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.
Ahead of My Time November 18, 2010
I am ahead of my time…by exactly one week. Last week I posted a comment on Public Diplomacy before reading any of the articles for this week ahead of time and this is what I said [cut down a little bit]:
I have done some traveling and you know what’s the best way to change someone’s image of the U.S.? For them to actually meet someone from the U.S., someone who isn’t in a television screen drinking coffee at their local cafe on a couch with five of their closest friends or a man behind a podium with a big white house on it making a public speech. 9 times out of 10 these are the images people had in their heads of Americans being just like stock sitcom people or completely agreeing with a man at a press conference espousing views of his America that don’t necessarily convey the views of the nation as a whole. …Once people got to know us as individual people, as sisters, nieces, cousins etc they knew that we were absolutely no different from them in the fundamentally human ways that matter…
This was the gist of what I said as well as the U.S. should have more individual level interaction with foreign publics and I personally volunteered to go around the world on the U.S.’s dime to do them this favor- you’re welcome. Then lo and behold this week the readings were about Public Diplomacy and the different ways most countries these days are performing Public Diplomacy especially using the internet and Web 2.0 diplomacy and interaction from the actual public in Public Diplomacy and not just top down diplomacy. I do believe that the Internet is the way that Public Diplomacy is headed: its widely accessible and its cheap, however, I don’t think we should ever forget the value of the micro level interactions in Public Diplomacy. In the article by Joseph Nye “Public Diplomacy and Soft Power,” Nye talks about the power in individual interaction through exchange programs, scholarships and conferences. While this takes more time, and is more expensive and may have what seems like a limited effect because of the seemingly minimal impact it has- I believe it has the most lasting and powerful impact. I will use my own life as an example. Before I lived in Switzerland I had a lot of presuppositions about certain European people- all from movies and television so completely wrong. For one thing I thought that all German people were scary evil people (thanks Schindler’s List), but now one of my best friends is a girl I met in Switzerland from Munich. I even came back to the states and studied German for a little while. From her perspective she had never had a black friend from any country. It was a new experience and an eye opener for both of us.
In class we also talked about Tony Blair’s support for the Bush administration and how people attributed this to his time spent abroad, I think this is an excellent example of how individual experiences last a lifetime and may even have a broader impact on the world someday. This is why I think an emphasis on human connections in Public Diplomacy cannot be swept aside even as we implement new web based programs and should always be a major part of the United States or any other country’s PD effort.
I’ve Betrayed You Anderson… November 12, 2010
Does the media frame the way we think about stories or do we have certain presuppositions that inform the media of how to frame stories in ways that are already aligned with our preconceived notions? I kept thinking about this question this week as I was reading about global news and the way it is conveyed to the public. The whole idea of media framing seems like a cyclical process. The news outlets frame stories in a particular way that, according to Powers and el-Nawawy in their article “AL-Jazeera English and global news networks,” affirms rather than informs. This means that the stories that are conveyed to viewers is framed from a point of view that the viewers have already established as their outlook and stance on the world. But where do these preconceived notions come from anyway? As we have discussed in class media has a substantial part in shaping cultures and identities within certain groups of people. This seems like the chicken and egg conundrum. However, most of the theorist today seem to think that the media is the follower and not the leader, and that in order to change the way that people view the world and the news, especially regarding global issues, that the news media need to become leaders and start changing the way that the news is presented and then later people may start to see the world in a new way. Powers and el-Nawawy used Al-Jazeera English as an example of a media outlet that is changing the way that the news is presented. Al-Jazeera’s slogan is giving a voice to the voice-less, which in itself changes the way that most media outlets present their news which Hafez says almost always favors a Western point of view.
