Auteur : philipperodriguesrouleau

Synthèse réflexive du séminaire doctoral Special topics in media studies

Dans ce post, je ferai un retour réflexif sur le séminaire doctoral que j’ai suivi cet hiver auprès du professeur Pierre Lévy. Ce cours m’a familiarisé au maillage qui relie cognition, sémiologie et médias. Le séminaire m’a aussi ouvert les yeux sur une forme d’intelligence supérieure, à la fois méconnue et sous-utilisée: l’intelligence collective. Enfin, il m’a confronté à une vision nouvelle de la pédagogie.

DES TECHNIQUES POUR LIBÉRER LA PUISSANCE COGNITIVE DE L’ESPRIT

« L’esprit est la cause de l’univers ». On ne saurait être en désaccord avec cette formule d’Anaxagore qui débute le plus récent manuscrit de Pierre Lévy. De fait, l’univers n’existe que parce que nous avons développé la capacité cognitive de le concevoir. Pour atteindre ce niveau de cognition, il nous a fallu libérer l’esprit humain de ses limites. Nous avons été aidés en cela par l’élargissement du cerveau et par l’avènement du langage, qui nous a menés vers la pensée conceptuelle (1). Puis, une succession de systèmes de codage symbolique et de médiums de communication ont abattu encore davantage les barrières de l’esprit.

brain with arms, legs and handcuffs

(J’ai souvent eu en tête cette image naïve lors du séminaire: un cerveau muni de petits bras et de petits poings priant qu’on libère son esprit )

On m’autorisera ici un détour chez Heidegger. Dans La question de la Technique (1954), le philosophe écrit que l’homme est impulsé à modifier son environnement pour en révéler la puissance dissimulée, la stocker et la distribuer. Pour cela, il utilise la technique, qui met au jour ce qui est mais demeure inutilisé (Heidegger donne l’exemple des rivières, dont la puissance hydroélectrique n’est révélée que dès lors que des turbines hydrauliques confisquent leurs eaux). Au final, pour Heidegger, la technique n’est pas qu’un moyen pour arriver à une fin : elle constitue un révélateur de la vérité des choses.

barrage-trenche-lrg

 

Il y aurait beaucoup à écrire sur la critique de cette poursuite de la vérité par Heidegger : comment, entre autres, la révélation des choses dans l’optique de leur mise en réserve signifie la mise en réserve de l’homme lui-même, à savoir son insertion dans un projet aliénant qui le mène à exploiter l’essence de la nature en le détournant de sa propre essence. Or je veux ici me concentrer sur les parallèles qui existent entre la technique, comme révélatrice d’une puissance cachée, et l’évolution de la cognition. Lorsque je fais la synthèse de nos discussions, du manuscrit du professeur Lévy et du livre de Logan (1), il m’appert que ce que Heidegger explique sur l’inclination de l’homme à rechercher la puissance dissimulée des choses tangibles s’applique aussi à son propre esprit. En clair, je tire l’enseignement suivant du séminaire : depuis que l’homme est homme, celui-ci semble avoir été mû par le besoin de révéler toujours davantage les zones cachées de sa puissance cognitive – de son esprit. Et les différents supports de communication (langage, écriture, parchemin, imprimerie, informatique, etc.) qui ont jalonné son histoire lui ont servi de techniques pour remplir cet objectif. En termes moins grandiloquents, disons que les forces de l’esprit humain ont toujours été ; seulement, il a fallu la technique pour en dévoiler les richesses dissimulées.

On comprendra de mon propos que la comparaison avec la pensée heideggérienne s’arrête là où commencent les critiques adressées à la technique. Car je crois que, s’agissant de l’évolution de la cognition, la technique n’a pas compromis l’essence de l’homme – son esprit; au contraire, chaque nouveau système de codage symbolique, médium ou moyen technologique lui a permis de s’émanciper. Par exemple, l’invention de l’écriture et la possibilité de l’inscrire dans un médium durable ont donné naissance à des formes d’activités (littérature, sciences, philosophie, etc.) qui exploitent l’esprit humain à son plein potentiel et renvoient l’homme de façon salutaire à son intériorité.

En outre, le fait que la technique permette le stockage et la distribution de la puissance cognitive de l’esprit est positif. Tel que vu en classe, l’histoire a été marquée par une succession de techniques visant à optimiser l’usage des symboles; symboles sans lesquels l’esprit humain ne peut s’exprimer ou voyager. Ainsi, le médium lettré a permis « l’autoconservation des symboles »; le médium typographique, leur « reproduction et leur transmission automatique »; le médium algorithmique, leur « transformation automatique » (2). Aujourd’hui, Internet s’assure qu’aucune parcelle de puissance cognitive ne soit gaspillée; Internet est un immense hangar où tous les fruits de l’esprit humain – représentés sous forme de symboles – peuvent être emmagasinés et acheminés aux demandeurs (3).

L’ALGORITHME : UNE TECHNIQUE POUR LIBÉRER LA PUISSANCE COGNITIVE COLLECTIVE

Reste à savoir quel impact aura la plus récente technique de manipulation symbolique – le médium algorithmique – sur l’évolution de la cognition. Grâce à elle, d’autres pans de l’esprit humain sauront-ils révéler leur puissance? La réponse à cela est à chercher du côté de l’intelligence collective. Car si nous avons possiblement atteint la limite de ce que nous pouvons tirer de l’esprit individuel, nous ne sommes qu’à l’aube de découvrir ce qu’une multitude d’esprits interconnectés peuvent accomplir en fait de puissance cognitive. Le médium algorithmique est la technique qui permettra cette révélation.

Et si on superpose l’analogie heideggérienne à l’idéal d’intelligence réflexive imaginé par Lévy, on peut affirmer que cette révélation ne sera complète que lorsque la technique renverra à chaque esprit le reflet de sa contribution personnelle cognitive à l’œuvre commune ET le reflet de la somme des contributions cognitives de tous.

