Tuesday, December 6, 2011

An Occupy meme fairy tale #OWS

Once upon a time, Wall Street got occupied.

Around the same time, in the basement of a distant enchanted forest, a group of heroic graduate students discussed best practices for making an idea go viral. They talked about internet memes and network theory, and later they all went to sleep with visions of double rainbows and rickrolls dancing in their heads.

But one of the students - a beautiful but mischievous princess - was unable to sleep that night. Instead, she disobeyed the warnings of her father the king and went to visit a giant network monster, known to all as the Facebook. This monster had attacked and eaten most of the other smaller networks in the land and was a fearsome sight to see as he sprawled outside his cave chewing on the bones of MySpace and spitting out the indie rock bands.

Our princess hero wasn't frightened to face the monster, because she knew that Facebook could be good or evil depending on how you treated him - and she had come prepared. She whipped him up a nice big breakfast of eggs, pancakes, and hashtags, and he sighed in contentment and coughed up a lolcat hairball. Then he gave her a gift in return. It was a newborn video. It cried out as it took its first feeble breaths:

The princess took a liking to the video, because it was smart and fresh and relevant and had a good beat.  So she cared for it and fed it and let her friends play with it. She waited for it to grow big and strong so it could play with the other videos and be shown on Jimmy Kimmel and have someone do an autotuned remix of it.

But in spite of the care taken to raise it properly, the video never grew as much as she had hoped. "Why not?" the princess wondered. "It was a really good video and deserved to go to meme school as much as that baby who dances to Single Ladies."

Clearly, however, the princess was wrong and out of touch, and really probably part of the 1% because, come on, she's a princess. Even if she was actually completely broke from paying tuition to the enchanted forest. So no one really lived happily ever after, unfortunately. Sometimes videos just die. Although of course they never really die. They just wait around until you decide to run for office or your new girlfriend is meeting your mom for the first time. Or maybe until you decide to post them on your class blog just before everyone's blog comments are due?

Friday, December 2, 2011

Cancun Candid Camera

The discussion of public diplomacy led me to consider the implications of soft power in the form of tourism and particularly advertisement of tourism.

After battling years of dwindling tourism dollars, Colombia redeveloped its travel sector by cultivating an aggressive publicity and advertisement campaign. After years of prompting its image and particularly its safety, Colombia has begun attracting tourists back to the country.

A similar decrease in foreign visitors has prompted The Mexico Tourism Board, eager to implement a similarly aggressive strategy to improve Mexico’s reputation. Plagued by border violence, drug-related crime, and kidnapping, The Mexico Tourism Board is most concerned with altering the perception that it is an unsafe destination for tourists. And the the reputation is unfounded. In Sepetmber the bodies of 35 tourists were dumped in the popular tourist destination of Veracuz, and mass grave of 18 tourists was discovered a year ago.

But, Mexico’s new commercials, which are now showing on several U.S. cable channels, feature candid-camera style interviews with American tourists returning from vacations in the country. The Mexico Taxi Project is the Mexico Tourism Boards effort to capture the unbiased opinions of Americans who know Mexican resorts, destinations, and activities. The rationale of the campaign’s creative team is that viewers are more likely to believe the “candid” opinions of other Americans as opposed to well-crafted and polished promos featuring model-like tourists frolicking on white sand beaches with pina colada in hand. The imagery and tone of the commercial suggests that Mexico is attempting to adapt word-of-mouth marketing to a mass audience.

Only time will tell if it can successful reinvigorate Mexico’s lackluster tourism sector, however until the country can get its affairs in order and curb violence fueled by confrontations of drug cartels the campaign may be all for naught. While the success of Colombia’s campaign serves a model of success, it was just a late-implemented component of a larger body of reforms aimed at combating narco-terrorism and. That is to say the ad campaigns were successful at drawing tourists to Colombia only after the country had begun to successfully improve its situation.

Public Diplomacy and Basketball

I always tend to think of public diplomacy in relation to sports, and not just because it is the field in which I am currently employed and that I literally just got back from an NCAA volleyball game.

We tend to send athletes as ambassadors, a friendly game of hoops between a couple college teams and the Chinese national team for example. Although, they don't always expect the games to look like it did this summer when the brawl occurred between Georgetown and Chinese players. That is not exactly the message of peace and friendship that really was expected out of this goodwill tour.

Sports normally are a great way to spread public diplomacy, who doesn't enjoy watching international games or exhibitions and seeing some pretty amazing talent. And, it's way more interesting than watching a meeting take place and the canned political statements.

But, as with the Georgetown-China basketball game, things can go wrong. It's hard to say why the players felt like they needed to start swinging at each other (especially when they knew they were on a goodwill tour and this is highly anti-goodwill), but it definitely wasn't planned. Public diplomacy can also run into hiccups, whether it's comments that are not culturally correct (Kennedy's "Ich bin ein Berliner" example) or if there are highly controversial statements made that could rub either of the publics the wrong way, it's not a bulletproof thing. There is always the chance of it back-firing, though more with actual public diplomacy than basketball diplomacy we definitely hope not.

Mi Gorda Bella!

Now, I know there's plenty to talk about from this week's readings. But, since this is my last blog post and I've been putting posting these 2 CELEBRITY CRUSHES (apparently a theme of mine this semester) AND 2 AWESOME VIDEOS off in favor of other topics each week, I'm going to backtrack. *Note: the second celebrity crush and awesome video can be found in my actual final post...check it out!*

Firstly, I couldn't help but share a clip of Mi Gorda Bella [in English they usually call it My Sweet Fat Valentina]. I've wanted to since the Ugly Betty/Betty La Fea article, because I watched (and loved) this Venezuelan novela in Costa Rica just about every day with my family back in 2003, thereby causing total nostalgia when Betty's story finally made her way stateside. Mi Gorda Bella was one of the many format exports like Jade Miller mentioned in her article; not a direct remake of the original novela, but a similar storyline, with overweight Valentina in place of ugly Betty, and Valentina's maybe-cousin/love interest Orestes (it's not as gross as it sounds, and he is *spoiler alert* revealed to be unrelated by the end) in place of the boss. The show's Spanish was decidedly Venezuelan, which falls under Telemundo CEO James MacNamara's assertion that regional colloqualisms and accents have to change in order to be available to bigger (or just different) markets. Thought it would be interesting to share with everyone, because I enjoyed the show. Also because the protagonist male (Juan Pablo Raba, who plays Orestes) was one of the only celebrity crushes I've ever had. [If you've been reading diligently, you know that a Jon C. Reilly lookalike has since taken over...although to be fair Alan Grayson hasn't totally beaten out Bradley Cooper for the #1 spot.]

Without further ado, here's a clip (no subtitles, sorry):

Loooove it. India and Mexico picked this one up, creating remakes titled respectively Dekho Magar Pyaar Se and Llena de amor - these are in addition to their more direct Ugly Betty remakes, which is (you guessed it) pretty meta.

Revenge of the Nerds

No offense by that title because I include myself in that group as well - at least "video game" nerds. When talking about the power of internet-borne communities, this recent example justifies it in a pretty significant way - and as always, the impact of social media.

Operation Rainfall is a fan campaign launched on June 23, 2011 meant to persuade Nintendo of America (NOA) to localize three role-playing games for the Wii console, one of which was called Xenoblade Chronicles.

