Monthly Archives: May 2009

Debating Identity (Wk11)

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During, S. “Debating Identity”. In Cultural Studies. Rutledge, 2005, (145-152)

In this chapter from his book Cultural Studies, During attempts to tackle the theme of identity and identity politics. Through an examination of how the meaning of identity presents itself over the years, During draws the strong link between identity, society and politics.

The identity of someone, who someone is, can be defined in terms of a trait – physical features, beliefs, genealogy etc. – which essentially places individuals into a group of people who share the same trait. This ‘means that identity is won at the price of reducing individuality’. During argues that this type of classification is determined socially, the individuals don’t have the power to choose how they are identified.

It is this realisation that develops During’s theory that societies, identities and individuals coexist and don’t exist independently of each other. During believes it incorrect to ‘contend that individuals comprise nothing but their identities’. Identities are a part of the mediation between individuals and society.

During claims that individuals don’t have a single identity but many identities based on traits such as skin colour, socio-economic status, gender etc. It is quite possible that individuals feel more strongly connected to a particular identity than to others.

Identity politics are motivated by ‘the desire for access, liberty and fair, unprejudiced treatment’. Since the early sixties, groups of specific cultural and social identities have sought recognition or respect.

One political difficulty that During discusses is the principle of exclusion. In some cases, identities ‘tend to be structured by reducing or demonising particular others’. One example he provides is feminism where the pressure was to view all men as sexists.

During raises some interesting points about identity, identity politics and the close relationship to society. In fact, to a great extent it is society that contributes to an individual’s identity. However, while he describes the classification of identities into the different groups, I believe he fails to acknowledge and stress how it’s the combination of the different identities of an individual that result in an overarching identity, a unique identity. Two girls of the same age, race, socio-economic status, religious background etc., fall into the same identity groups based on these. But it is the combination of these factors plus more that contribute to the identity that affects the girls’ tastes, which clothes they put on in the morning to express their identity and individuality.

A life outside of Facebook

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As the dependence and addiction to social networking website Facebook grows among young and old alike, one girl keeps her distance and lives content without it.

By Dhanu Eliezer

M

eet Nicola Hicks: a typical 18-year-old girl who likes hanging out with friends, playing sports and being among people.

Growing up on a farm in Dubbo, Central New South Wales, Hicks attended Dubbo Christian School from kindergarten to Year 12, as did most of her friends.

After graduating last year, Hicks moved to Sydney to study Medicine at the University of New South Wales while her friends now attend universities across Australia.

Despite the distance between them, Hicks still keeps in touch with her friends regularly, but not through the popular mode of communication, Facebook. Instead, Hicks prefers to write letters and use the phone. In fact, unlike most teenagers, Hicks doesn’t even have a Facebook account.

“What’s the point? That’s just silly; I have a phone for communication. I like to talk to people face-to-face, if not then phoning is the next option. Texting and email are my least favourite, though I use them regularly,” she says.

When she was in Year 9, Hicks travelled to Japan with her school and stayed in the home of two Japanese girls. For over a year, the three kept in contact through letters and parcels – not e-mail.

“I guess a part of me likes traditional stuff,” she says. “I prefer to write letters, the joy of feeling like I’m talking to someone when I write a letter.”

Hicks also realizes the distraction that Facebook presents to its users and sees herself avoiding this.

“It is a distraction, and by not having it I’m not tempting myself. I get distracted just by checking my email.” she says. “I know that when I log on to my email account, I always get excited hoping I’ve got a new email!”

Instead of spending time on the internet, Hicks is able to spend more time running and playing the sports she enjoys. She believes the fact that she doesn’t constantly spend time on the internet and ‘check up’ on her friends on Facebook makes her value the conversations and the time she spends with them even more.

However, in a world where business relies on communication through the internet, Hicks finds herself being drawn into the cyberworld.

“Here at uni, e-mail is the form of communication with the uni. I am constantly checking my student email address to try and be up to date and so at the same time I check my hotmail.”

With the pressure from her friends to get a Facebook account and the reliance on e-mail for communication, Hicks feels she will soon be living in cyberspace like almost everyone else.

Lessons in Grammar (Wk 9)

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Lukin, Annabelle. “Lessons in Grammar: How Ideology Shapes the Reporting of War”. Education Links. 2003. (18-20)

Annabelle Lukin in Lessons in Grammar: How Ideology Shapes the Reporting of War demonstrates how gramma and linguistic concepts orientate the reporting of an event. In order to convey their angle, the media outlet carefully selects their language thus making the role of language highly pertinent.

