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This dissertation is submitted to the Centre for Journalism

Studies, University of Wales, in partial fulfilment of the
requirements for the Degree of Bachelor of Arts in Journalism,
Film & Broadcasting.

May, 2000

I declare that this dissertation is the result of my

own efforts. The various sources to which I am

indebted are clearly indicated in the references in

the text or in the bibliography.

I further declare that this work has never been

accepted in substance of any degree, and is not

being concurrently submitted in candidature for

any other degree.

Robert Andrews


I would like to thank Michael Bromley, whose

brainstorming meetings were always fascinating,

for his patience and guidance, and Thor Ekevall,

whose kettle was always hot, for his time and


Additional thanks go to Ian Hargreaves for a

beneficial Wales Media Forum conference, to

Jocelyn Hay for the Voice Of The Listener And

Viewer conference, to Euryn Ogwen Williams and

Elan Closs Stephens of S4C for their generous

communications, to Alex LaHurreau for assistance

with developing research tools, and to all those

whose excitement and enthusiasm inspired my

choice of study.

Not least, gratitude to my family for their

supportive assurances and my friends for their

helpful encouragement.


Cynical beliefs of those who claim nation states are nothing more

than artificial constructs generated, in large part, by the mass

media are based on a recognition that the attempts at winning

audiences by broadcast and print institutions are made by

reaching to a particular geographical territory, that content is

made relevant to those within it, and that consumption across it is

widely simultaneous. Such features would create an ‘imagined


But the onset of new media - characterised by a global reach

which sanctions communities regardless of geographical space,

reception of content requested by the audience rather than

producer, abundant outlets and consumption at any time - sounds

a caveat to this process of identity production.

Framed in the emerging dichotomy that political devolution and

the old media are reconstituting nationhood whilst new forms

typified by the internet are encouraging a transcendence of

existing community bonds to engage in non-national consumption

and communication, this dissertation draws on a range of

theoretical discourses and new cases to establish the so-called

imagination of the Welsh nation by mass media, then seeks out

the new permutations for identity in the abundant and

fragmented internet era. How are people using the new media

now to find or ignore nationality, and what does this tell us about

the future of mediated Welshness?


Title 1
Declaration 3
Acknowledgements 4
Abstract 5
Contents 6
Introduction 8
Literature review 10
Methodological Overview 12

Old media... 14
Identifying national identity 15
Imagined communities 18
Wales, a media artefact? 23
Locating old media's building site 37

New m edia... 41
Being digital: teaching new tricks 42
Permutations and practicable hypotheses 53
Finding new national constructions 59

Conclusions 70

Bibliography 72
Appendices 76

If the student of the media will but

meditate on the power of this medium of

electric light to transform every structure

of time and space and work and society

that it penetrates or contacts, he will have

the key to the form of power that is in all

media to reshape any lines that they


Marshall McLuhan


Where is Wales on the web? The argument which underpins this dissertation is that

which sees the nation as a construction of the mass media, the best exponent of which is

Anderson, with his claim that countries are ‘imagined communities.’ Such a hypothesis

claims that social and political decisions enacted by ‘the media’ have determined the

shape and identity of ‘our’ nationality, acting as conduits for a mass socialisation which

encourages a particular version of a shared community.

It is the media, it is claimed, which enact participation in this community because one

citizen cannot know all of the others without mediated communication. Messages

distributed by the mass media therefore endow a sense of unity in individuals

previously regarded as strangers.

Wales does not appear the archetypal nation... a country which is not a state, a

homeland which is part of a kingdom of many, one with its own language spoken by

only a minority. But the Welsh identity is, indeed, distinct from others, and it is the

initial aim of this study to examine what may, therefore, be a classic case of imagining

the nation.

One cannot understand the effect of new media on national identity, however, without

first comprehending how they have led to its present derivation. Approaching identity

as a property in a study which is, intentionally, primarily theoretical (nationality itself is

difficult to quantify and future possibilities even more so), I first explore the material

which examines the Andersonian hypothesis in application to Welshness in order to

understand its contemporary origin, then examine new media theory in abstract and in

application to particular new circumstances.

New media currently being popularised and developed offer radically different forms of

consumption from the broadcast and print outlets which it is claimed have constructed

the nation, thereby - I can hypothesise - potentially radically affecting the shape and

future construction of that national identity.

Traditional media (principally broadcasting and the press) adopt a ‘push’ reception

model, have a limited geographical reach, are scarce in distribution resources and

content, and provide material at the discretion of the producer. But new media

(instigated by satellite television and followed by digital broadcasting, but typified by

the internet, which is expected to accrue more subscribers and converge with other

forms) exhibit a ‘pull’ reception model with which the audience finds and uses material

at its own discretion, a global reach which exposes the audience to ‘foreign’ content and

people, and abundant material which is usually not produced in the situated culture.

It is not the intention here to pointlessly re-trace the footprints already made by authors

and circumstances in examining the media and nationality, but rather to accept their

integrity and forge a new path, with my and other feet, which seeks near-future identity

permutations given new interfaces and new relationships.

Produced at the proliferation of new media, and when nationality is being continually

renegotiated and Wales is being culturally and politically recontextualised, it is the hope

of the author to contribute to the national and theoretical debate by exploring trends in

globalisation and communication occurring amid increasing localisation. It is hoped to

counter internalisation by framing nationality in a universal theoretical framework,

generating an observation and exploration of the media-community relationship

experiencing a dramatic reconstitution in communities the world over... the Welsh

dimension can be thought of as the extended case study of a vested interest.

As Smith asks, ‘Who is the nation, where is the nation?’ (A. Smith, 1997: p39) How are we to

find Wales on the internet? What are the new forms of nationality being produced

online, and how do they differ from the traditional media-received identity? The Wales

Media Forum was established to ask such questions, and fundamentally I wish to

venture to address its first: ‘will new media technologies help define and draw together

a Welsh media identity, or will the global forces that drive the internet dictate further

dissipation?’ (Hargreaves in G. T. Davies, 1999: p2)


There is much literature - largely radical and periodical-originated but also well

contributed to by seminal thinkers in their field - regarding the nature of the new media.

McLuhan’s writings (eg. 1964, 1967, 1968 and in E. McLuhan & F. Zingrone, 1997) are at the ideological heart

of this exploration’s progression; Being Digital, by archetypal digerati exponent

Negroponte (1996), is a handbook par excellence and the magazine he co-founded, Wired,

has always been an avidly-consumed personal reference, the doctrines of which form

another influential text here; and Rheingold’s The Virtual Community (Rheingold, 199N) is

regarded as a touchstone for new-community thinking, whilst van Dijk, in The Network

Society, effectively draws abstracts of the broad themes of the revolution (van Dijk, 1999) .

Yet there is an information gap in such material’s application to the Welsh context

which this work now seeks to address... perhaps excited, inward-looking devolution

literature is clouding a deficit which, meanwhile, sees Wales becoming part of an

increasingly global culture. Mackay & Powell’s Connecting Wales remains the only

identifiable source of research into the effect of the new media on the national

consciousness, submitting an investigation of the internet’s ‘use in relation to Welsh

culture and politics’ by qualitative and quantitative analyses of two Welsh online

forums (Mackay & Powell, 1998: p204) . This dissertation does not seek to plug the entire empirical

gap left by the otherwise absence of such data, but, whilst Connecting Wales is the

primary model for this investigation, with its juxtaposition of the old and new media

nationalities, there are shortcomings in a study of such length which I hope to address.

To understand Welsh national identity, however, is first to understand national identity

as a general property. Smith (1997) offers a useful checklist of the component of the

nation which it is wise to memorise, and there is much literature on the rôle of the

media in Welsh life, perhaps attributable to the politicisation of that rôle by debates

concerning the country’s constitution and languages.

Anderson’s hypothesis (1991) underpins this work in his analysis of the nation as an

‘imagined community,’ a view supported by Hartley (1994) and Schlesinger (1994) ... each

renders national identity little more than the ritualistic use, consumption and reach of

mass media, and a largely arbitrary concept.

The application of this hypothesis to the Welsh case can be witnessed in a broad array

of texts. Talfan Davies (1999) , Mungham & Williams (1998) , Allan & O’Malley (1999) and

Hannan (1997) all offer overviews of the Welsh media industry in largely argument-based

essays; Mackay & Powell (1997), Osmond (199N), Williams (2000) and the government cement

the snapshot further by referencing factual research and policy rationale; contemporary

coverage of the issue confirms its politicisation and keeps material fresh; and this

dissertation employs additional supplementary opinion in the treatment of attended

events and encounters as quotable resources. It is, however, John Davies (1994) who is our

best exponent of the imagination of Wales, claiming it is simply ‘an artefact produced

by the media.’

True to a nation low on internet penetration and high on historians, however, little of

this embraces the vital new media debate. If the Mackay & Powell work is a

‘preliminary empirical study of the use, or shaping, of what is commonly heralded as a

new media technology of enormous significance’ (Mackay & Powell, 1998: p203) , then this work

hopes to become an informed, broader investigation of the principles of interaction

between the new media and national identity.


Fundamentally, this study is one of juxtapositions and comparisons between the

conventional and the radical, and is essentially theoretical because national identity is,

perhaps, too complex a property to accurately quantify, and because it is hoped to

embark on an exploration which produces an educative understanding of possible future


Essentially, the study employs continual appropriation and re-generation of

predominating rationales and hypotheses as I assess and assimilate relevant material and

conditions. In the language of memetics, I first explore and adopt constructivist

hypotheses of the so-called old media’s constructivism and, second, examine the

characteristics of the new media which propose future constructions, in order to apply

those hypotheses to the emerging circumstances.

Such a line of questioning might be expressed in the query: If the conventional media

have imagined the nation, how might the national community be thought by the radical

new media?

The general method, then, is to survey a range of texts and identifiable circumstances in

a qualitative, theory-based approach, appropriating ideas voiced in literature, research

and occurrence to develop a liberal set of prevailing hypotheses. It is these hypotheses

which are then balanced against those of the emerging media to establish the divergent

construction methods of old and new, and informally tested in a case examination of the

new communities.

The gaps are fundamental. Overlaying the found old shapes onto the evolving new like

a transparent animation cell, do the lines fit, and what do the differences tell us?

> Survey texts and investigate claims

> Appropriate predominating rationales

> Generate hypotheses

> Discuss new circumstances

> Apply old hypotheses to new principles

> Gather data to test

> Draw conclusions

> Postulate on possible permutations



National identity is a component of identity in general, which itself may be personal or

collective and may emphasise lived experiences, cultural practices, habitual features or

self-reflection (Kaunismaa, 1995: kaunismaa.html) . Giesen, in Kaunismaa (ibid) , finds national identity

to be a threefold property, consisting of contextual social understanding of everyday

life, historical processes and discursive relational codes; thus, especially given the latter

component, it would be partly dependent on communication. It is also one which

communicates in the meter of the collective, where nobody is made to feel unconnected

from everybody - an ‘umbrella concept’ (ibid) . But it is not the same as nationality, which

precedes the identity it provokes, because the extent of that everybody is clearly

demarcated by geographical boundaries drawn by aggregated historical political actions.

Identity, a concept indulged only in the mental sphere, is physically and ‘historically

constructed through human actions’ (Tängerstad, 1998: film.html) .

The owners of national identities subscribe to the doctrine that they are received, the

current national collective having little influence over the character of its group identity.

This means identity is perceived as natural because its constructors belong to that same

group, and is further adopted through acceptance of the collective discourses of ‘us’... it

would be ‘the result of a collective, human production process over time’ (Kaunismaa, 1995:

kaunismaa.html) . Furthermore, the binding of ‘our’ nation and its identity implicitly

distinguishes it from ‘their’s, basing national identity largely on perceived difference.

Smith defines the nation with a five-point plan in which national belonging would bear

the following components (Smith, 1997: pp11-14) :

> historic territory housing a unit of population, a homeland

> common myths and historical memories

> common, mass public culture

> common legal rights and duties for all members

> a common economy with territorial mobility for members

Historically, a unified Welsh territory was only produced from a collection of disparate

kingdoms with the expansion of the English state over Offa’s Dyke. Paradoxically, their

incursions, it seems, define our community. Likewise, the Irish sea delimits Welshness

to the West, North and South. This casts nationality as a largely tangible, geographical

concept - community spirit would derive not from true similarity, but from enclosure

within the same geopolitical space, the Welsh geography acting as container to those

within it.

Whilst the present is perceived as a scene of ideological conflict, the historical past -

which quickly learns to seek and distribute histories of its own, homogenised

interpretation - becomes a manageable construct of cultural touchstones, uniting in

understanding the community which is handed its stories. Wales, like many other

nations, has its own patron saint, David, whose religious work is celebrated each March

1, but who has rather become a focus for national celebration for its own sake. ‘Wales

seems to preserve so many archaic practices and beliefs,’ appearing a community ready

to define itself in the images of the past, due to the perception that there existed a

unified Welshness prior to English subjugation. (Jenkins, 1992: pp319-358) The National

Eisteddfod and other eisteddfodau continue to prolong and promote this culture, which

is largely communicated in the Welsh language, whilst the success of the rugby teams

of the 1970s is another popular, nostalgic common memory. All such collective

memories are dependent on a sense of continuity between generations - ‘it is

yesterday’s man who predominates in us’ (Bordieu in Ankara, 1997: ) .