Fans sent as many physical letters and e-mails as well as giving as many phone calls to Nintendo of America's headquarters as possible, in addition to posting messages on the companyis Facebook page and Twitter accounts, requesting a North American release of the game.

Nintendo did decide to localize it - in Europe. This understandably ticked a lot of people off; it's easy to understand the typical responses of "it won't sell outside Japan." But to localize it in a region in which everything will be in English anyways with the same expectations of success burned a lot of people up, and when in doubt, complain on the internet.

Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aime commented that, "We will be watching very closely what happens in Europe...Certainly if there are business opportunities and positive consumer uptake from some of those titles, that will be great data for us to consider as we look at what to do with these titles." Yesterday, Nintendo revealed on its Facebook page that Xenoblade would come to North America on April 3, 2012.

You could feel the disbelief from these fan corners but what really got me was the message on Operation Rainfall's Facebook page, "We Did It!" I'm a softy at heart, plus I might be able to buy a Wii by April.

To further legitimize this whole campaign, our very own Washington Post even covered the saga and continuing power of fans convening on the internet. Maybe I'm easy, but I have to say I am impressed, and likely buoyed by their recent success, the group is still openly campaigning for the other Japanese games to be localized as well. A well-won victory all without leaving the computer screen.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Where have all the correspondents gone?

You rarely see true foreign correspondents anymore. There are reporters covering foreign news, yes, but there are fewer and fewer who actually live in the region their covering, working in their organization's foreign bureau.

During times of war, you see them. But most of the time these are reporters who were sent to the region specifically because of the war. They are there on assignment, like any other reporter, and when the war is over (or pretty much over) they are flown back home or onto other international assignments. War is the driving factor of foreign correspondence today, it guarantees that news will be generated in that region and that it will need to be covered. There will be a number of different stories and angles as well, aside from just covering the battles and troop movements. There are people whose lives have been turned upside down and are being affected because of the area they live. But there are only so many of those stories, and eventually the public will grow bored and there will be no more need for a large number of reporters to tell those stories.

Traditionally, foreign correspondents would live and cover the area they lived in for years. They would know the language and the people, which would make gaining access for stories easier. But more and more papers have shut down their foreign bureaus and those who are left are responsible for covering a larger region than before. When news happens immediately in a region where there are no foreign correspondents nearby, they rely on the news from international organizations or local reporters, or freelancers if they have decided to come fill the gap for coverage of the region that they see in the international news.

Whenever I would talk to editors or professors and say I wanted to become a foreign correspondent after I graduated, most of them would say, "Wow, we never hear anyone say that anymore. Good luck with that." The nature of how we get our foreign news has changed, we rely more on the one organization that may have a reporter left in the area or freelancers who are willing to brave the unpredictable environment. But it has definitely changed and it seems unlikely that it will go back to what it used to be. The heyday of foreign correspondence has ended, for better or for worse, and most of the time it's definitely not for the better.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Because it's necessarily personal

Instead of discussing this week’s readings, I want to reflect on the presentations we saw in class on Tuesday. Both were awesome and very interesting – kudos, classmates!

Emily, Marc, Ayonfe and Katie’s presentation struck a bit of a nerve with me (in a good way) as those of you in class may have noticed. They discussed the new imagined communities – not just nations anymore, but diasporas, telenovela fans, gamers, and members of religious groups, regional areas, etc. Bonus points for keeping it interesting, engaging, and interactive… (hint, hint, Prof. Hayden).

In class I reflected on the sports world as an imagined community of its own, and then mentioned one of the more awful effects we’ve seen of that community in recent news – the Penn State scandal. I discussed the apparent separation this imagined community caused between some fans and what could be called American society’s morals (or generally accepted human morals, perhaps?). I brought up the example of Shayna’s Facebook share of a Jon Stewart clip showing the rioting and protests that followed the ouster of the team’s head coach following allegations that he didn’t do enough after hearing about the alleged child sexual abuse committed by assistant coach Jerry Sandusky. The clip includes footage of protesters indignant over their beloved head coach having suffered such an unfortunate fate. Stewart’s reaction – and mine – was disbelief that this was THIS was the cause of the anger and sense of betrayal being protested. Not, say, the possible rape of young children.

(Nota bene: Because I need to keep believing in some amount of good in my fellow humans, I'll trust this is not the majority view of the university or its students, and I do not mean to make an example of athletics in general or of Penn State by bringing this up. But even treating it, as I’d like to be clear is my intent, as the example of a select few individuals caught on camera – it boggles the mind how any person can be so blinded by their imagined community that they ignore or defend what society considers to be grave and egregious mismanagement of an unspeakable crime.)

I keep writing other things and realizing I've gotten too personal, but this is an issue that cuts me too close to my own heart to bear. I honestly can't say much more. I just want to ask that we take a moment to recognize this with horror. That we think about how the cases that are reported are only the tip of the iceberg, that we condemn the fact that utter mismanagement of allegations of sexual harassment, assault, and abuse are likely the norm rather than the exception. That we realize many of these unspeakable acts are occurring in places that don't have a highly developed HR department and a set reporting structure like Penn State does. And that we reflect upon how our own imagined communities affect our choices.

Scrambled Media Coverage: Network Power of Distraction and Agenda Setting

I would have liked to address this issue earlier, but with the lingering media attention I think it is nonetheless relevant.

It goes without saying that Penn State has become embroiled in one of the most controversial child abuse incidents in the history of sports and perhaps the U.S. What bothers me most about this other than the alleged acts themselves is the way that the media has handled the story, especially which aspects of the story were discussed most.

For days, a preponderance of coverage was dedicated to the Penn State students protesting against head football coach, Joe Paterno’s dismissal. I make this assessment based upon cursory review of online and television news sources. The most prevalent topic appeared to be focused on the “current” action-taking place on Penn State’s campus. I am sure this is directly related to the active nature of the events and the ability for such “breaking” moments to captivate audience attention.

I suppose images of the student mobs is significantly more attention-grabbing than the most critical aspect of the story, the allegations made against Jerry Sandusky and the history of the cover-up of the incidents. It seems almost as if the media told the story out of order with initial coverage dedicated to the student reaction to Paterno’s firing. In fact, if one were to have glanced at the news he or she would likely understand that a much-revered coach had been fired without any insight as to why.

It wasn’t until late last week and early this week that the media covered details regarding the allegations, the history of the alleged perpetrator, and the victims. It all seemed to have been told out of order for the sake of covering the action of the demonstrations while they were still taking place. Perhaps, it was a media tactic to lure readers and viewers into the story only to reveal more relevant, but less time sensitive details later.

Surely, it can be argued that specifics regarding the allegations and the victims only began to surface as the story developed. But, I can’t help but feel that the massive networking of the student body to rally behind their head coach somehow diverted attention from the important aspects of the issue. If the coordinated action of a network has the power to successfully attract attention to a trivial issue (the dismissal of a head coach presumably guilty of obscuring the truth) from the real issue (the alleged crimes committed) then networks have really demonstrated their power to agenda-set, manipulate media and take advantage of its interest in “action” and “breaking news.”

Monday, November 14, 2011

Non-Profits in (or driving) the News Media

Very sorry this is late, I have been on the road since Thursday for work and a post definitely slipped my mind....but regardless.

