Thursday, July 29, 2010

Ilana Gershon's "The Breakup 2.0"

Ilana Gershon is Assistant Professor of Communication and Culture at Indiana University.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, The Breakup 2.0: Disconnecting over New Media, and reported the following:
I opened my book to page 99, and my heart sank a little bit – no good breakup stories. My book is filled with funny, quirky breakup stories, none here. Instead I am introducing a theoretical framework to address an issue that came up in almost all of my interviews. I interviewed 72 people at Indiana University about how they use new media to break up, primarily undergraduates. I was asking people about their media ideologies, about their beliefs about how a medium affects a message, especially when it is a series of messages about ending a relationship. But someone’s media ideology about texting is also always informed by their media ideology about Facebook or instant messaging (even if they aren’t on Facebook or don’t use instant messaging all that often).

One of the interesting things I noticed in all my interviews is that these breakup stories were all collections of conversations that took place in a number of different media. Very few people only broke up by email or by text message, even if The Breakup Conversation only took place in one medium. Breakups often involve many conversations, and people will use a wide range of media as they disentangle.

In addition, when you are breaking up by Gmail chat, you are also not breaking up by phone, in person, or by texting. Every breakup conversation is a choice of one medium, and a decision against other possible media. So how should one analyze the ways in which all these different understandings of media are interconnected (what media scholars call remediation)?

On page 99, I discuss how two scholars, Jay Bolter and Richard Grusin, discuss remediation. They talk about the ways in which all media are interconnected in terms of media ideologies about immediacy and hypermediation. For these authors, different media lie on a continuum of mediation: how much a medium can seem to alter an image or text or scene from the imagined original moment. But this isn’t necessarily what people care about when they are breaking up with each other. They might care more about how formal or informal a medium seems to be. How do you decide whether texting is more formal than instant messaging? And once you decide, how does this affect the way you will respond if your lover sends you a text message “it’s over?” Do you call them? Do you say: "who behaves this badly?" and refuse all further contact?
Read more about The Breakup 2.0 at the Cornell University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue