Debating Identity

May 30, 2009

In this article, During discusses the concept of an individual’s identity and how it is influenced by society. The author argues that “identity is won at the price of reducing individuality”. By this he states that individuals are grouped into certain categories that describe their identity and their true individuality is lost as a result. As well, identities are often “culturally inflicted” or based upon a person’s traits (e.g. gender, nationality).

During also points out that “because identities are partial, they leave spaces outside of themselves”. I agree with this notion because I think that an individual’s character cannot be fully encompassed by a particular classification (e.g. man, woman, conservative etc.). Instead, people can fall under certain categories as defined by society but maintain their individuality at the same time. I would consider certain social classifications to fit my identities but certain aspects of my individuality could not necessarily be generalized.  

The concept of “identity politics” is also discussed by During. One key factor to note is that “identity politics tends to erase internal differences”. For example, the feminist movement was almost crippled as it failed to mark the difference between women of different classes or different ethnicities. The author also explores the idea of “hybridity” where identity is conceived not as a fixed marker but in terms of the processes or performances by which identities are formed”. Considering this, identities are constantly changing and evolving, in essence, by the different experiences of individuals and the changing circumstances in their lives.

I agree with During in that an individual can have different identities and that the concept of identity is not longer as rigid as it used to be. Via access to common media, people from different backgrounds, nationalities and those exhibiting different traits have converged to a greater extent.  At the same time, I do believe that individuals play a role in creating their own self identities and perhaps society does not have as great an influence as During argues. Personally, I can identify certain elements that have been shaped by society (e.g. clothing preferences), but simultaneously I maintain my unique attributes (e.g. importance of friends and family) as prescribed by my own values. Overall, the media does play a significant role in influencing social norms and activities, which in turn impact one’s identity.

Bibliography

During, S, “Debating Identity”: Cultural Studies, Routhledge, 2005, pgs. 145-152 

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ARTS1090 – W11A

A Telling Symbiosis in the Discourse of Hatred

May 22, 2009

In this article Macken-Horarik discusses the effect of broadcast and news media on the political environment. The central example used to support her argument is about refugees and “asylum seekers” throwing children overboard their boats in order to be allowed entry into Australia. She uses this example as a story that was focused on profusely by the print media in October 2001, combined with visual images, to portray the situation to the general public. Interestingly, at the same time the party up for re-election had immigration concerns and border control as one of its main platform issues. The author describes how news media, through the use of this language (e.g. grammar, point of view etc.), text, and visual images can influence the perspective of the reader. It is essentially the media that paints a picture of a certain event for the public.

The three dimensions of “specification”, “categorization” and “role allocation” are also discussed. “Genericisation-specification” is the idea of whether people are depicted “specifically of generically”. For example an opinion could be generated about a specific asylum seeker or could apply to all asylum seekers in general. “Categorization” involves the kinds of groups people are assigned to. Individuals could be categorized according to what they do or what they are (i.e. permanent attributes). Finally, “role allocation” is associated with “the visual and verbal transitivity of representation”. This means that roles are allocated to social actors by the media and some sort of social value is attached to these roles.

I agree with the author in that the media has considerable influence on how events are conveyed to the public. Depending on the way the issue is portrayed in newspapers for example, along with the use of pictures, a “generalization” is developed. Writers, photographers and editors have significant influence on how people and events are portrayed. As the author describes, “news reporters, and photographers make decisions about how to represent social actors in any text produced about them”. I think that media sources bring the world to us in some ways and shape our perceptions on how we view it. Overall, language and discourse definitely have a direct impact on the way individuals perceive events in their daily lives.

 Bibliography

Macken-Horarik, M. “The Children Overboard Affair”, Australian Review of Applied Linguistics 26.2 (2003), 1 – 16.

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ARTS1090 – W11A

Research Questions For The Evolving Communications Landscape

May 22, 2009

In this article, Haddon looks at mediated communication in general and discusses the limits, continuities and dynamics of many contemporary communication mediums. The chapter is organized into four main sections that are intended the guide the reader through the author’s intended framework for analyzing the “evolving communications landscape”.