The relationship between the media and non-profits is always interesting to follow, because unless you are the non-profit focusing on your issue, it's going to be hard to generate buzz on your organization. You have to make a huge impact with what you are doing, concrete evidence of saving lives and pictures of adorable children definitely help.

When I interned for a non-profit that worked on issues pertaining to Sudan and Southern Sudan and I was working on our media lists, I always wondered whether the journalists dreaded the call from our Communications Director. I mean, he was giving them a story, but were they ever sick of just covering what we gave them. I know they went out there and go more information, since most of them were on the ground, but it is an interesting dynamic. When you a journalist on the ground covering conflicts, like the one in Sudan and Southern Sudan at the time, you need the direction of the non-profits in some instances to point you where to go and where your connection say the story is occurring. But is there ever a feeling of needing to put the organization in the story because of the help they gave. The organization I worked for garnered a lot of attention from the journalists who we provided information do, but hopefully they didn't miss any part of the story because of that.

Non-profits definitely play a huge role in the stories that get out, especially in conflict zones, because they are the ones who are consistently on the ground and know what is going on at all times. But it is important to make sure that it's not just the non-profits who are telling the story all the time and getting the full coverage from all the organizations on the ground and also the people who live in the regions and are being most affected by these conflicts.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Networks and Nodes

This may be more applicable to last week, but this is one example out of many, of starting with one idea and expanding to nodes or different locales to help complete their goal. Anyone I hope this is a relevant link: http://www.physorg.com/news/2011-11-global-shoestring-team-requires-fair.html

Talk that Talk

So we discussed how social media, mobile networks, and the Internet contributed directly to regime change while also examining case studies where such networks didn’t really inspire much change (i.e. the protests during the Republic National Convention in New York). What stood out for me was the lingering questions and problems I have with Occupy Wall Street.

In the case studies where such networks contributed to change, there was a measurable degree of passion, anger, and emotion that propelled the quest for justice. In the case studies where such networks did not achieve the desired change there may have been strong opinion, but there was a lack of coherence. The lack of structure to the protesters’ arguments (in both OWS and the New York City) while ambiguous enough to welcome those with a range of opinions ultimately requires a concentrated argument to achieve actual political or social change as illustrated in the other case studies.

It really boils to doing more than putting talk into action. A rational idea of what needs to be changed and potentially suggestion for achieving such change are required. You can’t achieve a goal without knowing what that goal is. In the case of People Power II, the Filipinos argued for the ousting of their corrupt leader. Their conviction propelled their action and their shared sense of action and change yielded a structured argument that ultimately successfully resulted in achievement of their goal…removal of their leader from power.

The socio-economic status of the protestors also stood out. Clearly, the Internet and mobile networks require technology that is not affordable to lower classes. The unequal access to technology and the role that such technologies play in these movements emphasizes the lack of congruence of mobile networks to stimulate political change. Money is power and without having the money to purchase technologies that grant access to mobile networks, one is excluded from participating in movements that inspire change. In many cases those who need change the most are those who cannot afford access to these networks.

If You Seek Amy... I mean E Gao

I was intrigued by the account we read about the Grass Mud Horse, which in Chinese is pronounced similarly - but not identically - to "f*** your mother." Author Bingchun Meng discusses its political ramifications as a battle against government censorship and a secret way of supporting the democratization of China.

The first thing I thought of as a parallel in the US was Britney Spears' single "If You Seek Amy." Not exactly taken as a political message, was it? How DO we use profanity, sneakiness, cheekiness, or anything similar to E Gao in the States for something other than titillation or the celebration of our affinity for irreverence?

My second thought was "This Film Is Not Yet Rated," which is an interesting exploration of "standard-setting" in the States (although, of course, as with every media product you consume, it's to be taken with a grain of salt). From Wikipedia, since it's been a while since I saw the film: "The film discusses disparities the filmmaker sees in ratings and feedback: between Hollywood and independent films, between homosexual and heterosexual sexual situations, between male and female sexual depictions, and between violence and sexual content."  Whereas you might not see any inherent political message in whether a major recording artist is allowed to drop a few F-bombs on a content-light record, there's certainly one to be found in gay vs straight sex scenes, or female vs male orgasms, being allowed under a certain rating scheme (a lower rating allowing the film to be marketed more widely and seen by more people).

Anyone have better examples of (perhaps quieter) American media/social media products flying under the radar for a political or social purpose? Those are the first two that came to mind, but they're pretty mainstream. I don't have as much connection with internet memes as some of you. The only one I've got a real understanding of is the much-revered Broccoli Squid, and I think that's going to get old for a certain someone pretty quick here......

Friday, November 4, 2011

The Sporting World of Extraordinary News

So mostly because I just left a day filled with field hockey tournaments and volleyball, my head is stuck on sports and that will be my blog post topic. There is a high chance most of my remaining blogs will mention sports...and I am shocked I have not actually included a mention in more posts because sports happen to occupy my life.

Anyways....talking about extraordinary versus ordinary news, I was trying to think if those topics would apply to the sporting world, and what they would look like. Is there really news that comes out of the sporting world that propels us to action (or inaction), which was the definition of extraordinary news from the article? There has been the story of Oscar Pistorius, the double amputee runner from South Africa who is attempting to qualify for the 2012 Olympics. There have been deaths, like the one in mid-October at an Indy Car race that killed long-time driver Dan Wheldon. But are any of these propelling us to action?

The sports world, and especially the world of NASCAR, has been propelled by the death of Wheldon. There was a conversation with drivers about safety following the crash, and outcry from fans that the death could have been prevented. But most of the news about the crash has died off, with only the occasional story on the news and ESPN following other races. The whole world has been cheering for Pistorius, and its provided a heart-warming story prior to the Olympics.

The World Cup, as well, unites nations and brings us to reach for a common goal. The Olympics are also a huge example of the power of sports to unite countries and people, and drive support towards our athletes. So is this extraordinary news?

I think in some ways it definitely can be. Sports can be incredibly powerful, especially because of their ability to unite the public. The story of the South African rugby team, whose win at the Rugby World Cup is one of the clearest examples of the power sports can hold. The win by the team helped to unite a country in conflict, following the election of Nelson Mandela. The coverage that came out of that game and the images were not just powerful for South Africa, but also across the world.

South Africa celebrating following the 1995 Championship: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qPMGlSMFZ30&t=1m42s

Sports don't drive people to action in the same way as news that comes after a tsunami or a terrible disaster, but it can compel us to action through our images and to unite behind a common goal. Sometimes a win by the home team can do more than anything else to unite a country.

Include Me Out (Thanks, Robyn)

All the talk about inclusion/exclusion in networks and multi-layering and hybridity over the past few weeks has me considering the implications of belonging to various "groups" some of which conflict directly with one another. When I refer to "groups" it includes a range of things from religion, ethnicity, and nationality to gender, interests, and music taste. If you stopped and made a list of the various "groups" or communities to which you think you belong you could also evaluate the degree to which each group is relevant or important to you. Certainly, some of inclusion in certain groups or networks present conflicts with each other.

When you stop and consider the implications of inclusion (or exclusion) in certain groups and the fact that inclusion in some groups necessitate self-induced exclusion from another group. The concept of leaving networks (in the form of ideologies in favor of others) is particularly relevant. In the political arena belonging to conflicting groups presents a challenge to being elected. Take Mitt Romney, for example. He has been criticized for "flip-flopping" on certain issues, including abortion and has been scrutinized by ultra conservative members of the Republican party.