Well, I had never been to Al-Jazeera English and I wanted to see if it really had a different point of view than a Western news outlet so I went to their website and also to CNN.com international to see if I could see a difference straight away between the two. The first thing I saw on Al-Jazeera was a quote in the upper right hand corner from a philosopher named Slavoj Zizek about how capitalism is leading the world into an apocalyptic doomsday… not what I was expecting from the apparent objective voice of the world today, but ok. On their homepage was a story about Haiti and how they were seeking UN relief for a cholera epidemic that has broken out in the country. I then went to CNN.com and they also had a story about the cholera outbreak in Haiti so I clicked on that was well. I decided that this story might be a little freer of Eastern/Western slant or criticism seeing as Haiti is not usually a country that is an antagonist on either side of that debate. I started with the Al-Jazeera story so that I wouldn’t taint it anymore than necessary with my western point of view.
This was the first I had heard of the story and Al-Jazeera gave a very in depth look at the problem of cholera in Haiti. They had a correspondent on the scene that had talked to officials from Doctors without Borders and staff from a UN office who was in charge of trying to find some funds needed to help with the epidemic. Since the earthquake in Haiti there had also been a hurricane that killed tens of people as of Al-Jazeera’s latest report. The story also talked about the anger of the people because of outbreak and also because of sanitation issues especially in the slum of cite soleil. Then I went to CNN.com to look at the story that they had published. The information that both cites had published was consistent with one another, but the Al-Jazeera story had more information and more about the people of the country and their outrage at the epidemic. I could not locate if the CNN.com story was just an update on an earlier reported story but the tone was definitely more of a recap of events than a story like the one on the Al-Jazeera site. I was honestly moved by the Al-Jazeera story and the detail of all that was happening in Haiti on top of the previous devastation. Another interesting fact is that the Al-Jazeera story started with the fact that the UN called for $164 million in aid, whereas it was mentioned halfway through the story in the CNN.com article. The point of the Al-Jazeera article was that aid was needed and the rest of the story tried to compel action with stories of events in the city. The CNN.com story started with the events of the epidemic and the mention of the aid money just seemed like another event to take in and not act upon.
I am not saying that Al-Jazeera English will be my new home page (I just changed it to CNN from google to make myself look more “cosmopolitan”…and I finally took the two minutes to figure out how to do it on my computer), but I think that this is an eye opener that I need to take charge of my media intake. Its fine to urge the news outlets to change their output, but the fact of the matter is that they have other interests to consider in the way they disseminate news. I think we should all challenge ourselves to be more discerning when it comes to what we ingest and what we believe. Its up to each person to decide what news they what to receive, and in today’s world it is as simple as the click of a button. Then we will see if the media is a reflection of our norms or vice versa, because we should see a change in the way that our news outlets inform us. So let the change begin—internally.
Mobile Technology’s Ability to Organize November 6, 2010
Castell’s article, “The Mobile Civil Society,” talks about the power in grassroots movements starting from people looking for change and using mediums such as the internet and mobile telephones in order to disseminate their views and organize in order to induce a change that they see as necessary. Castells gives three examples of social movements inspiring major political change in the Philippines, South Korea and Spain. He also talks about how these same mediums have been used by governments in order try and inspire more public support for the government and or parties in power. In all of the examples, elites and the government owned traditional media outlets such as newspaper and television, which was part of the reason that people felt as though they needed a new way of communicating their views and being heard. The one to many communication models have been replaced with the one to one communication as a preferred method of interaction, which is very powerful for a variety of reasons. For one, the cellular one to one communication is a lot more personal. Castells says that the fact that you know whom it is that you are receiving the information from on a personal level, at least enough to give your phone number to them, adds legitimacy to the source of information.
