Mediating Cultural Politics: A Dialogue with Georgina Born

It feels as though my first blog entry after a long and mysterious absence should be witty, engaging, or revelatory in some way, making my rudely unexplained absence all worthwhile, and giving the impression that my author function is emerging butterfly-like from a cocoon of silence. Sadly, this is not that blog entry, but who knows what future insomniac moments might hold.

In the meantime, I’d like to draw your attention to an interview I did with Georgina Born way back last year, which has now been published as part of M/C’s new initiative M/C Dialogue.

The following dialogue is based on an interview conducted as part of Professor Born’s visit to Brisbane in 2006. In the first of three public seminars she gave at the University of Queensland (UQ) and Queensland University of Technology (QUT), Born argued that post-Habermasian theories of the public sphere and communicative action provide a means to rethink public service communications in conditions of pluralism and inequality, and discussed a range of current BBC initiatives in light of this normative model. In the second lecture, Born outlined the history of the BBC and discussed how the BBC will fare in the future, given the challenges thrown up by its commercial competitors and political antagonists, and the rising stakes for Britain’s pluralist democracy in an era of continuing media expansion. In her third lecture, ‘Musical mediation: ontology, technology and creativity’, Professor Born developed a theoretical analysis of music and mediation, comparing the concept of ‘the work’ across eras and genres – especially jazz and improvised electronic musics—and developing the three concepts of social, distributed and relayed creativity. While in Australia, Professor Born also taught a travelling masterclass on the uses of ethnography in cultural research for postgraduate and early career researchers, sponsored by the ARC Cultural Research Network.

The following dialogue provides a counterpoint to these events and to Born’s work as a whole, drawing together and extending key themes in the cultural politics of both public service broadcasting and new media technologies. It begins by discussing the possibilities of public sphere theory to provide useful models of institutional design. The discussion moves from there to SBS Television – an example of Public Service Broadcasting that provides an interesting contrast to the BBC, especially by virtue of SBS’s relationship with the politics of multiculturalism in Australia. The second half of the interview draws out the issues around cultural value, cultural power and the politics of technology in relation to new media, and concludes by focussing especially on the problems and potentialities of ‘user-generated content’.

I’m quite pleased with how it came out in the end, and I realised last week while writing something on Public Service Broadcasting how much I got out of Georgina’s visit here – I’m sure everyone who attended her masterclass on cultural research remembers it as a really productive experience, as I do.