Bechdel Test

The Bechdel Test is an examination of a film, book, or any work of fiction in general based on three criteria. For a work of fiction to pass the Bechdel Test, the work must a) have at least two women b) who talk each other c) about something other than a man. If Mikethe work of fiction meets all three criteria, the Bechdel Test gives it an “A for Approved” rating. The Bechdel Test is often applied to film, but it can also be applied to literature, comics, TV shows and some podcasts. Even day-to-day interactions between everyday people can pass or fail the Bechdel Test (Selisker 2015).

Alison Bechdel, an American cartoonist, introduced the concept of the Bechdel Test in a 1985 strip of the comic Dykes to Watch Out For. In this comic, an unnamed character asks two women if a fictional piece can who two or more women who talk to each other about something other than a man (Lindvall 2013). When the Bechdel Test is applied to films, audiences can determine if the film has a gender bias that may or may not be intentional but certainly prevalent (Scheiner-Fisher, Russell 2012).

Gaul (2017) uses the Bechdel Test implicitly to analyze the relationships between female characters in the novel studied by herself and the class she instructed. Sincerity by Susanna Rowson, one of the books her class studied, became a popular novel among her students for the “female relationships, and, even more provocatively, how marriage affected female relationships” (Gaul, 2017: 146). Sincerity, Gaul says, exemplifies how the Bechdel Test can be seen in other media forms than just film, and she compares her class’ understanding of literature by American women to the Bechdel Test, saying it mirrors her students’ value of Sincerity and its take on the complex nature of female relationships.

Selisker (2015) describes the Bechdel Test in the form of character interactions in fictional narratives to find a method of linking these communications in one network. He breaks down his analysis into three different sections. In his first section, Social Network Analysis and Literary Works, he observes social interactions between fictional characters and how these interactions evolve into a connected network in that work of fiction. In his second section, Female Networks, or Between Women, he observes the roles of women in social interactions and how they act as intermediaries, if not instigators of conversation. In his third section, Critical Labor and Literary Data, he brings his article to a conclusion by referring to the Bechdel Test as a collection of data and closes with a new goal society should reach towards. “Rather than replacing persons with networks, I see the Bechdel Test as encouraging us to place persons within networks” (Selisker, 2015: 519). Selisker would like for society to insert themselves into these networks that he presents in his analysis and go further than just seeking out the presence of women who talk about something other than man.

Scheiner-Fisher & Russell use different examples of films with more prominent female characters to promote gender equity in history. They created a list of movies that both met the criteria for the Bechdel Test and remained popular among their audiences. These films include Elizabeth, Persepolis, and the Diary of Anne Frank. Scheiner-Fisher & Russell credit these films because unlike most films that are seen through the male gaze, “these ten films show women who are capable of carrying their own story and do more than satisfy the ‘chick flick’ narrative” (Scheiner-Fisher & Russell, 2012: 223). These films all pass the Bechdel Test and make strides towards gender equity in film and history.

References:

Gaul, T. S. (2017). Female Relationships in Susanna Rowson’s Sincerity: The Bechdel Test and American Literature Syllabi. Legacy: A Journal of American Women Writers, 34(1), 141-150.

Lindvall, D. (2013, December). Editorial. Film International (16516826). pp. 4-5.

Scheiner-Fisher, C., & Russell, W. B. (2012). Using Historical Films to Promote Gender Equity in the History Curriculum. Social Studies, 103(6), 221-225. doi:10.1080/00377996.2011.616239

Selisker, S. (2015, Summer). The Bechdel Test and the Social Form of Character Networks. New Literary History, 46(3), 505-523.

Image Attribution: “Bechdel Test” by Srravya is licensed under CC0 by 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication

Written by Michael Mensah, 2018

Birmingham School

The Birmingham School, better known as the Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies, was a research center at the University of Birmingham. Founded by Richard Hoggart in 1964, the school played a major role in the development of cultural studies not only in Britain, but across the globe. Cultural studies can be defined as the study of culture with the intention to understand a society and its politics (Sebastion 2017). It has become normal to associate The Birmingham School with the creation of this global idea of cultural studies (Connell 2015).