The concept of a unified culture dependent on a unified language is highly problematic

in the unfortunate community of Wales - its history is written in a language which just

18.6 per cent of the population speaks (Aitchison, 1999: 91) . ‘Languages were the media

through which the great global communities of the past were imagined’ (Anderson, 1991: 14) ,

and Smith says a nation must have a set of common understandings which bind the

population together in its homeland, facilitated by a shared tongue, but Wales appears a

cultural schizophrenic, its mass culture expressed by ‘agencies of popular socialisation’

including education and the mass media, which are predominantly English-medium.
(Smith, 1997: p11) Balsom identifies, in fact, three versions of Wales: Y Fro Gymraeg

(Welsh-speaking Wales), Welsh Wales and British Wales (Balsom in Thomas, 1999: p288) . If a

common tongue is a conduit for massification, then the geographical division of

Welsh-language ability illustrated in Appendix A1 can be interpreted as a division

making cultural unification within that territory difficult.

Even in the political terms claimed necessary for national feeling, Wales’ realisation of

its own identity might be regarded as surprising. Owain Glyndwr’s attempts at creating

a parliament having failed, Wales’ democracy has historically been one which

recognises local constituency differences within Wales and the rest of the UK, but not

which distinguished the principality itself from the rest of the union. Political kinship

implies a legal equality and reciprocal democratic rights common to all members of the

community, rights which outsiders are excluded from holding, but only with a devolved

Welsh Assembly being established in 1999 has there been such a distinct tier of

government for Wales and accountable only to it. Indeed, Cymru has never held a place

at the United Nations, and does not look likely to, but devolution does fulfil, somewhat,

the political requirement for national community.

Conceptions of the nation such as Smith’s, express national identity as inherently

cumulative, historical and natural, which, given the failure of Wales to meet many of

the given requirements for nationhood, makes it surprising there is held a

distinguishable sense of community personality at all.


If there are reasons why the manifest national identity of the Welsh had not been

evoked by the apparently historical development outlined in Smith’s model, then there

is a popular, if cynical, hypothesis to the contrary which may, unknowingly, explain the

origin of contemporary Welshness.

Hartley claims the historical construction of national community is seriously at odds

with the facts (Hartley, 1994: p196) . The nation is, in fact, ‘a discursive construct whose identity

consists of its difference from others.’ 1 It has fallen to parties with an interest in either

extending, enhancing or creating from scratch such communities to communicate those

messages which would make individuals homogenous. With shared culture and

aspirations at national identity’s core, Smith acknowledges:

the task of ensuring a common public, mass culture has been handed over to

the agencies of popular socialisation, notably ... the mass media (Smith, 1997: p11) .

What exists within this unspoken task of ‘popular socialisation’ is the social

construction of community based on a series of inclusions, exclusions, promotions and

negations concerning history, citizenship and national belonging itself. Indeed, ‘a nation

does not express itself through its culture; it is cultural apparatuses that produce the

nation’ (Donald, 1988: p32) . The mass media are said to be keepers of these apparatuses,

communicating cultural artefacts accepted as characteristic of the community they

address, but it is the demarcation of this recipient community by a reach only within the

same territorial unit, or homeland, that, with cultural messages, defines the addressees

as members of the nation. Whilst nations are seen as ‘culture communities, whose

members were united, if not made homogenous, by common historical memories,

1 Inspection of this hypothesis soon reveals it to be metaphysical and ontological to the point of being hyper-semantic,
resembling an argument that this does not exist simply because it is implicitly expressed as being not that. Hartley denies
that national identity is a tangible phenomenon, despite its own obvious expression - regardless of origin.

myths, symbols and traditions,’ it is the mass media institutions which act as conduits

for these memes (Smith, 1997: 11) 2.

Resembling something of a McLuhan’s apprentice, Anderson says ‘we are faced with a

world in which the figuring of reality was overwhelmingly visual and aural’ (Anderson, 1991:

p22) . It still is. In the multi-media aesthetics of pictures and sound which enable the mass

transmittance of cultural-constructivist memes, television and the other popular mass

media are endowed with forming the mental maps of the worlds in which we live.

Indeed, the penetration of mass media has brought about ‘changes in modes of

apprehending the world [which] made it possible to ‘think’ the nation; they ‘provide the

technical means for ‘re-presenting’ the kind of imagined community that is the nation’
(ibid: pp22-26) .

We may say the imagined nation is built from three inter-dependent components:

memetic content, assumed territorial reception and chronologically-determined usage.

Anderson claims the simultaneity and chronology offered by the mass media in this

construction process binds strangers on the same territory in a common media ritual:

A person will never meet, or even know the names of more than a handful of his

countrymen. He has no idea of what they are upto at any one time. But he has

complete confidence in their steady, anonymous, simultaneous activity (Anderson,

1991: p33) .

Simply put, the scheduling of conventional broadcast media output encourages a

homogenisation of the quotidian rhythms of the message recipients within the reception

territory because it is a ‘mass ceremony.’ When a particular news programme is

2 The ‘meme’ is an analytical tool employed (first by Oxford zoologist Richard Dawkins) to explain cultural transfer in
the language of genetics - ideas and practices ‘leap from brain to brain’ (Dawkins in Schrage, 1994). Schrage says memetics
offers a new paradigm to explain how ideas spread in popular culture; it makes cultural exchange tangible. Memes
multiply in receivers in a blossoming communication process. Most interesting to this study, Witoszek outlines a
framework for studying media’s construction of identity using memes, ‘imaginative social units of social memory which
preserve and mediate communal identity or community crisis over time.’ This study makes reference to ‘memes’ in the
latter context, as an umbrella term for mediated cultural messages.

broadcast to a certain geocultural mass of people, that mass is bonded by its continually

reinforced, calendrical information retrieval. They become the audience (media which

arrogantly perceive as singular the diversity of individuals within its viewership always

bear the side-effect of imagining communities leading to ‘the generation of the

impersonal will’).

The mass ceremony of media use is central to chronology’s construction. Each morning,

for example, the newspaper reader is:

well aware that the ceremony he performs is being replicated simultaneously by

thousands (or millions) or others of whose existence he is confident, yet of whose

identity he has not the slightest notion (Anderson, 1991: p35) .

Furthermore, the reflection of the medium’s use by these anonymous people, who are

deemed to be similar to one another in some way or ways by virtue of their common

information requirements, serves to root the imagined nation in banal life. Indeed, ‘the

obsolescence of the newspaper on the morrow of its printing creates an extraordinary

mass ceremony: almost precisely simultaneous consumption’ (ibid) .

But it is the framing of this evolving simultaneous similarity in a bounded geographical

context which makes the common community identity national. The limit of the media

outlet’s reach mimics that of the already-existing national territory 3 and, therefore,

makes the nationality expressed in the ensuing programming intrinsically linked to the

identity expressed in the historical, political precedent.

Ceasing the extent of spectrum inclusion territory at a particular frontier serves to either

reinforce the already-given national identity existing within the given boundary, or to

begin constructing anew where there was not a boundary in existence. Similarly, the

necessity for print media distribution to take place by an existing transport

3 Griffiths notes that a pre-existing national culture had taken hold before the popularisation of the mass media,
expressing the historical development of the national identity, in logic opposite to the Andersonian hypothesis, as
‘always already given.’

infrastructure both reinforces the part government has to play in enabling a

communications network from a transport network and makes the ability of that

communication secondarily dependent on the national network’s proper functioning.

Conventional media’s obvious handicap in the reach of content distribution thus

threatens to make messy the extent of the matching of national boundary with media

boundary, so the compensatory ability to place transmitters strategically highlights

policy-makers’ rôle in imagining the nation.

With these preconditions in place, it is the cultural content of the media which

ultimately enables identity construction, and it is often the mythologies of the same

historical past which ‘naturally’ developed the nation which we find re-used as the

deliberate memes of television, radio, newspapers and magazines. Having ‘re-built’ the

national sphere using the distribution and addressive capacity of the media themselves,

outlets express a responsibility to satisfy the new awareness of the national community,

reinforcing what national mutual recognition there was with evocative historical


For evidence to support Imagined Communities in action, we can look to Kurdistan,

which both supports and flies in the face of Andersonian hypotheses. A stateless,

‘homeless’ people split by geography (they live across Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria, and

so have no given homeland), religion (Muslims and Zoroastrians share the same

community), dialect (at least three main variations) and war (unwanted travellers,

forced into movement by Turkey and Iraq), the Kurds are nationally dispossessed. In

1994, MED-TV was launched ‘to develop Kurdish culture and language,’ ‘to stop our

society slowly disappearing’ (Ryan, 1997: p44) . With upto eighty percent of those in

Kurdistan watching its news and folk culture memes, the channel was dubbed ‘Little

Nation.’ ‘For a few hours every night, the world’s largest stateless nation has a home,’

and staff ‘think this is the first step on the last, long part of the road to the formation of

a Kurdish state’ (ibid: 46) . Turkey, allegedly keen to suppress Kurdish cultural expression,

has made efforts to close the station, but it broadcasts from Brussels and Sweden:

While others worry about the media destroying national identity, MED-TV is

proving that the opposite can be the case, even in the worst of circumstances. It

is a remarkable force, bringing together - perhaps in itself - uniting a nation (ibid:

p49) 4 .

4 In April 1999, the Independent Television Commission revoked MED-TV’s licence to broadcast in the UK for airing
four items ‘likely to encourage acts of violence in Turkey,’ in breach of the 1990 and 1996 Broadcasting Acts. Source:
ITC news release,


Constructivist hypotheses give little credence to the already-existing, historical concept

of the nation. But, whilst the Kurdish case - an attempt to facilitate that nation from

scratch - is one clear example of mass media’s ability to construct communal

sensibility, finding evidence of a media-massified Wales is similarly effortless. Indeed,

successive industry figures have boasted of their ‘cultural mission’ to that effect; the

rôle of BBC Wales, for example, is to:

> Serve the nation of Wales in all its diversity with united purpose.

> Reflect and enrich the life of the nation.

> Put back into the community the richness and variety it perceives
and reflects; to be reporter and patron.

> Provide the debating chamber for democracy, the platform for
artistic achievement and the repository for historic archives.

> Speak of Wales and things Welsh with authenticity and authority
to the United Kingdom (G. S. Jones, 1990: 160) 5.

> Highlight the events that galvanise the nation of Wales.

> Provide the social glue that binds all the communities of Wales
together (BBC Wales, 1993).

Such a mission statement clearly marks producers as not just reflecting the memes of an

already-existing national community, but also creating and circulating new ones,

constructing and reinforcing that community in its citizens’ shared consciousness. For

‘galvanise,’ we can read ‘massify.’ Their purpose, almost paradoxically, would be one

of a selective mass homogenisation - mass because they address and encourage the

whole of the nation, selective because the people which constitutes that nation is

narrowly defined as residing within its bounded territory:

In Wales, to a greater extent than perhaps any other country in Europe,

broadcasting has played a central rôle, both positive and negative, in the

development of the concept of a national community. (J. Davies, 1994: ix)

5 Geraint Stanley Jones; Controller, BBC Wales, 1981-1985

Indeed, Davies goes further, asserting that ‘contemporary Wales could be defined as an

artefact produced by broadcasting.’ (J. Davies, 1994: OBC) The other significant Davies 6

admits the broadcast media ‘determine a whole matrix of cultural references within

which we live our lives; [they] shape, define, legitimise,’ (G. T. Davies in K. Williams, 1993: 40) whilst

Osmond, too, claims that, in the sense of a people struggling to become a nation by

progressively establishing its own institutions, that of Welsh broadcasting has a pivotal

rôle (Osmond, 1996: 111) . That is, it seeks to encourage Wales.

To accept that the media can, in fact, construct a Welshness in this way, we must accept

the validity of media effects hypotheses including the ‘hypodermic needle’ 7. Whilst

there is certainly a case for arguing that the audience constructs its own view of its

social reality and its place within it, negotiating with the media and texts which would

have it belong to the nation first and foremost 8, it may be that, given media forms

which implicitly deny oppositional response to those texts, the ultimately more human

compulsion to belong to a series of networked communication communities encourages

a decoding concurrent with the preferred reading... a de facto acceptance of massifying,

nationalising media memes.

Making the media into that massifier which sanctions Smith’s concept of the nation, the

imagination of Wales is executed with reliance on a trinity model consisting of:

Bound Distinct Compliant,

geographical à set of shared à simultaneous
space cultural memes reception

So for such institutions to enact a massification of the people within the geography to

be nationalised, they must first match the confinement of the memes’ target audience

with that of the existing or to-be-existing national territory, aiding the process of

6 Geraint Talfan Davies; Controller, BBC Wales, 1990-2000

7 Suitably, the analogy, which refers to the mass manipulation discussed in O’Sullivan et al , connotes passivity
(1994, p151)

and dependency.
8 See Hall, 1980.

inclusion and implicit exclusion which is central to the divisionism within communal


Territorial Containment

In conventional broadcasting, the addressing of the audience is made through the

ethereal radio spectrum, a scarce natural phenomenon the waves of which have no

regard for invisible geopolitical borders 9. One would expect, therefore, that transmitted

memes would spill over into neighbouring nations. But, perhaps fortunately for the

imaginers of these nations, the technology’s distribution capacity is far from so great

that it can automatically encompass multiple nations; so a transmitter infrastructure has

been built to ensure that the intended programming reaches the intended audience - a

matter of installing the minimal degree of distribution capacity necessary to address the

desired territory and no more. The medium is not ideal for exactly matching reception

territory with boundary - it is imprecise and, as will be hypothesised, highly problematic

- but it offers a certain measure of control.

