ARTS1090: Identify your Identities! May 29, 2009

Filed under: arts1090,T15A — Winnie Ho @ 3:53 pm

During, Simon. “Debating Identity” In Cultural Studies: A Critical Introduction, Routledge: London, 2005, 145-152.




Who is he? I believe almost everyone can immediately recognise him as Barack Obama. What identities are associated with him? The 44th President of the United States of America? A Democrat? A man? Or, an African-American male? A father? In Simon’s During article ‘Debating identity’, he discusses the constitution and implication of identities, as well as the complexity of identity politics. 


The first concept that caught my eye was that ‘identity is won at the price of reducing individuality’ (pg 145). When we try to identify inviduals with certain identities, they become part of a group and lose the sense of being a unique self. This is true when we identify Obama as a man – he falls under the category of humans with XY chromosomes; approximately half of the human population. However, the problem gets complicated when we try to identify Obama based on skin colour or race. He isn’t completely African-American, but having a African (Kenyan) father and a Caucasian mother makes him half-half. Besides, he has an extended family with a diverse cultural and racial background, which places Obama in a position that seems to transcend any racial boundaries.


Or does he? Here is an excerpt written up on Wikipedia that addresses Obama’s racial identity issue:

Obama’s family history, early life and upbringing, and Ivy League education differ markedly from those of African-American politicians who launched their careers in the 1960s through participation in the civil rights movement. Expressing puzzlement over questions about whether he is “black enough”, Obama told an August 2007 meeting of the National Association of Black Journalists that “we’re still locked in this notion that if you appeal to white folks then there must be something wrong.” Obama acknowledged his youthful image in an October 2007 campaign speech, saying: “I wouldn’t be here if, time and again, the torch had not been passed to a new generation.”


Indeed, while identity politics continue to play an important party in society, the current globalised world places a higher emphasis on individuals being a member of the Earth more than what cultural and social background one relates to. Obama’s diverse background (or at least there is an impression that he has one) seems to indicate his acceptance of identities that are placed as being underprivileged or marginalised, giving him an international appeal and rated as the current most popular world leader.


While it appears that one’s identities are embedded within, but identities can be also attributed by the media as well. I remember early in the US presidential campaign to this current day, Barack Obama has always been portrayed as the first  100% African-American US president. I am unsure whether this is related to identity politics or not, but I think the media has a defining power in shaping one’s identities. 



Winnie Ho (z3292568)



ARTS1090: Waking up to a world of discourses May 22, 2009

Filed under: arts1090,T15A — Winnie Ho @ 6:58 am

Fairclough, N. “Critical Analysis of Media Discourse” Media Discourse. London: Arnold, 1995, 53-74


To be honest, I never knew the existence of the word ‘discourse’, less alone its concept, until this week. I am literally opened to a new concept in changing the way of how I see and perceive different things in the world, especially those in media. Discourse is so deeply embedded within the society around us that I find it difficult to be separated as a theory and understood properly. This weekly’s reading of Nigel Fairclough’s “Critical Analysis of Media Discourse” tries to build up a framework in analysing media discourses by definining the discourse theory, then addressing analysis of communicative events and the order of discourse, finally concluded with an sample to build up the framework’s foundation.


Fairclough mentioned the changing media discursive practices and relations betwen media and audiences, to which I was particularly drawn to. ‘Order of discourse’ is a network of a community in discursive practices; and the media is positioned ‘between public orders of discourse and private orders of discourse that they transform their source public discourse for consumption in domestic settings’. I think that the mediating role of media between public and private orders of discourse described here seems to attribute a high level of power and influence to the media. Has these media influences in both public and private discursive practices become so subconscious that further gives power for media in transforming them and refining the boundaries between public and private? I’m not saying not these influences from media are entirely harmful, but it seems to depict that public orders of discourse cannot directly affect private orders of discourse and vice versa, without the media.


