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Negotiating Opposite Messages December 7, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — laurawry @ 8:44 pm

In, A Theoretical Agenda for Entertainment-Education, Singhal and Rogers address resistance in the message environment.   They term American tv shows  “which valorize lewdness, sexual irresponsibility, greed, and other antisocial messages” as “entertainment degradation” or “entertainment perversion.”  I would actually group The Biggest Looser with these programs, as it reinforces negative assumptions about health and wellness (in addition to the intrinsic value system messaged through the show), though under the more dangerous semblance as a positive health promoting multiplatform mechanism.

Describing entertainment-education’s challenge in confronting opposing positive health and social messaging, they write, “A subtler, yet more potent form of resistance to E-E discourses comes from a sea of media message in which, for instance, aggression is exemplified and portrayed as a preferred solution, socially sanctioned by super heros who triumph over evil by violent means.  Such portrayals legitimize, glamorize, and trivialize himan violence (Bandura, 2001, p. 277), complicating the task of E-E interventions.” ( 125) The Biggest Looser serves as an example of such pseudo “preferred solutions” in the domestic social context as well as “entertainment perversion” in its role conveying American culture in the international sphere.



Who Really is the Biggest Loser? December 3, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — Taria @ 9:23 pm

In class this week we talked a lot about reality television and how it has become a cross-cultural phenomenon. While we touched on it in class I do think that reality television has the potential to be a type of public diplomacy, but it also has the potential to be a detriment to new societies. From our own reality television we know that people who go on reality television shows are not the type of people we want to be. We watch these shows and these people for entertainment, but the majority of the shows are set to humiliate contestants and make us feel better about ourselves. The fact is that reality television can have such a negative connotation that we feel embarrassed to admit to others that we watch it and if we do admit it we call it a “guilty pleasure.” The fact that these people are representing a small subset of Americans who have some psychological need for attention and are usually at least a little bit unstable makes reality television exports a dangerous exchange if left in its original format. In class one of the groups showed a clip of Bulgarian men getting into a fight. While the clip amused us, we were clearly laughing at the two men, and this clip did nothing to enhance the view of Bulgaria to us (this does not mean that it was a complete detriment as I am sure that we all new that this was not a true projection of Bulgarian society). But this is why so many reality TV shows take a premise from a country but nothing else. The entire original culture must be wiped from the show in order to transpose a new and relatable one to audiences in new countries. However, if we would be embarrassed for someone from another country watching our version of a reality show and felt as though we had to defend it and ourselves, then the show is not only a detriment to our outside appearance but to our internal view of self as well. I am not saying that we should not watch reality TV, I know that I will still watch Bad Girls Club and enjoy it for its tacky superficiality, but its wise to realize that reality TV is not as harmless ad we might think.


Product placement: the root of all evil or the most neutral ad you’ll ever see

Filed under: Posts by Kristin,Uncategorized — Kristin R @ 3:54 pm

Throughout the presentations on Thursday, we discussed (thoroughly) adapting media products to a new host culture. We also talked (less thoroughly) about product placement, advertisements, etc. So the focus of this final bit is going to be about product placement.

Though in the US, we often think of product placement as the long-form, 20 second or more, “shameless plug” for a product, place, or company. And many of us, as media scholars, find that particular type of product placement to be insulting and obnoxious. But we also assume that not everyone is aware enough to realize the product placement is occurring. Well, let’s be realistic. The US is not full of idiots (though there are some), and I actually think most people realize when they’re being sold Yoplait on the Biggest Loser or Cover Girl on America’s Next Top Model. Is it really any different from the “regular” commercials? They are just as obnoxious, they’re probably shorter, and they’re just as obvious. More importantly, that type of product placement harkens back to the old days of early television, where programs were almost entirely sponsored by one company or product, thus the item made frequent appearances (see Lucky Strikes for Fibber McGee and Molly). Again, I’m sure these “subliminal” product placements are not as well hidden as we might assume.

It is, instead, the ‘less obnoxious’ type of placement that we should be more interested in. We tend to gloss over the fact that ET was being handed Reeses’ Pieces, that Simon has a Coke cup, and that the cast of Real World just happens to be dropping by Subway for some dinner. These placements are less disconcerting on a surface level, easier to tune out while simultaneously easier to absorb in a non-critical way. We’re overwhelmed with brands, and it becomes difficult for any company to hide them from you – think of MythBusters, and how they tape over brand names. You can still see the rest of the container, and you still know they’re freezing cans of Gilette Shaving Cream.

