Ad Agency Structure

Ad Agency Structure is about the structures of business and the development of ads within an advertising agency. Many ad agencies divide the labor of creating an advertisement into four main parts: account planning, creative development, media coordination, and account management (Campbell, Martin, & Fabos, 2017, p. 360). There are also two main types of advertising agencies, such as mega-agencies and boutique agencies. Another main part of an advertisement agency is the space broker, “who purchases space in newspapers and sells it to merchants” (Campbell, Martin, & Fabos, 2017, p. 354).

The account planner has the task of creating an effective advertising strategy. The strategy usually consists of the combined views of the client, the creative team, and the consumers (Campbell, Martin, & Fabos, 2017, p. 360). Another responsibility of the account planner is to coordinate market research which helps the company analyze and understand the behaviors and attitudes of the consumers towards the product they are trying to sell. The account planner also uses the Values and Lifestyles (VALS) strategy “which measures the psychological factors and divides consumers into types” (Campbell, Martin, & Fabos, 2017, p. 360). VALS researchers advise advertisers to vary their sales.

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The creative development team uses a storyboard, which is a blueprint for the potential ad

The creative development team outlines the rough sketches for print and online advertisements and then works on the logos, words, slogans, designs, and graphics for the ad (Campbell, Martin, & Fabos, 2017, p. 361). The creative development team usually consists of writers and artists. For different forms of media, there are different needs of preparation: radio prepares a working script while for television, the team uses a storyboard. For digital media, the team develops websites or interactive tools. “The business structure for digital media is heavily influenced by the technological structure of the media” (Mijung, Jun, & Chan-Olmsted, 2010, p. 11). The creative side of the team struggles with the research side of the team, since the creative part might not agree with what research says.

Advertising agencies also focus on media coordination which is about the planning and placing of advertisements. Media departments are staffed by media planners and media buyers. Media buyers are people who choose and purchase the types of media that are best suited to carry a client’s ads, reach the targeted audience, and measure the effectiveness of those ad placements” (Campbell, Martin, & Fabos, 2017, p. 361). Advertisers also attach incentives to their contracts with certain agencies that allows them to raise the fee if sales are met and lower the fee if the sale goal is missed (Campbell, Martin, & Fabos, 2017, p. 361). The media coordination team chooses the target audience for the advertisement. Account management ties into the media coordination in the sense that they are responsible for the interaction between client and the agency. They are responsible for making sure that the agency meets the requirements of the client and follows the functions of the advertising agency.

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Omnicon is one of the four global mega-agencies in the world

There are two types of advertising agencies that operate in the United States: mega-agencies and boutique agencies. Mega-agencies are large ad firms that formed by having several agencies merge together and maintain regional offices worldwide, while boutique agencies are small agencies that focus their talents and effort on only a certain number of clients (Campbell, Martin, & Fabos, 2017, p. 358). Mega-agencies provide a full range of services all over the world, such as advertising and public relations to having their own house radios and television production studios. In 2015, “Omnicom had more than 74,000 employees operating in more than 100 countries around the world” (Campbell, Martin, & Fabos, 2017, p. 358). Mega-agencies attend to multiple types of businesses around the world. Mega-agencies are considered a threat to smaller boutique agencies which have been decreasing over the years. Boutique agencies consists of creative individuals who broke away from the bigger agencies. Boutique agencies offer more personal service since they are smaller and have less clients. The boutique agencies have prospered by innovative campaigns and increasing profits from television accounts (Campbell, Martin, & Fabos, 2017, p. 359). Boutique agencies operate as subsidiaries within multinational corporate structures.

References

Campbell, R. Martin, C.R., & Fabos, B (2017). Media & Culture: Mass Communications in a Digital Age 11th Edition. Boston and New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s.

Mijung, Kim, M., Jun, H., & Chan-Olmsted, S. M. (2010). PERCEIVED EFFECTIVENESS AND BUSINESS STRUCTURE AMONG ADVERTISING AGENCIES: A CASE STUDY OF MOBILE ADVERTISING IN SOUTH KOREA. (cover story.) Journal of Media Business Studies, 7(2), 1-20.

Image Attribution: Image 1 CC BY-SA 2.0; Image 2 Public Domain

Written by Michael Smith, 2018

Agenda Setting

Agenda Setting Theory is a media effects theory that explains how media affects the emphasis viewers place on certain topics happening in society. The ‘catch-phrase’ associated with this theory is that the media does not tell us what to think, it tells us what to think about. Bernard Cohen actually stated this is 1963 referring to the press – “The press may not be successful much of the time in telling people what to think, but it is stunningly successful in telling its readers what to think about.” This comes from the ideology that the media can place topics in front of us, like in the news or on social media, which will show us that these topics are important, but media cannot tell us how to feel about these topics or what opinions to form regarding these topics. In a study done by Maxwell McCombs and Donald Shaw in 1972, they studied this. They focused on the 1968 presidential campaign and what viewers were concerned about in comparison to what the mass media was focusing on. After randomly selecting registered voters in the Chapel Hill region in North Carolina, they asked respondents questions about key issues and their importance (McCombs & Shaw, 1972). They found an almost perfect correlation between what their respondents said were important issues and what the media was reporting on, which proved that media priorities become public priorities. This is incredibly important because mass media may be the only connection that voters have to politics and it is important to have educated voters and citizens. If the media can report on the most important aspects of politics, at least people are getting exposure to these topics. Studies relating to this theory are even now expanding into disciplines like history, advertising, and medical studies, showing its relevance to other aspects of life, not just news and politics.

The ideas of framing and priming play a role in this ideology. The media can prime our thoughts of an issue through constant repetition and prominence given to a specific topic. This keeps these ideas and issues in the minds of consumers, making them easily remembered. Framing, is how sources of media organize, define, and structure a story (Weiss, 2009). Media use these techniques to help consumers decide what to think about. News for example, viewers see the same headlines and topics on multiple platforms – tv, news apps, social media, papers, etc. But different sources can frame stories to show consumers what they want them to know. Consumers then have the discretion to accept or challenge those opinions placed in front of them and create their own meanings of the world.

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There are some limitations with this theory though. One big one is if media sets the public agenda, where does the media agenda come from? But, the media agenda in theory is influenced by the public agenda through ratings, surveys, market research, etc. (Weiss, 2009). Another limitation is that viewers who do not find the media/news credible are less likely to have their agendas set by the media (Weiss, 2009). This also applies to viewers who disagree with the media agenda. So, there is room for further exploration on this theory, but many people find it to be credible and meaningful.

So, despite its few limitations, Agenda Setting Theory is a very important theory in regard to media effects. A huge contribution to the study of this theory is credited to Maxwell McCombs and Donald Shaw as well as Bernard Cohen. Moving forward, try to consider how media sets your personal agenda and how it affects what you think is important in the world today.

 

Works Cited

Karell, Daniel. “The Agenda-Setting Theory in Mass Communication | Alvernia Online.” Alvernia University Online, 20 Feb. 2018, online.alvernia.edu/agenda-setting-theory/.

Mass media | agenda setting theory. (n.d.). Retrieved December 5, 2018, from https://www.utwente.nl/en/bms/communication-theories/sorted-by-cluster/Mass-Media/Agenda-Setting_Theory/

Maxwell E. McCombs, & Donald L. Shaw. (1972). The Agenda-Setting Function of Mass

Media. The Public Opinion Quarterly, (2), 176.

Weiss, D. (2009). Agenda-setting theory. In S. Littlejohn & K. Foss, Encyclopedia of Communication Theory. 2455 Teller Road, Thousand Oaks California  91320  United States: SAGE Publications, Inc. https://doi.org/10.4135/9781412959384.n12

 

 

Written by Caitlyn Creasy, 2018.

Anthology Dramas

Anthology Drama is a term that is often associated with modern television programming that is running over multiple seasons (Campbell, Martin, Fabos, 2017). While the overall genera of these programs may differ from show to show, the overall principle that ties these dramas together is the sense of drama and tension, and multiple season run time that allows for multiple viewership’s and long-standing fans of these programs (Campbell, Martin, Fabos, 2017). Anthology dramas are programs that run for multiple seasons or episodes, but in each rendition of the show, whether that is episode to episode or season to season, the setting, plot, and characters are changed.

This formula for dramas began in the late 1920s with programing such as The Collier Hour on NBC, which paved the way for other such programs that provided new content and characters on an episode to episode basis (Evans, 2011). While these types of shows maintained strong popularity during much of the mid 1900s, but began to fall out of favor towards the 1990s as more well produced and complex narratives that appealed to audiences (Evans, 2011). However, around 2010 programs such as American Horror Story and other such programs began to resurface, modernizing the anthology genera, giving the season to season anthology formula, while captivating audiences with well written and developed characters by having recurring elements in their seasons (Campbell, Martin, Fabos, 2017).

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The article, “Distinguishing Television: The Changing Meanings of Television Liveness” by Levine focuses on the changing landscape of television and how over time and through technological advancements that the forms and mediums of television are shaped. Specifically, in this article there is a discussion on the patterns of how and why anthology dramas appear and reappear in the television world over time (Levine, 2008). Its reading is that due to the episodic nature of anthologies, more often than not it is much harder to retain its audience. More character or plot focused programming often can hold on to audiences as the show has a common thread holding it together, whereas in anthology dramas there is more of a spontaneity that causes this aspect to be lost in early anthologies (Levine, 2008).

An important source that can be used to understand this topic is the book by Evans, Transmedia Television. In it there is a discussion on what it means to study and define media and has many different presentations on the multiple different mediums that make up the branching idea of media (Evans, 2011). Specifically, there is a section in this book concerned with what they call quality drama or in our case well produced or high budget anthology dramas. Quality dramas are what this texts calls both the early 2000s programming that brought about the demise of early anthology series, and what many modern anthology programs have adopted to maintain viewership (Evans, 2011).

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There are ample examples of both past and modern ideas of anthology dramas and how they have changed over time, but what the overall basic of this medium is based on the idea of an episode to episode generation of plot and characters. Examples such as American Horror Story and The Twilight Zone are prime in helping aid in an understanding of what anthology dramas are as these more modern programs clearly show aspects of early anthologies in their episode to episode or season to season changes, while drawing from the quality drama aspects of well-developed characters and more centralized plots.

 

References

Campbell, R., Martin, C. R., & Fabos, B (2017). Media & Culture: Mass Communication in a

Digital Age 11th Edition. Boston and New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s.

 

Evans, E. (2011). Transmedia Television. New York: Routledge.

 

Levine, E. (2008). Distinguishing television: the changing meanings of television

liveness. Media, Culture & Society30(3), 393-409.

 

Image Attribution

The images used in this post are in the public domain (Creative Commons)

 

 

Written by Colin Levi, 2018

Association Principle

The association principle is a type of advertising technique that “associates a product with a positive cultural value or image” (Campbell, 2017). This persuasive technique is used even if the association has little to no connection to the actual product. The association principle attempts to convince consumers that there is an innate relationship between a brand or product and an attitude (Savan, 1995). This principle aims to make consumers connect the product being advertised to a desirable set of values or traits. Positive ideals such as wealth, love, security, uniqueness, and/or beauty may be associated with a product through commercials, advertisements, or other forms of visual aids.

Marketing a product in a way that connects it to something that the consumer can relate to, transforms the product image. Transforming the product’s image is the advertiser’s intention. When almost every product can be associated with a positive self-image, consumers are subtly persuaded into the advertiser’s concept of a “good citizen” (Savan, 1995). Advertisers are not necessarily selling their products, but instead selling the illusion that purchasing their products will make the consumer feel greater because of the association attached to the advertisement. The real “masterwork” of advertising is the way it uses the association principle technique to “seduce the human soul” (Savan, 1995).

Throughout history, American car advertisements have displayed automobiles in natural settings instead of urban or city-like settings (Campbell, 2017). This demonstrates the association principle where the car being advertised is shown in the natural world of rugged mountains or glistening fields with intention to advertise the car as an example of modern technology. Other examples of the association principle may include the display of American patriotism through visual symbols to associate products or businesses with national pride (Campbell, 2017). Advertising may also associate products with happy families, success, natural scenery, or freedom (Savan, 1995).

Chalisa 1The Marlboro brand has notably used the association principle to enhance the image of its brand. Transforming to a man’s cigarette in the 1960s, Marlboro often associated its product with strong, masculine images (Campbell, 2017). The product was usually dominated with images of nature, displaying a “lone cowboy roping calf, building a fence, or riding over a snow-covered landscape” (Campbell, 2017). Advertisements do more than just demand attention. Ads curate and push the social and cultural trends that infiltrate the consumer’s mind (Savan, 1995).

There have been many controversial uses of the association principle. One of the more popular ones has been the connection of products to stereotyped representations of women (Campbell, 2018). In many instances, women have Chalisa 2been portrayed as sex objects where the women in the ad are usually dressed in revealing clothing. Another controversial use of the association principle is to state that products are “real” and “natural”, especially when advertising cosmetic products (Campbell, 2017). Beauty products that are being advertised usually assures the target audience (women) that the product will make them look and feel more natural. Using these adjectives and associating them with the product, makes the product more appealing.

References

Campbell, R., Martin, C.R., & Fabos, B (2017). Media & Culture: Mass Communication in a Digital Age 11th Edition. Boston and New York: Bedford/ St. Martin’s.

Savan, L. (1995). The Sponsored Life ads, TV, and American culture. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.

Image Attribution: Images used in this post is in the Public Domain

Written by Chalisa Singh, 2018.

Avatars (Video Games)

Video game avatars are created by users on various platforms to represent themselves when gaming, either serious or not serious. By definition, an avatar is a “personalized graphical illustration that represents a computer user, or a character or alter ego that represents that user. An avatar can be represented either in three-dimensional form (for example, in games or virtual worlds) or in two-dimensional form” (Janssen 2018). Most gaming systems, social platforms, blogs, forums, and many more outlets allow users to create avatars for their profiles to associate a face with a name.

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A video game avatar can come in many different forms, video game avatars are all around the top systems, whether it be creating a mii on the Nintendo Wii or having a figure to be associated with a gamertag on Xbox live. Users have the ability to make their avatars look like themselves or make them look absurd and give them features and clothing that make them look nothing like themselves. Some systems like the Nintendo Wii allow the user to play with their avatars in actual games, but most systems use avatars for show. A somewhat new trend that has emerged in video games is an in-game avatar feature (separate from the systems avatar). Games like Call of Duty and Fortnite allow you to display characters as an avatar, but they can also be used for display in pre-game lobbies. Many online computer games like Runescape and Counter Strike: Global Offensive use avatars too that are separate from in-game characters.

Video Game avatars are ultimately created to represent ourselves in an accurate way online. Robert Hotz of the Wall Street Journal suggests that video game avatars may portray characteristics that we would not normally reveal, saying that “Psychologists are discovering that the digital identities we create for play online, known as avatars, reveal more aspects of our personalities than we may intend to disclose and can change how we behave in the real world”  (Hotz 2015). The likely reason gamers reveal more online is due to the fact that playing video games is harmless by nature and most gamers do not know each other on a personal level so it is not normal for a face to be put with a name (and be judged).

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While it is not uncommon for video games to have their own avatars for each specific player, video game avatars are generally made for a specific username. Whether it be Xbox, playstation, Nintendo, online gaming, or numerous other platforms, these large systems ask for avatars to be paired with a gamer and username. Significant strides were made in gaming in 1974, where the video game Basketball would change gaming moving forward. According to the writers at ultimate history video games, Basketball was “the first example of a video game that displayed sprite images, both for the players and the baskets, first game to depict game character, first attempt at accurately simulating a team sport, first basketball game” (ultimatehistoryvideogames 2014). Basketball raised standards for video games and allowed the future of gaming to benefit from their genius through usage of sprites. By definition, a sprite “is a type of “stand-alone” computer graphic element that has evolved along with modern computer graphics technologies” (Janssen 2018). Video game avatars are essentially sprites that are larger, have better graphics, and have more features.

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Video game avatars have been able to be created and enhanced over the years due to the various software that goes in to creating a video game. These software advancements have caught the attention of many for the future, like Fox Harrell, where he says “New technologies for creating empowering identity representations” (Harrell 2010). The future of these software and identities joining could tell companies about users and use it for economical advantage and improvements. Video game avatars are usually created in the same routine way across all gaming platforms. For instance, after unboxing a system and putting personal information in, the Wii and Xbox systems allow the user to create an avatar after the individual creates a username. After the username is created, the user typically is asked to create the face, being that it is the key to an individuals identity, then hair color, then body type, and the accessories and clothing. While users are asked to start with the face, systems do allow users to start wherever they want and proceed as they wish being that some people do not take the process of creating an avatar seriously, this allows those who are serious and not serious about creating an avatar to navigate freely, like Ryan Khosravi when he talks about the choice of creating an avatar seriously, saying that “some people want to make a character that looks badass or interesting, and some people just want to make something that resembles them” (Khosravi 2017). After creating an avatar, gamers can start gaming and show off their character.

References

Harrell, F. (2010, April 24). Identity And Online Avatars: A Discussion. Retrieved from https://kotaku.com/5523384/identity-and-online-avatars-a-discussion

History, U. (n.d.). Basketball. Retrieved from https://ultimatehistoryvideogames.jimdo.com/basketball/

Hotz, R. L. (2015, January 20). Practice Personalities: What an Avatar Can Teach You. Retrieved from https://www.wsj.com/articles/practice-personalities-what-an-avatar-can-teach-you-1421703480?ns=prod/accounts-wsj

Janssen, D. (n.d.). What is an Avatar? – Definition from Techopedia. Retrieved May 2, 2018, from https://www.techopedia.com/definition/4624/avatar

Janssen, D. (n.d.). What is a Sprite? – Definition from Techopedia. Retrieved May 2, 2018, from https://www.techopedia.com/definition/2046/sprite-computer-graphics

Khosravi, R. (n.d.). How Non-Binary Folks Navigate Creating Avatars In Video Games. Retrieved from https://intomore.com/culture/How-NonBinary-Folks-Navigate-Creating-Avatars-In-Video-Games/96ce009cb01140c3

Image Attribution: Image One: Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0) The image used in this post is in the Public Domain; Image Two: Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0) The image used in this post is in the Public Domain; Image three: Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0) The image used in this post is in the Public Domain

Written by Matthew Tancredi, 2018.

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.

 

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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

 

Citizen Journalism

Citizen Journalism is a grassroots movement in which average citizens, rather than trained/professional journalists, use the internet to relay information and stories. The term “citizen journalism” was created in the year 2000, according to the Salem Press Encyclopedia (Kivak 2016). This form of broadcasting became more popular as people felt a lot of important news was often being, “ignored by mainstream media,” (Kivak 2016). Technology as it is known today allows citizen journalists to share news easily and quickly. This is most often done in the form of blogs and social media posts.

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This image is a depiction of what a lot of citizen journalism looks like today. This is a fair use image as it is being used for educational purposes.

 

Although types of citizen journalism have existed in the United States since the beginning of the country’s time, it was not until the late 1990s that this style of broadcasting started to become popular. With the rise of popularity of the internet, citizen journalism had a place to grow and spread much more easily than ever before. This has led to a decrease in viewers for many customary media outlets (Kivak 2016) and caused more competition in the media world. The internet now contains “thousands of alternative news sites,” and millions of blogs (Kivak 2016). It is these sorts of networks that are competing with and changing the role of traditional journalism. With this, “it is estimated that there are 1.6 million new postings per day,” in the world of blogging (Huang 2007). That amount is constantly growing along with the number of blogs themselves.

Even with the rise of citizen journalism, there is skepticism that comes with it. Many people worry that, “non-professionals may not be considered as credible as professional journalists,” due to their lack of education on the matter (Kivak 2016). There is worry that many untrained journalists do not separate their bias from their news posts. Without the same amount of regulation as is required in traditional journalism, this prejudice is a possibility.

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This image represents citizen journalism in the form of social media. This is a fair use image as it is being used for educational purposes.

Not all forms of citizen journalism are news stories. It is common on social media, such as Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube, to see posts sharing an opinion, although still often on the topic of a current event. These ideas being shared can potentially spread new thoughts as the posts increase views, “globally and instantly on the Internet,” (Kivak 2016). This is one major motivation behind citizen journalism, average people having the opportunity to contribute their beliefs to the most recent events happening in the world.

Within citizen journalism, specifically blogging, it is more common to see a variety of types of articles. While social media posts often contain information about politics or current events, blogs vary a bit more. Bloggers five major motivations are, “self-expression, life documenting, commenting, forum participating, and information searching,” (Huang 2007). Blogs are also more likely to contain emotional and personal details. This information shows that within citizen journalism, there are many differing types of ideas being spread.

Despite the fact that citizen journalism has struggled to gain a ton of credibility, especially compared to traditional journalism, citizen journalism is building and growing trust. More large media outlets are creating their own blogs and incorporating citizen journalism into their workforce. Citizen journalism is a continuously growing phenomenon that allows expression of any person who has access to the internet.

 

 

Bibliography

Kivak, R. (2016). Citizen Journalism. Salem Press Encyclopedia. Retrieved from https://washcoll.idm.oclc.org/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=ers&AN=119214038&site=eds-live

Chun-Yao Huang, Yong-Zheng Shen, Hong-Xiang Lin, & Shin-Shin Chang. (2007). Bloggers’ Motivations and Behaviors: A Model. Journal of Advertising Research47(4), 472–484.

 

 

 

Written by Amy Luther, 2018.

Cultural Studies

Cultural Studies is an academic discipline stemming from the Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies. Cultural Studies has its roots in post-World War II Britain, beginning with the Centre’s formation in 1963 (Murphy, 1992).  Under a definition provided by the Center itself in early literature, Cultural Studies can be defined as “an interdisciplinary field which deals with all aspects of culture in relation to social, political and historical development and change” (Murphy, 1992, p. 35).

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University of Birmingham

According to academic Karma R. Chávez (2009), the Centre was established at the University of Birmingham, England under Raymond Williams and director Richard Hoggart, eventually to be succeeded by the Stuart Hall. Hall is often considered one of the most influential names within the field, as Chávez notes, “Under Hall’s leadership, the CCCS shifted its focus from ‘everyday’ cultures to an emphasis on the mass media and the ideological functions and effects of the media” (p. 2). Because of the political dynamic, as broadened and emphasized by Hall, Cultural Studies has continued to be a distinctly interventionist and political academic field, with critics like Frederic Jameson (1993) noting, “the Right seems to have understood that the project and the slogan of Cultural Studies (whatever that may be) constitutes a crucial target in its campaign and virtually a synonym for ‘political correctness’” (p. 17).

Cultural Studies as academic tradition “develops in direct relationship to the history of Marxism” as well as being greatly informed by “structuralist and poststructuralist” (Murphy, 1992, p. 33). The primarily functional means through which Cultural Studies engages with media is through what is known was textual analysis. As Chávez (2009) puts it, “in cultural studies, a text can refer to a written text, but it is more often used to refer to any artifact that requires reading or interpretation” (p. 4). As opposed to literary analysis, a text open for textual analysis can be any piece of media, from a musical album to a video game, but with the emphasis being placed primarily on pop cultural artifacts. Through textual analysis, questions of identities like class, gender, sexuality, and race can all be engaged with through a wide array of media.

Patrick 2Similarly, in a manner influenced by the fields sociological history, Cultural Studies can also encompass broader analysis of media trends. An example of this kind of Cultural Studies can be seen in Dick Hebdige’s Subculture: The Meaning of Style. In Subculture, Hebdige (1979) presents ways for looking at the political power of youth subcultures in England by observing communities like Black immigrants and white working-class punks, contextualizing their relationships within Marxist and sociological frameworks.

The methodological flexibility of Cultural Studies has, however, often been a point of criticism in other academic disciplines. Critics of the field like physicist Alan Sokal and literary critic Harold Bloom have criticized Cultural Studies as lacking a defined methodological approach and instead functioning as detrimental to other fields, like literary studies (Chávez, 2009). Even within Cultural Studies, academics like Marxist critic Frederic Jameson (1993) have to some degree criticized the emphasis on the theoretical as opposed to the practical within the field.  However, as Jameson also writes, if Cultural Studies is to “be seen as the expression of a projected alliance between various social groups, then its rigorous formulation as an intellectual or pedagogical enterprise may not be quite so important as some of its adherents feel,” as that the sense of shared dialectical purpose eclipses the necessity for uniformity (p.17). Cultural Studies remains an expanding interdisciplinary undertaking united by shared purpose rather than shared methodology, both to praise and detraction, externally and internally.

References

Chávez, K. (2009) Cultural studies. In S.W. Littlejohn and K.A. Foss (eds.), Encyclopedia of Communication Theory, 1-8. Thousand Oaks: SAGE Publications, Inc.

Hebdige, D. (1979). Subculture: The meaning of style. London: Routledge.

Jameson, F. (1993). On “cultural studies”. Social Text, (34), 17-52. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/466353

Murphy, P. (1992). Cultural studies as praxis: a working paper. College Literature, 19(2), 31-43. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/25111965

Image Attribution: Image 1 is in the public domain; Image 2 “The Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies” by Diane Griffiths, CC BY 2.0

Written by Patrick Lindsay, 2018

Cultural Theory

Culture theory is a concept created and published by Marxist theorist Raymond Williams. Williams published this theory in 1961 in his piece “The Long Revolution.” Williams’ culture theory was inspired by his curiosity in how the structure of feelings and culture/lifestyles changed from generation to generation in Britain.

Williams determined that it would be impossible to track culture change between generations by analyzing and comparing society as a whole at different times. Instead he chose to compare art and media and how they interacted in different periods. He determined that since media was a key site of cultural interaction in each generation it could be helpful in gauging the structure of feeling in each era. Williams theorized that to get a full picture of the cultural significance of media would need to be analyzed through three different, yet equally important cultural lenses: ideal, documentary, and societal culture of each piece.

The ideal culture of a piece of media is its representation of the process of human perfection, as well as the display of its realtion to absolute and universal values. Ideal culture manifests itself in media as the perceived values and behaviors a perfect individual would display in an equally perfect society. Due to the wealth and power relations related to perfection, especially in media, ideal culture is nearly exclusively apparent in media deemed to be ‘high culture.’ High culture media is typically defined as media that is exclusively available to the wealthy, expensive and difficult to interact with, and/or of a refined taste. Often art will originally lack high culture until an expert in the pieces field comes forward and declares that the piece is high culture. Due to this, a piece can originally lack ideal culture then over time obtain it.

Documentary culture refers to the way media is recorded, preserved, and displayed. Moreover, documentary culture refers to the criticism and reaction that media receives. Williams states that the documentary culture of a given piece of media is the longest lasting form of culture, because after the original carriers of the cultural opinions of a piece die, thee documentation remains. Documentary culture is normally reliant on what the experts in a field think the significance of a piece is, and how to best exemplify this significance. Because a piece can gain significance over time, as well as expert opinion can change, the documentary culture of a piece is subject to change.

Social culture is the third and final lens at which one will analyze a piece when using Williams’ culture theory. Social culture is the perception of a piece by the masses, and how society reacts to a piece of art or media. Social culture, like the previous two cultural lenses at which to view media, are subject to change over time.

It is essential when utilizing Raymond Williams’ culture theory to analyze all three types of a piece’s cultural significance to get a complete picture. No single piece of a piece’s cultural build up is more important than another, and all three lenses must be used and analyzed when applying culture theory. For example, a theorist cannot just analyze the documentary culture of a piece, or just the documentary and ideal culture of a piece. All three types of culture must be analyzed when utilizing Williams’ culture theory.

The final element of Williams’ culture is to analyze how each type of culture changes over time. Keep in mind that Williams’ inspiration for this theory was to analyze how the structure of feeling changes every generation. To utilize media to determine this, it is necessary to analyze how a piece’s ideal, documentary, and social culture changes over time. By analyzing enough pieces of media, one can notice and document trends amongst the cultural change in different media from one generation to the next. It is by analyzing these trends that theorists can determine a natural progression of structure of feeling from one generation to the next. Williams’ himself applied this theory to Britain and concluded that while one generations culture is derived and inspired by the structure of feeling of the prior generation, the structure of feeling of a generation is always significantly different and comes primarily from society at the time.

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A promotional image for an 1884 showing of Macbeth

Raymond William’s culture theory can be easily applied to the play Macbeth by William Shakespeare, as well as to the Eiffel Tower. Macbeth originally lacked an association with ideal culture. During it’s first showings, the play was considered anything but high culture, being viewed primarily by the lower classes. However, as the play has aged, it has been recognized by experts in the field of theater as a timeless work of art. The distinction by experts as one of the best plays of all time gave it prestige, propelling the play into the ranks of high culture. With it’s rise into high culture, it became sought out by the wealthy and upper class. This combination garnered the piece high culture status.

