Category Archives: BCM110

Confessions of a Blogging Newbie

blogging
blogging (Photo credit: hgjohn)

I do not deny it. Until almost two months ago, I was not a blogger. I did not read, interact with or even give much thought to blogs. I was not enthusiastic when I discovered I would be assessed on my blogging. It’s certainly been a technological leap for me.

However, I did like reading and writing in more general terms.

So, after a hesitant start, I began to adjust to an environment I found I quite enjoyed. Most things about blogging suited me. I like writing conversationally, I like finding material that links to the subject, I like coming up with titles that are hopefully unique and catchy.

What I liked most of all though, was that my blog posts did not simply have to be a regurgitation of learned material, but an exploration of concepts using MY IDEAS! Blogging allowed me to learn in my own way.

My moment of epiphany occurred when I was writing my first BCM110 blog: CAUS{E}ality AND the EFFECTs model. I was contemplating what to write when I remembered a particularly interesting segment on Supernanny where media was scapegoated for desensitising children. Sure enough, I googled and found the video. It suited perfectly. I continued blogging, really feeling like I’d learnt something because I’d applied what had been covered in class to my own experience.

Since then I’ve been able to explore many topics I’ve had an interest in, and also developed new interests along the way. My greatest challenge has been keeping to 300 words! I’ve loved seeing how other people interpret the same topic in different ways, expanding our knowledge collectively.

I want my career to involve writing. It’s something I’m good at (in my opinion) and something I enjoy. I’ve written in a variety of forms, but never in a blog. In this way I’ve appreciated and been challenged by this new addition to my writing repertoire.

So, is this the end?

 

The Reality of Reality TV: A Survivor Story

A recreation of the logo for the first America...
A recreation of the logo for the first American Survivor season, Survivor: Borneo. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Reality shows. Pointless, meaningless, useless rubbish. Full of drama and wannabe movie stars. That’s what I thought.

But, if you look closely, perhaps there is some sort of usefulness….?

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the U.S version of Survivor, it is essentially Big Brother, but instead of a house there’s a deserted beach with no shelter, no food and usually an insect infested jungle.

It makes for great entertainment,  even having been run for successful 26 seasons. But why is it still so popular? Obviously some element of its formula is resonating in the public sphere (where people debate common concerns). The game is, as its motto states, about outwitting, outplaying and outlasting. The way this should be done though, is a matter of great contestation.

CASE IN STUDY: Russell Hantz

In a Heroes vs. Villains season, Russell, as a villain, played like a tactical genius. He manipulated, lied, and even managed to persuade one of the ‘heroes’ to give him an immunity idol (if you’re curious watch this YouTube excerpt). However, he trod on a great many toes, as is shown when the jury condemns his actions.

Russell played the game outstandingly, but didn’t win because his fellow castaways, who he helped vote off, didn’t like his lack of loyalty or sportsmanship. The controversy over what makes a good person, a bad person, and what especially makes a good player, was showcased  in this Heroes vs. Villains season. The concept of a deciding jury invites us to make a judgement upon these people and debate how certain qualities should be rewarded or punished

So, it seems Survivor is not a load of rubbish, but has actually become an instigator for debate in the public sphere on morals, ethics, loyalty, sportsmanship…the list goes on.

Believe it or not, reality TV has social value!

The quest for Global Domination

Until very recently, I took it for granted that I had access to uncensored, factual media.

Of course, compared to some nations in the world, I do.

However,  a large portion of Australia’s media is owned by a select group of people:

The important thing here to ponder is:

Does this matter?

An increasing number of people are starting to think it does.

This Simpson’s parody pokes fun at the level of censorship within Fox (owned by Rupert Murdoch)

It does raise the question though of who exactly should decide what is ‘newsworthy’, what is unbiased, and exactly what media sources are ‘trustworthy’. In a BBC broadcast, Hugh Grant accuses News of the World of extensive phone hacking to attain ‘inside information’. He also wrote exclusively for the “New Statesman” in: “The bugger, bugged“. This quote comes from the ex-News of the World journalist that spilled the beans:

“…all hail the master. We’re just pawns in his game.”

This being in reference to owner, Rupert Murdoch.

This statement seriously undermines the credibility of traditional media. Can Murdoch, and by extension, other dominant media owners, influence which sides of a story are told, or if these stories are told at all? As Elizabeth Hart says in “Media Ownership“, concentrated media ownership has the “potential to limit freedom of expression”.