Si nous possédons la technique, il semble que nous manquions, toutefois, de citoyens motivés à l’utiliser dans une perspective de révélation de la puissance cognitive collective. Aussi faudra-t-il convaincre, au-delà des cercles universitaires, plus de gens du bien-fondé d’unir leur esprit à d’autres; faire, en somme, la pédagogie d’un usage proactif et généreux des algorithmes, lequel suppose le partage des connaissances plutôt que leur thésaurisation, le travail en équipe plutôt qu’en vase clos, un élan vers l’autre plutôt qu’un repli narcissique. N’empêche, je m’interroge sur les arguments pouvant persuader les gens de la pertinence d’une telle démarche. De meilleures prises de décision collectives? Combattre l’entropie (5) ? Voilà des questions qui pour moi demeurent en suspens à la suite ce séminaire.

TWITTAGOGIE ET CURATION DE DONNÉES

En terminant, quelques mots sur les réflexions que je tire de notre emploi de Twitter dans le cadre du séminaire et de nos débats sur la curation de données. S’agissant de l’oiseau bleu, j’ai grandement changé d’avis sur sa pertinence pédagogique. Le jour où je devrai dispenser des cours, le traditionaliste que je suis considérera pourtant la possibilité d’intégrer Twitter ou un autre réseau social dans son enseignement. J’aime l’idée d’évaluer les étudiants à l’aune de leur contribution à l’intelligence collective du cours.

Concernant la curation de données/sources, j’adhère à la thèse qu’il s’agit d’une compétence à enseigner à l’école. Et je comprends que l’objectif premier d’une telle formation, du moins selon professeur Lévy, serait d’amener les jeunes à organiser de manière logique les informations dont ils sont inondés. Or il ne peut y avoir, à mon sens, d’initiation au classement des sources sans jugement de leur qualité. À quoi bon apprendre à un jeune l’archivage au moyen de tags si l’on s’accommode, au final, qu’il s’abreuve à des sources peu fiables? Il ne s’agit pas ici de louanger béatement certains médias traditionnels dits de qualité; néanmoins, je rejette l’idée que toutes les sources se valent, et que la bonne information soit une construction sociale.

Notes de bas de page:

(1) Logan, R. (2007). The extended mind model : the emergence of language, the human mind, and culture. University of Toronto Press Incorporated.

(2) Levy, 2017, UOAM17 -1- signes – culture, diapositive 15, « Les médias et l’évolution culturelle ».

(3) C’est d’ailleurs pour cette raison que des initiatives novatrices comme celles du professeur Levy – le dictionnaire IEML – visant à « mathématiser » les sciences humaines par l’entremise des algorithmes sont aussi bienvenues que fascinantes (http://dictionary.ieml.io/#/) (https://pierrelevyblog.com/). Si l’idée me semble toujours légèrement baroque, on ne peut nier la pertinence d’élaborer de nouvelles façons de mettre un peu d’ordre dans le chaos des connaissances sémantiques générées par l’esprit humain.

(4) Wiener, N. (1954). The human use of human being

 

 

 

Résumé The Extended Mind: The Emergence of Language, the Human Mind, and Culture (Logan, 2007)

Récemment, dans le cadre d’un cours de doctorat, j’ai fait une présentation résumant les principaux points à retenir d’un livre intitulé The Extended Mind Model: The Emergence of Language, the Humind Mind, and Culture (2007). (Cliquez sur l’hyperlien pour consulter le Power Point de la présentation PowerPoint Logan (2007))

Dans ce livre, l’auteur, Robert K. Logan,  explore les diverses hypothèses mises de l’avant dans la communauté des linguistes pour expliquer l’émergence du langage verbal, en plus de formuler sa propre théorie en la matière. Celle-ci – le Extended Mind Model – postule que trois formes primitives de langage (protolangages) auraient présidé à l’avènement du langage verbal : la fabrication d’outils, l’intelligence sociale et la communication mimétique.

Le Extended Mind Model : des protolangages pré-verbaux au langage parlé

Pourquoi le premier langage, celui de la fabrication d’outils, apparaît-t-il ? Selon le Extended Mind Model de Logan (2007), ce langage manuel naît de l’abandon par nos ancêtres d’un mode de vie dans les arbres et de leur adaptation progressive à la vie terrestre. Cette nouvelle vie, en effet, est remplie de nouveaux dangers et défis auxquels les premiers Hommes répondent par la fabrication d’artéfacts pouvant leur servir à se nourrir et se défendre. Les objets découlant du langage de la fabrication d’outils donnent naissance, ensuite, à des activités (chasse, pêche, etc.) ou « inventions » (le feu) qui favorisent les interactions entre individus et un mode de vie grégaire. C’est alors qu’émerge la seconde forme de protolangage, à savoir l’intelligence sociale. Celle-ci est caractérisée par l’apparition de règles sociales censées préserver l’harmonie et la survie du groupe. Enfin, l’accroissement des interactions sociales contribue à l’avènement de la troisième forme de protolangage, la communication mimétique. Le besoin de mieux communiquer pour coordonner les activités de groupe amène nos ancêtres à utiliser leurs mains, les muscles de leur visage et leur corps tout entier comme médium de transmission des messages. Ils commencent également à vocaliser des sons.

