Reflection – Contexts of production

The critical questions when looking at a media piece are:

  • When?
    When was it produced? What was happening at the time that gave rise to it? When was it distributed?
  • Why?
    Why was the text produced by this person or organisation? Why was it produced in this way (and not any other possible way)?
  • How?
    How was it produced (by a company/individual)? How is the meaning made (what techniques do they use to get the message across)? How was it distributed?
  • What?
    What are the effects of the text on the audience? What are the wider social effects?


We were introduced to the picture ‘Dynamism of an automobile’ by Luigi Russolo – but we were only shown the picture.

'The Dynamism of an Automobile' by Luigi Russolo

'The Dynamism of an Automobile' by Luigi Russolo

We had to guess when the picture was produced. It wasn’t easy, we just didn’t have any information that could point to a specific period. Because we didn’t have information, we couldn’t put any meaning to it.

The key to understanding this, as well as any other media object, is CONTEXT. One of the definitions of ‘context’:

Context is everything that is outside the text.

There are things that have impacted on the production of the text in the context.

Media objects are never produced in a vacuum: it is always informed by things that are external to it and occasionally informs things around it.

=> When we face an unfamiliar object, we need to research and find out about its context.

This picture actually originates from the period of Futurism in the beginning of the 20th century. As stated in the lecture notes in the Key Concepts blog:

Front page of The Figaro - Futurism Manifesto

Front page of The Figaro - Futurism Manifesto

The term Futurism, and the related term futuristic, has a number of immediate and obvious connotations:

  • it is about the future (not the past or present)
  • it implies a future better than the past or present (often based around ideas of scientific and technological progress). The term futuristic suggests imaginings of what the future might hold, nearly always seen as better (but is that changing with ideas about climate change?)

Futurism was an art movement of artists, poets etc. that was founded in Italy in 1909 with the publication on the front page of the French newspaper Le Figaro on February 20th 1909, of the Founding Manifesto of Futurism, a manifesto written by the movement’s leader Fillipo Tomasso Marinetti.

This document was very important, as it set the framework for future art movements.

The lecture then continued with describing the social, technological and economic context of the movement, which are key to understanding it.

Other important movements and concepts from that period were:

  • Bauhaus
    A school of art, design and architecture founded in Germany in 1919. Bauhaus style is characterized by its severely economic, geometric design and by its respect for materials.[…] Teaching at the school concentrated on functional craftsmanship and students were encouraged to design with mass-produced goods in mind. (source)
  • Fordism
    a specifically 20th century corporate regime of mechanized production coupled with the mass consumption of standardized products (source)

A contemporary example for context of production was the X-Factor. It was obviously influenced by show such as ‘Opportunity knocks’, which we were introduced to in the lecture:

Based on this lecture and the approach to looking at media objects, we had to look at street art and produce a manifesto and a media piece.

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