A Welsh broadcast territory was drawn in 1935, after complaints in Wales of

over-centralisation in London by a BBC keen to encourage a British unity during

war-time, and ‘BBC Wales’ was formed in 1964. Davies claims ‘all the subsequent

[cultural and national] recognition of Wales stemmed from’ this move (J. Davies, 1994: p205) .

The ITV network, too, was established from the outset to counter cultural

Londonisation with an enhanced regional UK spread, but a Welsh entity was born

awkwardly with a franchise that originally split the country in two and still joins it with

the West of England 10; although HTV has effectively territorialised Wales with its own

dual administration and under ITC guidelines 11.

9 Analogue terrestrial television content is distributed along the Ultra High Frequency spectrum on Bands IV and V,
using frequencies between 470 and 854HMz, or channels 21 to 68.
10 At inception, the regional ITV network had devised a broadcast franchise comprising both the Wales and the West of
England geographies. Mackay & Powell (1997) note that the franchise’s first operator, TWW (Television Wales and
West, in 1958), had broadcast only to South Wales, leaving Granada (from the North of England) to serve North Wales
until the arrival of WWN (Wales West and North/Teledu Cymru) which was subsequently taken over by TWW,
integrating the portions of the Welsh territory.
11 ITC, the Independent Television Commission, which regulates commercial television operators in the UK.

Each of the established and conventional broadcast outlets sees the content and territory

policy reflect the UK constitutional reality in which Wales exists (see Appendix A2) : BBC

Wales seeks to address Wales only, but is subject to sharing network time with UK

memes; HTV Wales seeks to address Wales only with some programming, shares other

programming between Wales and the West, and is subject to an increasing degree of

UK network memes; S4C seeks to address Wales only, while the Channel 4 content it

re-broadcasts is also available throughout the UK; and Channel 5 has no regional remit,

and rarely features Wales in its UK make-up. Nevertheless, Appendix A3 shows how

the intended reach of the main analogue terrestrial broadcasters in Wales (Fig. 2) 12

corresponds exactly to the country’s already-existing geo-political territory (Fig. 1) .

Allan & O’Malley claim this matching of territories was driven by the BBC’s fear of

the medium’s potential for ‘social unrest,’ forcing the corporation, ‘at a very early

stage, to acknowledge the status of Wales as a distinct nation with its own traditions

and aspirations,’ indicating that the rôle of the broadcaster is not so much to

intentionally imagining new national incarnations as to service those already in

existence (Allan & O’Malley, 1999: p136) . It was protests from within Wales, after ITV had already

delivered regionality, that led to the BBC’s Welsh creation, indicating that the national

audience itself sought more of those nationalising memes. This interplay between the

producer-led rendering of the national territory and the citizen-led cry for devolution

suggests that cynical conceptions of the constructors as out-and-out nation-builders may

be slightly inaccurate - the relationship between imaginer and imagined would appear

more symbiotic.

Yet the drawing of territory not only demarcates here from there, but also incorporates

all those distinct communities within the here. Jones notes ‘S4C has dealt with the

problem [of north-south lingual division] by uniting Welsh speakers and helping them

to understand each other,’ and the same effect can be said of distinct regional memes

12 BBC1 Wales, BBC2 Wales, HTV Wales and S4C.

other than language 13 . Of course, such is the location of both the geographical and

media entities of Wales, that the country has only one media neighbour with which to

exchange and withhold memes anyway. With nationality established largely through

difference from them, which is partly demarcated by geo-political boundaries and the

media which inhabit them, Wales only borders England, since mediated cultural

exchange with its Celtic cousins is prevented by the Irish Sea, where transmitters and

newspapers would tend to sink and content from neither medium reaches across

effectively. The media boundary thus mimics the historical boundary, the rôle of Offa’s

Dyke and the ocean falling to Greg Dyke and the network 14. It was, however, only with

the onset of political devolution that the BBC re-defined the BBC Wales, Scotland and

Northern Ireland territories ‘national regions’ and granted more scheduling autonomy

with which to serve those countries alone 15.

So, the concept of a media territory serves to make the extent of the audience - and,

therefore, the reception and affect of constructivist memes - finite. The replication of

the already-existing geo-political territory and population within that reach exacerbates

the ‘us and them’ division because, it is supposed, the content received (and the

interpretations made of it in the distinct situated culture that would secondarily affect its

reading) is different in each territory. Territorialisation makes content exclusive.

Memetic Content

The extents of massification having been established (the selection in our ‘selective

mass homogenisation’ process), it is then that content - the carrier of cultural memes -

which subsequently serves to affect the audience into nationalisation. Indeed:

13 Carwyn Jones AM, Labour, speaking at the National Assembly for Wales’ response to the Welsh Affairs Select
Committee report on Broadcasting in Wales, 16th November 1999.
14 Greg Dyke, Director General, BBC, 2000 -
15 At the Wales Media Forum / Royal Television Society conference, ’Wales: A New Media Agency,’ at the University
of Wales in November 1999, BBC then-Director of National & Regional Broadcasting, Mark Thompson, pledged to
BBC Wales more autonomy in scheduling opt-outs and said content would be more clearly branded as made-in-Wales
across BBC1, BBC2 and BBC Choice.

for many people, their very sense of Wales as a distinct nation, with its own

traditions, customs and rituals, is largely derived from the content of these

media (Allan & O’Malley, 1999: p129).

True enough, the mass media would seem to render and relay the symbolic markers of

nationality, communicating a set of memes which serves to contribute to the conception

of that community within the nationally bound context 16. It is those traditions, customs

and rituals - the aggregated markers of national identity - which the conventional media

with communising remits routinely circulate, manifested in a memetic structure which

comprises a handful of meta-memes which consequently invoke various specific

cultural units:

Constitution Self Culture History Symbols

Ø Ø Ô Ô Ô Ô Ô Ô Ô Ô Ô Ô Ô Ô Ô × ×

Democracy Language Rugby Anthem Dragon

In establishing a content analysis framework, one might claim it is the aggregation of all

such memetic messages which, in fact, constitutes cultural identity. Broadly, such

memes either reside in the matched territory or originate from it, validating the national

community in content, and they resonate strongly in the ideology of public service.

They consist, in part, of the constitutional reality to which Wales belongs, making

outlets with both a Welsh and British remit ‘like a Russian doll - a national broadcaster

within a national broadcaster’ - ensuring that a portion of content is unique to Wales

whilst a good proportion remains common to the wider UK territory (G. T. Davies, 1999: p51) .

Assuming mass-mediated messages have a (hypodermic) effect on their audience, the

16 One of BBC Wales’ own programmes, ‘How To Be Welsh,’ which intentionally built its own content from such a
prescriptive definition of Welsh memes, is an interesting parallel (see Appendix A4). Another, ‘Painting The Dragon,’
was a source of the nation’s stories as artistic vignettes; a third, ‘Jones, Genes and Evolution,’ which claimed Welshness
is genetic, thus gives a false impression; and, in May, the rhetorical question posed by ‘A Musical Nation?,’ produced by
Dai Smith, answered with a definition that proposed musical memetic make-up and in which singer Michael Ball said:
‘We’ve done a pretty good job of inventing ourselves so far; the trick is to bullshit and keep perpetuating the myth.’
These are classic acts of constructivist imagining.

receiver would thus be dealt a federal, composite community identity consisting of

Welshness and, as it were, UKness 17. Similarly, the public service remit is to create a

feedback loop in which Welsh affairs are presented to the rest of the UK and affairs

from around the UK are shown to Wales 18.

BBC Wales and HTV Wales are, then, essentially opt-out services, the majority of their

memes originating from English-based UK production centres - which may, in turn, air

content from overseas. The extent of this memetic cross-circulation has been largely

proportionate to the historical constitutional and, subsequently, cultural uniqueness

enjoyed, or not, by Wales. Each broadcaster’s situation may be a symptom of outside

ownership, as they produce little to reflect the country on the wider networks and the

majority of their own content is produced outside Wales. But these accumulated

minority opt-outs and the aggregated uniqueness of the memetic representations in the

content aired on them have, in fact, well served to demarcate Welsh media reception,

just as the entire regional broadcasting system has well served regional diversity

throughout the UK. Indeed, commercial regulations, whilst ultimately laid from

London, stipulate minimum requirements for commercial television’s ‘regional’ content

(ITC, 1999) 19 .

This constitutional meme is repeated within the crucial democracy meme which

broadcasters and the press proactively imagine. The media ‘play a central part in

facilitating understanding of, and participation in, the democratic process,’ and both

broadcasters and newspapers have served such a function in a Westminster

parliamentary context 20 while the Welsh news media were reporting a continually

17 For example, the BBC Wales hybrid airs a news programme pertinent only to Wales but also a UK and international
programme which acts as aggregator for those local events deemed relevant to every broadcast territory, and the Western
Mail includes at least one page devoted to UK and World affairs... though, conversely, its capacity to distribute Welsh
stories to UK publications is, perhaps, involuntary and limited without the same sort of nationwide network relationship.
18 As well as a regional identity produced by local press.
19 The Independent Television Commission, in 1999, required HTV Wales produce 11hrs 43mins of these ‘regional
programmes’ per week, per viewer. The broadcaster ultimately aired 12hrs 6mins. (Source: ITC Annual Report 1999, The Broadcasting Act 1990, Section 16(2)(c) requires
Channel 3 franchise operators give a ‘sufficient amount of time’ to ‘regional programmes,’ the definition of which is the
subject of a January 1997 revision by the ITC. See Appendix A5.
20 Alun Michael MP, then-Welsh Secretary, responding to the Welsh Affairs Select Committee report on Broadcasting In
Wales in a letter cited by the Western Mail.

devolving political sphere. Now that devolution has offered Wales a distinct political

constituency of its own, those media have a rôle which is similarly unique.

The National Assembly for Wales, the jurisdiction of which matches Welsh media’s

coverage extents, was advised to conduct affairs in a public, transparent fashion. 21

Deliberating, it noted the media’s reciprocal responsibility ‘to help create a new

democracy, society and a new sense of governance in Wales’ (Davies in NAfW, 1999) 22 .

Complicity, journalism responded proportionately 23 , each public service broadcaster

acknowledging a ‘shared view of [their] public obligation to be a bridge between the

Assembly and the general public’ (Davies, Richards & Jones in G.T. Davies, 1999: p62) 24 . Thus, coverage

has been volumnous, leading to accusations that the democratic meme is behaving like

the state’s public relations appendage 25 - an argument which well supports the

constructivist, Andersonian hypothesis that implements Smith’s nation with the help of

democracy; and one difficult to argue against when the broadcasters create ‘an

important window to let the people of Wales see their Assembly at work’ 26, and when

‘nationalist’ politicians talk up the media’s ‘all-important rôle in enriching our

democracy and promoting our new democratic national institution’ 27, or its ‘powerful

influence in safeguarding, developing and cementing a Welsh identity’ 28 . This

promotion of the democratic meme is complicit 29 in a bid to enable mass national

21 The Welsh Affairs Select Committee, of 11 Westminster MPs who serve constituencies in Wales, compiled a report
on the requirements for broadcasting proceedings of the National Assembly for Wales, prior to its commencement in
1999. Likewise, the National Assembly Advisory Group sat temporarily to develop practical policy for the organisation
of the body.
22 Ron Davies AM, Labour; speaking at the National Assembly’s ‘Broadcasting In Wales’ debate.
23 According to BBC Wales’ Head of News & Current Affairs, Aled Eirug (in The Western Mail of 1/3/2000, Business
p12), the broadcaster secured an additional £6.3m to fund a ‘substantial editorial response’ to devolution which consists
of live Assembly-based programming, news reports with the Assembly as the central agent, additional strands of
programming and a collaboration with S4C2 on continuous live broadcasts from the chamber. HTV Wales’ £17m from
its last franchise bid was on the basis of providing a similar response to devolution; though only £1.5m was directed
toward Assembly coverage; a new political unit was established. Likewise, The Western Mail also installed staff at
Crickhowell House.
24 In 1998, the Controller, Managing Director and Chief Executive of BBC Wales, HTV Wales and S4C, respectively,
penned a joint working paper to be considered by the National Assembly Advisory Group.
25 In The Western Mail of 1/3/2000, Business p12, in the article ‘Reports Cannot Act As PR Agency for the Assembly,’
Aled Eirug defended BBC Wales’ coverage of National Assembly proceedings against accusations it presented matters in
too positive a light.
26 S4C Chief Executive, Huw Jones, in The Western Mail, 22/9/1999, describing the S4C2 channel.
27 Elin Jones AM, Plaid Cymru, speaking at the National Assembly’s ‘Broadcasting In Wales’ debate.
28 Cynog Dafis AM, Plaid Cymru, speaking at the National Assembly’s ‘Broadcasting In Wales’ debate.
29 The company established to manage broadcasting from the Assembly comprises the BBC, HTV, S4C, NTL and the
National Assembly for Wales itself; the First Secretary was appointed Chair of the company, whilst four Members from
each party sit on the board. The National Assembly bore half of the £580,000 cost of contracting Barcud Derwen to
install broadcast facilities; the broadcasters provided the other half. Source: Welsh Affairs Select Committee, 1999, &

citizenship, coverage becoming ‘an ideological practice that helps to sustain [...]

collective self-determination’ (Curran et al, 1982: p15) .