Ainsi, la succession de ces trois protolangages aurait pavé la voie pour le langage verbal. Mais qu’est-il arrivé exactement pour que les Hommes opèrent la transition d’un langage essentiellement gestuel vers un langage verbal ? Dans son livre, Logan (2007) développe la thèse selon laquelle, au fil de l’évolution humaine, la pensée humaine cesse de graviter uniquement autour des percepts (i.e. pensées basées sur la perception directe des choses par les sens) pour s’enrichir progressivement de concepts (i.e. « abstract ideas that result from the generalization of particular examples », p. 42-43). Or l’avènement de la pensée conceptuelle met à mal les formes primitives de langage, qui sont incapables de gérer son accroissement et les idées de plus en plus abstraites qu’elle véhicule. Aussi une nouvelle forme de langage – le langage parlé – voit-il le jour pour pallier cette lacune. Et les premiers mots émergent pour agréger tous les percepts reliés à un concept (ex : le mot « eau » (le concept) pour décrire une variété de situations ou phénomènes où il y perception du phénomène « eau » (le percept) : l’eau de la pluie, l’eau des rivières, etc.).

Du langage parlé à Internet

Dans son livre, Logan propose également un modèle évolutif du langage annoté, à savoir un modèle expliquant les diverses variations qu’a connu le langage, des balbutiements de la parole jusqu’à aujourd’hui. À l’intérieur de ce continuum (model of the evolution of notated language), il identifie cinq modes de langage ayant découlé du « speech » (langage parlé) : l’écriture, les mathématiques, les sciences, l’informatique et l’Internet.

D’après l’auteur, ces cinq mutations ont émergé successivement à travers l’Histoire pour chaque fois pallier l’incapacité des langages antérieurs à gérer un trop-plein d’informations, d’abstraction et de pensée conceptuelle. En cela, le langage a évolué, non pas uniquement en fonction du besoin des êtres humains de mieux communiquer entre eux, mais aussi, en fonction de leurs besoins croissants de mieux emmagasiner et traiter l’information, ce que Logan appelle la fonction « informatique » du langage (informatics function of language). Ainsi, par exemple, l’écriture a permis d’enregistrer de manière durable et « transportable » les informations que la mémoire humaine ne pouvait plus contenir ; les mathématiques ont permis de procéder à des calculs complexes, impossibles à accomplir avec la seule écriture ; les sciences ont offert une méthode rigoureuse pour mieux schématiser la somme de connaissances née de l’écriture et des mathématiques ; l’informatique a permis d’effectuer des calculs mathématiques beaucoup plus complexes en beaucoup moins de temps; et l’Internet nous permet, de nos jours, une organisation et une diffusion extraordinaire de l’ensemble des connaissances ayant émergé des langages antérieurs.

S’agissant du « model of evolution of notated language » de Logan, six éléments sont à retenir :

  • 1) Chaque langage de la chaîne évolutive a amené avec lui de nouveaux éléments sémantiques et syntaxiques
    • Ex : L’écriture a créé le mot écrit (élément sémantique) et incité à la systématisation progressive de l’ordre des mots dans la phrase (élément syntaxique).
    • Ex : Les sciences ont créé de nouveaux termes – vélocité, moles, entropie, etc. (éléments sémantiques) – et offert la « méthode scientifique » – observations, généralisations, hypothèses, expérimentations (élément syntaxique) -, une suite logique et ordonnée d’actions pour appréhender les phénomènes.
    • Ex : Les outils pour le courriel ou pour le partage de fichiers (File Transfer Protocol), les pages Web, les sites de commerce en ligne, etc., représentent de nouveaux éléments sémantiques propres à Internet ; sur le plan syntaxique, l’Internet se caractérise par l’hypertexte, qui rend possible la mise en relation de pages Web entre elles, le protocole Internet (adresses ip), qui permet de connecter des ordinateurs entre eux et les moteurs de recherche, qui permettent d’agréger des pages Web.
  • 2) Mais chacun de ces langages doit aussi son existence aux formes de langage qui l’ont précédé. Par exemple, les sciences auraient été impossibles sans l’avènement de la parole, de l’écriture et des mathématiques.
  • 3) Chaque nouveau langage de la chaîne évolutive a permis d’exprimer une pensée plus abstraite et conceptuelle que les langages qui l’ont précédé.
  • 4) L’émergence de tous ces langages annotés a d’abord été motivée par le besoin de mieux traiter l’information. C’est seulement par après qu’une fonction de communication s’est greffée à ces langages.
  • 5) Au fil de l’évolution des langages annotés et de la complexification de la pensée conceptuelle, la fonction informatique du langage (traitement et stockage de l’information) a pris de plus en plus d’importance.
  • 6) Chaque nouveau langage, selon Logan, a modifié notre façon de penser et de voir le monde.

MIND = BRAIN + LANGUAGE + CULTURE

On ne saurait résumer ce livre sans insister sur ce point : pour Logan, la pensée conceptuelle, combinée à l’apparition du langage verbal, a donné naissance à l’esprit humain. De fait, l’auteur est d’avis que le cerveau n’était qu’une machine à traiter les percepts avant l’éclosion du langage parlé. C’est le langage parlé qui lui a véritablement permis d’accéder au niveau supérieur de la pensée abstraite et de la cognition, et d’imaginer le monde qui l’entoure au-delà de la simple perception des choses par les sens. C’est aussi le langage qui lui a permis d’étendre ses facultés au-delà de sa boîte crânienne. Enfin, c’est le langage qui a permis au cerveau de libérer l’intelligence humaine afin qu’elle puisse être diffusée dans le monde extérieur.

Cependant, Logan estime que le langage verbal n’est qu’un élément de l’équation dans l’avènement de l’esprit humain. Selon lui, le développement de l’esprit humain a aussi été façonné par la culture. Il tire cette conviction du fait que la culture a grandement contribué à l’émergence de la communication et des contenus symboliques dans les sociétés ; éléments qui ont poussé encore davantage l’esprit humain du côté de la pensée conceptuelle et l’ont éloigné d’autant d’un mode de pensée basé uniquement sur les percepts.

