Principal Investigator: Prof. Dr. Urs Stäheli (University of Hamburg)
This project addresses the question which modes of temporality are created by on-demand-streaming technologies and practices (e.g. Spotify, Netflix, Last.fm). Media streaming is usually defined as distribution of compressed video and audio files through digital networks. Streaming is often experienced as continuous flow in 'real time'. Drawing from our former project on sharing platforms in tourism, we ask how streaming platforms configure the access to media content and communities in terms of temporality. Self-descriptions of streaming media assume that streaming enables one to participate in the data flow in 'real time'. In contrast to this discourse, we are interested in analyzing heterogeneous temporalities, temporal ruptures and synchronization that produce the 'real-time' effect of streaming. Such an approach aims at grasping the temporal models that are inscribed within media technologies as well as the user experience of time. Our contestation is that streaming media establish new and precarious modes of temporalized media participation. We want to test and expand this hypothesis with three theoretically informed case studies. The empirical analysis of streaming aims at contributing to a general theory of media temporalities. Research area 1 ("Temporalities of Media Infrastructures") focuses on buffering technologies and how they are experienced by users. It asks which temporal arrangements of waiting and temporal ruptures are inscribed in the distribution and memory infrastructures of streaming media. Research area 2 ("Temporalities of Selections: Recommender Systems") analyzes the temporal models that are part of recommending systems (e.g. temporal models of the user, or the temporal normalization of media consumption). Research area 3 ("Temporalities of Everyday Life: Experiencing Recommendations") analyzes the enactment of algorithmically produced recommendations. It asks which 'folk theories' structure everyday practices dealing with automated recommendations, and how users employ recommendation lists. The three research areas allow us to systematically articulate the generation of temporalities by media infrastructures with temporal experiences of users. Drawing from the empirical results, the projects contributes theoretical insights of the temporality of media participation.
‘Tourism 2.0 – network-based forms of participation and digital detox’ explores the impact of digital media on classic tourism. Although the tourism industry belongs to one of the largest and fastest-growing economic sectors in the world (cf. UNWTO 2014), it is nevertheless underrepresented in actual media studies and consumer culture research. In the light of media theory, however, the study of tourism becomes interesting, because it produces new spaces of experience. These new spaces are hybrids which combine online and offline realities, and in doing so they create novel possibilities for tourists to experience their holiday. These hybrids blur the traditional dualistic distinction between everyday life and extraordinary life and between ungenuine and authentic. However, this does not mean that the desire for authenticity has vanished, but that the production of authenticity has changed with the advent of tourism 2.0. Our underlying hypothesis is that authenticity is transforming into a temporary and common shared community experience.
To investigate our assumption, we have developed three subprojects: a) First we want to explore the new forms of tourism based on P2P-networks such as Couchsurfing since these networks promise ‘authenticity’ as a shared participation in a foreign everyday life; b) the second subproject deals with the practices of online reviews and rankings and their role for control techniques and the creation of a desire for evaluation; c) thirdly, we want to examine the ‘digital detox’-movement, a new form of tourism that is based on a temporary media abstinence. The promise of this form of tourism rests upon resisting the expectation of ubiquituous connectivity. All of the three subprojects deal with different aspects of the influence of digital media on tourism. Nevertheless they overlap in essential issues and produce similar tensions: notably, the understanding of media as actants which participate in the production of ‘authentic’ experiences.
For the empirical analysis we will use a mix of qualitative methods such as ethnographic and netnographic observations, discourse analysis and expert interviews. Based on these case studies we aim at dealing with the following questions: How do digital media become part of the community they help to establish? How does the configuration between ‘authenticity’ and community change in tourism 2.0? Which media processes support the creation of a desire for evaluation? How is the desire to become ‘disconnected’ mediatized, and which spaces of experience are thereby constituted? By doing this we address broader social and media theoretical issues beyond the field of tourism studies. The case studies offer the opportunity to analyse the daily operations of ‘digital dualisms’ like on-/offline and real/virtual and to rethink this dualism in terms of hybrid and blended spaces of common experience.