Bringing Things to Conclusion

So, we are approaching the end of the term; time for us to think in larger themes, talk in generalities, draw some conclusions.

Let’s begin where we ended. Tuesday we addressed narrative and genre. These are obviously linked, though distinct areas. As I indicated in the lecture, they exist at both the levels of form and content. As content, they are amenable to analysis vis-a-vis media (form). As such, we can begin to think about how content connects with/is facilitated by/activates form.

Thus, in this article that I mentioned in class, we see the recent rise of a particular narrative device in porn (incest). While a narrative device (an excuse for/way of packaging sex), it serves as a sub-genre within the porn genre–itself a certain genre of media content. The media touched by this genre include film, anime, comics, and fiction (at a minimum). Whether the narrative occurs identically or operates equally well in all (media forms) is an empirical question (i.e. a matter for investigation and demonstration).

Okay, now that we have the sex out of the way, let’s think a bit more about how narrative and genre fit where we’ve come from and where we are heading.

You know the basic parameters at this point: we began with the question of “reality” and how reality is represented. The mediations (i.e. the media through which reality is passed and the way that reality is presented by media) can be various, as can the angles by which we inspect and evaluate them; so, too, the interpretations of their activity and effect. The outer limit of this discursive thread is the fabrication of reality.

This theme was introduced in innocence, we could say, with the notion that flames created flickering shadow-images on a wall, reflecting unintentional distortions in our minds. We then discussed how the rise (particularly in this past election cycle) of intentional distortions (i.e. “fake news”) were fed through various media to conjure an “alternative set of facts” or an “alternative reality”. Some of this was simply a discussion of content, however, the way that media operate (i.e. its ontology) also had impacts on how knowledge was transmitted and received. Hence, media had a role in social outcome.

The final step in this fabrication of reality is fleshed out in the work of Baudrillard (one of our readings this week and a point of lecture/discussion in our coming class). The notion we are particularly interested in is “simulation”. His idea, in a nutshell, is that something is created from nothing–a fiction is brought to life as a real thing, upon which other real things (thoughts, rules, human action, etc.) occur. As evidence, we spoke briefly of Disneyland and the book/film/now TV show Westworld. The Matrix is a perfect example of Baudrillard’s concept of “simulacrum” (the thing conjured from whole cloth that takes on a reality all its own)–for those of you familiar with the movie).

While The Matrix is a film and Westworld is a TV show, these are not the only examples. Most common in our everyday lives is “Reality TV”–a perfect example of how a thing that once was nothing more than a logline on a piece of paper, pitched in a production company boardroom, came to take on a life of its own. Producers, directors, cameramen and sound engineers, scriptwriters, caterers, publicists (and more) all assume roles in bringing a story to life. Something actual, in short, is conjured from nothing. Ideas take shape in words and actions, conducted by actual people and communicated to others as if they were real.

There is one more point that should not be lost in our journey from the cave to Disneyland. It is the major role that narrative plays in giving shape to human activity. We have spoken a bit about this in the previous class and, without overstating its relevance, please think about how the tropes of communication and the rhetorical forms that we have developed over the centuries end up shaping the what and how of mediation. Within our communication shorthand (for each medium) are certain fixed, culturally-biased, socially significant “devices” that lead to social outcomes. Some of these are shaped by the medium itself; some are determined by genre; some take the form of narrative. All possess a certain structure and generate certain rules and expectations (depending on these elements of medium, genre and narrative).

So, where does this leave us, as we try to draw to a close?

Think, if you will, about this line from the cave to Disneyland, of representation of reality to actual embodiment of fiction. Think, if you will, of where, in your everyday lives, you see this evolution in representation and reality. Think, as well, of the role of media/mediation. Finally, think of what the consequences of this development have been; where it/they may lead us; by what process(es) and with what effect(s).

Deuze and Media’s Role in Our Day to Day Lives

Hi, I know no one was assigned this week, but I’m just going to go for it because all my final projects are due in the next two weeks. I think that Deuze makes a good point in arguing that we currently study and perceive the media in the wrong way because media has a more holistic and integral role in our lives. Media shape us. Today, people are less likely to ask each other out in person because they have their phones, and they are also less likely to approach strangers at bars. Tinder has changed the dating-scope. What I don’t agree with is that the Media are the primary force of change in our lives. I think it’s slightly ignorant to claim that only the Media shape us and the people around us. They definitely play a role, but I’m not sure that they are the basis for life as we know it today as Deuze seems to claim. What do you guys think?

I also find the analogy of the media’s role in our lives today to the headphone clubs and parties really interesting. It’s good way to show how the media can isolate us but also bring is together in ways. Can you think of other examples that show this contrasting aspect of the media?

Finally, I feel like I’m constantly on my phone communicating with people that I wouldn’t otherwise communicate with due to distance, and that shapes my relationships. It also shapes how I spend my time. I watch way too many YouTube videos and I constantly procrastinate when I’m doing an assignment with Facebook or Instagram. I asked myself if generations before us procrastinated and how, and I honestly couldn’t figure out how. The fact that I can’t think of ways shows just how much of an impact the media has had on our generation. Still, I make an effort to put my phone down, spend time with friends and family face to face, and have a good time with out technology when I can. I think the media has a large effect on my life but it doesn’t control it. How do you think the media effects your live and to what extent?