I bring up the Mitt Romney to illustrate the double-edged sword that is mainstream appeal. You might look at being "mainstream" (in anything from politics to music) as the ability to appeal to the broadest demographic or numerous networks. But, achieving and maintaining such a precarious balance is difficult. Appealing the lowest common denominator can be damaging and isolate one from the most beneficial supporters. Again, this goes beyond politics into other realms too. Think about when indie bands attempt to make a break on radio and tweak their style. Doing so has mixed results. Some isolate members of their core fan base while appealing to a whole new group of listeners. The most successful satisfy their original fans while attracting new ones and the losers disregard their loyal fan base for listeners who quickly move on to other acts.

So the question really is whether you attempt to include yourself in as many networks as possible, or focus on maintaining strong ties with the networks most relevant to professional success and personal contentment?

Sarah Palin's semantics

I want to talk about Paul Adams' discussion of the power of language to include and exclude in Ch 6 of "Geographies of Media and Communication." I found the chapter to be quite interesting and many of his points resonated. I've long held the belief that semantics are not just semantics - our word choice informs the way we think about the world and the way in which we affect others' views.

This blog post on PR Breakfast Club: http://prbreakfastclub.com/2010/05/11/just-semantics-point/ was just the sort of argument I was looking for: 
"...the point is this – words have meanings – usually a very specific meaning.  They 1) can’t be interchanged willy-nilly, even if they’re next to each other in the thesaurus and 2) even words that “mean the same thing” have a unique power, a hint of something else, an implication of degree (e.g. smoldering vs. hot), etc. The rights word used at the right place and time can be used to spin (or rather frame) a story the way you’d like your audience (or rather community) to receive it.  Outrage, calm, anxiety, excitement, anticipation, boredom, intrigue – can all be at your beck and call with the write words (pun intentional)."
Whether it's an obvious word choice like a slur of some kind on a person's sex, gender, race, ethnicity, religion, looks, sexual orientation, etc., or a more subtle one like the difference between smoldering and hot, as above, the words we use both include and exclude, as Adams says. They are our way of defining the world around us, placing a certain lens over it for others to see and feel the same way we do. 

I'd like to present one strong (if unintended) advocate of the power of words and phrases: Sarah Palin. Ms Palin is famous for peppering her speeches with nationalistic words and phrases, which seem at many times to take precedence over actually making a clear point. I'm sure everyone remembers the embarrassing interview Palin did with Katie Couric, videos of which promptly went viral. Here's a clip as a refresher; I'd venture it's clear Palin wants to make sure she gets her talking points in, and it certainly seems to be at the mercy of making a coherent statement of any kind:

Just for fun, a clip of CNN's Wolf Blitzer showing the nearly exact usage of Palin's rhetoric on the subsequent SNL parody:

If you're still having some doubts over the perceived power of words themselves by this point, let me remind you of this other blazing moment in American history:

I know both of these lovely ladies were nervous, and I won't say I would necessarily do any better in their situation. I don't mean to pick on the innocent - or the stage-fright stricken, if unintelligible, reciters of talking points. What I do mean to illustrate here is the recognition that words are important. Such phrases as "shoring up our economy" are telling of Palin's view on us versus them, for example, which is a powerful sentiment with many in Palin's party. Politicians' rhetoric is a great example of the active ways in which language is used for othering. When a candidate speaks, they are explicitly trying to play to their audience. When the audience is Cold War-era Berlin, they say Ich bin ein Berliner, to include Berlin and exclude the Soviet Union. When the audience is a post-9/11 America, they speak so as to include the US and exclude the "Axis of Evil." When the audience is a gay-rights group, they'll mince some words to make their stance on gay marriage seem a bit different from when the audience is a socially conservative group.

Anyone have any other good examples of this? My roommate and I had some fun thinking of great moments in political history for the purposes of this illustration. Our favorite: 

As people, we are naturally communicators, and as such, we are all tasked with using the words we have at our disposal the best way we know how.

(And just for the record, my friends at NPR clarified the issue of Palin's accent, which is an Alaskan one and not derived in any way from my native Minnesota: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=95306504)

Friday, October 28, 2011


We've reached the point where nearly everyone we know is on Facebook or social media, and those who revolt against it sometimes end up coming right back. It's like a bad relationship. Everyone has those people in their lives (or at least on their Facebook) who share every detail of their lives, every meal they've made, event they've attended, essentially what they're doing 24/7. Aside from it being extremely annoying, it is kind of a sad indication of where we've headed, and it's really scary to imagine that it will get worse. There seems to be a 'shunning' or exclusion of those not on Facebook (who doesn't use Facebook to plan most of their events, guilty...) and it's hard to imagine not having Facebook to update you on what those people back in high school are up to.

So, where is this headed next? We've hit the point (almost) where people can share so much that there is little mystery left in our knowledge about what our friends are doing. We can already share videos and photos instantly on Facebook, show where we are when we're posting it and chat instantly with our friends all in one place. The timeline showed there was more Facebook could create, but is there really more we can share about ourselves? Jenkins talked about how technology has fostered this new culture or sharing (and over-sharing) and that it has become ritualized and endemic to our networks. Even if we try to rebel, it's hard not to use Facebook for events or share big news in our lives or look at what those people are up to...it's hard to resist. So what happens, when there isn't anything left to share? I'm sure we will find more...maybe they'll be a new app to share every meal or every project we've worked on. Hopefully we're done trying to develop new ways to share or new information to share, because at the end of the day sometimes it's definitely too much information (yes, I know that is a tad corny, sorry).

Freedom? Power? Both?

The advent and proliferation of social media has enabled media consumers to the quickly share information across the world. I can log onto Facebook, recommend a film, song, or television show to my former Kyrgyz exchange student, Anton. Moments later he could be downloading it from where he lives in China (that is if he has successfully circumvented various firewalls first).

We do live in a Network Society as Castells suggests. Social media networks like Facebook and Twitter have granted us the freedom to forge relationships with those who may be geographically distant yet ideologically close. Social media has already demonstrated its ability to facilitate demonstrations and protests, particularly in the Middle East this year. On a political level, social media’s existence in the network society does present the opportunity for users to undermine the role of the nation-state. However, for it to become such an agency of power requires users of social media and the mechanics of such networks to seize control from nation-states so that they possess more than just the freedom to share information but the power to turn information into action.

So back to Anton. He loves film trilogy, The Matrix. When he stayed with my family in 2003, I was subjected to the midnight showing of the final installment because Anton was leaving the next day and he argued that the film wouldn’t arrive in Kyrgyzstan until months or even years later. Flash-forward to present day. Anton teaches in China now and while e-mailing recently I referenced YouTube and Flickr and explained what they were in excruciating detail. Slightly insulted, he responded, “What? You think it’s the Soviet Union again and I live in Siberia or there’s bears walking around in the street. I know what those are!” My initial embarrassment segued into consideration and appreciation of how the Internet and social media really have granted us the freedom to independently search for and access information even in places we may incorrectly believe to lack such freedoms (for the most part).

The power to organize information into legitimate threats to the nation-state, however, seems somewhat limited at this point. While use of social media in the Arab Spring has proved that Twitter and Facebook can, in fact, facilitate coordination of protests, it is at the mercy of those who control such networks.