Through the lens of documentary culture, Macbeth was originally only documented through the actual performance of the play and on the pages in which they were written. These pages held little significance at the time. Now however, basically any document produced by Shakespeare, including Macbeth, is cherished, and displayed in the Folger Shakespeare Library. Lastly, attending Macbeth was a originally a cherished experience for the lower class. Today however, attending a play no longer bears as much significance to either the

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The Folger Shakespeare Library

upper or lower class, despite the level of prestige the play garners. Time has altered the structure of feeling for Macbeth.

At the time of its debut, the Eiffel Tower entirely lacked ideal culture; it was originally deemed architecturally uninspired and ugly. Now however, the Eiffel Tower is perceived as a beautiful structure on the Paris night sky, appreciated by architectural and art experts alike.

The documentation of the Eiffel Tower at first was completely negative. Almost all the documentation of the landmark was negative, calling for it to be torn down for scrap metal . Now however, the Eiffel Tower is adorning the front of postcards, magazines, and more. Experts agree that the Eiffel Tower was ahead of its time and is a beautiful, classic piece of art.

Finally, the social culture surrounding the Eiffel Tower was entirely negative (like the ideal and documentary culture). The people of Paris agreed that the landmark was Jacob3horrendous and a blemish to the beautiful skyline of their city. The Eiffel Tower has evolved to become a symbol of France, being widely accepted as beautiful and timeless by not only all of Paris, but by the whole world.

After analyzing more media by using Williams’ culture theory as done above, one will notice patterns and trends in the change in structure of feeling of these pieces of media. By connecting these trends and patterns, a theorist can script a conclusion about the change in structure of feeling of society itself across time.

References

Williams, R. (1961). The Long Revolution. Orchard Park: Broadview Press, pp. 57-70.

Image Attribution: Image 1 by Adrian Farewell under CC3; Image 2 by W.J. Morgan & Co. Lith under CC0; Image 3 Image under CC0 requiring no attribution

Written by Jacob Gonzalez, 2018

 

 

Culture Industries

In 1944, Theodore Adorno and Max Horkheimer published their article, “The Culture Industry: Enlightenment as Mass Deception.” This article introduced the world to the theory of culture industries from the Frankfurt School. Adorno and Horkheimer developed this theory from living in Nazi Germany, where they witnessed people unthinkingly conform to whatever roles the government prescribed. They also saw how U.S. culture was thriving in Europe. Both theorists saw blind subjugation authority as a danger to the general population; hence, they constructed the idea culture industries. This theory is still important and relevant to today’s communications and media scholars; it can apply to many situations in the everyday world.

According to Adorno and Horkheimer the culture industries have two defining characteristics: homogeneity and predictability. These two characteristics create the mass production of mass culture. This commercial marketing of culture is structured around human nature (Adorno & Horkheimer, 2002). It creates standardization among the masses to fit people’s ‘need and desires’ as directed by elites. By advising individuals of their wants and desires, elite systems in charge of the culture industries erase individualities. They then no longer have genuine experiences People cannot freely decide what brings them pleasure; they are told indirectly what they need and it is reinforced continuously. This creates what Adorno and Horkheimer call ‘social cement’ (Adorno & Horkheimer, 2002). ‘Social cement’ is when a person loses curiosity and passively accepts what is happening; people become so comfortable that they no longer wish question the elite system (Adorno & Horkheimer, 2002). When we believe the system is providing a choice of being an individual, this is a false choice (Adorno & Horkheimer, 2002), which has led us to believe we are unique. But, in effect, we are still promoting homogeneity and predictability. According to Adorno, this is present in popular music.

In his article, “On Popular Music,” Adorno differentiates ‘serious’ and ‘popular’ music. Adorno (1941) considers serious music as ‘highbrow,’ meaning a more refined taste, and popular music as “lowbrow,” meaning it is for simpler tastes or no tastes at all. To distinguish between serious music and popular music, Adorno uses the category of standardization. Standardization is the process that creates regularity and repetition (Witkin, 2003, p. 98). This constructs homogeneity among the masses as every song has the same formula in its length, range, themes, dances, and etcetera. (Adorno, 1941). Each song has the same elements that appeal to what masses seem to ‘want’ and think they are getting a variation of; but in reality, they are hearing the same song repeatedly.

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The Beatles land at JFK airport for their first U.S. visit in 1964.

This was prevalent during the British Invasion of 1964. Bands from England flew over to America gaining popularity quickly. These bands all had the same sound called the ‘Mersey Beat.’ This music was made by all-male groups. It had mixtures of early American Rock ‘n’ Roll from the 1950s with barely any influences from the Anglo-Celtic area (Schweitzer, 2018). The first band to “invade” was the Beatles. The band was made up of four members: John Lennon (lead guitar), Paul McCartney (rhythm guitar), George Harrison (bass), and Ringo Starr (drums). The band seemed ‘rebellious’ at the time as they were breaking the old mold of the music industry standards by not being professional musicians (Schweitzer, 2018). After seeing the Beatles perform so well with American audiences on the Ed Sullivan Show on February 7, 1964, many other ‘Mersey Beat’ groups followed in their footsteps (Schweitzer, 2018). The bands coming over to the United States included Gerry and the Pacemakers, The Hollies, and more. These bands did not copy the Beatles exactly, but developed very similar songs with lyrics and sound of the Fab Four (Schweitzer, 2018). Each band dressed the same and looked like the Beatles. They dressed in slick suits that matched the other band members in their groups and had the same haircuts. The music industry was using popular music, British Rock, to promote homogeneity and predictability among the mass fan culture that the British Invasion was creating in America.

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The band, Gerry and the Pacemakers, also came to America in 1964 from England looking and sounding like the Beatles.

Popular music, according to Adorno has many differences within its ‘details’ from serious music. Chord sequences, melodic themes, harmonies, rhythmic motifs, the breaks, blue notes, dirty notes, and many other sounds create the form (Adorno, 1941). Choruses will have 32 bars and are limited to one octave and one note (Adorno, 1941). Even when a song has a different construction, it will return to the same standardized pattern that was created by the elite system. Nothing new is actually introduced that affects how the song turns out (Adorno, 1941).

Adorno further sees popular music as a distraction, a type of ‘social cement.’ After working long hours, people want to escape the frenzy and boredom of life, so they turn to activities that provide amusement and diversions. In the culture industry, “commercial entertainment induces relaxation precisely because it is patterned and pre-digested” (Witkin, 2003, p. 106). It provides entertainment so people no longer need to create their own leisurely activities.  This creates a demand for standardized goods like popular music. This activity is “[molded] by the same mechanical, rationalized, disciplines that characterize the world of work” (Witkin, 2003, p. 107). Adorno believes the culture industries has hijacked society’s ‘leisure’ time so people are always under the system created for them and never have individual freedom (Witkin, 2003, p. 107). This in turn makes people yearn for individual freedom. They then seek to have their needs satisfied through things like popular music, but this creates the opposite of what was intended. The more people are stimulated by popular music, the higher the demand for the cycle of commercial interests under the culture industry.

Adorno argues that ‘high’ and ‘low’ cultures result in people turning to popular culture for their ‘guilty pleasures.’ People use these ‘guilty pleasures’ as a way to relax and escape their busy lives. He believes everyone deserves pleasure, but not in the way the culture industry provides as “a faint copy of pleasure disguised as the real thing; repetition disguised as an escape; a brief respite from [labor] disguised as luxury” (Hulatt, 2018). By giving society ‘guilty pleasures,’ the culture industry takes away individual freedom, as there is no place for imagination because it fortifies certain thought patterns. Popular culture is “a kind of training; it engages us in, and reinforces, certain patterns of thought and self-understanding that harm our ability to live as truly free people” (Hulatt, 2018). The only solution, according to Adorno, is to destroy both ‘high’ and ‘low’ culture (Hulatt, 2018). But, this is nearly impossible because the culture industry prevents society from realizing what opportunities it can seize.

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The set of The Voice is the same no matter what country it is in. The only thing that changes is the language used throughout.

A guilty pleasure of today is reality TV. It is considered ‘low’ culture, so people don’t normally share that they watch the show. Many television networks play reality tv in a variety of formats such as dating shows (The Bachelor/Bachelorette), competitions (The Voice), travel (Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous), and more. These shows are targeted at mass audiences to create homogeneity. Each show has a particular pattern of what it does, creating predictability. For example, The Voice, goes from auditions to a finale where one winner is selected by the audience every season and is signed to a record label to make an album.  The show has gained such a large audience many countries in the world have their own version of the show. It is mass produced around the world with the same results every time. People tune in every week and season to watch the show, even though it never changes. They never break their ‘social cement. Thus, the elite system continues to promote homogeneity and predictability.

Adorno and Horkheimer believe the world must be balanced to allow people to have a choice, something the culture industry does not provide. In this world of culture industry, people are exploited to promote homogeneity and predictability for profit and control. For Adorno, popular music was another product of the culture industry that suppressed spontaneity and creativity and constrained choice. This promotes the interests of the market over the individual and is toxic as it permits the suppression and manipulation of society.

References

Adorno, Theodore W., & Horkheimer, Max (2002). The Culture Industry: Enlightenment as Mass Deception. In Gunzelin Schmid Noerr (Ed.), Dialectic of Enlightenment (p. 94-136) (Edmund Jephcott, Trans.). Stanford, CA: Stanford University.

Hulatt, Owen (2018). Against Popular Culture. Nigel Warburton (Ed.), Aeon . Retrieved from https://aeon.co/essays/against-guilty-pleasures-adorno-on-the-crimes-of-pop-culture

Schweitzer, K. (2018). The British Invasion (Class Lecture). Chestertown, MD: Washington College, MUS 106.

Witkin, Robert W. (2003). On popular music. In John Urry (Ed.), Adorno and Popular Culture (p. 98-115). New York, NY: Routledge. Retrieved from http://www.verlaine.pro.br/txt/witkin-adorno-pop-culture.pdf

Image Attributions: “The Beatles in America” by United Press International (cc: Public Domain); “Gerry and the Pacemakers group photo” by Paul Schumach, Metropolitan Photo Service, New York City (cc: Public Domain); “The Voice” by Alatele fr, Licensed under ShareAlike 2.0 (CC BY_SA 2.0). https://www.flickr.com/photos/130163120@N03/16485765766

Written by Jillian Horaneck, 2018

Digital Blackface

Digital blackface is a term that describes types of minstrel performances in which individuals embody blackness through GIFs and memes available, and enabled, through the anonymity of the internet.  Reaction GIFs and memes rely on excessive expressions of emotion which are associated with stereotypical displays of blackness.

MckaylaMinstrel performances date back to the early 19th century when performers would “blacken” themselves to play black caricatures, exaggerating behavior, facial features, and expressions as a form of entertainment (BBC News, 2017).  While minstrel performance is associated with a distant past, variations of minstrelsy continue to evolve on social media, television, and film.  Internet minstrelsy relies on the anonymity and deregulation of the internet to embody blackness without consequence, often taking the form of unauthentic profile photos and grammatically incorrect African American Vernacular English (AAVE) rather than physical alterations (Jackson, 2014).

As a variation of internet minstrelsy, digital blackface allows users to embody blackness without physical alterations or changes in identity.  This typically takes form through an excessive use of GIFs with images of black people as the performer (Jackson, 2017).  Reaction GIFs, specifically, are used in situations that may not necessarily require a verbal response, but rather an emotive one.  Some of the most well-known reaction GIFs include Donald Glover walking into a garbage fire, rapper Conceited pursing his lips anddownload giving a side-eye, and various others that rely on the physical reaction to situations through facial expressions and behavior.  While GIFs and memes are used for entertainment, it is significant that black images are overwhelmingly popular when searching for emotional and behavioral reactions.  Reminiscent of the minstrel performances of the 19th century, digital blackface perpetuates cultural stereotypes of excessiveness.

GIFs do not exist in a deracialized vacuum, but instead are cultural products built on the simultaneous marginalization and infatuation of blackness.  Digital blackface is a byproduct of the reality black people face in today’s society.  Many GIFs and memes emerge from moments of trauma and hardship of black experiences (Orr, 2016).  The “ain’t nobody got time for that” GIF which is now used by students stressing during finals week or someone who couldn’t be bothered by drama, was originally a news segment of woman whose apartment complex had caught fire (Jackson, 2014).  The resignification of black trauma as entertainment also takes shape through remixed soundbites.  The Netflix series The Unbreakable Kimmy Schimdt remixes a witness interview into their theme song, making sure to include the voice inflictions and facial expressions of the black man being interviewed (Orr, 2016).

The viral sensation surrounding digital blackface is not merely a form of expressing excessive emotions, but also a sardonic satire on the lived experiences of black people.  Black images are clearly popular when searching for reaction GIFs as a way to display an excessive emotion, but that is not the only moment when their emotions are evaluated.  The current sociopolitical climate associates black people with excessive behaviors, regardless of a GIF reaction or reality.  The Black Lives Matter movement, brought to a head during a media storm on police brutality, situates the experiences of black people as more than a form of entertainment (Jackson, 2017).  Their own reactions can get them killed no matter how “excessive,” and yet they are used to for someone on the internet to complain about finals.

References

[BBC News]. (2017, August 15). Is it OK to use black emojis and gifs?-BBC News [Video File]. Retrieved on April 29, 2018 from http://youtube.com

Jackson, L. M. (2017, August 2). We Need to Talk About Digital Blackface in GIFs. Retrieved on April 26, 2018 from http://teenvogue.com

Jackson, L. M. (2014, August 28). Memes and Misogynoir. Retrieved on April 28, 2018 from http://theawl.com

Orr, N. (2016, April 14). Black Trauma Remixed for Your Clicks. Retrieved on April 28, 2018 from http://buzzfeed.com

Image Attribution:  The image used in this post is in the Public Domain.

Written by McKayla Gamino, 2018.

Encoding/Decoding

Hannha 1The encoding/decoding model of communication is a system that describes how media messages are produced, circulated, and consumed by people in society. The model was developed by Stuart Hall, a cultural studies scholar and theorist, in 1973. Hall was an influential member of the Birmingham School and his creation of encoding and decoding has made a major impact on media studies. The main idea of encoding and decoding is that there is a break between the production of a message (encoding) and its reception by a person or a group (decoding). The model is represented by a circuit in which the producer or encoder frames (encodes) the meaning of the message in a certain way. Then, the readers or decoders, receive this message and understand (decode) it according to their culture, positionality (the specific conditions that help create and mold an individual’s position on any matter of topic, whether social, political, cultural, economic, etc.), and/or frame of perception.

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The circuit of encoding/decoding

The circuit begins with the construction of a message and a program is produced by “The institutional structures of broadcasting, with their practices and networks of production, their organized relations and technical infrastructures” (Hall, 1977/1980). The technical infrastructure, the relations of production, and the frameworks of knowledge taken to develop a “meaning structures 1,” is where the message is encoded into meaningful discourse. But, for the message to “have an ‘effect’(however defined), satisfy a ‘need’ or be put to a ‘use,’ it must first be appropriated as a meaningful discourse and be meaningfully decoded” (Hall, 1977/1980). The decoded meanings have an “effect,” bringing the circuit to meaning structures 2 (which is allowed to be different from meaning structures 1). A message is developed and, because of its decoding, become redefined in technical infrastructure, relations of production, and frameworks of knowledge. Then, the whole cycle begins again.

Hall’s concepts of encoding and decoding argue that a message’s meaning cannot be fixed by the sender. Essentially, the interpretation of an encoder’s message is ever-changing depending on the demographics of the decoder. Hall’s argument takes into account different people’s responses to situations and how these differences can affect the interpretation of a message. Hall established three positions when decoding a text— dominant, negotiated, and oppositional— that can be observed in the film Top Gun (Tony Scott, 1986). Before one can analyze the scene, one should familiarize themselves with the definition of Hall’s three positions: A reader takes a dominant position when they fully share the text’s code and accept and reproduce the preferred reading or original intention of the message. A negotiated position is one where the reader partly shares the text’s code and broadly accepts the preferred reading. During this negotiation of meaning, readers also sometimes resist and change a message’s original intent in a way that reflects and is most suited to their positionality. An oppositional position is one where the reader’s positionality puts them in direct opposition to the dominant code. Although these readers are still able to understand the preferred reading, they reject it.

These positions can be applied to the volleyball scene in the film Top Gun (Tony Scott, 1986). A dominant interpretation would be if the reader understood the scene to be a competitive game of volleyball between Maverick and Iceman. A negotiated interpretation would be if the reader understood the scene to be a competitive volleyball game but did not understand how it fit into the movie’s frame. Finally, an oppositional interpretation involves viewing the scene as homoerotic, a perception that is popular among members of the gay community. For example, men flexing their oiled bodies and making noises, while Kenny Loggins’ “Playing with the Boys” (1986) plays in the background– suggests a sexualization of male bodies to the gay community based on their positionality as homosexual men.

First year Chinese college students are taught the English language by listening to American music. However, Christian Z. Goering and Huang Wei, the authors of the article “Playback and Feedback: Revelations of an ‘Encoding, Decoding’ Analysis of Popular Songs Used to Teach English in China, found that they did not know the songs that were listed in the curriculum. Their article examines the difference between American Pop and the American music from the curriculum and come to the conclusion that if more emblematic songs were used, the students would have a more beneficial experience in learning the English language: “the exposure to different types of songs (encoding), may create a different outcome (decoding) for language learners” (Goering & Wei, 2014). Their study concluded that “Of these randomly selected songs, none are seemingly a natural fit for language instruction in China, each a compromise of positive and not-so-positive attributes” (Goering & Wei, 2014), meaning that the songs mainly classified into a negotiated position based on Hall’s model.

References

Goering, C.Z., & Wei, H. (2014). Playback and Feedback: Revelations of an “Encoding, Decoding” Analysis of Popular Songs Used to Teach English in China. The Clearing          House, 87, 270-277.

Hall, S. (2007). Encoding, decoding. In S. During (Ed.), The Cultural Studies Reader (pp. 90- 103). London and New York: Routledge.

Kozma, A. (2018). Cultural Studies / The Birmingham School [PowerPoint slides].

Image Attribution: Image 1 Free Art License 1.3 and Image 2 CC0 Creative Commons.

Written by Hannah Sauer, 2018.

Film Exhibition

Film exhibition, or the act of showing a film, has changed drastically over time in the United States. It began after the fall of the Edison trust and the Motion Picture Patents Company. With these institutions out of the way, theater were then allowed to expand on

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 Projection room from a theater in Alabama, 1933

their own. This expansion began with the 1910’s with movie theaters known as “nickelodeons”, named after the charge to get in, a nickel (Campell et al., 2017)(Thomas, 1961). These theaters, such as the little theater opened by Henry Davis and John P. Harris in 1905, originally showed short films like The Great Train Robbery (Allen, 1979).

These theaters would evolve over time to become movie palaces in the 1920s. Movie palaces were large, elaborately decorated movie theaters, and they lasted for about thirty years, only to change again into the ever-popular drive in theaters in the 1950s.

Drive in theaters, on their most simple level, were outdoor theaters that allowed moviegoers to literally drive up to the screen to watch the movie that was being exhibited. This new structure of theater allowed people who could not attend previous movie theaters to watch film. Those who could not previously attend included those with physical disabilities or who lacked the social class to attend theaters (Taylor, 1948). This popular theater format would last for approximately twenty years, cordelia 2and eventually change again into grindhouses in the 1970s. These new theaters focused mainly on exhibiting exploitation films, and would not last very long. Today, we mostly have mall theaters (began around 1980s) and megaplexes (1990s to mid 2000’s). AMC is one of the largest megaplex chains in the united states (Lieberman, 2016).

References:

Allen, R. (1979). Motion Picture Exhibition in Manhattan 1906-1912: Beyond the Nickelodeon. Cinema Journal, 18(2), 2-15. doi:10.2307/1225438

Campbell, R., Martin, C. R., & Fabos, B (2017). Media & Culture: Mass Communication in a  Digital Age 11th Edition. Boston and New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s.

Lieberman, D. (2016, August 31). AMC Theaters Plans Switch To Reserved Seating At All Manhattan Venues. Retrieved from http://deadline.com/2016/08/amc-theaters-plans-switch-reserved-seating-all-manhattan-venues-1201811690/

Taylor S. H., “The Drive-In Theater,” in Journal of the Society of Motion Picture Engineers, vol. 50, no. 4, pp. 337-343, April 1948.doi: 10.5594/J11779

Thomas, J. (1971). The Decay of the Motion Picture Patents Company. Cinema Journal, 10(2), 34-40. doi:10.2307/1225236

Image attribution: Image 1 public domain, Image 2 CC BY-SA 4.0; The Great Train Robbery public domain

Written by Cordelia Faass, 2018

 

Frankfurt School

The Frankfurt School is unique in comparison to other communication and media studies schools in that it is the result of a culmination of many different subject materials and areas of study. Ultimately, the Frankfurt School approach is the combination of such subjects as social and critical theory, philosophy, economics, psychoanalysis, and Marxism (McLaughlin 1999). At its most basic level, the Frankfurt School strives to stimulate social change, and uses critical theory as its means of doing so.

This school of thought was first born at the Frankfurt Institute for Social Research in theEmily 1 late 1920s and early 30s. It was at this time that Max Horkheimer was the director of the institute and set the groundwork for this school of thought. Many philosophers, economists, and psychoanalysts worked in collaboration on this school and its values, including Theodor W. Adorno, Friedrich Pollock, and Walter Benjamin. These gentleman were largely inspired by theories of Karl Marx (pictured right), and relied heavily on his piece of writing Critique of Political Economy in outlining their values (Wellmer 2014).

Along with the Frankfurt School of thought, the practice of critical theory was born, and is quite possibly the largest contribution of this particular school. Critical theory examined the state of society, especially the relationship between members of the proletariat and bourgeoisie, and identified the ways in which members of lower classes were exploited. What separates critical theory from other schools and methods of analysis is that its ultimate goal is the liberation of humans and the construction of a new and better society in which all people have equal and fair opportunities for developing themselves. Emily 2In addition, this school of thought recognizes and promotes the idea that in order to obtain such a society there is a necessity for struggle and trials which must be overcome. The main journal of this institute is titled Studies in Philosophy and Social Science (Wellmer 2014).

With the emergence of World War II, however, the work of this school was briefly put on halt. In 1933 Nazis forcefully closed down the institute. In order to keep things running, Horkheimer hid the funds from the Nazis and reestablished the Frankfurt school in New York City (Wellmer 2004). This move to America allowed the Frankfurt school to spread its ideals and bring its German intellectual traditions across the ocean to other parts of the world (McLaughlin 1999). At the conclusion of World War II Horkheimer then moved the school back home to Frankfurt.

Horkheimer was a largely influential member of the Frankfurt School. He hoped that his studies and the development of critical theory would lead to the organization of a society which would move beyond the contradictions and divides caused by capitalist structures of private property. It was his belief that the production of commodity had become a challenging obstacle in the journey of human progress (Wellmer 2014).

One of the most influential scholars of the Frankfurt School was Walter Benjamin. In his essay, “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction” he discusses how works of art can be a significant tool in overcoming the looming threat of capitalism. He first critiques capitalism, saying that it mainly exploits the proletariat and members of the lower class. Benjamin then goes on to describe how reproductions of art can be used to overcome this. By reproducing works of art, that art then becomes more available to the general public, thus, eliminating the elitism which it once had and removing its reservation as something available only to those of the upper-class. This, he believed, was one possible method through which we could begin to modify society and make it a place for people of all social standings (Benjamin 1969).

References

Benjamin, W. (1969). The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction. Schocken Books, 217-251.

McLaughlin, N. (1999). Origin Myths in the Social Sciences: Fromm, the Frankfurt School and the Emergence of Critical Theory. The Canadian Journal of Sociology, 24(1), 109-139.

Wellmer, A. (2014). On Critical Theory. Social Research, 81(3), 705-733. Doi: 10.1353/sor.2014.0045

Image attribution: Both images used in this post are within the public domain

Written by Emily Kreider, 2018

GamerGate

The GamerGate controversy was a misogynistic firestorm concerning sexism in gaming culture that began in 2014 (Campbell 2017, Martin 2017, Fabos 2017) when computer programmer Eron Gjoni claimed that his ex-girlfriend, game designer Zoe Quinn, cheated on him with a writer at Kotaku, a well-known gamers’ website (Campbell 2017, Martin 2017, Fabos 2017).

Hundreds of male gamers began attacking Quinn with anonymous threats (Lotte 2016). This became a global act of misogyny and high-profile women in the gaming industry across the world were all facing online threats and attacks, especially over Twitter (Lotte 2016).

When Anita Sarkeesian, a feminist cultural critic and one of the targeted women, spoke out against the deeper gender problem in gaming culture (Barr 2016), she found herself the victim of doxing, meaning that her personal and private information was made public (Campbell 2017, Martin 2017, Fabos 2017).

Other high-profile women included game developer Brianna Wu and journalists Katherine Cross and Maddy Myers (Campbell 2017, Martin 2017, Fabos 2017). They also found themselves victims of swatting, which is where someone calls in an anonymous tip to the police so that the place where the victim lives can be raided by a SWAT team (Campbell 2017, Martin 2017, Fabos 2017).

Many of the victims had to leave their homes after their addresses were leaked online because they received threats where they lived (Lotte 2016). The GamerGate campaign was coordinated in the online forums of Reddit, 4chan, and 8chan in an anonymous movement that ultimately came to be represented by the Twitter hashtag #gamergate (Moore, 2014). The harassment included threats of rape, death threats and the threat of a mass shooting at a university speaking event (Lotte 2016). During this time, the mainstream gaming news media was ignoring the misogyny of GamerGate (Barr 2016).

This blatant disregard for the misogynistic attacks can perhaps be attributed to how the presence of women in the digital media landscape is viewed as threatening to the idea of a masculine gamer (Lotte 2016). When it comes to redefining the gamer identity (Barr 2016), too many people conflate this identity with the outdated notion that white, heterosexual teenage boys are the only gamers allowed (Barr 2016). The current gaming culture climate is still deeply affected by the gender problem that helped cause the global controversy that is GamerGate, but women all over the world are coming together against misogynistic attackers to ensure change in the digital gaming industry (Campbell 2017, Martin 2017, Fabos 2017).

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The picture on the above (Moore, 2014) tracks the use of the GamerGate hashtag on twitter on November 26, 2014 alone. Clearly, the hashtag was used by people all over the world, and this picture can be used to analyze how the different social media platforms, mainly Twitter, used a hashtag to spread their misogynistic vitriol. The picture that follows (Murphy, 2015) is a photo of Brianna Wu, a video game developer who faced GamerGate threats. Here she is leading a presentation detailing the issues within the gaming industry and the impact of GamerGate.

gg2

 

References

Campbell, R., Martin, C. R., & Fabos, B (2017). Media & Culture: Mass Communication in a Digital Age 11th Edition. Boston and New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s.

Lotte Vermeulen, Mariek Vanden Abeele, & Sofie Van Bauwel. (2016). A Gendered Identity Debate in Digital Game Culture. Press Start, Vol 3, Iss 1, Pp 1-16 (2016), (1), 1.

Matthew Barr, Landon Kyle Berry, Mahli-Ann Butt, Daniel Joseph Dunne, Charlie Ecenbarger, Sarah Beth Evans, … Lars de Wildt. (2016). Editorial: Negotiating Gamer Identities. Press Start, Vol 3, Iss 1 (2016), (1).

Moore, Chris. (2014, December 1). Twitter hashtag #gamergate 26/11/2014.

Murphy, William. (2015, June 19). Brianna Wu [Video Game Developer] REF-105734.

 

Image attribution

The images used in this post are for education purposes.

 

 

Written by MB Spargo, 2018.

Gender Trouble

The lines between the perceived genders of male and female get blurred every day. This is how gender trouble is created. Judith Butler’s idea of gender trouble is that gender is not natural. Instead, gender is performative and when it is performed out of bounds this creates gender trouble (Butler, 1990). Media is a place where the bounds of gender can be blurred and provide alternative means to the construction of gender.

The term gender trouble was coined in 1990 by Judith Butler’s book Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity. Butler is a philosopher primarily concerned with the constructions of gender (Butler, 1990). Although the concept of gender trouble did not have a name until 1990, its existence started long before. There is plenty of evidence of men and women performing outside of gender bounds. Much like the cross-dressing actors in the Shakespearian era, gender has always been performative. In one essay regarding gender trouble in early modern England, it says “Whether in real life or in literature… cross-dressing involved struggle, resistance, and subversion, as well as modification, recuperation and containment of the system of gendered patriarchal domination” (Cressy, 1996, p. 438). This shows how the lines of gender were being blurred long before Butler coined a term for it. The struggle relates to the trouble that performing gender outside of the bounds. Trouble in this case is not a negative and can be used to foster diversity.

