Session 6 - Feeling safe: the impact of media

Feeling safe: the impact of media

Dr. Jaqueline Hylkema (Leiden University)
Lyes in Print: Fake News and a Sense of Unsafety in Early Modern Europe
‘If a Man tells a Lye in Print, he abuses Mankind and imposes upon the whole World’, Daniel Defoe observed in 1704, a time when Europe was imposed on by an abundance of forged books and fake news. Over the past few decades, fakery, in all its different guises, has become a popular subject for historians but studies tend to focus on the political dynamics of individual cases. This paper will take a different view and discuss early modern fake news in terms of its impact on the general experience of safety - or lack of it - in early modern Europe. This of course includes the notion that much fake news was produced to feed on existing fears and create new feelings of unsafety, but the paper’s main focus will be on the unsettling realization that the printed word was not to be trusted. This awareness created a sense of unsafety in itself, a notion that will be explored through examples of fake news and their reception from the Dutch Republic and Britain, as well as several general commentaries - visual as well as textual – that provide more insight into the cultural representation of the emotional impact of fakery. The paper will conclude with a brief reflection on today’s fake news and deepfakes and whether the emotions that these evoke can be related to the impact of printed lies on Defoe’s early modern world.

Nicolas de Keyser (University of Gießen)
The Chronotopes of (In)Security in Crime-Appeal Television
Most explorations of the relationship between safety, insecurity, and television either position the medium, like the term suggests, as a mere intermediary that both accommodates hegemonic ideology—naturalizing it—and facilitates ‘cultivation’ processes in audiences or, by virtue of emphases on active reception and the importance of choice in media consumption, stress the role that viewers play in the creation of meaning—allowing for resistant readings on their part. Often lost in this shuffle of critical content or discourse analysis and ethnographic audience research, then, is attention to the ontological temperament of the televisual text itself: the stylistic, generic, narrative, or intertextual qualities that undergird and propel it—an analytical pursuit that has primarily seemed reserved for literature and film. In order to remedy this dearth of understanding, I proceed from the semiotic argument that any textual representation of insecurity also, concomitantly, signifies its correlative- i.e., security-to investigate, by experimentally adapting Marianne Valverde’s (2015) socio-legal translation of Bakhtin’s ‘chronotope’ for TV, how the inherent logics of the televisual form inform the construction of this binary. Reading to that end as what Valverde designates ‘security projects’ (sets of practices that seek to provision safety) the 1980s and 1990s versions, respectively, of the so-called ‘crime-appeal’ shows (programs that entreat viewers for help in crime solving) Opsporing Verzocht
(AVRO) and Témoin N° 1 (TF1), I lay bare contrasting ‘spatiotemporalities’, ‘jurisdictions’, and ‘moods’ (the affective dimensions of a ‘project’) to illustrate how both culturally-specific and universal aspects and categories of televisuality contribute to shaping the representations as well as societal meanings of (in)security.

Dr. Daniel Michaud Maturana (UcLouvain)
News, quantifiers and the perception of safety
The aim of this ongoing research is to describe the influence of quantifying expressions on the perception of safety. The hypothesis is twofold: (i) those expressions represent conceptualizations that are associated with danger in different ways, and (ii) those expressions activate a different impact on the receiver of the message. This contribution focuses mainly on the analysis of nominal, adjectival and verbal expressions of quantity related to covid-19, like “wave of”, “a massive spike” and “already piling up” (CNN 05/5/2020) in the following examples:

  1. Hong Kong had just begun (…) when it was hit by a second wave of the novel coronavirus.
  2. (…) a massive spike since its previous prediction (…)
  3. When you think of what was already happening (…), the bodies were already piling up.

The theoretical framework is Cognitive Linguistics (Langacker, 1991; Fillmore 2006), based principally on the research on quantifiers in that framework by Verveckken (2015) and Michaud Maturana (2011, 2019). The study analyses the conceptual meaning of the quantifying expressions in CNN news. The results so far reveal that the expressions activate the perception of (un)safety in society not only by using metaphors, but mainly by representing a (un)safe scene in which the reader is included by the writer.

Dr. Elizabeth Parke (University of Toronto)
Filming Safety: Dashcams, Cars, and the Sinosphere
Driving is dangerous. Media scholar Greg Siegel and sociologist Ulrich Beck articulate how event data recorders or ‘black boxes’ record and shape our appetites for risk, perceptions of safety, and designs for improving future transportation; while film and cultural studies scholars Kristin Ross, Tom Gunning, and Karen Beckman articulate how cars and moving images are entangled technologies with shared histories. However, the nexus of cars, moving images, and social perceptions of safety in the Sinosphere (the People’s Republic of China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Chinese diasporas) has yet to receive adequate scholarly attention.

I focus on the dashcam - a small camera mounted on the windshield of a vehicle - as it is enmeshed within the cultural milieu of luxury car cultures in the Sinosphere, and argue that the Taiwanese film, The Great Buddha + (director Huang Hsin-yao, 2017) exemplifies anxieties related to perceptions of safety in public spaces, reliability of legal systems, and social inequalities determining one’s safety in the Sinosphere.

For the characters of The Great Buddha + safety is literally black and white, whereas danger and risk are depicted in full color. The majority of the mis-en-scene of the film is shot in black and white and follows two working-class characters. In a moment of boredom, they watch their boss’s dashcam footage; in this moment of illicit viewing, the film shifts to brilliant technicolor. Huang’s shift in chromatic register creates a seductive neo-phantom ride; one evocative of some of the very first cinematic experiments in the early 19th century where audiences, from the safety of their theatre seats, experienced train rides whipping through the countryside. In contrast to the titillating fear of early phantom rides, Huang’s neo-phantom ride instead captures corruption, greed, and murder; in short, the unsafe nature of roads in Taiwan.

In sum I demonstrate that by using the media assemblage of the luxury car, dashcam and the recorded footage, Huang reveals the drawbacks and limitations of the dashcam as a tool of road safety, thereby troubling our assumptions of safety discourses and how these practices function in the Sinosphere.