Established as a post graduate research institution, the school’s main focus, Sebastian (2017) explains, was to “contest the cultural elitism of literary theory” (p. 3) and to look deeper into the way culture and the people of society go together. For post-war British democrats, the CCCS provided a “point of focus” for the way the new generation of British democrats interacted with an increasingly affluent culture which was constantly being introduced to new forms of mass media (Connell 2015). The teachings here were rooted in the fact that culture was recognized as something that maintained a political order (Sebastian 2017).

Jack1However, the main approach of the Centre was to look at reconstructing the theory of pop culture into one that stated that pop culture is a way of resistance for the marginalized groups of society. Other approaches to investigating cultural studies included ideas from Antonio Gramsci, a leader for Mussolini’s Communist party who was later jailed by the Fascists and in jail, wrote a book called The Prison Notebooks (1948). In this book he describes the way elites maintain power over society using domination and power to create a sense of obedience and consent among the people. Better known as hegemony, this became another main course of study for the CCCS as it turned the focus of study towards mass media and pop culture to study the domination effect that it truly has on society (Sebastian 2017).

The CCCS was incredibly active and diligent in its quest to become a major research institution of cultural studies (Connell 2015). Typically, work began as a discussion of individual’s findings in certain areas of cultural studies which was then followed by field work and ethnography work (Sebastian 2017). Annual reports were also done to recap all the new findings and investigative work done the previous year. On a weekly basis, members of the Centre would alternate between the research of one single significant text and a person’s individual findings as a result of the research. This eventually developed into a broader infrastructure involved with academic debate and discussion (Connell 2015).

In the Centre’s first year, there were only six full time students involved with it. Other members of the staff included Hoggart, Michael Green who was a member of the University’s English department, and a secretary. However, the student sit-in of 1968 not only catapulted the Centre into notoriety, but also led to the departure of the founder, Richard Hoggart (Connell 2015). When Hoggart’s successor, Stuart Hall took over as director of the CCCS, the school began to apply Louis Althusser’s beliefs and urge to study subcultural groups and why they make the decisions they make. As the CCCS continued to grow in the background of the rising New British Left, many founders of the New Left became important members of the CCCS such as Hoggart, Hall, Raymond Williams, and historian E.P. Thompson. This created a balanced influence between work on cultural studies and looking at the new form of politics (Sebastian 2017).

Jack2By 1973, there were 39 students, the Centre was financially backed by the University, and it began to focus more on its famous “sub-group” model of research. In the academic year of 1975-76, cultural studies was first offered as a M.A. and had over 50 students involved with the Centre. Cultural studies, however, was often  misunderstood due to the fact that many of the subject areas were initially regarded by higher ranking colleges of the school and other institutions as irrelevant and unimportant (Connell 2015).

The Centre became the center of political and academic scrutiny due to misunderstanding because of the unorthodox approach to challenging academic organizations. Former members of the school argue that the University was the school’s main enemy due to its lack of funding after the events of 1968 when the Centre began to flourish on its own. Another enemy of the school was some members of the British far left who disagreed and were upset at the embracement of Althusserian  structuralism, also known as structural Marxism. Political issues involving feminism and race led to major division among the Center which, in turn, resulted in the departure of Hoggart’s successor, Stuart Hall in 1979. The University of Birmingham not only refused to properly fund the Centre, but treated it in a nonsensical manner shown by its many re-organizations of the institution as well as its final close decades later (Connell 2015). In 2002, management at the University chose to shut down and finally end the Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies (Sebastian 2017).

References

Connell, Kieran, & Hilton, Matthew. (2015). The Working Practices of Birmingham’s Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies. Taylor & Francis Group, Vol. 40 (30). Retrieved from https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/03071022.2015.1043191

Sebastian, Bibin. (2017). Birmingham School of Cultural Studies: An Overview. International Journal of Advance Research and Innovative Ideas, Vol. 3(5), 1338-1342. http://ijariie.com/AdminUploadPdf/BIRMINGHAM_SCHOOL_OF_CULTURAL_STUDIES__AN_OVERVIEW__ijariie6810.pdf

Image Attribution: The first image used in this post is in the Public Domain. The second image used in the post is by mattbuck and licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License CC BY-SA 3.0

Written by Jack Greer, 2018

Cantril’s Psychology of Panic

In Hadley Cantril’s book The Invasion from Mars: A Study in the Psychology of Panic he examines the effects of the CBS War of the Worlds broadcast. His work used direct but inaccurate examples to analyze the after effects of the broadcast. After the broadcast he analyzed responses from interviewees to conclude that the reality of the fictional alien invasion was based upon the education and the ego of the individual listening (Laughey, 2007).

