Practice is the new black in social science

10 06 2009

In his introduction to his forthcoming book, Theorising Media and Practice (available here), John Postill takes a stab at the ubiquitous yet seldom defined use of the word ‘practice(s)’ in media anthropology. He has point; social science loves the term but is slow to point out what social/cultural/discursive practices actually refer to.

I did a quick search of my own usage of the word ‘practice’ in my introduction to my PhD and found no fewer than 48 instances. I talk about situated, discursive, interpretive, journalistic, professional, representational, sense-making, (re-)entextualization, new media, news production and intertextual practices without defining the word practice. That’s poor terminology.

John’s definition is surprisingly simple and perhaps sufficient for my own purposes:

“Practices are the embodied sets of activities that humans perform with varying degrees of commitment, competence and flair”

How do you understand/use the term ‘practice’ in your research?

Postill, John (forthcoming). Introduction: Theorising media and practice. In Birgit Bräuchler and John Postill (eds.), Theorising Media and Practice. New York: Berghahn.

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