Simon Walker (completed)

Thesis Title: Interpretations of Digital Exhibition.

Abstract

The primary subject of this study is the phenomenon of Digital Exhibition. Within this work Digital Exhibition is defined as the practice of presenting moving images, either live or pre-recorded, to paying audiences, in public spaces, by means of digital distribution and projection. The principal research question is framed as; ‘Do prevailing, industrially and politically sourced definitions of Digital Exhibition faithfully represent the phenomenon’s position within the contemporary media studies framework?’

I identified that a significant amount of literature concerning Digital Exhibition is aimed at producing categorical definitions of the phenomenon. It has been found that these ‘meaning making’ discourses commonly stem from sources which could be described as being ideologically affected, e.g. organisations (predominantly American) which exert control over (and consequently garner significant profits from) the production, distribution and exhibition of film based entertainments – and which would profit further from gaining a similar degree of control over Digital Exhibition; and also political bodies (predominantly European) which strive to defend their national film/exhibition industries from subjugation by American product – and which express an intent to employ Digital Exhibition as an aid in this protectionist effort.

In order to address this situation, the political economy of key commentators has been investigated, and the phenomenon of Digital Exhibition has been researched following a ‘case studies’ methodology. The author has developed an ‘explanation building’ analytic strategy whereby a series of ‘plausible rival hypotheses’ has been derived, and engaged as a framework for the theory-building process. The rival explanations investigated include that;

  • Digital Exhibition is a form of the cinema.
  • Digital Exhibition is a form of television.
  • Digital Exhibition is not in itself a medium, but pertains to a technology which channels/becomes/imitates multiple media (i.e. Digital Exhibition is an application of the digital computer).
  • Digital Exhibition represents the (digital) convergence of the cinema and television.
  • Digital Exhibition represents that conceptually the cinema & television are (and should have always been recognised as) the same medium.
  • Digital Exhibition is a new and unique medium unto itself.

In order to attempt the construction / negation of the above explanations I gathered data about real-world Digital Exhibition technologies / applications and surveyed established media theory texts, addressing the questions of; ‘What is cinema?’, ‘What is television?’, ‘What is a computer?’, ‘What is media convergence?’, ‘What are new media?’, ‘What is a medium?’, etc.

Ultimately, it is presented that all of the rival hypotheses investigated can be argued as being legitimate, when employing established media theories as models upon which to base the explanation building process. However, I consider that whilst it is not possible to categorically negate any designations, industrially and politically charged definitions still do not provide an adequately comprehensive account as to the wealth of interpretations that can be drawn for Digital Exhibition. It is further presented that such discourses, appearing to be limited in scope, are limited in such a way that could, if widely accepted, be of political or economic benefit to their authors.

Having found it impossible to produce a categorical designation for Digital Exhibition from the study of existing literatures – on the case subject and on media theory – I present my own ‘gut feelings’ as to the nature of Digital Exhibition. The author considers that, whilst in time media theorists will probably assimilate Digital Exhibition into the history of the cinema, it should be considered to be a unique medium which achieves transparent hypermediacy – that is to say, the case phenomenon leads audiences to believe that they are experiencing one medium (be it the cinema or television) when in fact they are experiencing another (Digital Exhibition).

However, I also present my own considerations as to the subjectiveness of contemporary media theory, and the futility of attempting to draw definitive boundaries between media phenomena which continually interchange their ever shifting contextual / intrinsic variables (such as technologies, contents, settings, audiences, etc).

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