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.

Programming Your Own Channel (Wk7)

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Rizzo, Teresa. “Programming Your Own Channel: An Archaelogoy of the Playlist”.

From Kenyon, A. (Ed) “TV Futures”. Melbourne Uni Press, 2007. (108-134)

In this chapter, Teresa Rizzo addresses the technological and cultural changes in digital media through the notion of the playlist. The chapter is divided into three main sections; the first looks at three case studies and the role of the playlist. The second section considers the term ‘flow’ as defined by theorist Raymond Williams and later explanation of flow from Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari. Finally, the the third section ponders the consequences of the shift in television programming through the individualised play list.

By considering three case studies – Foxtel iQ, YouTube and the iPod – Rizzo examines the role of the playlist and its effect on our attitude towards the television. Using the example of the Foxtel iQ PDR, she distiguishes two modes of viewing – the temporal mode which consists of tuning in to the TV at a specific time for a particular program and the spatial mode of time where the channel is seen as a place to visit rather than time-structured program to tune into. Foxtel iQ ultimately gives viewers the control to create their own personal playlists which can be viewed at anytime and are highly personalised. The next example, YouTube, takes the personalisation even further by inviting users to create their own channel. Rob Cover describes this as the ‘democratisation of media texts’ which ‘stems from a desire for co-participation’. The iPod also enables personalisation and customisation as well as mobility, changing completely the original notion of the domestic television that brings families together .

Williams provides a concept of flow grounded in ideas about sequence where there is ‘a specific arrangement of and approach to timing, organisation and viewer experience’. Sequence can also be approached by enticing audiences to watch an evening’s viewing of programs rather than just the one. StarWorld, for example, has Monday Night Comedy Night and Thursday Lock & Load (Action) to attract audiences and keep their attention.

Deleuze and Guattari see flow as the connection of different kinds of ‘machines’ – bodies, institutions and discourses. It is the connection that creates a machine which can be seen in the analogy of a bicycle from Claire Colebrook; “The human body becomes a cyclist in connecting with the machine; the cycle becomes a vehicle.” In their definition, interruptions are just as important to create a multiplicity of connections. For the internet in particular, these ‘interruptions’ allow for the flow of following different hyperlinks. This notion of flow moves away from the passive, one-way flow and towards interactivity.

Flor relates to the shape and culutral form of television in a digital environment. We have always seen it as a one-way process which we have little control over, but this is now changing. With the democratisation of the playlist, audiences now have greater control over their media.

Buying into Americal Idol (Wk6)

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Jenkins, Henry. “Buying into American Idol: How We Are Being Sold on Reality Television” in Convergence Culture. New York, NYU Press, 2006.

Jenkins’ chapter in this week’s reading examines popular reality series American Idol as an application of media convergence which he describes as ‘the big new thing that demonstrated the power that lies at the intersection between old and new media’. As our media consumption changes with the proliferation of media, advertisers and network companies must find a way to hold on to their viewers.

Jenkins introduces us to a few terms which ultimately reveal viewers’ emotional investment as the underlying concept. CEO Worldwide of Saatchi & Saatchi Kevin Roberts place importance on ‘lovemarks’, branding that commands ‘the “love” as well as the “respect” of consumers’. Advertising plays on our emotions to attract our attention and win our loyalty. Jenkins illustrates this with an example of Coca-Cola’s story section on their website where consumers share personal stories which eventually become the core of promotional themes. Furthermore, this is how American Idol forms its relationship with views. The contestants become ‘real people’ as ‘views get to know the contestants, learn their personality, their motives for competing, their backgrounds, and in some cases, other members of their families.’

The classification of Zappers, Casuals and Loyals caught my interest. I change channels every couple of minutes, but there are a few shows that I watch from beginning to end. Phillip Swann, author of TV.Com: How Television is Shaping our Future, puts forward that ‘few viewers today can sit through an entire program without picking up the remote and checking out another channel.’ Interactive television is one way to combat the short attention span of Zappers.

