Sunday, December 19, 2010

Hammer Forum Talk

is my chat with Eason Jordan and Ian Masters about television and politics

Thursday, December 16, 2010


Available at

A Very Public Exit Interview with Toby Miller
Posted by JPG on December 15, 2010 at 11:11pm in Reading + Discussion
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There are many labels one could put on Toby Miller; researcher, author, editor, teacher, mentor, friend, but for me, it’s in the capacity of editor and friend that I’ve known Toby for these last years. Toby is the Chair of the Department of Media & Cultural Studies at the University of California at Riverside, and for the past 11 years, he’s been the editor of Television & New Media, a landmark journal in the field. He’s best known for his research on media, sports, gender, labor, race and Hollywood. As Toby steps down as editor of TVNM at the end of this month, I decided to give him a very public exit interview.

This is what he had to say.

Toby, you founded TVNM and developed it into one of the leading journals in the field, the only journal that melded the established medium of television with up and coming new media. There was debate over whether TV was a dead medium 11 years ago; I guess that was wrong, how about now? Is TV still alive?

First of all, JP, I'd like to thank you very much for your kind introduction.

Regarding the first question, I have been talking about this in many countries and contexts over the last year and a half. My conclusion is that the world is full of middle-aged men announcing that their children don't watch television and hence the medium is dead. These middle-agers can be executives, academics, camera operators, or deans − but they all know the score because of what they think is going on in their household (which is still their castle, it seems). How deluded they are.
Children aged 6 to 14 in the US watch television at rates unprecedented for 20 years; 69% of them have sets in their bedrooms, versus 18% with internet access and 49% owning or subscribing to video games. Children between 2 and 11 devoted 17.34 hours to television a week in 2006, an increase on the previous year. The keenest US viewers are young girls. They quite like new technology, and adopt it at a frenetic pace − but ‘TV is king,’ in the words of the old song by The Tubes. People born between 1984 and 1990 choose TV over the internet and the cell phone for both entertainment and information. Half the internet sites that children aged between 6 and 11 visit, first attract their attention through advertising on television or in print. Right across the age spectrum, TV is the most influential advertising medium. Its influence is greater than during the pre-web period. In OECD nations, the number of cable and satellite networks increased from 816 in 2004 to 1,165 in 2006 − 43% growth. In 2007, 2.5 billion people averaged over three hours a day watching television worldwide. In the decade since deregulation opened up TV in Europe to more and more commercial stations and niche channels, viewing has consistently increased, across dozens of nations, by an average of 20 minutes per day. In the Global South, a television set is the principal consumer priority. India is seeing an explosion of TV channels and networks, and newspapers (one more instance where cybertarians are as inaccurate as they are solipsistic in saying papers are dying out). The vaunted Indian film industry has become part of the televisual warehouse, with big and little stars alike charging towards television, and TV actors brokering their way into cinema through mass exposure. For its part, China has gone from 50 sets in 1958 to over 500 million today. Consider Argentina, a country on the cusp of the Third and First Worlds in living standards. Only a third of households have computers, and half of those are connected to the internet. For young people, television is the preferred medium. It boasts the greatest credibility and use, by far − just 1 in 20 adolescents privilege the internet for social and political knowledge.

TV is changing, of course − the TV and the typewriter were models for the computer, which is now remodeling them in turn. But, sorry, this is the golden age of TV. If people want to see the sources for my remarks, they can take a peek at my 2010 book, Television Studies: The Basics (with Routledge).

In the 10th anniversary issue of the journal, your piece “Media Studies 3.0” progresses the vision of the field from ownership and means to consumption, leaving version 3.0 to be a transcendent version based on aesthetics and political economy, but ultimately media-centered. Have you seen this shift almost two years out from the piece? Is a diasporic, non-ethnocentric version upon us?