 First, Haddon discusses the limits and boundaries of various forms of communication media. The “use” of communication technologies (e.g. voicemail), how people talk about communications, and practices of communication-based interaction are highlighted. With the significant developments in technology such as the internet, different mediums of social interaction have emerged. For example, computer- and game-related practices are now considered to be “very sociable activities”, especially in the evolving landscape of communication, which allows users to interact with each other via their computers. Furthermore, this section reflects upon how individuals “characterize and evaluate” communication, and how this influences “patterns of use and choice”.

 The next section of the article discusses the continuities between older forms of communication and more contemporary ones. Continuities in events (e.g. child birth announcement via email), routine practices (e.g. making personal calls through one’s mobile phone at work) and those that were not previously considered forms of communication (e.g. chatting with others online) are elements that are discussed. This section compares old communication practices with new ones with respect to the developments in technology.

 The third section discusses all the options for communication that individuals have in their “repertoire”. The author explains how communication choices are developed considering the “purpose”, “limits” and “constraints”. For example, the purpose and content of communications can be seen as “communications that are gifts or communications that provide a sense of security”. Social constraints such as limiting the use of mobile phones in certain public areas are also discussed.

 Finally, the last section looks at the long-term outlook of the “communication repertoire”. The practices of individuals between their repertoires are commented on. The author indicates that certain trends may emerge in the long term. For example, some communication tools such as the pager may be relatively short-lived. On the other hand, individuals may choose to frequently use their fixed-line phones, “despite the arrival of more possible alternatives” (e.g. mobile phone, online chats, email etc.)

 From my personal experience with communication media in my everyday life, I can surely relate to the author’s discussion. I find that I have formed a “repertoire” of common communication practices that I employ on a daily basis according to my purpose, limits and constraints. For example, in the past I may have phoned my friends using a fixed-line phone, whereas now I usually text message them. As well, communication forms including the internet form a greater part of my usage than other forms such as mobile phone conversations. It is very interesting and effective how Haddon has broken down the idea of communication-based media into different sections in order to explain the “evolving communications landscape”.

 Bibliography

Haddon, Leslie. “Research Questions for the Evolving Communications Landscape.” In Ling, Rich and Pederson, Per, Eds. Mobile Communications: Re-negotiation of the Social Sphere. London: Springer- Verlag, 2005, 7-22.

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ARTS1090 – W11A

Lesson in Grammar: How Ideology Shapes the Reporting of War

May 15, 2009

Lukin’s article discusses the “language of media” and how it affects individuals’ perceptions towards world events that are portrayed through the media. He uses the discourses of war in newspaper articles as an example of how ideology shapes the reporting of war. It is very interesting how he compares a story from more left-wing publications such as The Age, The Guardian and CNN to those of Robert’s Fisk’s in The Independent. The event covered is that involving an Iraqi boy who is a victim of American air strikes and loses his family members, relatives and both arms as a result. Using grammatical tools to illustrate his argument, Lukin presents a framework that analyses how the same event in portrayed in various news publications.

 Lukin discusses the concept of “nounalisation” whereby verbs are changed into nouns for the means of “obscuring action and human agency”. Another tool used by media persons within news articles is the “cause and effect” relationship. This can be either implicit or explicit depending on how the writer wants to directly depict a causal action and the resulting effects.

 It is widely argued and in some cases accepted that even the so called “independent-media” (e.g. newspapers) does portray a certain bias. In my opinion any form of discourse has a bias attached to it that is inherent to the ideologies of the individuals involved. Overall, I feel that it is fascinating to reflect upon the kinds of grammatical choices “which have deep ideological consequences on the reporting of war”. Simply changing the structure of certain sentences, the words used or even incorporating the process of “nounalisation” can completely change the point of view in a news report.

 I strongly agree with Lukin in that “as readers – and potential writers – of these kinds of texts, we need to be aware of the effect of different kinds of choices in constructing different ‘takes’ on reality. Particularly, as writers we must realize that even though facts within an article might be indisputable, the way that it is presented through grammatical tools, can sometimes unconsciously alter the message portrayed. I think that this is simply a way individuals engage in discourse based on the fundamental viewpoints and ideologies within ourselves. Critical thinking, both while reading news reports and writing articles, is required to really understand the effects ideologies have on linguistic choices.

