Monday, December 8, 2008

Keurig: The Roommates

Keurig, bringing people together with an inculsive coffee philosophy. Who would have guessed? Everyone, of course :)

(Now, bring on the coffee makers!)

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Top 10 Media Revelations

1. Partipulation
Advertising executives want to create loyal, emotionally connected customers who believe that their decisions are entirely their own – hereby wanting to generate the structure to mold the agency, or create partipulation. According to Tony Schwartz in “The Persuaders,” partipulation is the act of inducing someone to persuade themselves; having one actively participate in one’s own manipulation. Television is an obvious medium for partipulation, as television harbors commercials (blatant selling) as well as hyper commercial, narrowcasted networks, which do not impart new information to the audience as much as it appeals to feelings/thoughts/concerns (limbic and reptilian brain) that the audience already harbors (Croteau 74). However, partipulation lives in the news, as well. In Censored 2009, the news coverage of 9/11 drove people to not only persuade themselves of the validity of the official 9/11 explanation but to persecute those who reached beyond their limbic and reptilian brains for further understanding (Phillips 342). Partipulation proliferates in media because it applies directly to our emotional core – see below.

2. Media and Language
The media have a major influence on our cultural lexicon. With the advent of each medium, new words creep into our vocabulary – from photograph and telegram to Google and Tweet. The characters in Feed are the perfect example of this occurrence, using Internet slang in everyday conversation (meg rad, unit, mal, null, omigod, etc.) because the feed defines their culture. The convergence of their media creates a lexicon that reflects not only the technology but also what the society has become and what it values. As Media and Society states, language is never neutral as it always reflects a particular framing of the world (216). With that in mind, what exactly does the proliferation of the words Google, Tweet, AIM, creeper, PWND, and more say about the world today? Or, for that matter, what about the popularity of the following:

3. Ownership
The media are dominated by six multinational corporations, each the result of hundreds of mergers and deals that provide the public with fewer diverse perspectives in everything from books to films to news (Croteau 34). In Feed, FeedTech provides all feed users with personalized yet structured information, limiting the capacity to learn and, as Violet says, creating a nation of idiots (113). The concentration of ownership has placed more pressure to perform economically, resulting in 35 percent of respondents in a journalist survey knowing of or avoiding stories that could hurt the financial interests of their employers (Censored 259). As The Myth of the Liberal Media outlines, ownership is a filter for what information is shared with the public. With more independently owned outlets, the public would have more choice, greater opportunity to compare sources, and ultimately better ability to reach logical conclusions on their own.

4. Media and the Brain
The human brain is composed of three regions: the reptilian, the limbic, and the neocortex. However, since the epistemological shift occurred with the invention of the telegraph and photograph, media have focused increasingly on the emotional brain of its viewers. According to Postman, television trivializes important epistemological topics through its very structure and in a more modern sense, Nicholas Carr states that the proliferation of the Internet as a universal medium has modified human intelligence for the sake of efficiency, immediacy, and ease of access to information (Postman, Carr). Media have changed the brain to the point where rational thought is rarely required, especially in advertising. The Persuaders present the concept of love marks, or brands with loyalty beyond reason. For such an event to take place, the neocortex must be bypassed at all costs, as can be seen in the following clip:

5. Hegemony
Hegemony is the ongoing mediated process of contested ideas, which are created, challenged, and reasserted daily (Croteau 168). At this concept’s core lies the search for truth, or at least an idea that can be agreed upon as truth. However, as the media have shown, truth, as well as reality, is subjective. The stories of Censored 2009 reveal multiple constructs of reality – the mainstream interpretation and the independent one. For stories like the million Iraqi casualties in the Iraq War or the militarization of NATO, hegemony resulted in the deviancy of those stories because they contested a constructed reality that was already normalized (Philips 20). Going against a media approved norm is dangerous, as it was shown in Feed when Violet breaks from the prescribed feed culture to chastise Titus and his friend’s blank acceptance of society (201). Hegemony always allows for debate – see below.