But more importantly, the idea was mentioned that other countries shouldn’t be concerned about product placement because the practice will just never take. Well, back in the early days of radio (prior to the FRC – later FCC – assigning stations), people were broadcasting without any commercials or sponsors at all. People paid a small amount to have access to equipment and would have their own variety shows, regardless of commercial help. I’m sure they’d never thought that programs would be sponsored solely by one company, that television programs would ever have intensive product placement and shameless plugs (let alone have televisions at all), etc. So to assume that this “American only” idea won’t spread elsewhere – simply because it hasn’t yet – is foolish. First and foremost, assuming it won’t spread to China (as was the specific example in class) because China is less consumeristic is foolish – the real reason is that they don’t need intensive sponsors because the government runs their media outlets. Similarly, you aren’t likely to see product placement on Al Manar because it is largely controlled by Hezbollah.

However, as we see developing countries with liberalizing, privatizing media outlets, you may start to see product placement arise. As outlets are privatized, they need better, faster ways to make their dollars from advertisers, and they might immediately skip to product placement (just as we immediately skipped to one-company sponsorship).

All cross culturalism and cultural sensitivities aside, product placement is likely not going away. And it is likely not just going to be an American phenomenon.


Comm Products and Change in the DPRK

Filed under: Posts by Ashley,Uncategorized — zabc21 @ 10:22 am

As everyone that knows me is aware, I’m deeply interested in North Korea. I find it all fascinating: foreign policy, America’s involvement, the Regime, and in particular the markets and the rise of cultural products, and the telecommunication industry.

I’m actually working on a paper in relation to the later two of that list. Many North Korean scholars have high hopes that through the use of the markets with access to cultural and communication products like South Korean dramas, Chinese TVs that can pick up Chinese broadcasts, radios, etc, that there will be a change from the ground up. Meaning that there will be examples of civic unrest leading to the ultimate goal: democracy.

This will be a long and hard fight, but there are examples of change from within the Regime that are tolerating the capitalist market ventures, and allowing forms of advertising, mostly small billboards, to be present. Advertising is an increasingly capitalist concept, so one can only believe that the country truly is changing via the capitalistic enterprise of the markets.

The telecommunication industry also has a large amount of foreign investment to rebuild the failing infrastructure. Orascom, an Egyptian company is investing up to $400 million in a 3G-cell phone system that would be quite comparable to the international standard with SMS, voice mail, and call waiting, etc capabilities. This is exciting as well for multiple reasons. Orascom has developed the largest advertising campaign, well really the only advertising campaign in North Korea, with an information basis to teach the citizens about the products, and how to use them. Also, in Castell’s article “The Mobile Civil Society,” it is discussed how the citizens in the Philippines used their cell phones to ultimately oust the President. It can only be hoped that events like this could begin in the DPRK. And lastly, for when the Regime finally does fall, it doesn’t hurt the rest of the world that part of the society is up to date for economic reasons.

Sure this hope for democracy seems like a long shot, especially through the “use” of items such as South Korean dramas, and radio broadcasts that are illegal for the North Koreans to hear. This is the best hope for a change within the civil society that could prompt large-scale reform. If anything, it gives the world diplomacy options for how to start the progress, at a time that it appears North Korea needs it.


Pragmatic Complexity and Ritual November 22, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — laurawry @ 9:32 am

The strategy of “pragmatic complexity,” as discussed in A 21st Century Model for Communication in the Global War of Ideas, underscores experimentation and complexity as essential factors for strategic communication.  This contrast between the message influence model and a pragmatic complexity model parallels James Carey’s concept of a transmission versus a ritual view of communication.

In, Communication as Culture, Carey describes a ritual view of communication as, “directed not toward the extension of messages in space but toward the maintenance of society in time; not the act of imparting information but the representation of shared beliefs.” (18) In the ritual view, communication is a structure, a networked set of beliefs that creates and maintains a reality for a group of individuals.  This view reflects the complexity of the “system as a whole” and the context of persons A and B while also acknowledging the meaning making and preservation function of communication.

Corman writes that, “In the language of communication science, communication is the medium through which individuals and groups construct their social realities.  Once a system – a social reality – is created, it has a tendency to sustain itself even in the face of contradictory information and persuasive campaigns.  Members of the system routinely and often unconsciously, work to preserve the existing framework of meaning.  To accomplish this they interpret messages in ways that “fit” the existing scheme, rather than in ways that senders may intend.” (8)

In this way, Corman emphasizes the critical need to work with existing narratives to transformatively create new frames and beliefs, understanding ritual and redefining your narrative and message within it.