Turkle and Multiple Identities

Hi guys, sorry I wasn’t in class Tuesday. Several Thesis late nighters and some flu-like symptoms landed me in bed Tuesday with a fever. Hope class went well. I actually really enjoyed this week’s reading because it tapped into an idea that I’ve always been curious about. Is it possible that we all have multiple personalities and the dominant one changes depending on the situation? I feel like I act differently around my American friends and my International friends because I connect to both groups in different ways. At my core, I’m still Caro, but there are certain tweaks I find myself making without really thinking about it. For example, my International friends are so sensitive to certain comments and aren’t always politically correct, but my American friends get really upset when anyone makes any sort of “not ok” comment. In the international setting, I don’t flinch at all when they are made, but in the American setting, I definitely notice them more. Do you guys ever feel like different aspects of your personality come out with different groups? Do you think you have one dominant one or do they change by the situation?

In addition, I also liked the idea of cyborgs as extensions of humans. I personally feel that we are a long way from engineering robot brains that can feel and react just like humans do because we still don’t have a full understanding of the brain and how all the neurons to create certain responses. Do you think that it’s enough that machines can make models of organs and preform surgery in which only the smallest of instruments can do the trick? Or do you agree with me that there’s still a long ways before cyborgs are a true extension of mankind?

Finally, I really liked the idea that the virtual worlds can serve as spaces for transformation in the real world. I also posted this question on the wiki, but do you think that social media can transform people just like virtual worlds do (for example YouTube stars on their first video and then now)?Video

I really think that YouTube can change people because they constantly get feedback and see themselves, so they are reinforced to make changes to better themselves over time. Do you agree with me or do you think that something else is at play?

Games & Narrative

One of the main things that Jenkins points out is how difficult it is for a game to have a compelling story while also maintaining core game play elements. You either have a game with extremely fun game mechanics and a lacking story or an enchanting narrative that’s essentially a movie you can click on. Why do you think that is? Other than the examples give in the text do you think there are other ways to overcome this dilemma?

Another interesting point that Jenkins makes is the way he view games. Instead of comparing it to traditional communication mediums like movies or books he chooses to compare them to roller-coasters. This is because like an amusement ride the majority of the narrative in a game is derived from the world not unlike the props used around a ride. Do you agree with this sentiment? If not, what medium would you compare games to (assuming we should compare them at all)?

These aren’t questions but just some thoughts I wanted to share after reading the text. I think a lot of the narrative issues which games have stem from the fact that they are so interactive. Compared to movies or literature, games requires the player to use many more senses in a way that immerses them. Because of this, a good videogame narratives must make use of each sense in a way that is interesting to the player. This is a daunting task that is arguably much more difficult than filming/writing a movie.

Also I think an example of a great game with amazing narrative is the Stanley Parable. Here’s the trailer 

Gender Advertising

Hi all, sorry for the delay in posting this, I was at an event all weekend.

Goffman talks about how advertisers use their advertisements to depict the “behavioral representations of our cultural assumptions about the nature of the sexes.” He also speaks about how these representations and expressions depict an “ideal conception of the two sexes and their structural relationship to each other, accomplishing this in part by indicating, again ideally, the alignment of the actor in the social situation.”

Goffman also talks about how commercial photographs involve performed poses that are presented in a style of being “only natural.” Are there any commercial photographs that you believe have poses and situations that are portrayed as “natural” but you have not experienced in your life? Are there any advertisements that you believe accurately depict “natural”  gender expressions? How do you think advertisements target transgender people with these idealistic representations of gender?


Women in the Commodity Audience

Hi all,

I hope everyone’s had a great Spring Break so far!

In Eileen Meehan’s piece, Gendering the Commodity Audience: Critical Media Research, Feminism, and Political Economy, she notes that, in terms of television advertising, “The logic of profit should drive advertisers to demand shoppers regardless of the gender, social status, race, age, ethnicity, sexual orientation, etc.,” but points out the disregard advertisers tend to have for audiences that do not fit the mold of white, wealthy, young, and male. This form of the commodity audience displaces women and minorities to daytime soap operas and Lifetime, creating a disconnect between the goals of capitalism and the reach of patriarchal systems.

Meehan says that, though women have always worked and are viewed by the patriarchy as the main shoppers of the household, advertisers have just recently clued into their buying power, placing makeup and car advertisements on the same channel, or combining soap operas with more action-packed adventures. What are some real world examples you can think of where advertisers have brought women and/or minorities into the commodity audience (even just a bit)? Do you think it’s possible, according to this article, for advertisers to promote equality, and dismantling of the patriarchy while also feeding their capitalistic interests?

High Concept, Thought Style and Media Determinism

I hope you’ve all been enjoying Spring Break.

The timing of our break, following a snow-cancellation, means that we will return to class next week still trying to complete our (now, seemingly-distant) engagement with McLuhan, while also making sense of the culture industry readings (scheduled for, but unengaged, last week) and the readings on audience (slated for next week).