6. Ambient Awareness
The newest and fastest growing medium of the Internet has created a level of intimacy that books, radio, and television were never able to reach: ambient awareness. Ambient awareness refers to the social networking phenomena that allows for one to be continually conscious to one’s online friend’s behavior, specifically through constant, up-to-the-minute updates that allows for a sense of connection without connection (Thompson 3). This is the latest incarnation of Postman’s telegraph and photograph issue: this convergent medium has made time and space irrelevant in communication (Postman 64). One can have hundreds of connections online, be aware of what they’re doing via microblogging, and then update them on one’s own happenings in seconds. But the quality of said connections is still being contested, as ”Growing Up Online” participants mentioned, one may have 500 Facebook friends but one only really knows 50 of them and of that number are close to only half. The online medium allows for shallower connections that simply would not function in reality - see below.

7. Media and Politics
The role of media in politics could be a glorious one – revealing new information, informing the public, forcing politics into transparency and responsibility and vice versa. However, as Postman wrote, media, especially television, has emphasized the appearance of confidence, competency, and knowledge rather than the actual thing when it comes to politics (Postman 126). In one sense, media uses politics as a means of entertainment in the twenty-first century – see clip. In another, media is used by politics to perpetuate a message not always correct or even remotely so, as was the case when the Pentagon invented the concept of embedded reporters during the Gulf War (Croteau 115). While media and politics could heighten the reliability of the other, instead they act as bedfellows under the guise of propriety.

8. Agency and Structure
The only way that individuals interpret media and construct meaning from them is through agency, or individual choice, and structure, or social systems. Audiences actively construct meaning but within certain constraints presented by society as well as the medium of choice (Croteau 273). When individuals go against structure they impart in interpretative resistance, such as the entirety of Censored 2009 as a stance against corporate media, Violet questioning everything in Feed, or the filming of Al Jazeera in Control Room. Interestingly, such resistance against structural constraints emphasizes the polysemy of media – that there is multiple meanings in all texts (Croteau 269). The public can choose the message they take because of agency, but when information is given so freely within the structure, why should they bother going farther?

9. Privacy
Privacy is hard to come by in a Web 2.0 world where cultural shift from privacy to surveillance has occurred. Whether one is on a social networking site, has a YouTube account, or simply uses Google, information is constantly collected, sorted, and analyzed to better serve the public – and the corporations such as Google that use said information to create better advertisements (Carr 5). In truth, confidentiality is becoming a foreign concept in all facets of society not just online: the No Child Left Behind Act allows for military recruiters to access high school students records and visit them on campus (Phillips 325). Just as in Feed, corporations like FeedTech can tap into the user’s interface without permission and that, having become a routine aspect of life, is acceptable to the public. The concept of privacy has been redefined with new media – it’s not longer about keeping something secret, but rather about keeping some something secret that everyone can see.

10. Media and News
Postman stated that one of his primary concerns with television was that is made everything entertainment, or infotainment if speak of the news. The “Now…this” complex of news in the media makes news superficial, so that nothing but entertainment can be news (Postman 112). While Censored 2009 reports on a barrage of important news stories that failed to be covered by the corporate media, the junk news that was – from Jessica Simpson to Britney Spears – reveals that Postman’s concerns were valid (Phillips 162). It is impossible to fully comprehend a news item in a 30-second segment and take it seriously, just as skimming activity online rarely results in the full consideration of an issue (Postman 103, Carr 2). Once again, the media and news could be wonderful partners – if only the need to entertain our trivialized culture wasn’t such a high priority - see Katie Couric below.

Watch CBS Videos Online

Works Cited

Anderson, M. T. Feed. New York: Candlewick P, 2004.

Carr, Nicholas. "Is Google Making Us Stupid." The Atlantic July-Aug. 2008. 3 Sept. 2008 .

Croteau, David, and William Hoynes. Media/Society : Industries, Images, and Audiences. New York: Pine Forge P, 2002.

Philips, Peter, and Andrew Roth, eds. Censored 2009 : The Top 25 Censored Stories Of 2007-08. New York: Seven Stories P, 2008.

