Most scholarly treatments of the media — as well as public discussions about the media — tend to focus on the unusual and exotic aspects of our visual and aural entertainment experiences. The human desensitization depicted in action-adventure movies; the mayhem imaged in heavy metal, gothic, and rap music; the gore produced in increasingly vivid video games; the spurious realism of certain television shows and even news programs — all these aspects of our mediated experience are criticized for their possible impacts on children and adults, are analyzed for their portrayals of contemporary culture, and are scrutinized for data to justify or delegitimate governmental control over the media.
At Journal of Mundane Behavior, we, the editors, see another aspect to the media, one that is rarely noted— the relationship between the media and our everyday lives, “mundania”. If media present narratives by which we understand our world, then we gain a better understanding of ourselves by understanding the ways in which the media and the ordinary interact. We presume that the mundane serves as the basis for the creation of media contents, provides the groundwork by which the products of media are understood and appreciated, and that, in turn, the mundane is crucially shaped by these media products.
Some media products do take the mundane into account, though not without the extra-ordinary context: Programs like The Real World, Survivor, and Big Brother do, to some extent, show us the routine lives of people placed in unrealistic and surrealistic circumstances. Films such as Dinner with André and A Simple Plan highlight the ordinary aspect of the characters’ lives. But these media products are noteworthy more for their explicit employment of the ordinary to magnify a sense of drama and intrigue than to expose the essence and function of mundania itself.
We are also concerned with the production of the media — the process by which these films, TV shows, newspapers, and musical creations are made — is itself essentially a mundane one: musicians, films and TV shows require countless meetings, numerous rewrites and takes to “get it right” and rely upon continuity specialists to make sure that the “ordinary” aspects of the scene do not get in the way of the drama presented; and journalists often have to go through drudgery in order to get “the big scoop.” Practitioners, in other words, also represent for us an integral aspect of the relationship between the media and mundania.
The February 2001 (JMB 2.1) Journal of Mundane Behavior will be an extended special issue devoted to the exploration of the reciprocal relationships between the media and the mundane world. We invite papers from scholars, members of the informed public, and professionals who work in the various realms of the media (TV, film, news, music, and the “new media” of the Internet).
Possible topics (though the issue is by no means limited to these) include:
How the various products of the media are used by consumers in their everyday lives — in the definition and experience of the “fascinating” (or “media-worthy”) in their lives, in popular consciousness of media as a constitutive feature of ordinary life, in learning how to play particular roles in society (i.e., member of family, age group or profession) through the media, and in the use of media to comprehend meaning in our everyday lives;
How the products of the media utilize aspects of “ordinary life” as the basis for the presentation of their content — how programming and commercials on TV and commercial films, song lyrics, radio, websites, etc., employ aspects of everyday life, how these media products impact viewer, movie-goer, listener, consumer, voter, or websurfer behavior;
How everyday interactions go into the production of the media — the professional lives, experiences and relationships of producers, directors, actors, musicians, technicians, journalists, TV personalities; the political and social aspects of how some media products are chosen for creation, and the impact of these decisional processes on the consuming audience;
How it is that the mundane foundations of media in everyday life have been relatively neglected as a central topic of discourse;
Textual analyses of aspects of the media and their reflexive relationships to the construction of our everyday lives;
Other topics regarding the relationship of the media and mundania.
“Media/Mundania” will be released in late February 2001 as JMB 2.1. Papers are due to the Issue Editor, Myron Orleans (email@example.com), by December 15/2000. Submission guidelines and other information are available on the JMB web site (http://www.mundanebehavior.org/). Papers should be sent to Dr. Orleans as an attachment to an e-mail, or in 3 1/2″ floppy disk format. Due to the electronic nature of Journal of Mundane Behavior, articles sent solely in hard copy paper format cannot be accepted.
Address queries, comments, and paper proposals to: Myron Orleans, Professor of Sociology, California State University-Fullerton, and Co-Editor, JMB. (E-mail preferred: firstname.lastname@example.org)