Hence, the perception of the memetic self is a curious one, a stereotype collection

constructed, to itself and others, more from a distorted selection of the nation’s own

identifying units as representing a single unit.Waters suggests the Welsh stereotypes, or

memes, no longer identify the Welsh people, but their media is replete with them and

the alternatives he proposes are merely updated versions of Wales’ traditional clichés
(see Appendix A6). .

As a newspaper’s prescription for cultural identity, nevertheless, it is evidence of

McLuhan’s assertion that ‘media come in pairs, with one acting as the content of the

other.’ And it is a hypothesis also suitably borne out when language itself becomes

memetic content:

Language is really a storage system for the corporate and collective

experience. Every time you play back some of that language, you release a

whole charge of these ancient perceptions and memories. (M. McLuhan in E. McLuhan & F.

Zingrone, 1997: p177,& p284)

The Welsh language is played back mostly by S4C, BBC Radio Cymru, Radio

Ceredigion, Y Cymro and others that consequently release those memories Smith claims

are required for the production of shared identity. True to the belief that ‘traditional

vernacular are themselves the great mass media’ (ibid: p284) , Welsh becomes the content of

television, radio or the press, and this amalgamated, piggybacked medium becomes a

conduit for the implementation of collective massification and for the replaying of

cultural history. S4C acknowledges ‘the channel is part of defining a new nation that

grows from new circumstances from the point of view of knowing the language ... S4C

is part of redefining Welshness’ (Stephens, 1999: p3) . But Wales is a bilingual country, and a

National Assembly for Wales, 1999.

language-produced Welshness may only be defined by a two-tier construction process

in which we find that the English-language media, too, have imagined the nation.

All broadcast and press products strongly circulate the rugby meme. Whilst subject to

local tribal rivalries at HTV/S4C club level, international matches on BBC Wales affect

national unification by utilising the team as a unifying agent. Illustrating the effect of

public service, the victorious 1999 win against Wales’ only media and geographical

neighbour, England, would have likely not have provoked the extent of national

sentiment had it been aired only on Sky Sports, as are England’s own home games.


historians may trace the re-birth of Welshness not to the opening of a National

Assembly, but to the [Rugby World Cup in 1999]. It was less the reopening of a

competition than the reinvention of Wales as a country no longer burdened by

history 30.

Mode of Address and Reception

Of course, these memetic markers are merely free-floating units unless adopted by the

mass which territorialisation created... the memes must be implemented. Fortunately for

the national imaginers, the conventional media which distribute them exhibit a

one-to-many mode of address, with which a single message is communicated to the

entire collective. This is an inevitable by-product of the Marxist-hegemonic public

service ideology which seeks to provide the many with cultural nourishment from the

breast of the centre; of the commercial media sector which views content in

production-line economics, most lucratively sold en masse; and of the scarce, expensive

access to production and distribution capacity which maintains the rôle of the few as the

memetic producer for the many. The meme need only be produced once, but is

delivered many times over and, in turn, virally.

30 Daily Telegraph reporter cited in: Owen, 4/10/99, ‘World Reacts Favourably to Nation’s Show of Pride,’ The Western

Having reached the intended minds, it is then the task of that meme to have an affect on

the audience the outcome of which is compliant with its own message. The analogue

technological capacity installed in television, radio, the movie, the newspaper, the

magazine and all like media is such that the above mode is implemented in a one-way

addressive stream. The act of consuming the content of each is of consuming a

discourse, unlike the negotiated interactions indulged in conversation, because the

media are intrinsically simplex 31 . They cannot inherently offer the audience any

communication resembling a ‘right of reply’ much less a distributed content production,

thus any possible oppositional response to the meme that would result in its rejection

rather than adoption, is annihilated.

Hall (1980) might claim the dominant ideology of a text may not be automatically induced

because the situated culture in which memes are received can affect their decoding 32 ,

and the integrity of his model’s hypothesis stands. But, in respect of nationalisation, in

which the audience is situated in precisely the same culture as the memetic producer

and surrounded by thousands of like minds, what other reading of nationalising memes

can there be but one compliant with the dominant, facilitating the adoption of the

cultural identity in those cultural packages? Consequently, Hall concedes, far from

merely reflecting reality, the media construct it (Chandler, 1994: marxism11.html) . Whilst noting the

integrity of active-reader hypotheses, the effect here would seem to be that of the

hypodermic needle 33 and, given the already-existing quality of nationality (Griffiths, 1991: p81)

and the content requirements that it invokes, an acceptance of massification is

supported. The imposing addressive mode thus encourages adoption of national identity

upon reception.

31 To appropriate the parlance from the worlds of electronic circuitry and computer communication, in which a ‘duplex’
device permits the two-way transmission of a signal, most often describing the ability of a communication device to
transmit signals from two parties to each other simultaneously. ‘Simplex,’ the opposite, thus refers to the one-way
transmission of such signals.
32 A dominant reading is produced when the receiver’s situated culture matches that of the producer, delivering the
‘preferred reading;’ a negotiated reading is affected when some cultural discrepancies here inflect the reading; and an
oppositional stance is taken in the presence of a divergent situated culture, placing the audience in conflict with the
preferred reading, and with the meme that would affect national identity.
33 Suitably, the analogy, which refers to the mass manipulation discussed in O’Sullivan et al (1994, p151), connotes passivity
and dependency.

The deployment of the trinity model which facilitates this culture is well expressed in

the mission of The Western Mail as, increasingly, national contextualiser of federal and

international occurrences:

In Wales, that means being Welsh, providing Welsh angles on information

about Wales, for Wales, how it affects Wales (Fowler, 1999) 34 .

Whilst such a function may be regarded as competitive product placement designed to

serve an already existing Welsh community, such a high degree of conscious editorial

territorialisation would serve to reinforce, or instil anew, the cultural and political

identity such publications fully intend to communicate. Indeed, the journalism of today

is the history of tomorrow.

Moreover, in respect of the Welsh press’ national imagination, The Western Mail is

quick to subtitle itself ‘The National Newspaper of Wales,’ contextualising its own

product in a manner which its content follows - delimited by the extents of territory or

of the occurrences which impact upon the public already residing within it.

Anderson finds it is the novel-esque omnipresence of the newspaper, by which only the

reader is aware of the actions of all participating characters, which sanctions the

extension of scale from local community to the broader, national community contained

by the aforementioned extents of coverage. That a news page is a medium for arbitrary

events collected and juxtaposed ‘shows that linkage between them is imagined,’ thus

‘imagined linkage derives from,’ first, the calendrical coincidence that such events

occurred on the same day and, second, the newspaper-readership relationship which

generates a community of customers (Anderson, 1991: p33) . Furthermore, what is the automatic

obsolescence of the newspaper as soon as it is read gives the readers a shared sense of

consumption because the product’s newness is fleeting.

34 Western Mail editor Neil Fowler, addressing the Wales Media Forum / Royal Television Society conference at
University of Wales, Cardiff, in November 1999.

Appendix A7 shows how the avowed ‘Welsh press’ take advantage of the affective

addressive mode offered them by implementing cultural memes in their own

prescriptive discourses, expressed in the familiar, collective language of ‘us’ 35. But the

extent of any indigenous Welsh national press at all remains unclear, and herein lays

massification’s malfunction...

With most newspapers consumed in Wales produced in London’s situated culture 36 ,

UK titles are more massifying than the indigenous (see Appendix A8, A10) , and the local press

are more popular, too (see Appendix A9) , and split Wales in two (see Appendix A11) , leaving it

without ‘the essential element of a [national] journalistic constituency’ (Hannan, 1997: p56) .

The democratic sphere, therefore, is not healthy, because there is an ‘information

deficit’ (G.T. Davies, 1999: p18) ... the majority of cultural memes are produced outside of Wales.

Because, also, on the terrestrial spectrum, memes ‘travel in straight lines and do not

reach many communities because of the shielding effect of mountains or hills’ (BBC

Reception, 1998: tv_recep/terrestv.shtml) , the particularly undulating topography of Wales makes mass

consumption difficult (see Appendix 13) 37. Indeed, many close to Offa’s Dyke can and do tune,

instead, to English channel variants 38.

The fragmentation of the Welsh reception community discredits the notion of absolute

mass consumption - too few numbers are consuming the same memes to affect

widespread nationality. The fractious and sporadic reach was blamed for the low

turn-out in the 1997 devolution referendum because a significant proportion of the

electorate was not in possession of information required to make political decisions 39 .

That Geraint Talfan Davies claims such a hypothesis is ‘false logic,’ whilst also calling

35 For, the reporter is always on the side of the reader, even when instructing certain behaviours.
36 London-produced newspapers account for 87 percent of Welsh consumption (source: Welsh Affairs Select
Committee, 1999: par37)
37 Wales’ 181 transmitters comprise 20 percent of all those in the UK, whilst Wales only contributes 5 percent in
population terms. The Cambrian Mountains divide North and South, whilst hills degregate even nearby communities.
38 Some 40 percent of the population, or 400,000 people, lives in franchise overlap territories (source: Welsh Affairs
Select Committee, 1999: par5) (see Appendix A12). 57 percent of Cardiff households tune aerials to HTV West instead
of HTV Wales, 55 percent in the Vale of Glamorgan and 46 percent in Newport (source: Mungham & Williams, 1998:
39 See Welsh Affairs Select Committee, 1999; and National Assembly for Wales, 1999. Notably, the Assembly passed
an amendment to the debate’s motion which made clear the institution’s concern at fragmented coverage and stated
intentions to enhance the spread of coverage.

for a remedy to fragmentation in the interests of national culture, itself appears illogical
(G.T. Davies, 1999: pp7-9) 40 .

Furthermore, the opt-in concentration of Welsh-medium programming on one dedicated

channel has, one might argue, led to the ghettoisation of language and exclusivity of

culture, disuniting an otherwise bilingual nation 41.

[This] ‘results in at least two entirely separate arenas for communication

within Wales,’ inducing ‘uncertainty, disunity, a fractured image of the self’

(Osmond, 1996: p118) .

Wales, whilst its identity is self-evident, is ‘a victim of its geography,’ its unity subtly

undermined by shortcomings in distribution capacity... ‘such infrastructure is a

hindrance to, even the cause of, the fragmented culture that is Wales’ (Mackay & Powell, 1998:

p204) .

The mass media have indeed played a central positive and negative rôle in the creation

of the national community... their realisation of the national artefact, on the one hand,

and the erratic socialisation created by their sporadic imperfections, on the other, each

find constructivist hypotheses highly effective. Where received, Welsh media content

has successfully imagined the nation; where not, the ultimately fractious gaps in

national sentiment still implicitly suggest Anderson is correct.

40 In the week of the referendum, claimed Plaid Cymru councillor Gareth Roberts (of Teledu i Pawb / Television for All)
canvassing in the problematic Holywell area with Dafydd Wigley, no-one knew who the party President was or what the
devolution issue was about, but awareness was great in nearby areas exposed to Welsh television. Source: R. Owen, ‘TV
Reception Fears For Campaign,’ The Western Mail, 21/1/99, p2. See Appendix 13.
41 Of the 88 hours of television produced in Wales, just 25 percent is in the language spoken by the true mass (source:
Mungham & Williams,1998: p117), and these are the predominantly federal UK channels.


Wales may be a victim of its geography, but so is every nation, their media-received

community identities constructed as much from these intrinsic features of media and

distribution channels as from deliberate ethnic intention.

Territorialisation, it has been shown, takes place in the control of the tension between

the problematic scale-extending and scale-reducing tendencies of terrestrial

transmission to simultaneously expand and cease spectrum and circulation travel at an

invisible frontier, and is further cemented by matching existing political boundaries and

by choosing culturally-specific content from within. Traditional society is based on

direct interaction with people living close to each other (van Dijk, 1999: p20) ; inhabitants of old

media’s society may not always engage in close, direct interaction (mass mediated

communication has the effect of replacing interpersonal communication), but the

community which they are forced to inhabit is tangibly geopolitical, its identity a

physical derivation of the land geography in which it is contained. Media content’s

conventional mode of distribution has been aboveland or overland, where the power of

broadcast and the scope of print are limited, but not so much that they cannot usually

provide a construction extended to the national and reduced from any international

tendency. Terrestrial transmitters’ deficient reach allows borders of reception to be

drawn at will.

But value is placed on the broadcast spectrum - the ether - because it is a scarce

resource; the analogue signals which it distributes are relatively inefficient... result: ‘TV

bandwidth is a pig’ (Negroponte, July 1996: p112) 42 . Terrestrial television broadcasting effectively

has bandwidth enough for only five channels, radio licences have been awarded equally

sparingly, even satellite’s bandwidth is limited, and the plurality of print is restrained by

the distribution economics of physical transportation.

42 The term ‘bandwidth’ visualises a distribution channel as a pipe in which content travels; the wider the pipe, the more
content, or the greater the composition of that content. Old media’s bandwidth, for example, would ultimately refer to the
amount of information which can be carried by analogue terrestrial television and radio, satellite, and the size and depth
of a newspaper after distribution economics have been accounted for.

We can say, then, that the number of media channels available for consumption is finite

and so, therefore, is the extent of memetic content. There is a condition of scarcity, and

such scarcity thus generates a limited set of memes, resulting in an audience largely

sharing identical cultural messages, regardless of polysemic interpretations - an

extremely unifying tendency. It is this shared consumption which creates the perception

that scattered individuals belong to the same community unit, strangers becoming

acquaintances introduced by a common agent of focus which is psychologically stored

for retrieval after the event of consumption.