Postman, Neil, and Andrew Postman. Amusing Ourselves to Death : Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business. New York: Penguin (Non-Classics), 2006.

Thompson, Clive. "Brave New World of Digital Intimacy." The New York Times 7 Sept. 2008. 15 Sept. 2008 .

Friday, November 21, 2008

Growing Up Online and Dying with an Audience

Fla. teen commits suicide with live Web audience

"Biggs announced his plans to kill himself over a website for bodybuilders, authorities said. But some users told investigators they did not take him seriously because he had threatened suicide on the site before."

Ambient awareness- knowing without knowing. When does online knowledge create a call for action? Is it even possible to act when it is called for?

Questions. Always questions.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Sustain Champlain Video: The Vermont Fresh Network

The Vermont Fresh Network - nature's where it's at. Learn more at

By Kristen & Marissa

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Commentary: Virus Spreads as Vermont Legislature Adjourns

A commentary written in Fall 2007 - seemed appropriate:

Early in 2007, in the time it takes most of us to do our Christmas shopping, the Vermont House and Senate introduced separate bills that would require girls enrolled in the 6th grade or higher to receive the human papillomavirus (HPV) immunization. The bills were read, assigned to committees, and then were never heard from again. When the legislature adjourned in May, the HPV bills were left in committee limbo – dying in the State House’s corridors without so much as a whimper. But I whimpered. I screamed. And now I’m fuming.

As an infection that has the ability to conceal itself within the body, HPV is an extremely dangerous sexually transmitted disease (STD). While the body has the ability to fight off some of its 200 varieties, the majority of the time the virus stays hidden until it chooses to reveal itself in the form of genital warts or cervical cancer. It is the latter development that brings HPV to the forefront of medical research, particularly when the government itself reports that 80% of women in the United States will be infected with HPV in their lifetime.

In an effort to decrease the prevalence of infection, the Food and Drug Administration approved Gardasil, a HPV vaccine, for public use in 2006. The vaccine is a quadrivalent HPV immunization that attacks the two strains of the virus, that cause 70% of cervical cancers, with nearly 100% efficiency. It is recommended that the vaccine be administered to girls age 11-12 in a 3-shot schedule; however, few girls are receiving injections and more and more people are getting the STD.
Today, 20 million people in the United States are infected with HPV and an additional 6.2 million people will be added to that number by the end of the year. As a direct result of this rate of infection, 9,710 women found out they had cervical cancer in 2006 and 3,700 of them died from the disease that same year. These numbers speak of an unsung epidemic that has left no region untouched, including our own Green Mountain State.

According to the Vermont Department of Health, 31 Vermont women are diagnosed with cervical cancer each year and an average of 10 women die from the disease. These rates are significantly higher than the national average, making it clear that Vermont needs to take preventative measures to ensure the welfare of the states’ population. The number of HPV infections that lead to death is too high when considering the lives that could be saved with a simple vaccine. But clearly the legislature has heard other view points that have discouraged any championship of the bill.

Comprised mostly of concerned parents, the HPV vaccine opposition’s primary grievance against the vaccine deals with – what else? – sex.

Parents fear that immunizing preteens against a sexually transmitted disease will promote early sexual activity. The idea is that by taking away the fear of receiving a STD there would suddenly be no barrier to prevent teenagers from having sex. However, there has been no evidence to prove that there is a link between a fear of death and abstinence or being vaccinated and having sex. As a matter of fact, immunizing a child against a potentially deadly sexually transmitted infection may one of the most practical things a parent can do considering that over 40% of teenagers have some sort of sexual activity before the age of 18. The Vermont bills even account for the parent’s right to opt out of immunizations on moral or religious grounds, but the opposition still battles on and stays close to the State House.

Without a mandatory status attached to it, the HPV vaccine will have an extremely hard time wiping the illness from the map. If only some children are vaccinated, then the effectiveness of the immunization is greatly reduced because the virus still has unprotected people to act as distribution hubs for the STD. By making the vaccination mandatory it will not only directly protect the 11-12 year olds who are immunized, but also indirectly safeguard the entire population by starting a chain of events that leads to a reduction in the number of cases of cervical cancer and the eventual irradiation of the human papillomavirus.

