The MEA was pleased to sponsor the following session at this year’s International Communication Association Conference, held in Paris, France, May 26–30, 2022.
Thom Gencarelli, Manhattan College
Presenters and Papers
In an age characterized by extensive use of social media for interaction among friends, family, coworkers, and total strangers, people are experiencing a complicated degree of overlapping and intertwining relationships and roles. The movement of many life activities online during the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated this condition, as our homes became all places in one – home, office, fitness center, doctor’s office, therapist’s couch, house of worship – and it became difficult or impossible to keep those roles and those audiences separate from one another. The core thinkers and theories of media ecology provide an ideal lens through which to examine the challenges posed by the hyper-networked pandemic era. This paper will draw on such media ecology scholars as Erving Goffman, George Herbert Mead, Edward Hall, and Sherry Turkle to explore the challenges of managing overlapping identities.
On the day I sit to write this abstract, Facebook has just officially announced their plan to rebrand and rename the company – as, in the words of Mark Zuckerberg, “over the next several years, we will effectively transition from people seeing us as primarily being a social media company to being a metaverse company.” The obvious question from this becomes: “What is this thing Zuckerberg calls the metaverse?” Is it simply Facebook’s latest attempt to maintain its power and wealth as one of the most prominent companies on our venture/adventure toward Web 3.0? Is it a simply a ploy to regain control of the company’s narrative and the narrative about the company after so much scandal? Is it the vision of a majority and controller shareholder who is himself asocial? Or is it, in virtual terms, something real?
At a conference that asks us to consider the idea and possibility of one world, one network, this paper addresses Facebook/Zuckerberg’s metaverse as one possibility for such a network – with all of the dystopian consequence it might entail.
On July 26, 2021, The New York Times declared that due to the functioning of our media and how this affects our socio-political aesthetics – (and I would add, coupled with recent historic events, Black Lives Matter, #MeToo, Trumpism and Covid) – riddled in contradiction and chaos, we are now craving a sense of empathy, connectedness, catharsis, and as such have entered into a new socio-aesthetic epoch marked by the [death] of irony. It alleged that because of the Internet; and its inability to adequately communicate tone, Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, Insta, urge an us vs. them attitude; a passionate uplifting OR vehement condemnation. The article further asserts that because media (particularly TV and film) are no longer being predominantly created by white male heroes (who historically were in power for a very long time and had the luxury of exploring nuanced sides of expression), there is no more room for irony, but instead a blanket celebration of all who have been disenfranchised, silenced or misrepresented. And as such, irony has taken a back seat, and contemporary art is marked by sincerity, sentimentality, affect.
If irony functions through a sense of detachment, and empathy proffers a sense of connection, these modes of communication seem oppositional, dichotomous and irreconcilable. However, read through a Korzybskian model of “a consciousness of abstraction,” and with reference to Plato, Aristotle, Freud, Hobbes, Kant, Kierkegaard, and McLuhan, I would like to posit that through a study of the way irony functions in an “allatonceness” of both connection and disconnection, empathy and detachment, it can offer a discursive model needed for this present moment. Not a non-ironic, over-sentimentalized discourse which glosses over darkness, tragedy, and discomfort but rather one that is both distancing, subversive and full of affect, and thereby underscores how modes of complex communicative strategies problematize the foundations of systemic infrastructures, crucial for transformation and change.
Marshall McLuhan claimed that media and technology had a structural impact on society. This is due to the fact that as they are expressions of the human being; they are essentially new types of language through which humans extends their senses. In this paper we will present the case of Coursera, which, through its virtual courses, has tried to standardize and unify education throughout the world, thus achieving, despite isolation, the unity of one world, one global village.
Media ecology is concerned with three overarching types of environments: the symbolic, the technological, and the biophysical. The concepts of space and time are in large part products of culture, which is to say concepts emerging out of our symbolic and technological environments. As our symbolic and technological environments differ, from one place and era to another, so do our concepts of space and time. Beyond these differences, however, Einsteinian physics posits the existence of the unified field of spacetime as the ultimate environment of the universe. This view privileges the concept of space, however, to the extent that it essentially eliminates the concept of time, reducing it to a form, or dimension, of space. This can be understood as using space as a metaphor for time, a conceptualization that has its origins in various forms of timekeeping dating back to antiquity. An alternative view would be to reverse the relationship between space and time, and substitute the idea of timespace, and space as a function of time. Support for this alternate conceptualization can be found in our contemporary media environment, specifically in the concepts of cyberspace and cybertime.