Jenkin’s illustrates this by the research conducted on the family and college students watching American Idol. The Loyals pull in the Casuals and the Zappers. This is exactly what happens in my family; I watched season 7 of American Idol last year, and my parents ended up being sucked in! Similarly, when everyone is constantly talking about a show it is difficult not to become intrigued or curious as to what the attraction is.

Audience participation in shows like American Idol give a sense of empowerment that creates a stronger relationship between viewers and what is being viewed, enabled by media convergence.

Mobile phones: the empowering of youth (Wk5)

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Ito, Mizuko. “Mobile Phones, Japanese Youth, and the Replacement of Social Contact.”

From Ling & Pederson (Eds). “Mobile Communications.” Springer, 2005. (131-148)

What’s the one thing a person can’t leave the house without? That’s right, the mobile phone. In her chapter “Mobile Phones, Japanese Youth, and the Replacement of Social Contact”, Mizuko Ito draws our attention to the role that mobile phones play in the lives of a teenager. She argues that the mobile media enable youth to ‘escape the demands of existing social structures and parental surveillance’ rather than the negative view that they ‘erode the integrity of existing places or social identities’. Using her research on mobile phone use, particularly among Japanese youth, Ito illustrates this idea of empowering youth through their phones and creating new social disciplines that coincide with already existing ‘power geometries’.

Ito presents one example of youth overcoming their limitations through mobile phones in a class situation. While most schools ban the use of mobile phones in class, interviews with high school students revealed that many students discreetly sent and received messages during class. Essentially, text messaging is the that teenagers of today overcome communicative limitations in the classroom, just as note-passing was used pre-mobile phones. According to Ito, text messaging in class allows students to communicate with each other while recognising their place in the existing classroom. From experience, I can see how the mobile phone does provide more freedom in a classroom of strict rules.

Ito also illustrates the circumvention of boundaries and the power geometries of the home and the streets. New disciplines emerge and new social expectations arise. A text message awaits an instant reply and Ito’s research shows that many of the youth believe there is some social expectation as to a quick reply. This is also the case with e-mails; when letters were the norm, a slow reply was acceptable. Now with e-mails, there is a feeling of obligation to reply quickly.

The mobile phone allows teenagers to be ‘with’ their friends at all times, not necessarily in the same physical place. Ito’s study reveals that many student couples ‘were in ongoing contact during the times when they were not at school’. As Ito points out, teenagers don’t have the same social structures that adults have such as their own home, and mobile phones function as the enabler in a private space. However, this is the same idea that has created the need to always be carrying a mobile phone.

Essentially, Ito uses her research to describe the large role that mobile phones play in the lives of teenagers. As they are restricted by adult social structures, the mobile phone allows them to overcome these limitations in situations and power geometries of the home, the classroom and even the streets.

The Doubling of Place (Wk4)

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Moores, Shaun. “The Doubling of Place: Electronic Media, Time-Space Arrangements and Social Relationships”.

From Couldry and McCarthey. Media Space: Scale and Culture in a Media Age. Routledge, 2004, 21-37

In this chapter, Moore’s familiarises readers with Scannell’s concept of the doubling of place and the notion that an event can occur twice and in two different places. He uses the example of Princess Diana’s funeral to illustrate this point; while the actual event occurred in one place, the media coverage was so present that viewers around the world were able to experience the event, as if they were present at the funeral themselves. This broadcasting of an event is what attracts all sorts of people to watch sports matches, the Academy Awards and other major events that only a few can actually physically attend. The key point here is that viewers are in two places at once; in their living room watching TV (or wherever they are) and in the location where the event is taking place.

Moores goes on to describe the role the internet plays in the doubling of place. The main difference here is that sometimes people can get so engrossed in online activities, that reality and the surroundings are forgotten. Chatting online and talking on skype bring us closer to people though we don’t physically move in any way. Yet the internet has the ability to diminish the space that separates us.

Lastly, Moores addresses what he entitles “Two ‘theres’ there in mobile phone” which provides the example of a young woman talking on her cell phone while travelling on a train. So engrossed in her conversation, she is in two places at once – on the train and on the phone. She almost forgets her physical positioning as a result of her phone conversation which almost carries her to her boyfriend as they talk. When one passenger meets her gaze, she feels as though her private space has been intruded upon, despite being in a public train carriage.