Hadley Cantril, a Princeton social psychologist, started his work on the psychology of panic after the War of the Worlds broadcast on October 30, 1938 (Laughey, 2007). The broadcast covered a dramatized performance of the H.G. Wells novel starring a cast of actors, including Orson Wells. Some listeners of the broadcast believed CBS was broadcasting a live alien invasion in New Jersey. While Cantril is credited for the psychology of panic, Paul Lazarfeld and Frank Stanton were also focusing on measuring the spread of panic at the time (Socolow, 2008).

After interviewing 135 listeners Cantril concluded that there were five main reasons listeners were so vulnerable to the reality of the broadcast (Laughey, 2007). The five reasons were the pedestalization of radio, the prestige of the speakers, the dramatization of the speakers’ voices, the use of notable locations in the area, and the overall tension added to the radio performance (Laughey, 2007). After conducting the interviews Cantril invested himself in the psychology behind listeners susceptibility.

In The Public Opinion Quarterly Cantril defined the psychology behind mobs and panics. Mobs begin as crowds of people that take a course of action to achieve a certain goal (Cantril, 1943). Members are characterized by having a common need or desire for someone to explain their hardships (Cantril, 1943). Listeners of the War of the Worlds broadcast were brought together by the alleged alien invasion. Panics occur when people are in a group and do not address the catastrophe at hand (Cantril, 1943). Panics are often attached to personal psychological issues.

After analyzing the personal lives of his interviewees, Cantril found seven characteristics of susceptibility. The personal characteristics found were: social insecurity, phobias, amount of worry, lack of self-confidence, fatalism, religiously, and frequency of church attendance (Laughey, 2007). Cantril found that education was a defining factor in listeners’ understanding of reality during the broadcast (Cantril, 1943). He attached the higher percentage of vulnerability in southern states to the large amount of poor and educated listeners in the area (Cantril, 1940). An educated listener would have likely sought out other news sources for validation of the alien attack. While education played a role in understanding reality, the underling cause of panic comes from “a perceived threat to an individual’s Ego” (Laughey, 2007, p. 18). A threat to one’s ego would cause a high degree of susceptibility, which would send the individual into panic. The relationship between the individual and their ego mediates their susceptibility to mass panic.

Cantril’s theory was subject to criticism from other scholars due to his methodology. He greatly exaggerates the ‘widespread’ panic across the nation when only 2% of all American’s experienced the ‘mass panic’ described in his work (Laughey, 2007). His work is heavily based on estimates and manipulation. Upon realizing many interviewees could have lied Cantril manipulated the numbers so that they would work in favor of his argument (Socolow, 2008). Cantril’s interviews were also biased because all the individuals interviewed were New Jersey inhabitants (Socolow, 2008). Of the 135 interviewees, 100 were known to have been upset by the broadcast (Socolow, 2008). Therefore, Cantril did not examine a diverse pool of listeners. His original colleagues, Stanton and Lazarsfeld, were not pleased with Cantril’s finished work. Both scholars believed that Cantril’s publication was based of off assumptions (Socolow, 2008). The issues with Cantril’s methodology were resolved throughout the evolution of his work.