We return to Anton in China who I haven’t heard from in months because he hasn’t been able to access Facebook or his Gmail account. While I don’t know the specifics of why his access has been blocked, it demonstrates that we only have network freedom to the extent we are granted by the gatekeepers’ power.

In the context of social and political movements, social media enable the rapid sharing of information to those who share similar ideologies and facilitate organization and coordination of demonstrations. The power of these demonstrations to inspire change, however, is limited by the nation-state’s power to grant freedom to access technological networks. We can look at the Iranian government’s attempts to crackdown on Twitter during the 2009 Iranian Presidential Elections. While turning off the Internet is pretty difficult, attempts to do so in Egypt earlier this year illustrate that the power to do so does exist.

It really does beg the question of who really possess the power of Internet and social media in the Network Society.

Musings of a Facebook cynic

We read about network society this week and then, logically, discussed it in class. Where "network" used to be a word that fell on the decidedly PC side of the "Hi, I'm a Mac/And I'm a PC" spectrum, now it's a hip buzzword that is sometimes just synonymous with "Facebook." So, not surprisingly - drumroll please - Facebook is what I'm here to talk about today. I know Facebook has been discussed, dissected, dissed, and debated to death. But I'm adding my voice to the rabble because, by Jove, I have a bone to pick with online social networks.

In discussing the network society, we talked in class about the fact that the focus is not on individual nodes, but rather on the association between them. In theory, this would make Facebook a great place to (you guessed it) network and stay connected with our friends. And I won't debate the fact that many Facebook users do indeed connect with their friends on Facebook through messages, chat, wall posts, photos, comments, videos (yes, those WILL be coming back to haunt us), games like Farmville, those silly virtual gifts you can send people, and a plethora of other socially/digitally-constructed methods for connection. However, I find when scrolling through my "news feed" that many of my friends are using Facebook to create and promote their personal brand in the public sphere, rather than connect directly with someone they care about. In high school terms, we call people whose every interaction is engineered to the end of creation and promotion of a personal brand "fake." In loose network society terms, there's so much focusing on the "me" node that associations or linkages are ignored or at least given a backseat.

I'd love to study the psychology of Facebook, because I'm truly fascinated by the ways people use it. I always wonder, why write on someone's wall rather than sending them a text or Facebook message? There's something suspect about the public nature of the "wall" forum... isn't it often just used as a place to mark our friendship territory by sharing - not only with our friend, but with the world - an inside joke or funny memory?  Or what about the Facebook status? Aren't these generally used as a way to showcase something about ourselves? Why bother posting a deep philosophical quote, comment on the latest sports game, celebration of a success, or woeful reflection on something sad? It seems to me that we're all so excited to be able to invent who we are online that we forget about connecting with others. In real life, we can't edit the moments where we look bad, say something awkward, or act otherwise human.

I have a dear friend who suffered a terrible loss about a year ago. I had to find out about it via Facebook - and it was pure luck that her post was on my news feed at the right time, or I wouldn't have known until it was a bit untimely for condolences. When we go through a tough time, it's only fair that we want others to be there for us - but why don't we ask our friends directly? It's difficult to sit someone down and tell them that you're hurting, but that's the way humans have had to do it for a long time, and we shouldn't be shying away from it. Uncomfortable moments go hand in hand with the good ones. I want to be happy for my friends in their successes, and there for my friends in times of sorrow, and Facebook feels like a sorry forum in which to do those things. I think Facebook is a fun, frivolous, and often-useful-for-spying-on-people platform, but in condensing our interactions to the online realm, we miss out on so much of the awkward, awesome, REAL life - complete with actual associations between nodes - that's out there for the taking.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Hybridity and Italy

When I studied abroad in Rome for a semester I took a class called Italian Media and Popular Culture. We talked about Berlusconi and his ownership of the largest media companies, but we also talked about how women appear on the majority of Italian television shows. A lot of the shows completely objectify women, and there were rarely any popular television shows were women were portrayed in a positive light. Most of the Americans in the class were horrified that this is how women appeared on Italian television, but the Italian students just said it's what's popular and while it's horrible we still know there are smart women out there and it doesn't really matter.

There were also the example where American television had a marked impact on some of the Italian shows, like the set-up of some of the game shows. The effects of hybridity were clear in some of these senses, and the Italian students even said that some of these shows were no worse than ones that the Americans watched. It was the norm. There was a complete mix of different cultures, American, Italian and even British that were appearing in the Italian television shows. It wasn't like the shows were seeking to completely model the American shows, they just used them as a basis to develop their own and mold them to become more popular in Italy. It was more a mix than a complete domination of American culture.

Friday, October 21, 2011


I have found memories of being subjected to Top 40 while riding in my mom’s minivan to and from school. I regularly belted out the hits of musical luminaries like Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston, Ace of Bass, and Boyz II Men. During those melodic trips to and from whatever destination, it was apparent that relatively few artists received airplay and most songs had a definite “reign” atop the airplay charts. It was relatively easy to monitor the pulse of popular music during this musical era.

That is until the advent of iTunes. Achieving success in the music industry during the pre-iTunes period was measured and accomplished through a combination of marketing campaigns, televised performances, music videos, and album sales. While that has remained static (artists are still performing on morning shows, still making music videos, and still releasing albums) other elements have influenced the rate at which a song or artists tops the chart as well as the frequency.

Digital technology and portable media players have revolutionized the music industry enabling consumers to individualize their content and construct their own musical niche. Blogs catering to specific genres and niche satellite radio channels have replaced traditional radio the primary source of music. As listeners no longer rely on traditional radio to cultivate awareness of new music, record success is no longer determined by appeal to a wide swath of the population, but rather through appealing to a specific demographic. One blogger even compares it to recent elections and candidates’ efforts to appeal to voters who support or oppose a particular cause.

I have found memories of being subjected to Top 40 while riding in my mom’s minivan to and from school. I regularly belted out the hits of musical luminaries like Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston, Ace of Bass, and Boyz II Men. During those melodic trips to and from whatever destination, it was apparent that relatively few artists received airplay and most songs had a definite “reign” atop the airplay charts. It was relatively easy to monitor the pulse of popular music during this musical era.

That is until the advent of iTunes. Achieving success in the music industry during the pre-iTunes period was measured and accomplished through a combination of marketing campaigns, televised performances, music videos, and album sales. While that has remained static (artists are still performing on morning shows, still making music videos, and still releasing albums) other elements have influenced the rate at which a song or artists tops the chart as well as the frequency.

Digital technology and portable media players have revolutionized the music industry enabling consumers to individualize their content and construct their own musical niche. Blogs catering to specific genres and niche satellite radio channels have replaced traditional radio the primary source of music. As listeners no longer rely on traditional radio to cultivate awareness of new music, record success is no longer determined by appeal to a wide swath of the population, but rather through appealing to a specific demographic. One blogger even compares it to recent elections and candidates’ efforts to appeal to voters who support or oppose a particular cause.