Castells also questions why this hasn’t happened in United States yet. I think this is a very interesting question. There was a wide use of mobile phones during the Obama campaign, which many say did help him win the youth vote. Castells says that the use of cell phones to organize demonstrations and rally people is one mainly used by young people. Many say that we (i.e. people born in the 80s) are an apathetic generation so that could have something to do with it. I kept thinking to myself what would I do if this happened to me? If I got a text message to go to the National Mall at 11 p.m. on a Thursday to protest something would I go? Well, it would depend on a lot of factors. What is the demonstration for? There really aren’t a lot of things I would risk being tear gassed for. I went to the rally to restore sanity, but that was at a reasonable time of the day and it wasn’t for anything to controversial- it was more of a social phenomenon than a political one. Also it wasn’t “by the people” but more like two rich funny men telling us all what to do using traditional communication via television. But then I remembered how I heard about it. My best friend in the entire world sent me an email with a link saying “GO TO THIS RALLY!” And everyone in my social network including classmates, co-workers (granted I work with classmates so this overlaps), housemates and neighbors were eager to go to this as well. Facebook was a buzz with all of the people I knew joining the group for the event and I even forced a friend who didn’t care that much to go. Friends from out of town were texting me about the details and I was texting friends in DC for more information as well. So I think what I am getting at is that unless there is something I absolutely cannot abide by happening in the government (aka the President is corrupt such as in the Philippines) I am content to not stir the pot or leave the comfort of my home to rally at the National Mall… because its kind of a trek from my house to be honest. But even when something as “mild” as the rally to restore sanity happens I look to my social network to legitimate my actions before I do them. So while something big using the internet and mobile technology hasn’t occurred in the U.S. (minus the Republican convention that Castells mentions in his article), there is definitely a possibility of something like that occurring starting within small networks of people and expanding into the political realm of organized action, so I wouldn’t count us out.
Citizen Journalism>Blockbusters October 28, 2010
In, “The symbolic power of transnational media,” Lilie Chouliaraki explains how two types of news evoke different responses from viewers. The two different types of news Chouliaraki evaluates are ordinary and extraordinary (330, 333-334). Chouliaraki explains that ordinary news does not evoke an empathetic response from people, due to the framing and even the geographic location of the story (i.e. the floods in Bangladesh) (334-335). She says extraordinary news creates a timeless historical moment feel from personal accounts of the happenings from people on the ground near the event and the geographic location as well (i.e. September 11, 2001 attacks in the U.S.) (336). These events allow the viewer to feel as though they are at the event and help them to feel a more powerful response or call to some sort of action such as assisting with aid. There is a third type of event that Chouliaraki describes which falls under the heading of ordinary news but they are emergency news stories (340). She uses both the Tsunami and the protests in Myanmar to illustrate this idea. She says that these emergency events make people feel as though they need to do something immediately to help. One of the ways this type of news is disseminated is through the use of citizen-generated journalism (340). In both cases there is footage of people on the ground witnessing these events as they happened and transmitting these images to the rest of the world. This type of media is usually low budget, gritty and on the spot, which I think makes people feel as though they are right there with the person taking the footage, and makes the sense of danger more imminent.
I think that there is another aspect of the lack of empathy people might feel that Chouliaraki did not address. While I think that her points were very insightful and well argued; another reason why people don’t feel a moral push to help is because of desensitization. Let’s face it- the world can be a horrible place. Sometimes when you have seen one flood you feel like you have seen them all. When you see people in boats floating by their houses, whether its in another state in the U.S. or in a province of India unless you are in the boat or you know that person you feel bad for a moment and you move on. Our society today is so inundated with scenes of violence and apocalyptic movies that, let’s face it, sometimes they are more graphic and scarier scenes than any natural catastrophe you have ever seen on TV. This is not to say that the world will not band together in an emergency, or celebrities won’t throw charity concerts to promote their albums world peace, but the fact that these things happen so often in every day life on the big screen makes it all the harder to evoke some kind of empathetic response from us. But here is the ironic thing: the little camcorder or mobile phone catching the world trade center crumbling or the brutality towards monks in Myanmar can drive us to tears and action faster than the scene of the White house being engulfed in fire, snow or whatever happened to it during that scene in 2012 that probably costs millions of dollars to produce. The real and horrible will always be more effectively portrayed than the fake and horrible, no matter how many 3-D planets James Cameron destroys.