Aussi, dans les dernières pages de son livre, Logan postule-t-il cette formule : mind = brain + language + culture, affirmant ainsi que l’esprit humain constitue une extension du cerveau grâce à l’action combinée du langage et de la culture. L’évolution du langage, conclut-il, ne peut qu’être analysée que dans une perspective de coévolution avec la culture.

Références :

Logan, R. (2007). The extended mind model : the emergence of language, the human mind, and culture. University of Toronto Press Incorporated.

 

 

Book Review: Framed: media and the coverage of race in Canadian politics (Tolley, 2015)

Last Fall, I immersed myself in two books about the media representations of minorities in Canada – Discourses of denial: mediations of race, gender, and violence (Jiwani, 2006) and Framed: media and the coverage of race in Canadian politics (Tolley, 2015). The readings of both academic work proved to be extremely illuminating and satisfying, especially Framed. On the latter, I wrote a book review for one of my PhD courses that I here reproduce in an abridged version. 

While Canada’s ethnic composition is becoming increasingly diverse, its Parliament remains overly white notwithstanding. For many aspirant politicians of colour, the road to the House of Commons is still one paved with great impediments, among which the media representations they are victims of. This difficulty constitutes the object of Erin Tolley’s book Framed: media and the coverage of race in Canadian politics. Published by UBC Press, this book challenges the idea that media are colour-blind, by illustrating how Canadian news outlets articulate racialized framings that put visible minority politicians at a disadvantage. Specifically, it advances a “theory of racial mediation” according to which “politics are covered [by the media] in ways that reflect the dominant cultural norms, long-standing organizational practices, and the assumption of whiteness as a standard” (p. 29).

Underpinning every chapter is the theory of media framing, described in the book as the process whereby “elements [are] included, excluded, emphasized or downplayed when a story is reported on” (p. 18).

The first two chapters focus on a content analysis of the newspaper treatment of visible minority candidates during the 2008 federal election campaign. From it, Tolley concludes that their “coverage is systematically and substantively different from that of white candidates” (p. 21).  This differentiated coverage expresses itself through “racialization”, that is, media frames that insist on visible minority candidates’ differences with regard to the white norm. Tolley identifies three of those: the “socio-demographic” frame that overemphasizes their ethnic background (p. 39); the “political viability frame” that implies that they might be less electorally competitive (p. 40); and the “policy issue frame” that depicts them as being only competent to discuss issues like immigration, and not mainstream ones such as the economy (p. 41).

In the third chapter, Tolley addresses media representations of visible minority female politicians. To that end, she mobilizes intersectionality as a theoretical framework. Intersectionality refers to a “manner in which racism, patriarchy, class oppression and other discriminatory systems create background inequalities that structure the relative positions of women, race, ethnicities, classes and the like” (Crenshaw, 2000, p. 422). Relying on a newspaper content analysis of the coverage of non-white female MPs in Canada, Tolley notes that these politicians are the object of both racialized and gendered media representations that hold them to higher standards of morality. They are expected to be more devoted to their party than other MPs (“good girl” narrative), and embody the role of the hard-working immigrant who never complains (“good immigrant” narrative) (p. 114). For Tolley, the slightest digression to these stereotypes results in negative media coverage for minority women politicians.

The fourth chapter investigates whether Canadian politicians consider media as culpable of racialized framings, and race as an influential factor in electoral contests. This section is based upon interviews conducted by the author with both former and current MPs, and ex-candidates who never got elected. The data allows to see that most interviewees, regardless of their ethnicity, are satisfied with the media coverage received.  Nonetheless, visible minority respondents are more numerous to regret that the image reflected of them in articles or TV reportages is not “completely congruent with [their] self-representation”, the media’s image being more racialized than the “political narrative” they put forth (p. 162). In addition, the author notes that race seldom seems “to be a complicating factor” for white respondents, even for those seeking election in multicultural ridings (p. 160) Nor is it viewed by them as an element likely to influence voters’ choice in general. By contrast, visible minority respondents concede “struggl[ing] with their own racial background and how it might affect their electoral prospects” (p. 163). Overall, this chapter shows that media racialized framings go mostly unnoticed by white respondents, and are only partly acknowledged by visible minority interviewees.

The fifth chapter is a summary of interviews with Canadian journalists about what they think of the media’s job in representing visible minority politicians. Tolley notes from these that the “impact of race” on “news judgement, reporting and coverage” is completely “downplayed” by respondents (p. 23). Most of them are convinced that the “media’ commitment to fairness and accuracy” ensures that the coverage of politics is “colour-blind” (p. 23). This absence of self-reflection from journalists is probably the most surprising finding of the book.

The author concludes that these racialized framings are detrimental to minority candidates and politicians. They draw voters away from their competencies, undermine their credibility, and reinforce the prejudice according to which minorities might not belong to politics. More fundamentally, the author argues that these representations “serv[e] only to further normalize whiteness and reproduce racial disparities” (p. 189). In the end, Tolley confirms her theory of racial mediation.

Framed: media and the coverage of race in Canadian politics is a unique contribution to framing studies and political science. It is, arguably, the most complete book of its kind to ever address media representations of political candidates within the Canadian context. Framed also has the merit to put to the forefront the notion of race in Canada; a country that typically sees itself as a paragon of tolerance and where the word race is largely absent from public debates. In this regard, Framed shows how a country that prides itself with multiculturalism is, nonetheless, permeated with racialized representations modelled after white standards.  Framed succeeds in doing all this by adopting a nuanced stance that serves it well; a lack of nuance that proves problematic in other books. It is the case of Discourses of denial: mediations of race, gender and violence (Jiwani, 2006), an analysis of how minority women are victims of society’s systemic violence because of their gender and ethnicity. Its most interesting chapters pertain to the media coverage of judicial affairs involving female victims of colour.

