Making New Media: Book Review

Posted Wednesday January 19, 2011 by John Gunders in |

Burn, Andrew, Making New Media: Creative Production and Digital Literacies, Peter Lang, New York, 2009.

This book is a collection of essays previously published in education journals between 1999 and 2007 that consider the author’s involvement in teaching new media skills to UK school children at primary and secondary levels. It includes chapters on digital film editing, computer game design and production, and use of digital arts such as machinima in the classroom. But if you are looking for a book on new media theory or pedagogical theories on the teaching of new media, think again. This book amounts to a carefully worded call for the positioning of social semiotics as the natural accompanying theory for cultural studies. All the essays draw explicitly on the social semiotic theories of Gunther Kress and Theo van Leeuwen (especially their influential 1996 Reading Images: The Grammar of Visual Design), and the examination of the classroom work is used mainly to provide examples for a social semiotic analysis of the work undertaken. The author goes so far as to propose a new term to describe the study of the moving image: kineikonic, a conjoining of the Greek words for ‘move’ and ‘image’ (60). Burn argues for a multimodal approach to the study of digital media, incorporating all semiotic aspects of the text into the analysis.

The opening chapter, written specifically for the book, is a dense examination of the study of digital media, from the cultural studies foundation of Raymond Williams, to the new media theories of Henry Jenkins, with a wild ride through Bourdieu, Walter Ong, and of course Kress and van Leeuwen and others in between. The case study chapters are more accessible, and draw on some interesting classroom work, but again the focus is on social semiotics to the exclusion of other media theories.


Access All Eras: Book Review

Posted Monday December 1, 2008 by John Gunders in |

Homan, Shane (ed), Access All Eras: Tribute Bands and Global Pop Culture, Open University Press, Maidenhead, 2006. Publisher’s website

As Shane Homan says in his introduction to this fascinating collection of essays, “the tribute act has received little critical attention in popular music or cultural studies” (2) and attributes this to the suspicion with which the “inauthentic” is held within the industry as well as within the academy. A specialist subset of cover bands, tribute acts are those bands who “exclusively perform the recordings of one band or artist, and may even concentrate on a specific period of the artist/group” (5). This is the first collection of essays to deal exclusively with the tribute phenomena, despite the format gaining significantly in popularity (if not respect) since tribute bands first started appearing in the early 1980s, and connected no doubt to the surprising paucity of publications dealing with “pop” as opposed to “rock” music (again, that issue of “authenticity”). This collection deliberately steers a path between the rejection of tribute acts as merely formulaic mimicry, and a postmodern celebration of simulacra, and instead “seeks to understand contemporary thinking about pop and rock history as it is performed on a nightly, global basis” (14).

The 14 essays in this collection cover a broad range of issues and themes, from discussions of postmodern pastiche and parody, through analyses of the fans’ attitudes to tribute acts and their place in the global economy of popular music, to discussions of the way in which tribute acts challenge the dominant rock discourses of originality and stardom.