Thus, these three examples demonstrate how media transforms our experience of the space around us and the distance between places. It can take hold of us and make us less aware of our physical space and it can bring us closer to an event or person on the other side of the world.

Frequencies of the media (Wk3)

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Hartley, J. (2004). “The Frequencies of Public Writing: Tomb, Tone and Time” From Jenkins, H. And Thorburn, D. (Eds) Democracy and New Media. MIT Press, USA, pp 247 – 269.

Time Magazine. CNN. Sydney Morning Herald. Media and public writing all act at different frequencies; instantaneous, by the hour, monthly, annually etc. How do the different frequencies alter our attitude and our operation of these media? While the instantaneous, high frequency media such as the internet allow readers and viewers to be informed with minimal time lag, is it not the relics like cave drawings that are everlasting?

It is no surprise that the Internet has successfully established itself as major media provider. John Hartley explains how this collaboration of high frequency media and new technology have impacted our sense of time. The regular hourly or daily programmes start becoming obsolete as there is no need to wait to be updated on current affairs or even watch your favourite TV show. The ‘defined’ time schedule that we are accustomed to is slowly fading away.

How is the frequency of circulation related to the wavelength of consumption?  As Hartley argues, ‘news that is golly-gosh today is chip wrapper tomorrow”. The ‘hot’ story will eventually become cold until it’s been long enough for its value to increase again. This is the high frequency media that is important ‘in the moment’.  However, low frequency media such as carvings will last for a long time.

Though it seems that the rapidness of the internet may put print media out of business, other lower frequency media are not suffering as would be expected. The fact that they are produced less often indicates that the relevance of their topics are likely to last for a longer span of time. Thus, reading last weeks issue of Sydney Morning Herald may seem outdated, yet reading the previous months issue of Cosmopolitan does not feel as out of date.

Thus, we are presented with a web (and not the world wide web): the speed which public writing is produced, the frequency of its production, the topics covered and the period of time it is consumed are all interconnected.

Couch potatoes taste bad…(WK2)

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Michael, Mike. “Disciplined and Disciplining co(a)gents: The Remote Control and the Couch Potato.”

Sitting home all day in front of the TV that has been playing non stop for hours, legs up on the sofa, and where your fingers are the only body part that receives decent blood circulation…there’s no denying; couch potatoes need discipline!

In this chapter, Michael draws up the love-hate relationship of the couch potato (or co(a)gent) and the remote control. Remote controls are what makes a couch potato, without them channel surfing is impossible. And yet, as Michael points out, it is this same magical object that can prevent a couch potato from ‘doing his thing’ i.e. watching tv without having to move.

By having a quick look at the negative aspects of being a couch potato, it becomes clear that couch potatoes are neither productive nor healthy. But how can they save themselves? That’s where the remote control comes in; when it is lost a co(a)gent is either forced to look for it or get up each time to change the channel, both of these involving movement and action. Possibly the most exercise a couch potato will ever get.

Written in a lighthearted way, Michael’s chapter also presents co(a)gency in a positive light. Ultimately, he implies that couch potatoes are not great, but it is this section that causes me to think that he’s not being harsh enough. The new markets opening up for the co(a)gent consumer – the armchair, the websites – are beneficial to who exactly? In fact I would argue that though he subtitled this section ‘Good couch potatoes’, there’s really nothing ‘good’ about it. Creating these markets and encouraging co(a)gency is condoning sitting on the couch and watching TV where we should be encouraging less TV-watching and more healthy activities that benefit the individual as well as our whole society.

I had never thought about this so-called ‘positive’ side to couch potatoes and this chapter opened my eyes to where society is heading. Yes, we’re becoming more accepting of people who are different but I think co(a)gents should not be encouraged to be happy and content with sitting and watching TV. This worries me slightly and I suppose the fact that the simple act of losing a remote is a way to ‘police’ couch potatoes is not much comfort. It makes sense, but is depressing at the same time.