Framed and Discourses share a kinship, due to their focus on racialized media framings and intersectionality. Unlike Discourses, though, Framed never goes as far as stating that “implicit and often unconscious acts of racialization” are just as racist as “blatant and overt acts premised on a feeling of racial superiority” (p. 6). Jiwani’s book (2006), conversely, assimilates media racialization to racism, with various degrees of success in persuading the reader of the racist nature of the examples provided. In the end, Tolley’s care in not ascribing conscious racist motives to media makes her argument more convincing.

Regarding the evidence contained in Framed, the exhaustiveness of the data (more than one thousand articles/interviews with a wide variety of respondents) and the clarity with which the author proceeds to the breakdown of her findings (written form/graphs) must be complimented. Also, it is worth mentioning the talent of the author in mobilizing the literature without weighing down the text. The literature covers notions of media framing, gendered mediation, racialized mediation, and intersectionality.

Further research on the subject might seek to make up for gaps in the book. For instance, the content analysis of minority candidates’ representations during the 2008 election campaign excludes articles from Quebec media. As such, there could be room for similar studies repeating the exercise in the context of French Canada, and drawing comparisons with English-language publications. Moreover, Tolley’s work does not extend to audio-visual news reports. A breakdown of how TV and radio cover minority politicians could give rise to a compelling work.

In sum, Framed: media and the coverage of race in Canadian politics is a must-read for scholars specialized in political science, journalism or cultural studies. And it is to be hoped that the reflection launched by Tolley shall reach beyond academic circles to appeal to members of the public. Framed is an invitation to all of us to call into question racialized framings, and ponder over our collective responsibility in their perpetuation.

Tolley, E. (2015). Framed: media and the coverage of race in Canadian politics. Vancouver, British Columbia: UBC Press, 264 pp., ISBN 9780774831246 (hard cover).   

Crenshaw, K. (2000). Dimensions of intersectional oppression. In C. Lemert (Ed.), Social Theory: The Multicultural, Global, and Classic Readings (6th edition) (pp. 421-424). Boulder: Westview Press.

Jiwani, Y. (2006). Discourses of denial: mediations of race, gender, and violence. Vancouver, British Columbia: UBC Press, 255 p.

Theories of economic regulation with regard to broadcasting policies

Albeit designed with economic science in mind, I find theories of regulation (Keyes, 1960; Posner, 1974; Stigler, 1971) worth analyzing in the light of my research interest for broadcasting policies. They can prove enlightening when trying to « seize » the CRTC’s attitude towards private media corporations.

The literature on the matter typically distinguishes two types of regulation theories: the public interest theories and the private interest theories.

The former group of theories posits that “regulation is imposed by government to correct market failures in order to benefit consumers and to enhance social welfare”. (Priest, 1993, p. 298) Further, it contends that regulation is instrumental in allocating “scarce resources” in the best way possible for the greater good of society. (den Hertog, 2010, p. 1) Within this theoretical tradition, thus, the regulator is assumed to act out of benevolence with the aim of serving the public interest. (den Hertog, 2010; Posner, 1974)

The second group of theories is much more cynical as to the capacity of regulators to achieve public good. It asserts that policymakers are highly permeable to external pressures from all economic agents. As such, regulation does not pursue the public interest in priority, but the interest of various private players. (den Horteg, 2010) Among the authors who worked on this postulate, Stigler (1971) is probably the one whose contribution has proved the most influential in this area. His theory of economic regulation propounds the idea that “regulation is acquired by the industry and is designed and operated primarily for its benefit”. (Stigler, 1971, p. 3) This theoretical framework, more specifically, contends that groups that are willing to provide political parties with what they need (ex: “votes”, financial “campaign contributions”, etc.) are eventually returned the favor through regulatory changes that suit their interests. (Stigler, 1971) Therefore, “regulation is not directed at the correction of market failures, but at effecting wealth transfers in favor of the industries in exchange for political support”. (Den Hertog, 2010, p. 4)

Somewhere in between the public and private interest theories of regulation is the “capture theory”. It posits that regulatory agencies start operating with the intention of serving the public interest, but that they “come to be dominated by the industries regulated [the private interests of groups]” over time. (Posner, 1974, p. 12)

All these theories have been criticized for their lack of empirical evidence, their incapacity to “predi[ct] the existence and patterns of regulation in a given industry” (Keeler,1984, p. 104), and their numerous limitations (ex: failure to explain how sometimes the interests of consumers overshadow those of industries) (Posner, 1974; den Hertog, 2010). Nonetheless, Priest (1993) argues that they still highly influence the reflection in the domain. Indeed, the literature about the topic is permeated by the following question: “Can the existence and operation of regulatory commissions best be explained by some public interest theory or by some theory relating to the pursuit of private interests, typically at public expense? (p. 293)

Undeniably, parallels can be drawn between these theories of regulation and the history of broadcasting regulation in Canada. Broadcasting regulation, in effect, has gone from being clearly guided by public interest from being increasingly influenced by private interests. And this trend has only been intensified in the digital age, judging by the decisions taken by the CRTC in the wake of the « Let’s Talk TV » (2013-2015) consultation. The reduction of quotas for Canadian-produced TV shows aired on Canadian channels and the abolition of the « genre protection » are examples of measures that primarly benefit the Canadian broadcasting distribution undertakings (BDUs). Once again, the private players’ interests seem to have prevailed over culturally related concerns (i.e. the preoccupation of ensuring Canadian content made by Canadians on Canadian TV screens).