Self-determination of content has forced the music industry to alter their formulas for success and implement new strategies aimed at the new media generation. Promoting artists and new content through Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook exemplify record executives’ efforts to appeal to targeted audiences by linking content of similar artists to each other. It also may explain the rise in popularity of “featured” artists with the rationale being “You like artist XYZ? Well you will certainly like artist ABC then here have a listen.” YouTube videos featuring fan covers or parodies of songs are probably more likely to generate interest in a song or artist more so than traditional promotion. Hello, Sophia Grace Brownlee’s “Super Bass”

As a result of the “nichification” of the music industry the communal sense of music has all but evaporated. But lamenting the loss of shared musical experience means greater diversity of content for the rest of us. We can pick and chose tracks as we like with most of us having little regard for what is topping the chart at the moment.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Hallyu Wave Stateside

In light of the discussion this week, I'm going to pimp the site I write for, but at least it's not my work ;) Why K-pop is Hell-Bent on Making it Stateside. With all of Hayden's talk of the Hallyu wave, arguably there is a second wave in process, at least with the export of Korean musical acts in Japan. And now one of the biggest girl groups (literally there's nine of them!) in Korea has come out with a new album with a somewhat sudden decision to release their lead single on Itunes in Korean and English. Just cause, here is the music video:

Could you see them performing on Letterman or Leno?

SNARK ATTACK! & my new celebrity crush

I wanted to talk today about Erin Burnett's "Seriously?!" segment about Occupy Wall Street that's been all the buzz lately. There are predictions that OWS will last longer than she will. I'm not so sure about that, but she's certainly played right to the belittlement of the movement.
The video here, in case you don't TiVo Ms. Burnett's show.
My reaction:
1. Since when is it good journalism to interview ONE person and call it a day? I'm no journalism student, but I don't think one guy (who's being ridiculed for being unemployed?!) is particularly representative of a movement that's purposely styled as being leaderless.
2. I'm also not a drummer, but even I know those are CONGA drums (and, if my eyes don't deceive, a djembe, broken bass drum, and 5-gallon tub) in the video clip that corresponds with Erin describing "bongos" (0:47). They are not bongos. Bongos are shown in the previous clip (0:46, meant to illustrate "banjos"). If you're going to mock something, Erin Burnett, please at least know what you're talking about. (That said, come on OWS guys, I'm pretty sure you're not supposed to use drumsticks with congas...you're just hurtin' the cause.)
3. I'm not a pop culture expert either. But I'm aware of the existence of a funny bit called "Really?!" (or "Really?! with Seth and Amy" or "Really?! with Seth Meyers" from Saturday Night Live. Erin Burnett and her staff have to know about this, right? This article backs me up, too. So I figure this is a good time to commemorate Burnett's shout-out to SNL with a little clip from 2009, which is fitting in its re-illustration that the anger at Wall Street isn't brand new. (This article gives some background, for your reading pleasure):


4. Uh oh, Wikipedia says she was wrong anyway! Hmmm, I almost trust Wikipedia as much as I trust Erin Burnett right now; at least Wikipedia spares me the attitude.

Fortunately, it doesn't seem like everyone is so confused or immediately judgmental about the OWS movement. Now, John C. Reilly lookalikes aren't usually my cup of tea, but Alan Grayson is my new celebrity crush.  This is why:


I'd love to hear anyone's reactions on whether Burnett gave a fair shake to the OWS protesters. We've been talking in class about how the media doesn't tend to lend much credibility in their reporting of movements that challenge the status quo, and I think this might be a really perfect example. They're not quite ignoring it (which I believe was the media's first reaction to OWS), but by mocking it, they're not exactly legitimizing it now either. How do we get to know whether it's truly legit or not, if this shark snark attack is the type of coverage we get?

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Success of “Betty la Fea” proof of globalization?

Jade L. Miller’s article “Ugly Better Goes Global” in Global Media and Communication discusses the success of the original Colombian telenovela “Betty la Fea” in global exportation. “Betty la Fea” has been successfully exported to over 70 countries including the hugely successful English-language “Ugly Better.” Miller attributes the success of telenovelas (defined as dramatic narratives typically employed humor, romantic liaisons, and melodrama) in general to frequent, regular broadcasts, cost-competitiveness, universally appealing archetypes (Cinderella storyline), involvement of sexy plots lines and settings (fashion, city life, romantic liaisons), and localized content.

While these reasons are all true and make logical sense, I can’t help but wonder what else is at play that has recently made “a seemingly-domestic product inherently a global product,” especially in entertainment, though in other sectors as well. Since WWII and a vast and rapid growth and openness in economies, it has become feasibly for domestic products to be imported and exported on a large scale. In addition to economic reasons (i.e. telenovelas and, for example, cars produced by Korean and Japan, can be produced for cheaper than competitive products and thus sold for less), I think a change and almost, homogenization of preferences and tastes have occurred globally for domestic products to be global successes.

For some products, seeming changes in tastes to allow for foreign products to be success are simply due to the fact that those preferences always existed but products were never available. Some Americans always wanted smaller cars but weren’t available until Toyota and Kia moved into the market. Other may have wanted McDonalds type food, but they were unaware it even existed. For some products, they first became popular because they were either cheaper or just simply new, a novelty, and their initial popularity attributed to their later popularity (people wanted them because other people had them). Other examples include the export of French fast food to the U.S. (Pret a Manger, Au Bon Pain), Bollywood films outside India, Latin American music to the U.S., and fashion in generally outside of Europe.

I would argue that our exposure to much more types of products as well as exposure to different cultures, values, etc have made tastes in general more globalized making the exportation of a domestic product easier in the past decades. The success of “Betty la Fea” should be attributed to the phenomenon of globalization of tastes in addition to the other reasons Miller cites.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Media Coverage of the Wall Street Protests...and the Erin Burnett Clip

We talked about the Occupy Wall Street movement in class and how the media has kind of struggled to cover it. After class, I found this blog post in The New Yorker called "Wall Street Protests: Who Are the 99% and What Do They Want?" It talks about someone who didn't just analyze the people who are doing the actual protesting on Wall Street, but the profiles people posted on a website that has been associated with the protests, We Are the 99 Percent.
"In order to figure out what is driving the movement, Konczal wrote some computer code that extracted the words used most frequently in the profiles, where people tell their own stories. The ten most popular words were: “job,” “debt,” “work,” “college,” “pay,” “student,” “loan(s),” “afford,” “school,” “insurance.” On the face of it, these results suggest the primary issue for the protesters is excessive student loans. Together with the median age being twenty-six, this lends credence to the theory that the protest movement represents a “lost generation” of unemployed or under-employed college graduates."
After reading that, it made me go back to the articles we had to read and how McChesney was talking about the fact the commercial media systems tend to under represent the political message of movements. That's exactly what's happening here. Yeah, the reporters are going to go interview the people on the street who are interesting and will draw viewers and keep people interested. I feel like that's always going to happen with every protest. For every knowledgeable person that is interviewed, there has to be one person dressed up in a ridiculous outfit for everyone to make fun of later. It's the nature of today's news, trying to keep people interested when they're competing against a disinterested market, or one that already has set mechanisms for obtaining their news.

I looked for the clip from Erin Burnett that we were talking about in class, and underneath it I found this video talking about the media's coverage of the event (and making fun of Erin Burnett). It's really interesting and you should definitely check it out. But in regards to Erin Burnett, she has a new show coming out, and what better way to generate buzz than create a mock-worthy segment called "Seriously!?" about these protests that may have brought a few additional viewers to her show...or at least more hits on YouTube.

Big Brother Is Watching, But Are You?

