of AI and gender in science, popular culture, and everyday life
Artificial intelligence is often considered the science of making intelligent machines. Unavoidable are the ways in which gender informs and shapes what constitutes intelligence, yet rarely is gender explicitly addressed as a topic of research. At best, gender is reduced to an empirical question of counting gendered bodies. Indeed, by studies of gender, what many actually mean is a study of women—their presence or exclusion, their representation, or the ways in which their lives are affected by systems and technologies. Even in studies of AI that foreground feminist readings of science and technology, gender is a taken for granted relation —the stable backdrop against which AI is enacted rather than something which is itself under revision. Gender, in this context, is conceptualised as a predetermined, preformed category; already made rather than something that is constituted through the practice of history or technology making itself. This thesis considers how, in the making of artificial intelligence, gender too is being made. Drawing on methods and theory from feminist science and technology studies, cultural studies, film and media studies, and queer and gender studies, it examines how AI and gender are co-constituted across different sites in technoscientific culture. It develops the concept of “figuration” as a critical methodology and applies this to a number of case studies that span across sites of science, popular culture, and everyday life. The case studies addressed include: Alan Turing and the Turing test, the Dartmouth Summer Research Project on Artificial Intelligence, the 2008 film WALL-E, the 2014 film Ex Machina, Apple’s digital personal assistant Siri, and finally, Amazon’s digital domestic assistant Alexa. The main argument of the thesis is that consistently, across technoscientific culture, gender both figures, and is figured by, AI. On the one hand, gender fundamentally constitutes how AI figures are made intelligible as subjects and objects. Gender is what mediates expectations and makes the role of an AI clear to a user, consumer, or audience. Conversely, as technologies are figured by gender, gender itself becomes technologised. Gender is figured as an artifice, as a performative and imitative category that even a machine following the correct procedures can also enact. This thesis demonstrates how it is not only gendered bodies that are at stake in algorithmic and AI culture but gender itself as a socio-cultural system. In doing so, the thesis contributes to a broader narrative of gender’s ongoing role in the conceptualisation and materialisation of technoscientific objects and figures.
Imagining Modern Greece: Mesologgi, Philhellenism and Art in the 19th century
Renowned as the site of Byron’s death, and the centre of war operations in western mainland Greece during the Greek War of Independence, Mesologgi duly became a focus of Philhellene propaganda in the revolt against Ottoman rule. Yet it can be argued that commentary on the artistic manifestations of this discourse has overlooked the coherence of the iconography of revolutionary Mesologgi and has understated its role in underpinning Greek nationalist ideology. This thesis analyses how Philhellene images of Mesologgi advocated for the worthiness of the Greek insurgency in seeking Western support, and elevated the town as an emblem of the revolution of 1821 on a global scale. Foremost among the themes underpinning the visual imagery examined, is an emphasis on the continuity of Greek culture and identity since classical antiquity. The antiquarian construction of modern Hellenism, which antedates the formal establishment of the Greek nation-state in 1832, had as its corollary the denigration of the Ottoman Empire as a barbaric military force. This anti-Ottoman invective, together with French liberal politics and Western religious art, are fundamental elements in the visual language used by the Philhellene artists. After the fall of the town on 11 April 1826, a formulaic and coherent narrative of revolutionary Mesologgi emerged in Philhellene art that encompassed these elements. This thesis argues that central to the establishment of this consistent narrative were the themes of the Christian identity of the Greek insurgents and the nobility of the vanquished hero, and, as such, and that these tropes warrant detailed analysis in relation to Mesologgi and Philhellene iconography.
Inventory of Pain: Watching the Asian Body on Western Screens and But the Girl
The title of this thesis, “Inventory of Pain,” draws on Edward Said’s idea that Orientalism was an attempt to “inventory the traces upon me [him], the Oriental subject, of the culture whose domination has been so powerful a factor in the life of all Orientals” (25). In this thesis, I make an inventory of the painful traces upon me and others like me from being constructed both vaguely and specifically as an “Asian” body in Australia. In my work, being constructed as an Asian body is not taken as an abstract or theoretical idea. Rather, it is described as a material and mundane, sticky and violent, lived and living experience. I use mainstream Australian and American films and television shows as case studies to discuss the implications of not just these Othering texts but of being seen and of seeing oneself as “Other” through them. I focus on mainstream screen texts because of the way that the racially inscribed film and media stereotypes they frequently deal in become part of our cultural memories. While such stereotypes are not determinative they still have what Kent Ono and Vincent Pham call a “controlling social power”; in a recent study, Chyng Sun et al. found that while stereotypes of Asian characters on screen were seen as accurate by many of those surveyed and for Asian-Americans these stereotypes evoked a sense of pain. It is this sense of pain that I want to press into, as, in response to this pervasive cultural memory, I write and think through my own memories of encountering the Asian body on screen. Alongside the critical dissertation, is a novel which forms another inventory of pain, entitled But the Girl. It is a re-working of the Euro- and andro-centric bildungsroman genre, around a South-East Asian-Australian girl. To write my selfhood and identity, pushed to the side so often, is an act of self-aggrandising. It is to say: “So often, I have identified with you, Jane Eyre, Holden Caulfield, Anna Karenina, but now you will identify with me.” In both the critical and creative portions of this thesis, I inventory pain. In making pain an inventory, I take the raw material of wounding and transform it into a resource to be drawn upon. In making pain an inventory, I write not only about what they say but what we feel.