This is the one-way, one-to-many meme in action. Conventional media are not

conversational media, offering no technological capacity for return or synchronous

communication which might sanction a communicable oppositional reading to the text,

instead making the user into a passive reader. The annihilation of disagreement

facilitates the adoption of nationalising cultural units; the media ‘reinforce a consensual

viewpoint by using idioms and by claiming to voice public opinion’ (Woollacott, 1982: 109) .

We can say the ability to produce the nation rests in the power to control the

production of cultural memes. The concentration of memetic production in the hands of

the few reduces the likelihood of cultural diversity in those messages, thus maintaining

the integrity and sanctity of an ultimately singular, exclusive conception of identity 43 . It

is both the one-way and the one-to-many interpellative modes of television, radio,

cinema, print, etc. which should force us to redefine all such media broad-cast media -

in the truest sense of the concatenation, they all address a large range of people in a

pitched stream.

These media being inflexible media, the output of content is timetabled by producers;

they throw out information not at the direction of the users whom they claim to serve

but at regular, scheduled intervals within a given period. A television news show, for

43 Van Dijk (1999: p38) expresses the one-to-many broadcast model in the analytical model of a tree structure, in which
the root is a producer which feeds a message to each of the many, many leaf receivers.

example, might be aired at 18:00hrs each evening; a newspaper might go on sale every

morning; Coronation Street is on at 19:30hrs every Monday, Wednesday and Friday...

each operates on the promise of delivering information which is chronologically new

yet at entirely predictable moments, the nature and location of which are complicity

known by aware consumers.

It is that limited bandwidth which means progamming must be output economically -

there are so few distribution channels, and institutional content production is arranged

so accordingly, that products are perceived as events, transient and available for a finite

period... ‘for one night only!’

The effect of finite availability encourages the many to flock to devour the meme all at

the same time, creating the extraordinary mass action of simultaneous consumption of

the same content. As Anderson observes, simultaneity is crucial in the imagination of

community because the act of collective reception generates another remarkable sense

of shared action: the individual, without having met compatriots, ‘has complete

confidence in their steady, anonymous, simultaneous activity’ (Anderson, 1991: p26) . What is

more, this en masse act of receiving information at scheduled intervals is ritualistic,

creating a ‘mass ceremony’ (ibid) or national rhythm of which most individuals are aware

and in which most are able to participate: ‘steady repetition is a compulsion mutually

reinforced’ (Stipe, 1983).

‘The idea of a social organism moving calendrically through homogenous,

empty time is a precise analogue of the idea of a nation, which also is

conceived as a solid community moving steadily up (or down) history’ (Anderson,

1991: p28) .

The construction of a mediated culture reliant on these tangible, limited distribution

(drawn territorially and fragmented topographically) ties the imagined community to

geography itself, even though culture is a mediation executed on the intangible mental

sphere. Terrestrial media, with content reach confined by bounded extent, make the

ensuing identity terrestrial, too. The identities of the old media, then, are geo-national,

the community a collection of disparate individuals, distinct occurrences and smaller

communities bound together despite their initial differences, the extent of which is

limited only by the correspondence of analogue distribution’s failure and the

‘constructivist camp’s imagination.



Since the media’s construction of national identity is the product of their intrinsic

characteristics, the new media’s different properties, it can be hypothesised, would

directly usurp the very nature of the country’s imagination, proposing new or non-

constructions. Fundamentally led by the continuing application of Moore’s Law in

processor manufacture 44 and the convergence of forms, the change from old to new

media is one fronted by the internet 45 , which encompasses and invokes many media,

and is meta-expressed in the change from atoms to bits (Negroponte, 1996: p4) .

Abundant Interests

When tangible analogue information is converted into those ethereal yet processable

digital bits, it becomes more efficient 46 - software design means a producer can send to

a receiver content compressed 47, and hardware advances mean the capacity of existing

infrastructure can be increased 48. Negroponte likens the ability to compress content to

the arrival of freeze-dried cappuccino which, upon the addition of water, can be

restored with all the richness of one freshly made in an Italian café (Negroponte, 1996: p17) .

Indeed, it is the removal of the whole notion of the ‘copy’ in this act of being digital

which obliterates newspaper economics, because the necessity to consider the cost of a

print run suddenly no longer impinges - bits are easily reproducible with no financial

incursion. More starkly, compression of conventional broadcast data into bits makes

44 Gordon Moore, co-founder of chip manufacturer Intel, observed the power of a silicon chip computer processor
doubles every 18 months. Source:
45 This study refers to the ‘internet’ rather than the ‘Internet’ as an ideological statement: it is my contention that the
internet and those forms it spawns are contemporary media mature enough to no longer be treated with any of the
adoration that has made them institutionalised. Furthermore, it is nations themselves whose names are capitalised and,
such is the discussion of hypotheses here, this study would find that the proposition of John Perry Barlow, that the
internet should undertake a ‘declaration of independence’ from which would be made a nation, is illogical. Further, in
fact, there is no such thing as the internet; its networks and diversity so multitudinous as to be personal to each user. The
internet is merely a medium.
46 A ‘bit’ is the smallest unit of information processable by a machine, connoting only a binary value. Combinations of
bits begin to form meaningful information. Source:
47 For example, the standardised MPEG (Motion Pictures Experts’ Group) video compression protocol transmits only
the portions of a frame which are changed from the previous picture, minimising the information requirement. The same
technique is true of internet-specific RealVideo and WindowsMedia formats, and the popular mp3 music variant of
MPEG compresses CD-quality audio into fractions of their actual size. Analogue television and radio sends a whole new
picture or piece of audio in each transmission, taking up precious bandwidth.
48 A modem (modulator-demodulator) at the transmission end of an analogue telephone line encodes information into
digital bits for communication across the existing infrastructure whilst, at the reception end, the information is decoded
and reassembled by the same protocol (the water in Negroponte’s example overleaf). See also ADSL. Broadcast signals,
after being sent out from transmission suites, are sent to OnDigital’s Transmission Centre for digital compression, then
out to countrywide transmitters.

room for upto six television channels in the space historically occupied by one 49 , and

there is a new multiplicity of distribution channels and media.

Essentially, bandwidth is radically increased; more content can be pushed down larger

pipes, creating a crucial paradigm shift from scarcity to abundance.

In multi-channel homes, the share of conventional analogue channels - that is, the only

channels with a national-regional remit for Wales - drops dramatically 50 (a trend which

newsreader Huw Edwards labels ‘quite worrying’ 51) and use of conventional media in

general drops further as new media such as the internet become more popular, half of

internet users reporting they use television and newspapers less 52 . When an

infrastructure supports a multiplicity of media outlets, each is capable of satisfying one

of the diversity of society’s different habits, reducing the salience of the public service.

The whole concept of broad-casting - to address as many people as possible with little

content from few outlets (limited space to devote to a broad range of interests reduces

the size of the ‘news hole’ and increases superficiality for each) - is thus overthrown by

the onset of narrowcasting, by which more minority interests can be satisfied more


The inevitable consequence of content abundance, then, is memetic abundance,

heterogeneity. Crucially, it is a diverse set of memes which is produced and circulated -

memes which, in their narrow concentration, preference the subject at hand over any

49 For a recent illustration in relation to Digital Terrestrial Television (which should not be highly thought of as the
greatest realisation of many of the factors discussed in this study), see Appendix B1. The number of television channels
in UK homes rose from 14 to 64 between 1991 and 1997, making 25 percent of homes multi-channel (E.G. Jones, 1999:
50 See G.T. Davies, 1999: p60.
51 Speaking at the ‘Reporters And The Reported’ lecture ‘Can Programmes Like Mine Have A Future?’ at University of
Wales, Cardiff, on March 9th, 2000.
52 Forrester research found that half of internet users watch less television, and 38 percent spend less time reading or
talking on the telephone (,1284,15538,00.html). MediaMatrix figures suggest that, even
during television shows expected to be great massifying events, the worldwide web eroded viewing figures
( Likewise, an increasing number of households with both
television and internet access use the two media simultaneously as ‘consumer multitasking,’ indicating the internet is
making inroads into concentrated television viewing (

ethnic intentions. The likes of Gilder see bandwidth’s finite property as merely a

temporary factor (Bronson, 1996: gilder.html) 53.

Indeed, conventional media are like a jug of water - everybody has to drink from the

same jug at the same time and the only options are to drink or not drink. But, in future,

everyone will have their own glass and be able to put their own flavour into it and pour

water into it when they are ready to drink (E.O. Williams, 1998) . Abundance enables

empowerment, and the avoidance of the constructivist effect.

What may be witnessed, then, is the radically reduced visibility of the cultural meme, as

choice and interest-led programming’s satisfaction of the public’s existing diversity

overwhelms the public service’s lack of depth in breadth. When a plurality of specialist,

niche media outlets encourage individuals’ consumption patterns independently of each

other, it is difficult to conceive of the Andersonian tribal hypothesis of mass

participation remaining a pertinent factor - everyone’s watching the other side. Thus,

the mass audience is diminished, invoking a transition from national homogeneity to

splintering and fragmentation of the audience. In this sense, in fact, the already

fractious national consumptions of Wales become an ironic indicator as to its new

media future.

But, more than the ‘explosion in choice’ sales pitch that merely provides more content,

it is the emergence of new addressive modes which more substantially contributes to a

negation of nationalisation, for modem-based media permit two-way, duplex


53 ADSL (Asymmetical Digital Subscriber Line) technology ‘fools’ the existing analogue telephone infrastructure into
thinking it is a broadband digital network capable of high-speed transmission, and digital cable distribution boasts even
more capacity than analogue. Both technologies can be used to deliver broadcast-quality video and audio content from
the internet and other services and include upstream capability. Gilder proposes a bandwidth corollary of Moore’s Law,
forecasting backbone capacity will treble annually for the next quarter of a century.

Cool Memes

Browning fundamentally defines ‘new media; communications for all, by all’ (Browning, 1998:

p105) :

Old media divides the world into producers and consumers: we’re either authors

or readers, broadcasters or viewers, entertainers or audiences. One-to-many

communications, in the jargon. New media, by contrast, gives everybody a

chance to speak as well as listen. Many speak to many - and the many speak

back (ibid).

Conventional media narratives are linear, inducing compliance with memetic units.

Blessed with the intrinsic potential to ‘speak back,’ however, the products of the new

forms satisfy van Dijk’s ‘transition from allocution to consultation’ (van Dijk, 1999: p38) .

Effectively, new media communication resembles conversation.

McLuhan observes that media in general are cooling down. Hot media (television,

radio, the newspaper) capture attention in high definition but do not leave room for

closure of messages by the audience because they are low in participation and seek to

maintain the integrity of their own authority. But cool media (electronic mail, the web,

newsgroups, chat, interactive television), benefiting from the provision of plentiful

content permitted by converged hypermedia 54 , are high in participation (M. McLuhan in E.

McLuhan & F. Zingrone, 1997: p162) . Where the old exhibit a push quality in their one-way address,

the new boast a pull mode of reception by which the user must make a conscious

decision to locate content - the user no longer must complicitly accept the memes

produced at the centre.

54 ‘Hypermedia’ derives from ‘hypertext,’ a term coined by Ted Nelson to describe ‘non-sequential writing, text that
branches and allows choices by the reader;’ see ‘Hypermedia’ thus refers to the
ability to interlink many kinds of forms - including images, audio and video - to enable the branching of nodal
information within a text.

Enabling a realisation of active-reader hypotheses and the production of something akin

to Barthes’ ‘writerly text’ 55, cool media - and the web in particular - allow the user to

make specific message selections from the pool of available content which satisfy the

priorities, specialisations and affinities of his or herself, rather than of an editor who

makes gathering and gatekeeping decisions on the basis of a conception of the

individual as identical to the mass - a judgement which also regards events occurring at

one extent of the territory to be as important to individuals at the distant other. Such is

the relationship afforded by hypertext, a web user is able to disregard timetabled,

pre-prioritised current affairs memes, for example, and go online at any moment

deemed suitable to select content in a manner entirely dependent on whether the

expected memes make the act of clicking worthwhile. When news or other memes can

be obtained at a time which is at the discretion of the audience, the evidence of the

Andersonian conception of mass simultaneity contributing to community appears much

less potent.

But it is not even true that the programming itself is shared anymore. More than

modifying the one-to-many convention to allow selection from the available meme

pool, the computational and archival functions of cool media - with the web’s

client-side ‘cookies’ and server-side user databases 56 - endorse a one-to-one model by

which content can be personalised so that only the memetic categories specified by the

user are available (by default, they will be those that match his or her affinities), the

remaining memes filtered out from delivery... ‘the future won’t be 500 channels; it will

be one channel, your channel’ (Sassa, 1998: p100) 57 . In expressing this new individualisation

of media, Negroponte refers to The Daily Me, a theoretical construct which has

nevertheless been realised countless times over (Negroponte, 1996: p153) , a personalisable

‘newspaper’ which returns only the content pre-specified by its reader (Excite, Yahoo!,

55 See
56 A ‘cookie’ is a file stored on the user’s computer which stores information set by a web site - an age, location,
sporting team or favourite news category, for example - and is re-supplied to the site for processing on subsequent visits.
The same function could be carried out by storing the information on a web site’s own database.
57 Sassa (1998) calls such distribution ‘W-cubed: whatever, wherever, and whenever I want it.’