Bibliography

den Horteg, J. (2010). Review of economic theories of regulation. Tjalling C. Koopmans Research Institute Discussion Paper Series 10-18. http://www.uu.nl/organisatie/utrecht-university-school-of-economics-use/onderzoek/onderzoeksresultaten/discussion-papers

Keeler, T.E. (1984). Theories of regulation and the deregulation movement. Public choice, 44 (1), 103-145. http://www.jstor.org/stable/30023939?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents

Keyes, L.S. (1960). Welfare economics and the theory of regulation. Land economics, 36 (4), 349-361. http://www.jstor.org/stable/3144429?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents

Posner, R.A. (1974). Theories of economic regulation. The Bell Journal of Economics and Management Science, 5 (2), 335-358. http://www.thecre.com/oira/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/Posner.pdf

Priest, G.L. (1993). The origins of utility regulation and the ‘theories of regulation’ debate. The Journal of Law and Economics, 36 (1), 289-323. http://www.jstor.org/stable/725477?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents

Stigler, G. (1971). The theory of economic regulation. The Bell Journal of Economics and Management Science, 2 (1), 3-21. http://www.jstor.org/stable/3003160?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents

 

Annotated bibliography (broadcasting policies in a digitized environment)

You shall find in the following a few interesting articles regarding the history of broadcasting policies in Canada, broadcasting policies in general, the impact of digital platforms on regular TV distributors, media stakeholders’ response to foreign digital platforms and the tensions between local media contexts and global digital media. It is noteworthy that many of the articles here collated feature an abroad perspective (Europe, Latin America, Asia, etc.).

Each source is accompanied by a short summary of my own. It is my intention to add articles to this annotated bibliography in the coming months.

Ali, C. (2012). A broadcast system in whose interest? Tracing the origins of broadcast localism in Canadian and Australian television policy, 1950-1963. The International Communication Gazette, 74(3), 277-297. doi: 10.1177/1748048511432608

This article by Ali examines the motives that have historically presided over the implementation of broadcasting regulation in Australia and Canada. His focus is on comparing the importance granted by each country to “localism” television policies, namely policies that foster local community belonging and local news. Upon reviewing policy documentation from the 1920’s to the 2000’s, Ali concludes that localism has been a core tenet of broadcasting regulation in Australia since the very beginning, whereas this preoccupation has rather been overshadowed in Canada. The author, in effect, shows that Canadian media policies have traditionally been designed more with the aim of promoting a strong national identity than reinforcing local communities. This can be explained by policymakers’ fear of Canadian broadcasting being engulfed by American culture.  

Baccarne, B., Evens, T., & Shuurman, D. (2013). The television struggle: an assessment of over-the-top television evolutions in a cable dominant market. Digiworld Economic Journal, 92 (4), 43-61. Retrieved from http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2473955

In this article, the authors investigate the impact of over-the-top [OTT] TV services in Flanders (Belgium). In the first section of their paper, they outline a history of the evolution of TV services in Flanders, as well as a portrait of current TV offerings within this market. In the second section, they present the results of a Web survey (n = 1269) carried out in the Flemish region. This survey looks into the number of screens per household, the number of media platforms used by respondents, and the elements media consumers see as the most important when watching content through OTT TV services (price and video quality). It also provides information regarding the popularity of OTT services launched by local TV distributors compared to that of other alternative sources of media content (legal streaming Websites, legal/illegal downloads, set-top boxes like Apple TV and Roku, etc.). In the last section of their article, the authors formulate observations drawn from the survey data. They conclude that OTT TV services, as well as other digital sources of media content, are far from replacing traditional TV distribution and, hence, constitute complementary platforms in the media ecosystem. As such, they argue that OTT TV services are unlikely to lead to large-scale “cord-cutting” in Flanders, an argument further supported by the high level of competition between local broadcasting television undertakings and the popularity of triple-play bundles (phone, Internet, TV). Nevertheless, the authors underscore the fact that significant numbers of younger respondents (20-30 years old) view OTT TV services as medium of substitution for regular TV. 

Dawes, S. (2014). Broadcasting and the public sphere : problematising citizens, consumers and neoliberalism. Media, Culture & Society, 36 (5), 702-719. doi : 10.1177/0163443714536842 mcs.sagepub.com

In this article, Dawes discusses the public/citizen-private/consumer dichotomy that has historically permeated scholarship in the field of broadcasting regulation. Indeed, from a review of literature broaching this matter, he observes that media policies are either seen as the product of public service values or the result of neoliberal forces. He also notes that most academic writings present the history of broadcasting regulation as a continuous shift from citizenship objectives to consumerist aims. This binary view, argues Dawes, represents a weakness of the current literature. He contends that the citizen-consumer dichotomy fails to depict all the nuances held by these two terms, in addition to ignoring the ever-evolving relation that unites them. Moreover, he advocates for a more toned approach with regard to the effects of neoliberalism. Based on these critics, the author propounds a theoretical framework that does not content itself with examining the transition from citizen-driven to consumer-driven media policies as two distinct moments in history, but, rather, investigates how neoliberalism is both positively and negatively modifying interactions between state and market, public and private, citizens and consumers. It is, according to Dawes, the only viable way of looking at how a “regulator’s approach to either citizen or consumer interests can enable or undermine the public sphere”. (p. 715) Undeniably, this article provides a very original, nuanced and theoretically rich canvass against which to evaluate governments’ and regulatory agencies’ response to digital media platforms. 

