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 .

1 comment:

  1. Excellent, Kristen.

    Truly excellent.

    Fine videos, detailed analysis, and worthwhile conceptual unpacking.

    Travel safely this holiday!

    Let's rendezvous in 2009 for China planning.

    Dr. W