The Politics of Watching: Visuality and the New Media Economy

The Politics of Watching: Visuality and the New Media Economy

Yasmin Ibrahim (Queen Mary, University of London, UK)
Copyright: © 2012 |Pages: 11
DOI: 10.4018/jep.2012010101
OnDemand PDF Download:
No Current Special Offers


What does it mean to consume and produce images non-stop in the new media economy? Images can be captured, uploaded, downloaded, and disseminated with ease in digital platforms, raising the need to understand how these acts of image capture and circulation are embedded into the familiar and everyday as well as the extraordinary where images can re-negotiate cognitive realities and re-frame notions of authenticity and truth. This new media visuality is characterised by new consumption rituals and practices which transgress the boundaries between private pleasures, personal memories, and voyeurism, on the one hand, and public communion, witnessing, and expose on the other. This paper examines the notion of visuality in digital platforms and its consequences for postmodernity in terms of subjectivity, new forms of engagement and disenfranchisement.
Article Preview


The world found out that Osama bin Laden was killed by the US military through images of President Obama watching footages of the event. The news was supposed to be authenticated by the ritual of Obama witnessing the event with his close aides. No images of the gory killing was released to the public even though images of his hiding place, his compound and bedroom were circulated widely. Mediated visuality is an intrinsic component of postmodernity where the manipulation of the image mediates our notions of reality and truth. This mediated visuality in the digital age has become even more complex in the new media environment where image capture, production and circulation have become more prevalent, pervasive and open-ended.

The convergence of technologies and the embedding of video and audio recording devices on mobile telephony and the ability to share and publish them on a globally-connected digital platform in our everyday lives have facilitated the circulation of images on private and public spaces on the internet. The Web 2.0 environment is defined by enhanced applications, increased utilization of applications by users, and the inclusion of content-generative technologies into everyday life. By shifting the flow of information from the one-way broadcast model, these new applications allow information to flow in different ways enabling content creation to be dynamic and pervasive.

The ability to record, store images and sound bytes and additionally to upload them on the Internet enables civilians to become image creators when events happen across the globe. The act of recording through mobile technologies and the ability to circulate images across the world crafts new rituals where the bystander through the act of recording bears witness through technology. This material act of bearing witness through technology unleashes a new visibility where the civilian gaze can narrate events without the mediation of news makers onto multimedia platforms which can potentially invite non-stop viewing from audiences around the globe. With broadcasting and the availability of multi-media facilities on the Internet, there has been a privileging of the eye with an emphasis on visuality.

In postmodernity, technology can bring new forms of existence in spatio-temporal terms and reconfigure the horizon in which human interactions are placed and unfolded (Lattas, 2006, p. 31). Roger Silverstone (1994) in his theorisation of the domestication of technology postulates that the meaning and significance of all our media and information technologies depend entirely on the engagement of the user where the cognitive participation can both blur the spacio-temporal spaces while reinforcing it. Media technologies and their domestication are seen as playing a crucial role in the ontology of everyday life. Life is experienced through both the formal (rituals) and informal (mundane) structures of the everyday (Silverstone, 1994, p. 169). It enables the translation of the new into the familiar and the unfamiliar to be objectified, integrated or distanced through the meanings imposed in the private realm. The world around us is streamed through broadcast and online platforms engaging us beyond the realms of our situated domesticity. Media technologies enable new forms of signification and integration over expanded spatialities. The dissolution of distance, temporality and the inscribing of new values through the representation of images signify a global media economy where the transportation and dissemination of materials happen non-stop in our media saturated environment.

Complete Article List

Search this Journal:
Open Access Articles
Volume 10: 2 Issues (2019)
Volume 9: 2 Issues (2018)
Volume 8: 4 Issues (2017)
Volume 7: 4 Issues (2016)
Volume 6: 4 Issues (2015)
Volume 5: 4 Issues (2014)
Volume 4: 4 Issues (2013)
Volume 3: 4 Issues (2012)
Volume 2: 4 Issues (2011)
Volume 1: 4 Issues (2010)
View Complete Journal Contents Listing