Posts Tagged ‘Ideologies’

Stereotyping has existed for a long time, and a lot of the generalizing that occurs today has its origin in historical events like wars or colonialism. Such events often spark insulting and trivializing images of the other and a use of propaganda which promote feelings of hate (Khorana, 2014), and these images, or stereotypes are very hard to get rid of. In old Western movies it was the Mexicans and/or the Native Americans that were depicted as villains and savages and in modern Hollywood we are introduced to Arab and Muslim terrorists (Khorana, 2014). As the media contributes to these stereotypes they communicate a negative and false representation of other cultures.

Interestingly though, after the war on terror, propaganda has become less effective and the acts of warfare has become more transparent in the media and therefore it has become increasingly important to communicate ‘positive’ representations of our enemies so that we appear as ‘good-doers’ in the midst of our wars (Alsultany, 2013).

Evelyn Alsultany (2013) therefore talks about a new type of race representation in the US after 9/11 which blends negative and positive traits of an ethnic group; she calls it “simplified complex representations“. It challenges traditional stereotypes but also justifies discrimination by contributing to a multicultural ‘illusion’. For example; TV-shows and films have incorporated patriotic Arab or Muslim Americans into their plots who assist the Government in fighting terrorism to counteract stereotyping, in TV-dramas they are often victimized to create empathy, sometimes we are led to believe that they are the leading terrorists but later it is revealed that it was someone else (‘flipping the enemy’), and in news media we are often first given a disclaimer (“these are not Islamic practices”) before we are told about the brutality of Islam.

Alsultany (2013) argues that such representation “do the ideological work of justifying discriminatory policies” because simultaneously as the Arab or Muslim American is e.g. victimized, the storyline often also express that it is unavoidable due to the national security crisis, and in the news media diversity and complexity is loosely mentioned but the majority of evidence supports the negative outlooks of the ethnic group.

References:

Khorana, S 2014, ‘Race and Representation’, lecture, , BCM310, University of Wollongong, 05 May.

Alsultany, E 2013, ‘Arabs and Muslims in the Media after 9/11: Representational Strategies for a “Postrace” Era’, Project Muse, vol. 65, no. 1

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The ongoing battle between Google and Apple is more important to us than I think most of us realize. “Apple is suing Samsung for copyright infringement”; so what? Is it really our problem? I think that if we gave it some thought, we would see that this battle is not just about copyrights and market-share, this is a fight that will determine the future of the mobile-web.

The very architecture of the Internet enables a free flow of information without any central hub, every node is equal, and no one is there to decide what we can and cannot do. It is decentralized, and very democratic in its philosophy. With this in mind, I want to go back to Apple and Android (Google) and look at their different ideologies.

The beautiful design of the IPhone, as well as it being very easy to manage has made it a worldwide sensation. Having an IPhone has almost become some sort of trend; a fashion that everyone has become very fond of. One of the many arguments that are used to complement the IPhone is exactly that of it being easy to handle, but this pleasure comes with a price: Centralized computing. Unlike Androids, Apple let’s no one explore and play with their hardware or software, the applications on an IPhone has been approved by Apple, some call this a “walled garden”, others call it a sterile disney-fied walled garden surrounded by sharp-toothed lawyers.

Apples’ vision is to be able to control the user, the content, and the platform being used. Although the company offers to the public a brilliant piece of technology, this product grants the Apple company extreme powers. I think the ideology of Apple is one incongruent with the Internet. Instead of being decentralized it is centralized, instead of allowing, it denies, and instead of keeping every node equal, it constructs a hierarchy.

I am personally very happy with my Android, but sometimes I find that things do not work on my phone because it has only been adapted to the IPhone or the IPad. To me, this is a sign of one company’s control and powerful deals made with other companies sharing its’ ideology. I also find Apple’s patent-raid to be a terrifying example of how one company can kill innovation by limiting creativity.

Google’s Android may invite a few viruses from time to time, and in some cases people find it harder to manage, but I value their philosophy enough to learn. Android vision is participation, collective intelligence, and distributed control to all users. As an open source technology it can be liberally extended to incorporate new cutting edge technologies as they emerge. [It will] evolve as the developer community works together to build innovative mobile applications. The way I see it, Android is maintaining the very architecture of the Internet, encouraging creativity and innovation.