CNN, FishWrap and Crayon are amongst those offering such customisation) - the only

prospective mass is what has been called ‘mass customisation’ 58.

But The Daily Me is ‘ego-centric’ - having eliminated the rôle of the editor, ‘the user

may become isolated from his or her neighbourhood, city, state and nation because he

or she has filtered out information. It’s more isolation and less real life’ (Harper, 1997:

ajrdailyme.html) . Clearly, then, the satisfaction of affinities independent from territory

threatens constructivism and the ethnocentric missions of Fowler and hot media

contemporaries who cannot satisfy complex networks of interest specific to the

empowered individual.

Moreover, implicit in these forms is a production capability which constitutes a

remarkable power shift from the producer to the user. Cool new media affect a punk

redistribution of intelligence from transmitter to receiver that would satisfy Marxist

ideals. Media which are in-built with the capacity to make content (they are fashioned

on computational media which require input and engagement) and the removal of

prohibitively expensive access to distribution (common economics applied to

bandwidth scarcity makes it expensive) place the tools of production into the hands of

the many.

The memetic authority, then, rests with the audience itself, taken from central control as

per the Law of Microcosm 59. Since information production constitutes an expression of

identity (Wellman & Gulia in Smith & Kollock, 1999: p177) , productions such as personal web pages can

resemble the new meme pools... if specifically referring to the nation of Wales, then

they begin to constitute a truly ‘mass-produced’ construction of its ethnic identity.

‘It’s not that [these new producer-consumers] will compete with The New York Times,

but the consumer becomes part of the process of telling stories in a way that edifies the

58 Alvin Toffler refers to ‘mass customisation’ - basically, the ability of everyone to personalise their media requirements
- in ‘Shock Wave (Anti) Warrior,’ P. Schwartz, Nov 1993, in Wired 1.5,
59 See George Gilder, eg.

public discourse’ (Bender in Lasica, 1999: ajrjdja.html) . The public sphere discourses of hot media

claim to facilitate the ‘active, self-determining political nation’ of the Staatsnation, but

the truly participatory quality of the cool media expose the former as offering little

more than the ‘largely passive cultural community’ of the Kulturnation (Meinecke in A. Smith,

1991: p8) - it is the ability to engage with the political sphere directly and to disintermediate

the selective information providers which could truly facilitate democracy’s rôle in a

mediated nationality 60 61 , leading to the ‘socialisation of politics, which produces a

more prominent rôle for citizens in the production and determination of society’ (van Dijk,

1999: p86) .

Yet Toffler claims that self-determination, which is the political expression of mass

opinion framed by territorial democratic rights, will find it increasingly hard to arrive at

consensus on an issue as society becomes more heterogeneous and fragmented,

producing ever-smaller majorities (Toffler, 1996: p54) . With such a marginal mandate,

democracy and its Fourth Estate benefactors would conceivably find it hard to justify

their own appointment, much less maintain the unified identity of a nation which long

ceased to be a mass.

Most crucially, the self-production quality of what are social media makes active groups

from the narrow, niche interests implemented by abundance; the affinities become

communities. Whilst content and its audience undergo a scale-reducing segmentation,

the valued specialisation of each niche means they subsequently experience a

scale-extension that allows the formation of miniature masses. It is a representative

re-massification into what van Dijk expresses as ‘component masses’ (van Dijk, 1999: p169) .

Newsgroups, chat spaces, bulletin boards and web-based forums, for example, are

media ‘in’ which like-minded individuals congregate to indulge those interests - a

60 Rheingold (1993: 9.html) cites Dave Hughes from Colorado as an originator of online democracy, when, in 1983, the
citizen of Welsh decent, mobilised protest against Colorado Springs city council’s threat to prohibit telecommuting. See
Appendix B3.
61 Recently, and offer a more direct, issue-based relationship between the public, elected
representatives and the act of democracy.

many-to-many dynamic in which output and input are linked so equally as to resemble

conversation. Recursively, memetic production by the diverse many would appear to

guarantee an increasing plurality of miniature masses, further discouraging the shared,

homogenous sense.

Location, Location, Location!

Herein lies the most fundamental departure. Whilst conventional media’s communities

are the product of shared place, the new communities are constructed from shared

interest. Every community requires a context - a massifying motivation - and it is the

tangible geopolitical space which offers such containment to the conventional

community. But, rather than witness such collectivism despite differences, the

contemporary media generate kinship because of similarities, leading some (eg. Rheingold,

1993) to claim such collections are true or organic communities - intentionally bonded by

affinities, not bound by accidents of birth, politics and continental drift.

Indeed, the concept of place is fundamentally diminished. The versatility of internet

traffic to traverse a multitude of communications networks, provided each operates a

common protocol, has made all the available networks and devices of the world

interconnected, producing an international scale-extending force, and the subsequent

abundance of the world’s memetic diversity - supplied by the enormous multiplication

of participants - is thus what feeds the narrowing and heterogeneity of the niche.

So, no longer is reception territory contained by the deficiencies of terrestrial media or

the massifying intentions of nationalising institutions. If ‘satellite footprints spill over

the former integrity of national borders’ (Morely & Robins, 1995: p112) , as they do along Offa’s

Dyke, then the absolute reach of newer media floods with disregard over any sense of

containment the territorialised media hold. Fundamentally, because a user can consume

memetic output from any distant location, ‘the link between culture and territory

becomes significantly broken. What is being created is a new ‘placeless’ geography’

(ibid) .

But, such is the dynamic of bit-based networks, both ends of a communications wire

are, to all intents and purposes, the same place. Distance is effectively annihilated; this

is no ‘placeless geography,’ but not a geography at all...

Cyberspace is not geopolitical. Cyberspace is a topology, not a topography.

There are no physical constructs like ‘beside,’ ‘above,’ or ‘to the north of’

(Negroponte, Nov 1996: p112) 62

With globalisation, the new media say ‘bye-bye, borders’ (Browning, 1998: p105) , resurrecting a

modified cultural imperialism hypothesis as memes float from extrinsic nations to the

situated culture not automatically, but when requested. All agents of demarcation and

opposition thus reside not in territorial shapes but in ideological hierarchies.

We witness the emancipatory ability of the individual to disengage from the geonational

identity in order to indulge in high-definition trans-national commonalities. ‘ There are

no remote places,’ notes McLuhan (McLuhan, 1997: p30) ; the individual is as close to the

distant, previously unattainable meme as he or she is to the indigenous, and can

transcend the localised memetic construct.

‘Time’ has ceased, ‘space’ has vanished. We now live in a global village... a

simultaneous happening (McLuhan, 1967: p60) .

Such conditions shock Andersonianism. The abolition of the prime unit of national

containment is accompanied by the abolition of the property which endorsed ritualistic

mass consumption. Where that simultaneity had been national, the global chronology

makes the whole world my community... the individual can, ethereally, be remotely

there as easily as, palpably, being physically here as content can be consumed by two

receivers on separate hemispheres at the same time. We thus observe the extreme

62 All conceptions of new media experiences as somehow spatial are entirely metaphorical constructs of the ethereal. The
nature of ‘cyberspace’ is usually attributed to Gibson, ‘a consensual hallucination experienced daily by billions of
legitimate operators, in every nation... a graphical representation of data abstracted in the banks of every computer in the
human system’ (1995), or, more conservatively: ‘the total interconnectedness of human beings through computers and
telecommunication without regard to geography’ (

decreased significance of physical presence and, in a sense, disembodiment and the

absence of locality as the user enters a ‘consensual hallucination’ (Gibson, 1995: p12) . ‘Our

central nervous system [and memetic reception] is technologically extended to involve

in the whole of mankind and to incorporate the whole of mankind in us [and] we

necessarily participate’ (McLuhan, 1964: p4) , so the cultural arena of the individual is extended

to receive non-local memes.

In short, the media contrasts which starkly suggest new constructivist hypotheses can be

expressed as follows (and see Appendix B2)...

Old Media New Media

Bandwidth Scarce Abundant

Content Little Diverse

Relevance General and Mass Specialist or Personal

Reach Bounded Unbounded

Mediaspace Localised and Geopolitical Global

Communication One-to-many Many-to-many or One-to-one

Consumption One specified time Time of individual's choosing

Memetic products Widely identical Individualised

Address One-way Two-way

Reception Passive Participatory

Delivery Push Pull

Production Centralised Distributed

Determinism Kulturnation Staatsnation

Bonding Geographical Interests

Community Despite differences Because of similarities

Relations Cultural compatriates Cultural strangers

Participation From territory From anywhere

We witness the upset of each element of the trinity model of media nationalisation -

territorial delimitation of media consumption is no longer necessarily in effect;

consumers are emancipated from the consumption of scarce, shared content; and what

content remains to be shared can be taken with entirely new production and memetic


Essentially, we can hypothesise the dissipation and diminution of the national

community and the continual assertion of communities of interest.


So, the forces driving new media question fundamentally whether there will any longer

be mass media to administer massification to people in Wales. Essentially, we might

hypothesise the decline of their national community and the continued ascendance of

communities of interest.

‘As we interconnect ourselves, many of the values of a nation state will give

way to those of both larger and smaller electronic communities. We will

socialise in digital neighbourhoods in which physical space will be irrelevant’

(Negroponte, 1996: p7) .

Extra-terrestrial appropriation of remote nationality

Indeed, with the annihilation of geography, a web user situated in Wales can consume

memes designed for an entirely distinct territory or culture, as the global village takes

effect. Internationalisation of distribution has prompted producers - the San Fransisco

Examiner, for example - to establish web editions, resulting in an unlimited

geographical reach, so that when a Welsh person accesses, he or

she consumes a text which was produced and is stored in a culture-territory of

thousands of miles away.

A simple analysis of such outlets, as seen in Appendix B4, reveals the memes - or,

stories - we find bear no relation to the situated culture in which our Welsh subject is

physically located or, likely, even to his or her individual life. Indeed, the memes have

no resemblance to those Welsh constituents identified earlier in this study as the key

circulations in conventional nationalisation. The memetic subset absorbed by the

‘Welsh’ individual belongs, in fact, to an entirely different location. New media memes,

it transpires, can leap countries in a single bound 63.

63 Some Welsh television and radio channels are also available throughout the UK, thanks to digital satellite
broadcasting’s new abundance.

Thus, the Morely & Robins hypothesis would appear to be legitimately borne out, as

‘the link between culture and territory becomes significantly broken ’ (Morely & Robins, 1995:

p112) . Additionally, cool products made from the staples of conventional publishers’ and

broadcasters’ hot content may masquerade as ‘new media,’ but old media memes online

remain old media memes, still credited with a prescriptive mode of address prior to

interactive consumption. So, when the product is ‘shovelware’ 64 rather than radically

conceived, again obliterating active and interactive readership, the ensuing identity

administered to the individual is the remote one. Having determined that memes have

an affect on their receiver, the mediated identity of a Haverfordwest resident who

consumes primarily San Fransiscan media would begin to resemble that of a San

Fransiscan, and his or her national identity consequently shaped by the United States

national dynamic which continually reverberates above Californian regional media.

Such a hypothesis corresponds to a cultural imperialist effect, but on request.

The Daily Me is not The Daily Wales

The Daily Me is realised in a number of different scenarios, yet memetic reception is

not daily at all unless the user consciously chooses to consume content with all the

ritualistic repetition of Andersonianism, disregarding empowerment and efficiency. As

a permanent, portable object, a copy of The Western Mail, once it has been published,

can be picked up for use at the discretion of its owner, but the incessant act of sale each

morning discourages memes from public release as soon as they are produced and

encourages simultaneous mass consumption, instead, the morning after 65 . Likewise,

transient broadcast bulletins communicate at times which make consumption similarly

homogenous. Whilst hot ‘rolling’ services such as BBC News24 and Sky News claim to

offer ‘news when you want it,’ they are still subject to timetabling and prioritisation

64 Shovelware is ‘content taken from any source and put on the web as fast as possible with little regard for appearance
and usability,’ thereby not fulfilling the potential of a more capable medium. Source:
65 The Western Mail editor Neil Fowler told the 1999 Wales Media Forum / Royal Television Society conference
‘Wales: A New Media Agency’ that the publication was considering publishing content on its TotalWales web site
immediately upon being filed in the newsroom. The site would, in principle, become a rolling news service whilst the
‘dead-tree’ publication would thus become a secondary product, current when the print run plucks memes from the news

concerns. It is the ephemeralism of personalisable services such as My Yahoo!, seen in

Appendix B5 (Fig 3), with which the user can immediately access memes not held back

for publication or broadcast at future allotted hours... when I accessed My Yahoo! at

3.56am, for example, I read a political meme, filed at 1.44am, hours before the sleeping

mass of Wales... if, already fragmented, that mass was ever to read it at all. As

consumption becomes user-determined, the conventional framework for mass

understanding thus appears to disintegrate.

The user can, indeed, tailor memetic consumption to such a degree that the democratic

meme within such a story - or any of the other memes earlier identified as key cultural

components - can be consciously averted. Appendix B6 demonstrates how an individual

can opt in and out of memetic categories (Fig 1) and can adjust the degree of depth and

coverage given to each, whilst he or she is also able to re-prioritise memes as would

best suit personal attachments (Fig 2). Effectively, the consumer is able to banish the

culture category that is ‘Home’ (see Fig 1) with a single click to grant his or her own

authority to what is significant to the individual rather than the national collective.

