Aberystwth, Wales

After more than 15 years, I returned to Wales to give a talk at Aberystwth University at the invitation of Glen Creeber, Senior Lecturer in Television and Media Studies. Luckily, we had a couple sunnny days to enjoy this beautiful coastal city.

Riding the Funicular Railway to get a view of Abserystwth, Wales.

Preparing the talk at the seaside hotel.
Great discussion about “Why We Communicate.”

Dinner with faculty and graduate students after the talk. My great friend Glen Creeber is on the left.

Hiking and relaxing along the coast near Newport, Wales.

This fourth edition of this best-selling textbook—Public Speaking: The Evolving Art—has been published by Cengage Learning. The book emphasizes the technologically-changing nature of human communication as it relates to public speaking. Key principles from evolutionary theory are applied to the central considerations in public speaking—adapting to the audience, sharing information effectively, demonstrating leadership through persuasion, applying logic and scientific thinking to public communication, using resources and tools wisely.

I’ve agreed to serve on the International Scientific Committee for the new Master’s degree in Digital Communication Research at the University of the Hemispheres based in Quito, Ecuador. The program is directed by my friend, Professor Octavio Islas.

Meeting Nightwish

Sheer musical talent combined with the theme of organic and cultural evolution they treat so creatively and intelligently puts Nightwish in a category of its own.

Marco, Kai, and Floor in action at the San Francisco show.

Sending positive vibes skyward at Nightwish's show at Wembley Arena, London.

In San Jose, explaining to Marco why I respect and admire him and the band so much! Floor, Emppu, and Troy look on.

Reminiscing with Troy about an emotional moment he created during Nightwish’s performance at Wembley Arena, London.

Troy and Tuomas (the brilliant founder and writer of Nightwish's music and lyrics) have joined the Openly Secular movement. Here's a clip where Troy explains why he left religion behind, and why the dangers of religious fantasies must be avoided.

Back to China

China impressed me tremendously when I first visited there as a professor with students from Semester at Sea in 1982. I was especially intrigued by what was happening with Chinese media and culture during that crucial time in the country’s history. The country had been open to Western visitors for only a few years. China was modernizing. I vowed I would return to research the impact of television on Chinese society. Four years later that’s what I did.

The Chinese economy was booming by the time I returned. The government encouraged people to buy television sets for their homes. Television would be an excellent vehicle for spreading ideology, the government thought, and would give the people a convenient, cheap, and controllable form of entertainment. The people responded enthusiastically.

I visited China (Shanghai, Beijing, Xian, Guangzhou) a total of four times in the 1980s to conduct research there. My book China Turned On: Televison, Reform, and Resistance (Routledge) tells the story of what happened when television became a fixture in people’s homes.

Transporting a new TV set home in Shanghai. A family in Shanghai fits the TV set into their extremely cramped living space.
The Chinese public was very happy to have TV but they didn’t just follow the Communist Party line. In many ways they resisted the government’s plan and pronouncements broadcast on televison. The photo below gives you a sense of the social and poltical contradictions. The official government proclamation appears in the billboard (follow the rule of law enforced by the authorities). But the woman squatting under the sign is selling tea eggs (a kind of street food). She was acting on her own as an unauthorized private vendor. The people didn’t just conform to what they got from television either.

I recently went back to Shanghai for the first time since 1989. I could barely believe what I was seeing:

Shanghai has become an incredible center of global economic activity. The city has always been the business capital of China (sort of like New York is to the USA). The buildings you see on the other side of the Huangpu River were built on farmland in the past couple decades.

Shanghai street scene circa 1986 on the left. Shanghai 2018 on the right.

When television became part of everyday life the government tried its best to control the experience of televison viewers. They still do. Censorship of the recent tragic explosion in Tianjin is a perfect example. Now the biggest challenge for the government is to control internet use. We couldn’t connect to Facebook or Twitter while we were there, for example.

But the human spirit is strong. People want order and discipline but not repression. The forces of resistance in China are at work this very minute trying to break through the barriers the government desperately tries to keep up. It’s a story worth following….

The Moon Will Not be Eaten by the Clouds
Personal Encounters that Shaped a Life

This collection of short stories based on my life was published recently as an e-book by East Side Books on Amazon.com . From a brush with death at birth and the thrill of childhood adventures to my search for meaning and love as an adult, the stories will amuse and challenge you.

Other Book News

Two of my books with Routledge have been recently re-issued. China Turned On: Television, Reform and Resistance has been re-issued as part of the Routledge Revivals series that “aims to return distinguished, but currently unavailable, works back into print.” The re-issue is in hardback with a new cover. Also being re-issued in the Revivals series, but also again as a trade paperback, is Inside Family Viewing: Ethnographic Research on Television’s Audiences. This book is a collection of articles and essays representing the empirical and theoretical work I have done on TV audiences, and includes an original introduction that explains the challenge of doing some of the first ethnographic research in communication/cultural/media studies. And more good news: An new English language version of Media, Communication, Culture: A Global Approach for the Indian market has just been published by Rawat Publications, Jaipur, India.

Evolutionary Communication

The uprisings of the Arab Spring—Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Syria, and Iran before that—were provoked, organized, and reported to the world by communications technology—social media, mobile media, and mass media. Together with Eduardo Neiva, I have published The Language of Life: How Communication Drives Human Evolution. The book focuses on the role of technology in cultural change spurred by recent events like the uprisings in the Middle East and the Occupy Wall Street protests. But the main purpose of the book is to tell the whole story of human evolution from a communication perspective. Communication in its most basic forms—the sending of signals and exchange of messages within and between organisms—is the heart of evolution. From the earliest life forms to Homo sapiens, a great chain of communication drives the evolutionary process and is the indispensable component of human culture. We explain how communication processes are key to sheer survival, sex, culture, morality, religion, and technological change. The Language of Life: How Communication Drives Human Evolution presents an original and provocative perspective on evolution and cultural development—past, present, and future. We wrote the book to be informative and enjoyable to read. The Language of Life was recently published by Prometheus Books. Read the publisher’s description of the book here.

The fully revised and updated second edition of Media, Communication, Culture: A Global Approach continues to attract readers from around the world. The cover features the outstanding artwork of the Canadian artist, René Milot (below). This work first appeared in National Geographic magazine. It nicely captures the cultural fusion of mass media and information technology, which is a main theme of the book.

The artwork is part of a "A Look at Life Through the Ages," and denotes the world's most important cities at the beginning of the three millennia. New York City was selected to be featured for the year 2000. National Geographic's description of Milot's painting is the following:

"A young woman sits in her basement apartment, window barred against urban threats. When not out with friends, she is connected to the world via computer, cell phone, television, and radio - living life remotely, in a barrage of information. A caged iguana, dusty telescope, and potted plant hint at the natural world she has little time to enjoy. Cultural trinkets litter her room, as disposable as a pizza box. Craving stimulation, she wouldn't dream of living anywhere else."
© James Lull