Cantril’s emphasis on radio as a key factor in the realism of the broadcast influenced Marshall McLuhan’s theory that the medium is the message. This theory gives power to the medium instead of the message itself (Laughey, 2007). Therefore, without the proper medium a message could lose its value. The War of the Worlds broadcast could have had different effects if it had been broadcast on another medium because of radio’s high authority during the time. According to Cantril, “radio was – and still is – an accepted medium for important announcements” (Laughey, 2007, p. 17). In America radio was used to broadcast important news such as election returns and war updates (Cantril, 1940). People, especially in lower income and educational brackets, began to rely on radio for news instead of print newspapers (Cantril, 1940). During the 1938 broadcast listeners reliance and belief in the radio modified their ability to further investigate the ‘alien’ invasion. Technological naturalism, or the evolution of new media, makes change invisible to society (Czitrom, 1951). As listeners adapted to radio news they avoided validation from other sources to confirm the alleged invasion.

Hadley Cantril’s psychology of panic focused on listeners’ reactions to the War of the Worlds broadcast in 1938. His theory on the mental causes and effects of mass behavior can be applied to historical events such as the Salem Witch Trials in the 1690s and the Satanism Panic in the 1980s.

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Examination of a Witch

The Salem Witch Trials began in 1692 in Massachusetts after a slave named Tituba was said to have performed acts of witchcraft on two young girls (Billings, 2013). The Puritans believed the two young girls and concluded that any strange mark on the body of an accused women was the mark where the devil sucked the blood of a witch (Billings, 2013). Colonists experienced hysteria after learning they could be living among witches. The Puritans began searching women’s bodies for physical signs left by the devil, which led to the immediate execution of six women (Billings, 2013). Alleged ‘witches’ were forced to accuse other women of witchcraft. The witchcraft fever spread quickly and the judges revived an old law to make witchcraft a capital offense (Billings,

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Representation of a Trial

2013). Judges began to accept confession as regeneration and were merciful to witches who did confess, however, as Puritans many ‘witches’ were not willing to lie even if it could save their life (Billings, 2013). By the time the panic was over twenty women convicted of witchcraft had been executed (Billings, 2013). Like listeners of the War of the Worlds broadcast, the Puritans did not seek out evidence to validate claims during Salem Witch Trials, but instead relied on accusations from the public.

The satanism panic in the 1980s revolved around alleged satanic cults that were terrorizing the nation. One of the most publicized cult cases was the McMartin case. The McMartin Preschool trials began after a young mother insisted her 2-year-old was raped by a male employee at the daycare upon finding his bottom red (DeYoung, 1997). The mother took her son to multiple physicians before finally getting a reluctant diagnosis of

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Depiction of Satan

sexual abuse (DeYoung, 1997). Soon all parents of children enrolled at McMartin were contacted and panic began in the California town (DeYoung, 1997). The sex crime was labeled as satanic ritual abuse and began widespread hysteria during the 1980s (DeYoung, 1997). The children being interviewed soon learned what investigators wanted to hear and began accusing everyone they knew of assault, including their parents (DeYoung, 1997). Panic swept across the nation as numerous day cares were accused satanic ritual abuse. The McMartin case and the satanism panic in the 1980s was based largely on assumptions and unreliable interviews, like Cantril’s study.

References

DeYoung, Mary. (1997). The Devil goes to Day Car: McMartin and the Making of a Moral Panic. In Journal of American Culture (pp. 19-25). Great Britain: Wiley–Blackwell.

Billings, W. & Manning, K. (2013). Salem Witchcraft Trials. In Salem Press Encyclopedia.

Cantril, H. (1940). The Invasion from Mars: A Study in the Psychology of Panic. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press.

Cantril, H. (1943). Causes and Control of Riot and Panic. In The Public Opinion Quarterly (pp. 669-679). Oxford University Press.

Czitrom, D. (1982). Media and the American Mind: From Morse to McLuhan. The University of North Carolina Press.

Laughey, D. (2007). Modernity and Medium Theory. In Key Themes in Media Theory (pp. 30-53). New York, NY: Open University Press.

Laughey, D. (2007). Behaviorism and media effects. In Key Themes in Media Theory (pp. 7-29). New York, NY: Open University Press.

Socolow, M. (2008). The Hyped Panic Over ‘War of the Worlds’. In Chronicle of Higher Education (pp. B16-B17). Washington D.C.

Image Attribution: The images used in the entry are in the Public Domain.

Written by Jacklyn Russo, 2018.