In spite of the fact that this chapter was written in 1995, many of the issues raised are still relevant today. Media discursive practices are sometimes employed in combination over a number of media genres, such as the increasing function of gossip and entertainment in news reporting. In our media tutorial classes we often analyse different social phoenomena from the media persepective, in which I think we try to build up the connections between the media texts and the sociocultural practices by linking the discourse practices that take place.


Overall speaking, this reading raised a lot of questions about media discourse analysis, reminded me of all the media theories I have learnt, and made me try to think deeper about phoenomena in media in relation to society.


Winnie Ho (z3292568)



ARTS1090: Who spilt the milk? (Semiotics and Meaning) May 15, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Winnie Ho @ 1:34 pm

Lukin, Annabelle. “Reporting War: Grammar as Covert Operation” Dissent, 2003, 14-20.


Now I can finally explain myself of tending to choose the shorter readings for blog postings rather than the long ones. Not because I’m lazy (even if so that is very, very minimal… shh), but I find it much harder to analyse on long chapters with a limited number of words. I never seem to convey the meaning of the readings completely. Ah, meaning. I think I should first confess that I am quite obsessed about language and linguistics, so that everything I write after this seems to make more sense.  As a Media in Communications and Journalism student, this reading provides quite a bit of dilemma for me. Annabelle Lukin tells me that, or rather ‘criticises’ that, journalism pretends to be “simple reporting of the ‘facts’, without opinion or analysis”, yet the makeup of language that is used to present the journalistic items is subjective.  


With the straightfoward example of ‘The milk split’ (middle voice) / “I split the milk” (active voice) / “The milk was split by me” (passive voice with external agent) / “The milk was split” (passive voice with no external agent), Lukin goes further on in explaining how the construction of words can change the nature of a country’s role in a war. She mainly focused on the wordings of the Australian media, the US press, and the official government wordings that seem to downplay the active role of of the US’s engagement in the war of Iraq. Again, remembering what was mentioned in the passage, I reinforce the point that my choice of words here are subjective because I have a prefound opinion on the issue of war, and probably that of the US government as well.


In trying to relate this passage more to an event that is much socially close to me, I will refer to the much stirred-up controvesy over the past decade in the wordings of some Japanese history textbooks (that were approved by the Japanese Ministry of Education) which attempt to ‘whiten’ Japanese war crimes in Asia during World War II. Not only that the relations between Japan and the countries involved (such as China) are tensioned, it proves that the clearly biased choice of words can be offensive and insulting to certain parties. However, in public relations, PR practioners are expected to use language in favour of the institution or organisation. So, it does seem difficult to know whether to use a more active, passive or middle voice. Lukin reminded us that ‘any report of any event is selective, simply because of the nature of language’, so we should try to understand the implications of different language styles in order to make CAREFUL use of the umlimited potential in language.


Winnie Ho (z3292568)



P.S. I don’t know how many of you might be interested to read a bit more information on Japanese history textbook controversies, but I’ll still give you the Wikipedia link to it: CLICK HERE


ARTS1090: Media Audiences

Filed under: arts1090,T15A — Winnie Ho @ 12:10 pm

Couldry, Nick. “The Extended Audience: Scanning the Horizon”. In Gillespie, Marie. Ed. Media Audiences. Berkshire: Open University Press, 2005, 184-196 & 210-220.


This reading by Nick Couldry does not attempt to present the current state of media audiences directly, but rather giving a overview on methodology in conducting research on media audiences and critically analysing the different media audience models drawn up by other academics.


Couldry grouped the challenges of audience research into 3 categories: technological, social/spatial and experiential. I find this grouping very relevant to the layout of the ARTS1090 course, because the media theories and topics can fall under these 3 categories, and it can be also applied to the assignment of doing our own media research proposal and paper. I have now come to the impression that strong, well-presented media theories tend to agree with each other more rather than disagree, as that theories can be only based on truth of the reality.