Such media, we can hypothesise, would thus produce a uses-and-gratification dynamic

66 in which there is no longer a unified sense of what is important to the nation. Geraint

Talfan Davies warns Wales:

there is the direct threat that fragmentation of the viewing and listening public

may mean that the media will play a lesser rôle in maintaining linguistic and

cultural development 67.

Indeed, the appearance of Wales-specific content within the broad selection framework

is intensely negligible 68, as the likes of Yahoo! and Excite take news feeds largely from

international agencies with little, if any, memetic production indigenous to the

66 Blumler & Katz (1974) - in O’Sullivan et al (1994, p156) - find people use media in order to fulfil certain needs,
including diversion, personal relationships, personal identity and surveillance of others.
67 VLV conference.
68 There is no ‘Wales’ category featured in either of these portals, and the ‘Welsh-Scottish Premier Division’ league
table which can be appended to My Excite is a full season out of date, indicating serious deficiency in the rugby meme.

principality. Of a small, informal sample comprising Yahoo!, Excite, CNN and MSN 69,

there was no indication of news content specifically targeted at the Welsh territory

(with the exception of weather reports), and no Welsh content provider is engaged in a

partnership which sees indigenous content used by extra-national web sites, as

GuardianUnlimited has demonstrated by sharing news with Yahoo! and MSN, but such

a relationship only makes a Welsh person’s new media memes as sparse as those given

to Wales in The Guardian itself and other incursive London press ... the majority of

content is organised non-nationally. We thus hypothesise the pre-eminence of

non-Welsh memes, contributing to a reduced visibility of Welshness.

Hierarchy not territory: community comes from conviction

Yet it is not merely the link between culture and territory which appears to become

broken. In this ‘general demassification,’ Wales’ culture itself would seem to diminish

as non-national, pro-affinity memes circulate in specific, niche communities.

Afforded an extraordinary multiplication of available like-minded participants by the

international reach of media connections and the extension of nervous systems, cool

media support specialist social groups populous enough to actualise van Dijk’s

‘component masses’ (van Dijk, 1999: p169) .

Community requires context, which, in offline Wales, is established by residence in the

geography of extent and is narrow because the comparatively small population produces

little cultural diversity. Online communities, by contrast, are established by a context

which is expressed entirely in the indulgence of diverse, territorially-independent


Indicating the extent of trans-national online heterogeneity, groups directory Liszt

catalogues some 80,000 Usenet newsgroups, 90,095 mailing lists and 37,751 chat

69 With the exception of CNN - which, in the MediaGuaridan of April 10th, 2000, revealed it is to increase its regional
and localised web news output - these web sites constitute 3 out of the UK’s 4 most visited locations (source:
Nielsen/NetRatings,, making the sample broadly representative of user’s new
media destinations. No figures are available for Welsh web use, so we must transpose these results onto Wales.

channels. Such arenas are ‘a way to find groups of people discussing whatever it is you

really care about’ 70 , rather than what BBC Wales Today or the Wales On Sunday

supposes the individual cares about. As the eminent cosmos of community media,

Usenet is a subject-organised hierarchy of groups, the memetic content of which is

contributed by original postings and follow-ups which constitute discussions always

framed by the self-expression of the group’s own, titled affinity...

‘The medium is the message because it creates the audience most suited to it.

The content of a medium is a conscious reflection on itself’ (M. McLuhan in Wolf, 1996:

channeling.html) .

That is, the memes circulating within an online community are determined by its

designation and, consequently, define that community:

The members of, say, a chat group about the TV show Friends are all interested

in that subject and ‘talk’ only about it. Rarely does anyone discover the things

over which they differ (Browning, 1998: p112) .

In fact, the memetic range is simply narrowed to such an extent that divergent opinion

is always self-contained by the narrow remit of the group’s founding context. All

demarcations between communities thus exist not in geopolitical, territorial

boundaries, but in ethereal, hierarchical structures entirely derivative from ideology

and interest.

Usenet’s hierarchy, for example, is organised along typically geography-independent

lines, the majority of upper categories (umbrellas, if you will) being broadly relevant to

inhabitants of many nations and cultures (see Appendix B6) . The

‘’ newsgroup, for example, illustrates how

communities of interest are formed by extending in the broad hierarchy a narrowing

70 Even these figures are wildly conservative, not accounting for web-based and other forums. Source:

degree of specialisation principally contained under a nonspecific banner. With this

specialisation, memes rarely, if ever, venture from pertaining to Manchester United FC.

Here, communities are defined by intangible affinity structures in which the imagined

nation can be transcended, its amassed social identity discarded to float in the

more-imagined metaphor of cyberspace... after all, ‘the final point of a virtual world is

to dissolve the constraints of the anchored world so that we can lift anchor’ (Heim, 1993: p137) .

‘Communities formed by ideas will be as strong as those formed by the forces of

physical proximity’ (Negroponte, Dec 1998) . All of this implies that G.T. Davies’ ‘information

exile’ is replicated online. Essentially, if the modes of the old media ‘made it possible

to ‘think’ the nation’ (Anderson, 1991: p22) , then, we can surmise, the changes and reversal of

those modes in new media would make it possible to ‘unthink’ the nation.

Case study: Usenet

But, whilst each affinity hypothesis can be suitably borne out to imply a diminution of

national feeling, such hypotheses cannot be corroborated to indicate the full extent of

the new media’s implications. Rather, it appears, it is possible also to ‘ rethink’ the


Indeed, as Wales’ old, hot media producers repurpose analogue or atoms memes online,

so their content-gathering techniques and national audience convictions - grounded by

geographical jurisdiction - also migrate to the emancipated media, resulting in a

shovelware replication of the constructivist product’s territorial imagination 71 . More

fundamentally, the cool media boast the contradictory existence of Wales-specific

congregations, clearly indicating that ethereal, global hierarchies are not exclusively

confined to interest-specific affiliations. We observe the #Wales chat channel carried by

various IRC networks 72 , the Cymraeg-L mailing list group for Welsh learners to

converse by e-mail and, most fundamentally of all, a number of Usenet newsgroups 73:

alt.culture.welsh wales.cymraeg
soc.culture.welsh wales.genealogy
uk.local.north-wales wales.history.general
uk.local.south-wales wales.test
uk.local.west-wales wales.usenet.announce
wales.adverts.general wales.politics wales.usenet.config
wales.announce.moderated wales.politics.assembly
wales.config wales.politics.general

We thus find that Welshness can exist amid the international din of global voices.

Online, national identity becomes a series of interest groups, a collection of niches

among and alongside many.

71 TotalWales, BBC Wales Online and BBC News Wales Online (recall that The Western Mail and BBC Wales constitute
the country’s few indigenous content producers) all serve to repurpose, with negligible modification, content which
originated in the hot newsrooms and studios of print and broadcast.
72 Internet Relay Chat, a multi-network architecture for participating in real-time, text-based discussion in distinct
73 Whilst universal accessibility of newsgroups may be hampered by variances in which internet service providers choose
to carry which groups on their newsservers, the list here, obtained from NTLWorld’s newsserver, is believed to be
complete or near-complete.

Locating Welshness: how do we find national identity?

We can see in the Usenet hierarchy, the organisational importance of which is crucial,

that Wales-specific memes circulate initially in broad, interest-based categories in

which the specific cultural context is the result of a global narrowing - from

‘alternative’ to ‘music’ to ‘wales,’ for example. In 1998, however, the dissipated

residence of Wales-specific memes at the ends of such fragmentary group chains

prompted the creation of the ‘wales.*’ upper hierarchy on grounds of cultural-political


Wales is a nation; we have our own language, culture, national sports teams

and, soon, Assembly. I, for one, want that recognised by having our own

hierarchy. The government of the United Kingdom recognises Wales as a

nation; why can’t Usenet? It’s a demand for a recognition of Wales as it stands

now (Greenow, 1998: msg) 74.

Consequently, there was enacted a group reorganisation which led to the residence of

distinct Welsh memes under the top-level ‘wales.*’ umbrella, a policy which has

resulted in ‘the ghettoisation of Welsh culture within the hierarchy, as S4C has done

with Welsh TV’ 75. Indeed, such organisations are analogous to the opt-in and opt-out

models identified of territorially-contained television and the press in Wales... the broad

‘alt.*,’ ‘soc.*,’ and ‘uk.*’ classifications resemble the generalising UK-centric

producers, with their minority regional programming, whilst the ‘wales.*’ hierarchy is

likened to the internalistic reconstitution of Welsh language and culture by S4C, S4C

Digidol, The Western Mail and, increasingly, BBC Choice Wales, as non-Welsh memes

become the opt-outs from the norm because interests with a national slant are

continually ‘in’... ‘all Wales, all the time!’

74 For transcripts of the discussion, see Appendix B7,

recognition+wales+usenet+hierarchy&ST=MS&svcclass=dnserver&DBS=1 and ghettoisation+language&ST=MS&svcclass=dnserver&DBS=1
75 See footnote above.

The group topic represents the ontological importance of nationality in the order of

things. Domicile of all Wales’ memetic productions under the nation’s own category is

a semantic and practical re-unification of the wired Welsh in their own context, a

context which is territorialistic, immediately connotating all that the Welsh land

signifies. Cultural demarcations here may be essentially ethereal and ideological, but

they frequently adopt the same shapes as the geographical.

Likewise, in cool national communities we witness the genesis of cultural codes of

practice for digital national identity which remarkably imitate physical-world

considerations employed both by law and by courtesy - Usenet’s Welsh charters, for

example, declare official bilingualism (see Appendix B8) , as do users voluntarily:

[In soc.culture.welsh], either [English or Welsh] is welcome. Netiquette dictates

that if the first post on a topic is made in English, I should reply in English. But

if it was in Welsh, I will normally respond in Welsh, often with an English

translation 76.

Thus, the cultural anchor is not completely cast away; but the baggage of nationhood is

deliberately transferred. The niches of the embracing Welsh hierarchy closely resemble

the country’s key memetic components, and beg inspection...

Methodological considerations

Unfortunately, it would appear implicitly impossible to corroborate the hypotheses of

‘Welsh’ people transcending national, territorial media in favour of emancipatory,

niche memes. Indeed, this was the major imperfection in Mackay & Powell’s study (1998:

p204) . Implicit in such a hypothesis is the understanding that the Welsh individual, of

course, discards national identity when he or she participates in the new communities,

thus his or her actual nationality is made anonymous. Likewise, there is no convention

76 Dyfrig Thomas cited by R. Andrews (Sep 3, 1998), ‘Dyfrig Spreads The Welsh World On The Internet,’ in ‘Llanelli
Star’ (Swansea: South-West Wales Publications), p34. Mr. Thomas is proprietor of Welsh-language literature chain store
‘Siop Y Werin,’ a member of Llanelli’s Eisteddfod 2000 steering committee, and a member of the Wales-Usenet
committee which manages the Usenet wales.* hierarchy. See Appendix B9 for further details.

for identifying Wales-based internet addresses beyond a ‘.uk’ suffix 77 . Measurement of

the exact memetic consumption of Welsh folk in non-Welsh channels is thus impossible

within the remit of this study. More sophisticated modes of research are required in

which a sampling of users in Wales would install monitoring software which logs

online activity including the extra-territorial 78. It would, however, help to consider such

a failing a finding... Welsh nationals’ probable, yet invisible, participation in

non-national communities creates a research gap which, in fact, validates those


The objective in looking at newsgroups which are Wales-related is to address, with

representative evidence, a handful of concerns regarding the nature of national

participation, in order to comprehend the new Welshness. Namely: What memes do we

find? How popular are they? Where do they come from? How do they distinguish the

Welsh identity from others?

I looked for software capable of capturing and interpreting a sample of messages posted

to Welsh newsgroups, and discovered GetNews and GroupStat 79 . I employed

GetNews to download from NTL’s newsserver any and all messages posted, during the

month Wednesday 15th March to Wednesday 19 April, to the following,

highest-volume newsgroups: wales.cymraeg
soc.culture.welsh wales.politics.assembly

77 Only ISO 3166-1, UN-recognised nations can have abbreviated codes created to identify domains as national, despite
the recent inclusion of territorially problematic communities such as Palestine. For a list of country codes and
institutional instructions on creating national codes, see Appendix B10.
78 Such a method would resemble the work of the British Audience Research Board, which logs the television activity
of 10,500 people happy to meter their media, and is automatically and remarkably well suited to computational media
such as the internet.
79 GetNews and GroupStat are complimentary tools written as source-code scripts for the Perl language, a system not
best suited to my Windows98 PC. A compatible version of Perl had to be downloaded and extensive modifications made
to the code of each script during the course of an e-mail exchange with Alex LaHurreau, the author. Mr. LaHurreau has
credited my help and modifications in the current release of both scripts, freely available from

GroupStat’s processing was then deployed on the samples to generate measurable,

ordered data for each group, presenting the following:

> Most popular threads (or, memes; the top 15 or so

can be considered a community’s prime memes)

> Top cross-posted groups (indicating where the

community intersections and demarcations lay 80)

> Most prolific posters (their e-mail addresses can

reveal actual national locations)

I was thus able to generate a good set of data which deploys quantitative processing to

produce visible, meaningful qualitative readings and interpretations for an informal

content analysis 81.