In the countries of the Global North dominated by English, it's the same old same old. The media will make us free. The media will enslave us. Games are good for you. Games are bad for you. Audiences are smart. Audiences are stupid. It's the same tired and tiring dialectic we've had for a millennium. Get over it, Anglo dudes and dudesses, whether you're nerdy guys with draggly beards and left-over acne, Italian-suit-wearing consultants on creative industries, pessimistic political economists in plaid, or feisty feminists favoring pumps. The interesting ideas are abounding, but not in your world. China, India, Brazil, and Mexico are the places I look to nowadays − Yuezhi Zhao and John Nguyet Erni in China; the Sarai collective in India, notably Ravi Sundaram and Ranjani Mazumdar; João Freire Filho and Paula Sibilia in Brazil; Néstor García Canclini and Rosalía Winocur in Mexico − they pose the most interesting questions in the most interesting ways.

A lot has changed from the beginning days of the journal. You’ve seen it grow in content and prestige. This year TVNM was accepted into the Social Science Citation Index (SSCI) and will get its first impact factor in two years. This is obviously a great thing for the journal, but what of it for academic publishing? Has impact factor run its course? Is academic publishing better for having such a metric?

I'm very concerned at the Taylorization of academic knowledge, especially in edgy areas. I find journals run by professional associations essentially unreadable − they are about paying obeisance to not-very-smart gatekeepers; they're actively anti-intellectual; and they're essentially sectarian rites of passage. Once those anal norms are applied to journals of tendency as well as to these sites of mediocrity, we're potentially all in trouble. That said, of course, I'm glad TVNM's readership will expand thanks to its recognition by the Index. But I can't tell you how annoyed I got when nobodies wrote to me and asked what our rejection rate was − excuse me, judge us on what we published, not what we didn't. Duh. This kind of evaluation will pass on and be regarded as a foible of its time. Let's encourage intellectuals, not careerists.

On any given day at least two of the top 10 most read articles in TVNM are about reality television. This shows a staying power in the genre and research in it. What do you think the next “reality TV” will be, not only for television, but for new media in general? What has staying power? Is “The Jersey Shore” worth watching?

All TV is wonderful and I know because I became an American on December 29, 2010. More seriously, reality TV is in because it's cheap. Again, I explain why at length in the book mentioned above. Sport is much more popular with audiences − just not with academics writing about television. It has stamina, as does drama − this is the golden age of US TV drama (forget those pitiful one-shot shows of the '50s, which are boring, racist, sexist, and slow-paced). Showtime and HBO use the money they get from working-class brown and black men paying to watch boxing to fund the white bourgeoisie's enjoyment of high-quality series.

Shifting gears here. You’ve made waves into the crisis of electronic-waste, studying the impact our used-up monitors; Blackberrys and iPods can have on the earth. How can active, competent citizenship and participatory culture bring this subject to the forefront to influence policy makers?

Thanks for raising this. Rick Maxwell and I have published some op-eds here and in Latin America plus half-a-dozen scholarly pieces on the subject, and we have a book coming out with Oxford. You can follow my views on the topic at and read our articles at But here's the scoop in brief:
The media are not only means of awareness, analysis, and ecstasy. In addition to their imperialistic and accumulationist roles, they are also responsible for climate change, pollution growth, biodiversity decline, and habitat decimation − the constituents of our global ecological crisis. For the fact is that producing and powering the media consumes, despoils, and wastes natural resources and exploits people at an ever-increasing rate. Information and communication technologies and consumer electronics contain toxic substances that pervade the sites and environs where they are manufactured, used, and thrown away, poisoning humans, animals, vegetation, soil, air and water. Rapid cycles of innovation and planned obsolescence accelerate both the emergence of new electronic hardware and the accumulation of obsolete media, which are transformed overnight into junk. Today’s digital devices are made to break or become un-cool in cycles of twelve months, and counting down (check your warranty). This planned obsolescence reinforces consumerism and animates the ideology of growth that says technological innovation is necessary and good. Such managerial “efficiencies” waste natural and human resources. Immediacy and interactivity induce ignorance of inter-generational effects of consumption, including long-term harm to workers and the environment. Constant connectedness diminishes the ability to dwell on interconnections between the media and the Earth. Media technology leaves an environmental legacy of poisoned waterways, sickened workers, and toxic habitats.

