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Just Talk? Anthropological Reflections on the Object of Media Studies in Indonesia

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This article sets out to reflect critically on the object of study in media and communication studies. It argues that not only the conventional analytical categories but also the modes of explanation and interpretation used are both problematic and Eurocentric, because they are mediated by a whole series of industrial and intellectual practices which have remained unacknowledged. The article aims to show how taking media-related practices as an object of study, requires radical revision to much of media studies. Central among these practices is commentary of various kinds. The mass media spend much time commenting on themselves and one another, just as research through questionnaires, focus groups and interviews are invitations to participants to comment. Commenting in its many forms emerges therefore as an important way of indicating how articulation, a central concept in media and cultural studies, works. Drawing on examples from Indonesia, an analysis of commentary provides a way of understanding how audiences relate to media production, not least because people talk about the mass media and how they are implicated, or perhaps even disarticulated by the media. In failing to appreciate how commentary works, media scholars are complicit in this process of disarticulation, a notion elaborated in the article.


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