In a more modern sense, gender trouble can be thought of through the work of Betty Friedan. Friedan wrote in the 1960’s about how women had a need to break their gender roles. During this time, women were expected to stay a home and care for the children, their husband and the house. This left many women deeply unfilled but unsure as to the

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1960’s Housewife

reason why they felt like this. Friedan called it “the problem that has no name” (Friedan, 1963, p.34).  This idea illustrates how women were unhappy with the gender expectations placed upon them. They were performing gender as they were expected to in the form of subservient housewives. The solution here was to reject this role and specific performance of what it means to be a woman. These women of the 1960’s could then enact gender trouble if they left the house and got jobs. This was rejecting the expected performance of gender and enacting a blend of feminine and masculine gender roles.

Around the time that the term gender trouble was developed, feminist theories included postfeminism and third-wave feminism. Postfeminists support the idea that gender equality has been reached (Laughey, 2007). If this was the case, gender trouble would not exist because no ‘trouble’ would be created by performing out of bounds. Third-wave feminists are concerned with intersectionality which helps include minority women who were being left out of the feminist narrative (Laughey, 2007). Like intersectionality, Butler is concerned with the multifactorial connections that make up a person. For gender trouble, Butler is most interested in the multifactorial connections that make up gender identity instead of total identity.

There are two main tenants to Butler’s theory of gender trouble. The first is that gender is not natural and the second is that gender is performative. Where the ‘trouble’ comes in is when someone is performing outside the expectations of one’s gender. Butler theorizes that the biological differences would mean nothing without the social constructions of what it means to be male versus female (Butler, 1990). Society places expectations of femininity and masculinity. If someone’s gender presentation does not meet the expectations that go with their assigned biological sex, then they are performing outside the bounds of gender expectation. Everyone is performing gender but some are troubled. By continuing to act out gender, this is how gender has meaning, not because of any biological difference. Some examples of people whose gender performances trouble gender are transgender individuals (Laughey, 2007).

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Jazz Jennings at a Pride parade

A case of a transgender individual is Jazz Jennings who is a young trans activist and TLC reality television star. In her show I am Jazz, she addresses her everyday issues of being transgender and growing up. Jazz openly talks about the bullying she experiences as a trans individual. The show is a platform for her gender performance and depicts her as an average teenage girl (“I am Jazz,” n.d.). This helps fight against heteronormativity. Transgender individuals like Jennings illustrate how gender is subjective and can be performed in a multitude of ways. The fact that Jennings is biologically male would mean nothing without gender constructions. It is up to the individual to perform gender in their own way.

In looking how gender has been performed in the past and what theories surrounding feminism were present during this time, it is important to understand not only how gender is constructed but how it is represented in the media. The types of people enacting gender trouble are not often represented in media. There is currently gender trouble present in media sources such as television shows like as I am Jazz. Without the theory of gender trouble there would not be examples of people breaking gender expectations in television. One example of this is in a Disney television series called Star vs. the Forces of Evil.

In an episode of Star vs. the Forces of Evil male character Marco dresses up like a princess. The disguise is to go under cover in a princess school. The show takes a surprising turn by not making fun of him for acting feminine. The other characters also do not conclude that he can’t be a princess because he is a boy when his gender is revealed. The other princesses decided that anyone can be a princess if they choose to be regardless of gender. This demonstrates how a main stream media platform like Disney can show the interruption of gender expectations. Marco performs femininity in the episode but goes back to his more masculine self at the end of the episode. Other characters accept either version of Marco (Piluso, 2015). This change in performance of gender supports Butler’s theory that gender is not natural. The only reason there are such distinctions are because we choose to enact them. This example illustrates that gender is not fixed and what can happen when performing out of bounds.

An evolution of Butler’s gender trouble can be seen in today’s drag. Without the concept of gender trouble there would be no drag. Drag queens embody gender trouble. They put

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RuPaul’s Drag Race contestant, and winner, Bianca Del Rio

on a different persona and appearance to perform a feminine gender that is different from their assigned gender of male. These drag queens are celebrated through media such as RuPaul’s Drag Race which is a drag queen competition that has been airing on television since 2009 (Wortham, 2018). These queens show gender fluidity by performing as women on the stage and men off the stage. Both personas are still a part of who they are and differ from an actor playing a part.

One essay looking at drag queens investigated how drag performances can serve social change. The researchers for this essay conversed with audience member after they went to a drag show in Key West, Florida. One drag queen was asked about one of the performances, saying that “leaving on the wig and makeup confounds people. It baffles them and it does make them think” (Taylor & Rupp, 2005, p. 2129). This illustrates how drag can make people question gender roles by creating a staged performance of a certain gender. Drag queens enact the stereotypes of female gender by having dramatic makeup, big hair and fanciful costumes. However, they blur these lines by being men enacting this performance and having both more masculine out of drag persona and in drag persona as part of their identity.

Butler’s theory of gender trouble can give a name to the struggling concept of how gender is constructed and how it can be performed. It is an ever-present theme going back to Shakespearian era (Cressy, 1996). Butler’s theory that gender is only naturalized because of social constructions aligns with how the lines of gender are blurred in various accounts of media (Butler, 1990). Further representation in media for non-conforming gender performance would create greater diversity. These representations could give voice to those who are not shown in the main stream media and are looking for someone like them in the media that they consume.

References

Butler, J (1990). Gender trouble: Feminism and the subversion of identity. New York, NY: Routledge

Cressy, D. (1996). Gender Trouble and Cross-Dressing in Early Modern England. Journal of British Studies, 35(4), 438-465. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/176000

Laughey, D. (2007). Feminisms and gender. In Key themes in media theory (pp. 100-121). New York, NY: Open University Press.

Piluso, P. (Writer), & Piluso, P. (Director). (2015). St. Olga’s reform school for wayward princesses [Television series episode]. In A. Hammersley (Producer), Star vs. the forces of evil. United States: Disney Television Animation

Taylor, V., & Rupp, L. (2005). When the Girls Are Men: Negotiating Gender and Sexual Dynamics in a Study of Drag Queens. Signs,30(4), 2115-2139. doi:10.1086/428421

TLC. (n.d.). I am jazz. Retrieved from https://www.tlc.com/tv-shows/i-am-jazz/about

Wortham, J. (2018, January 26). Is rupaul’s drag race the most radical show on tv. The New York Times Magazine. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/24/magazine/is-rupauls-drag-race-the-most-radical-show-on-tv.html

Image Attribution: “1960’s Housewife” by Pixabay in the Public Domain; “Jazz Jennings at Pride Parade” by Wikimedia Commons licensed under CC BY 2.0; “Bianca Del Rio” by Wikipedia licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

Written by Casey Wolhar, 2018

Golden Age of Hollywood

The Golden Age of Hollywood began roughly in 1915 in Hollywood California, and lasted until its eventual decline during the post-World War II era. During this time Hollywood and the films, it produced underwent a drastic evolution which resulted in the development of a “Hollywood style”, technological innovation, fame for actors and actresses, and film becoming the single mass medium of the period. The success and prosperity of the film industry during the Golden Age of Hollywood is unrivaled throughout time.

Veronica 1The Golden Age of Hollywood emerged in part out of the studio system that developed during the early 20th century.  Hollywood’s studio system allowed for film to become a major industry and the dominant mass medium of its time. Hollywood’s studio system established the vertical integration of the film making process and turned the film industry into an oligopoly.  Subsequently, the film industry became dominated by a small number of studios known as the Big Five.  These studios included Paramount, MGM, Warner Brothers, Twentieth Century Fox and RKO.   Three other studios known as the Little Three were able to maintain relevance but did not maintain a vertical integration model of operation. These studios were Columbia, Universal and United Artists (Campbell).

The Golden Age of Hollywood was a time in which more movies were produced each year than at any other time in history.  However, this era is most importantly known for being the time in which Hollywood developed its own style that eventually became a standard for cinema globally. The three components to the Hollywood style involve the narrative, which includes the story and how the story is told.  The genre, which is a category that the narrative would fit into.  Some of the popular genres of the time included comedy, adventure, action, thriller/ horror and musical.  And finally, the authors, or the directors whom are credited to be the primary authors of the film.  This style of film making emerged during the Golden Age of Hollywood and ultimately served as a model for cinema globally (Campbell).

Part of one of the distinguishing factors of the Golden Age of Hollywood is the technological advances that occurred during this time.  Film became popular among American audiences during the early 20th century during the silent film era.  However, as audiences grew, so did interest in creating new technologies to improve the quality of motion picture.  One of the most progressive technological advancements to film was synchronized sound (Salem).  Warner Brothers Studios led the way for this technological advancement with their break through film The Singing Fool (1928) which established synchronized sound as the next best innovation for film.  The synchronization of sound to moving pictures increased movie audiences dramatically (Campbell).

Other technological advancements during the time that contributed to the success of films during the Golden Age of Hollywood were special effects and color.  Special effects in the first half of the 20th century was mostly rare and crude.  However, when a movie did possess quality special effects, it was received greatly be audiences.  The film King Kong (1933), was a film revered for its special effect during the time.  Color also was a major innovation of its time.  The Technicolor Corporation began working and developing color photography and projection by 1915 but did not improve and perfect it until the late 1930s with the release of Gone with the Wind (1939).

The film industry ironically flourished during one of America’s most troubling periods, The Great Depression. Despite the economic turmoil of the nation, both upper and lower-class Americans flocked to movie theaters to watch feature films, while industry was releasing record high quantities of films.  This in part has to do with the fact that during this time, film was the most affordable form of entertainment for Americans, which allowed it to become an unrivaled mass medium.  People began to use films as a way to escape their unfortunate realities in life and watch movies that portrayed happiness and American values (Salem).

Veronica 2Actors and actresses became influential figures during the Golden Age of Hollywood.  For example, Mary Pickford was an actress that acted in numerous films and eventually earned herself the reputation of “Americas Sweetheart” (Campbell) and people began to invest their own interest in in her personal life and waited on lines to see her films.  Her influence and fame grew so extensively that she even earned higher wages for acting in films. Other influential actors and actresses of this time included Claudette Colbert, Clark Gable, Greta Gable Chico Marx and Harpo Marx (Salem).  These people began to acquire fame at both national and international levels.

References

Martin, C. R., & Fabos, B. (2017). Movies and the Impact of Images. In R. Campbell (Author), Media and Culture: Mass Communication in a Digital Age (11th ed., pp. 221-234). Boston, MA: Bedford/St. Martins, Macmillan Learning.

“Hollywood Enters Its Golden Age.” Great Events from History: The Twentieth Century (Online Edition). Salem Press. 2013.

Image Attributions: “Montage of Golden Age” Henry B. Goodwin et. al Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0); “RKO” by Insomia Cured Here Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Written by Veronica Washington, 2018

Harold Laswell

Josh 1Harold Dwight Lasswell Was born on February 13, 1902 and died December 18, 1978. Over the course of his life “he authored more than 30 books and 250 scholarly articles” (The Editors of Encyclopedia Britannica) and made major contributions to disciplines such as Political Science, Legal Education, and Communications.

Following his undergraduate studies in philosophy and economics in 1922 and his Ph.D. in 1926 – both from the University of Chicago – Lasswell to time to study in the summers at the Universities of London, Geneva, Paris, and Berlin (The Editors of Encyclopedia Britannica). In his early career he taught Political Science at the University of Chicago until 1938 and briefly served at the Washington School of Psychiatry before taking up the post as director of war communications research at the U.S. Library of Congress in the build-up and through the participation in World War II. After the ware he went to Yale University and served in various capacities there until the 1970s. During his life he was a visiting lecturer at campuses around the world and was a consultant to U.S. government agencies when needed (The Editors of Encyclopedia Britannica).

Over the course of Lasswell’s career he crossed different disciplines to answer his questions about the way the world works, and specifically in communications much of his work was shaped by the events of his time. World War II caused His focus within the field was on the effects of media and cognition, within which he specifically focused on the effects of propaganda as a media technique. This involved a focus on the intersection of social/political variables in the construction of power.

His most famous work was produced during his time at the University of Chicago, was entitled Propaganda Technique in the World War (1927). This, “dispassionate description and analysis of the massive propaganda campaigns conducted by all the major belligerents in World War I (Smith).” So, how does it work? Lasswell breaks propaganda specifically down into four different modes of persuasion. Deception, manipulation, fear, and emotional persuasion. He also identified that with the rise in prevalence of mass media, that war was now fought on three fronts, military, economic, and propaganda. Essentially, who could better rally their populations around a flag?

In concert with his study of propaganda, Lasswell developed his own model of communication (also known as action model, linear mode, or the one-way model of communication) which is regarded as one of the most influential communication models to date (Bajracharya, 2018) and survives him as his largest single contribution to the field of communications. This model answers the seemingly elementary question of “Who says what to whom with what effect (Gordon)?” His other works were also widely influential as topics such as propaganda had little been studied before his time and most definitely never on the scale of being able to look at both sides of a major conflict so clearly. Throughout his life Lasswell contributed many groundbreaking models and theories to a spectrum of academic disciplines, and while most of these models are now foundational or simply out-of-date Lasswell is still respected as one of the most creative and influential scholars of his time.

References

Bajracharya, S. (2018, February 15). Lasswell’s Communication Model. Retrieved from https://www.businesstopia.net/communication/lasswell-communication-model

Britannica, T. E. (2016, September 28). Harold Lasswell. Retrieved from https://www.britannica.com/biography/Harold-Lasswell

Gordon, G. N. (2016, August 17). Communication. Retrieved from https://www.britannica.com/topic/communication#ref383997

Image Attribution: Manuscripts & Archives, Yale University Library Produced for reference use only. (mssa.img.010635)

Written by Josh Peterson, 2018

Heteronormativity

Isaiah 1During the second wave in the 1970s, feminists closed in on what could possibly be the source of women’s oppression (Ingraham, 2017). Chrys Ingraham elaborated on the theory feminists proposed during this time to what is the central fountainhead of women’s oppression :heteronormativity. Ingraham summarizes what most feminists during this time period understood heteronormativity. She states, “They maintain that heterosexuality is really a normalized power arrangement that limits options and privileges men over women and reinforces and naturalizes male dominance” (Ingraham, 2017). Meaning, heteronormativity is a force that reinforces stereotypes about women essentially aiding the fallacy superiority of men over women in all social aspects of life. Heteronormativity forces society to believe that heterosexual behavior is  ‘right’ or ‘normal’ behavior and anything other should not be accepted.

Due to the various social structures such as religion, historically, has inflicted fear into Isaiah 2the lives of those who identify as a part of the LGBTQ+ community. Many notions of being non-heterosexual as deviant had been moving throughout our social systems for generations. Globally, many ritual practices were passed down from our collective ancestors and are still practiced today. Weddings are ritual practices viewed as a contributor to the furthering  oppression amongst both women and members of the LGBTQ+ community. The roles used in weddings comes with gender specific aspects that hold people to specific standards if they wish to practice the ritual. For example, the husband must be a man and the wife must be a woman, and both parties have to follow cis-gendered norms. These norms include wearing a suite for the man and wearing a bridal dress for the woman. One article by the name of “Remaking the White Wedding? Same-Sex Wedding Photographs’ Challenge to Symbolic Heteronormativity” talks about how a photographer uses their photographs to juxtapose the dress wear of a non-heteronormative wedding versus a traditional wedding with participants following cis-gender roles (Katrina, 2012). These expectation often in-closes people into a box in which not all people may feel they belong. The very idea of the participants of a wedding having to follow the heterosexual structure automatically discriminates against people who are not a part of such category.

Research has found that those who experience discrimination in regards to their sexual identity can cause great harm to the victim’s mental health. This impact is worsen when a person is confronted with discrimination based on the intersection of both sexuality and race (Sutter, 2016).  In most cases, people who are faced with the harsh punishment of being ostracized due to their identity often go through stages of depression. Ann article was written to convey the limited, but useful ways to combat depression especially on college campuses (Kulick, 2017).  In this work, the author discusses some of the social impacts people of color who also identify as members of the LGBTQ+ community face while also stressing different ways those individuals can cope and find a space of healing on their college campus.

The school system is where most negative stereotypes live and can be brought to rest. This is why it is extremely important for members of the school system to aid educating students on identifying what heteronormativity and the harmful effects it has on people in our society. The article, “Forecasting an Inclusive Future: School Counseling Strategies to Deconstruct Educational Heteronormativity,” speaks on the issue of heterosexuality and gives reason as why these ideas outside of the heterosexual norm are negative and therefore should be combatted, discredited and erase from our social atmosphere. The article states,  “Although people create regulatory practices through values and beliefs, these practices sustain over time and begin to shape the thoughts, behaviors, and beliefs of individuals (Strear, 2016). Heteronormativity is one such regulatory practice influencing social systems and individuals’ lives. Critical theories also ignited a paradigm shift from studying diversity by learning about individuals or groups, to the examination of regulatory practices that privilege some over others “(Watson, 2005). Through multiple different mediums, media acts as an additional educator. If the conclusions children come to are not explained in a manner that makes the social world one where  reason and understanding is used a way to guide cognition, then the generation to have come before them will have failed them. There is content indented to bash and discriminate against those who are willing to fight against heteronormativity. The best way to fight against this oppressive nature is to properly educate the children. Debunking existing notions some students may have is crucial work in the field of academia. This is why this article successfully illustrates the need for school counselors to part take in the fight against the heteronormative nature of our society.

 

References:

KATRINA, K. (2012).Remaking the White Wedding? Same-Sex Wedding Photographs’ Challenge to Symbolic Heteronormativity. Gender  And Society, (6), 874.

Kulick, A., Wernick, L. J., Woodford, M. R., & Renn, K. (2017). Heterosexism, depression, and  campus engagement among LGBTQ college students: Intersectional differences and opportunities for healing. Journal Of Homosexuality, 64(8), 1125-1141. doi:10.1080/00918369.2016.1242333

Strear, M. M. (2017). Forecasting an Inclusive Future: School Counseling Strategies to Deconstruct Educational Heteronormativity. Professional School Counseling, 20(1a), 47-56. doi:10.5330/1096-2409-20.1a.47

Sutter, M., & Perrin, P. B. (2016). Discrimination, mental health, and suicidal ideation among LGBTQ people of color. Journal Of Counseling Psychology, 63(1), 98-105. doi:10.1037/cou0000126

Image Attribution: Image 1 “Fuck Heteronormativity” by Wouldpkr TB CC BY-SA 2.0; Image 2 “Wedding. Reheaume : Bickerdicke” by Conrad Poirier is in the public domain

Written by Isaiah Reese, 2018

Hyperreality and Simulacra

Hyperreality and simulacra are some of the most perplexing and sometimes ludicrous theories in the postmodernity area of media studies. Although when correctly understood, they can reveal a new dimension of postmodernity in which the very structure and creation of reality it critically dissected. Power and control are the underlying concerns of theorists in this framework. Although, they are not invested in the control of individuals or societies, but the control of reality itself. Reality, what constitutes it, and how its controlled is the foundational concern of theories within hyperreality and simulacra.

Hyperreality and simulacra evolved out of the postmodernity theoretical theme. Postmodernity refers to social, economic, political and technological changes that have marked the transition from modern to postmodern ways of life. There are five aspects of postmodernity described by Dominic Strinati, a sociologist and author focusing on popular culture and media at the University of Leicester. These are, the breakdown of the distinction between culture and society, an emphasis on style over substance, a breakdown of the distinction between high art and popular culture, and the decline of metanarratives (Laughey, 2007). The theory of hyperreality and simulacra stems directly from the theoretical framework of postmodernity.

Ben1Jean Baudrillard (1929-2007), was hyperreality and simulacra’s main theorist. Baudrillard was a French sociologist and philosopher from the greater part of the 20th century. His theories were descendant of Marxist theories, although they broke away in an attempt to describe postmodern society. The goal of this departure is to account for postmodern consumer and media culture. In which its images have become more real than physical reality (hyperreality) and its simulations of reality have replaced their originals (simulacra) (Encyclopædia Britannica Online, 2007). According to Baudrillard, there is an excessive amount of these media images and they have ushered society into a new age, an age of third order simulation. Third order simulation is simulation where signs do not represent the real, but only hide the absence of reality. Connection does not exist between reality and its representations, therefore hyperreality is produced (Laughey, 2007). Baudrillard believed that postmodern America had escaped meaning therefore ushering it into a new age of the hyperreal. Baudrillard claims an extermination of meaning within this hyperreal America. There is no hidden or deeper meaning behind signs anymore, Baudrillard considers these signs without referents. Value judgements are rendered pointless by Baudrillard in postmodern America because any value assigned to them has no meaning in the American hyperreality.  This brings a worry of an empty future, one with no real meaning and no real direction. This empty future will only create a continuation of hyperreality as meaning continues to persist as meaningless (Laughey, 2007).

In this hyperreal world, media and its images are dispersed around us, the simulation we then live through is accepted as ‘real’. This reality is inescapable, the media has infected us with lack of meaning restricting our ability to be critical beings. This lack of criticalness has trapped us, we mindlessly consume media, further burying us into hyperreality. Theorists working within hyperreality and simulacra, especially Baudrillard, are concerned with power and control. The mass cannot realize their disadvantages caused by the elite when they exist within this mindless hyperreality. The media, political, economic, and cultural elite use hyperreality and its simulacra to destroy the will of the masses. Ideas of freedom and choice seem to be there, but they only exist in the simulation. Therefore, they have no real meaning. They exist to keep the masses subordinate to the elite, freedom within hyperreality is not freedom at all.

Ben2 A large part of what constitutes the simulacrum within hyperreality is nonevents. Jean Baudrillard applies this idea of nonevents to war in his book The Gulf War Did Not Take Place. He claims that “the gravity of the non-event in the Gulf is even greater than the event of war” (Baudrillard, 1995). Baudrillard transforms the postmodernist idea of a nonevent into the idea of non-war. He sees everyone as “hostages of media intoxication” (Baudrillard, 1995). We are bombarded by images of war on our screens day by day, and are trapped in this hyperreality as hostage. This directly applies to his overarching ideas of hyperreality and simulacra. Baudrillard also is concerned with the status, meaning, and future of war as it moves from having objective, to having to prove its very existence through its images, he considers this “empty war”. War of excess in which over equipped countries can expend their resources, even human. Baudrillard states that “By the force of the media, this war liberates an exponential mass of stupidity, not the particular stupidity of war, which is considerable, but the professional and functional stupidity of those who pontificate in perpetual commentary on the event” (Baudrillard, 1995). Stupidity therefore is the product of non-war and its media coverage. The elite powers controlling war need stupidity and misinformation to glaze over the entire populous in order for their actions and procedures to be widely accepted.

In a passage of Simulacra and Simulations Baudrillard applies his theory of simulation to Disneyland. Baudrillard found that Disneyland is not a representation of America, but America itself. Disneyland exists only to hide that it, in itself is the ‘real’ America. The imaginary construction of Disneyland exists only to provide false belief that the rest of America itself is ‘real’. The ultimate purpose of Disneyland is to “conceal the fact that the real is no longer real, thus saving the reality principle” (Baudrillard, 1983). It keeps all of America believing that there is a difference between Disneyland and ‘real’ America, therefore keeping reality itself in check. In actuality there is no difference between what is inside and outside the gates of Disneyland. The same simulation that exists within Disneyland is constant throughout America. Baudrillard believes that Disneyland is simply another tool used by the media elite to reinforce hyperreality, it allows reality to exist in the minds of the people, but not in actuality. The belief that something is less real than reality itself reinforces the publics false sense reality. To understand the simulation would be to understand that there is no discernable difference between Disneyland and ‘reality.’

When discussing hyperreality and simulacra it seems difficult to place into context. Although there are multiple common examples of its presence in our everyday experiences. One could consider themed restaurants a product of hyperreality and simulation. These restaurants use their atmosphere and experience as a selling point. Ben3These of course are a simulated experience. The Rainforest Café is a restaurant that sells itself on its simulated rainforest experience, the dining area is draped in foliage, the Orlando location has a fake volcano and waterfall, and even animatronic animals. The Hard Rock Café is entirely centered on music history and culture, you are surrounded by paraphernalia and music videos through your entire meal. The Cracker Barrel restaurant prides itself on its southern theme and menu, and even has its own country store at every location. In fact, all three businesses have gift shops or stores attached to the corresponding restaurants. The unique experience associated with each business is really just ploy to have you pay for both an overpriced meal, and then spend more in their stores. The same way these businesses simulate alternate experiences during their meal to control our spending habits is a small example of how we and our realities overall are constantly controlled through simulations.

The production of hyperreality relies on a lack of connection between reality and its representations, or third order simulation. Take, for example, the idea of colors as flavors. The ideas of flavor and color are produced by two entirely different senses, although many beverages and foods are understood to have different flavors according to their corresponding color. This can be understood as a product of hyperreality. The flavor blue raspberry is an great example because its representation is removed completely the original. Not only has the flavor of raspberry completely changed, but color of the raspberry has changed from the original also. You cannot find blue raspberries in nature, the flavor is a false simulation of what was once understood as raspberry. There is no longer a distinguishable connection between the original therefore, blue raspberry is part of third order simulation, and hyperreality.

References:

Baudrillard, J. (1995). The Gulf War Did Not Take Place. Indianapolis, IN: Indiana University Press

Baudrillard, J. (1983). Simulacra and Simulations. New York, NY: Semiotext(e)

Jean Baudrillard. (n.d.). In Encyclopædia Britannica online. Retrieved from           https://www.britannica.com/biography/Jean-Baudrillard

Laughey, D. (2007). Postmodernity and the information society. In Key Themes in Media            Theory. (pp.147-168). New York, NY: Mc Graw Hill.

Sandoz, D. (2003). In The University of Chicago: Theories of Media. Retrieved from            http://csmt.uchicago.edu/glossary2004/simulationsimulacrum.htm

Sim, S., & Loon, B. V. (2009). Introducing Critical Theory. London: Icon Books Ltd.

Image Attribution: “Times Square, NYC” by MK Feeney is licensed under CC BY 2.0; “No Gulf War” by Alan Turkus is licensed under CC BY 2.0; “Raging Volcano” by Tambako The Jaguar is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

Written by Benjamin Lammers, 2018

 

 

 

Hypodermic Needle Theory

The earliest definition of Hypodermic Needle Theory (HNT) comes from journalist Walter Lippmann’s book Public Opinion, saying that the growth of mass media culture has powerful effects on the minds and behavior of people (Lippmann, 1922). Although there was no actual evidence to back up his argument, his claim is the earliest version of HNT and that mass media can directly influence behavior in the same way a needle can directly affect a body (Danesi, 2013). It can also be called the magic bullet theory or the direct-effects model and is the concept that powerful media affect weak audiences (Campbell, 2017).

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Harold Lasswell

The American scholar Harold Lasswell supported the idea of HNT in his Propaganda Techniques in World War I (1927) saying that mass-mediated propaganda affected the politics, family relations, general outlooks, and behavior of people. He summarizes why and how effective mass propaganda was in World War I, particularly in Germany’s case. Since mass media/propaganda was so effective during the war, it supported HNT and that people respond directly to mass media messages.

The main opposing argument to HNT comes from Paul Lazarsfelds’s The People’s Choice: How the Voter Makes Up His in a Presidential Campaign (1944) where he describes limited effects theory. Limited effects theory says that mass media do have effects on a person, but not directly like HNT proposes. First, the theory says media rarely have direct influence on a person because most people are sheltered from manipulation by family, friends, coworkers, or social groups. Second, there is a two-step flow of communication. Opinion leaders, critical media users that are not easily manipulated, spread information from the mass media to others, and they act as effective media influence barriers. Third, by adulthood most people have formed strong communities, such as political parties or religious affiliations that may reject the media messages. Which would cause a person to also reject the messages. Lastly, when media effects do occur, they are mostly small and isolated. It is easier for smaller groups of people, or weaker communities to be influenced, but not the masses (Danesi, 2017). This is the main counterargument to HNT and scholars conduct studies or observe life events to try to either agree or disagree with the two opposing theories.

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Illustration to HG Wells’s War of the Worlds

HNT was in speculation until in 1938 the radio broadcast of Orson Welles’s radio adaptation of H.G. Wells’s novel War of the Worlds aired. The novel was about an alien invasion of Earth and there were several disclaimers throughout the broadcast stating that the story was fiction. However, many listeners thought the invasion was actually happening and there was mass panic where people even left their homes and called authorities. This led to the first psychological study of media effects (MEs), called the Cantril Study. In The Invasion from Mars: A Study in the Psychology of Panic (1940), Hadley Cantril, a Princeton University professor, and a team of researchers interviewed 135 subjects after the broadcast. The study gave empirical support to HNT when they concluded that the panic from the broadcast was real, even though many of the subjects were embarrassed to admit they thought the event was real (Danesi, 2017).