So the future of the mobile-web is important to us. We all enjoy the Internet, we all react when we hear of bills like SOPA, PIPA or CISPA which threatens our online freedom, so maybe we should start reacting a little stronger towards Apple and their IPhones as well.

Introduction

Politics can be defined as the “activities associated with the governance of a country or area, especially the debate between parties having power”.  To unpack; politics mean the discussions of, for example, our health, justice, laws, and economy, debated between parties and leaders which fight for the power-seat.

Politics in the modern world are striving to be democratic, or are said to be, but are they? Perhaps ideologies, norms and expectations set in our society are influencing what we believe to be right and wrong. At least in the mediated political debate I find this to be a problem. In a democratic country the citizens are entitled to, and in need of, information from all possible angles and viewpoints to be able to make an informed and educated opinion about an issue, so that they can later vote and fight for the kind of society they find just.

I have chosen Australia, a western country in which I have lived for only a year, to demonstrate how it in this example, fails to uphold the democratic values.

Government parties

If I was not actively searching out the different parties in Australia, I would only know two, maybe three of them. I believe The Australian Labor Party (Julia Gillard) and the Liberal Party of Australia (Tony Abbott) are the only two parties enforced and represented in the media. No doubts are they the most popular parties, and therefore of interest, but by excluding media coverage of other parties, citizens are not properly informed. In a country like Australia, which strives to preserve the natural heritage of its land, it surprises me that a party like the Australian Greens (Christine Milne) only have 11.8%  of the Australian votes.

Unbalanced media debates

Maybe if Australians knew more about the environmental discussion, people would have showed an interest in a party focusing on this issue. It appears as the only issue being debated in the media (coming to climate) is the carbon tax! Australia is a western country close to where climate change actually happens today, for example in Kiribati, but still a country where citizens seem to not understand the problem.

Conclusion; hidden agendas

In today’s society most people can educate themselves online, but I still believe the mass media has an influence on our perception of the world. Norms and ideologies are often shaped by our society and the mass-media pushes these buttons. By using words and images which either appeal to us or the other way around, the mass-media can try to make us “read” a story in a particular way. There lies great power in this, and it certainly are a benefit to Governments to “be friends” with the media so that their interests might be enhanced. But it also tells the story of a political debate which has become biased and less democratic.

There is no such thing as politics or entertainment. It is mashed up in a mix of show-business and political statements. The culture industry has always carried political messages like “Flower Power” in the 60’s and punk as anti-consumerism in the 70’s, but a newer phenomenon is politicians blending into popular culture.

Jon Stewart is a popular actor and stand-up comedian but at the same time a political satirist and media critic. Entertainment can be a vehicle for propaganda as there often are made room for political ideologies which can act as a hidden manipulator. Political visitors are common on Mr. Stewart’s talk-show, and given his popularity and influence in the American society, it is easy to see why.

Introduction

Convergence is defined by Henry Jenkins (2006) as “the flow of content across multiple media platforms, the cooperation between multiple media industries, and the migratory behaviour of media audiences.” The ongoing process of convergence is creating a more participatory society for the user by changing the dynamics of media technologies and opens up for new business-models for the industries, like it did with the idea of Transmedia. New technologies enable us to take pictures, record sounds, write and film, and because of the Internet we also have the opportunity to upload, download, remix and share content that are already flowing online. We have become more like “prosumers” (Mitew 2012) instead of consumers.

The audiences’ future is looking bright, but convergence also carries negative baggage. With these new technologies we have started to act as we please online, and thus a fight for survival between audiences and industries has emerged. In this essay I argue that convergence has affected the audiences’ use of technologies and respect for copyrights, the audiences’ choice of technologies, and the emergence of censorship due to the audiences’ use of new technologies. I will use Flickr as an example of technology throughout the essay.

Copyrights

The Internet and our new media platforms enable us to create mash-ups and remixes of the content online, and currently we are actively taking advantage of this. At the same time the copyright rules we have today are very strict, and because of our increasing level of participation the Media Industry keep lobbying for even stricter laws. Many users are frustrated with the copyright regulations, because the things that they create are removed from the web and sometimes the user even gets sued, but we should not forget that copyrights are a necessity and that they are made to protect our intellectual properties as well from being used as others.