Australian contestant, Merlin Luck, protests refugee detention in 2004 after being voted out of the house by the national viewing audience

Television programming formats have proven to be successful when tailored to fit local, regional, or national languages and customs. Scripted programs, like ‘The Office,’ that have proven popular in their countries of origin have generated comparable success when adapted to local audiences. While there are several examples of such scripted television series, the preponderance of series retooled for foreign markets are of the reality genre. There is an X Factor, Top Model, Survivor, and Big Brother in nearly every country from the Philippines and Serbia to the U.S. and Australia. The prevalence of reality television programs is not surprising. The genre’s global ubiquity is attributed to the low cost of production, interactivity, and favor with audiences.

Big Brother, a format created by international television production and distribution company, Endemol, exemplifies the success and demographic-shattering appeal of the reality genre. The program’s concept varies by country but the fundamental theme of the show was inspired by George Orwell’s “1984.” Contestants are isolated in a compound equipped with cameras and microphones to record their every move. They systematically and secretly nominate their housemates for eviction from the compound with the viewing audience vote ultimately determining which nominee is to be removed from the show permanently. Viewers observe how social dynamics evolve throughout the program and occasionally witness discourse of relevant social, political, and culturally issues.

The program is not without its share of controversy and moments where its value has been questioned. An alleged instance of sexual harassment in Big Brother Australia and a kissing scene involving a knife in Big Brother USA prompted commentators and politicians to decry the format’s display of sex, violence, and offensive material.

However, the program has served a platform for the discourse of important issues. Australian contestant Merlin Luck’s 2004 silent protest against the government’s mandatory detention of asylum seekers sparked debate of the issue ahead of federal elections. Luck defended utilizing the program as a forum for discussion stating that, "if national television is not the place for debate about an issue about this magnitude then that's a sad reflection on our nation's priorities."

Transnational versions of the program have been even more effective at encouraging debate and fostering greater understanding of racial, cultural, and national diversity. Big Brother Africa, which casts contestants from 14 different countries and polls audience votes by nation, has been celebrated as a forum for discussion of relevant social, economic, and political issues across the continent. The program has shed light on complex topics excluded from mainstream debate. The Zambian winner of a previous season even went on to be named a goodwill ambassador for the country, only the second citizen to do so. The 2004 Pan Arab Big Brother was considered a progressive move for broadcasters. “The show featured individuals who did not conform to the narrow traditions of Islam that prevail in many regions,” while respecting traditional values like a prayer room and segregated sleeping quarters. However, even before the program’s premiere it was mired with controversy and vehemently denounced by conservative protestors. Ultimately, the program was cancelled after just 11 days. Although the region’s adaptation suffered from a truncated longevity it nonetheless catalyzed discussion of censorship issues in Arab media while highlighting the evolving perceptions of the population.

Although the model varies greatly from country to country and is generally perceived as a showcase for wanna-be actor-model-singers it has demonstrated its potential to facilitate communication of relevant issues to the mainstream. It also represents an opportunity to achieve a compromise between popular revenue-driven pursuits and culturally beneficial programming. Pandering to advertisers by appealing to the widest swath of the population while promoting thought-provoking material is clearly a difficult balance to maintain. But, programs like Big Brother can come pretty close to such balance if casting directors and producers strive to assemble a diverse cast with strong opinions, beliefs, and values.

While the trash-to-value ratio of the content may be in the former's favor, the fact that the program has been successfully used as a platform for debate demonstrates its ability to harness public attention of a relevant issue to stimulate action. Inevitably elements of the program will devolve into the occasional melodramatic argument over who peed on the seat before the march of bikini-clad Barbies into the pool. But, they’re human and so are we. We aren’t serious all the time. We don’t sit around and discuss politics, social issues, and history all the time, do we? No. We all indulge in the temptation of reveling in the latest celebrity scandal or sensationalized trial. With the right combination of authentic, diverse, and opinionated personalities such formats have the potential to appeal a mainstream audience while cultivating an environment ideal for discourse of relevant local, national, and global issues.

Friday, October 7, 2011

A Pirate's Life for Me

Is it stealing if you acquire something for free because it is the only possible way to acquire it? I would answer affirmatively if the “something” were a tangible physical good. For instance, if one were to take a priceless piece of art that is not for sale to anyone would constitute stealing. However, when it comes to property that is digital, like movies and music such acquisition may not be considered theft.

With the advent of digital music stores like Amazon, Rhapsody, and most notably, iTunes music can purchased instantly. However, access to content is restricted by country and subject to record label control. So even though listeners have a seemingly infinite selection of music from which to download, the availability of content for purchase is not guaranteed. For instance, American users are authorized to preview the UK iTunes store but cannot purchase anything from the store. In a global entertainment economy, most popular music tends to cross borders rather quickly and achievement of global ubiquity of more artists and songs has become increasingly easier. So that brings us back to the question of whether downloading a song for free when it isn’t available for purchase should be considered piracy. The issue also extends beyond downloading content that is confined to a particular country, for instance an artist who has not entered and has no intentions of entering the U.S. entertainment market.

What if we are referring to content created by an artist whose record label has not released content for consumer purchase. Is downloading this content illegal? As iTunes proliferated, the music industry was forced to adapt to a changing environment. The measurement of artists’ success has altered as individual songs from albums became available for purchase. As a result, album sales declined and record labels were faced with solving this dilemma. An initial solution to the drop in album sales was to take advantage of the availability of album track downloads as a means to increase single sales. But, to maximize buzz and sales figures, many record labels released popular artists’ songs to radio but waited extended periods of time before making the single available for purchase. As a result, consumers rushed to purchase songs at the height of popularity. An example of such strategy is Shakira’s “Hips Don’t Lie,” which achieved ubiquity in 2006. (May we PLEASE never hear it again). Shakira’s record label held back the release of the song so as to augment album sales. A consequence of such strategy: it became the best selling single of the 2000s.

Eventually, this strategy was largely abandoned by record labels that adopted the strategy of releasing songs almost immediately so as to prevent illegal downloading by providing content as soon as released to television and radio. Such policies can help prevent illegal downloading by pandering to consumers’ impatience.

But, are we pirates if we take what we are not offered to purchase?

Media Hysteria and The Death of Steve Jobs

When Apple co-founder Steve Jobs passed away on Wednesday, the news was everywhere within the hour and still is gaining coverage and momentum. AP Images sent me an email on Thursday morning entitled "Steve Jobs: An American Genius. Iconic AP Images & Footage." I understand the man did a huge amount, but it seemed like a president died. Some of my friends made the Apple logo with a Steve Jobs cut-out in the corner their Facebook profile picture, nearly everyone had it in their status and there are about four different links to stories on him on my Google News front page.

We talked about the Amanda Knox coverage in class, but now this has reached an even higher level. And it definitely reminds me that the media definitely does produce who we are. From this story we have seen ones about his fortune, his family, his history and even all the details about pancreatic cancer. The Washington Post had a chat on pancreatic cancer as well on Thursday or Friday. So, isn't this a little much? We talked about the competitive news environment driving coverage, and used examples of Michael Jackson and Amanda Knox, and this is definitely another instance. But I think to some extent we definitely allow this to happen. They wouldn't do the stories if people wouldn't click on them, they wouldn't buy the pictures. Clearly Apple had a huge market, so the news is trying to buy into that Apple/Steve Jobs/tech fantatic market. And while I tried not to read a story on Steve Jobs after his death, it's kind of hard to turn away. Just like it was hard to avoid the Amanda Knox coverage and look at a picture of Michael Jackson's funeral. Sometimes it's the curiosity of those of us in the middle or who are apathetic who are just as guilty of driving the media frenzy as those who are actually obsessed with these topics.

