David Morley is Professor of Media and Communications at Goldsmiths College, London. At Goldsmiths he co-founded both the Transnational Research Unit and the Pacific Asia Cultural Studies Forum. He is editor of the Comedia book series for Routledge. His research includes micro-practices of media consumption and macro questions, such as the role of media technologies in the creation of our lived “electronic landscapes.”
In this book, Morley wonders at the meanings of being “at home” or “homeless” in the postmodern age, and examines media’s role in assuring connections to one’s “home territory.” Using the German concept of Heimat — which is more social construction than factual account — as a guide, he notes Heimat calls for at least an ethnic if not fully racial identification. Moreover, it is predicated on a traditional notion of gender relations, and of security. Heimat means, in turns, “birthplace,” “settled,” “identity,” “sense of belonging” (64) — order of a very specific kind.
“Vagabonds” are different from “tourists.” The former locate and relocate in Castells’ (1998) Fourth World, and the latter elite hop from place to place on any and all modes of transit. Harking Lipsizt’s (2007) American “white spatial imaginary” and a darker expression than Lloyd’s (2004) hipster “imperialist nostalgia,” Morley cites Ignatieff’s (1995) analysis of nationalism — the more closely you feel connected with your own group, the more hostile your feelings toward outsiders.
Media’s role in all this is deeply nuanced. On one level, communications technologies are “disembedding mechanisms” (149), taking their users from one geography to another virtually. You can escape one reality and flee to another. On another, they often force miscegenation. “In so far as the television is placed within the symbolic centre of the home, it can serve to disturb viewers’ symbolic sense of community by bringing unwanted strangers into their homes” (151). And on another still, it can give viewers a sense of homogeneous solace.
In terms of representation, immigrants are largely invisible. Sassen’s (1991) invisibility is geographical/cultural: “the fact that at night a whole other, mostly immigrant workforce installs itself in these spaces…and inscribes the space with a different culture (manual labor, often music, lunch breaks at midnight) is an invisible event” (as cited on 163). When these immigrant populations are represented in the media, they’re too often relegated to the marginalized, troubled communities trope.
As for access to the Internet, Victor Keegan (1997) reported that 96% of all Internet sites are based in the 27-nation OECD region and in English. “Ironically, for a technology which has been lauded for its capacity to transcend geography, the Internet turns out to have a very real geography which replicates and reinforces existing patterns of social, economic, and cultural division” (187).
Finally, Morley points to a few scholars whose writings are relevant to Out the Window.
- Joshua Meyrowitz’s (1985) “psychological communities”: Digital communications unlock us from the notion community needs geography. We can instead use “networks of social relationships, whether local or distant, directly experienced or mediated” (178) to construct a sense of “personal community.”
- Doreen Massey (1995): calls for “a sense of place which is extroverted, which includes a consciousness of its links to the wider world” (as cited on 195).
“This is not to say that the local is irrelevant: uniqueness if constructed (and reconstructed) by combinations of local characteristics with those wider social relations. Place is an articulation of that specific mix in social space-time” (as cited on 195).