We should think twice about using copyrighted material and give the industry another reason to fight for their content, instead we should embrace the solutions that are already out there. Maybe the media industry softens as time goes by, and realises that we are only using their work for new ideas and creativity. It is actually interesting to see how some users complain on copyrights, but still their own work is guarded and cannot be shared or copied.

Trey Ratcliff (2012) says “a pure artist has two motivations: creation for the sake of creation and sharing for the sake of connecting with the world.” If we want to use other peoples’ content to create new material, we need to allow other people to borrow our content as well. By committing to Creative Commons (2012) anyone can use your content as long as they acknowledge you and ask for permission if it is for commercial purposes.

The photo sharing site Flickr has enabled Creative Commons licenses (Flickr 2012) for a long time and it shows how sharing and attribution can be practised. You can choose which images you want to keep as private and which ones you want to share with the public, this way you provide images and videos for other people to use freely. With an open sharing ideology your content can travel all over the world via other peoples’ blogs, newspapers and online albums, and can even result in actual revenue! Although there will always exist thieves we must believe that most people are honest and willing to pay for the work of others, and most importantly this must start with ourselves and our own ideologies.

Generative platforms

A media platform today is expected by the user to grant us constant and immediate access to the world. It must enable us to multitask, and provide a place where everything can be produced, stored and shared. If a media platform cannot follow up on all of these “minimums”, it will be replaced by a more innovative technology. These technologies have “become interfaces to the flow of content” (Mitew 2012) that comes with convergence.

What I think few people realise is that we should choose wisely when we decide which platform to use for participation. There are several industries that fight to regains control of both users and content, and thus construct the platforms to do so. Facebook and Apple are both examples of media platforms that are locked appliances. Everything you post on Facebook are owned by Facebook, and by using it you agree to give them the rights to distribute “your” content as they wish. Apple provide a “walled garden” (Mitew 2012) for its users, a garden where Apple has already decided which applications you are allowed to use, and it is not possible to explore anything else.

I believe that in an era where we are fighting for Internet freedom and milder copyright laws, we should we be aware of ideologies where the Industry controls everything we can and cannot do. There are other media platforms which operate in freer environments, where the users own their own material and are even welcome to explore and improve the operation systems. In a Top Ten (2012) review of Flickr it was said that Flickr “want to get photos and video into and out of the system in as many ways as [they] can: from the web, from mobile devices, from the users’ home computers and from whatever software [the users] are using to manage their content.” In addition to this, Flickr also invite users to construct their own applications via their Application Programming Interface (API) (Flickr 2012).

I believe that by choosing a media platform or technology which is open and generative, we build an environment for ourselves where the flow of content between us and our media platforms flow freely.

Censorship

We are “the people formerly known as the audience” (Jay Rosen 2006), and with our media technologies and platforms today we now have the ability to use these technologies to freely express our opinions and share our knowledge with the world, it is the closest we have ever been to democracy. Social media platforms are increasingly popular in our daily lives; even the industries are finding new and innovative ways to implement these platforms into their businesses. For advertisers sites like Facebook act like a buffet of what is popular and what is not (Li 2012), some newspapers welcomes citizen journalism through to their news via blogs, images and videos (CNN-IBN 2012), politically Twitter has been used efficiently to organize demonstrations in the world and lately news have travelled faster via social media sites than anything else.

As it get more difficult for the media conglomerates to maintain control, they now try to lobby our Governments for a more definite form of control; censorship. Bills like the “Stop Online Piracy Act” (SOPA) and the “Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act” (CISPA)keep sneaking up on us, claiming that they are there to protect against online theft, but the intended result is to set us back as pure consumers by gradually blocking social media sites which will be blamed for hosting infringing links.

Our new media technologies and platforms can be used for creative purposes, but now more than ever we must remember what they are fundamentally constructed to do; spread messages. Several social media sites have demonstrated against these bills, Flickr for instance, was part of the campaign where they blackened, or censored, a lot of the pictures online to demonstrate what SOPA would look like. So far, the Internet and its users have won the battles, but given the different interests between the media conglomerates who wants to be the sole producers, and us who wants to participate, the war is far from over.