Doyle. G. (2016). Television production, funding models and exploitation and content. Icono 14, 14 (2), 75-96. doi: 10.7195/ri14.v14i1.991

This article explores the ways independent TV producers in the U.K. can generate revenues for their media content in an environment marked by the increasing presence of subscription video-on-demand [SVOD] services. Relying on interviews with senior executives from production companies and distribution experts, the author argues that digital platforms like Netflix and Amazon Video are impacting producers’ “windowing strategies”, that is, their capacity to strategically plan their content releases with a view to maximizing value for their intellectual property rights [IPRs]. Indeed, this capacity is undermined by SVOD services’ insistence on demanding multi-territorial diffusion rights when buying programs from producers. “Windowing” strategies are also made more difficult by Netflix’s and Amazon Video’s proclivity of retaining rights for long periods of time. Thus, the selling of content to SVOD services lessens the possibility for producers to multiply airings on different media outlets, gain distinct territorial rights, and increase revenues. On a brighter note, the author also underscores the positive aspects of these SVOD services, as evidenced by the interviews. He shows that, despite concerns over IPRs, many producers look favourably on these platforms because they represent new purchasers for their content. In addition, the prestige of being associated with a brand like Netflix is viewed as a motive to broker deals with the American firm. In his conclusion, the author warns producers against the temptation of the “cost plus model of production financing”, often put forward by SVOD services. Within this model, the content distributor “generally pay[s] the full production costs plus a small production fee or ‘profit’ for the producer” (p. 83). Seemingly advantageous, this financing mode, though, comes usually with the obligation for producers of yielding first and secondary rights ownership, which amounts to giving up potential future sources of revenues. 

Evans, E., McDonald, P., Bae, J., Ray, S., & Santos, E. (2016). Universal ideas in local realities: Online viewing in South Korea, Brazil and India. Convergence: The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies, 22 (5). 1-18. doi: 10.1177/1354856516641629

In this article, the authors reflect upon the global/local tensions stemming from online media viewing. They argue that these tensions are twofold: first, both transnational and domestic subscription video-on-demand [SVOD] services are confronted to local contexts that limit their global reach; secondly, the formidable opportunities offered by these new platforms do not always translate successfully into local realities. In order to prove their argument, the authors use Brazil, India and South Korea as examples. In a first phase, they draw a picture of the quality of ICT infrastructures and the scope of Internet penetration in these three countries. Also, they look at the presence of foreign over-the-top [OTT] services (ex: Netflix) in those markets, and describe a number of local initiatives that exploit the same niche. In a second phase, the article explores Brazilians’, Indians’ and South Korean’s perception of online viewing. This section of the research is based on interviews and surveys conducted in the three countries with tech-savvy media consumers. It appears from the data collected that respondents, regardless of their nationality, share the very same ideals with regard to what online viewing should be. Indeed, there is an overall sentiment that digital media content ought to travel across borders with minimum restrictions. The respondents also identify the capacity of accessing a wide range of content as being of paramount importance for them. However, the authors note from the interviews that these aforementioned wishes (choice/ free flow of information) are not easily achievable, especially in certain parts of Brazil and India, because of particular socio-economic realities (poor network coverage, slow broadband speed, antiquated ICT infrastructures, urban/rural disparities, political factors). In the last phase of the article, the authors show, through a case study, how these constraints carry a lot of weight in the Indian context. 

Kim, J., Kim, S., & Nam, Chagi. (2016). Competitive dynamics in the Korean video platform market: traditional pay TV platforms vs. OTT platforms. Telematics and Informatics, (33), 711-721. Retrieved from http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S073 658531500074X

This paper examines the competition between over-the-top [OTT] and pay-TV services in the South Korean market. In the context of the article, OTT services refer both to global video-sharing platforms (ex: YouTube) and Korean initiatives (ex: Pandora TV), while pay-TV services refer to Netflix-like platforms provided by traditional Korean TV content providers (ex: tving, pooq). Relying on survey data (n = 515), the authors assess the significance of this competition by using the niche theory as an analysis framework, and applying this theory to the measurement of two specific dimensions. The first dimension pertains to comparing the level of gratification obtained by respondents through OTT and pay-TV services. The second dimension looks into comparing the respective time spent by surveyed individuals on these two types of platforms. Overall, the study concludes that the competition between OTT and pay-TV platforms is not as severe as it is in the U.S., as these two services are seen as highly complementary by South Koreans, hence not evolving in the same niche. YouTube, however, distinguishes itself among all platforms by being the one that provides the most gratification. Though not focusing on Netflix (the American platform was not available in South Korea until recently), this article is pertinent to my research, as it shows that there might be enough space in the future for the coexistence of diverse modes of TV distribution, both global and local. Besides, the authors make a convincing point in exploring the impact of YouTube. It brings me to considering adding user-generated content platforms in the category of foreign OTT services that must be investigated.

Ganuza, J.J., & Viecens, M. F. (2014). Over-the-top content: Implications and best response strategies of traditional telecom operators. Emerald Group Publishing Limited, 16 (1), 59-69. Retrieved from http://www.emeraldinsight.com/doi/pdfplus/10.1108/info-05-2014-0022

In this article, Ganuza & Viecens look into whether or not over-the-top [OTT] content represent a real cord-cutting threat for broadcasting distribution undertakings [BDUs] in Latin America. The expression “OTT services” is used in the article to describe any digital platform that provides online content without subscription requirement to a traditional TV distributor. After a brief literature review of studies having pursued similar objectives in the past, the authors draw a picture of pay-TV proposals, bundle offerings (with Internet and phone services) and distribution technologies (cable, Internet protocol television, phone lines) in Latin America. Then, based on a survey carried out with BDUs, the authors contend that there are currently few incentives for such companies to launch their own OTT services. In fact, limitations in terms of network coverage and broadband speed, not to mention the popularity of piracy, make Latin America a very hard market in which to implement successful OTT platforms. As such, foreign SVOD services like Netflix also struggle to increase their penetration rate in this part of the world. Ganuza & Viecens, therefore, conclude that the growing presence of online video shall not be conducive to large-scale cord-cutting in Latin America, both in the short and medium term. Additionally, the authors discuss the hotly contested issue of net neutrality, as OTT services monopolize bandwidth wherever they are located without contributing financially to the upkeep/upgrade of countries’ technological infrastructures.