Kaunismaa claims ‘in studies of national identity, the position of the researcher is part

of the phenomenon’ because ‘the researcher is also a citizen and a member of an ethnic

group’ (1995: kaunismaa.html) . Yet, whilst my political and cultural identity cannot, Kaunismaa

argues, be discarded, my mode of data collection is non-participatory, and my sample a

collection of groups which are obviously Wales-related because it is specifically they

which are my concern.

Discussion of findings

The consequence of the conversion of nationality from an underlying foundation for

being to an interest all of its own, we find, is an intensely concentrated adherence to the

context in question, the subject meme deviating little from the group’s function.

In, for example, content is dominated by reverence of already

well-known bands from Wales (#9, #14); recommendations and information for

newcomer artists which amounts to promotion; and scene appraisals, even the negative,

abusive of which (#1, #5) demonstrate a maintenance of the meme at hand. Memes

80 Accepting that the principle of self-definition is aided by that of comparable opposition.

81 All data can be found in Appendix C1.

attain a degree of coverage and value which the scarcity of conventional media cannot


In the uk.local.* hierarchy, localisations are effective, with the effect of concentration

making a meme highly locally specific... ‘Llandudno food’ (#14) for example, is a

popular uk.local.north-wales topic, whilst the uk.local.south-wales ‘Free NTL Internet’

meme (#9) does not make an appearance in the North or West variations as NTL’s own

service is restricted to a South Wales cable franchise. Participants, then, are naturally

attracted to the group of their own situated culture, transposing even sub-national

territorial dynamics onto the new media.

Most representatively of this point, the memes of soc.culture.welsh (by definition, truly

the newsgroup devoted to ‘Welsh Culture,’ and almost volumnous enough to warrant

such an accolade had uk.local.south-wales’ 2010-article volume not beaten its 802

substantially) are intensely narrow and serve to recirculate Welsh-English divisions (#2,

#9), non-Welsh ostracisation (#5), preoccupation with Welsh symbolic (#14, #39) and

historical memes (#20, #21, #30), constitutional concerns (#13, #9), cultural events

(#56), and Welsh contributions to external occurrences (#17, #36). Likewise, with

wales.cymraeg’s popular privileging of culture memes almost exclusively associated

with the language itself (a rock band’s first exclusively Welsh-language album (#6),

methods of meeting Welsh-speaking users of an internet messaging system (#3), for

example), divergence from lingually-specific memes is uncommon.

Fundamentally, then, we find that the variety of national identity expressed in such

communities is profoundly ethnocentric and parochial in the extreme. The imagined

communities of the new media are remarkably specific. When the nation becomes a

highly focused community of interest, that interest, essentially locking out divergent

memes, produces a form of culture which is not that of the broad, national mass but one

of high-definition self-referentialism, and devoid of non-national tones 82.

Seemingly contradictory to this evidence of internalisation is the frequent discovery,

amongst participants’ names and addresses, of country codes 83 not native to Wales 84.

Throughout almost the entire sample of communities, we find contributions to the

meme pool from New Zealand, Switzerland, Canada, the Netherlands, Ireland, the USA,

Hong Kong, Germany, France, Singapore, Australia, Italy, the Christmas Islands,

Finland, Spain and Russia.

These constitute remote connections to the national sphere. Additionally, since the

sphere’s identity is, as has been shown, territorially derivative in structure and

ethnocentric in nature, the foreigners and the expatriates making those connections from

afar indulge in a Welshness which, according to both nostalgia and worldwide

stereotypes, is idealistic, or typical.

Contributions remote from Wales are least frequent in uk.local.north-wales,

uk.local.west-wales and wales.cymraeg, and most frequent in soc.culture.welsh, the

high-definition, ‘Welsh Culture’ newsgroup itself. This might indicate that, of those

extra-territorial connections to the nation, the majority are made by seeking the prime

national, ‘Welsh Culture’ brand over the local conceptualisations and over a

language-dependent forum unreadable to the foreigners. Additionally, it would appear

the soc.culture.welsh participant ‘neb’ (#8), in making the political statement of

expressing a ‘.cym’ country code for Cymru which does not exist, exhibits an

ontological desire to relocate his or herself in the identity infrastructure as Welsh.

82 Except beneath uk.local.*, of course, where the intensity is of a Welsh region, as well as the nation.
83 CCTLDs, or Country-Code Top-Level Domain names such as ‘.uk’ indicating the national location of a web site or
email sender. See Appendix B10.
84 Whilst, as has been noted, there is no native Welsh CCTLD, we can infer that many participants located in ‘.uk’
origins are either resident in the Welsh territory itself or are Welsh-concerned individuals (ie. exiles) in the other regions
and nations of the UK.

‘Cross-posts’ are those memetic messages which have been forwarded to multiple

groups. Whilst NetScan software 85 produces thorough newsgroup data too unwieldy for

a study of this sort, it helpfully expresses groups which receive cross-posts as

‘neighbours,’ a metaphorical construct which puts one in mind of spatial proximity.

Yet, whilst the neighbours of territorial nations - particularly Wales, which has but one -

are forces of cultural opposition, those of digital communities are ones of similar

associates. Whilst offline neighbourly relations serve to demarcate the nature of one’s

own nation by differentiation from the other, online groups’ cross-posts are made to

communities which share at least some common memetic thread.

Under the auspices of society and culture, soc.culture.welsh’s neighbour’s are

predominantly the culture groups of other nations, but also each local Welsh group,

uniting the districts within a national arrangement. Likewise, the clear main relations of

uk.local.north-wales, uk.local.south-wales and uk.local.west-wales are each other,

suggesting a consensual construction of an infrastructure for cultural exchange, where

previously unserved by deficient transport infrastructure and problematic media

reception. Indeed, whilst uk.local.north-wales’ other neighbours are groups

encompassing the region’s adjacent Granada TV and Daily Post content connections,

so, too, uk.local.south-wales and uk.local.west-wales share the same cross-post

destinations, and all are, of course, largely recipient of memes from the Wales-specific


These groups’ fertile lists of neighbours, in tandem with the remote participation

hypothesis, might indicate purveyors of forums as diverse as israel.gayjews and can intersect and remotely co-exist with a Welsh identity. Only

wales.cymraeg and wales.politics.assembly remain introspective, exhibiting a high

85 NetScan is a Usenet analysis tool, analogous to GetNews and GroupStat used here, which was considered as an
alternative mode of research in this study. Developed at UCLA by Marc A. Smith, who utilised the software in
‘Communities In Cyberspace’ (1999: p195) in a study unrelated to national identity, NetScan is now owned by
Microsoft, and is available for live public testing at, but it is unfinished and, whilst the
data produced is comprehensive, much is difficult to comprehend.

degree of cultural ‘stickiness’ as memes venture no further than their own political and

lingual jurisdictions 86.

Of the trinity construction model, we can say that territorial containment is largely

escaped but potentially prevails, memetic components are extremely diverse yet

specificities can be shared, and that cool, liberal reception obliterates hot simultaneity.

Identity parade

The transcendence of geography may allow for an avoidance of nationality, but it is

clearly indicated that, as well as a jettison or deconstruction of the nation, there is

entirely possible a reconstruction.

Whilst conventional media continues to produce finite content for an old, finite-stream

conception, despite the presentation of the economics of the new, the capacity of

networked, many-to-many media users to create their own content and to talk to others

results in the self-construction of cultural memes. Effectively, the nation speaks unto

itself, its identity representation its own responsibility. Says Euryn Ogwen Williams:

Interacting through the telling of a tale is a natural Welsh instinct. That is how

the Mabinogion were created 87 , with the storyteller interacting with his

audience. Film and television drama narrative is an American convention;

therefore, it is possible for creative authors [the new, participatory audience] to

use the revolution to jog the memory of a nation and create a Welsh style (1998:

lecture_intro.html). 88 .

86 With the exception of memetic cross-pollination from wales.politics.assembly to uk.politics.misc above other groups,
indicating constitutional devolution, rather than issue politics, is important.
87 BBC Wales, HTV Wales and S4C bosses told the National Assembly, prior to its inception, that ‘an audio stream of
the Assembly would be practicable today and should be made available on the internet’ (1998 joint working paper in
G.T. Davies, 1999: p69), but, two years on, BBC Wales only publishes a single stream repurposed from BBC2’s
‘Assembly Live’ programme on Tuesdays and Wednesday afternoons, not taking advantage of the ability to offer
multiple streams from committee meetings and so on, thereby boosting the democratic Staatsnation.
88 Euryn Ogwen Williams is in charge of digital broadcasting and interactive services at S4C, and delivered this speech
during the Wales Today lecture at the 1998 Bro Ogwr National Eisteddfod.

Cultural constituents may thus be retained, the nation becoming re-familiarised with

itself by means of a symbiotic national representation which produces always automatic


Because of media exposure, most Welsh people probably know New York

better than they do our capital city. But because cheap new technology lets

people tell their own stories, they can tell everybody what the country is really

like. It’s a lot more democratic, transmitting our history orally, like a new

Mabinogion (Gower, 1998: p34) 89.

We see such consensual familiarisation in arenas such as BBC TalkWales (Appendix C2) 90 ,

the collection of online forums which again hold dear key memes as the nature of

Welshness goes up for debate, and in S4C’s National Eisteddfod chat room, which

leverages Wales’ most revered cultural event to create a relationship with its audience
(Appendix C3) .

The result of having active individuals publishing memes unto each other produces a

legitimate automatic representation of Wales which unifies its constituents.

Connections from afar, however - to Usenet newsgroups, TotalWales’ ForumWales and

Worldwide Welsh arenas 91 , and the Gwlad rugby message board 92 - constitute a

striking remote participation in Welsh national life. Welsh diasporas linked to their

homeland via media could achieve through remote connectivity what those of Ireland

have through traditions propagated by sheer numbers of diasporic descendants. Distant

from the territory which gives the national culture its whole origin of being, individuals

can fulfill a communicative and ongoing part in the vitality of the corporate collective.

Effectively, the cultural life of a meme is suddenly joyfully indefinite, regardless of


89 Jon Gower is a television and radio presenter, writer and cultural commentator.
90 See and Appendix C2.
91 See
92 See and Appendix C4. The tightly-knit Gwlad online community is a collection of Welsh
rugby fans resident in Wales, London and farther afield which regularly holds get-togethers in London.

Such inclusion in globalisation would feasibly create an international, networked

nervous system of expats and patriots whose memetic exchanges produce, store and

transmit identity on the lines, in the interlinked nodes of both the homeland Welsh and

the foreign Welsh.

Indeed, Metcalfe’s Law decrees that the value of a network increases when does the

number of its users, because more people can communicate with more people 93 . What

we can thus surmise is that ‘Wales’ - construed as a people network - would gain more

national cultural value as it gains new, distant minds and memes. Likewise, the

increased availability of Welsh speakers, whilst sparse internationally, would boost the

language’s use, as nationality is reconstructed.

93 Bob Metcalfe, developer of the Ethernet network standard and the 3Com networking company, his law coined by
George Gilder. See eg.


The essence of imagining a new media identity in Wales is that of the fundamental

tension between the capacity of the Welsh to disengage from their cultural memes,

reducing the value of the national network, and the potential reconstitution of

Welshness in a concentrated and often remote arrangement. Territorial residence is no

longer paramount to the experience of mediated nationality, rendering a diasporic

society firmly culturally situated, and it is media’s audiences themselves who control

the production of the corporate identity.

Whilst evidence of Welsh inhabitants disconnecting from national consumption online

is hard to come by, the existence of the principle and possibility themselves make the

occurrence obvious. Yet it is conversely true that the conversion of nationality into the

sort of niche groups many escape to results in a highly coherent, if exclusive, form of

that identity, having the effect of turning the country’s underlying foundation for

individual life into one individual act amongst many.

The essence of the revolution is this: the destruction of any power that does

not arise out of a willingness of individuals to sign up to a community (E.O.

Williams, 1998: lecture_intro.html) .

National identity is remarkably migrated. In this sense, what is produced is a

representation of the long-occurring process of schizophrenic identity management

which comprises the national as merely one of a gamut of the individual’s everyday

identities. It is thus conceivable that the specialism afforded to each merely intensifies

the experience of all, including nationality, which is rarely uppermost in the mind when

consuming mediated content.

Despite such expectations and the widening of the individual’s sphere of interest, the

conventional media remain largely purveyors of repuporsing, which satisfies the narrow

sphere. More importantly, however, in Wales all permutations discussed here are

tempered by the lowest new media penetration in the United Kingdom, penetration

which is as fractious as that of conventional broadcasting and print 94.

Consequently, whilst the old media’s mass is uncertain, neither can there be a mass

audience of the new media. Internet access is predominantly via the widely used

standard telephone network, but such computer-mediated access to the new media is

seen as having a steep learning curve on its way to higher penetration. Whilst the

television - familiar, widely spread and intuitive - is mooted as a better mass agent of

media convergence, the existing topographical problems of broadcasting would appear

to make the scope of TV-delivered cool media similarly fractious 95 .

Rather, it seems, with a multiplicity of forthcoming distribution channels, and differing

degrees of regional penetration for each, it may ultimately be that national identity, in

line with the true social make-up regardless of media, is destined to be as fragmentary

as ever.

94 (1999: pp9) finds internet and cable access is denied to many rural areas whilst mobile phone coverage
is hampered by topography just as terrestrial broadcasting.
95 In the medium term, with interactive cable television and internet services, realistically, not expected mass
penetration for some time, the prime mode of ‘digital’ television delivery will be terrestrial.


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Gary in Wired 4.01, Jan 1996
(San Fransisco: Wired Ventures;