Sunday, February 17, 2008

Reality Strikes Back

Can the fake ever become real? In response to this question from last class, I decided to write about what initially came to my mind. I believe that the answer is “yes.” To justify my response, I will relate back to the theme of fake news which we are currently studying. When viewers are using fake news sources such as “The Daily Show” and “The Colbert Report” as their primary tools of learning, has this fake news not transitioned to real news? Viewers who are dependent upon these shows as sole news sources create a reality based on what they see on screen. For instance, the jokes of those such as Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert unconsciously sway their audiences into having an identical general point of view about a specific topic.

Furthermore, this reality credits such men with an identity much more prominent then that of a comedian. It is unprincipled to claim themselves strictly as comedians. They are, in fact, distributing news to the public. Therefore, I see them also as newscasters. Do you think that viewers are aware of this media transition? Most importantly, do you think that it would affect the type of news that they watch?

Get off the Couch and Find Your Cause.

Do political satirists have the ability to get viewers off the couch and raise public awareness? Does comedy have the ability to enact social change? These were a couple of the questions posed last class that really started me thinking. To be honest, I am not certain that there is an answer.

First, I think that it is important to classify shows such as “The Daily Show” as comedy, entertainment or news. I believe that the classification of such shows changes depending on the type of person you question. Whereas Jon Stewart has been quoted as saying, “I am a comedian” in order to maintain the image of his show, different viewers watch the show for varying reasons, taking away from it a number of interpretations. Whereas many look to the show as a source of laughter in order to become distracted from their structured lives, others rely on it as a supplier of the day’s top news stories.

Although fake news shows use comedy and the idea of hypermediacy as additional tools to interest and relate to viewers, I do not think that such shows can cause greater public awareness than mainstream media. A primary social fear is the arm-chair activist – one who becomes engaged in the political process while watching television and then fails to take action or plan to make a difference once the show is over. In class, it was argued that fake television can create such behaviour because viewers will be too absorbed in the comedic aspect of the show. I would like to add to this argument suggesting that identical behaviour takes place when watching mainstream news.

Viewers of mainstream news like the idea of becoming more knowledgeable about global issues to further their intellect, but they detach themselves from connecting on a personal level to any of the publicized issues. This is a reoccurring pattern involving the viewing of all news. After viewing the news, little action occurs to improve the global economy. Therefore, can it be believed that the comedic and hypermediac aspects of fake news are only used as superficial methods of engagement, particularly, in the likes of young viewers?

Decoding the Students of Today

After viewing “A Vision of Students Today,” I was motivated to write about my initial decoding of the clip. I found it very relatable in the sense that people my age both participated in creating the text on both sides of the camera. Furthermore, I related to the statements on the posters displayed in the video. The video focused on the voice of the student as the future of the technological world. The voice of the student was compared to both technology and the idea of the more prominent professor figure.

During the opening of the video, the camera pans across an auditorium blackboard with the words “The information is up here. Follow along.” The blackboard symbolizes the professor figure, who by social norms, is expected to convey all of their knowledge to their students. Interestingly, all of the information imparted in the video is by students sitting in auditorium seats across from the blackboard. Throughout the clip, everyday uses of media and technology in relation to the educational system and social realm are featured. The closing of the video touches on complex world issues such as economic inequality, debt, information rich vs. information poor and inflation, with the suggestion that “technology can save us.”

However, directly after these issues are recognized, technological advances such as the Internet and Facebook are acknowledged for inappropriate uses such as in-class surfing. The video demonstrates that the student voice understands issues that are contributing to the economic instability on a global scale but chooses to ignore them. As members of the up-and-coming generation, it is imperative that we begin to take action using the evolving technology exposed at our fingertips – as has been done with the creation of this


Click here for "A Vision of Students Today" clip:

Do You Control Your Media?

When the question, “Do you control your media?” was posed in class, my instinctive answer was “yes.” However, I was forced to reconsider my response as a result of class discussion and reading. I realized that my answer was an automatic “yes” because, not only am I perceived to think this way, but I have never taken the time to ask myself such a question. As I am given the opportunity to control what I access in terms of switching channels, radio stations and Internet links or the ability to simply remove myself from the media influence momentarily, I am made to believe that I have control of my media. However, an interesting concept of the illusion of democracy in the media was brought to my attention through a class presentation. The idea of popular music was raised. Who defines music as being popular? It is believed that the members of society control the popularity of music. Take a step back, and members of society – like me – realize that although we have control over changing the outlet that we use, we do not have control over the nature of the content broadcast by a particular outlet. For instance, although I am able to change the radio station to which I listen, I can not change the content that plays. Therefore, it is media distributors such as radio disc jockeys who control media by deciding what popular music is – that which will draw the greatest number of listeners. As members of society hear a song on a frequent basis due to the selection of a disc jockey, they begin to like it more and more. This notion will cause listeners to tune into radio stations that play the song, allowing them to believe that they hold media control.

The illusion of democracy is similar to the illusion of reality that Schechter refers to in “The Death of Media: And the Fight to Save Democracy.” Schechter describes the current trend of reality-based programming (Schechter 40). While there is an illusion of reality in regard to spontaneous scripting, staging and finales, such elements are configured by show creators and editors in order to create exciting television.

It seems as though with media’s widespread growth, members of society are too fascinated with the continuous evolution to recognize the manipulation that is occurring. Will those slowly becoming aware of it begin to take action? What measures will they take?

