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MDSA01H3 (310)
Chapter 3

Chapter 3

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University of Toronto Scarborough
Media Studies
Michael Petit

4. PragmaticAnalysis Philosophies Metaphysics • Truth is transcendent, constant, a universal one • Truth is “out there” waiting to be discovered • Truth can never be fully known ◦ Mind/Body, Free will/determinism Being & existence • Metaphysics: Study of being and existence (ontology) and the world (cosmology) Truth • truth is local, contingent, contextual, historical and therefore we need to: ◦ Problem solve ◦ Assess outcomes/effects ◦ Measure and produce tangible results/benefits] ◦ Examine and Rationalize consequences Pragmatism • Claims that truth depends on the degree to which a concept or theory provides us with useful results in the process of solving problems • The truth of an idea or course of action should be based on tangible results and the possible consequences of supporting or disregarding it. • As a result, truth becomes a sort of label, a quality that a thing can possess or lack, and it is always dependent on contextual factors Everyday practical affairs • Instead of ethereal concepts of being and time, focus on everyday practical affairs: what works, what doesn't work Outcomes Pragmatists William James • Focus on the individual; pragmatism as a means of personal growth to achieve one’s goals and solve individual problems ◦ Amoderation between extremes and addressing personal problems through a Pragmatic Lens as the best way to achieve personal growth ◦ Radical empiricism – James’postulate that "the only things that shall be debatable among philosophers shall be things definable in terms drawn from experience“; experience includes both particulars and relations between those particulars, and that therefore both deserve a place in our explanations. • Critique of James: Was preoccupied with the state of his and others' souls, not the social conditions of their lives ◦ Instead, the Pragmatic focus on larger social issues is primarily the result of John Dewey John Dewey • Focus on society and larger social issues.As an educational reformer, he argued against rote memorization and for the development of problem-solving skills in order to make individuals more productive and responsible citizens ◦ Educators should instead focus on training students to develop a variety of problem-solving skills in order to make them more productive and responsible citizens of a democratic society • Pragmatic Meliorism – meliorism is belief that the world can be made better, not through metaphysics, but through dedication to developing material, real-world solutions to improve human life in the world. Richard Rorty • Rorty was key in overcoming one of the key criticisms leveled against Pragmatism: relativism • Relativism: the belief that diverse approaches and theories related to a given subject are all equally correct. Action becomes difficult in a relativistic lens because there is no consistent truth to act upon ◦ Yes, Pragmatists are relativistic when it comes to metaphysical theories, in the sense that all searches for essential truth are equally valid because none of them actually makes any real difference. ◦ However, pragmatists restrict relativism to what can be discussed, tested, and selected in the process of problem solving. To effectively do so, one must be aware of one’s contingency and one’s placement in history. ◦ Thus, Pragmatists avoid spinning in relativistic circles by considering and organizing multiple ideas according to their social use • Pragmatism allows us to judge the worth of regulation according to the perceived outcomes and effects of the regulation ◦ Basically, regulatory policy is “true,” worthy or good if it clearly benefits American society or helps to concretely correct social problems Government regulation • Two concepts provide the standards for evaluation within a Pragmatic approach to media: consequences and contingencies Consequences • The clear effects of a given regulation on society at large. Generally, consequences must be beneficial to society if we are to deem the regulation a good one Contingencies • The factors a regulation should address as a result of context and situation • Generally, a quality regulation must adequately take into account and respond to the socio- historical factors in play during its creation ◦ Ex: prior to the invention of the internet, no one dreamed of debating the regulation of virtual or simulated child porn. This historical advent of the web prompted the need for this debate, and the unique opportunities presented by an online medium directed it, the debate was still centered on the consequences of protecting children. • The best regulatory solutions are those that have beneficial consequences according to the contingencies of their historical moment • The first set of regular contingencies is the tension between free speech (favours deregulation) vs public interest (favours regulation) ◦ The two are both for the benefit of society, but can play at odds of eachother. Quality regulation should always consider both, finding a good balance. • The second set of regular contingencies is the interplay between government regulation vs media self-regulation ◦ These contingencies are based on the social responsibility theory of the press (media is in service of the public, and should be