Chicago School

Liz 1The first American academic institution to open a sociology department was the University of Chicago. The university itself was established in 1892, during the progressive Era.  Robert E. Park was a very influential figure in the Chicago school, providing it with new perspectives and urban themes.  Other key players were Ernest W. Burgess and Louis Wirth, both interested in the exploration of urban research and sociology (Lutters & Ackerman, 1996).

In communications and media studies, the Chicago School is one of several schools of paradigms.  Each school is well known for its unique set of assumptions, concepts, values, and practices that constitute a particular way of viewing the world in an intellectual discipline. Sociologists use these paradigms when attempting to solve a problem or answer a question.  The Chicago School of sociology was established with the purpose to gain a better understanding of the relationship that exists between individuals, communities, and societies.  Chicago School researchers were interventionist; looking to find problem, create a solution, and intervene. The Chicago School as a paradigm believed that media and communications play a central role in shaping individual, as well as collective lives. The Chicago School is interdisciplinary, mainly pulling from sociology and philosophy as a guide for its approach.  The Chicago School mainly explores theory of social change and processed.  It used the city of Chicago as its laboratory to explore social challenges in question.

From the beginning of the 20th century to 1950s the Chicago School was at its peak and evolving very quickly. The Chicago School was its most influential between World War I and the Great Depression.  During this time, American cities demonstrated a rapid increase in population (Lutters & Ackerman, 1996).  In 1890 Chicago’s population was about 1 million people. By the 1930’s its population tripled to over 3 million people. With a large amount of immigration and migration, Chicago became an ethnic melting pot (Bulmer,1986).  The Social urban changes such as this one, are precisely the type of phenomenon’s the Chicago School strive to answer.  The Chicago School began to focus on ethical and racial intermixture in Chicago, as well as urbanization (Bulmer,1986).  The images below visually demonstrate the urbanization of Chicago during this time period.

 

Liz together

South Water Street in Chicago in 1884 (left) v. South Water Street in Chicago in 1915 (right)

The Chicago School uses both a quantitative and a qualitative methodology.  A quantitative methodology is an empirical Approach, using statistics, mathematics, or computational strategies.  It is an analysis data-based. A qualitative approach is primarily exploratory research. This methodology helps to place the issue at hand in context, allowing researchers to dive deeper into the problem.  The Chicago School did however have issues. An example being its normative and moralistic way of creating solutions. It solved problems and created solutions based on a moral; when an individual’s moral compass is open to subjectivity.  Therefore, solutions created by the Chicago School to a degree were considered bias.  This paradigm also strives to create social reform.  The issue being it believes science was able to determine the correct solution for a social problem.  However, the Chicago School is well known and credited for its “scientization” of mass communication research.  The Chicago School remains one of the most significant historical advancements in sociology. It revolutionized our understanding of urbanization as a social science by closely observing and analyzing Chicago’s own repaid expansions. The Chicago school also helped develop our understanding of human geography and ethnographic research methods (Bulmer,1986).

References:

Bulmer, M. (1986). The Chicago school of sociology: Institutionalization, diversity, and the rise of sociological research. University of Chicago Press.

Lutters, W. G., & Ackerman, M. S. (1996). An introduction to the Chicago School of Sociology. Interval Research Proprietary, 02-06.

Image Attribution: Image 1 is licensed under 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0). Images 2 and 3 are in the public domain.

Written by Elizabeth Kearney, 2018

 

Collective Intelligence & Modding

jacob 1

Example of a strategy guide

Collective Intelligence in the realm of video games have been around since the industry’s formation. Collective Intelligence is the collaboration of gamers and fans of video games working together to share a variety of resources that enhance the experience of gaming. This includes but is not limited to strategy guides, walkthroughs, cheat codes, secrets and “Easter Eggs” (small pieces of content hidden throughout the game that may be difficult to find), and modifications (McGonigal 2005). Collective Intelligence can be found in any realm where video games are discussed. Originally, gaming magazines were the primary source of gaming Collective Intelligence, where readers could write in about cheat codes, ask for help with difficult parts of games, as well as discuss their opinions on the games popular at this time (Drayson 2012). This was essentially the sole form of Collective Intelligence from the start of the gaming industry until the early 2000s.