Picard, R., Davis, C.H., Papandrea, F., & Park, S. (2016). Platform proliferation and its implications for domestic content policies. Telematics and Informatics, 33 (2), 683-692. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.tele.2015.06.018

This paper presents a comparative case study of broadcasting public policies in Australia, Canada, Ireland and South Korea in the face of increasingly popular digital content. These policies are analyzed by an international team of four researchers with regard to their efficiency in protecting national cultural identities and supporting local content production. The authors’ assumption is that the realization of these goals is made more difficult by transnational online content providers like Netflix that lessen the capacity of governments to enforce domestic media regulation. Following a review of the media market in the four countries under study, the researchers conclude that, in each of them, local content policies are ill-adapted to non-broadcast audiovisual content, and that not enough is done to ensure that foreign distribution platforms comply with nation’s cultural objectives. As such, there might be room for stronger regulation obliging external companies to finance a certain amount of domestic content.  As for local distributors of television, the authors contend that they need to improve the production value of their programs in order to compete against on-demand services that offer high quality dramas, mostly from the U.S. and the U.K. 

Sørensen, I.E. (2016). The revival of live TV: liveness in a multiplatform context. Media, Culture & Society, 38 (3), 381-399. doi: 10.1177/0163443715608260

This article analyses the ways traditional TV networks can adapt their broadcasting strategies to new media consumption habits (ex: the use of laptops, smart phones, and tablets), as well as to the increasing presence of digital video on demand [VOD] services. It is argued that the most fruitful strategy to respond to both of these trends consists of taking advantage of “liveness”, a distinguishing feature of TV broadcasters. More precisely, the author contends that TV networks can counter the competition of streaming services such as Netflix by making the broadcasting of live events on multiple platforms a core component of their identity. Her argument rests upon an analysis of how the BBC and Channel 4, two U.K. TV networks, successfully combined digital technologies and live coverage during the Sochi Winter Olympics and Paralympics. 

Steemers, J. (2016). International sales of U.K. television content: change and continuity in “the space in between” production and consumption. Television & New Media, 1-20. doi: 10.1177/1527476416653481

In this article, Steemers globally looks at how UK distributors of TV content are forced to reinvent themselves in the current media environment, characterized by digital platforms, transnational distribution rights and fragmented audiences. Of particular interest is the the author’s focus on Britain’s TV export performance in the face of digital platforms such as Netflix and Amazon Video. With supporting numbers, Steemers shows that international sales have become increasingly important to TV distributors revenues over the years, and that the presence of foreign over-the-top [OTT] platforms is no stranger to this phenomenon, as they represent new content buyers to which U.K. distributors can sell their programs. For this latter reason, the author thus observes, from interviews conducted with senior executives working for U.K. content providers, that the local reaction to transnational OTT services is far from hostile. On the downside, Steemers pinpoints many issues that particularly concern Netflix. She highlights the over dominant position of the American player in the digital video-on-demand market, the very little number of original British TV productions it funds, and its almost systematic refusal to yield secondary and international rights to local producers for the TV shows it acquires.  

 

 

Broadcasting policies in a digitized environment

Among the many topics I’m interested in researching are public policies with regard to television. It’s a safe bet to presume that the following years will be “rich” in this particular area of academic research.

The digital era, indeed, raises questions as to whether broadcasting regulation is compatible with an increasingly connected world, characterized by transnational media and overabundant quantities of content. In Canada, this interrogation is mostly voiced by broadcasting distribution undertakings [BDUs] that claim that they need the greatest flexibility possible to compete against foreign pure players. Within the specific realm of TV entertainment, these pure players can best be described as platforms that provide online content without requiring from the consumer a subscription to a traditional TV distributor: social networks like YouTube and Facebook that allow for the uploading of videos; set-top boxes like Apple TV or Roku, small devices that allow people to receive and decode digital content on their TV screen; streaming video-on-demand (or over-the-top [OTT]) services like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video; and platforms like iTunes (Apple) that allow customers to buy or rent downloaded digital content.

However, in Canada, the suitability of media regulation in a growingly digitized environment must also be weighed with another consideration: the safeguard of a strong national cultural identity. Global OTT platforms, to be sure, further increase the visibility of Anglo-Saxon cultural products to the detriment of local programs. Besides, deregulating as a means to enable domestic companies to counter foreign competition can result in negative cultural outcomes. The recent decision of the Canadian Radio-Television CRTC to overall reduce quotas of locally produced TV shows on Canadian channels is one patent example of this.

In addition to the future of broadcasting policies, I’m also intrigued by local media content producers’s response to foreign digital competition. To put it simply, how do they feel about Netflix and other platforms of the like? Are these only viewed as threats or are there any opportunities for them to seize ? How are they adapting to the new media ecosystem? Undeniably, looking at how media content producers in other countries deal with this matter can prove enlightening. Yet all comparisons have their limitations (after all, Canada is a very modest exporter of TV programs). As such, it’s not sure whether or not, for example, Netflix is seen as an interesting new buyer to which Canadian producers can sell their content.

In a next post, I shall present an annotated bibliography of academic publications about some of the themes developed in the hereby blog entry. It is my intention to « feed » this bibliography in the coming months, as I’ll stumble across other relevant articles.

Présentation

Présentation

Je m’appelle Philippe Rodrigues-Rouleau, et je suis étudiant de première année au doctorat en communication (étude des médias) à l’Université d’Ottawa. Mes intérêts de recherche portent plus particulièrement sur les politiques publiques en matière de radiodiffusion, les pratiques journalistiques, le journalisme international et les industries culturelles.

Ce blogue de recherche hébergera du contenu en lien avec mes cours, mon projet de thèse doctorale et mon parcours d’étudiant en général.

My name is Philippe Rodrigues-Rouleau and I am a first-year PhD student in Communication (Media Studies) at the University of Ottawa. I’m more particularly interested in broadcasting policies, journalistic practices, international journalism and cultural industries.

This research blog is aimed at hosting content related to my courses, my thesis project and my journey as a PhD student.

Contenu à venir!/Content coming soon!