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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.

 

barackobama

 

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)

T15A

 

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)

T15A

 

ARTS1090: Media Audiences May 15, 2009

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)

T15A

 

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)

T15A

 

ARTS1090: Let’s explore convergence in the evolution of media. April 24, 2009

Filed under: arts1090,T15A — Winnie Ho @ 2:10 am

Jenkins, Henry. “Buying Into American Idol: How We are being Sold on Reality Television” In Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide. New York, NYU Press, 2006, 59-92.

 

I remember my attempt to watch American Idol continually on the Hong Kong ATV World channel a few years ago, which failed miserably because: i) I could not remember the program airing time;  ii) the show was a few seasons behind the live one in the US; and iii) I could not participate in voting for my favourite contestant (if I ever  had one), which greatly reduced my interest to continue watching. This very brief personal experience with American Idol is quite related to the chapter Jenkins wrote. He mainly used the case of American Idol to analyse the shift of broadcast television to focus on reality shows, how affective economics is modifying the media provider-receiver relationship, the effects of brand extension in tv programme sponsorship, as well as the convergence of new media with traditional media in providing diverse media experiences.

 

While I was reading this chapter, my mind brought up one of my more recent experiences in watching reality shows that I find worthwhile to share. A modelling-themed reality show originally from the US, Make Me a Supermodel (short form as MMAS), debuted its Australia version from August to November last year on Channel 7. Interestingly, I found out about the show on Channel 7’s partner website with Yahoo! (as Yahoo!7); not only the time the show was aired, but also profiles of the model contestants and judges of the show. If I missed one episode, I could stream it online directly from the website; snippets and extra features were posted on the website to give viewers a sense of attachment to regard the contestants as people they could relate to. This tactic of converging television programmes with Internet media is getting more popular to draw avid Internet users to consume ‘traditional’ media, and vice versa.

 

The amalgamation of online consumer applications of Yahoo! with the local media content of Channel 7 brings in new advertising and marketing opportunities for brands. In the instance of MMAS, the Holden Barina automobile was the main sponsor of the show. There was a short ad before the start of each episode, a 30-second ad right before the 2nd segment of each episode, as well as implicitly advertising the car by having the contestants travel in them throughout the entire show. I would say that fashion brand endorsements and one of the judges being the Australian editor of the fashion magazine Marie Claire are two other examples of implicit advertising in the show. Although Jenkins find ‘viewers are more accepting of product placements in reality programming than in any other genre’, MMAS could be placed under the category of  ‘hypercommercialism’ (p 88).

 

Another important aspect discussed in the chapter was increasing interaction and communication between brands/media providers and fans/audiences, for the ‘provider’ to find out market needs, and the ‘receiver’ to express their opinions on their favourite brands and media products. Jenkins has expressed that this is like a ‘double-edged sword – on the one hand, higher consumer awareness, on the other, higher consumer scruntiny’ (p 90). Going back to my case of Make Me a Supermodel (Australia), viewers of the show could leave comments for most of the online content, and there was a forum as well. Not unexpectedly, some viewers thought the show to be highly biased in judging the contestants and trying too hard to create hype and controvesy on the show; others who supported one contestant over another tended to argue with opposing viewers; and right after the finale was broadcasted, many viewers became skeptical that the result did not came from audience voting, or raised the point that audience voting cannot be a reliable measure of actual modeling talent. Due to the fact that I was in a community of mainly international students last year, the only place that I could look for fellow fans of the show was on that website and forum, in which I felt ‘more real’ in the process of viewing and having other audience share similar (or different) opinions of the show; and it seemed like a different realm of ‘ordinary tv gossip’ for me. 

 

So to conclude, I don’t think it is necessary for us audiences of television media to avoid any sort of marketing ploy on purpose, because it is an inevitable fact for a ‘greater collaboration between content providers and sponsors to shape the total entertainment package’ (p 68); just that we can remain as viligant consumers to not ‘buy in’ everything that is shown on television.

 

P.S. As a random note, the ‘hawt post’ on the WordPress frontpage was ‘Spoiler Alert: Who Got Voted Off American Idol On 4-22-09‘. Creepy enough, anyone? (Or this probably just further proves how good media convergence is in making people be aware of tv shows… on weblogs:  somewhere you might have not thought before to be a marketing tool.)