So, gang, in a word: we face some challenges (!)

To help us better work through and with the material, I would encourage thinking together on a few disparate (though consonant) threads.

The first is the optional article assigned for last week on “The High Concept Presidency”. Let’s ask: “how, if at all, this notion of ‘high concept’ might apply not only to politics, but to other areas of social communication today?”

And what of the future? To the degree that the notion of ‘high concept’ has crept into the present, what might the uses and effects of it be–now and moving forward, into the future?

And, looking at a question that will come to take on greater meaning when we discuss genre, narrative devices and rhetorical approaches in cultural productions, to what degree can we link the presence and use of ‘high concept’ to media form, itself? In short, is the way of thinking and explaining part and parcel of the medium it appears in, itself (or is it merely an artifact–a coincidental/accidental element)? . . . obviously examples would be beneficial in addressing this query.

Next, I was intrigued by this article on “president as publisher”. My interest was less in Donald Trump and the specifics of his live-tweeting the Comey hearing before the House Intelligence Committee than with the simple McLuhansque take on medium as message. Applied to this situation, what message does Twitter (the medium) send? What “effects” does the platform exert on society? And, is this medium merely a blip on the historical radar, or does it possess the ability (like, say, the telephone or television) to remain with us, thereby altering human practices and patterns in profound ways? In answering this question, think about the media determinism angle. What is determined, how and why?

Finally, on this matter of determinism (and in a final why-the-hell-not leap toward the kitchen sink), you might consider this article, which (taken to its extreme) might enable us to argue something in the grander scheme of things. Is it possible that this article might lead toward theorization about media form (and also content)–at least particular sorts of media. What sorts? The kind that are computationally-based (which, increasingly, comprises a growing number of media and media content). In turn, these forms (and their contents) are predicated on (hence, determined and regulated by) a particular system of thought: logical and probabilistic.

Letting the string play out, one might ask: “are all (such) media beneficiaries, but also potential victims, of a fixed way of thinking/approaching/perceiving/operating in the world?” And so, too, is our media theorization also at risk of being overly determined by reference to, fixation with, a particular thought style?

The Culture Industry: Enlightenment as Mass Deception

Horkheimer and Adorno’s analysis may be a little bit outdated because of the drastic difference between technology in the ’40s compared to now. However, Horkheimer and Adorno do acknowledge that technology shapes culture.

Horkheimer and Adorno say, “For culture now impresses the same stamp on everything”. They talked a lot about the struggle of classifying what real art is and the reaction to art by society determining its receptivity. Does our culture’s emphasis on creating art (being creative and artistic) take away from individual’s within society with true artistic genius? Why do you guys think our culture prioritizes aesthetics so much? Do you think that we could be forcing meaning upon works of art?

Yet, they discuss how “creativity can’t seem to break the barrier of the long-lasting industry”. All industries within the culture industry are intertwined, so it seems that there will always be a subjective influence. They say that ultimately, the culture industry creates ready-made themes (generalized content – ex. genre in film) to be repeated throughout media.

Do you guys agree with their point that “the culture industry cheats us because we are never getting the real point”? (We’re fed with aesthetic sublimation). Or would you say that the movement of technology is democratic and allows us as consumers to schematize media on our own accord?


Something Cyber to Chew On

As I was reading through this article, on State-sponsored cyber interventions, I kept thinking about out modeling reading. A few questions:

  • How, if at all, do the models that McQuail introduces help explain the various communication processes (identified in this article)?
  • Would it be instructive to map the various state-sponsored activity? (Why/why not?)
  • Do the examples mentioned in this article all:
    • follow the same pattern
    • engage the same variables?
    • produce the same outcomes?
  • If so, what do:
    • the flows look like?
    • the agents?
    • the dynamics?
    • the results?

If you’d like to take a crack at it here, go for it. Otherwise, let’s add this to the list of examples/possible exercises we can address in our review segment on McQuail tomorrow.

See you then!

McLuhan – The Medium is the Message

McLuhan brings up a lot of interesting ideas about “medium” and “content” that I believe broaden our pre-existing understanding of what falls into each category.

McLuhan speaks about the idea, that “characteristic of all media, means that the ‘content’ of any medium is always another medium.” He then gives us the example of movies, which are a medium whose content could be a novel which is also a medium. I agree with this idea because content for most mediums in the sense of entertainment are other forms of medium. However, I don’t think that this idea can be extrapolated to all forms of medium which challenges McLuhan’s idea of medium, which is “any extension of ourselves.” Do you guys agree with McLuhan that a medium is any extension of ourselves or are there boundaries to what can be viewed as a medium? If there are boundaries can we agree that the content of the medium is another medium?

McLuhan also says that “the ‘message’ of any medium or technology is the change of scale or pace or pattern that it introduces into human affairs.” He then sites airplanes and railroads as being able to change the scale or pace of human affairs. What are your thoughts on this, does him bringing these technologies cloud our understanding of media and medium? Or do you think that the inclusion of these help strengthen his argument about mediums?