Schechter, Danny. The Death of Media: And the Fight to Save Democracy. New Jersey: Melville Publishing House, 2005.

Responding to Texts

As this course has required studying from a number of different sources such as novels, on-line pieces and videos, it is evident that I am forced to adjust my study habits depending on the types of texts that I am observing. The way technology charges one’s senses to work the brain and react differs among situations. This is apparent in the way that light reflects differently off the page compared to off the screen into the reader’s retina. (Lipton, Sept 17 07) I expose my senses to different situations by viewing my favorite news show, “60 Minutes,” onscreen and reading literature as part of class lectures and notes. I enjoy gathering with my family after dinner for an informative hour of innovative stories. The stories publicized on the show cause me to want to think.

I prefer feeling connected to the work that I am reading in a physical sense. For this reason, I favor reading novels over material on the computer to improve my understanding of the information. I often end up printing out information in order to have the convenience of marking up the paper, as I would a novel. In order to absorb the material in its entirety, I highlight important points, make notes in the margin and circle key terms.

Continuous advances in technology bring about changes in today’s reading styles. The best example I have seen of this is in Bolter and Grusin’s “Remediation” which promotes the idea of Internet exploration. Direct allusion to the Internet is made by use of links in place of brackets to demonstrate page references, and footnotes are located on the side of the page creating the appearance of scrolling with a mouse. This creative idea merges the two worlds of past and future – literature and Internet – to establish a higher interest in reading.

Lipton, M. Lecture Notes. THST 1200 The Languages of Media. University of Guelph. 17 Sept. 2007.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Remediation for One, Remediation for All

While discussing remediation in this week’s class, the opinion was expressed that not everyone has the privilege to remediate. I disagree. While economic structure does play a role in the extent of one’s ability to remediate, I don’t believe it is the sole factor. Although the conditions may vary, both information rich and information poor countries are given the opportunity to remediate. As stated in one of my earlier posts, remediation is defined as, “…the representation of one medium in another…” (Bolter and Grusin 45). A medium can be anything that expresses a message or creates a specific environment, such as a tie or the structure of a room. Although economic struggle may prevent some from engaging in technological remediation, I believe that they remediate in other ways. For example, those living in information poor countries take part in the process of remediation through sewing torn clothes together to make new garments.

As a result of Nicholas Negroponte, an MIT professor, children in Cambodia and Brazil are currently being exposed to technological remediation. Negroponte’s goal is to distribute a laptop to every child in order to enhance educational success. His team’s creation of a $100 laptop, capable of withstanding third world conditions, features access to the Web, a camera and a program for composing music. For children who live in places with no running water or electricity, this laptop will change their perspective on life. Negroponte claims of his computer, “…families loved it because it was the brightest light source in the house.” Further distribution of this laptop will help to narrow the division between the information rich and information poor in terms of technological remediation. The media of light and power illuminate from the laptop screen where a wealth of knowledge awaits.

Click here for the 60 Minutes interview with Nicholas Negroponte:

The Truth Behind "Plugging In"

Only since beginning this media course have I realized how much I depend on technology and how quickly it is evolving. As a consumer who expresses only the most fundamental technological knowledge, I never thought of myself as being dependent on things that are incapable of conversing and emoting feeling. My ideas began to shift when the way I use my iPod was brought to my attention. I am rarely found without headphones in my ears. It’s a funny afterthought, but I even depend on my music to walk to class. I like being connected on my way across campus as it relieves stress, gives me energy or just puts me in a good mood. For those few minutes, I become immersed in my own world. Such dependency on technology can influence the way we behave and interact with others. By constantly being “plugged in,” I am withdrawing myself from my surroundings and ceasing all communication with others. Where I may once have taken the opportunity to meet and talk with someone new, I am now content to remain connected to my music.

The same type of dependency and influence is seen with such advances as the cell phone or the blackberry. Ironically, these devices, meant to enhance communication, may actually inhibit it by causing users to remove themselves from the actions of others. This class is already forcing me to analyze the terms by which I live each day. Now that I am aware of my technological dependence, am I required to make a change?

Let the Battle Continue: Independent vs. Mainstream Media

In a previous post, I wrote about the conflicting feeling of immediacy that director, Michael Winterbottom, creates relative to his filming and advertising methods. As a result of this week’s class discussion on the credibility of independent media, I became aware of ways in which I could link the film, In This World, to other developments across the media landscape. The ongoing battle surrounding the credibility of independent media compared to that of mainstream culture can be identified from this film. The popularity of documentaries such as In This World exemplifies how audiences are currently looking to documentaries rather than traditional news sources get their hard news.

Society has come to realize that everything in the news is not truthful. Reporters often search to make a story, leading to the twisting of facts. As a result, many viewers turn to documentaries that spend an extended time looking at a topic in a more connectable way. However, if the mainstream media is capable of falsification, can’t the same be true of independent media? Audiences viewing a documentary, no matter the content, should remember that it is not necessarily the right facts being shown. Rather, it is those facts that the director wishes to emphasize.

In terms of which type of media is more credible, let the battle continue. Although both forms of media convey factual information and demonstrable advantages, personal interpretations of the media creator influence the stories being reported. In turn, it is my opinion that neither type of media is fully credible. It is the responsibility of the viewer to question what he absorbs, fully investigate the facts and reach his own conclusions.