Conclusion

Flickr is a photo sharing site which enables its users to share “objects, knowledge and resources” (Weiss 2005). It was one of the first websites constructed to function in the web2.0 era, and for a very long time it was a revolutionary website. As a member on Flickr you create a profile, you connect with friends and people you choose to follow and you can comment on your own as well as other images. Flickr is a brilliant host for pictures; it is perfect for sharing and having your images discovered, but lately the photo sharing site seem to suffer by a lack of innovation (Dimech 2012). As the ongoing process of convergence continues, we are constantly presented to new technologies and innovations, and the contest is hard between the components. The one which is the most user-friendly and up to date wins the audience. I find it ignorant to choose a media platform or media technology solely on its design and functions, when there are many other important things that should be considered: Are you the owner of your own content? Are you allowed outside of the “walls” of your technology? Is your media platform supporting CISPA? Sites like Flickr, supports our freedom as users and that ought to be a strong argument for choosing it.

It is funny with photos how they can forge so many different emotions in people. Sometimes I look back at my photos from earlier vacations, and those pictures can take me straight back to that place. That one picture can make me remember smells, sounds, feelings and bring back memories. But the strange thing is, that if I show the same photo to someone else that was there, the photo can make them think of totally different things! They remember music, people and conversations; they have different memories than I do.

Semiotics are the science of signs and the study of meaning. It might sound dull, but when you start looking into semiotics it is surprising what you might find out. I have been following the KONY 2012 issue these months, and semiotics is actually quite relevant in that matter.

Things that convey meaning, like a word, a picture or a symbol, is really just a sign.  By calling them signs, I mean that these things signify something to us. It is a signifier or a denotation. When I hear a word, a concept forms, or an image or an understanding takes form in my head. This is the signified or the connotation. What makes it interesting thought is that sometimes different people need different signs to achieve the same understanding. For example, look at this sign: “Appelsin”. For a Norwegian this sign conveys a meaning, but and English speaking person need the sign: “orange” to convey the same meaning and a Spanish speaking person would look for the “naranja” sign to picture it.

Words as signs are one thing, languages can complicate things, but at least we understand why. When an image is a sign, it can be harder to understand that it is interpreted differently by different persons. An image is a representation. The emotions/feelings/interpretations the image represents are based on individual judgement or preference. It all relies on “myths” and ideologies.

In the KONY2012 campaign we were introduces to images like these:

When I look at these photos I see a young black child with a weapon. White men with weapons with black soldiers in the background and I see several children in the background of one man.

Based on my knowledge of the situation in Africa, the connotations that I got were that they needed help, and that the Invisible Children wanted to help them. Citizens in Uganda interpreted it differently when they saw the KONY2012 video. They saw the same signs that I saw, but it meant different things to them. As I saw a caring group of people with the intentions to help in a terrible situation, they saw Americans victimizing their race. Other people saw egoism, that the Invisible Children played on emotions to commercialize themselves, and there were several more connotations to find.

I wrote earlier that connotations depend on “myths” and ideologies. The Oxford dictionary defines ideology as “the set of beliefs characteristic of a social group or individual”. We interpret images depending on our norms and experiences of the world. A message can be read in three different ways:

  • The dominant reading. This is the reaction preferred by the media, what they try to achieve. The first reaction that many people had to KONY2012 was this one, and it was what The Invisible Children were aiming for.
  • Negotiated reading. This is when people are not sure, they are sceptical. Persons who doubted the intentions of The Invisible Children belonged to this group.
  • Oppositional reading. They disagree with what is said. This was the reaction of many of the Ugandan citizens.

Mainstream media know this, and so did The Invisible Children. They knew that our understanding of what they produced “depended on shared knowledge, shared myths and shared ideologies” (Turnbull 2012), so they tried to tailor the message to satisfy our ideologies.

Reference:

Turnbull, S 2012, BCM110 “Media Mythbusting: ‘The Image Cannot Lie”, lecture notes, accessed 4/5/2012, eLearning@UOW.