Friday, 25 February 2011

The Dervish on the Bridge

When I was young, unable to see beyond my universe, I always imagined that one day I would be like my Dad and be a builder of bridges. He was actually a bricklayer but in my young mind I imagined him a bridge-builder. But as I grew to be a man, words and pamphlets and designing books became my path. This later turned into communications. And what are communications and marketing if not the building of bridges across the rivers and roads of misunderstanding and ignorance?

Communications is the bridge between two groups who want to reach each other. It is the link between two people, between groups of people, between government and its citizens, between business and its market. It is the flyover made of words and images and symbols allowing the users to crossover to greater understanding of what lies on the other side. Bridges are also two-way streets.

These connections are relationships, associations, exchanges, feedback channels, allowing one side to touch the other. But as the connections are made and the traffic begins to grow driven by the needs of users, bridges are widened, more lanes are perhaps added and the connection becomes more sophisticated. Telephone lines are now using optic cables. Older forms such as newspapers, television and books are forced to embrace new forms such as mobile telephony and the internet with their social media tools, their RSS feeds, their media streaming and so on. Radio stations are now on multi-media platforms with interactive websites, live feeds, comments from listeners who are now also viewers, readers, contributors and promoters.

And yet, somehow, the bridge also seeks to become more specific, specialised, targeted, and more precise. Mass communications seems to be giving way to niche and strategic communications. Specific, unique and narrower bridges are being constructed for specific audiences, limited target markets, special income and interest groups. Newspapers and the publication industry, television and radio stations, media websites, telephone and mobile companies are all looking for the niche markets that will sustain them.

This is then the time to go bridge-building again to find connections between the general and the specific, the common and the unique, the wide and the narrow. This is also the time to find bridges to those who are unconnected; to build a bridge into the unknown. This desire to understand why communication bridges are being built and how they are constructed took me to on a journey to Rhodes University to study media and communications. My MA in media studies has now given me further insights into this phenomenon.

With these new sets of tools such as cultural theorists, political economists and different forms of research, I have now come to realise that communications are not just benign attempts to connect with others (specific audiences or the wider more general publics). They are often more deliberate constructions that seek to control those who uses these channels. Communications are not just exchanges but power relations. It is about who owns the bridge, who is allowed to travel on it, what modes are allowed and the bridge toll.
But it is also about the unforeseen uses of the bridge that the owners often never intended, never imagined. Power is also a two-way street.

It is these issues I would like to explore in this blog:
  • Issues about the dynamics of power and hegemony in the media. 
  • Discussions about media ownership and the frameworks within which media operates. 
  • How media frames who we are, what we desire, our tastes, how we see others and ourselves. 
  • The ways in which we use media ourselves, how we make media, how we speak for ourselves.

If this is what fascinates you too, then join me on this journey. I have deliberately chosen (with the help of a friend) the title media rumination (or Rumi nation). Whenever I think of Rumi, the image of the whirling dervish emerges. For me the dervish twirls not to only reach the higher but also to remain grounded: to spin and not become incoherent; to make the world go by and yet be in it. I like that.

Adli, 25 February 2011