Theorizing Listening as a Tool for Social Change: Andrea Dworkin’s Discourses on Listening

Changing the way we look at communication: putting the spotlight on listening

radiokidTheorizing Listening as a Tool for Social Change: Andrea Dworkin’s Discourses on Listening

Valerie Palmer-Mehta



Theorizing listening’s multifarious functions has meaningful potential for critical communication studies. I argue that our understanding of listening can be enriched by examining the discourses of the U.S. radical lesbian feminist Andrea Dworkin. Employing and extending McRae’s method of performative listening, I argue that Dworkin’s rhetoric can be read as a theory and practice of radical, caring listening that promotes social change and moves us toward collective action.

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How the BBC can create a better digital public sphere

bbc comHow the BBC can create a better digital public sphere

BECKY HOGGE 19 July 2016

The BBC’s remit is not just broadcast. It has the power to improve our experiences online, and to realise the digital public sphere we want.

Andrew Matthews/PA Wire/Press Association Images. All rights reserved.When it transpired in May this year that the BBC would remove its database of recipes from the web in response to the Government’s accusation that such online endeavours represent “imperial ambition”, the country was up in arms. Petitions were launched. Celebrity chefs were asked to respond. I was struck with sadness by how low our ambitions had sunk. Because twelve years ago we’d thought the BBC could do what it does now with cake recipes witheverything it has ever made.

The BBC is a unique institution, a beautiful example of collective investment in the public sphere, and that is why so many people love it. It’s also why twelve years ago, when the BBC announced its ambition to put much of its archive online, published (like much of the content on this website) under a Creative Commons licence that allows people to watch, re-appropriate and republish it freely, that idea made so much sense. The Creative Archive, as it was then known, died a death at the altar of rights ownership – sacrificed in part to the BBC’s awareness of its dominant position in the market and its role in stimulating the independent television industry. Instead we got the iPlayer: a fantastic project that nonetheless, when set against the potential of the BBC to enrich and define the digital public sphere, begins to look slightly pathetic.

Writing on Medium this May, Lloyd Shepherd, who had worked on the recipes database during a brief stint at the BBC, complained:

“The BBC could have a powerful public sphere strategy — a big public discussion about how the networked digital world needs a public space in the same way as telly and radio did, and how it is the BBC’s role to do that. But it won’t make the case for it…”

At first glance, treating the digital public sphere the same way we treat radio and TV seems wrong. Unlike radio and TV, which are broadcast on a limited resource – called “spectrum” – the internet is unbounded, limitless. The web pioneers of the nineties and early 2000s believed the internet would usher in an age of radical plurality. Give everyone a voice, a machine to encode it and a network of limitless bandwidth over which to transmit it, they said, and you’d get a public sphere so rich it would make Jürgen Habermas blush. But the digital public sphere we have today is a long way off from that vision, because it turns out that a really good way to make money online is by teaching computers how to entertain people with their own prejudices, and then selling their eyeballs to the highest bidder.

Commercial online endeavours build what Tim O’Reilly in 2004 called “architectures of participation”: websites and platforms that transform the contributions of each user into more than the sum of their parts, through structured databases and machine-learning. But these all too soon become architectures of control, as we find ourselves locked in to platforms like Facebook and YouTube, stranded in silos designed to parcel us off to advertisers.

The online echo chamber

In his 2011 book, The Filter Bubble: What the internet is hiding from you, Eli Pariser portrays today’s online environment as a place where technology corporations and the advertisers they serve use algorithms to define the news you see based on your salary, education and – crucially – your social milieu. The internet has ushered in an age of “me media” which consists of echo chambers. And the problem with these echo chambers is that when they come into contact with one another, conflict ensues. This is not good news for the public sphere.

If commercial interests create a digital public sphere that simply consists of separate communities that cannot meaningfully engage with one another, then we need non-commercial interests to counter that. We need market intervention. In short, we need to begin imagining the digital public sphere we want and working out how we might shape it. James Bennett’s thinking on public service algorithms is just one idea to consider.

Achieving the digital public sphere we want

The BBC needs to accept that its identity now extends beyond broadcast.

