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'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'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?