Jenna 3

Mass media effects are more powerful on children

The Cantril Study was criticized by many psychologists and sociologists as being flawed because it did not show a statistical correlation between the broadcast and the degree of reported panic. Also, panic may have been caused by media reports that purposely exaggerated the story. No deaths or serious injuries were reported after the broadcast and the streets were never crowded with panicking people. The panic recorded by the mass media was fictional. Although, the study still did prove that media produced effects on people, just not direct effects like HNT proposes (Danesi, 2017). HNT is disapproved by many social scientists, but many people still attribute direct effects to mass media, especially with children (Campbell, 2017). This led to more studies to determine the extent to which mass media impacts people’s minds and behavior (Danesi, 2017).

References

Baran, S., & Davis, D. (1995). Mass Communication Theory Foundations, Ferment, and Future. Belmont, California: Wadsworth.

Campbell, R., Martin, C.R., & Fabos, B (2017). Media & Culture: Mass Communication in a Digital Age 11th Edition. Boston and New York: Bedford/ST. Martin’s.

Cantril, H., Koch, H., Gaudet, H., Herzog, H., & Wells, H. G. (1940). The Invasion from Mars: A Study in the Psychology of Panic. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Danesi, M. (Ed.). (2013). Encyclopedia of Media and Communication. Toronto, Buffalo, London: University of Toronto Press.

Lasswell, H. (1927). Propaganda Techniques in World War I. Cambridge: MIT Press.

Lazarsfeld, P., Berelson, B., & Gaudet, H. (1944). The People’s Choice: How the Voter Makes Up His in a Presidential Campaign. New York: Duell, Sloan, & Pearce.

Lippmann, W. (1922). Public opinion. Macmillan,: New York.

Image Attribution: The first image is in the public domain licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0. The second image used is illustrated by Frank R. Paul in the U.S. public domain. The third image used is in the public domain

Written by Jenna Follin, 2018

 

Information Society

In the information society the media is the central holder of information that comes in many different forms like films, television, radio, and print. It is a society in which every aspect of information such as its “creation, distribution, access and use” (Karvalics, 2007, p. 10) are the height of economic and cultural activity. In this type of society people are heavily reliant upon technology in their everyday lives.

As noted by Mills and Barlow (2012), “The information society is an idea which has its origins in economics and sociology” (p. 513). Due to the rise of globalization and capitalism, numerous people struggle to understand the overall structure of their society. Many individuals are surrounded by the everyday exchange of information, causing them to become paralyzed by the information that they are obtaining at particularly high rate. As a result, these individuals fail to use this information and do anything with it.

In the economic sense, information is dispersed by the media to the masses, as this is how large, private corporations gain profits. Corporations disguise their information by turning it into products that appeal to the masses (Mills and Barlow, 2012). Products such as television advertisements, magazine covers, movie trailers, etcetera. These products are sent out to the media as it has multiple platforms (tv, radio, print) that connects to the masses in the form of consumerism. (Mills and Barlow, 2012).

The history of when societies entered the information society remains unclear despite the number of theorists that have dedicated their time in understanding the theory (Karvalics, 2007). According to Karvalics (2007), there is only a small number of researchers that share their viewpoints as to the start of the information society.

There are a number of theorists associated with its theory such as Daniel Bell, Alvin Toffler, and Manuel Castells among other theorists. First, Daniel Bell was an American sociologist who believed that the post-industrial society would be information-based and eventually replace industrialism as he perceived information to be a dominant asset in society (Daniel, 1973). From Bell’s perspective, humans gained dominance over their environment to proceed from an industrial society to a post-industrial society and as a way to increase economic productivity and security of the population (Laughey, 2007).

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Alvin Toffler, futurist and the author of The Third Wave

Second was American writer and futurist, Alvin Toffler. In similarity to Bell’s concept of “the pre-industrial, industrial and post-industrial” (Laughey, 2007, p. 161) was Toffler’s creation of the ‘wave theory’. According to Toffler, the wave theory represents the three types of societies with each wave representing one society (Laughey, 2007), and as each wave comes over the other this is Toffler’s analogy to new societies replacing older societies and its cultures.

The third is Spanish sociologist Manuel Castells, who contradicts Toffler’s wave theory argues that the ‘waves’ are not separately manifested. Rather, Castells believes that all of the waves overlap each other with their connection to information (Laughey, 2007). At the same time, Castells also contradicts another theorist, Canadian philosopher Marshall McLuhan’s “the medium is the message” (Laughey, 2007, p. 153). Instead, Castells perceives it the other way around with the message as the medium which means that the content defines the medium it is delivered through. Despite these varying theories, it is possible to see the idea of the information society in everyday life.

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Internet hacktivist, Aaron Swartz

An example of the information society in the real world can be seen through Aaron Swartz. In Brian Knappenberger’s film The Internet’s Own Boy (2014), it tells the story of a young American computer programmer named Aaron Swartz. He was a child prodigy by the age of ten years old and soon later attended prestigious schools including Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Harvard University. Swartz’s story can be related back to the information society as his titles consisted of being the co-founder of Reddit. Swartz and his founding partner, Alex Ohanian developed Reddit as a website in which users from a global scale can aggregate news and discuss topics of multiple of levels. The platform of Reddit that started out as a website has now integrated into an application for smartphones, making it more accessible than ever before. Users from all around the world can be anywhere at any given moment and they are still connected to the social platform of Reddit.

Another example of the information society materializing in the real world can be witnessed through MTV’s Catfish: The TV Show (2012) which follows a “catfish”, or a person who creates a fake profile on any given social platform to lure someone else into an online relationship. In the show, there are tv show hosts Nev Schulman and Max Joseph who are the ‘catfish’ investigators.

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Catfish TV hosts, Nev Schulman (left) and Max Joseph (right)

The tv shows originally stemmed from the documentary titled Catfish (2010) where Nev Schulman is lured into an online relationship with a catfish. The success of the documentary later led on to the creation of MTV’s Catfish: The TV Show (2012). By using the internet’s sources, Nev and Max can gather further information that leads to the true identity of the mysterious catfish, based on the initial information provided by their catfish victim. Throughout the series, Nev and Max commonly use Spokeo, a people search website (Spokeo, 2018). On this website, Nev and Max are able to narrow down their search as the website provides them with a handful of closely-related individuals. All the tv hosts have to do is have the most basic information such as a phone number, address or a person’s first and last name (occasionally provided by the catfish victim). By typing in any of the three, the tv hosts are able to get a substantial amount of results, and from there it is a process of elimination until they come across someone suspicious or confirms that they have relations to the catfish victim. This ongoing tv show demonstrates the theory of the information society as the tv show hosts heavily rely on the people search website, Spokeo.

This website is a database containing most if not all of peoples’ information including their current and past home addresses, phone numbers, family members and financial income.

The information society is a place where every part of information is controlled by the media as a way to persuade the masses into dependency. The use of technology in this kind of society is heavily dominant which makes it difficult to separate oneself from any sort of information as it is transported through the various mediums. Though theorists Daniel Bell, Alvin Toffler, and Manuel Castells all establish their own meaning of the information society, it is difficult to determine what counts as information or when the information society came to be (Karvalics, 2007).

References

Daniel, B. (1973). The coming of post-industrial society: A venture in social forecasting. London: Heinemann.

Jarecki, A. et al. (2012). Catfish: The TV show [Television series]. United States: Catfish Picture Company.

Karvalics, L. (2007). Information Society – what is it exactly? (The meaning, history and  conceptual framework of an expression). Retrieved from http://www.msu.ac.zw/elearning/material/1349116439Information-Society-whatis.pdf

Knappenberger, B. (Director). (2014). The Internet’s Own Boy [Motion Picture]. United States: Los Angeles.

Laughey, D. (2007). Postmodernity and the information society. In Key Themes in Media Theory (pp. 160-166). New York: Two Penn Plaza.

Mills, B. & David, M. (2012). The information society. [Excerpt]. In Reading Media Theory (p. 512). 2nd Edition. New York: Routledge.

Spokeo. (2018). Retrieved from https://www.spokeo.com

Image Attribution: “Aaron Swartz” by Fred Benenson (CC: 2.0); “Alvin Toffler” by KUBS (Korea University Business School) (CC: 1.0); “Catfish TV Hosts” by Bébéranol (CC: 4.0)

Written by Patricia Rana, 2018

Indie Films

Though indie films do not have a single or succinct definition, indie films are most commonly defined as films made outside the influence of the major Hollywood studio system. Typically, indie films are made with an extremely small budget or sometimes no budget at all. These films are known for being alternative to mainstream Hollywood films and therefore are not usually aimed at or enjoyed by the same audiences (Newman, 2011, p. 2). Furthermore, indie films are known for unique and three-dimensional characters and often have more alternative and mature content. That being understood, indie films have created some of the most iconic and well-known films of all time.

The term independent film has been around since the creation of films. It first appeared in the early 1910s when smaller filmmakers were trying to separate from the control of Thomas Edison’s Motion Picture Patents Company (Newman, 2011, p. 24). However, the term “indie” did not emerge until the 1990s. Though indie and independent are truly synonymous in content, the idea of the indie film carries a more stylish and socially conscious connotation (Newman, 2011, p. 4). Despite the nuance in title, they both are essentially the same type of film.

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For educational use.

Due to that fact that indie films are produced outside of the Hollywood, they are exhibited in various other ways, rather than a standard movie theater experience. Indie films are usually debuted by arthouse theaters, or often on college campuses and recently indie films have a had a rise in viewership due to being streamed on various popular streaming services like, Netflix (Campbell, 2017, p. 231). Indie films are most importantly distributed through film festivals, like the Sundance Film Festival or South by Southwest. Furthermore, with the rise and success of film festivals, like Sundance, has led to some distribution companies to expand operations through distributing popular indie films like Pulp Fiction (1994), Little Miss Sunshine (2006), or Lost in Translation (2003) (Campbell, 2017, p. 231). The rise in popularity of the indie film cannot be without the help of these various film festivals. By having films be selected based on their indie status or lack of Hollywood influence, creates opportunities for new talent, as well as being one of the highest honors for artistic cinema (Newman, 2011, p. 27). Film Festivals have helped expose a variety of well-known classics that were once considered indies and are such an integral part to the exposure and importance of indies.

Looking at the common characteristics of indie films, they are often and easily defined and recognized by its unique characters within their stories (Newman, 2011, p. 30). Characters in indie films are usually more developed and have a realistic depth to them, compared to those in major Hollywood studio films. However, though this is a simplistic way to categorize indie films by complex characters, there is a considerable emphasis on characters and the way characters interact in these films. Furthermore, indie films can explore topics that are often too mature or not as openly explored as the themes seen with the Hollywood big budget films (Newman, 2011, p. 5). Looking at the indie classic, that went on to win many awards, Juno (2007), discusses teen pregnancy at a time when it was taboo and a topic that was not represented on screen. Moreover, Juno explores the topic not in a negative way, but at times has heart and a funny side to it as well (Newman, 2011, p. 240). Juno (2007) is not alone in the variety of indies that have explored taboo topics, however they way that it was explored was also fresh. Furthermore, indie films aim to make their films more realistic or, on the other side of the spectrum, are defined by their auteur styles. The goal of some indie films is to make the movie as close to real life in a movie form as possible, making the reason why so many characters are lifelike and stories are often not a glamorized Hollywood story (Newman, 2011, p. 28). However, on the other end of the spectrum directors like Wes Anderson and Quentin Tarantino have made films in such particular styles that they are so far from realism, that they developed their own style that can be easily recognized by audiences. All these characteristics are unique to indies and what can define an indie film.

Many successful directors and actors have started with creating an indie film. Indie films can provide a big break for many prominent directors or actors, which have moved on to make successful Hollywood careers, like the Cohen Brothers, Wes Anderson, and Quentin Tarantino. Additionally, some successful indies have even gained a cult like status of fans behind it like Napoleon Dynamite (2004) or like other indies like Little Miss Sunshine (2006) has gone on to gross millions of dollars as an indie blockbuster (Newman, 2011, p. 233).

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For educational use.

 

References

Campbell, R., Martin, C. R., & Fabos, B. (2017). Media & Culture: Mass Communication in a   Digital Age (11th ed.). Boston and New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s.

Little Miss Sunshine Movie Poster [Photograph]. (n.d.).

Napoleon Dynamite Movie Poster [Photograph]. (n.d.).

Newman, M. Z. (2011). Indie: An American Film Culture. New York: Columbia University P.  r.   p.   Press.

 

Written by Ruby Baden, 2018.

Intersectionality

IR 1Intersectionality can be defined as a way to bridge that gap between two or more identity positions. The article “On Black Feminist Thought: Thinking Oppression and Resistance Through Intersectional Paradigm” states:

“A significant aspect of critical studies of intersectionality is their relation to power and stratification. What distinguishes black feminist thought is that it is not only concerned with oppression, but equally concerned with resistance, activism and politics of empowerment. Grounded in black feminist epistemology, it highlights the relationship between power and knowledge, and questions the idea of objective knowledge and neutral spaces (Alina, 2015).”

It is thanks to Black Feminist Thought that we now have an understanding to how two identity postions can fuse together to become one new entity. One in which cannot be separated due to the collective memory of the experiences that is shared between those who share such intersected identity.

The reality is different based on one’s collective identity, especially in the conversation around race and gender. For instance, the struggles of an African-American male are different from the various obstacles faced by African-American women. Even though the two groups share the same racial identity, advantages and disadvantages are still very based on gender in our society. Males, in some aspects regardless of race, still carry a form of privilege even if they are not fully aware of it. The term ‘intersectionality epistemological in nature’  gives our society the insight into a word that may have been unknown or simply ignore. Most may argue that the ladder is more fitting in our society. However, with this knowledge it opens the floodgates for many thoughts, ideas, and more importantly the opportunity to act on some of those issue groups can possibly face (Moradi, 2017).

Intersectionality opens up our minds to how media and other forces have created stereotypes in the means of race, gender, class, and social structures. Academic scholarship has been created and shared with the general public to be mindful of how various mediums can negatively impact the image of different groups based on a IR 2multitude of social structures, i.e. power structures. For example the article “The Iconic Ghetto” speaks on how there is notion that the ghetto is known as a place where ‘black people live’  and how this thought has been normalized in our society. This idea is an oppressive notion intersecting both race and class which then generalizes all of those who belong to the race with taking in consideration of the class aspect as well.

With this information we as a whole should work towards understanding those various intersected identities in order to aid people who may feel not represented in our social atmosphere. By equipping ourselves with this knowledge we are then able to combat various stereotypes and other oppressive systems. People should not feel restricted by the labels that are placed on them by society, especially when every aspect of their identity is not taken into consideration. Intersectionality calls for great insight into those perspective that are often out scaled by the weight of one’s master status which illustrates the need for further study into its field.

 

References

Alinia, M. (2015). On Black Feminist Thought : thinking oppression and resistance through intersectional paradigm. Ethnic & Racial Studies, 38(13), 2334-2340.  doi:10.1080/01419870.2015.1058492

Anderson, E. (2012). The Iconic Ghetto. Annals Of The American Academy Of Political & Social Science, 642(1), 8-24.

Moradi, B. m., & Grzanka, P. R. (2017). Using Intersectionality Responsibly: Toward Critical Epistemology, Structural Analysis, and Social Justice Activism. Journal Of Counseling Psychology, 64(5), 500-513.

Image Attribution: Image 1 John Silvercloud  Title: “Black Lives Matter” by John Silvercloud, CC BY-SA 2.0; Image 2: “Chicago Ghetto On The South Side. Although The Percentage Of Chicago Blacks Making $7,000 Or More Jumped From 26 To 58% Between 1960 And 1970, 05/1974” by The US National Archives, public domain 

Written by Isaiah Reese, 2018

 

 

 

Lasswell’s Chain of Communication

Theorist Harold Lasswell created the chain of communication theory in 1948. This theory analyzes the way people communicate. Lasswell’s chain of communication was considered a “pioneering theoretical model of media effects” (Laughey, 2007, p.08). Lasswell focused on the five different types of analysis: control, content, media, audience, and effect (Laughey, 2007, p.09). These analyses have their separate functions: the control analysis says and ask who, the content analysis asks and says what, the media analysis asks and says in which channel, the audience analysis asks and says to whom and lastly, the effect analysis asks and says with what effect (Laughey, 2007, p. 09). Although Lasswell created the entire five process analysis, his most important ideas stemmed from the effects analysis (Laughey, 2007).

It has been said that most theories in the discipline of communication and media studies can fit into one or more of the five analysis processes (Laughey, 2007). The chain of communication both supposes total conductance of the message that doesn’t transmit without obstacles and is a great way of introducing not only theories of media effects but all media theory (Laughey, 2007). Lastly, in an ideal world, Lasswell describes an effective relay of communication as one of total conductance between the sender and the receiver (Laughey, 2007, p.09). In this scenario, there is perfect communication without any misinterpretations between the sender and receiver.

Lasswell believes the way to achieve harmony in the chain of communication is to serve three special functions in any human society: the surveillance of the environment, correspondence with the parts of society in responding to the environment, and the transmission of the social heritage from one generation to the next (Laughey, 2007, p.09). In the surveillance of the environment, human societies are typically dealt with by nation-states, and assigned surveillance roles to: diplomats, armies, and spies (Laughey, 2007, p.09). In correspondence with parts of the society, and with response to the environment, specialists like: politicians, press officers, and journalists communicate through mass media devices (Laughey, 2007). Lastly, in the transmission of the social heritage from generation to generation, the responsibility falls on teachers and lectures (Laughey, 2007).

Lasswell defines any form of communication, whether face to face or mediated, as segmented into the previously mentioned five processes and their separate methods of analysis (Laughey, 2007). According to this definition, propaganda is a form of communication. Propaganda is information with a biased or misleading nature, that serves to help or harm a person, group, or institution through the spread of rumors. Propaganda from the point of view of the chain of communication is transmitted with total conductance which, again, means that nothing compromises the full understanding of the message. According to Lasswell, any form of communication along with propaganda is assumed to travel in a straight-line. This would mean that messages only go in a forward direction from the sender to the receiver with an identifiable effect (Laughey, 2007).

In the chain of communication, a materialized real-world example is violence in television (Laughey, 2007). This example goes together with two of the five methods of analysis. It goes with the audience analysis and the effect analysis (Laughey, 2007). It goes with the audience analysis because it checks that the information communicated is

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The Walking Dead – TV Violence

at the appropriate level for the audience watching. The audience analysis asks to whom is the audience? In this case, violence in television is not appropriate for the audience of children. One big reason for this is that kids at a young age are highly impressionable to their surrounds. Therefore, movies and television shows have warnings and a rating system. These two things are for parents to be aware on the television show or movie. The other analysis is the effect analysis, in this it shows possible reasons and outcomes that have to do with a certain problem or situation. The effect analysis asks with what effect? In this example the problem is violence in television. This is a real-world example that has stirred debate over the recent years because of guns violence in America whether that be schools, churches, malls etc., In these regards, the mass media has argued that violent movies effects these incidents of gun violence in a negative way. As this has become a debate there is no official right or wrong answer but rather studies that have come out in favor of both sides of the argument. For the term communication, a Loure3materialized real-world example are the social network sites Facebook, and Twitter. These two sites have become the main source for most people, where they can communicate with other people, and receive information such as the global news, current events, entertainment, sports, etc. In the present-day, it is all about easy access to obtaining, and communicating information as quickly as possible, whether nonsense information or important information. It is all right at our finger tips.

In Lasswell’s theory, he wrote a lot about an ideal world. Parts of his theory were not very realistic for the world around him because the reality of the world of communication is that it is much more complicated and not ideal. Lasswell based his chain of communication theory on his idea of power as a main point in all aspects of life. Power is the ability to direct or influence the behavior of others or through events. Another idea Lasswell had was total conductance. Total conductance is a way of going against miscommunication. These two ideas connected as they both affect something specific in a good way. This is evident in the definition of Lasswell’s chain of communication. Lasswell makes the argument that the structure of human-like animal communication serves a vital function that helps to maintain order and well-being among the communicators (Laughey, 2007, p.09). When it comes to roles amongst communicators humans naturally take up specific roles as leaders, followers, and watch-keepers that carry certain expectations in-terms of behavior and action (Laughey, 2007, p.09). Lasswell’s end goal in this theory was to analyze the way people communicate. He created a theory that can be applied to many other theories in the discipline of communication and media studies.

References

Laughey, D. (2007). Lasswell’s chain of communication and propaganda technique. Key themes in media theory (pp. 08-12). New York City, NY: Open University Press.

Bajracharya, S. (2018, February 15). Lasswell’s Communication Model. Retrieved May 11, 2018, from https://www.businesstopia.net/communication/lasswell-communication-model

Image Attribution: “Twitter” By P. Elliott. (CC: 2.0) “The Walking Dead” By RK*Pictures (CC:2.0)  

Written by Louie Galdos, 2018

 

 

Liberal Press Theory

Liberal press theory is an idea that goes back centuries. The idea of liberal press theory is that in order for the people of a society to be informed they must have the ability to speak freely and be able to their express ideas regarding what is going on in the world. However, throughout centuries there have been many different ideas regarding what exactly is deemed vital for the public to be aware of. This issue its reflected in the many different perspectives shared by those who were living through the transition of a press controlled by the government to a free press. People such as Mill, Locke, Keane, alongside a Marxist perspective, offer what their opinion of what an ideal free press truly in, or in some cases argue that a free press isn’t so free after all.

One of the most famous historians in the field of liberal press theory is John Stuart Mill. Mill believes that it is the right of the citizens to have to access of all news in order to make decisions about their daily life and to be informed about what is going on around them. He also believed that people should be allowed to discuss issues that face a society without judgment or fear of being persecuted against.  “Acknowledgement of the independent and political importance of the press, and a belief that journalists acted as a voice for the public and were accountable to that public” (Mills and Barlow, 2012, 41).

This continuous dialogue in a society will lead to an advance in a society that ultimately betters everyone. As such liberal press theory holds that ‘the freedom of the press is rooted in the freedom to publish in the free market’… the press-and mass media in general-serve democracy in three ways: they play a key role in informing the electorate, they provide a means of overseeing and ‘checking’ on government- the watchdog role; they articulate public opinion” (Curran 1997c:287). This quote is saying that there are multiple duties of the press and that the job of the press is not just as simple as reporting the news. That in a sense they keep the balance of information and keep everyone in check. But who has the job of keeping an eye on the press? The answer is the people who consume the news.

Mill makes many points that seemgingly make sense. But he forgets the fact that the rich and powerful are the ones who control the press, and therefore control what is talked about and what is ignored. News stations can utilize certain tactics that can impact how a consumer thinks about the news. One example of this is agenda setting. Agenda setting is the idea that if if a news item is covered frequently and prominently, the audience will regard the issue as more important. During the 2016 election there was selective reporting of certain news events regarding whichever candidate the news station favored. This made the audience feel that certain aspects of the election were more important than others. Another example of this was in the case of the O.J Simpson murder trial. On the cover of many magazines there was a mug shot of O.J and a title that made him look like he was guilty. This was a highly covered news event and the medias bias was evident during the duration of the trial. People were constantly talking about the trial and just how important it was. There was other important news that was going on in the world but every news station always had coverage on the O.J case. Giving the public the idea that this trial was the only real piece of news worth reporting.

The impact of news reporting on the public sphere raises the question, what does it mean to have a free press and is it possible to attain one? The Marxist perspective is one that is a little less trusting of the way media companies shape how news is given to the public. This idea focuses around who was in charge of these newspapers and news organizations. The idea that the elite will be the ones who are in charge of the spread of the news and in doing so will have their own agenda placed within what they chose to report and what not to report. Some believe that the development of a free press is anything but free. People went from having the government controlling the knowledge they were given, to a select few news groups controlling what is being reported. A Marxist view would be that nothing has really changed with the development of a free press. Thinking that the elite are still in charge of the news.

John Locke talks about freedom of the press and how he views it. Locke believes that the freedom of the press should be based off of “the rights of individuals” (Mills and Barlow, 2012, 42) This opinion leaves it up to the individual to decide what he or she believes or is interested in. The public should have the right to reflect their beliefs free of action or harm by the government. This is a popular view of a liberal press because it leaves the individuals as the ones who get to make the decisions, rather than a government or news institution being the ones in power.

Keane discusses the third version of what a free press is. He states that “state censorship is unjustified because it maintains the power of despotic governments, it nullifies public opinion….it’s a counterweight to the government” (Mills and Barlow, 2012, 42) Keane believes that the government should not interfere with what information is being produced because of the fear that this could have on a society. If a state were able to control what was being said, it would not be possible for a free press to exist.

Liberal press theory and its many view points are talked about by many different experts who offer their own unique perspective on exactly what they believe it means to have a free press. But in todays world we are still trying to figure out just what the best version of having a free press would be. News stations have become overly political and have lost touch with the idea that people need to be given the news and be left to think for themselves. It appears that the news has become a divider for political parties and is no longer truly interested in giving an unbiased perspective regarding what is going on in the world to their audience. This ties back into what the Marxist  perspective spoke about. The idea that the elite will only show news that benefits their own agenda. In todays world, it really has become difficult for a citizen to obtain information that is not showing favoritism towards one side or another. The news should not be a place where an individual is not told what to think, but rather be a place for thought and reflection about what is going on in the world.

That being said, we have come a long way in terms of the freedoms that are given to the public. While we are not quite there is achieving a truly free press. There is clear progress being made. Citizens are more free now to express ideas and new thoughts than ever before. Moving forward as a society we just need to keep in mind that the news is a two-way street. Viewers should not feel as if they are being told what to think but instead should be given the facts and left to decide what their opinion is to themselves.

References

B. (n.d.). Boundless Political Science. Retrieved from https://courses.lumenlearning.com/boundless-politicalscience/chapter/the-role-of-the-media-in-politics/

Ward, S. (2014). Classical Liberal Theory in a Digital World. In The Handbook of Media and Mass Communication Theory. Editors R. Fortner and P. Fackler. New York: Wiley. https://doi.org/10.1002/9781118591178.ch1

Mass Media | Agenda Setting Theory. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.utwente.nl/en/bms/communication-theories/sorted-by-cluster/Mass Media/Agenda-Setting_Theory/

Written by Brian Graham, 2018

The Male Gaze

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Sigmund Freud

Laura Mulvey’s theory of the male gaze is based on Freudian constructions of the psyche. Sigmund Freud was a psychologist who developed the practice of psychoanalysis which examines the conscious and unconscious areas of the mind. Mulvey uses psychoanalysis to highlight the patriarchal structure of women in films. A Freudian concept that is present throughout Mulvey’s work is the idea of scopophilia. Scopophilia, to put it simply, means the pleasure in looking (Laughey 103). It makes people into objects that are meant to be looked at. Within film the characters are constructed as objects that the viewers of the film look at. The audience is separated from the film, making them outsiders. It is as if they are intruding on the lives of the characters. This created what Mulvey calls a ‘voyeuristic fantasy’ (Hein 57). Voyeurism is when someone acquires pleasure from watching other people in private situations without their knowing. Mulvey argues that when watching films, the audience is partaking in this voyeurism because they are watching private and intimate interactions without the character’s knowledge. Film normalizes scopophilia and voyeurism, making it a common practice among all people who view films.

Another theory Mulvey builds on is Jaques Lacan’s mirror stage theory. According to Lacan, when children first see themselves in a mirror they do not recognize that image to be themselves. They see that image as a better version of themselves than they actually are and a certain narcissism develops within them (Laughey 103). When viewing cinema, the audience tends to identify themselves with the characters in the film. In this way, viewers can live out their narcissistic fantasy.

Both of these concepts helped Mulvey develop her theory of the male gaze. In cinema, there are three ways of ‘looking’: the look of the camera that records the film, the look of

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Blake Lively in The Shallows

the audience at the film, and the look of characters in the film. The male gaze is the idea that the audience’s main way of ‘looking’ in the majority of films is male. This excludes female and homosexual viewers. Women are forced to take part in the male gaze on the “physically desirable, sexually submissive female characters” (Laughey 103). Many times, women only exist in films to be looked at. Mulvey refers to this as their ‘to-be-looked-at-ness.’ The way the film portrays them is solely for the sexual pleasure of the male viewer. In the movie The Shallows (Collet-Serra 2016), there are numerous shots that pan over Blake Lively’s bikini body that are unnecessary to the plot, they are only present because they are pleasurable to the ‘male viewer.’