Right now, government intervention in the online space falls into two categories. The first is bandwidth, evidenced by the Government’s ambitions to introduce a universal service obligation (USO) for broadband. This will be the first time a USO has been imposed on a historically commercial service – electricity, gas, post and telephone networks all have histories of public ownership. The second is protection from harmful or illicit content, embodied in various legislative and non-legislative (voluntary) schemes imposed on internet service providers.

This regulatory picture reveals how comfortable those in power are protecting the internet as a wholly profit-led information space. Indeed, digital rights campaigners, myself included, are guilty of aiding and abetting the complacency as they justifiably resist “freedom from” intervention (disconnection for copyright infringers, family-friendly filters) while remaining silent on the need for positive intervention in the digital public sphere. For a start, we should be making a lot more fuss over the Government’s proposals to remove from the BBC’s new Charter its sixth purpose, “to develop emerging communications technologies and services”.

It is the sixth purpose that currently protects the BBC’s ventures into online services, experimentation that has been ongoing for almost two decades. The BBC’s online endeavours have always been contentious: at the beginning because they only benefitted the small percentage of licence fee payers who had got themselves online; later because they were accused of taking business away from commercial online content providers. But enabling the BBC to continue experimenting online is more vital than ever.

We are only just starting to see how digital technology is changing the contours of the public sphere. We know in the future that all media – newspapers, books, music, video, games – will converge online. What we may glimpse today without fully understanding is how information economics will dictate our discovery of and engagement with that media. Removing the sixth purpose now prevents the BBC from taking a more active role in this future and crafting it for the good of all.

We know in the future that all media – newspapers, books, music, video, games – will converge online.

 What role for the BBC?

There are roles here both for the BBC and for its new regulator, OfCom. OfCom should deploy its internationally-recognised expertise and research resources to begin enriching our understanding of the digital public sphere, and the role it plays in our democracy. And the BBC needs to accept that its identity now extends beyond broadcast, by systematising and privileging its continued experimentation online. To do this, both institutions need to get a little braver than they have been to date about the need for intervention in this space.

Public service media is market intervention, and that’s fine. Labelling the BBC’s ambitions online “imperial” is disingenuous, because it conflates markets with democracies. Democracies need strong public spheres, and information markets, both online and off, may not deliver strong public spheres. Living in information echo chambers makes us not only more commercially exploitable but also more politically exploitable. Now more than ever, we need media to challenge our prejudices, not media to entrench them.

About the author

Becky Hogge is a writer and researcher. Between 2006 and 2008 she ran the Open Rights Group, a UK-based grassroots campaign to establish and protect our rights in the digital world. Between 2008 and 2013 she was a non-executive director of open data pioneers the Open Knowledge Foundation. She has just finished a major piece of research work commissioned by Omidyar Network “Open Data: Six stories about impact in the UK”. The full report, whose findings are reflected in this piece, is available here.


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Create public service algorithms – 100 ideas for the BBC

But what if a public service algorithm also made some recommendations from left field – to open our horizons: if you liked Top Gear, here’s a programme on environmentalism and fossil fuel, or Woman’s Hour. If you liked a music documentary, here’s a sitcom. Choice will remain the key ingredient: but it should be a genuine choice – to choose to continue to watch more of the same, or have the option of exploring something new.

In a digital world, ‘information, education, entertainment’ should be appended by “Explore”: the BBC should once again open up a window on the world. A PSB Algorithm would mark the BBC’s services out as distinct from the market and connect viewers to a greater breadth of the Corporation’s amazing output and a diversity of voices and viewpoints. And that is what PSB should always be about.

James Bennett (@james_a_bennett) is Head of Media & Arts at Royal Holloway, University of London

La Rioja se abre a la transparencia

El SPIR saluda la creación por el parlamento riojano de una comisión para investigar en detalle los gastos en comunicación y propaganda del anterior Ejecutivo.

16-06-2016 |

PSOE, Ciudadanos y Podemos han aprobado en el Parlamento de La Rioja una Comisión de Investigación para conocer en detalle los gastos en comunicación y propaganda del anterior Ejecutivo riojano. Se trata de la primera Comisión aprobada en los últimos 15 años, con la que se investigará el control de los medios de comunicación riojanos ejercido por el anterior Presidente, Pedro Sanz, ejercido de facto por su mano derecha, el ex consejero Emilio del Río.

En torno a este significativo tema el coordinador general del Sindicato de Profesionales de la Información de La Rioja (SPIR-FeSP), Jairo Morga Manzanares, realiza un prolijo estudio de los hechos que llevaron a la constitución de esta comisión.

