Lloyd, “Parking the Info Van, Parramatta, 1995: Locality and relationality in media practice” Media, Culture, & Society 36.3 (Apr. 2014) (17 pages)
Using one organization’s social practices and mission as case study, Lloyd explores how this organization’s engagement within and among local communities in Western Australia transformed (in both practices and goals) alongside the transformation of scale (i.e. scope of the organizational reach) and “speeds of communication networks afforded in digital media” (381).
In its initial iteration (in the mid 1980s), the organization—the Community Information Services (CIS) for Western Australia—engaged with communities using a literal physical van to distribute information. The distribution of information to community members was the central mission of the organization. As such, the organization valued the physical movement and distribution of workers themselves in order to “move out of their established locations and institutions” and distribute “printed information and leaflets at local events and gathering places” (382). The van would sepnd 3-4 hours at a site at a given time; however, the organizers recognized that many taking pamphlets too more than one: “many users are clearly contact people within a local network and tend to circulate resources around” (384). The CIS also translated their pamphets in a number of different languages, also in an effort to reach different networks of people.
Over the next 25 years, the organization began to grow in scale and thus the organization recognized its shifting roles in distributing information among local communities. In its early iteraction, the CIS sought to provide information to various networks via their movement (literally in vans) into various localities. However, they began to focus more on exchanges rather than distribution: they changed their name to Information and Community Exchange (ICE). Taking exchange as a central tenet of their philosophy, the organization shifted toward socializing information “by bringing different actors into critical relationships by using media to move across domains usually kept apart” (390). ICE, in other words, worked to “pluralize the putatively singular location of ‘Western Sydney’” (390). In this way, ICE facilitated community—doing community—rather than distributing information about the community—knowing community. Further, Exchange goes beyond the transportation of data from one place to another; rather, we must consider how exchanges occur in the context of “storytelling and sharing of experience within and across material and virtual geographies of exclusion” (392).
Lloyd points out that this shift in philosophy aligns with a definition of culture: “culture can be at one and the same time an enumerated object and a practice, a reified ‘thing’ and a ‘whole way of life’” (390). Culture, then, can be understood as a field of mobilized—and sometimes conflicting—practices. As such, culture is comprised of the ordinary, bundled practices—both material and discursive. Furthermore, we can understand this concept of culture in the context of the mobilities paradigm: “emerging from the ‘mobilities paradigm’, this approach seeks to understand not ‘just about how people make knowledge of the world, but how they physically and socially make the world through the ways they move and mobilize people, objects, and information and ideas’” (Buscher and Urry 112 qtd in Lloyd 391). In this paradigm, we move away from “privileging individual ‘agency’ (whether of human or non-human agents) as the end-point of practice: ‘actions are linked into a practice not just by explicit understandings but also by being governed by common rules and by sharing the common reference-point of certain ends, projects, and beliefs’” (392). As Lloyd writes, we can think of an approach to studying culture as noting how practices are “anchored” by shared values.