Michele White provides an example of the male gaze in Key Words for Media Studies of an anti-smoking commercial. In this commercial, a man is looking at a dating app and he scrolls past a photo of a seemingly attractive woman because she is smoking. The purpose of the advertisement is that people will find you less attractive when you smoke. (White 75) This commercial displays Mulvey’s idea of “to-be-looked-at-ness.” The woman in the advertisement only exists in order to be looked at and assessed in terms of physical attractiveness.

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Actress Mila Jovovich, smoking

The male gaze is not a construction of the film industry. Male gaze is evident in films because it is a construction of the society that we live in. In “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema,” Mulvey (1981) explains:

Woman then stands in patriarchal culture as signifier for the male other, bound by a symbolic order in which man can live out his fantasies and obsessions through linguistic command by imposing them on the silent image of women still tied to her place as bearer of meaning, not maker of meaning. (58)

Women bear meaning to men, they do not make meaning for themselves. A concept that exemplifies this in many films is the manic pixie dream girl. This is a female character that exists only to enhance the life of a male character. Their purpose is to further the plot and help the male character achieve what he is working towards. They exist as sexual objects that bear meaning to other characters. This makes female viewers feel as if they are unable to make meaning in their lives, thus contributing to the patriarchy.

There are two ways that women are a spectacle within film: as a sexual object for the character(s) and as a sexual object for those viewing the film. These take place simultaneously and puts women spectators in an uncomfortable viewing position. Men are able to partake in an active viewing of film while a woman’s view of film is passive. What this suggests is that heterosexual women are not able to partake in the viewing of the film as it is intended to be viewed, because they do not view women as sexual objects. Cinema contributes to the sexism in our patriarchal society by portraying women as sexual objects.

Returning to Freud, the male gaze promotes a sadomasochistic behavior in women. Sadism is pleasure from inflicting pain while masochism is pleasure from being in pain. When women are partaking in the male gaze by watching a film, they are essentially contributing to the patriarchy that the male gaze is constructed by being both subject and object. By participating in this objectification, a woman is putting herself through pain. Furthermore, if they identify with the female characters, they are identifying with a sexualized version of a woman that a male mind has constructed. In this, they are potentially taking pleasure in harming themselves and other women by contributing to this patriarchal society.

A major fault in this theory is that it relies entirely on psychoanalysis. In this, it assumes the audience’s reactions and thoughts about cinema without actually asking them how they respond to film. It often ignores biological, cultural, and social factors. There is a great disparity in how different races view film and Mulvey does not account for any of these differences in her theory of the gaze. Freud frequently did not take into account individual differences. He made generalized assumptions about all unconscious minds and did not thoroughly investigate the different factors that contribute to each individual life. In Mulvey’s theory of the male gaze, a look at the factors besides the unconscious mind would give the theory more accuracy and background.

Another fault in Mulvey’s theory of the male gaze is that she does not take into account queer audiences. Her whole theory is predominantly heterocentric. Simply by calling it the “male gaze”, it implies that only male onlookers are attracted to the women in the film. It also excludes homosexual males who are as not attracted to the females in the film as the heterosexual female audience members are. She touches on this criticism in Afterthoughts on Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema’ inspired by King Vidor’s Duel in the Sun (1946) by explaining that she was not focusing specifically on men viewing women sexually in films, but on the overarching masculinization of the films themselves, which takes power away from women and makes female viewers feel excluded (Mulvey, 1981, 29).

References

Hein, C. (2006). Laura Mulvey, Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema. Frankfurt, Germany: German National Library.

Hooks, B. (1999) ‘The Oppositional Gaze: Black Female Spectators’. In S. Thornman (Ed.) Feminist Film Theory (307-320). New York, NY: New York University Press.

Laughey, D. (2007). Feminisms and Gender. In Key Themes in Media Theory (pp. 100-121). New York, NY: Open University Press.

Mulvey, L. (1981) Afterthoughts on ‘Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema’ inspired by King Vidor’s Dual in the Sun (1946). In Framework (pp. 29).

White, M. (2017) Gaze. In L. Ouellette & J. Gray (Eds.), Key Words for Media Studies (75-77). New York, NY: New York University Press.

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

Written by Sydney Armitage, 2018.

 

McDonaldization

George Ritzer created his theory of McDonaldization in 1993. Ritzer was able to do this by analyzing the economic practices that McDonalds employs. Ritzer claims that these practices have a huge impact on the structure of global corporations as well as everyday life (Ritzer, 2013). Ritzer was able to utilize many past theorists because his theory is so recent. Ritzer developed this theory through the main influence of Max Weber. Weber discussed rationality in the terms of social action. Weber theorized how social action can be affected by rationality and rational actions.

Ritzer was also influenced by Karl Marx’s ideas behind alienation. Marx regarded capitalism as the main source of conflict in human civilization as well as the root cause of class conflict and divide. Marx’s ideas behind alienation included that alienation of the worker was caused through any employment done under capitalism. According to Marx, employees were alienated from their work, from each other, and socially alienated while under capitalism. Many of Marx’s main ideas can be seen through the negative aspects that Ritzer outlines in McDonaldization. Marx was able to identify certain aspects that were indicative of capitalist system in order to formulate his theory. Ritzer analyzed McDonald’s business plan to identify the reasons behind their success. Ritzer then cross-examined this among the business practices of global corporations.

The four main tenants that Ritzer states is the source of McDonald’s success are efficiency, calculability, predictability, and control (Ritzer, 2013). Ritzer is able to use his analyzation of McDonald’s business plan as well as historical influences to formulate these tenants. Weber’s characteristics of rationality included euphoria calculability, efficiency, technology, predictability, control and irrational consequences. As seen previously, it can be easily noted where the overlaps occur in efficiency, predictability, and control. Under the theory of McDonaldization, Ritzer’s four main tenants not only apply to McDonald’s business plan but to corporations on a global scale.

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The efficient, predictable, and calculable burger

Ritzer operationally defines the four tenants as well as identify how they exist in McDonalds. Efficiency is defined as the most cost-effective methods to reach a goal, as well as preventing unnecessary waste. For example, items on the McDonald’s menu are hand held items like burgers which don’t require utensils. Since there are no utensils, this is an example of cutting down the waste of plastic utensils. Food products are always specifically measured at McDonalds in order to to reduce food waste as well (Laughey, 2007). This is an example of calculability because the company is calculating exactly how much food product can be used on every meal. For example, every McDonald’s hamburger is the same width and weight in order to ensure that each customer is paying and receiving for the same amount of food. Predictability can be seen through the on-going expectations that customers have when walking into McDonalds. Every time one goes into any McDonalds across the country, one can expect the same food and service. This is the reason behind predictability as being defined as expecting the same characteristics every single time.

Control in the McDonaldization theory can be seen through how McDonalds is able to control every action of the customer. Control occurs in the pre-made lines, predetermined menu that comes with little customization, and the pre-prepared ingredients (Laughey, 2007). Ritzer poses that these four tenants helped to increase McDonalds success on a global scale. The main point of Ritzer’s theory is to apply it to other social arenas and determine how McDonaldization has affected social activity and history.

It is easy to apply efficiency, predictability, control, and calculability to communication and media studies. The most recent example of efficiency can be seen through the news alerts that appear as alerts on notifications on iPhones. News companies want users to get the most amount of news in the shortest amount of time possible. The short passages that appear as notifications help to efficiently perform this. The commercials that occur during sports games effectively demonstrate calculability in the media realm. Time-outs are used for commercial time so that television companies can continue to make money when sports are not being played. In fact, certain time-outs are cut into sports games for increased sales in advertising spaces.

Predictability is often seen in the reuse of scenes across Hollywood productions (Laughey, 2007). If one director uses a scene in a film and it causes a good reaction from the audience, another director will copy the same idea behind the scene. In romantic films, one can see the same kissing scene in the rain being used in many films. Control can be seen in the procured image that celebrities are given by their managers, publicists, and agents. Every public statement, outfit, and action performed by a celebrity is predetermined (Laughey, 2007).

There are many negative aspects of McDonaldization that Ritzer outlines based on many of the examples above. Ritzer posits that McDonaldization is exploiting the consumer as well as starving the general public of creativity. Similar to Marx’s theories behind alienation, Ritzer claims that the public has no autonomy on the products in which they receive while the employees have no creativity in the work they are doing (Ritzer, 2013). This can be seen in the above noted example of the celebrity image. Celebrities are told what to do, say, and how to act so they have no original or creative thought in their work. Consumers are also being exploited into believing they are buying a product from a certain person when in actuality that is just a shaped and molded version of a real person. Ritzer’s theory of McDonaldization can be seen in other places besides the media as well.

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The necessary orders and information nurses must complete

Ritzer’s theory became used by many other theorists to identify trends of McDonaldization in other parts of life. In a study done in the United Kingdom, McDonaldization was proven to be seen in their healthcare system. New guidelines for nursing staff as well as health professionals in general were put into place in order to measure compassion (Bradshaw, 2009). This guideline was put into place due to the “cold”, “bureaucratic”, and rational ways that health professionals were treating patients (Bradshaw, 2009). Instead of treating patients as patients, health professionals followed the rational instructions that were passed down to them.  McDonaldization can be seen in the lack of input and creativity that nurses were able to give to their patients. Nurses were unable to treat their patients with care and compassion because their mindsets were so heavily engrained in the rationality of the process.

Ritzer’s theory of McDonaldization can be seen more specifically in McDonalds across the globe. Each part of the world is encultured differently, so McDonalds was forced to adapt their business model to the various global locations. This is the main thought behind Ritzer describing McDonaldization as a global process. The first McDonalds set in China did not have a huge impact on life nor was it very successful. McDonalds was forced to teach citizens their ways of efficiency just as they did to Americans. Initially, Chinese citizens did not understand the idea behind a line to order food. People would cut in front

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Japan-specific hamburgers

of others and people would wait a long amount of time just to order food. McDonalds had to teach the citizens about lining up in order to control their consumers into the most rational food ordering process. At first this was a difficult task, but then McDonald’s ways were imposed on the Chinese citizens. The change in social action can be seen by customers learning to adapt their usual ways to McDonald’s rational steps. The menu was also an issue on a global scale. Chinese citizens eat meals very differently than Americans, so McDonalds was forced to adapt to their ways of serving food. McDonalds offers burgers for breakfast in China because that was the most successful and rational option for the company. The types of things on the menu also changes from country to country. Despite the adaptations that McDonalds had to enact, their success still reaches populations on a global scale. Their influence on social action continues to exist in McDonalds as well as various other institutions.

References

Bradshaw, A. (2009). Measuring Nursing Care and Compassion: The McDonaldised Nurse? Journal of Medical Ethics, Vol. 35 (8), 465-468. Retrieved from ttp://www.jstor.org/stable/27720378.

Ritzer, G. (2013). The McDonaldization of Society. Los Angeles, California: SAGE.

Laughey, D. (2007). Key Themes in Media Theory. London, England: Saffron House.

Image Attribution: Figure 1: By NurseRecord [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, from Wikimedia Commons

Figure 2: By Evan-Amos [CC0], from Wikimedia Commons

Figure 3: By Another Believer [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, from Wikimedia Commons

Written by Karlie Dolan, 2018.

Mean World Syndrome

The term ‘mean world syndrome’ was created by George Gerbner who was a well-known journalist researching television content and the works of cultivation theory. George Gerbner was born in Hungary on August 8th, 1919 and moved to America when he was older to begin his college studies at University of California, Los Angeles.

David 1He then transferred to Berkeley University and got a bachelor’s degree in journalism. After graduating from Berkeley, he joined the U.S. Army in 1942 and worked with the Austrian and Slovenian resistance groups during World War II. After the war, Gerbner went to University of Southern California where he received his master’s degree in education in 1951 and then completed his Ph.D. in communications in 1955 (Signorielli 2016).

Gerbner joined as the staff at the Institute for Communications Research at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1956 (Signorielli 2016). Soon after, he became a professor of communications and then the dean at Annenberg School for Communication at University of Pennsylvania in 1964.

In 1967, Gerbner started his research in television violence and created a profile. This profile was “created as part of the Cultural Indicators Project, which holds a database that spans more than 3,000 TV shows and 35,000 characters” (Signorielli 2016). This database is used to provide monitoring of violence in television broadcasts.

David 2In 1973, he created a paradigm for understanding mass communication. The paradigm had three sections. They were institutional process analysis, message content analysis, and cultivation analysis or theory. He thought that television violence had influenced the public’s perception of violence in their lives and in society making them more fearful and helping them develop mean world syndrome (Signorielli 2016). Gerbner died on December 24th, 2005 in Philadelphia.

The term mean world syndrome is a syndrome that links violence-related shows in media. It makes the viewer think the world is more dangerous than it actually is. There has been research that looks at the psychological states and states of people, such as the form of aggressiveness, which lead to violence because of media exposure (Gerbner 1997).

This aggression is linked to crime and violence that is organized and systemic (Gerbner 1997). This syndrome has heavy viewers of television to overestimate their chances of involvement in violence, believe their neighborhood is unsafe, and fear of crime is a huge problem (Gerbner 1997).

The people who have this syndrome believe and assume that that crime is rising regardless of the facts (Gerbner, 1997). The mean world syndrome results in the heavy viewers to try and protect themselves more than others. For example, by having watchdogs, buying new locks, and owning guns.

Also, when viewers are seeing their own group that they associate with have a higher chance of risk, they will develop a sense of apprehension, mistrust and alienation (Gerbner 1997).

It is also thought that long-term heavy exposure to this TV content will have consumers create unrealistic fear and mistrust others (Romer & Jamieson 2014). The impact of mean world syndrome makes consumers feel like there are dangers outside of their homes. The viewers who are heavily invested in television will increase the intensity the fears and angsts.

References

Gerbner, G., (1997). Rethinking Media Violence. In Media Education Foundation Study Guide Gerbner Series (Part II). Retrieved from https://www.mediaed.org/discussion-guides/Gerbner-Series-The-Electronic-Storyteller-Discussion-Guide.pdf

Romer, D., & Jamieson, P. (2014). Violence in Popular U.S. Prime Time TV Dramas and the Cultivation of Fear: A Time Series Analysis. Media and Communication, 2(2), 31-41. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.17645/mac.v2i2.8

Signorielli, N. (2016, May 23). George Gerbner. Retrieved May 2, 2018, from https://www.britannica.com/biography/George-Gerbner

Image Attribution: Image 1 is licensed under CC-SA 2.0. Image 2 is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Written by David Hudak, 2018

Media Oligopolies

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The term oligopoly, according to Richard Campbell, Christopher R. Martin, and Bettina Farbos in Media and Culture: Mass Communications in a Digital Age, refers to “an organizational structure” in the economic systems of the media, in which “a few firms control most of an industry’s production and distribution resources” (221). This system of complete domination and control within different media industries came about at the great, dramatic rise of the Hollywood film industry. During the early twentieth century, the two heads of the two most well-known film studios in the country-Adolph Zukor from Paramount Pictures and William Fox from 20th Century Fox-sought ahead in a life-or-death competition to seize and control the entire industry of filmmaking, having already destroyed the remains of Thomas Edison’s Motion Picture Patents Company. Using the collected business levels of production, distribution, and exhibition, these men forged together other insignificant companies into their own image through vertical integration, which later merged into the brutal reality of oligopolies within the entire film industry.

Figures with this new established power in various media industries, like Zukor and Fox, were now able to influence and control other sources of media into their own, personalized image, or an extended hand on what they wanted their company’s image to look like to attract consumers. By the end of the 1920s, Paramount and 20th Century Fox, as well as MGM, Warner Brothers, and RKO, had formed the Big Five, and, along with the Little Three (which included RKO, Columbia, and Universal), merged into one of the most powerful oligopolies in the film business. Samarth Vaidya and Rupayan Gupta explain through Corruption Via Media Capture: The Effect of Competition that some of the “observations”, or characteristics, of these conjoined companies have “inspired to…identify factors that may contribute to a vigilant media which is capable of deterring corruption”, in which the “beneficial role of increased competition within the media toward deterring corruption by public officials” (1327). This means that with this “alignment” between these eight different companies, as well as any other companies from different industries, can lead to the destruction and corruption of competitors, often in a most harmful and damaging way.

Campbell, Farbos, and Martin explain that the establishment of these eight companies’ oligopoly made the life in the film business “increasingly difficult” for independently-owned studios, as they were left behind to fend for themselves “to make, distribute, and exhibit commercial films” (224). In 1948, after a series of back-and-forth appeals and disputes on the mishandling of the business, the Supreme Court declared the Big Five’s “alliance” to be unconstitutional in the Paramount Decision. Though this solution ended vertical integration and created new levels of exhibition for independent film studios, it never addressed or “changed” the system of the oligopoly in the industry itself “because it failed to challenge the industry’s control over distribution” (225). In Helen Weeds’ TV Wars: Exclusive Content and Platform Competition in Pay TV, she explains how this decision influenced a series of “loopholes” in programming, and how that influence causes the drive of “control content” television programming companies, such as Verizon (FiOS) and Comcast’s (Xfinity) recent control of Netflix, in which by “making such content available exclusively to its own subscribers, a distributor gains market share from its rivals, making exclusivity potentially attractive as a competitive strategy” (1601).

This means that when consumers subscribe to Comcast or Verizon, they can access films and TV shows “for free” on Netflix with that subscription, therefore benefitting both seemingly-contrasting companies. However, this collaboration could also lead to the potential downfall and decrease in subscriptions to other multiple-system operators, such as Dish Network (Sling TV), as well as unlimited streaming services, such as Hulu. In Media Plurality: Private Versus Mixed Duopolies, Armando Jose and Garcia Pires describe this alignment as a “mixed oligopoly”, where well known media markets such as Verizon and Comcast are “characterized by the presence of both public and private firms [which then introduces] a public firm that produces this good and that competes directly with the private firms with the objective of influencing them to also provide the public good” (943). This demonstrates that, despite the ruthless competition between cutthroat companies, media oligopolies can be depicted as having a “positive impact” on society, with the same goal of providing a specific good or service to the public. The merger between AT&T and Time Warner in 2016, for example (which included the widespread service and access to CNN, HBO, and Warner Bros.), provided a reliable news network, a free cable channel, and an influential film studio to over 130 million people in over 25 million households, thus providing accurate depictions and channels of media to multiple regions across the world.

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Work Cited

Campbell, R., Martin, C.R., & Fabos, B. “Movies and the Impact of Images.” Media & Culture: Mass Communications in a Digital Age. Boston, MA: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2017. 221-24. Print.

Cantoni, Brian (Photographer). (6 November 2013). Netflix button on Sharp Aquos remote [digital image]. Retrieved from: https://www.flickr.com/photos/cantoni/10715878456

Mozart, Mike (Photographer). (25 August 2014). Verizon, Cellular, Mobile, Wireless Store, Newington, CT. Retrieved from: https://www.flickr.com/photos/jeepersmedia/15039195422

Pires, G. & Jose, A.. “Media Plurality: Private versus Mixed Duopolies.” Journal of Public Economic Theory, Vol 18 (December 2016): 942-60. Print.

Vaidya, Samarth & Gupta, Rupayan. “Corruption via Media Capture: The Effect of Competition.” Southern Economic Journal, Vol 82 (April 2016): 1327-48. Print.

Weeds, Helen. “TV Wars: Exclusive Content and Platform Competition in Pay TV.” Economic Journal, Vol 166 (August 2016): 1600-33. Print.

 

Written by Olivia Montes, 2018.

Myth Analysis

Justin 1Myth analysis is one of the most important methods that can be implemented when analyzing advertisements and marketing campaigns. This is not, however, referring mythology and folklore—at least not in most cases.  Rather, myth analysis refers to “a strategy for critiquing advertising that provides insights into how ads work on a cultural level; according to this strategy, ads are narratives with stories to tell and social conflicts to resolve.” (Campbell, Martin, and Fabos, 2017, p. G-7). Essentially, myth analysis is the process by which one analyzes the various narratives presented in advertisements.

These myths/narratives can take on a number of different forms. The most common form of myth in advertisements consists of simple conflicts that usually involve individual characters facing explicit challenges. Sometimes these challenges are other characters, but more often they are inherent obstacles associated with life. These conflicts are then solved by the end of the advertisement, through the use of the product being marketed. Other, more developed advertisements (generally in the form of a marketing campaign, rather than single ads) make use of mini-stories, complete with characters, settings, plots, and everything else one would expect from a narrative arc.

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A typical narrative arc, given a traditional beginning, middle, and end.

To the right, you can see a map of how plots typically progress. Working in such a limited space—most ads being 30 to 60 seconds—there is not usually time for this entire arc to be covered. As a result, most ads skip exposition entirely, moving straight to conflict. From there they reach the narrative with little development and then a resolution is proposed—on which most time is spent, as the resolution is generally the thing being advertised.

 

A great example of both common myth and expert analysis comes in “Consumer Myths: Frye’s Taxonomy and the Structural Analysis of Consumption Text” written by Barbara B. Stern. Stern analyzes advertising around Thanksgiving and one of its most commonly replicated myths, a myth referred to as the “dropped turkey.” Essentially, just before Thanksgiving dinner is fully prepared, the turkey is dropped and suddenly dinner won’t be ready in time. It is important to note that it is not always the turkey—or anything at all—that gets dropped, the myth is more broadly referring to the difficulty of preparing a large meal and the need for easily-made foods.

Examples of simple print advertisements from Pillsbury are provided from the mid-1990s. The ads make proclamations such as “Everything falls into place with the Thanksgiving experts.” (Stern, 1995, p. 169). By promising a perfect dinner with relative ease, Pillsbury is playing on the common myth, and presenting themselves as the solution to that conflict. Even without most consumers realizing it, many of us have been exposed to this myth so many times that the advertisement functions properly and is understood by most who view it.

While older and commonly replicated myths can be very effective, a myth does not have to be well known to be effective, nor does something have to be replicated to be a myth. For example, take a look at this ad for Veet. The video is only 30 seconds, yet manages to present the viewer with a small bit of exposition, a conflict, and a fully-effective solution. In this case, the “myth” being presented is that the partner of the man in bed is so “prickly” after only shaving that he mistakes her for a man. Almost immediately, the product, Veet, is introduced. Following this introduction his partner appears both female and feminine. Thus, the conflict is resolved.

What can be defined as a myth in advertising is a very wide selection. So long as it follows some altered form of a narrative arc and presents the viewer with a resolution, almost anything can be myth. Not every myth is effective, and not every myth is as thoroughly developed as another. However, due to the powerful effect they can have, it is important to be aware of various myths as they are presented in advertising and begin to analyze what they may be trying to achieve.

References

Campbell, R., Martin, C. R., & Fabos, B (2017). Media & Culture: Mass Communication in a Digital Age 11th Edition. Boston and New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s.

Stern, B. B. (1995). Consumer Myths: Frye’s Taxonomy and the Structural Analysis of Consumption Text. Journal of Consumer Research, 22(2), 165-185.

Image Attribution: Image #1 is licensed under CC0 and does not require attribution, it was edited by Justin Nash. Image #2 was created by Justin Nash. Video #1 was released under a CC attribution license on YouTube and was uploaded to the channel “Commercials.”

Written by Justin Nash, 2018

Nielsen Media Research

Nielson has been the major organization that tracks and rates prime-time viewing audiences since 1950. They estimate what viewers are watching in the nation’s major markets. Nielsen main goal is to “provide advertisers, broadcast networks, local stations, and cable channels with considerable details about viewers-from race and gender to age, occupation, and educational background (Campbell 2017).”

The article Optimizing the Automotive Path to Purchase demonstrates what the Nielson Media Research company can offer to consumers and companies. It is a “perspective” article backed by research from Nielson that explains new trends in automotive purchase decisions. It also mentions another Auto Marketing Report that offers “a full understanding of how consumers shop for cars and how they react to automotive advertising (House 2018).” The article first explains some common misconceptions about the car market. The author explains how consumers do in fact have a bias toward certain car companies and that the car buying process is not simply a process of elimination. Companies really need to build deeper connections with consumers at multiple channels to promote purchases. The author also explains how awareness is crucial in reaching consumers and it is important to build deep connection with consumers. The information presented in this article is very useful for car companies in the industry (House 2018).

Connected Commerce: Connectivity is Enabling Lifestyle Evolution is a report made by the Nielson Media Research group that explains the effect of mobile devices on consumers and making purchases in the 21st century. There is no denying that “internet accessibility, mobile technology, and digital innovations are redefining consumers every interaction and will continue to enable and disrupt many aspects of consumers’ lifestyle well into the future (2018).” The report also talks about how the internet simplifies consumers’ lives and how being so connected effects communication platforms. Finally, the report by Nielson Media Research suggests some strategies for manufacturers and retailers to succeed using technology. Reports like this made by Nielsen keep readers up to date with current trends. For companies who read this material, they will find that “success and sustained growth for manufacturers and retailers will be about creating strategic advantages across converged channels, touchpoints and experiences along the path to purchase, in both developed and developing markets, and evolved and emerging categories (2018).

VIDEO: Nielsen Media Research

The video above explains furthermore of how the Nielsen Media Research group operates. They have divided the United States into 210 sections called Designated Market Areas. Counties in those market areas are where Nielsen study consumers and their viewing habits. They monitor what channels are being watched, how long they are being watched, and whether viewers are switching between channels. Network companies use this information to determine what shows are succeeding or failing in certain demographics. Advertisers use this information to demonstrate what demographic they should promote their product to. Ad agencies use Nielsen’s demographic information as well for commercial use. Companies use the Nielsen ratings to also determine the cost they need to charge for commercial air time. Nielsen uses a random sample of viewers to establish their ratings system. They select homes based on address, not who lives in the home, using census data. Individual recruiting then begins with the people that live at that certain address. They also ensure that their random samples are reflective of the market itself to ensure more accurate results. If you are chosen to be a “Nielsen Household,” the company will send you a questionnaire that asks to describe the demographics of the individuals that live in that residence. Once filled out, a Nielsen representative will come to your home and establish a relationship with you to make sure that the individuals within the household are comfortable with being studied. The next step is the “Nielsen diary” which is sent out 4-7 times a year to households to determine viewing habits for one week, filled out by every member of the household. Local markets collect demographic information from these diaries and store their data for future use. As technology is changing, the Nielsen Media Research group is also constantly changing to keep up with the norms of television viewing.

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Nielsen Insights Report

Data gathered from Nielsen’s Media Research is displayed in the above picture. This shows an example of some of the data they collect and how it has increased from the previous year.

 

 

References

Campbell, R., Martin, C. R., & Fabos, B. (2017). Media & Culture: Mass Communication in a Digital Age. Boston: Bedford/St. Martins, Macmillan Learning.

 

Connected Commerce: Connectivity is Enabling Lifestyle Evolution. (2018, November 19). Retrieved December 3, 2018, from https://www.nielsen.com/us/en/insights/reports/2018/connected-commerce-connectivity-is-enabling-lifestyle-evolution.html

 

House, B. (2018, November 29). Optimizing the Automotive Path to Purchase. Retrieved December 3, 2018, from https://www.nielsen.com/us/en/insights/news/2018/optimizing-the-automotive-path-to-purchase.html

Image and Video Attribution:

The image and video used in this post is in Fair Use and for educational purposes only.

 

 

Written by Mark Diese, 2018.

Online Advertising

Prior to the internet, marketing had many physical obstacles, ranging from time zone differences to currency exchange rates. Today, the physical store has evolved into a virtual marketplace where sellers and buyers can do business all without ever leaving their home. The advent of web business also brought on web advertising.

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A collection of web adverts

Online Advertising, also known as Web Advertising, is a type of advertising that utilizes the internet to promote a product or message to the consumers. With the internet so crucial in today’s society, online advertising has many different components, not limited to but including: email, mobile apps, search engine marketing, and numerous versions of display advertising.

The two main parties involved with online advertising are the advertiser and the publisher. The advertiser is the creator of the ad, be it a web banner or a logo. The publisher is the one who puts, or publishes, the advertisement to the internet for the consumers to see.

Search ads and display ads are the most widely used forms of online advertising. In search ads the publisher, search engines such as Yahoo! and Google, require the advertisers to “bid” on how high or low they want their ad to be displayed. The higher the bid, the higher the ad is placed when the consumer searches keywords on the engines. For companies like Google, revenue from displaying search ads make up most of their income. Display ads are used in web pages where the publisher charges the advertiser to display their own banner on the display of the publisher’s web page (Prussak, 2013).

john 2Social media advertising is currently rising in popularity. With many different social media platforms and their worldwide usage, companies are coming up with innovative ways to advertise through social media. This type of online marketing is a “medium in which billions of dollars are spent in the U.S. and around the world” (Sconyers, 2017). In this case, the advertiser will pay the publisher, a celebrity, or social media influencer with a large media presence, to promote their products on the publishers platforms ranging from Facebook to YouTube.