But to some extent, that's who we've been trained to be. When we see a lot of coverage, it automatically peaks our interest, for better or for worse. The media has produced us to be that way, like we talked about with the Media Regulation article. We know that when something gets a lot of coverage, it's something big, and the media is going to milk it for all its worth, covering every possible angle to make every different person interested. Because even if you aren't tech-y, maybe the story about pancreatic cancer got you to click or the story about his family or his fortune. But for most of us, there was definitely something that drew us in.

"I'm sorry" ain't enough; where are my flowers?!

A happy October to you!

I thought I would begin today with a quote from Seán Ó. Siochru & Bruce Girard's first chapter of "Global Governance: A Beginner's Guide" from this week's reading:

"Media products are different, not least because they are more than just consumer goods -- in important respects they also "produce" us."

Woah, am I right? This is quite the statement...the media "produce" us?! This made me think about media representation, and I'd like to ponder that a bit today.

If I haven't already made it clear that I'm mildly obsessed with 30 Rock (also, I know if I start watching a new show, it will mean terrible things for my schoolwork and attempts to find a job here), allow me to do so now. And I think Tina Fey has a point in the clip below, about the way we create meaning in media where there may not be any:

Notice how the addition of music and intense, meaningful stares imbues meaning into the final seconds of the episode. I know this clip has to do with reality shows, specifically, but it works for scripted media as well. They're joking, of course, but they're also making a good point; the media intentionally influences the way we think, through the addition of meaning, through specific camera angles and tricks... and in the case of the scripted entertainment media, through writing things that may never happen. Now, I don't know many of you who've had a car chase that lasted very long going the wrong way on a one-way street, but TV and movie stars seem to have a little know-how that we don't.  [Side note: It's not just the car, I promise you. I've driven a Mini Cooper (the favorite of some great heist movies, and perhaps one of the likeliest cars to survive a chase due to its pint-sizedness), and I can tell you, it does not imbue a person with magical squeezing-between-other-cars powers.]

Of particular issue to me is the way romantic relationships are portrayed in the media. Now, I know some of you are of the fortunate ilk to be in a relationship with someone who can stand up to the entertainment media's ridiculous precedent, but I don't know if I've ever seen it happen - at least not for long. Come to think of it, from my (not-at-all-encyclopedic) impression, I'd wager that reality television shows more of the messy and messed-up relationships, and the scripted stuff shows more of the really juicy big-public-serenade-to-apologize-for-doing-something-wrong fairy tale material. Could this be because in reality, there are more messes than there are apologies? Because you can script a character into creating an elaborate scavenger hunt ending in a confession of everlasting love, but you can't very easily talk a real person into it?

And what does this teach us about relationships? That a woman deserves flowers after every mistake her man makes? (Putting heteronormativity aside for this moment, as that's a rant for a different blog; I will, however, provide the caveat that that phenomenon is the media's creation and the above statement reflects no approval of it). This kind of thing hardly flies in real life, am I right?  I think real-life relationships exhibit little to none of the big-screen "romance" we see in the media, in the form of things like dramatic musical accompaniment, tearful/heartfelt/public apologies accompanied by some gift of immense sentimental and monetary value, or everything being "happily ever after" at any point.

Furthermore, I'm not certain we're all aware of the effects this representation actually has on us. It's probably far more subtle than we realize, and that's a little scary. I guess the question is, as much as media "produces" us, does media representation of an idealized form of life compel us towards fulfilling that ideal in our real lives?

(Or: if I make my boyfriend watch tons of rom-coms with me, will he be more likely to start acting like Matthew McConaughey or dump me, bored out of his mind at my one-dimensionality?)

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Global Governance

It's interesting to witness how with the invention of each new technology the world shrinks further; to imagine how revolutionary the telegraph was in it's time, but its scope of reach is nothing close to what the internet has today. Even with the success of organizations like the United Nations, NATO, EU and the ability for one country's action to easily effect those of another, there are many people who are wary at the possibility of a global government. Like any movement, they have a web site: Global Governance Watch

Though the site is a bit cluttered, you can see that the GGW keeps a close eye on global issues, and the selection of articles is interesting.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Globalization No Longer in "Golden Era"

Right, well first off - Happy Birthday to me! - just had to get that off my chest. Second, after a couple of weeks of futile scheduling on my part to schedule an activity before this class, it looks like it will not become a reality :(. But I will finally be back on track, which is a good feeling, and I'm sure it's good for my grades as well. Quite a bit of our reading tackled the subject of globalization, and many of the complex factors that are a part of it.
I stumbled across an article, (and I mean really stumbled across; CNBC is typically not part of my everyday reading) a guest blog on CNBC's web site called "Globalization at Risk" by a Dr. Dan Steinbock.

The article, or as they labeled it a "guest blog", focused not on the spread of globalization itself, but the future of global economic integration following the financial crisis. I was surprised to learn that despite the economic growth of India and China that "growth, trade and investment remain behind the pre-crisis level." World trade isn't picking up and to say the least, that will may ramifications for economic recovery in the near future.

I found it interesting to find a chance to muse rather on how globalization is affecting the world and instead on how globalization is being affected. It doesn't make me feel any better about the economy, but well it's an interesting little read. What did you all think?

Friday, September 30, 2011

Eye of the Beholder?

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. A tired cliché we have all heard countless times usually utilized as a defense of personal perspective, taste, and opinion. But, where does the sense of whether something is aesthetically appealing originate? Is it biological, chemical, or environmental? Is it a shared cultural perception or is it product of the media’s interpretation of what is hot and what is not? I believe we can all agree that the answer is: all of the above.

The concept of beauty evolves with time and varies from place to place. But, how does an individual, local, regional, national, and global acceptance of beauty proliferate and become more popular over a wider geographic area. While one could argue whether there is an “accepted” idea of beauty on varying scales, it is undeniable that there are ideal features promoted and depicted in television, film, and print. But, does the media dictate to the public what is acceptable, or do we as the public communicate to the media what is ideal through exercise of individual display? It seems an open channel exists to facilitate shared ideas between the media and the public with the media clearly possessing the upper hand. Ultimately, however, the “media,” comprised of an oligarchy of individuals, project their perceptions of beauty onto the public.

As media and culture become exportable commodities, so with them go the cultural perception of beauty. For producers, network executives, and advertisers appealing to a global mainstream is a top priority. As a result programs and advertisements depict symbols and images that reflect the perceived taste of their audience. But, to what audience are they attempting to appeal? In the process of attracting the widest swath of the population, a strict definition of acceptable is created.

Transnational corporations propagate images and ideas of beauty via marketing campaigns for global consumer goods as well as entertainment media. Altering and tailoring content to a local or regional is typically the sole discretion of the producing organization. While there are instances where content has been changed to reflect racial, ethnical, and cultural differences in each market, some aspects of physical aesthetic remain consistent.

I would love to delve deeper in to the specifications for the “ideal” beauty region by region it would take much more than a short blog post to compare the Western preference for tan skin with Eastern preference for fair skin. Even this vague statement fails do justice for the complexities of regional preference for particular features. However, it is worth watching these videos of McDonald’s commercials from across the globe and comparing and contrasting the actors in them.