Public Diplomacy – Turning Al Hurra into Al Jazeera November 19, 2010

Filed under: Posts by Kristin,Uncategorized — Kristin R @ 12:54 pm

I personally am having a difficult time discussing the subject of public diplomacy in a way that hasn’t been touched upon either during class yesterday or by my fellow bloggers. But I’ve decided I’ll talk about a practical comparison and how our public diplomacy media outlets could emulate popular media to become more successful.

Television Al Hurra is the US’ public diplomacy channel in the Middle East and, for several reasons, is rather unliked in the region. The primary reason for this is that the intended viewers see the channel as serving US interests alone (as discussed in Philip Seib’s New Media and the New Middle East).  Conversely, there are several reasons why Al Jazeera is so overwhelmingly popular – while the majority of this preference relates to it being a “home-grown” product with counterflow views to major Western outlets, another aspect is how Al Jazeera features participation in many of its programs.

By holding large segments of call-in or live audience A&A, Al Jazeera has created a public sphere for the region’s otherwise voiceless people. It is my firm belief that this one aspect of Al Jazeera is one of it’s most positive, and also something that the people in the area appreciate and love. As such, it becomes clear that any outlet trying to compete with Al Jazeera should also feature this type of participation. If Al Hurra were to have discussions, debates, Q&A, and call-in segments, it might increase their popularity because audiences in the region have a proven interest in that.

Furthermore, this would alleviate the problems discussed by Tretheway, Corman, et al – of focusing too much on the message rather than the act of communicating and sharing dialogue. If public diplomacy outlets launched by the United States focused on promoting dialogue between themselves and the residents, some positive outcome would be more likely.

As I examine this concept more, the main block to this process is that, in order to engage in a mutual dialogue, both sides have to be open to discuss and possibly change their viewpoint. I sincerely doubt that foreign policy practitioners, as well as the United States as a country, are seriously interested in changing any aspect or even in learning from the exchange. This brings to light another facet implied by the theorists we discussed – public diplomacy as a shared learning experience. That is what we’re really lacking, and also what we really desperately need to strive for to have a successful, positive relationship.


Hilldog and the Giant November 18, 2010

Filed under: Posts by Ashley,Uncategorized — zabc21 @ 11:50 pm

For this blog obviously I was going to write about public diplomacy, but I didn’t want to make the typical run of the mill “America does it bad” or “soft power is blah blah” statement. Yet I was struggling trying to come up with an idea. I google imaged for some inspiration and found a lovely cartoon that I think illustrates the truth in American PD. To me it illustrates that obviously American public diplomacy exists…but it is greatly overshadowed by the military and government actions.


Then I returned to the weekly reading and found a great quote: “The soft power of a country rests primarily on three sources: its culture (in places where it is attractive to others), its political values (when it lives up to them at home and abroad), and its foreign policies (when they are seen as legitimate and having moral authority)” – Joseph Nye. This is a very interesting statement that makes logical sense in terms of the components of soft power. Obviously these three components are all drastically related, but personally I think that the political values are the most dominant component, specifically in relation to the government living up to what they say they do abroad. That provides evidence of the moral authority and in turn makes the culture more attractive abroad.


Then after still not feeling finished with the blog, and while chatting with a friend in med school (who is very politically savvy), I asked for inspiration for my public diplomacy blog. The response was somewhat amusing:

Ashley: Write my public diplomacy blog.

TJ: What’s that?

Ashley: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soft_power

TJ: OH Hilldog does that all the time!

Ashley: haha yeah she does.


I want to say that this lack of awareness is reflective of soft power. In ways I think it’s true…the American public isn’t directly involved with most forms of American PD, unless they are in the elite few that study abroad, join the peace corps, or are a scholar (and this way Hilldog wouldn’t be doing it all!)

From these three sources I conclude that in order for American public diplomacy to make a larger impact it needs American military and government practices to live up to what they say they will abroad. That provides evidence of the moral authority and in turn makes the culture more attractive abroad, reassuring the three main components of PD. In doing this, PD will also gain a larger share of the foreign world’s viewpoint and the military will not be such a giant on the forefront of international perceptions. Lastly, there needs to be more examples of direct engagement from the American public. This is one of the best ways to enact PD and without it occurring it continues the government/military giant perception.