Reality Television and Women’s Work: Learning from ‘Real Housewives’
by Dr. Alison Hearn

should-you-be-paid-housework_8059e18d40b47c8d2e1e1dd51790a30d_3x2_jpg_600x400_q85Reality television’s production and business models have created new sources of value in the 21st century. Most notable among these is the ‘branded’ persona; lured by the glittering promise of celebrity, participants offer themselves up to the cameras for little remuneration, model ideal forms of subjectivity and life in a ‘work-free world’, in the hope that they might trade their self-brand for cash down the line. It is most often women’s bodies and self-concepts that bear the burden of signifying the message of this new economic formation: “conform to our template, be seen, and build a reputation!”

This talk will explore the gendered dimension of reality television by examining the similarities and differences between the affective economy of the Real Housewives franchise and the production of the ‘real’ housewife in early capitalism. At this time, women’s skills, bodies and reproductive capacities were violently restructured; forbidden from earning a wage or having money, women’s work inside and outside the home was simultaneously appropriated and concealed.

Alison Hearn is ahearn_alison_webn Associate Professor and the Rogers Chair at the University of Western Ontario. She works extensively in the areas of media and culture, focusing on visual and tele-visual theory and culture, media art activism, and on the university as a cultural and political site. She is a Research Associate at the Centre for Policy Research in Science and Technology at Simon Fraser University, and has taught at Simon Fraser University, the University of Toronto and Trent University in Canada, and Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts. With Liora Salter, she co-authored Outside the Lines: Issues in Interdisciplinary Research (McGill – Queen’s 1996), which explores the possibilities of critical thinking and cultural commentary both within and beyond the setting of the university. She is currently working on a book about reality television entitled Real Incorporated: Explorations in reality television and contemporary visual culture.

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The Speakers’ Series
Critical Media Theory’s Role

Given the important function that social media has played in various social movements around the globe, how can critical media theory play a role?

Pre/Occupy Theory Speakers’ Series, a first for RTA School of Media and the Faculty of Communication and Design at Ryerson University, brings together cutting-edge theorists and practitioners who merge ideas about art, politics, design, media theories and technology. The lectures encourage students, scholars and community members to rethink forms of archival and orphaned media, and social activism, as well as current technologies and their implications for audiences, social movements, and media-makers.

Past Events

Social Justice Media: Web 3.0 and the Public Square

by Dr. Dorothy Kidd

On Monday, March 11, Pre/Occupy Theory Speakers’ Series hosted Dr. Dorothy Kidd’s talk “Social Justice Media: Web 3.0 and the Public Square”. Dr. Kidd explored the evolution of social media from Web 2.0 to Web 3.0, drawing primarily from the Occupy movement and spoke about the uses of social media as a social justice tool. In addition to the live audience, the event was livestreamed to participants at home.

Idle No More. Occupy. Wall Street. Los indignados. Quebec student protests. Tahrir Square. When these movements realized conventional media could not work for them, they constructed a network of new and old media to communicate with one another, their allied social justice movements, and the rest of the world. What have we learned from their communications use? How has this affected media workers in the mainstream and alternative spheres? What are the implications for social change?

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Aboriginal Territories in Cyberspace

On November 1st 2012, Montreal-based digital artists, Jason Edward Lewis and Skawennati gave a joint talk on their work in investigating, creating and critiquing Aboriginal virtual environments as part of RTA and FCAD’s Pre/Occupy Theory Speakers’ Series.

In the podcast below they discuss their re-imagining of new media technologies, with a focus on their machinima project TimeTraveller™ and their initiatives in Aboriginal storytelling. Their work merges popular culture and Aboriginal tradition as they ask, “how can we use the exciting new tools now available on the personal computer to empower Native people – especially our youth – to preserve and produce our knowledge, culture and language in this highly technological society?”

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