Monday, December 11, 2006

Last week I also completed a review of a paper for the journal Social and Cultural Geography. I always try to make my comments constructive but fear I am too negative.....


Television/Space: Finding the 'place' of television sets in new homes
among low-income population in Santiago, Chile

Recommendation: Accept

Comments to editor:

A reasonably interesting paper in itself that takes existing theoretical ideas from media studies and architectural design on the role of television everyday life and considers the spatiality of television sets in a small empirical case study. The paper is well constructed and makes a few good points. However, it does not develop any particularly innovative theoretical ideas and the qualitative methodology is conventional. It offers little in the way of ideas that geographers or other social scientists more generally could take to further study the domestic spatial roles of media technologies.

Overall, it is worthy of publication but represents only a incremental advance in the literature and would not have a high priority if space in the journal is limited.

Comments to author(s):

The analysis of the complex ways media technologies are enrolled into domestic social activities in terms of their spatial configuration is little studied in geography. As such this paper provides a useful empirical case study from low-income households in Chile that draws on a range of relevant theoretical ideas from media studies, architecture and communications.

Given this useful focus on 'television/space', I thought the author(s) might have made more of the analysis of particular configurations of objects and people in spaces in relation to different types of television viewing. The picture 1 could have been used as a basis for mapping the
configuration possibilities perhaps.

Another aspect I queried was that while the author(s) talk about the practices of viewing, all the photographs are strangely un-peopled and the television sets appear to be turned are off. Did the fieldwork observe how the television is integrated into home life over time? This lack of people and practices should be explained. Furthermore, the photographs of televisions sets were all from different viewpoints making them hard to compare as evidence of 'television/space'. The photographs are presented in the paper as rather innocent 'facts', but look to me suspiciously staged.

This bring me to another point that the author(s) might want to elaborate in terms of the methods used to study subtle domestic practices and the role of the researcher coming into the home. I thought some reflective comments on how the researcher was received into the homes and the particular power relations involved in the data gathering would be good. Were the researchers privileged guests and to what degree did interviewees specially (re)arrange their homes for the visit? I note on page 14 a small comment that television sets were turned off 'as frequently happened during the interviews' and would have liked to see this elaborated a bit.
Also, were different members of the family interviewed? I was wondering for example how television/space varies between members of the family, in particular it might be quite different for children of different ages. Methodologically, I was also not clear to what degree the study was
interested in how the television/space had changed with the residents move from shantytowns to more formal housing. Was their experience prior to the move studied?

Lastly, to broaden the appeal to the audience of this journal I was wondering whether it would be useful to build some constructive analytical links from this study to other work on the geographies of home. A few geographers have considered the role of media technologies in the home, including Alison Blunt, Ann Varley and Gill Valentine.

In addition, there are A few errors in citing sources with the second author missing, e.g. it should be Malkawi and Al-Qudah 2003 on page 4. The text describing figure 1 refers to colour shadings that does not work when the paper is printed in black and white.


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