In addition, a mandatory status for the HPV vaccination eliminates a very real financial barrier for the general population. Each dose of Gardasil costs $120, making the cost for the 3-shot series $360, not including the doctor’s fee. If the vaccine is required by the government, insurance companies then add that vaccination to their coverage and government agencies pay for the uninsured—therefore relieving the financial burden associated with needed but optional inoculations. With the financial barrier destroyed, parents have to face the reality that this vaccination is not just another expense or directive from the government but a real, lifesaving effort. And not just for any life, but that of their child.

One day not too long ago, someone said that it was time to stop polio, measles, and diphtheria from hurting the people of this country—and they did it. Those illnesses are now gone, leaving people with only a fading memory of how things once were. Now HPV stands on that same threshold of destiny, waiting for the day when it will be unknown by the young and only a distant recollection of the old. It is time for the Vermont legislature to champion such a future and take a stance on cervical cancer by passing the HPV vaccine bill. The women of this state want a cancer free future and HPV immunizations are the first, bold step to it.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Voting: A Horror Story

Mark Crispin Miller scares the living daylights out of me.

He's not a scary man - well, he is a professor, so intimidation is in the genes, but he's no Hulk or Jigsaw. He's not saying things that are traditionally scary - voter suppression, voting fraud, a corrupt voting system from head to toe: whatever. He's not even revealing consequences that seem all that different from any other election, government, or country.

What scares me about Mark Cripsin Miller is that, while he and the voter integrity crowd, list out a variety of things we as citizens can do, each and every thing relies on an active public and a receptive government. Is that the reality? As a nation, I'm under the impression that we're sheeple . I am a sheeple. An annoyed yet aware sheeple, but a member of the species, nonetheless. There is a blind acceptance to our culture - information is not processed but stored, credibility is handed out to everyone like free condoms on prom night, and the neocortex is often bypassed for emotive and instinctual kicks to make us go all meg mal (Oh, Feed, your lexicon is all too convenient for this issue).

So I must ask: What is the point? Can this, in fact, be fixed? If Crispin Miller's presentation is to be believed, our nation loves any kind of fraud that has to do with voting. It's practically our foundation. Can that be removed? If the system is so far gone, what can be done short of a V for Vendetta like escapade?

I'm scared that the answer of that last question is nothing. And as a sheeple, I'm going to accept that and finish watching the election coverage of Palin and McCain talking to the President in the oval office-... oh, wait, that's SNL. My bad.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Reverse Psycology of the Voting Kind

Neocortex: Actually tells me to write something down! Woah, unexpected use of the thinking brain... The pacing doesn't really give me much time to think about the issues presented or what I already believe, but rather aims for the retention of the
"Must vote" message.
Limbic: Quick cuts and a couple dozen different people that I can focus on at any given time. I find myself recognizing the celebrities first and then hearing what they're saying, but, as the pacing is rather fast, it quickly becomes about recognition rather than understanding. Also, they're asking me I feel about the issues, not think.

Epistemological: Word to image: Inserting an argument that could and has been used in word into a visual format
Technological: Analog to digital: Video on Youtube would otherwise not be able to be shared if it was not digital
Personal: Mass to participatory: Posting on Youtube and asking the viewer go to the link at the bottom of the video to register and then to send to 5 friends.
Aesthetic: Discrete to convergence: Video inserts link to registration site

Production Techniques: Black border to highlight website, same white background for all celebrities, grittier shooting style (moving and shaking with inconsistent zooming), bright lighting, editing so the celebrities are almost finishing each other's sentences, interaction between website graphic and celebrities
Value Message: Voting is important via reverse psychology - technique to connect to a younger audience. Use cool, hip celebrities - voting is cool, voting is smart, voting is power/choice.