In the early 2000s, the primary forms of Collective Intelligence for strategy and cheat codes shifted towards strategy guides specific towards a singular video game, or into books that were full of only cheat codes for a variety of popular games (McGonigal 2005). Magazines were still prevalent at this time, but their focus primarily shifted towards rating and discussing popular games as well as the gaming industry in general. These magazines are still doing basically the same thing today, however, printed strategy guides and cheat code books became all but nonexistent after the internet changed how gamers interact with each other around 2010. Online strategy guides became easily accessible in a variety of forms, ranging from video walkthroughs, forums, and written walkthroughs. Instead of writing into a magazine or purchasing a book, cheat codes were a few clicks away online.  While the medium in which Collective Intelligence has changed over the years, the goal of enhancing the individual experience of playing video games with assistance and contribution from the larger gaming community has remained the same.

Video Game Modding is a practice that has also been around since the inception of the industry. Modding is the practice of modifying the source code of a video game to improve the experience of playing the game. This includes, but is not limited to, cosmetic changes that don’t change gameplay (altering the appearance of one or many aspects of the game), changing aspects of a game to change the difficulty of the game, or expanding the game by addition of new areas or characters (Drayson 2012). This practice was not very common at the beginning of the video game industries life; it did not enhance the games enough, and for enough people, for arcade owners to invest in modifying games. Modding became a more prevailing part of gaming culture during the console era. It was still a tedious process to download mods onto consoles, but the mods became increasingly available and advanced.

jacob 2

Example of a mod

However, modding was still not a dominant part of video game culture until the popularization of online gaming, primarily on the gaming site “Steam”. The graphical capabilities of online gaming paired with easy access to source code created an easier way to mod games (Drayson 2012). This ushered in a massive new aspect of gaming culture and Collective Intelligence, as these mods became as discussed about as the games themselves. Community members even began to request mods into their favorite games, causing a market for requested mods. For example, one Steam user made a post in a forum joking about wanting to play as then Presidential Candidate Donald Trump in Rocksteady Studio’s Batman game. A little over a week later, a new mod appeared in Steam’s modification store (a place where users can buy and sell gaming mods) allowing gamers everywhere to play as Donald Trump in game, for a small price. Making cosmetic changes to the game like the example above are the most common form of modding today. This online “Mod Market” has created a new form of Collective Intelligence in gaming, where gamers can discuss new mods, request a specific change they would like to see, and sell their current mods (McGonigal 2005).

References

Drayson, H. (2012). Players Unleashed! Modding The Sims and the Culture of Gaming (review). Leonardo 45(5), 491-493. The MIT Press. Retrieved December 4, 2017, from Project MUSE database.

McGonigal, J. (2005). SuperGaming: Ubiquitous Play and Performance for Massively Scaled Community. Modern Drama 48(3), 471-481. University of Toronto Press. Retrieved December 3, 2017, from Project MUSE database.

Image Attribution: Image #1“Final Fantasy (NES) Super Nintendo Strategy Guide” by Bryan Ochalla is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0; Image #2: “New PC Mod Takes You Beyond Gotham City in Arkham Knight” by BagoGames is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Written by Jacob Gonzalez, 2017.

Commodity-Image System

At its most basic definition, a commodity is an object that is bought or sold in our society. The commodity image system is referring to the process of advertising of these objects and how advertising processes affect our culture. Sut Jhally is a professor at Amherst who wrote “Image Based Culture” in 1990. He says that the idea of a society based in a commodity image system means that the advertising that we create shows us a better life. It leads us to believe that we can receive self-validation from the things that we buy based on the advertiser’s success in convincing us. The things we buy can give us happiness and a better life. He also explains that “the development of tv ensured that images were our primary commercial mode of communication”.  Advertising has taught us to comprehend these images for their benefit as well. The inclusion of more third world countries has contributed to the spread of this system.  (Jhally 1990). Later Jhally uses this concept to talk about how the resources in our world are affected (Daniel 1999). The example that he uses in the article is of a diamond rings meaning to our portrayal of a relationships value. We have been taught that the diamond is a symbol elizabethof our love for our spouse. However, it is not a natural human concept if not for the advertising that we have created that has taught us that “a diamond is forever.” He highlights the transition from an agrarian society to industrialization which has encouraged the transition in advertising to a commodity image system (Jhally 1990). This transition has created the commodity image system in which we are surrounded by images of our potential future and dreams which can be achieved by buying the products advertised.