 Bibliography

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

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ARTS1090 – W11A

Research Questions For The Evolving Communications Landscape

May 7, 2009

In this article, Haddon looks at mediated communication in general and discusses the limits, continuities and dynamics of many contemporary communication mediums. The chapter is organized into four main sections that are intended the guide the reader through the author’s intended framework for analyzing the “evolving communications landscape”.

 

First, Haddon discusses the limits and boundaries of various forms of communication media. The “use” of communication technologies (e.g. voicemail), how people talk about communications, and practices of communication-based interaction are highlighted. With the significant developments in technology such as the internet, different mediums of social interaction have emerged. For example, computer- and game-related practices are now considered to be “very sociable activities”, especially in the evolving landscape of communication, which allows users to interact with each other via their computers. Furthermore, this section reflects upon how individuals “characterize and evaluate” communication, and how this influences “patterns of use and choice”.

 

The next section of the article discusses the continuities between older forms of communication and more contemporary ones. Continuities in events (e.g. child birth announcement via email), routine practices (e.g. making personal calls through one’s mobile phone at work) and those that were not previously considered forms of communication (e.g. chatting with others online) are elements that are discussed. This section compares old communication practices with new ones with respect to the developments in technology.

 

The third section discusses all the options for communication that individuals have in their “repertoire”. The author explains how communication choices are developed considering the “purpose”, “limits” and “constraints”. For example, the purpose and content of communications can be seen as “communications that are gifts or communications that provide a sense of security”. Social constraints such as limiting the use of mobile phones in certain public areas are also discussed.

 

Finally, the last section looks at the long-term outlook of the “communication repertoire”. The practices of individuals between their repertoires are commented on. The author indicates that certain trends may emerge in the long term. For example, some communication tools such as the pager may be relatively short-lived. On the other hand, individuals may choose to frequently use their fixed-line phones, “despite the arrival of more possible alternatives” (e.g. mobile phone, online chats, email etc.)

 

From my personal experience with communication media in my everyday life, I can surely relate to the author’s discussion. I find that I have formed a “repertoire” of common communication practices that I employ on a daily basis according to my purpose, limits and constraints. For example, in the past I may have phoned my friends using a fixed-line phone, whereas now I usually text message them. As well, communication forms including the internet form a greater part of my usage than other forms such as mobile phone conversations. It is very interesting and effective how Haddon has broken down the idea of communication-based media into different sections in order to explain the “evolving communications landscape”.

 

Bibliography

Haddon, Leslie. “Research Questions for the Evolving Communications Landscape.” In Ling, Rich and Pederson, Per, Eds. Mobile Communications: Re-negotiation of the Social Sphere. London: Springer- Verlag, 2005, 7-22.

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ARTS1090 – W11A

Informationalism, Networks, and the Network Society

May 1, 2009

In this article, Castells discusses the relationship between communication technology-based networks and the development of society. He argues that “networks constitute the fundamental pattern of life, of all kinds of life”. In his discussion, he uses the analogy of “interconnected nodes” that form a network. Essentially these nodes symbolize technology based media that has become a central part of our everyday life. Furthermore, according to Castells there is no centre point, and just connecting nodes. Particularly, with the evolution of communication technologies individuals have become more interconnected than ever before. These networks have even had an impact in a cultural context. The idea of cultures converging to form a new “global culture” can be attributed to these networks that seem to have brought people closer together.

Castells employs the ideas of flexibility, scalability and survivability to describe technological environments. Flexibility indicates that “networks can reconfigure according to changing environments”. Scalability refers to how networks can “expand or shrink in size with little disruption”. Finally, survivability suggests that “networks can operate in a wife range of configurations”. In essence, “the boundaries between human life and machine life are blurred”. Such networks extend their interaction from our inner selves and transcend the barriers of time and space. To illustrate, through communication technologies such as mobile phones and the internet, individuals can be linked with content that they would never conceivably have access to in the past.

In my opinion, the concept of networks in our life is more important that ever with the rapid developments in media technology. For example, in a literal sense, I am part of different networks through my Facebook usage. This enables me to interact socially with various individuals that I share different relationships with and who are located across the globe. At the same time, through these networks I have access to an array of cultures, which in turn influence my perspectives and what I consider to be my own culture. Likewise, other communication technologies have resulted in the formation of nodes that serve as access points within our lives to those of others. With the continued rapid developments in technology it is very interesting to see what the future has in store with regards to our societal networks.