Still, not every consumer wants to see ads every time they go online. Ad blocking has made an appearance in which consumers can pay or install software to stop from seeing online ads. “Ad blockers had been available for some time, but their potential use in the world’s most popular mobile browser heightened their saliency and brought the debate over their use into mainstream media”(Wicker & Karlsson, 2017).  This brings a big hamper to the online advertising industry because ad blocking can cost advertisers tens of billions of dollars. The argument that ad blocking violates an implicit contract between the viewer and publisher actually falls under legal grounds. Ad blocking has been referred to as a form of theft from Randall Rothenberg, president and CEO of the Interactive Advertising Bureau. It is still under much debate as to whether such rules have integrity on the Internet.

References:

Prussak, A. Y. (2013). The Income of the Twenty-First Century: Online Advertising as a Case Study for the Implications of Technology for Source-Based Taxation. Tulane Journal of Technology & Intellectual Property, 1639-77.

Sconyers, A. (2017). Corporations, Social Media, & Advertising: Deceptive, Profitable, or Just Smart Marketing. Journal of Corporation Law, 43(2), 417-436.

WICKER, S. B., & KARLSSON, K. (2017). Internet Advertising: Technology, Ethics, and a Serious Difference of Opinion. Communications of The ACM, 60(10), 70-77. doi:10.1145/3048384

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

Written by John Kim, 2018

Pastiche

The topic of pastiche in modern society is extremely applicable to multiple different fields. Because of this, theorists like Fredric Jameson have written pieces mentioning the term pastiche and applying it to their respected fields. The initial focus in Jameson’s work was the way pastiche has an effect on and has been affected by theories in the communications realm. Jameson focuses on pastiche and its lack of creativity. His focus compares the concepts of pastiche and parody and how, in the current media climate, pastiche unapologetically rips off other pieces of work and is “parody that has lost its sense of humor” (Laughey, 2007, 155).

When discussing the theory of pastiche and the effects it can have on artistic creation, it is important to first look into who Jameson is in his background, and how that has interplay into his theorizing of different cultural concepts. Originally a literary critic, Fredric Jameson has institutionalized understandings in a wide variety of different cultural media subject centers; anything from contemporary Korean film to North-American science fiction to Chinese poetry (Danius 1). While this may appear to be a large spread of different topics that have little to no correlation, Jameson was able to utilize his understanding and specialization in a large quantity of seemingly different types of culture and make connections between them. A lot of his theorization on pastiche could be derived from his investigation into cultural connections between all of these types of media; finding drastic similarities that could in turn insinuate that there is a systemic overhead monitoring all the cultural artistic creations.

Jameson’s background in historical analyses of such topics was also a predominant part of what motivated him to take the position that he did on pastiche. Jameson drew a connection between realism and postmodernism with the transition in capitalism from classical capitalism to imperialist capitalism and then finally global/late capitalism. Jameson used his previous knowledge on the history of cultural artistic creation to posit that the growth and exponential power struggle that occurred within capitalism globally could be related to the transition of art creation from individualistic to appeasement of an authority figure. If he had not had the background that he did before analyzing this subject matter, his analysis very easily could’ve been subject to unsubstantiated claims and guesses as opposed to deductions off real life findings.

Jameson’s conceptualization is that pastiche is the lack of originality. In his words pastiche is “the disappearance of the individual subject, along with its formal consequence, the increasing unavailability of the personal style, engender the well-nigh universal practice today” (Jameson, 1991, 21). In other words, pastiche has created a system that focuses less on the individualistic motivations of art and more motivated by the appeal of what is deemed good and worthwhile to create. The increasing unavailability personal style insinuates that I see as more of a passive effect that pastiche has on artistic creation; that the movement away from individual’s creating what they want comes from a power higher than their own personal motives. Jameson explains the of the effects of pastiche through an example focusing on film. Instead of creating new and challenging films, many filmmakers resort to using well known and well-liked motifs that will garner more public support. He uses the example of the 1950s Americana motif. “One tends to feel, that for Americans at least, the 1950s remain the privileged lost object of desire, and to be able to create filmography that allows viewers to put themselves in the situation creates a sense of passive existence within this realm” (Jameson, 1991, 23). The understanding of film producers is there that people will pay into films such as these—he cites George Lucas’ 1973 American Graffiti as an example—it is more financially responsible to continue to make these films than go out on a limb and make a film that individualistically the directors and producers are more emotionally tied to but may not do as well. The inherent bases that Jameson’s theory has in late capitalism is a tell-tale sign of how detrimental capitalist ideals can be to a field like the arts. Capitalism’s focus on making money takes away the individual’s desire to risk financial ruin to do what makes them the happiest.

For Jameson, pastiche has come out of these very capitalist ideals, and have created a system that is now ingrained in the very way human beings create and operate within the arts and in other fields. Jameson posits that “the extraordinary impact of capitalism on hitherto traditional cultures, the social and psychic damage done to now irrevocable older forms of human life and perception” (Jameson, 1991, 206) has irreversibly affected the arts and artistic creation to a point of no return. The concept of traditional cultures is intriguing because it creates the narrative around pastiche that it has not always been an integral part of our culture. Other theorists that discuss pastiche, like Lawrence D. Mankin, look at pastiche in the lens that it has always had a kind of interplay in cultural creation and has only gotten more pertinent with the introduction of capitalist ideals. Jameson’s theorization that pastiche was created out of the capitalist system tues the two concepts together much more than other theorists have, while arguing that pastiche has a sense of passivity that other theorists argue against. Pastiche is not something that is ingrained into the very nature of human beings the way that creating culture is. Rather,  it is a response that is motivated by the socioeconomic climate in the world.

When talking about Jameson’s theorization it is also important to define and discuss his conceptualization of intertextuality. Jameson defines intertextuality as “a deliberate, built-in feature of the aesthetic effect, and as the operator of a new connotation of ‘pastness’ and pseudo-historical depth, in which the history of aesthetic style replaces ‘real’ history.” (Laughey, 2007, 156) Jameson goes on to explain how intertextuality goes hand in hand with pastiche in that they both effectively ignore the past in their creation of more artistic culture. Nostalgia, as Jameson lays out, exists when films in the current day relay back to a different time period. Because of this, we never truly focus on what is going on in the present.

However, Jameson’s arguments of pastiche and intertextuality have many pitfalls. Jameson assumes that original cultural creations have to be created in a vacuum and everything that has influence by something else and doesn’t directly acknowledge it is pastiche (Laughey 157.) However, the ability to create unique and original creations is impossible not because of pastiche, but because of the inherent inability to not be influenced by one’s surroundings. Another criticism of Jameson’s understanding of how pastiche has effected our society in the postmodern era is that there is evidence to show that pastiche has existed far before postmodernity. Examples like Shakespeare’s play Antony and Cleopatra show a pastiche-like intertextuality influence far before theorists were acknowledging that it exists (Laughey 157).

In a more current sense, pastiche can be applied to much of pop culture today. Take for instance Madonna. Madonna when she first came into social power–even today–seemed revolutionary. But with careful examination it can be clear that there is a very close relationship between the shock value of Madonna and the shock value Marilyn Monroe brought to Hollywood. The vixen role that both women play, in an otherwise sex-negative media narrative, presents a refreshing yet challenging notion that things don’t necessarily have to be the way that society dictates them. Contrarily, it is not a new fight that Madonna brought to the public eye. What can be seen as unique feeds right into Jameson’s understanding of how cultural creation will continue to be the same, over and over again. In a Jamesonian sense, there have been Monroe and Madonna-esque figures before, and there will continue to be these figures every time womanhood is challenged.

References

Jameson, F. R. (1991). POSTMODERNISM, or, The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

Laughey, D. (2007). Postmodernity and the information society. In Key Themes in Media Theory (pp. 147-168). London, England: Open University Press.

Danius, S. (2015, March 05). About Fredric R. Jameson. Retrieved May 5, 2018, from https://www.holbergprisen.no/en/fredric-r-jameson/about-fredric-r-jameson.html

Written by Will Hewitt

 

Political Economy of Communication and Media

Political economy examines how power and economics are related, and how they influence mass media, social, political, and economic structuration. The tradition of political economy developed alongside the great capitalist revolution in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. In reaction to the social and commercial transformation created by capitalism early political economists looked to understand social change and historical transformation (Mosco, 2014). To most effectively understand the relations of power and how they play into social and historical transformation, political economists assess the totality of social relations that make up all areas of economic, political, social, and cultural life. Political economy has consistently aimed to build unity of the political and economic, understanding that the two have a reciprocal influence on each other and the public sphere. The political economic approach understands the integration of capitalism into societies’ social and economic structure. To understand the change occurring, the paradigm looks to how industry operates and how these operations effect the social relations. By understanding the forces of social and historical change political economists are able to intervene and address the problems which arise in a capitalistic world.

Political economy looks to pair its research with social intervention, with the goal of producing positive social and moral change. This combination of research and application is called social praxis. Political economists are united under the view that the division between research and action is artificial and must be overturned. Praxis is a demonstration of political economies’ commitment to a moral philosophy. Different approaches to political economy favor different moral philosophical standpoints. Political economy research always has a moral imperative, and intervention behind it. Unilaterally, political economy has an interest in values that help create social behavior and the moral principles that guide the efforts to change it.

Theorists such as John Stuart Mills and Adam Smith began researching the causation of social and historical change in reaction to the capitalist driven industrialization of labor. Smith and Mills examined the economic transformation from agriculture labor to commercial manufacturing. Karl Marx examined the class dynamic within capitalism to explain historical change. These classical political economists all demonstrated concerns for history, the social totality, moral philosophy and praxis, but they fundamentally differed on the characterization of intervention. This schism motivated the evolution of classical political economics. Orthodox economics developed under the influence of Adam Smith and his followers, outlining the structuration of the free market and its ideologies. Orthodox economics neglected classic political economy’s concern for the dynamics of history and social change and focused solely on the production, distribution, and consumption of resources. Additionally, it grew to neglect classical principles such as praxis, social totality, and moral philosophy. From orthodox economics was birthed the science of economics, or simply economics. Economics conceptualizes the market through mathematics and statistics. Just as orthodox economics developed into economics under the influence of Smith, classical political economics transformed into contemporary economics, following a Marxist ideology. Contemporary economics is geared towards extending democracy in all aspects of social life. Its moral philosophy motivates the approach to promote democracy in all spheres of life.

To analyze the politics and economics of media institutions, contemporary political economics study three social processes: commodification, spatialization, and structuration. Commodification is a process of exchange. Goods and services are transformed into profitable values which can be exchanged in the marketplace (Mosco, 2014). Food’s ability to satisfy hunger gives it value in the market, so when it is sold the food is commodified. Understanding how these goods are being commodified gives an entry point to understanding the behavior of communication institutions. Spatialization looks at how institutions overcome constraints of time and space in social life (Mosco,

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Visual example of horizontal and vertical integration

2014). The evolution of communication technologies means the concept of time and labor, and how companies uses these commodities, are constantly being reworked. Since these constraints are constantly in flux, it is crucial to understand these changes. Corporations extend their control of space and time by integrating with other industries. Horizontal integration occurs when a company purchases another company in the same media operation, giving them more control over the market. Horizontal control monopolizes the profits. A company vertically integrates when it extends its control over the process of production. Vertical integration awards the newspaper company with the profits from every waypoint of production. The last basic tenet of contemporary political economics is structuration. Through structuration of governmental, social, and economic institutions create persistent inequalities in communications systems as a means to keep power over the laboring classes. Political economy looks at the how the structuration of class and institutions incorporate ideologies of agency, social process, and social practice into society.

As the world economy continually becomes more intricate and globalized, the field is adapting to the constant growth of the media markets and transnational corporate integration. The current trends of study show a globalization of political economy research. Rapidly over the last two decades, political economy has established a concentration on international research (Mosco, 2014). The process of global expansion has made the work of political economists more necessary. The integration of the global political economy and its media systems creates a web of strategic partnerships which influence a myriad of social relations across the globe. The ability to structurally assess transnational business conglomerates grows ever more imperative as business grows larger and gains influence to cover up exploitive and undemocratic behavior. Inequities are created in a global economy because there is no positive moral philosophy to capitalism, transnational integration monopolizes power to the hegemonic regimes, and the complex structures of these corporations shroud these inequities. The political economy paradigm is the antithesis to modern capitalism. The paradigm acts on solving modern inequities with a moral imperative and a dedication to understanding the social totality of situations.

Political economy possesses the ability to structurally assess the technologically and organizationally intricate companies such as Uber. A political economic approach to Uber would first look at the structure of Uber and asks ‘what agencies are necessary for Uber to exist?’ The key agencies involved in any and every Uber ride is the rider, the Uber app, the car, and the driver. Uber is commodifying the service of ‘catching a ride’, also commodifying the rider, as they are constituted by their bank account. Uber also sells the idea of a smooth, cashless transaction, which is less awkward and cumbersome than public transit.

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The display and screen of the Uber App. One press gets the user a ride.

To address the idea of spatialization a theorist would look at the algorithms and technologies inside the Uber or how geocaching works. Continuing examining space and time, there must be an understanding of Uber’s time surge pricing and how it plans these surges around metropolitan time-geography. The last step is understanding Uber’s structuration. How does Uber’s structure discriminate against those without credit cards? How does the structuration of Uber hurt the quality of public transit? How can Uber say that it isn’t a transportation company that employs drivers and therefore should not be subjected to the regulations of that industry or employers in general? The analysis looks to see how Uber manifests itself in the world and through this understanding augment or better the everyday existence of Uber.

Online dating sites can also be examined through a political economy lens. The question is what is being commodified inside the business of online dating. Of course, users commodify the idea of ‘finding love’ by paying for accounts, but the personal

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A online dating profile, with bountiful information for advertisers.

information of the user is truly being commodified. Looking at the corporate integration of online dating sites, it is apparent that over half of the most popular online dating sites are owned by the same company. These corporations make a large portion of their profit from selling their user’s personal information to advertising companies. The structuration of the online dating profile are gender binary, excluding gender fluidity or other identifications. Intersectionality can not be achieved inside the current structure because the categorized sections of dating profiles make it easier for advertisers to distribute and use.

 

References

Laughey, D. (2007). In Key Themes in Media Theory. Berkshire, England: Open University Press.

Mosco, V. (2014). The Political Economic Theory and Research: Conceptual Foundations and Current Trends. The Handbook of Theory and Mass Communications, 1, 37-54.

Image Attributions: “ok cupid scam account” by Carl Lender, 2016, CC by 2.0; “An UBER application is shown as cars drive by in Washington, DC” by Andrew Caballero, 2015, CC by 2.0; “Vertical versus Horizontal approach” by Universal Mobile, 2009, CC by 2.0

Article by Evan Gaines

Postfeminism

Postfeminism acts as an antidote to feminism and believes in “the active disavowal of feminism as a necessary politics” (Banet-Weiser, 2018, 153). Feminism is a movement that endorses the social, political, and economic equality of the sexes. Feminism and the fight for gender equality have been around since first-wave feminism began in the late 19th and early 20th centuries with the suffragist movement. Postfeminism argues that since women have already achieved equality in society, there is no longer a need for feminist thought; it refers to an ‘after’ feminism — a state where equality has fully been accomplished and gender discrimination is a feature of the past. Sarah Projansky (2001) contends that “the concept of postfeminism perpetuates feminism in the very process of insisting that it is now over” (p. 66). Feminist media scholars, like Projansky, have worked and continue to work in order to disprove postfeminism and discredit its validity.

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Women’s Liberation March in Washington, D.C. (1970)

The history of postfeminism is not linear. The 1960s and 1970s saw an emergence of mainstream liberal white feminism, which is now referred to as second-wave feminism. This second-wave movement made significant strides in bringing gender issues into the spotlight. Some women’s issues that became more regularly discussed in American society were “related to reproductive rights, equal pay, the family and legal realms, and the workplace” (Banet-Weiser, 2018, p. 152). Overall, feminists during this time were labeled as stereotypical misandrists. In the 1980s and 1990s, media representation of these feminists changed, and women came to be “represented as intrepid, choice-making agents” (Banet-Weiser, 2018, p. 153) nearing the turn of the 21st century. The mid-1990s birthed third-wave feminism, who focused on the acceptance of women’s individuality and diversity – including a greater openness and recognition of women of color and men. Around 2012, the fourth wave of feminism commenced, which will be discussed later in this paper.

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From International Women’s Day in London (2017)

Postfeminism can come in many forms, but every form still believes that feminism is unnecessary. In her book, Sarah Projansky defines five categories of postfeminist discourses, with the first being linear postfeminism. Linear postfeminism is the progression from pre-feminism to feminism to the end of postfeminism; it is a historical outlining of feminist theory. Projansky (2001) explains that “The construction of linear historical relations between feminism and postfeminism ensures the impossibility of feminism and postfeminism coexisting. Since postfeminism always supplants feminism, feminism logically no longer exists” (p. 67). Because a postfeminist society could only occur ‘after’ feminism has been achieved and obtained, then it is not possible for feminism and postfeminism to exist at the same time.

Contemporary society is currently in the fourth-wave of feminism, which is understanding and counteracting intersectional oppression. This is the belief that women of different races, sexual orientations, and ethnicities experience sexism in their own unique ways. If society is still in a state of feminism, as it is in present-day according to the fourth wave, then feminism has not yet been achieved; society is not in a state of postfeminism. Another subset of postfeminism is called backlash postfeminism, which is the ideology that previous feminist thought has been dominated by self-victimization and seeks to correct it. Both linear and backlash postfeminism shine a negative light on feminism; instead of advocating for an ‘after’ feminism, they fight against feminism.

Equality and choice postfeminism is the third category and differs from the first two by positively representing feminism. It “consists of narratives about feminism’s ‘success’ in achieving gender ‘equity’ and having given women ‘choice,’ particularly with regard to labor and family” (Projansky, 2001, p. 67). Despite this positive representation, however, it suggests that women have a more expansive variety in choice and have no need to fight for equality, stating overall that there is no need for feminism (Projansky, 2001, p. 67).

The fourth category is known as (hetero)sex-positive postfeminism. This category refers to itself as a more modern and progressive alternative to antisex feminism, while also integrating parts of feminism that affirms the independence of women. (Hetero)sex-positive postfeminism promotes individuality and independence within feminism (Projansky, 2001, p. 67). However, it promotes this while still reaffirming women as sexual objects under a patriarchal male gaze. Projansky’s fifth postfeminist category takes the focus off women and puts it on men. According to this category, since women have obtained equality thanks to feminism, “men can be feminists too” (Projansky, 2001, p. 68). Postfeminism is immensely complex topic of study, and these five categories help to clarify and complicate its vast broadness.

Well-known postfeminist scholars include Susan Douglas and Angela McRobbie. McRobbie (2009) developed a process called ‘feminism taken into account,’ which she clarifies in her book as the following:

The kind of feminism which is taken into account in this context is liberal, equal   opportunities feminism, where elsewhere what is invoked more negatively is the radical  feminism concerned with social criticism rather than with progress or improvement in the position of women in an otherwise more or less unaltered social order. (p. 14)

The context McRobbie (2009) is referring to is the “high profile or newsworthy achievements” (p. 14) of women in a variety of employment and media institutions. Also in her book, McRobbie identifies the existence of postfeminism in pop culture by addressing the film Bridget Jones’s Diary (Sharon McGuire, 2001). McRobbie (2009) introduces Bridget Jones as the following:

In her early 30s, living and working in London, [she] is a free agent, single and childless and able to enjoy herself in pubs, bars and restaurants. She is the product of modernity in that she has benefited from those institutions (education) which have loosened the ties of  tradition and community for women, making it possible for them to be dis-embedded and  to re-locate to the city to earn an independent living without shame or danger. (p. 20)

Despite the freedom that Bridget has, she frets throughout the movie about finding a man and getting married and having children. Many of her actions in the film actually work towards gaining a man’s affection and approval. For example, she keeps a diary

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Renee Zellweger as Bridget Jones in Bridget Jones’s Diary

and tracks her calorie intake to watch her weight. Bridget Jones takes place in a postfeminist setting, where Bridget has achieved equality; she has the means to provide for herself and exists as her own entity. However, her quest to ‘better herself’ in order to “become the sort of woman who she thinks will be the kind of woman men want to marry” (McRobbie, 2009, p. 22) means that Bridget is actually still subject to a patriarchal society. Bridget’s belief that she has to change herself to please men proves that society still needs feminism.

Douglas, on the other hand, denounces the term postfeminism because she argues that, instead, the term sexism reinforces the patriarchy and is at the root of inequality between the sexes. Douglas (2014) has coined the term enlightened sexism, which she describes as “feminist in its outward appearance (of course you can be or do anything you want), but sexist in its intent (hold on, girls, only up to a certain point, and not in any way that discomfits men or pushes feminist goals one more centimetre forward)” (p. 37). While postfeminism states that society is past feminism, enlightened sexism attempts to negate feminism. Enlightened sexism recognizes the women’s movement and its accomplishments but uses those accomplishments as justification to “[still] [define] [women] by their appearance and their biological destiny” (Douglas, 2014, p. 37). Through her work on enlightened sexism, Douglas strives to clarify that feminism is still a necessity in this contemporary moment.

A common aspect of postfeminism in popular media culture is the use of the word girls to identify young women. Well-known postfeminist films such as The Princess Diaries and Mean Girls are examples of centralizing girlhood, “fusing empowerment rhetoric with traditionalist identity paradigms” (Tasker and Negra, 2007, p. 18). Girl becomes a broad term, and Tasker and Negra (2007) point out that its use could be to “simply treat women of a variety of ages as girls,” (p. 18) thus demeaning women and taking away their equal stance to men. By referring to women and young women as girls, not only their age but also their meaning and significance becomes diminished and belittled in comparison to men’s; women lose power by being addressed and seen as girls. This lack of equality justifies the continued need for feminism and the nonexistence of postfeminism in this contemporary moment.

References

Banet-Weiser, S. (2018). Postfeminism and Popular Feminism. Feminist Media Histories, 4(2),   152-156.

Douglas, S. J. (2014). Still living with sexism (after all these years). Soundings, (58), 34-43.

McRobbie, A. (2009). Post-feminism and popular culture: Bridget Jones and the new gender regime. In The Aftermath of Feminism: Gender, Culture, and Social Change (pp. 11-23). London, England: SAGE Publications Ltd.

Projansky, S. (2001). The Postfeminist Context. In Watching Rape: Film and Television in Postfeminist Culture (pp. 66-89). New York, NY: New York University Press.

Tasker, Y. & Negra, D. (2007). Feminist Politics and Postfeminist Culture. In Interrogating Postfeminism: Gender and the Politics of Popular Culture (pp. 1-25). Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

Image Attribution: Image 1: “Renee Zellweger smoking 2” by Nicholas Andrew is in the Public Domain; Image 2: “Fourth Wave” by Garry Knight is licensed under CC BY 2.0; Image 3: “Women’s lib[eration] march from Farrugut Sq[uare] to Layfette [i.e., Lafayette] P[ar]k” by Warren K. Leffler is in the Public Domain.

Written by Hannah Sauer, 2018

Product Placement

Product Placement is defined as the advertising practice of strategically placing products in movies, TV shows, comic books, and video games so that the products appear as part of a story’s set environment (Campbell, Martin, Fabos, 2017). It is used by marketing departments in companies to pair a certain product with a form of media to create a relationship between the form of media and product in the mind of consumers. Examples happen extremely often, with varying levels of success for the companies enacting the product placement. The attraction of product placement to marketing departments is because the showcasing of the brand or product directly connects to the viewers, rather than scenarios like a commercial on television or radio where the viewer can change the channel or fast forward through the commercial. There are four types of product placement: classic placement, corporate placement, evocative placement, and stealth placement (Kramolis, Drabovka, 2012). Classic placement is the original product placement technique which is somewhat subtle, corporate placement uses the brand rather than a specific product, evocative placement is discreet and the brand or product appears but is not explicitly mentioned, and stealth placement is highly discreet but also usually perfectly integrated into the scene giving the placement a feel of authenticity (Kramolis, Drabovka, 2012).

Product Placement / Due Date

For educational use only.

This is a screengrab from the movie Due Date with Robert Downey Jr. and Zach Galifianakis, where the two actors get into a car crash and in the slow-motion depiction of the car flipping over you see very deliberately a bag of Bugels and a box of Dunkin Donuts stay on the screen for a second or two as the car tumbles and wrecks. The brand Dunkin Donuts is referenced multiple times in the movie and Dunkin Donuts also paid to have product placement in many other films that same year. Some TV shows with the highest usage of product placement in 2011 were American Idol, with 577 occurrences of product placement in 39 episodes that year, The Biggest Loser, with 533 uses of product placement over 34 episodes, and Celebrity Apprentice, with 391 product place advertisements in just 12 episodes (Weinberger & O’Dell, 2012).

Product Placement and Fair Use

For educational use only.

This video is done by a Yotuber named Lindsay Ellis, who spent time working at an agency identifying and encouraging regular viewers to also notice product placement within tv shows. She uses great examples and breaks down the intricacies of product placement from the inside, giving regular people a perspective they would have otherwise lacked. This video would be greatly beneficial in educating students on how to spot product placement so as to be a more aware consumer.

While product placement seems like an effective strategy for marketing departments and harmless to viewers, there are criticism of the effects product placement can have. Some groups like the Commercial Alert organization which fights for disclosure of all product placement arrangements and notification of these product placements before their time on screen (commercialalert.org, 2018). This group advocates for people to know when they are being advertised to and to avoid advertisements geared towards children. Another general criticism is that it can stagnate creativity in the writing of shows or films because a certain product placement advertisement must be included. Because of the influence of subliminal marketing within product placement, viewers and some creators of product placement advertisements are worried about the ethics behind this form of advertising.

 

 

 

References

Campbell, R., Martin, C. R., & Fabos, B. (2017). Media & culture: Mass communication in a digital age. Boston: Bedford/St. Martins, Macmillan Learning.

Commercial Alert – Protecting communities from commercialism. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://commercialalert.org/

Ellis, L. (2018, November 30). Retrieved December 06, 2018, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NNuGdv536mM

Kramolis, J., & Drabkova, M. (2012). Types, Forms and Major Product Categories of Product Placement in the Czech Republic. Journal of Eastern Europe Research in Business & Economics, 1-11. doi:10.5171/2012.441984

Ralpherson, G. (2015, December 25). Retrieved December 06, 2018, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pXPFPzd8b6Q

Weinberger, J., & O’Dell, J. (2012, January 07). Here Are The 10 Primetime TV Shows With The Most Product Placement. Retrieved from https://www.businessinsider.com/these-10-primetime-tv-shows-most-product-placement-2012-1

 

 

Written by Conner Cotting, 2018

Propaganda

Propaganda is any type of mass communication strategically placed in order to gain public support for an issue, program, or policy. It includes, but is not limited to, media such as advertising or publicity. (Campbell et al, 2017). Propaganda has traditionally been used by governments in order to rally people behind political agendas that in some cases might be unpopular or controversial, such as a nation’s war effort.  It can also be used by opposing sides during wartime to undermine the opposition and garner support for the home nation. For example, Figure 1 is a publicity poster created in 1941 by the UnitedStates Navy during World

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Figure 1

War II which shows Japan, represented as the terrible snake, being bombed by the stealthy eagle representing the United States.

The purpose of propaganda is to influence individual actions or behavior. Weiss (2009) explains this purpose as an agenda-setting theory in which media, via propaganda, tells people not necessarily what to think, but rather what to think about. An argument can be made that media serves the interests of those in power by determining what news coverage to select and how to promote it, making the media a propaganda appendage of the government in power. An example of this is political propaganda during the Vietnam War that was initiated by the government and disseminated by the media in an attempt to sway public opinion in favor of the war. (Danesi, 2013).

Initially propaganda gained attention on a mass scale during World War I.  Lasswell (1980) considered the impact that propaganda had on the war front, particularly including United States President Woodrow Wilson’s strategies in spreading unity at home and discord abroad. For example, propaganda was used as a massive recruiting tool, rallying civilians to enlist for combat. Additionally, propaganda was used a political tool to sway public opinion in favor of war in order to avoid political unrest. According to Lasswell, propaganda was so influential in World War I that modern wars must now be fought on three separate fronts: military, economic, and propaganda.  Lasswell even goes so far as to conclude that propaganda “is one of the most important instrumentalities in the modern world.” (Lasswell, 1980: 227).  In 1927, Propaganda Technique in WWI was published, suggesting that propaganda directly effects people’s politics, family relations, and their general outlooks or behavior. (Danesi, 2013). This behavioral influence by propaganda could be likened to the way a hypodermic needle affects the human body.