 

Winnie Ho (z3292568)

T15A

 

ARTS1090: Virtual space… what are we talking about? April 3, 2009

Filed under: arts1090,T15A — Winnie Ho @ 1:35 pm
Tags: ,

Hay, James (2009). “My Space?” Television and New Media. 10:1, 72-76. <http://tvn.sagepub.com/cgi/reprint/10/1/72&gt;

 

Being very much misled by the title and throughout the article, I originally would have thought that Hay was trying to analyze the MySpace website in the era of new media technologies and creation of ‘virtual space’. Upon further readings, it occurred to me that he was rather talking about media studies conducted in the midst between technologies of traditional and new media (or ‘residual and emergent media’ as it was put in the article), whilst using headings that referred to portions of MySpace. It was all very confusing to me, as Hay did not quite realize that MySpace neither has a space between ‘my’ and ‘space’ nor utilizes the method of subscription as a whole. Perhaps, as another Internet-addicted teenager, I have these preconceptual biases in picking up minor misconceptions when reading this. Yet, Hay presents a comprehensive summary of different academics’ points of view on media convergence and technological hybridity in regards to televisuality, mobility, and online citizenship.

 

To a certain extent being similar to Hay, I have never used or shown interest in using MySpace. Why? All those often exposed to American Internet culture will happily tell you that MySpace– for the lack of a more direct word– SUCKS. but this website is perceived to be a place full of spam, emo-wannabes, pedophiles, and other people trying to be cool. So, I find it rather awkward for an academic piece of writing to put MySpace in such a good light – saying that “My Space’s divisions and categories of personal interest and activity” are part of ‘”the differentiating machinery” of modern life and knowledge production’, MySpace applications ‘compose the packaged and value-added regimens (“programs”) of self-actualization and self-maintenance’, as well as ‘My Space involves maximum application of oneself through regimes of self-monitoring and self-government’. It could be true for some other profile/networking websites, but I would hold my doubts for such ideas about MySpace. Anyone who knows literally nothing about MySpace can easily go onto Wikipedia, and find many areas of critisms, such as security, child safety and censorship. If Hay was referring to a less controversial profile/networking site, then definitely the division of ‘space’ into multimedia, mobile access, applications and groups would be helpful in presenting a model of new media; however, he failed to address the dangers and problems of MySpace.

 

To conclude, seeing how there’s still technical problems with RSS feeds to the arts1090 tutorial page, I can’t help think the number of years we still need to struggle through uncertainties, trials and errors, before able to fully tame the Internet beast to become a strong and sound member of media.

 

Winnie Ho (z3292568)

T15A

 

ARTS1090: from Egyptian pyramids to the Internet – the road of public writing. March 27, 2009

Filed under: arts1090,T15A — Winnie Ho @ 1:26 pm
Tags: ,

Hartley, J. (2004). “The Frequencies of Public Writing: Tomb, Tome and Time as Technologies of the Public” In Jenkins, H. and Thorburn, D. (Eds) Democracy and New Media. MIT Press, USA, pp 247-269.

 

Immediately after reading the title of this chapter, Hartley brings me questions: How on earth can a ‘tomb’ be related to media, public writing or ‘technologies of the public’? And what is a ‘tome’? I tried solving the second mystery first by consulting my Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary that I’ve been using since Year 7:

tome noun (formal) a large heavy book, especially one dealing with a serious topic

 

So now the picture becomes clearer. Hartley does not merely play with the three words ‘tomb’, ‘tome’ and ‘time’, but through this chapter, explains frequency as a key role in public writing, how the time-space axis is evolving from physical to virtual communication, the changes of technologies to increase communication speed and frequency, as well as how democracy responses to technological changes.

 

‘Tomb’ refers to the classical carvings, paintings or monuments that seem to have a frequency of a century, millennium or even eternity. It is completely out of the blue to me in regarding such architecture or historical symbols to be a form of public writing, in spite the fact that they do convey messages to the public. The example of ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs carved on temples and pyramids really caught my eye as I am fascinated by ancient Egyptian history. They took the individualistic element out of communication and were (and still are) presented as imperial of ancient Egypt, communicating their history, religion and culture to the contemporary public.

 

Hartler divides the frequencies of public writing into three main types: high frequency including instantaneous, hourly, daily and weekly; mid-frequency including monthly, quarterly and annual; and low frequency including of decade, century, millennium and eternity. The  phenomenon of public writing nowadays is going more into the direction of highest high frequency for hard news, lowest high frequency or higher mid-frequency for soft news, gossip or lifestyle-related writing, while academic/scholarly writing and canonical literature remains to be mid to low frequency. People in the past simply would not have imagined that news would be updated by minute or second before the invention of radios and the Internet. Not quite as related to public writing but rather a form of semi-private writing, Facebook status updates or Twitter are solid examples of instantaneous communication within our personal networks.

 

With the increase in speed/frequency and technologies of public writing, information and news are overflown everywhere, archived virtually forever and can be dug up conveniently. Will we still remember big news or important events of our time as vividly five or ten years from now? Or will we move to care more about ‘news’ of private networks, such as Facebook friends’ relationship statuses or changes in online groups/forums that we associate with, then become uninterested in world/national affairs? The world seems to be more uncertain to the future of media than it was ever before.

 

Winnie Ho (z3292568)

T15A