Brock University

Media and Cultural Industries in the 21st Century I: Digitization and Technology

This panel invites papers that reflect on the changing nature of media and cultural industries in the 21st century. In many ways, we are far less constricted by borders and boundaries in the production and consumption of media and culture; social media outlets such as Twitter have enhanced our ability to connect and stay informed about social movements happening worldwide. Social media has also made it easier for consumers to affect change through fundraising sites like Kickstarter. At the same time, many traditional borders and boundaries persist; the music and film industries in North America remain oligopolistic, and women and visible minorities working in media and cultural industries still confront many invisible boundaries.

We welcome all papers that concern the theme of media and cultural industries in the 21st century, and in particular we invite papers that explore:

  • How the nature of labour is affected in cultural industries (e.g., increasing amounts of freelance and precarious labour)
  • Changes in the way that art and culture is valuated and legitimized
  • How patterns of media and cultural consumption have changed in light of shifts in technology
  • How media representations of race, gender, sexuality, age or ability have changed or remained the sameThe changing landscape of government funding of the arts
  • The role of CanCon regulations in protecting and promoting Canadian culture, and/or the role of the CBC

Session Organizer: Shyon Baumann, University of Toronto, ; Kim de Laat, University of Toronto,


The Digitalization of News Production: Implications for Journalistic Labour and News Audiences

Debra M. Clarke, Associate Professor, Department of Sociology, Trent University,

Contemporary discussions of professional journalism almost invariably address one or more of its current “crises.”  There can be little question that the profession is presently under siege, although not by citizen journalism or user-generated content, nor by the decline in newspaper readership.  Those most besieged are journalists themselves, throughout many Western societies, as a direct result of aggressive cross-media ownership convergence and radical cuts to newsroom labour forces.  Journalists who remain confront heavier workloads and other significant changes in the conditions of their labour associated with digitalization.  This paper traces the implications of these social conditions for both journalists and their audiences.  There is abundant European and North American evidence that most journalists are keenly attuned to the underlying political economy of news production.  Moreover, most journalists lament the decline of investigative journalism and the increasing inability of the journalistic field to fulfill its own established standards.  Also evident, however, is a set of misperceptions regarding audiences and their news interests that is incompatible with the results of qualitative reception research.  Through integrated analysis of news production and reception, the paper is concerned to specify the social conditions which prohibit the satisfaction of journalists’ professional needs as well as the informational needs of their audiences.


“Masc only”: Technologically mediated gender reflexivity and the re-assertion of hegemonic masculinity

Nathan Thompson, University of New Brunswick, , Chris Tatham, University of Toronto,

Gay geo-social hook up applications are on the rise and Grindr, the most popular app, has more than 4 million users in over 192 countries around the world. We collected 50 in-depth qualitative surveys in both Ontario and New Brunswick to analyze gay men’s engagements with geo-social apps (Grindr and Scruff) and how they express, perceive, and use masculinity in their relationships with themselves and others. Through our analysis we found that many of the gay men demonstrated reflexivity in understanding their own gender presentation and that of others using the apps. However, even though the men expressed an understanding of masculinity as unfixed, changeable, and plastic, they simultaneously and contradictorily continued to link their preferences and desires with heterosexuality and hegemonic masculinity thus re-asserting a naturalized and fixed idea of genuine masc/ulinity. Our research demonstrates that while technology may facilitate greater reflexivity around traditional views of masculinity, it does not necessarily mean that those “boundaries” have been dismantled.


Beyond Piracy: The Materiality of Digital Objects and the Consumption of Copyright

Lance Stewart, Doctoral Student, Department of Sociology University of Toronto,

With the growing use of digital technologies in media consumption, companies have developed new methods of providing goods and services to consumers online. Despite the elevated success of digital distribution of music, film, video games, and books, the issue of illegal access and distribution of copyrighted materials has become a widely identified social problem. Economic, legal, and criminological perspectives have largely dominated research on the topic of digital piracy, perpetuating assumptions in how these practices are explored and explained. In identifying this limitation in the literature, this paper sets out to create a conceptual model in approaching the study of digital piracy. Bridging the perspectives of cultural sociology with science and technology studies, this approach explores online media consumption through the properties of digital objects. The conceptualization of digital objects as “dematerialized” dismisses important sociocultural dynamics of both the attributes of digital objects and the architecture of online services. A ‘digital materiality’ perspective on digital piracy explores how the form and structure of online goods and services results in the development of expectations and preferences resulting in illegal consumption practices. The resulting conceptual approach speaks to a number of possible consequences regarding how we define and understand Internet technologies.


© Canadian Sociological Association ⁄ La Société canadienne de sociologie