 

Bibliography

Castells, M. Excerpts from ‘Informationalism, network, and the network society: A Theoretical Blueprint’ from The Network Society: A cross-cultural perspective. Cheltenham, UK, Edward Elgar, P3-7 & 36-45.

 

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Week 6 – ARTS1090 – W11A

Buying Into American Idol: How We Are Being Sold On Reality Television

April 25, 2009

In this article, Jenkins discusses the concept of convergence in relation to interactive reality TV shows and advertising on television. Primarily, using reality television (Survivor and American Idol) as examples, he argues that such shows have the ability to engage viewers with the media and this had lead to their immense popularity. American Idol attracts more that “20 million” viewers on a weekly basis, a majority of who participate in the outcome of the contest by telephone and text message voting.

Although these shows are meant to be interactive and entertaining, in the majority of cases they are more commercial than anything, with the sole purpose of attracting the largest television audiences. This can be evidenced by “sweeps week” where all the major broadcasters compete for the highest television ratings by airing their most popular programming. As a result the author argues that a trend of “shameless product placement” has emerged. For example, people generally watch the commercials during a show they care about”. Hence the popularity of a show is directly related to its advertisement earnings potential. As a case in point, the success of American Idol has yielded lucrative returns for the Fox Network.  

Jenkins also suggests that today’s viewers need ‘constant gratification’ to sustain entertainment and ‘immediate attention’ to the programming in question. In this regard, the article discusses the notion of Zappers, Casuals and Loyals when it comes to reality television consumers. Zappers are those individuals that start flipping through channels as soon as the commercials come on. Casuals are those people that do not necessarily follow the show from week-to-week or episode-to-episode, but causally tune in if the particular program is coming on. Loyals on the other hand follow their preferred programming on a regular basis.

Personally, I am not as influenced by television advertising and the subliminal product placements that may exist. As the author interestingly points out, we are no longer in the age of the “couch potato” where we are limited in regards to available programming. Instead, what is more realistic in this day and age, can be illustrated by the example of the boy who points the remote control at the television and says “You’ve got three seconds. Impress me”. As such, I would probably classify best as a channel zapper, in the sense that I explore different channels during commercial breaks and then return to the main program that I am watching. Similarly, other technological advances such as Tivo and DVRs enable viewers to record their favorite shows without recording the commercials in between. Ultimately however, it is fair to say that reality shows have revolutionized television and at the same time provided a medium for advertisers to showcase their products.

Bibliography

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

 

Umair Raza

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Week 6 – ARTS1090 – W11A

The Doubling of Place

April 3, 2009

Shaun Moores’ work, ‘The Doubling of Place – Electronic media, time-space arrangements and social relationships’ explores the idea of figuratively being in two places at once due to the exponentially increased role of media in our everyday life. The author explains the ‘place pluralized, not marginalized’ through media by arguing that events occur in two different places: the place of the event itself and that in which it is watched and heard. The article discusses how human beings are no longer constrained by physical distances or location due to the rapid development in both the broadcast and electronic media.

Moores discusses the role of electronic media through three separately formulated ideas. First, in reference to the fact that the lives of celebrities (e.g. Princess Diana) are so intertwined with ours via the media, that when an unexpected event occurs it affects viewers at an emotional level by essentially disputing their routine. This relates to the notion of ‘dailiness’ that was introduced by Scanell. Secondly, the internet offers a separate virtual world for us through role player games, chat rooms etc. This allows individuals, although momentarily, to escape from their daily lives into a world where they can be what they want. The emergence and unprecedented popularity of games such as Second Life and The Sims is an example of this concept. Of course, all this is done without leaving our actual physical place. Lastly, through the example of mobile phones, he argues that our private lives may be shared in public forums through our conversations over the phone. Once again this supports the primary notion of the ‘doubling of place’.

I find it very interesting how the author compares and contracts his views with those of many other media theorists. Particularly, he draws from the works of Scanell and effectively incorporates the idea of ‘dailiness into his arguments.