References

Daniel, B. (1999). ADVERTISING AND THE END OF THE WORLD Sut Jhally. The Radical Teacher, (57), 34.

Jhally, S. (1990). Image based culture: advertising and pop culture. The World and I. Article 17591. http://www.worldandilibrary.com.

Image attribution: CCO commons, no attribution needed

Written by Elizabeth Bergstrom, 2017

Communications Act of 1934

The Communications Act of 1934 was passed on June 19, 1934, during the presidency ofmax Franklin D. Roosevelt. The means of this Act was for the Government to regulate telephone, telegraph, radio and other broadcasting forms for the public. Through this Act, the United States Government demanded that those licensed to broadcast do so with the intent of, “public interest, convenience, and necessity.” coming directly from the Act (M.G.F 1935). The Communications Act of 1934 also created the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), which replaced the Federal Radio Commission.

The Communications Act of 1934 is broken down into six main sections. The first section of this Act includes the creation of the FCC, along with the purpose of creating the Act. Quoted from the first section on the Communications Act of 1934, this section is “For the purpose of regulating interstate and foreign commerce in communication by wire and radio so as to make available, so far as possible, to all the people of the United States…” (United States, 1989). This meant that public information was going to be rapidly spread throughout the United States with the help of the new broadcasting standards implemented.

The second section of the Act deals with the common carrier regulations. This created a set of requirements providers had to abide by when providing telecommunication services, along with a competitive market between providers, making the costs of services lower for consumers. The third section pertains to radio communication and defining wired communication. This gave licensing rights to broadcasting stations from the government. Finally, the last three sections all deal with procedural provisions and penalties for controlled agencies if they do not follow their rules and regulations, as well as miscellaneous information to bring the Communications Act of 1934 to a close (M.G.F. 1935).

max 2Hurwitz (1991) describes just how important the Communications Act of 1934 really is for America. He claims that the Act stayed around through the entire technology revolution, mostly in part to its flexibility. The Act gives power to the Federal Communications Commission, but in very loose terms. For example, the quote, “public interest, convenience, and necessity” has a very broad meaning, which allows them to expand on it, under reasonable terms. Not having a clear definition of this phrase caused courts and other officials to argue that it would be unconstitutional for the government to use its licensing power without a clearly defined definition (Brotman, 2017). This also means that the Act is not constricted in any way, which allowed the document to be amended if need. Creating this Act gave the government a basic outline for later acts to come such as the Telecommunications Act of 1996.

The Communications Act of 1934 played a significant role in American society with the communications networks expanding. While these networks expanded, the Federal Communications Commission’s influence expanded alongside. The largest role that the Communications Act of 1934 played on the American people was accessible media throughout the country, and the rapid spread of it through public broadcasting services, which were overlooked by the government. Lastly, it made media and news affordable to all people by creating competition between service providers, in an effort to not leave anyone out (Brotman, 2017).

References

Brotman, S. N. (2017). Revisiting the broadcast public interest standard in communications law and regulation. Retrieved December 07, 2017, from https://www.brookings.edu/research/revisiting-the-broadcast-public-interest-standard-in-communications-law-and-regulation/

Hurwitz, L. (1991). The Journal of American History, 77(4), 1469-1470. doi:10.2307/2078442

M. G. F. (1935). Communications Act of 1934. Virginia Law Review, 21(3), 318-325. doi:10.2307/1067097

United States. (1989). Compilation of the Communications Act of 1934 and related provisions of law: including Communications Act of 1934, Communications Satellite Act of 1962, selected provisions from the United States Code. Washington: U.S. G.P.O.: For sale by the Supt. of Docs., U.S. G.P.O.

Image Attribution: The images used in this post are in the Public Domain

Written by Max Hammond, 2017