Spaces of Cultural Production

I’ve been immersed in readings on globalization and media of late for my own research. I’ve been struck, in particular, by the way two books handle the concept of “space” in their approach to the global.

In her 2012 book Media Representation and the Global Imagination Shani Orgad — a professor in LSE’s Media and Communications department — tackles this issue of space via media. For Orgad this space takes the shape of “global imagination” — a “symbolic space characterized by social imaginaries (carried largely in mediated representations), which people around the world share, but which they simultaneously compete and struggle over” (p. 45).

Orgad wants us to move away from the simplistic binaries that the study of media representation often produce in order to create a more complicated understanding of ourselves and others.

I do wonder, though, about the concept of a singular global imagination — a singular space in which issues of identity and belonging play out. It might be more useful to consider global imaginations that might bump into one another the way universes are imagined bump into each other.

My work is often situated in the realm of representation and, for me, Orgad’s book seems useful as I begin to think about what it is representation creates. To think of the spaces it creates. I don’t think I’ve come across much work that considers space in relation to, specifically, media representation.


Graffiti in Tokyo. Image via Shinichi Higashi (Flickr).

The other book that has me thinking about space in relation to media is by MIT Comparative Media Studies Professor Ian Condry. In 2006 he published Hip-Hop Japan: Rap and the Paths of Cultural Globalization which explores the evolution of the rap scene in that country.

In Hip-Hop Japan Condry’s analysis often focuses on hip hop genba — underground clubs as well as production studios and other places where battles over what hip hop is in Japan are played out.

In Japanese the term genba, or gemba, means “the real place.” It’s a place where things happen or are made.

For his research, Condry uses genba to signify “key paths of cultural globalization because they actualize (genjitsu suru) the global and the local simultaneously” (p. 90).

Condry argues that cultural globalization can be traced through performance; through the ways in which people produce mixtures of global and local in what they produce.

It’s an interesting idea and I like that it moves the conversation away from people always being acted upon and, instead, gives them room to negotiate and create their own understandings. And spaces.

I do a fair amount of research in social media and it feels like both Orgad’s and Condry’s use of space in their research could help me flesh out my own. But I’m going to have to sit and stew on it a bit more.

Do you consider space in your work? Are there authors whose use of space you find intriguing?

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