In regards to the nature of the contemporary audience, Couldry included an extract from Abercrombie and Longhurt about the concept of ‘diffused audience’, and which he challenged against such theory. The following quote can summarise what “diffused audience” means according to them: ‘People simultaneously feel members of an audience and that they are performers; they are simultaneously watchers and being watched.’ (p191) I found that the concept of “diffused audience” to be jumping too many steps ahead in saying that media institutions no longer have power in separating the performer and audiences, and that “communication is direct and unmediated” (p192) already. Couldry posed many valid points in arguing against Abercrombie and Longhurt’s proposed theory of ‘diffused audience’. He reinforced the fact that the number of people who have been both media audiences and media performers remain a low percentage of the population. Although there are many more reality shows on television that invite ‘ordinary media audiences’ to partake in, there is still a embedded idea of distance between the audience and performers. Also, Couldry rebutts to Abercrombie and Longhurt’s idea that media power is almost non-existant in the the contemporary audience model, in which he gave reminders to what is really happening for media institutions. Media institutions have power and influence over the circulation of information in society, and thus there is a “relationship of dependence” between audiences and media institutions. We still rely on intermediates for getting all sorts of information, so this stands true.


After overthrowing the idea of ‘diffused audience’, Couldry gives us a new term: the ‘extended audience’.  This idea of audience is superior than that of ‘diffused audience’ because it not only presents ‘the experience of being in a media audience is both very widely shared and highly differentiated, as differentiated as the rest of out everyday lives’, but also considering the fact that media institutions are still very important in our comtemporary world and that there is still a marked difference between a media audience and a media performer; yet, interactions between media audiences and performers are on the rise with new media technologies and environments. 


Winnie Ho (z3292568)



ARTS1090: “Network” is not just technical jargon afterall May 1, 2009

Filed under: arts1090,T15A — Winnie Ho @ 3:47 pm

Castells, M. Excerpts from “Informationalism, Networks, and the Network Society: A Theoretical Blueprint” From The Network Society: A Cross-cultural Perspective. Cheltenham, UK, Edward Elgar, 3-7 & 36-45.


When I think of the word “network”, a vivid image of lifeless blobs of informations moving to and fro on entangled wires with a lot of different nodes, pops up into my mind. The concept of “network” seems to be such a specialised, technical aspect of knowledge, that I find myself reluctant to understand properly. However, it was only by reading this week’s reading by Manuel Castells, that I was reminded that the concept of “network” is actually deeply embedded in our lives and they “constitue the fundamental pattern of life, of all kinds of life” (p 166).


Castells raised an important point that we often wrongly conceptualise the current world to be an “information society” or “knowledge society”, yet knowledge and information has be around since the start of mankind. The difference lies in the use of micro-electronics-based information technologies now. How can these technologies relate to Castells’ view of a “network society”? He noted “that technology can only yield its promises in the framework of cultural, organisational, and institutional transformations”; thus it is the incorporation of technologies into the existing networks of society and the world and not treating these technologies to be merely external tools is what makes the present world a “network society”. A more specialised term to describe this would be “informationalism”.


Also, Castells referred to William Mitchell’s work, which was about how information and communication technology is expanded and augmentated in the human body and human mind. This greatly reminds me of the concepts of “embodiment and disembodiment” as described in Mike Michael’s chapter on “Disciplined and disciplining co(a)agents”. Indeed, if we were not using micro-electronics-based information technologies at ease to the extent of incorporating them in our daily lifes and ourselves, such as searching on the Internet for assignments or listening to iPods during travel time, there wouldn’t be a need for a “network society” to emerge. 


So it is up to us, human beings, who ultimately decide how to make the best use out of technologies in building up networks for communication and information. I could not quite put the connection of networks and the different cultures in relation to globalisation, which was mentioned quite a few times throughout, but I do believe the enhancement of networks is bringing different parts of the world together in forming a massive global network.


In spite of the fact that I find this reading quite vague with a lot of nominalised terms and sometimes sarcastic (“And since resistance to reason is irrational, it must be obliterated to clear the shining path toward our promised shining star”… what?!), it was not too difficult to go through in entirety and it definitely made me rethink on the popular conceptualisation of a “information/knowledge society”. I think I’m not so afraid of the word “network” anymore.


Winnie Ho (z3292568)