Anne Kaun, professor at Södertörn University and visiting researcher at the HBI, explores how media works in prisons
Anne Kaun's initial research idea was to investigate places where there is very limited access to media. She quickly landed with this idea in prison as a research location.
Not only did she look at classic media such as newspapers, radio, television and the internet, but also at something that at first glance one might not even think of as a medium: the space itself.
Architecture as a Medium
"The way spaces are structured can either enable communication or prevent it. This becomes very clear in prisons," says Anne Kaun. In the last hundred years, however, prisons have undergone a transformation in this respect. Whereas at the end of the 19th century, isolation was still part of the punishment and inmates were largely kept away from the outside world and from each other, today there is usually a much more "communicative" prison architecture with communal spaces and access to media such as television, recordings or literature.
Digital media such as tablets are now common in US prisons. In Europe, people are still sceptical about this. While digitalisation offers immediate benefits for inmates, it also has negative effects. Anne Kaun reports that there are correctional facilities in the USA where video telephony has now completely replaced traditional visiting hours - for cost reasons.
Mirror of Society
Innovations in prison infrastructures often trigger moral debates within society. For example, about when a punishment is "punishment enough". "Social discourses are taken to extremes in the prison context," says Anna Kaun. "They are therefore a mirror of our society."
The book "Prison Media" will be published in May 2023
YouTube Channel about everyday life in prison
Podcast of the Department for Media and Communication Studies at Södertörn University
Prof. Dr. Anne Kaun
Leibniz Institute for Media Research | Hans-Bredow-Institut
- Kaun, A. & Stiernstedt, F. (2023) Prison Media. Cambridge: MIT Press.