Australia's Child-Abuse Materials Legislation, Internet Regulation and the Juridification of the Imagination
a seminar by Associate Professor Mark McLelland (Wollongong)
This seminar investigates the implications of Australia’s blanket prohibition of ‘child-abuse material’ (including cartoons, animation, drawings, digitally manipulated photographs, and text) for Australian fan communities of animation, comics and gaming (ACG) and slash fiction. ACG/slash fan groups in Australia and elsewhere routinely consume, produce and disseminate material that contains content that would be ‘refused classification’ (i.e. featuring fictitious ‘under-age’ characters in violent and sexual scenarios). Two lines of argument are advanced in the seminar to show that current legislation is seriously out of synch with the new communicative environment brought about by the Internet. Firstly, Henry Jenkins’s analysis of participatory fan culture is engaged to demonstrate that (i) a large portion of the fans producing and trading in these images are themselves minors and young people and (ii) legislators have failed to comprehend the manner in which the Internet is facilitating the development of new literacies, including sexual literacies. Habermas’s analysis of the conflict between instrumental and communicative rationality is then deployed to demonstrate that legislators have misrecognised the nature of the communicative practices that take place within the ‘lifeworlds’ of these fan communities resulting in an unjust ‘juridification’ of their creative practices. Drawing on Japanese research into the overwhelmingly female fandom surrounding ‘Boys Love’ (BL) manga, it is argued that current Australian legislation not only forecloses the fantasy lives of young Australian fans but also harms them by mistakenly aligning them with paedophile networks and threatening them with arrest, prosecution, and a lifetime on the sex offenders’ list. Finally, drawing upon Jean Cohen’s paradigm of ‘reflexive law’ the seminar considers a possible way forward that opens up channels of communication between regulators, fans, domain host administrators and media studies professionals that would encourage a more nuanced approach to legislation as well as a greater awareness of the need for self-regulation among fan communities.
About the presenter:
Associate Professor Mark McLelland is in the School of Social Sciences, Media and Communication at the University of Wollongong. He is a sociologist and cultural historian of Japan specialising in the history of sexuality, gender theory and new media. His recent publications have focused on the postwar history of Japanese cultures of sexuality and the development of the Internet in Japan, especially the use of the Internet and other new media by minority communities in Japan and throughout Asia.
McLelland is currently engaged in two ARC-funded projects. 'Sexuality and Social Transformation in Japan’ looks at how global movements of people and knowledge are impacting upon Japanese constructs of sexuality and gender. The latest publication from this project, the book Love, Sex and Democracy in Japan during the American Occupation will be published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2012. ‘Internet History in Australia and the Asia-Pacific’ compares the development and uses of the Internet in Australia, with those of China, Korea, and Japan.
Mark was the 2007/08 Toyota Visiting Professor of Japanese at the Center for Japanese Studies, The University of Michigan.
Media @ Sydney is presented by the Department of Media and Communications, University of Sydney: http://sydney.edu.au/arts/media_communications/home/.
For further information, contact Gerard Goggin: email@example.com