Testimonial - Celebrities (may award winning)
Beautiful People - Celebrities
Flattery - "You're obviously smart enough to play scrabble on this thing..."
Repetition - "Don't vote," "Register," "Send to 5 people"
Maybe - "Could vote if you cared about..."
Humor- "It's like herpes, but in a good way!" "I never did shit on drugs except Halo 2"
Name calling -"Voting is stupid!"
Simple Solutions -"It's right here!"

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Media Blog: Ode to My Home

Stillness was a mystery in my household. This rings true not because of a slew of adventurous siblings, a pack of cantankerous pets, or even a rotating cast of visiting family and friends stumbling through my house, but rather the opposite – there was no one in my home. My parents and I lived happily and amused, but in a subdued nature that called for the outsourcing of ruckus. May it be the buzz of AM radio, the subtle but distinct whishing of turning pages, the pitter-patter of fingers on keyboard, or the unobtrusive hum of hapless nonsense on the television screen, my home was brought to life on a daily basis with the advent of media. However, in the same vein, the absence of such media ended the very life I had grown to love so much in my few years of existence.

The house changed when the magazines stopped coming. Words like "layoff," "outsourcing," and "cutting back" meant little to my 5-year-old mind, but the absence of our weekly glossy and colorful packets in the stack of mail on the kitchen counter spoke volumes. It said change. It said different. It said bad. No longer did my father eat his lunch while flipping through his latest issue of Sporting News and answer my questions about the pictures over my grilled cheese and "apple soup." No longer did my mother read pages aloud to me from Equus Magazine during still moments at the barn while I sat on her lap. No longer did the stack of National Geographic magazines under my parent's bookshelf grow. I knew this all to be so because I watched dutifully for things to return to normal - under the watchful eye of a kindergartener nothing goes unnoticed. And so, with the absence of magazines came the nonexistence of whishing glossy pages – the pictures so bright and pages so smooth. The house became quieter without my stubby fingers caressing the pages – stiller. And yet, life went on, just with a new emphasis placed on a different kind of print media.

The household bookshelves remained in tact, even after the magazines disappeared. No one took my Bernstein Bears collection away or snatched my well worn edition of Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do you see? On the contrary, their existence became all the more important in my mind. Books meant pictures. Books meant love. Books meant stability. Each day ended with a book of my choosing - will it be Dr Seuss' Monster in my Pocket or The Hungry Thing? No matter the selection, I would snuggle down next to one of my parents as they read and close my eyes to see the words turn into pictures in my head. There was a mouse dressed in toe shoes. There was the Sun and Moon being pushed into the sky by the Water. There was Amelia Bedelia dusting the curtains in her literal fashion. It was all there – a theatre in my head narrated by the comforting rhythm of my dad's hypnotic baritone or my mother's expressive lilt. The best thing of all was that I didn't even have to turn on the television to see my books come to life – but I did anyway.

When the magazines stopped coming, the television channels took less time to surf as my father flicked through the channels during commercial breaks. "Cutting back," apparently, was an all-encompassing concept in my household; no medium was left untouched. My television routine remained in tact, however – PBS was clearly too important to be excluded by this so-called "Basic Cable Package." Sesame Street, Shining Time Station, Reading Rainbow, and Lamb Chop made things seem less uncertain, less scary – just as the background noise of a television in an empty house is still reassuring to me to this day. The television was never off when the house was occupied - always streaming some show just loud enough to be recognizable but not a bother. (For this reason, I still know the theme song to the Guiding Light but have no memory of any of my family watching it other than for a few seconds after The Price is Right.) Always left on, the television provided a sense of security for me, even to the point of becoming my nightlight the same year we "cut back." No dark shadows were left to haunt my dreams – just the inaudible buzz of QVC's Special Value® in the wee hours of the night. And with that, life remained in my home – just a little different than before.

Stillness may have been a mystery in my household – but change was not. Change touched everything, each buzz, whish, pitter-patter, and hum of media. Each noise once added a spark to my existence, a new avenue of adventure without leaving the confines of the comforting circle of my parent's arms. Surely, media were accepted as sources of entertainment, of education, of commonality with the community, but for me they meant and mean something more: Media were stability. Media were comfort. Media were safety.

Media are home.