A contrary position is that that propaganda does not influence a person’s behavior or opinions. This position is adhered to proponents of the “limited effects theory,” which initially gained popularity in the 1930s.  Baran and Davis (1995) explained that contrary to popular beliefs, most people are not directly influenced by propaganda.  Rather, adults are sheltered by any kind of direct manipulation by social institutions such as friends, families, or coworkers.  By the time people reach adulthood they already have strongly held beliefs and convictions that propaganda is not likely to change. Ideologies such as political beliefs or moral standards are firmly rooted within a person, and only a very small percentage of people will be directly influenced by propaganda. The limited effects theory represented a major shift in thinking about propaganda from the early 1900s immediately following World War I.

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Figure 2

In modern times, propaganda is still actively used by governments to promote their political agendas, sometimes even to the exclusion of competing viewpoints. Consider Figure 2, which was a propaganda poster found in a primary school in North Korea. It depicts young North Korean children who are armed and in the military actively firing upon and destroying the United States. Ma (2016) specifically focuses on the authoritarian governments in North Korea, China, and the Soviet Union. These regimes actively spread propaganda by closely censoring any type of media that might be considered unfavorable to the regime.  However, these governments are now facing serious challenges to their control of anti-authoritarian propaganda due to modern advances in technology.  The Internet in particular has proven a serious threat to governmental censorship of propaganda because “anybody with some Internet savvy can probably go over the ‘Great Firewall’ to access whatever they want.” (Ma 2016: 48).  Therefore, technology makes propaganda even more accessible than it was during World War I. It is highly likely that with the rapid increase of technology in a digital age, the issue of how to define propaganda and assess its impacts on individuals and society will need to be revisited frequently.

References

Baran, S. J. & Davis, D.K. (1995) Mass communication theory: foundations, ferment, and future.  Belmont, California: Wadsworth Publishing Company.

Campbell, R., Martin, C.R. & Fabos, B. (2017). Media & culture: mass communication in a digital age 11th edition. Boston and New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s.

Danesi, M. (2013). Media effects. In Encyclopedia of Media and Communication. (pp. 429- 434). Toronto, Canada: University of Toronto Press.

Lasswell, H.D. (1980). On political sociology. Chicago, Illinois: University of Chicago Press.

Ma, V. (2016). Propaganda and censorship. Harvard International Review, 37(2), 46-50. doi: 114852071.

Weiss, D. (2009). Agenda-setting theory. In Encyclopedia of Communication Theory. (pp.32- 33). Thousand Oaks, California: SAGE Publications, Inc.

Image Attributions: The first image used in this post is in the Public Domain. The second image used in the post is by (Stephan) and licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Written by Jake Brown, 2018.

Radio Act of 1927

The Radio Act of 1927, which began as the Dill White Bill, was passed on February 18, 1927 and signed into law by President Calvin Coolidge on February 23, 1927. It is Public Law Number 632 by the 69th Congress. The law constructed the Federal Radio Rachel 1Commission (FRC), which was charged with regulating radio. In doing this, the act superseded the Radio Act of 1912, which had previously given the Secretary of Commerce and Labor regulatory powers over radio communication. The Radio Act of 1927 stands repealed now due to the Communications Act of 1934, which replaced the Federal Radio Commission with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

Prior to the enactment of the Radio Act of 1927, the Department of Commerce regulated radio communication under the authority of the Radio Act of 1912. However, the Radio Act of 1912 did not allow the Department of Commerce to regulate the power or hours of radio transmission, withhold radio licenses, nor regulate or allocate radio frequencies. Though the Department of Commerce attempted to change that through litigation, a district court ruled in Hoover v. Intercity Radio Company that the Secretary of Commerce and Labor did not have the power to Rachel 2deny broadcasting licenses to anyone. For that reason, the radio waves went largely unregulated. Thus, radio frequencies were becoming increasingly crowded as unregulated stations attempted to be broadcasted on too few frequencies, which interfered with station reception. Therefore, the Radio Act of 1927 was passed to reinstitute order to the world of radio that had become so chaotic under the previous law.

The Radio Act of 1927 had four major impacts. First, as previously stated, it created the Federal Radio Commission, comprised of five commissioners, appointed by the President, from five geographic zones in the nation. In so doing, the act removed regulatory authority from the Department of Commerce and the Secretary of Commerce and Labor, transferring it to the new regulatory agency. Second, the act gave the FRC the authority to grant and deny licenses and assign frequencies and power levels for each licensee. The Davis Amendment to the act mandated that the FRC ensure that the allocation of radio frequencies, licenses, times of operation, station wattage, and wavelength be equally distributed across the designated geographic zones that the commissioners represented—irrespective of the fact that some geographic zones were more populous than others. Third, the act created the “public interest standard.” This standard is based on the belief that the public at large owns the radio spectrum, and that individuals are merely granted the authority, through licensing, to use a portion of the radio spectrum via radio frequencies. Thus, those who are granted a license must agree to serve the “public interest, convenience, and necessity” of the community in which they are licensed. Fourth, the act ensured that radio was a form of expression and was therefore protected by First Amendment rights. Due to its protected status, the Commission could not censor programming, but the content of radio programming could not contain “obscene, indecent, or profane language.” In practice, however, the Commission could take into consideration programming when renewing licenses, and their ability to take away a broadcaster’s license enabled them to control content to some degree. The Commission was also given the power to revoke licenses and fine stations or individuals for violations of the Radio Act of 1927.

The act only vaguely mentioned radio networks, giving the Commission only the “authority to make special regulations applicable to stations engaged in chain broadcasting” but no further regulatory abilities there. Additionally, the act did not authorize the FRC to make any rules regarding advertising except that advertisers must identify themselves.

For a full text version of the act, click here.

References

Campbell, R., Martin, C. R., & Fabos, B (2017). Media and Culture: Mass Communication in a Digital Age 11th Edition. Boston and New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s.

Davis, W. J. (1927).  The Radio Act of 1927. Virginia Law Review, 13(8), 611-618. http://www.jstor.org/stable/pdf/1065450.pdfrefreqid=excelsior:1dedf25f2703a811e8fd833d424226cc

Peck, L. A. (2008). Radio Act of 1927. In Encyclopedia of American Journalism. (Vol. 1 pp.159). London and New York: Routledge.

Sterling, C. H. & Skretvedt R. Radio. In Encyclopedia Brittanica online. Retrieved from https://www.britannica.com/topic/radio

Image Attribution: The images used in this post are in the public domain

Written by Rachel Martinez, 2018.

The Repressive Hypothesis

A frequent topic of evasion is sex, simply because it is considered too taboo to talk about in everyday conversation.  The rare time sex is freely mentioned is in the media, where it is frequently assigned a negative connotation.  However,  it is never thoroughly explained in the media and mostly just thrown into the mix as a method of sale.  In recent years discourse surrounding the idea of sex has started to become more common.  Nevertheless, when sex is brought up in conversation, it is mainly to accomplish two goals: to convince people to fear sex in general, and that pleasure is not the point of sex.  Consequently, people who find themselves comfortable with the subject of, or find pleasure in, sex are usually the ones denormalized and repressed in society.

To fully understand why society is so sexually repressed Michel Foucault, author of The History of Sexuality Volume Ⅰ: An Introduction, explains the meaning of his repressive hypothesis.  This term is used to describe the change in how people and communities talk about sex throughout history.  Foucault’s theory of the repressive hypothesis was developed to help society recognize that this repressing discourse about sex is a way to maintain a capitalist society, keeping docile bodies always available to work and make money.  By definition,  his hypothesis shows that the use of biopower, self-surveillance, and repressive identification promotes the reign of an intensified capitalistic economic system that has been forced upon society.

Historically, sex was not a sensitive topic and that there “was a period when bodies ‘made a display of themselves’” (Foucault, 1978, pg. 3).  In the seventeenth century there was little shame attached to sexual acts and discourse surrounding sex.  Moving into the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, ideals and standards changed in relation to sex and sexuality.  Discourse surrounding sex became more regulated, and kept within the home and between two married adults focused on the exclusive intention of reproduction (Foucault, 1978,  pg.4).

Aside from mostly married couples, no one else was having or talking about sex publicly.  Sex was and still is censored in contemporary culture, keeping children and others ignorant, therefore normalizing the repressed expressions of sex.  Foucault claims that, repression operated as a sentence to disappear, but also as an injunction to silence, an affirmation of nonexistence, and, by implication, an admission that there was nothing to say about such things, nothing to see, and nothing to know (Foucault, 1978,  pg.4).

He describes conversations having to do with sex, as almost non-existent because everyone was silenced into submission.  People who did not fall trap into the repression of sexuality, also known as ‘the other victorians,’ were forced into silence by being admitted to “places of tolerance” (Foucault, 1978, pg.4). These people were not afraid to step outside of the constraints and habitual hypocrisy within today’s society.  The way society works is based on power that is exercised through disciplinary institutions such as hospitals, schools, and prisons. Thus, the act of sexual repression gives opportunity to authority to dominate over docile bodies is termed by Foucault as biopower.  He defines biopower to be literally, power over the body, and in this case, multiple bodies within a society.  In order for this technique of power to be optimized, these bodies need to be both fully available and docile so that it is easier to take control.

Jen Pylypa, who is focused on the concept of medical anthropology, uses Foucault’s work and develops it even further by giving specific examples of how biopower exists in the world today.  Pylypa focuses on personal subjugation of the body and how people conform to and force themselves to participate in daily practices of constant self regulation and the need to conform to the norms of a capitalist society.  She states, “[i]ndividuals thus voluntarily control themselves by self-imposing conformity to cultural norms through self-surveillance and self-disciplinary practices” (Pylypa, 1998, pgs. 21-22).  People being controlled within a society are usually self-servailing themselves in order to fit into a particular norm, in order to save face.  She builds on Foucault’s ideas saying that because of the current capitalist society, people will always manage themselves to fit the norm and make sure not to deviate from social authority.

This can be seen in many different parts of the technological world that contemporary society has become.  Especially with the ideals of what to do, and what not to do within

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This photo describes the hegemonic construction of gendered approaches to intimacy and emotion and the ways in which people filter themselves through social media platforms.

the realm of online dating sites.  People who use these types of of sites tend to embellish themselves to make it as though they can fit within the ‘norm’ of society.  In a capitalist society, it is important that people fall trap into the deep hole that is paying for internet services.  The businesses intimates that it is a place where self-servailers can put their whole life out there, when really people only put out what is ‘supposed’ to be scene.

Self-surveillance  is particularly seen in places like gyms and fitness centers as well.  These place advertise that it is important to have a sexy body.  They also represent the idea that being fit and healthy is vital to having a complete and happy life, when in fact they are just trying to expose the people who do not fit the norm.  Gyms and fitness centers end up having control over bodies because they are making people think that they are not fitting into society and having them pay economically to fulfill this achievable goal.  By making

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This photo shows an example of what the ‘perfect’ gym body is supposed to look like and what fitness centers will promise if you pay their fee.

people feel like they are inferior, the corporations have gained the power and used it to pry more money out of individuals and keep them distracted from the repressive world that they live in.

Biopower allows for the control over the people.  It is vital to a capitalist society that they can satisfy the work imperative and create economic gain for themselves and businesses within the society.  Susan Bordo, talks about this when dealing with dynamics of feminist ideals.  Women today have become more focused on keeping up with the latest trend to stay with the ever-changing definition of satisfaction.  She asserts that, “the discipline and normalization of the female body… has to be acknowledged as an amazingly durable and flexible strategy of social control” (Bordo, 1989, pg. 14).  The obsession that women have with their appearances through diet, makeup, and clothing are ways that Foucault’s definition of docile bodies is seen in the real world.

Makeup tutorials and shows such as “What Not To Wear,” a show where a person literally tells someone that they are not good enough, are other examples of how Foucault’s hypothesis is represented in real life.  These productions are only showed on platforms for people’s own selfish economic gain.  Viewers are sucked into trying to be a part of a group and not focused on the fact that they are being forced into a society where only few options are accepted. This causes much confusion because we are made to think that there are many options when only few are actually thought of to be appropriate.

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Stacy London is a fashion consultant/co-host of a reality TV show called What Not to Wear, which features her using her power as a reality star to convince people that they need to buy into the capitalist world.

Products and advertising techniques that purposefully point out women’s flaws, show the exploitation of an ignorant people, caught up in the binds of social cement.  After a while, people become accustomed to being ‘appropriate’, which causes them to no longer think that they are being repressed, when in fact they have always been.  The more docile the bodies, the less these multi-million dollar companies have to work to achieve economic fortunes.

Although Foucault’s repressive hypothesis is grounded on the main idea that oppressed sexuality is a way to gain power over docile bodies, it is also a way to determine how we as humans are cultured into society and represented by each other.  When discourse surrounding sex or sexuality is intentionally withheld, people remain clueless that conversations about sex and individual representation is being repressed and subjugated by capitalistic authority.

Unfortunately, Foucault claims that there is no way out of this repressive system.  As long as there are jobs that benefit people economically, then there will be no point in things that constitute some sort of pleasure.  A repressive lifestyle produces biopower, power over the bodies, because people are working and gaining money and using the money to fit into the norms of society.  Capitalist authority allows people to focus on work instead of pleasure, and money instead of self.  If most groups censor information like sexuality, consequently it will not be brought up in discourse, creating a accessible pathway for capitalism and biopower to manifest control over multiple bodies at once.

References

Foucault, M. (1990). The History of Sexuality, Volume 1: An Introduction (Vol. 1). New York: Vintage Books.

Jaggar, A. M., & Bordo, S. (1992). Gender/body/knowledge: Feminist reconstructions of being and knowing. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.

Pylypa, J. (n.d.). Power and Bodily Practice: Applying the Work of Foucault … Retrieved May 6, 20118, from https://www.bing.com/cr?IG=EF76AF5D01D24B15AAB9EEF9543481BC&CID=03AC989E54456AA03AAB937755EA6BCD&rd=1&h=SNvqxYWFoW716CoOiPVWKa-3AJOeSgRULnx4kJxQPtQ&v=1&r=https://journals.uair.arizona.edu/index.php/arizanthro/article/viewFile/18504/18155&p=DevEx.LB.1,5069.1

Image Attribution: Image I Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0); Image 2 Attribution- CC0 Public Domain; Image 3 Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Written by Erika Reynolds, 2018

 

 

Selective Perception Theory

Selective perception theory, also known as selective exposure, is the theory that an audience’s interpretation of media is dependent on their personal beliefs. The public willingly chooses to consume media that aligns with their principals. If they consume media that does not reflect their ideas, the audience will view and construe the medium’s content in a frame that supports their original ideals. In this way, every piece of content portrayed in a medium will be placed in an agreeable stance with the viewer’s belief or be ignored.

tamia 1This theory was originally established by Paul Lazarsfeld under the Bureau of Applied Social Research in the Columbia School. Lazarsfeld was an American sociologist who wrote The People’s Choice in 1948, a book on how voters determine their presidential candidate. Co-authored with Bernard Berelson, Lazarsfeld claimed that the media has little influence over the public’s opinion in voting (Danesi 2013). When a person views media content, only the ideas that fit preconceptions are entertained, while counter-claims are disregarded. Lazarsfeld’s and Elihu Katz’s research in 1955 focused on if and to what extent can a medium’s content about a candidate change the beliefs of a voter. In the end, it was discovered that viewers supported the political party information that fit their previously-held ideals. These results showed that a person’s interpretation of media content is based around the values of their social class or group (Danesi 2013).

Hadley Cantril also had a similar concept. In his minimal-effects model, Cantril established selective exposure and selective retention with controlled experiments and surveys. Selective retention is the concept of people retaining messages that confirm their previously-held attitudes. In this way, minimal-effect researchers also believed that mass media reinforces preconceptions, instead of altering or forming new ones (Campbell 2017).

In the 21st century, this phenomenon of selective perception impacting media interpretation is still present. In 2018, Lauren Feldman and other professors studied selectivity in the case of choosing how to consume media: the news versus regular entertainment. In order to judge a person’s engagement in politics-oriented news, Feldman and colleagues developed two layers of selectivity, one being partisan selectivity. Partisan selectivity is the concept of people preferring messages that support their preconceptions and beliefs, which is referred to as pro-attitudinal content, over ideas that conflict their personal ethics, known as counter-attitudinal messages (Feldman 2018).

When choosing news over entertainment, citizens who choose news consume content that is already similar to their own conclusions. This is partly due to the fact that it requires less effort to consume ideals that match preconceptions than to cognitively interpret and sift through counter-attitudinal messages (Feldman 2018). Moreover, when choosing news, the public will view issues that relate to their own personal concerns. A simple example of such would be a marine biologist choosing to watch a news report about influxes in the crab population off the North-eastern coast. Therefore, selective exposure is seen when audiences choose to consume media content that is homogenous to their own principles.

Feldman also highlights the impact social classes and groups have on media content. During the consumption of messages in a news-based medium, one must also consider the strength of their original ideologies (Feldman 2018). In other words, a strongly-committed person in an audience will seek out and select themes that are like their supported partisan ideals. One can consider the 2016 United States Presidential Election. Throughout the campaign, an intensely devoted Republican could possibly choose to only watch news networks that advocate and support Republican nominee Donald Trump. Meanwhile, a devout Democrat may choose to watch pro-Hillary Clinton programs and ignore content that promotes Nominee Trump.

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In both cases, a person may select a certain network to consume because it has like-minded values while disregarding the content that is counter-attitudinal.

Citizens react in this way due to the fact that humans naturally become members of interpretive communities (Danesi 2013). As social creatures, humans settle into groups, such as churches, neighborhoods, unions, classes, and more. Members of these groups tend to have homogenous notions, especially if they are raised in this group. A member’s ideals are then shaped by the tenets of that community. With this setting, a main influence on selective exposure is an opinion leader. An opinion leader is expected to consumer content across media and then make deliberate decisions, these opinions are then given to the members in the community. For example, in selective exposure, if an opinion leader were to promote CNN over Fox, then members of the community will be more likely to selectively consume CNN.

Along with the example of the 2016 Presidential election, selective perception theory is present in many ways in the 21st century. While many recognize an importance in retaining both sides of an argument, selective perception theory will always influence the interpretation of a medium’s content.

References

Campbell, R., Martin, C. R., & Fabos, B. (2017). Media & Culture: Mass Communication in a Digital Age 11th Edition. Boston and New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s.

Danesi, M. (2013). Media Effects. Encyclopedia of Media and Communication, 429-434. doi: 10.3138/9781442695528.

Feldman, L., Wojcieszak, M., Stroud, N.J., & Bimber, B. (2018). Explaining Media Choice: The Role of Issue-Specific Engagement in Predicting Interest-Based and Partisan Selectivity. Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, 62(1), 109-130. doi: 10.1080/08838151.2017.1375502

Image Attribution: “Catalá: Paul Felix Lazarsfeld” by Miremahe CC 4.0;  “Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton during United States presidential election 2016” by Krassotkin and Gage Skidmore CC 3.0

Written by Tamia Williams, 2018

Sketch Comedy (TV)

Sketch comedies also known as short comedy skits originated from variety shows which consisted of singing, dancing, and many other forms of entertainment (Campbell, Martin, & Fabos, 2017). Sketch comedies are often played in front of a live studio audience and although they are scripted there are elements of improv in their segments as well (Simons, 2016). Simons (2016) describes the flow of a sketch comedy work as a short piece of content filled with humor, the audience is entertained and then the sketch is over. The ability to enjoy the work, then move on with life it what easily attracts viewers.

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Sketch comedies have been shown on various networks and channels. Comedy Central serves as a channel that has provided audiences with fan favorites like Key and Peele (2012-2015), and Inside Amy Schumer (2013-2016) (Campbell et al., 2017). To this day NBC network has aired Saturday Night Live (SNL) since 1975 (Weingarten et al., 2015). Celebrity guest appearances are frequent and provide iconic and memorable moments on SNL sketches. Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim has also provided sketch comedies. From 2012 to 2014 Adult swim aired Loiter Squad, a show featuring rappers and skateboarders like Tyler The Creator and Earl Sweatshirt. Adult Swim also provides an example of animated sketch comedies like Robot Chicken (2005-2018), where different groups of characters of various animations who have segments of their own sketches are put together to make an episode. Nickelodeon aired The Amanda Show (1998-2002), a sketch comedy show aimed for children that casted young actors who later took roles in other works like Amanda Bynes and Josh Peck (Weingarten et al., 2015).

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Individuals who have been involved in sketch comedies have furthered their career in different areas as well. While Tyler The Creator and Earl Sweatshirt have advanced in their musical career and Amanda Bynes and Josh Peck continued to act (Weingarten et al., 2015), others like Harold Ramis from SCTV and Bob Odenkirk from Mr. Show with Bob and David have proceeded to direct and write films as well (Mazillo, 2017). Their experience with sketch comedies allowed these directors to portray artistic freedom in films that have produced free flowing and entertaining content audiences can admire and remember (Mazillo, 2017).

Before we had sketch comedies on television, they were performed on stages. Now sketch comedies are viewed on various platforms including the internet. YouTube shared segments of sketch comedies to audiences all over the world, increasing their popularity. However, audiences continued to watch on the internet, increasing the use of third screen, or computer viewing (Campbell et al., 2017).

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If this trend continues, there is a chance that audiences will choose to use fourth screens like smartphones instead of watching sketch comedy shows on television (Campbell et al., 2017). Subscription streaming platforms like Hulu and Netflix, who even produce their own sketch comedies might make this change easier. However, because individuals by nature have multiple interests, it might be possible that television and the internet will continue to make content and audiences will find their niches in each source (Campbell et al., 2017).

 

 

 

References

Campbell, R., Martin, C. R., & Fabos, B (2017). Media & Culture: Mass Communication

in a Digital Age 11th Edition. Boston and New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s.

 

Mazillo. A., (2017, August 18). The influence on sketch comedy experience on film directing.

Retrieved from https://www.filminquiry.com/influence-sketch-comedy-directing/

 

Simons. S., (2016, April 12). The Strange Persistence of Sketch Comedy. Retrieved from

https://www.pastemagazine.com/articles/2016/04/the-strange-persistence-of-sketch-comedy.html

 

Weingarten. C., et al., (2015, March 27). 40 Greatest Sketch Comedy TV Shows of All Time.

 

Rolling Stone. Retrieved from https://www.rollingstone.com/tv/tv-lists/40-greatest-sketch-comedy-tv-shows-of-all-time-142581/the-league-of-gentlemen-1999-2002-186768/

 

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

 

 

Written by Milena Rodriguez, 2018.

Spectacle

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Portrait of Guy Debord

Guy Debord was a French theorist that became an important part of postmodernity and shaped the theory of the spectacle and its role in society during the 1960s. He is particularly interesting with the fact that he often put his theory into practice with his creation of the situationist group that often protested against societal norms and capitalist control, which were significant aspects in his theory. Overall, Debord’s theory on the spectacle is vital to the postmodern theories and is used to explain the toxic relationship between media, economy, and society.

Guy Debord’s spectacle is part of the Postmodern theory. He belongs to the Postmodern theorists because of his ideas style destroying substance and media or the spectacle changing or extinguishing reality. Postmodernism, as defined by Dan Laughey in Key Themes of Media Theory, is the movement from modern ways to new postmodern ways. These new ways are separated into two forms: the creation and spreading of new media, and the rise of consumer culture with the disappearance of forms of production. Debord focuses on the rise of consumer culture that spreads the new media and controls the production. The spectacle creates an emphasis on style over substance and the lack of societal interaction through the seclusion of consumers in the terms of postmodern theories. He gives an explanation of society through the effects and control of the capitalist economies and of commodities.

Guy Debord, in his book The Society of the Spectacle, interprets the world as a commodity and is ruled by capitalism. Those who are leaders in capitalist economies create media or spectacle to control and segregate consumers with the help of technology such as television or radio. Debord paints the image of a “lonely crowd” in terms of this capitalist isolation to explain how consumers become isolated by capitalism, but they are also under the same capitalist control. The unified control is through the people’s concentration on the spectacle while also being separate from all other concentrations through deceiving the audience’s gaze. The audience believe that the media that they are seeing is real when it is not, merging them in their beliefs and reliance on the media and commodities but still isolating them from actual reality. And, this reliance on fake media creates fake needs, or pseudo-needs, within the population.

Debord creates the idea of pseudo-needs. These are needs consumers experience because the of the control that the capitalist industries have. The spectacle is what they use to create them. He positions that the audience takes up the role of the spectacle. In doing this, the audience as the spectacle works to move the spectacle from idea to reality, so that it becomes reality when introduced into the audience’s everyday life. However, the consumers are left with a false representation of life with the fact that the spectacle is the consumer creating different roles for themselves because they do not comprehend that reality does not exist when influenced by the images and media that create the spectacle.

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Situationists’ Posters and Slogans

An example of how Debord put his spectacle theory into practice is by creating a group in 1957 called the “Situationists,” who all had the main goal of making people aware of the blindness and seclusion that the capitalist economies have created through media. They believed that people have become destitute because of the fact that what everyone is forced to consume does not give the meaning it actually has, therefore giving consumers no meaning as they become the spectacle they consume. This lack of thought creates a segregated society that the situationists fought to end. They created situations that forced people to interact and think about what was going on.

Another example would be an uprising in Paris in 1968, that was influenced by the situationists’ movement, that forced the French people to think about how the country was being run and how people were barely surviving with the existence of the spectacle. Those who started the uprising were influenced by the situationists’ situations that made

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Students protesting during the Paris Uprising of 1968

people think about the hegemonic norms that they were following. The Paris Uprising was a forced examination of the French government and society, with an emphasis on the hegemonic norms like the situationists, specifically by students at the Nanterre University. It pairs with the idea of going against hegemonic, or dominant, norms that the situationists practiced, which led to students, workers and everyday people around the city to become part of a strike. In classrooms, students would stand and scream political sayings, and workers would yell them in the streets. This becomes part of the Situationists’ practice of disrupting normal society practices that are often controlled by media.

So, with the overall idea of people who have become spectacles being isolated from society, this leads to thoughts and ideas becoming unimportant and the interaction with society nonexistent.

References

Debord, G., & Nicholson-Smith, D. (2012). The Society of the Spectacle. New York: Zone Books.

Laughey, D. (2010). Key Themes in Media Theory. Maidenhead: Open University Press.

Morgan, T., & Purje, A. (2017, May 14). An Illustrated Guide to Guy Debord’s ‘The Society of the Spectacle’. Retrieved May 7, 2018, from https://hyperallergic.com/313435/an-illustrated-guide-to-guy-debords-the-society-of-the-spectacle/

Poggioli, S. (2008, May 13). Marking the French Social Revolution of ’68. Retrieved May 7, 2018, from https://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=90330162

Situationists – An Introduction. (2006, October 12). Retrieved May 7, 2018, from https://libcom.org/thought/situationists-an-introduction

Image Attribution: Image #1 “Guy Debord, painted portrait DDC_7567. jpg” by Thierry ehrmann licensed under Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0); Image #2 “Situationist posters (Paris 1968)” by E Wayne licensed under Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0); Image #3 is in the Public Domain

Written by Gillian White, 2018

Textual Analysis

Textual analysis is a method in cultural and media studies that critically examines and interprets the meanings of culture through texts (Campbell, R., Martin, C. R., & Fabos, B. 2017). Texts can be defined as any “unit of meaning for interpretation and understanding” (Ouellette & Gray, 2017), though cultural studies views texts broadly as anything than needs to be interpreted or read. These texts can include examples such as television programs, fashion, books, music. This methodology aims to understand the meanings of texts, how texts convey meaning, and “what its themes, messages, and explicit and implicit assumptions aim to accomplish” (Ouellette & Gray, 2017). The meaning of texts can often be subtle as many elements can be evaluated.

The interpretation of texts is important because they transmit meaning and communications. Often though, texts can be interpreted a variety of different ways. The meanings of texts are “contextual, relative [to the readers background and history], and situated in a particular place and time” (Ouellette & Gray, 2017). This means that good textual analysis must take both the specific time and place in account. In Stuart Hall’s Encoding/Decoding, he states that both the sender of a text and the receiver work together to create meaning. Hall’s research helps scholars to understand why and how multiple meanings are formed when using textual analysis (Chavez, 2009).