In my opinion Moores arguments are very valid and applicable to our daily lives. Looking at my own daily routine for example, I never feel disconnected from others even though they may be thousands of kilometers away. Although my current physical place is Sydney, Australia, I am always connected to my home through broadcast media, media technology (i.e. mobile phones) and the electronic media (i.e. the internet).

Bibliography

Moores, Shaun. “The Doubling of Place: Electronic Media, Time-Space Arrangements and Social Relationships”. In Couldry, Nick. And McCarthy, Anna, Eds. MediaSpace: Place, Scale and Culture in a Media Age. London: Routledge, 2004, 21-37. 

 

Umair Raza

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Week 4 – ARTS1090 – W11A

Dailiness

March 27, 2009

The scholarly text “Dailiness” by P. Scanell discusses how an individual’s time and daily routine are influenced by the media. The author particularly refers to and uses examples of radio and television as mediums to support his arguments.

Scanell discusses how broadcasting influences what people care about and what they consider to be “their time”. Individuals schedule their lives around programming schedules and in turn the media adapts to the daily lives of individuals as well. To illustrate, morning programming such as “Today” is aimed at orientating and preparing the listener for the day to come. This is reflected in the time-structure and formatting of this medium of communication. On the other hand evening or late night shows are designed for different audiences. Essentially, the idea that broadcasting influences our everyday life and affects us based on the media we care about is conveyed by the author.

Another aim of this text is to discuss the Care Structures that are established in society through the broadcasting media. One notion suggested is that individuals are more influenced by broadcast media that is ritualistically part of their daily lives, than what is actually occurring in society. In my opinion this argument is valid since individuals’ identities are shaped on the basis of what they value and care about.

My reservations about the validity of the author’s arguments would be based on the fact that this article was published over ten years ago. Furthermore, many of the references and examples used date back even further. With the new age of information technology and technologically enhanced media, the role of television broadcasting has been redefined. For example, programming is available on-demand and can be easily viewed online at one’s convenience. Thus the concept of “dailiness”, where individuals would make time everyday for a particular show for example, is no longer as valid. Nonetheless, I do agree with the notion that individuals are influenced by the media to a certain extent and it is unarguably part of our everyday lives.

Umair Raza

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Week 3 –  ARTS1090 – W11A

 

Bibliography

Scannell, P., “Dailiness” in Radio, Television and Modern Life, pg 144-178. Blackwell, London, 1996.

Domesticating domestication. Reflections on the life of a concept

March 20, 2009

In the article ‘Domestication of Media and Technology’, Roger Silverstone takes a unique approach to look at how media acts a form of domestication, which is incorporated into our daily lives. This concept is similar to house breaking a pet for example, and teaching it to live along side us as we function in our daily lives. The difference is that it was with “wild animals then” and “wild technologies now”. Essentially, Silverstone argues that the media has become such an integral part of everyday life that it has influenced the way we live. He states that previously “domestication was something that human beings did to enhance and secure their everyday lives”. By adopting new technologies and often inadvertently letting the media become our lives we are reshaping the way we socially interact, share our opinions with others and go through the course of everyday activities. Basically this is a form of domestication that the media has brought upon human beings.

In particular, I find the argument about “household and home”, to be a very valid one, which discusses how contemporary media has redefined the concepts of public vs. private domains. Not long ago only the lives of those individuals (celebrities, politicians etc.) that were constantly in the eye of the media were considered public. The domestication of media today enables anyone and everyone to share their lives with the rest of the world as they please. Even as I write this blog, I am engaging in a form of discourse about my personal perspective with whoever wishes to explore this entry. Other popular arenas such as social networking websites, public chat rooms and blogs are examples of forums through which individuals bring once very private information into the public light.

As previously alluded to, one parallel between house breaking a pet and the domestication of media is very different however. A pet is domesticated by human beings to function within their lives and abide by the expectations within a home. On the other hand, as this article interestingly compels us to reflect, we must continually ask ourselves whether it is us adopting the media within our lives, or whether media and technology are in fact domesticating us…

Umair Raza

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ARTS 1090 – W11A

Bibliography:

Silverstone, Roger. “Domesticating Domestication. Reflections on the life of a concept.” From Berker, Thomas, et al, (Eds) Domestication of Media and Technology. Open University Press, 2006, 229-248.


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