Obviously, this should be an issue of great importance.

However, it seems all is not lost. A reading of “The Mobile Phone and the Public Sphere”* by Janey Gordon indicates the growing importance of the so called ‘prosumer’ as part of the modern news collection. For example, how civilian mobile phone images were used to document the 2005 London Bombings. Platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube all allow active participation with the media.

This is still in its early stages, but perhaps these platforms will allow the public to regulate the standards of the media…?

At any rate, the media hasn’t taken over the world. Yet…

 References:

Gordon, Janey (2007), The Mobile Phone and the Public Sphere: Mobile Phone Usage in Three Critical Situations, Convergence 13/3 Pages: 307-319

Don’t let the image fool you…

What happens when we look at an image?

Do we suddenly just KNOW, through some mysterious, automatic reaction that at a red light, we should stop?

Actually, it’s a lot more complicated than that. The way we read images, or ‘signs‘ is dependent upon many things, such as cultural factors, upbringing and prior knowledge. Any image is a representation of the thing it depicts. In this way, viewers of the image may interpret it different ways. The study of this is called:

Semiotics

good-wife

To explain this in more detail, I’m going to dissect this image:

There are two parts to analysing an image:

Denotation:

This is what is actually present in the image, or the ‘signifier’. In this case, there is a woman with closed eyes pressed against an unseen surface. There is red text beside and below the figure.

Connotation:

This is what is evoked in the mind, or what is ‘signified’.

Someone who is unfamiliar with the TV show ‘the goodwife’ may register that this is an advertisement for a television program. The way the woman (some will recognise her as Julianna Marguiles) is  positioned, what she is wearing, the light upon her skin, the clear view of cleavage and how her image is grayscale, all combine to give the impression of sexiness, seduction and allure. The text “Don’t let the name fool you” refers to the title “the goodwife” suggesting this woman is married, but is not being a ‘good wife’. The text and image together suggest sexual drama.

I, as “the goodwife’s” greatest fan, associate this image differently. I see Julianna’s character ‘Alicia’ and understand that she is rebelling against her husband who cheated on and humiliated her. I remember the whole background and previous two seasons.

As such, the way I interpret this image and its connotations will be different than to someone who has never watched ‘the goodwife’ and only seen this ad.

This is semiotics, the study of signs, at work.

References:

Bowles, Kate. ‘Representation and Textual Analysis’ in The Media and Communications in Australia, Stuart Cunningham and Graeme Turner (eds), Allen and Unwin: Crows Nest NSW. 2010 pp. 49-63.

Hobbs, Mitchell, ‘Semiotics: Making Meaning from Signs’ in Communication, New Media and Everyday Life, Tony Chalkley et al. Oxford University Press: Oxford, pp. 83-95.

CAUS[E]ality AND the EFFECTs model

Television
Television (Photo credit: *USB*)

Why is it that we are being bombarded with the idea that the media is rotting our brains…?

…That it is making us fat…?

…Or violent…?

A significant part of this can be related back to the Media Effects Model. What is the Media Effects Model? The Media Effects Model outlines how being subject to media can alter a person’s behaviour. However, as David Gauntlett explains, in “Ten things wrong with the ‘effects model’“, there are at least 10 significant issues in regards to its integrity.

To compress this lengthy list into something more digestible, we can say that the Effects Model usually simply doesn’t prove its findings in a way that is accurate. To draw from the list of ten, some of the problems include that it generally treats mass media viewers as weak and highly persuadable, studies are often conducted in artificial, unrealistic environments, and children are often, as, Gauntlett said: “negatively defined as non-adults“. An example of an effects model study can be found in this extract of a Supernanny UK episode.

So what are the questions we should be asking?

The key here is not to start with the MEDIA, but to start with the INDIVIDUAL. If we want to understand what the effects of the media really are, we need to ask ourselves different questions: i.e. “Why is this person violent?” rather than: “Does the media make people violent?” There are infinite reasons for a person to be violent, not just violent video games. For example, upbringing, mental health. Causality, the relationship between primary and secondary effects, seems to be mostly muddied by prejudice and ineffectual methodology, rather than being based on provable, logical fact.

The effects model, for the most part, appears based on superstition. Asking the right questions is the beginning to finding out how or if media really does affect media consumers.