Horace Newcomb was the first major scholar to study television shows using this methodology. In his book TV: The Most Popular Art, he “studied why certain TV programs and formats became popular” (Campbell, Martin, & Fabos, 2017) using textual analysis. He did this by examining patterns such as artistic tradition and social context. He explored “aesthetic, social, and psychological” (Campbell, Martin, & Fabos, 2017) qualities in the work he studied.  As a result of his research, textual analysis began to focus less on strictly ‘important’ works. For cultural and media study scholars, the definition of a text expanded to include “architecture, fashion, pop icons” (Campbell, Martin, & Fabos, 2017) and other things like music, movies, and entertainment. Analysis of the more ordinary aspects of life often provided insight about society in general. Their focus was on the “ways that ‘normal’ people organize experience and understand their daily lives” (Campbell, Martin, & Fabos, 2017). Textual analysis, as a toolkit, allows researchers to see the ways in which cultures interact with the world around them.

Alexa 1Dick Hebdige was the first to use this methodology to analyze youth subculture. Hebdige studied under Stuart Hall at the Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies at the University of Birmingham. Hebdige extended ideas on subculture from Hall in his book Subculture in which he studied the construction of youth fashion, particularly in Alexa 2white punk and reggae subcultures. To Hebdige, style was composed of clothing, make-up, music, and drugs. In both the punk and reggae subcultures he identified a common theme – the rejection of British national symbolism. Style, he determined, represented underlying principles of subcultures. Punk fashion, inspired by the reggae subculture, is composed of “leathers jackets…vivid socks…bum freezers and bovver boots” and “contained distorted reflections of all the major post-war subcultures” (Chavez 2009). Through the use of textual analysis, Hebdige was able to analyze a drastic shift in fashion for certain subcultures.

References

Campbell, R. Martin, C. R., & Fabos, B (2017). Media & Culture: Mass Communication in a  Digital Age 11th Edition. Boston and New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s.

Chávez, K. R. (2009). Cultural Studies. In S. Littlejohn & K. Foss, Encyclopedia of Communication Theory. 2455 Teller Road, Thousand Oaks California 91320 United States: SAGE Publications, Inc. https://doi.org/10.4135/9781412959384.n99

Ouellette, L., & Gray, J. (2017). Keywords for Media Studies. New York: New York University

Image Attributions: Image #1 “Skingirls” is by PSICO MOD and licensed under CC BY 2.0, : Image #2 “Subculture” is by Jodieinblack and licensed under CC BY 2.0

Written by Alexa Reed, 2018

Two-Step Flow of Communication

Cass 1The Two-Step flow of communication was originally derived by Lazersfield and a group of sociologist in 1944 (Katz, 1957). Eleven years later Katz adapted the model (Katz, 1957). The original hypothesis of the Two-Step Flow of communication, described a verbal flow of communication. In which mass media flows to opinion leaders and then audience (opinion followers). The opinion followers are more or less disconnected about media landscapes, and therefore take in the information from the opinion holders.  There is an interconnection of communication. Factors in this model include: the level of personal Influence, the flow of that personal influence, and the opinion leaders’ involvement with mass media (Katz,1957). The flow of personal influence describes where their certain interpersonal communication ranked higher than others (Katz,1957). Katz stresses that personal influence can be a stronger and more effective influencer than mass media.

Mass media usage differs within communities. A poll was conducted and information was diffused about the passing of Senator Taft (Larsen and Hill 1954).  The information was spread across the radio, television, and newspaper. The white communities were recorded as being the most informed about this issue. It was also concluded that in that same neighborhood, the least informed were non-white (Larsen and Hill,1954). The Cass 2degree of interpersonal communications was significantly higher amongst the white community members.  This shows that interpersonal relations played a key role in the transmission of a message. In this example, it is more powerful than mass media itself. This directly relates to Katz modernization to the Two-Step flow of communication. Opinion leaders are not just famous nor recognizable people. Upon further studies and research Katz concluded that there are these “opinion leaders” on every level of society (Katz,1957). This is adaptation of the original model suggests that the communicatory process can be transitive.

The Two-Step flow of communication process takes place across all scopes of media. An example of this would be mass media like television or newspapers that feature opinion leaders and strong influencers. Such as the President of the United States and Oprah Winfrey. Both capture large demographics and vastly differing ones. Audience members would be more likely to relate to homogenous opinion leaders. For example, a democratic party member would not be as influenced by Trump’s information as a Trump-supporting Republican would. Contrarily, Oprah Winfrey is a well-known Democrat and spokesperson for women and racial issues. There are a lot of women and minorities that would listen to her for knowledge about worldly topics over Trump. Their respective audiences gain much of their information from those people about important issues in the world today.

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The Two-Step flow of communication model is important due to the fact that it helps explain how masses of people obtain their information. This model also describes an easily influenced and gullible audience. The Two-Step Theory also focuses on the effects and behaviors of the opinion followers. In a democratic society, the ability to get messages out to audiences can lead to sufficient political gain and power.

References

Katz, E. (1957). The Two-Step Flow of Communication: An Up-To-Date Report on an Hypothesis. The Public Opinion Quarterly,21(1), 61-78. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/2746790

Larsen, O., & Hill, R. (1954). Mass Media and Interpersonal Communication in the Diffusion of a News Event. American Sociological Review, 19(4), 426-433. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/2087462

Image Attribution: Image 1: “Two-step flow of Communication” by Nisomlevi, CC BY-SA 3.0; Image 2: “Old television Set” by Rfc1934, CC BY-SA 3.0; Image 3: “Oprah Winfrey (2004)” byAlan Light, CC BY-SA 3.0; Image 4: “Donald Trump responds to a question during Q&A with Reef Cordish” by Sheela Craighead, CC BY-SA 3.1

Written by Cassidy Quattro, 2018

Uses and Gratifications

The Uses and Gratifications theory was posited as a more comprehensive way to discuss and analyze the roles of media effects in our lives. The Uses and Gratifications theory views the audience as an active participator when consuming media. This is a significant shift in audience perspective. Before the Uses and Gratifications theory, the audience was seen as a passive observer when consuming media, where every member of the audience interprets the media in the same manner. The Uses and Gratifications theory recognizes that audience members can have different tastes and preferences when consuming media. This shift in classifying how an audience can have different interpretations with a piece of work is central to the Uses and Gratifications theory.

Uses and Gratifications theory measures the impact of media through the difference between gratifications sought and gratifications obtained. Gratifications sought was the initial reasoning an individual consumes a piece of media or adopts a new medium. Gratifications obtained is the reasoning for continued use or enjoyment from that same media or new medium. The difference between gratification sought and gratification obtained is central to the Uses and Gratifications theory, because the difference between the two gratifications could potentially draw more people to the media or medium or repel new people from adopting the media or medium.

The Uses and Gratifications theory can be used as a lens when examining why people adopt social media platforms. Research conducted by communication scholars Alyson Young and Anabel Quan-Haase shows us that people satisfy different gratifications depending on what social media platform they use. Quan-Haase and Youngs’ research was conducted in two distinct parts. First, they examined how individuals use social media. They examined the type of social media used, how long people interacted with the platform, how frequently the individual stayed on the platform, and through what screen did the person consume the piece of media (through their laptops, iPads, cellular devices). Quan-Haase and Young also examined the motivations for continued use of social media, and the gratifications that were obtained.

This research revealed that people satisfy different social needs depending on the platform that they were using. People who use Facebook usually joined the platform due to a friend recommending them to sign up for a profile. This initial gratification sought is different than the gratification sought through adopting the instant messaging platform ICQ. Individuals adopted ICQ to influence and care for their friends in a positive and intimate manner (Quan-Haase and Young, 2014). The results from this study highlight how different social desires can be obtained through a diverse use of various social media platforms, highlighting how consumers utilize each platform for fulfilling different social gratifications.

The Uses and Gratifications theory examines how people interact with media. Instead of studying how media influences the people who consume it, the Uses and Gratifications theory instead studies, “… who uses what media, how often they use the media, and in what social, historical, and economic contexts” (Quan-Haase and Young, 2014). This shift in studying how individuals interact with media is central to the Uses and Gratifications theory. On top of studying how consumers interact with media the Uses and Gratifications theory examines an individuals’ personal set of values to help determine their media consumption habits. For example, someone who is single, lives alone, and only works part time has vastly different media habits than someone who is married with children and works a full 40-hour workweek.

A practical application of the Uses and gratifications theory can be seen with the streaming service Twitch. Twitch is a platform that enables content creators to livestream themselves playing video games, while a live audience watches the content creator play any video game he or she chooses. In addition, the livestream users can participate in a chatroom, where other people rom around the world can talk with each other and communicate over a shared interest. Streamers can also enable their viewers to donate to their channel, acting as a revenue stream for the content creator. Some streamers have large enough fanbases that contribute enough money so that the streaming becomes the full-time job of the individual playing the video game.

Twitch is so successful because of how much choice a consumer has over their gratifications sought. Streamers can service a plethora of gratifications sought, enabling the viewer who wants to actively donate and participate in online discussion the forum to do so whilst enabling viewers who want to take a more passive role in their viewership. A spectrum of obtained gratification can be sought for all viewers.

cole1The success of Yelp is built upon the difference between gratifications sought and obtained. Yelp, the online review site for restaurants and other service-based businesses enables consumers to either recommend or criticize a business based off the expected gratifications sought and the actual gratifications obtained. If a customer finds that their gratification obtained was lesser than the gratification sought, the customer can leave a negative review if the business. If the customer finds that the gratification they obtained superseded their gratification sought, the customer can leave a positive rating of the experience they had with the business.

This enables potential customers of a restaurant to log onto a prospective establishments Yelp page and look at the data recorded on the gratifications sought compared to gratifications obtained. This enables customers to make more educated

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decisions towards where they eat out at and helps inform the consumer over what their gratification level should be at any given establishment. This will enable the customer to have less negative dine-in experiences, thus maximizing gratifications sought when compared to gratifications obtained.

References

Quan-Haase, A. & Young, A. (2014). The Uses and Gratifications (U&G) Approach as a Lens for Studying Social Media Practice. In The Handbook of Media and Communication Theory. Edited by Robert S. Fortner  and P. Mark Fackler. New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc. https://doi.org/10.1002/9781118591178.ch15

Image Attribution: Yelp icon: Morgan, 2013, Attribution 4.0 International (CC by 4.0)’Yelp Page: jwalsh, 2007, Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC by 2.0)

Written by Cole Wilhite, 2018

Video Game Addiction

Video game addiction can be defined as “excessive time playing games, particularly video games” (Struthers, 2014, para 1). This addiction is behavioral, rather than physical, because it primarily affects social responsibilities and interactions (Struthers, 2014). This addiction replaces physical human contact, physical exercise, and risk associated with reality.

Sarah 1Video games are played mostly in order to fulfill psychological needs, and in some instances, these psychological needs becoming fulfilled are what makes them addictive (Babbage, 2014). The most addictive types of games that have been found are Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games (MMORPG’s), such as World of Warcraft, and
action/shooter games, such as Call of Duty. These types of games allow players to experience an alternative reality, and is addictive due to the rewards that it provides its players.

Symptoms that are commonly attributed with Video game addiction, as reported by William Struthers are, “excessive game-binging, gaming late into the night, a decreased interest in school or occupational pursuits, and anger or frustration when denied access to gaming” (2014, para 6). Struthers also reports that weight gain, lack of personal hygiene, and changes in sleeping habits are also physical signs of video game addiction (2014). These symptoms, being linked to both the physical and psychological well-being of the people suffering, makes the addiction extremely serious.

Males are more likely to become addicted to video games than women are. According to
Campbell, Fabos, and Martin, “this makes sense, given that the most popular games—action shooter games—are heavily geared towards males” (2017, p. 87, para 4). These games specifically are also made to be addictive by the design.

Sarah 2Games that reward players for achievements are found to be more addictive, because they are psychologically rewarding to the players. Rewards are found to be even more rewarding if they are unpredictably given. Ultimately, this depends on the game player and their personality, but games are designed to keep their players playing. Games are also made addictive, and are keeping players engaged longer, by adding exclusive rewards to their games. Games such as Call of Duty offer incentives for playing their older games longer, and reward players for doing this by giving them exclusive offers in their newest released game. For example, the release of Black Ops 3 came with a
Loyalty program, which rewards players if they have reached levels 31 or higher in
Black Ops II, Call of Duty: Ghosts, and Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare (Activision Support, 2018). The video game industry is giving incentives for players to play their games even longer, and stay engaged with their games, which as a result is absorbing the time and social lives of the players, thus leading to video game addiction.

There are many dangers to video game addiction that have been proven to affect the social and psychological lives of the people that video games are consuming. Campbell, Fabos, and Martin reported “the more children were addicted, the more prone they were to depression, social phobias, and increased anxiety, which lead to poorer grades in school” (2017, p.87, para 3). Overall, video games, while not a physical substance, can be highly addictive and detrimental to the heath of those that consume them.

References:

Call of Duty: Black Ops III Loyalty Program. (2018) Activision Support. Retrieved from https://support.activision.com/articles/en_US/FAQ/Call-of-Duty-Black-Ops-III-Loyalty-Program

Campbell, R., Martin, C. R., & Fabos, B (2017). Media & Culture: Mass Communication in a Digital Age 11th Edition. Boston and New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s.

Babbage. (2014, February 18). What Makes Video Games Addictive? The Economist. Retrieved from https://www.economist.com/blogs/babbage/2014/02/electronic-entertainment

Quentin. (2016, August 22). Pixabay [Photograph]. Retrieved from https://pixabay.com/en/xbox-xbox-one-microsoft-joystick-1602822/

Struthers, W. P. (2014). Gaming addiction. Salem Press Encyclopedia of Health. Retrieved from http://eds.b.ebscohost.com.washcoll.idm.oclc.org/eds/detail/detailvid=3&sid=d1680bd7-51da40d5b529ee2c0935bf1b@sessionmgr4006&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWRzLWxpdmU=#AN=9441419&db=ers

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

Written by Sarah Bentley, 2018.

Video Game Arcades

Nick 1Video games were first created and popularized in the 1940s, but it wasn’t until the 1970s that video arcades were finally brought to life. An arcade game is a coin operated entertainment machine, and a video arcade therefore, is a public place with a collection of arcade games. This was the next step in gaming technology that had previously been consumed by pinball. Arcades became popular with younger generations by giving them a public place to cheaply play games and hang out. Video arcades created a new social medium between gamers when, for the first ever, players were able to compete with and against each other while standing side by side.

The “Galaxy Game” is the earliest known coin-operated video arcade game which was first installed in 1971 (The History of Video Arcade Games). The original cost was $20,000 to build the machine then would play for 10 cents each game. Once video games popularized in the ’70s, Nolan Bushnell and Ted Dabney went on to co-create a revolutionary company named Atari, Inc. in 1972. Atari went on the create a tennis sports game called PONG which became the first large success of video arcades. 1970-1985 marked the golden era of video games. Dabney and Bushnell are largely credited with the birth of arcade popularity, with their creation of PONG and the success of Atari, Nick 2these two proved that the arcade business could be profitable which lead to ongoing efforts of companies to follow. During this era, there was a rapid spread of video arcades and gaming rooms (June, 2013). The most popular companies rose out of the golden era were Atari, Namco, and Sega. The release of Pac-Man in 1980 by Namco is widely considered the most popular arcade game ever released. The arcade business peaked due to the popularity of Pac-man and similar spin offs that eventually created a bubble for the industry.

Unfortunately, the golden era did not last very long. The death of the video arcade golden age was sooner rather than later. It wasn’t newer technology that drove out arcades, but rather fear of the American public. Many Americans feared the arcade takeover lead to poorly run businesses and to future gambling addictions in children as first posted in Times magazine. At the end of the golden era, video arcades started becoming more commercialized with national chains such as Chuck E. Cheese’s and Dave and Busters became popular (June, 2013). Instead of using coin operated gaming machines, larger businesses began straying away from the coin operated games and moving towards cash loaded swipe cards that are needed to play in the arcade. Video arcades began fading out during the late 80s into the early 90s for a couple of reasons. Video Arcades failed to diversify on a number of levels, namely successfully separating from bars and restaurants which were both much more profitable businesses. Video arcades also suffered as more video games were being produced from video game consoles. Many also attribute the losses that arcades saw entering the mid 1980s in response to the lack of innovation within the niche.

References

Bmigaming.com. (n.d.). The History Of Video Arcade Games : Who Invented Video Games ?. Visual History Of Video Games, Video Arcade Games and Computer Game. [online] Available at: https://www.bmigaming.com/videogamehistory.htm [Accessed 30 Apr. 2018].

June, L. (2013). For Amusement Only: the life and death of the American arcade. [online] The Verge. Available at: https://www.theverge.com/2013/1/16/3740422/the-life-and-death-of-the-american-arcade-for-amusement-only [Accessed 30 Apr. 2018].

Image Attribution: Both images used are in the public domain

Written by Nick Popolizio, 2018.

Walter Benjamin

jordan 1Walter Benjamin was a prominent German cultural critic and philosopher of the Frankfurt School. Benjamin was born on July 15th, 1892 in Berlin, Germany to an upper-middle-class Jewish family. In his youth, Benjamin became interested in culture and anti-authoritarianism. He attended the Friedrich-Wilhelm Gymnasium, a prestigious secondary school, and later joined the German Youth Movement. After avoiding World War I by pretending to have a back injury, Benjamin went on to continue his studies around Germany. Benjamin’s studies took him to Bern, Switzerland where he studied philosophy. In Bern, Benjamin became interested in Zionism and fell under the influence of existential and Marxist philosophers Martin Buber and Ernst Bloch. In 1917, Benjamin married Dora Pollak, who gave birth to their only child later that year. Three years later, Benjamin completed his doctoral dissertation on the concept of art criticism in German Romanticism (Bland, 2013).

Following his studies in Bern, Benjamin moved back to Berlin to start his professional career. After submitting a manuscript for a teaching position at the University of Frankfurt, Benjamin realized that his radical opinions and arguments would not be received well and withdrew his application. Unemployment, coupled with the end of his jordan 2marriage led Benjamin to pursue a career as a freelance scholar. When the Nazis invaded Germany, Benjamin fled to Paris, France where he continued to write and publish his work. As the Nazis moved into France, Benjamin continued south, finding himself in Port Bau, Spain. Thinking the Nazis had discovered him, Benjamin committed suicide and died on September 26th, 1940.

It was not until after he died that Walter Benjamin’s contributions to literary theory, criticism, materialism, and aesthetics were fully appreciated. In his lifetime he published a number of literary works and essays, many of which are considered to be highly influential.

Some of Walter Benjamin’s works include:

  • “The Task of the Translator” (1923)
  • “The Origins of the German Tragic Drama” (1924)
  • “Experience and Poverty” (1933)
  • “The Author as Producer” (1933)
  • “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction” (1936)
  • “Theses on the Philosophy of History” (1940)

Benjamin’s wrote about a variety of topics including children’s books, toys, gambling, folk art, the art of the mentally ill, film, and the illustrated press (Jennings, 2004). In one of his most popular works, “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction,” Benjamin discusses the effects of mechanical reproduction on the originality of art. Further, he observes the cultural implications that come with accessibility and the creation of mass media. He argues that, while manual reproduction is sacred and ritualistic, mechanical reproduction can exist in spaces that the original cannot (Benjamin, 1968).

References:

Benjamin, Walter. (1968). “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction.” In Illuminations. Ed. Arendt, Hannah. New York: Schocken. 217-251.

Bland, Jr., Addison. (2013). “Walter Benjamin.” In Great Lives from History: The Twentieth Century (Online Edition). Salem Press.

Jennings, Michael. (2004). “Walter Benjamin and the European avant-garde.” In The Cambridge Companion to Walter Benjamin. Ed. Ferris, David. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Image Attribution: “Memorial to Walter Benjamin” image by Wikinaut licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0; “Walter Benjamin” image is licensed as under the public domain.

Written by Jordan Weir, 2018

Wire Services

Wire services originally began as commercial organizations. They were used as an effective way communicate and convey news and other information about worldwide events, by telegraph lines and the transmissions of radio waves, which then turned into the digital age. Some of the most popular wire services are the Associated Press and Reuters.

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Around the year of “1848 there was a combination of six different newspaper companies who founded the first wire service which used telegraph lines to relay messages from the port of Boston, known as the first transatlantic port” (The Editors of Encyclopedia Britannica, 2018).

By the year of 1856 the company took over and created the New York Associated Press. A couple years later around 1862 The Western Associated Press was formed. Some examples of the importance of wire services that occurred early in their use was around the 1860’s was the coverage of Washington D.C. and the Civil War. Reporters from northern areas were sent to the south to get more coverage of the war. After the reporters got back from Washington D.C.  they used their information and reports to give others back home a personal outlook on the issue which was sent by telegraphs and by wire services.

kaleigh 1As the “advancement of telegraphs and undersea cables [happened] the news wires expanded to South America in 1874” (Thomas Reuters, 2007). Following the electronic age, in 1923 the use of Reuters went on the radio and spread news rapidly. By “1892 the Western Associated Press split from the New York Associated Press and the Associated Press was formed in Chicago Illinois” (The Editors of Encyclopedia Britannica, 2018). As a result of the Associated Press, news was able to travel rapidly, using newspapers and provided individuals with first-hand information surrounding personal stories and stories from other newspapers.

In the 1900’s the newspaper known as the “Chicago Inter Ocean was incorporating the Associated Press, but did not have a membership, the Associated Press moved from Chicago Illinois to New York City” (Pew Research Center,2015). Around 1967 the Associated Press created a deal with a financial information and the company known as the Dow Jones Company. The new company that was formed was called the Associated Press Dow Jones Economic Report.

Wire services have been used throughout history and continue to be used till this day. For example, the Associated Press was used as an effective way to promote business, communication and was used to gain for people to gain knowledge about the events going on in the world such as both World Wars, as well as the Civil War. Till this day “52-62%” (Pew Research Center, 2015) of newspapers correspond the Associated Press. On the other hand, Reuters were used to expand communication through radios and were used for British personal interest.

References:
Pew Research Center (2015) Today’s Washington Press Corps More Digital, Specialized Retrieved from http://www.journalism.org/2015/12/03/the-role-of-wire-services/

Richard, C. (2016). Media and Culture Mass Communication in A Digital Age
The Editors of Encyclopedia Britannica (2018). The Associated Press Retrieved from https://www.britannica.com/topic/Associated-Press

Thomas, R. (2007). Reuters: A brief theory Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/media/2007/may/04/reuters.pressandpublishing

Image Attribution: All images are in the public domain

Written by Kayleigh Webb, 2018

Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction

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Walter Benjamin

Walter Benjamin is an important critical theorist and philosopher. He argued that technological developments permitted works of art to be reproduced in a way that altered the masses experience of art, films, and theatrical productions. Art has always been reproducible, but mechanical reproduction has allowed for a complete reworking of the understanding of reproduction itself. Benjamin published his theory on the mechanical reproduction of art in 1936, and formed the basis of understanding art in a technologically based world. Benjamin explored how technological reproductions altered the perception of photographs and art, and concluded that the ability to reproduce an image created a lack of originality and understanding. He believed that the mass reproduction of art, created a total loss of experience for the viewer, since a digital reproduction could only be seen as a visual representation, with no historical context. Benjamin argued that technology is changing art in a way that alters societies’ perception of what is considered to be reality within the art and social world.

 

From a historical context, in order to recreate a work of art, another artist had to make a reproduction. Benjamin believed that this was different because it wasn’t a mechanical reproduction, but rather another artist’s original work. This allowed for the creation of a separate work from the original, because of the artist’s own individual stylistic choices. Benjamin found that art has always been reproducible through history, but technology has allowed reproduction to create controversy on artistic authenticity. Opening up art as reproduction allows for instantaneous access to art, and promotes art as a visual experience, but the historical context of a work becomes lost through time. Benjamin found that the unique existence of a work of art is determined by history, and the viewer can only truly experience a work of art through the understanding of its historical context. He believed that authenticity couldn’t be reproduced, but when original art is reproduced, the original loses a part of its own authenticity and aura, since it is no longer unique. He found uniqueness and permanence to be closely linked to one another, but through mechanical reproduction both are lost. Benjamin expressed that the aura of a work of art is its total uniqueness within time and space, and this becomes distant when it is altered through reproduction, since the reproduction outlives the original work.

Benjamin believed that art reproduction was directed towards political goals rather than towards creating an understanding of art itself. The artist’s mark is effectively erased through art reproduction, resulting in a total detachment of personal connection. Everything within the art world is goal oriented towards consumer culture, where art has been positioned as a commodity rather than an experience. Benjamin differentiated between the idea of reproduction and forgery, and concluded that forgeries could still be considered original in some context, since they were created by an actual artist, rather than experienced indefinitely as a digital copy. He found that the more art is reproduced, the more the actual meaning of the work begins to disappear. When art is reproduced the public is left with a visual representation that becomes nothing more than a reproducible commodity. Benjamin argued that an art piece could only be truly present within space in time, if it is an original that hasn’t been experienced as a reproduction.

Benjamin believed that technology created a world where an art replica and original are indistinguishable from one another, because the experience has become based solely on a visual representation. He also examined the relationship of understanding how the mass audience appreciates art, and found that through the advancements of technology, art has become something that is only appreciated for its aesthetic view. Technology allows for the development of new forms of art such as film and photography, which led to art being focused merely on popular culture.

Benjamin found that photography and film completely transformed art and ended traditional aesthetics. He believed that the experience of art becomes rooted only in the present, since replicas and original works of art can’t be understood as a separate entity anymore. He found that technology allowed for the constant modification of a work of art, which began to focus on quantity over quality for the benefit of consumer culture. When art reproduction is constantly altered there becomes no real state of permanence for a work of art, but rather a continuous instability of never being able to appreciate an original for its uniqueness.

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Van Gogh: The Starry Night (1889)

Both Van Gogh’s The Starry Night (1889) and Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa (1503-1506) are two examples of historical art pieces that have been transformed into commodities through the advancement of technology and the media. Both of these paintings can be identified by the masses of society, but only as a visual representation, since most of the viewers are lacking in the knowledge of the historical background on the subjects. The masses have developed a feeling of being cultured because of the ability to identify a particular art piece. To most members of society these works of art have become nothing more than another image. Art reproduction reinforces the idea of living in a simulation by taking away the historic background of artists and their work. When these pieces are viewed in person they no longer have significance in time or space, because they aren’t appreciated as an original. The commercialization of art has allowed there to be no differentiation between an original work of art and a copy.

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The Starry Night (1889) reproduction on a mug

Both of these works have become icons of mass consumption. Van Gogh’s The Starry Night (1889) and Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa (1503-1506) have been manipulated into a new form of art that can constantly be reworked and reimagined through photographic reproduction and the media. Reproducing these works of art takes away artistic ownership, and reproduced images are allowed to outlive the original through time. Technology has allowed the media to commercialize art as a commodity rather than focus on the importance of experiencing the artwork.

Benjamin argued that the loss of the aura isn’t necessarily bad or good, but rather it opens up the ability to question how reproducing art is politicized as a commodity He believed that photography was merely a way of documentation, which destroyed the aura of an original work, as well as the tangible experience between viewer and art. He found that the masses bought consumer products containing art replications in order to feel cultured within society, but their understanding of art was only visual. Benjamin found that members of society were reinforcing simulation by experiencing art in a passive way that had no basis in its historical nature.

A traditional work of art is considered unique and valued because of its exclusivity, but once a work is duplicated its aura is lost. Benjamin argued that photographs have no aura, and take away the identity of an artist, where an artist’s unique touch ceases to exist, resulting in a loss of cultural context. The immense quantity of reproduced art has created mass engagement of the public, but the public has a limited understanding of the context of a work. The reproduction of art has become a diversion, but art requires direct attention and concentration. Today more than ever, art has a basis as merely a visual representation, where the audience no longer relates to the historical side of a work of art. Benjamin concluded that the experience of art needs to be participatory and interactive, but through reproduction there becomes no interaction, and the simulation of societies’ false reality becomes reinforced.

References

Benjamin, Walter. 1968. The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction. New York: Schocken Books Inc.

Laughey, Dan. 2007. Key Themes in Media Theory. New York, NY: Two Penn Plaza.

Mills, Brett, and David M. Barlow. 2012. Reading Media Theory. 2nd ed. New York, NY: Routledge.

Image Attribution: “Walter Benjamin” by Dianakc (CC: PD-US); “Van Gogh: The Starry Night (1889)” by Sowbarnika.S (CC: 4.0); “The Starry Night (1889) reproduction on a mug” by Andre Engels (CC: 2.0); “Leonardo da Vinci Mona Lisa (1503-1506)” source: Musée du Lourve (CC: PD-US); “Art and Technology” by Travailwiki (CC: 4.0)

Written by Rachel Frebert, 2018