Anime’s Mass Appeal- What’s the Big Idea? October 15, 2010
When we were talking about the mass appeal of certain media exports from other countries, such as anime I could honestly say that I had no idea whatsoever. I cannot understand the mass appeal of anime at all. I can usually understand why people may like certain things that I may not appreciate, like reggae for instance- not a fan but I certainly appreciate what’s trying to be done. But I draw a blank when it comes to anime- I simply don’t get it! Some people said its exotic… I guess it’s as exotic as a cartoon can be. I guess it could be the Asian culture that could be enticing people, but I can think of at least five different things I would rather do for my intake of Asian culture (for the sake of credibility those things are visit local Asian museums- the Philadelphia museum of art has a Japanese exhibit that I love, visit an American Asian influenced part of town such as Chinatown or Koreatown, watch movies with real Asian people, talk to my Asian friends and learn things directly from their experiences, oh and VISIT an Asian country.) But I can’t wrap my head around Anime! One of the major reasons for this could be my fault- I haven’t seen much and what I have seen has been by walking past my brother’s room because he loves anime and I honestly can’t stand there watching it for more than two minutes. I wouldn’t put it past my brother to watch a lower value version of anime because in general his favorite films with actual people include Friday, Next Friday and Joy Ride… yea. So I had to go to the source of my quandary himself and ask him straight one what the heck is so great about this anime. The conversation went like this:
Taria: I have a question for you.
Jay: Ugh What?
Taria: Why do you like anime?
Jay: Uh… I don’t know just another tv show… you are asking the wrong person.”
Taria: So you just watch it because…
Jay: It’s a decent show.
Taria: What makes it decent?
Jay: Uh the action.
Taria: A type of action you can’t get in American TV…
Jay: No you can its just… I don’t know.
Taria: But you can’t get it from a show with real people?
Jay: No you can’t… hurry up I have to get off of the phone.”
Taria: Why are you rushing me?
Jay: Because mom will be here in 10 minutes and I have to pack, anyway you also don’t like sports so…
Taria: What do you mean I don’t like sports I like the Phils! Are you saying it’s a male thing?
Jay: No… I don’t know… you only liked them since the World Series.
Taria: No! It was before the division series three years ago and I haven’t stopped watching!! You know I really can’t stand you….
It get’s off topic pretty fast after that so if I can pull anything out of what my tight-lipped brother had to say I would guess that it’s the action. He also said that you could get this action in American cartoons. To me this translates to the Ugly Betty article because the writer talks about themes that are universal and can evoke familiarity over time, space and cultures. For my brother and maybe many other anime watchers this “action” might be a universal value that translates over cultural identities and makes the shows familiar. He also said that you couldn’t get this action in a show with real people making anime something that connects directly and only to these other cartoon programs that appeal to him. So even though my brother doesn’t realize it I would say that for him anime has been integrated into his life by a similarity of universal themes being carried about in a way that appeals to him which is action (and by action I know my brother and this means violence- but that’s another blog). I don’t know- I still just see spiky haired dudes with one tear on their faces…. Don’t even get me started.
McChesney? More like McDowner… October 8, 2010
Robert McChesney definitely gives Sparks a run for his money as the Debbie Downer of the communication world. His article starts off talking about the expansive reach of the media conglomerates and advertising magnates and how there are a few companies (mostly U.S. based) that own almost all other media outlets internationally. McChesney doesn’t mince words when it comes to his opinion of our role as consumers of the output of these conglomerates. He thinks that consumers are too passive in their acceptance and consumption of goods from massive firms that control everything.
At the end of the chapter he tries to engage consumers in more active participation by saying that collectively they are the “wild card” and they can be a driving force in getting changes made in media today.
I understand McChesney’s passion and urgency in trying to instigate change in the media of today, but I think that he discredits the role that consumers already play. It is true that the majority of people may not be fighting for their voices to be heard in the media by writing scathing articles to other intellectuals or storming their television station building (minus the discovery channel fiasco) but the fact that people have the right to consume or not to consume is a huge factor in media creation today.
I don’t think that McChesney gives enough credit to the market forces that work behind every conglomerate and that are driven specifically by consumer consumption. He almost completely discredits the United States by saying that we are apathetic to the point of no return. I think that this is a major flaw in his argument. The simple fact that most of the major media firms are American means that the driving force behind these companies success (at least initially) was American preferences and these firms would not have survived without the support of the American public. The fact that a television show with a small following is cancelled after a year is a prime example of this. If we don’t like it the show does not stay on the air. And while this may not be McChesney’s view of “active” it is still extremely powerful.