To illustrate her point, she draws an example from a news report in the Age on 16th April 2003 about a young Iraqi boy ‘who lost both his arms and his family in a missle attack on his home’. Using articles from other media outlets including The Guardian, CNN and The Independent, Lukin collected a set of articles which also reported on the same event, called a corpus. The different examples show how journalists provide their own angle to the story, different accounts of the same event though the facts are the same.

Lukin delves deeper by recognising the different kinds of participants – those who act (Actors) and those who are acted on (Goals). Particularly in this case, the distinguishing of these participants reveal who is responsible for the event. In The Independent, the boy is a Goal, not an Actor and therefore has no responsibility in losing his arms. Yet in the other examples, the boy is shown as the ‘architect of his fate’.

In addition to the participants, the ‘circumstance’ also plays a large role in the interpretation of an event. Lukin explains this through the cause and effect relationship where a relationship may become more directly causal by using ‘because of’ or ‘as a result of’ to join the clauses. In the examples Lukin examines, the journalists have employed relationships of location (in) or time (during) instead and ‘the overall effect of this choice is that a likely agent is marginalised, creating a much more indirect relationship’. Turning verbs into nouns, called nominalisation, allows for this marginalisation of a potential agent, or participant responsible.

This text shows how important the choice of language is in conveying the journalist’s message to the readers. This especially evident in events like the war in Iraq where there are many powerful and competing interests that the reality is so different to different parties.

The extended audience: scanning the horizon (Wk8)

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Couldry, Nick. “The Extended Audience”. From Gillespie, M (Ed.) “Media Audiences”. Open Uni Press, 2005. (184-196, 210-220).

Nick Couldry’s chapter on the extended audience addresses the issue of the changing nature of the audience and the methodological implications of how audiences are to be studied. Couldry argues that the development of media technologies transforms the social and spatial forms of ‘audience-hood’ and thus results in different experiences. Our desire to perform and interact with media technologies suggests that studying audiences requires more than simple, single-faceted observations.

Couldry introducesc the three phases in the development of the audience as identified by Abercrombie and Longhurst in the book, ‘Audiences’. The first stage is the ‘simple audience’, pre-media age for theatre and books. The second is the ‘mass audience’, namely broadcast media such as newspapers, radio, films and television. Finally, the contemporary ‘diffused audience’ that is connected to some form of media at every point in time. Audiences expereience media in both their public and private lives, whether willing or not. This social fragmentation means study of audiences should extend to the places and activities in order to understand ‘what membership of the contemporary audience involves’.

As the study of audience is compelled to change as the nature of audience becomes more dispersed, Alasuutaari (Finnish media research) describes a ‘more multi-dimensional way of thinking about the audience’. Here the idea of ‘media culture’ is introduced as the objective of audience research becomes to grasp ‘media culture’ which is the bigger context in ‘which audience activity takes place and through which its wider meanings are inscribed.’ It is almost a study on identity and  how media consumption and media culture construct identity.

In an extract from Abercrombie and Longhurst, the idea of audiences becoming performers is expressed.  “People simultaneously feel members of an audience and that they are performers; they are simultaneously watchers and being watched.” Does this blur the lines of reality? It is argued that there is the potential for erosion of ‘the distrinction between private and public inherent in diffused audiences’ performances [that] suggests a general characteristic of this audience form – the breaking of boundaries.’

It is the issue of power, where Couldry feels Abercrombie and Longhurst’s definition of diffused audience falls short, that introduces us to Couldry’s own concept; the extended audience. While the ‘diffused’ audience captured how the experience of being in a media audience is widely shared and differentiated, it suggested that ‘power dimensions of an earlier audience-media relationship have somehow been diffused or reduced’. Couldry argues that the differences between audience members and media performers are in fact more important now. His concept of the ‘extended’ audience examines the ‘whole spectrum of talk, action and thought that draws on media, or is oriented towards media’.

Couldry also talks about tourism and the attraction audiences see in visiting places they have seen on television and in movies. One example of this is the movie Tomb Raider with Angelina Jolie. Part of the movie was filmed in Cambodia, specifically in one of the ancient temples Ta Prohm. I have visited Ta Prohm both before and after the production of the movie. Since 2001, when the movie came out, tour guides now call the temple ‘the Tomb Raider temple’ and that is how they relate to their visitors. Despite the fact the the temple can advertise itself, the idea that it was in the movie makes it all the more exciting for some audiences.