guided by public concern). ◦ At times, the media industries have made the conscious decision to regulate themselves in an effort to reduce the scope of government intervention Issues in regulation • 6 thematic areas within media regulation that have rich and varied histories ◦ First 3 deal primarily with Patterns of media ownership ◦ Last 3 concentrate on issues dealing with media content (1) Combating monopoly • Limiting the amount of a given market that any one company can own • One of the clearest historical examples of anti-monopoly regulation is the Fin-Syn Rules ◦ The FCC feared that the three networks (ABC, NBC, CBS) were gaining too much power over competitors so Fin-Syn Rules in 1970 were passed. ◦ Prior to Fin-Syn, the 3 were all moving toward a vertically integrated syndication system where they produced and broadcast a great deal of their own programming. ▪ However, the newly enacted Fin-Syn Rules limited the amount of broadcasted programming the major networks could hold the financial rights to • As a historical example of government regulation, the Fin-Syn Rules represented an attempt to halt a network programming monopoly to promote the growth of independent stations and production companies as a source of media competition • The repealing of Fin-Syn was one example of a larger tend toward federal deregulation (and increased media self-regulation) • The emergence of the Telecommunications Act shifted the regulations on ownership patterns and continued to operate within the historical public-interest paradigm because it “equated public interest with a competitive economic environment...in which consumer and producer desires and needs can be matched efficiently in the marketplace, not structured by regulators” ◦ The logic here is that fewer restrictions on ownership result in more possibilities for more people, thereby increasing the potential for competition across all media markets ◦ TheAct is a “free-market” approach to the media and is often used to justify acts of deregulation • Most critics of theAct agree that its free-market logic failed to inspire competition, and today, mergers and conglomerations that resemble monopolies run rampant, but still theAct was a genuine attempt to respond to the economic, political, and social climate of the 1990s (2) Protecting intellectual property • Legally protecting the creative work of artists • Copyright: the granting of exclusive control of a creative work to that work's creator. ◦ The theoretical purpose of copyright laws is to ensure that individuals will continue to generate innovative products • Copyright is limited in certain ways: small portions of work can be copied under the notion of fair use, and copyright can only cover the material expression of an idea, not the idea itself ◦ ex: You can't copyright your personal interpretation of the events of 9/11, but you could copyright a particular song or screenplay expressing those views • Digital Rights Management: any number of different software programs that media industries employ to control the distribution and use of digital intellectual property ◦ It's like a Copyright protection for the online/digital world, but with extra levels of security since computer files are much easier to copy ▪ ex: iTunes limits users from playing purchased songs or movies on more than fiveApple devices at any one time, and users can only burn a playlist of songs up to seven times • In theory, both copyright and DRM seem to represent attempts by the government and media industry to protect the intellectual property of individuals ◦ However, critics claim that they actually protect private corporate interests • Pragmatically speaking, both copyright and DRM work toward correcting issues related to information piracy but fall short of ably balancing issues of free speech and public interest (3) Maintaining national interest • Most apparent at times of war, these regulations ensure that media technology and practices do not compromise national security and the government's ability to protect the public • Encryption: the process of scrambling important digital messages by software so only those who possess a complementary decoding program can read them • Clinton introduced the Escrow Encryption Standard to provide the federal government with a way of gaining access to encrypted messages sent over telephone wires that they felt posed a national threat ◦ It offered the public access to powerful encryption software, but it also provided a back door for government officials to decode and read encrypted messages, so it worked as a trade-off. • Examples of government regulation in media: embedded journalists and Bush's refusal to publish photos of coffins containing the bodies ofAmerican soldiers ◦ Was this hampering freedom of information? Or was it, as bush claimed, to respect the privacy of the soldiers' families? • The Encryption Standard was a Pragmatic failure because it didn't make much of an impact. It failed to gain public support because it neglected to adequately address the contingency of the American right to privacy • Similarly, while some of the wartime policies are pragmatically functional, others are rather questionable (refusal to publish photos of coffins because they tarnish the national image of war) • Regulations in the service of national interest by their nature champion the public in
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