Leer el artículo completo: Aquí

European Digital Radio Alliance

ebu20days2The European Broadcasting Union (EBU) and 12 broadcasters from across Europe formed the European Digital Radio Alliance (EDRA) during the annual Radiodays Europe conference in Paris on 15 March 2016.

The objective of this group, for which the EBU has agreed to provide support, is to make digital radio the standard and the preferred choice of listeners across Europe. Its 12 founding members represent over 300 public service and commercial radio stations. EDRA’s strategy is to promote a hybrid DAB/FM solution that will support all broadcasters and consumers in Europe and allow individual countries to go digital at their own speed.

Manifiesto de Teledetodos: Medidas legislativas urgentes para la salvación del Servicio Público Audiovisual


Propuesta de Pacto Social

La radiotelevisión pública española, vital para el mantenimiento del espacio público democrático, se ha deteriorado seriamente en los últimos años, con graves consecuencias para el pluralismo ideológico y social. Frente a una fuerte concentración de los medios comerciales privados, que exige más que nunca como contrapeso un servicio público fuerte y participativo, RTVE ha perdido rápidamente peso e influencia social como consecuencia de la manipulación sistemática, de la falta de un mandato claro de contenidos y de duros recortes en su financiación.

La situación es tan grave que no admite demoras en su reforma, so pena de un deterioro mayor aun, e incluso de su desaparición, lo que acarrearía graves consecuencias sobre la calidad de la democracia española.

Teledetodos ha presentado una propuesta completa y razonada de un “nuevo modelo” de servicio público para el futuro, aunque entendemos que esta regeneración precisa un debate social que el nuevo Parlamento debe liderar, y un proceso legislativo que debe abordarse como una de las prioridades de los diferentes grupos parlamentarios; En todo caso, ambos procesos exigen un tiempo que un servicio público como RTVE no puede permitirse el lujo de esperar.

Presentamos por tanto a los partidos políticos una propuesta de regeneración urgente que debe traducirse en un compromiso ineludible para que sus correspondientes grupos parlamentarios y el nuevo Gobierno asuman un conjunto de medidas legislativas básicas, pero claves y urgentes para servir de pilares en la edificación de un nuevo modelo que asegure la supervivencia de RTVE. En especial, se trata de poner en marcha estructuras provisionales de gestión y financiación, constructivas y coherentes con un proyecto democrático, que permitan abordar con garantías la transición hacia un nuevo modelo de servicio público.

Dichas propuestas son coherentes con un proyecto ambicioso de futuro, y deben ser los pilares básicos sobre los que asentar la edificación de un nuevo modelo de servicio público de comunicación de ámbito estatal. Para ello, se debe modificar por vía de urgencia la Ley 17/2006 de 5 de Junio, de la radio y la televisión de titularidad estatal, especialmente en cuanto a revertir las rectificaciones introducidas por el Gobierno del PP en 2012-2013:

Leer más: Aquí el documento completo

EL 28 DE MAYO SE CELEBRARÁN MOVILIZACIONES PARA CONMEMORAR LA COMUNA DE PARÍS ‘Plan B’, movimiento contra el austericidio, se extiende por España y por Europa

Urban_Plan_BLeer el artículo completo en La Marea

El‘Plan B’, la iniciativa que busca la convergencia de la izquierda y los movimientos sociales en Europa en contra del austericidio, se expande por numerosas ciudades españolas y europeas. Si el pasado mes de febrero se celebraron unas jornadas en Madrid que reunieron a algunos referentes políticos de la izquierda del continente, como Yanis Varoufakis, exministro griego de Finanzas,Zoé Konstantopoulou, expresidenta del Parlamento griego, o Eric Toussaint, portavoz del Comité por la Anulación de la Deuda del Tercer Mundo (CADTM), entre otros muchos, numerosas ciudades del Estado español convocan ahora asambleas y jornadas para propulsar una Unión Europea alternativa y proseguir con la iniciativa. Además, más allá de los Pirineos también se organizan jornadas y conferencias, como la que se celebró en París previa a la de Madrid, bajo el nombre de ‘Plan B’ o con otras marcas, pero con fines similares: una revolución democrática en Europa contra las políticas de austeridad.