Localising, Translating and Stretching Conduct: Video as a Technology for Media Therapeutics

Paul McIlvenny

Aalborg University, Denmark

WS149: CA and Other Conceptions of Context: Borders and Bridges

Rather than debate the relations between the already constituted dichotomies of local/global, micro/macro, institutional/everyday or space/place, this paper takes a relativistic approach that topicalises how such distinctions of scale, association and abstraction are practised, worked up and translated in and across nexus of practice. In order to do this, conversation analysis and mediated discourse analysis are drawn upon in combination with actor-network theory and contemporary theories of space and place. Examples are derived from a broader investigation of the mediation of familial spaces and the work of governmentalising parenting (ie. the conduct of parental conduct) through discursive, visual and spatial practices.

Since 2003, British television has promoted a new set of media therapeutic genres based on the spectacle of the failed parenting of so-called ’problem’ children. What is significant in these reality TV programmes is the pervasive use of language, talk, technology and space to govern parenting practices. This paper highlights the prominent use of video recording technology in many of these programmes, such as The House of Tiny Tearaways, Little Angels, Supernanny, Driving Mum and Dad Mad, and Honey, We’re Killing the Kids. As a supplement to the talk of therapy and counselling, each programme relies heavily on routine audiovisual surveillance and playback – such as CCTV monitoring, live video relay and video prompted recall. This paper considers the practices in which the technology is domesticated, not as a panopticon – an all encompassing representation of context in order to observe and discipline – but as a means to translate and circulate conduct at the interface between technologies of power and technologies of the self.

Following Bruno Latour's 'flatland' dictum that we localise the global, distribute the local and connect the sites, the analysis traces how the local and the global circulate in sites of engagement, and how they become stabilised as scalar in the mediation of action (eg. how the local gets localised). Excerpts are used to highlight several key phenomena: 1) practices of video observation and translocality; 2) use of video to visualise and localise talk and action; 3) the translating, stretching and cutting of experience in and through video technologies; and 4) the display and mediation of professional vision. These television programmes and the use of video technology that they incorporate open up an irreal 'laboratory' site for parents to better register and discriminate their own experience and their child’s conduct (and its effects) as part of a moral economy.

Session: Workshop (part 1)
CA and Other Conceptions of Context: Borders and Bridges
Friday, April 4, 2008, 13:45-15:15
room: 05