In 2007, a combination of ICTs, CEs, and media production accounted for 3% of all greenhouse gas emitted around the world. Between twenty and fifty million tons of electronic waste (e-waste) are generated annually, much of it via cell phones and computers, which wealthy people throw out regularly in order to buy replacements. (Presumably this fits the narcissism of small differences that distinguishes them from their own past.) E-waste is historically produced in the Global North − Australasia, Western Europe, Japan, and the US − and dumped in the Global South ­− Latin America, Eastern Europe, and China, in the form of a thousand different, often deadly, materials for each computer.

What can we do? First, stop the ranting utopias about media technology. Second, learn some science. Third, historicize the media environmentally. Fourth, query the idea that texts are without cost to the earth. Fifth, lobby politicians to pass meaningful legislation prohibiting the export of e-waste and making appliances safe. Oh, while we're at it, put labels on cell phones alerting users to the dire consequences of these backward toys for their own health and that of others called upon to bury or burn the remains.

What’s next for you? Books, travel, what can the world expect from Toby Miller?

So, the one with Rick is almost finished. I'm also writing a book on global media studies with Marwan Kraidy for Polity, which we hope will be done in early 2011 as well. Travel in 2011? Keynotes in Brazil in May and Spain in July; graduate master class in Australia in June; odds and sods around the US. I'm writing op-ed for the Murdoch press in Australia (gratis) and I have a podcast (around 20 episodes so far) about media and cultural studies, available free at

Lastly, you’ve worked with SAGE for a long time, the last three years with me (this must have been pretty exciting for you). Any great memories or lessons to share about being a journal editor?
I have loved working with Sage. I edited the Journal of Sport & Social Issues from 1997-99, despite being third choice; I started TVNM, despite a woman on a yacht in 1999 telling an exec that TV was dead when asked about my proposal; the India office threw me a great party in 2002; the London office is studded with terrific people, like the California one; and I've been given a free hand to innovate by people who trusted me. Peter Labella, now with another company, first signed me, and everyone I've worked closely with since has been terrific. You, JP, are a trustworthy and brilliant colleague. It has been a source of pleasure, and not least thanks to the wonderful managing editors from NYU and UCR − Mariana Johnson, Leshu Torchin, Jennifer Zwarich, Aparna John, and Rebecca O'Connor. It has been a joy to know you all and benefit from your wisdom, skill, and work.

Tags: Cultural, Gender, Hollywood, Media, Miller, New, Race, Studies, TVNM, Television

© 2010 Created by SAGE Publications


discusses my new honorary job--back in my home town!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010


My latest for the dirty digger can be read at

Sunday, December 12, 2010


Some exciting new podcasts to hear!

There are interviews with:

Nicholas Lowe of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Nick talks about his own work and the Roger Brown Collection

Rune Ottosen from Oslo in which we look at his dark Maoist past, the state of journalism yesterday and today, and questions of Nordic media and cultural studies

Vicki Mayer of New Orleans about her recent and prior work, on labor, gender, and media audiences. A warning! There are some major audio hiccoughs, including moments of silence, that have proven immune to editing, even by experts. Please persevere as Vicki has wonderful things to say!

Jim McKay of Australia, who details his research into national mythology, militarism, and gender plus an exchange about the history and present moment of the sociology and cultural studies of sport; and

Ian Masters of LA, covering US politics and journalism, plus his work at Pacifica Radio

They are available at iTunes via

or through up 'culturalstudies'

Hope you enjoy them!



This is an east-coast NPR program that is about to feature my work.

We frequently hear the term “values” discussed with regard to American politics, culture and life. But what are "American values?"

This whole week, we’ll be delving into that question. We're talking with experts and real people, both, and we’d love to hear from you as well: What do you consider to be "American values?"

We’re kicking off the series today with Toby Miller, a British-Australian-US interdisciplinary social scientist and author of “Makeover Nation: The United States of Reinvention.”

In Dr. Miller’s opinion, reinvention is one of the most distinctively American things about our culture.