Archive for March, 2009

Week 3: Time

March 27, 2009

Hartley J. (2004). “The Frequencies of Public Writing: Tomb, Tone and time” In Jenkins, H. And Thorburn, D. Democracy and the New Media. MIT Press, USA, pp 247-269

“…condense, if you will, the 50,000 years of man’s recorded history in a time span of but a half-century…and now if America’s new spacecraft succeeds in reaching Venus, we will have literally reached the stars before midnight tonight.” (http://www.jfklibrary.org/Historical+Resources/Archives/Reference+Desk/Speeches/JFK/003POF03SpaceEffort09121962.htm )

These were the words of former US president John F Kennedy in 1962 at the Rice University in Houston, expressing a philosophical point of view for the need for the US to expand its space program. Whilst Kennedy referral and meaning of ‘space’ is different to that of John Hartley, there approach on time is the same.

In the most recent years of human history, technology, our way of thinking and living have changed rapidly. In just 100 years (a mere fraction of the time that humans have existed) we have come from the Wright Brothers flight craft to the space shuttle. As Kennedy above points out, it seems that it is in the most recent years of human existence, there has been a higher frequency of occurrence of almost everything: Inventions, intellects, ideals and more recently through the media, perhaps most predominately journalism. Hartley’s main aim is to inform the reader about the nature of the varying ‘frequencies’ of which journalism (as well as public writing and other media forms) act in the past and in postmodern times.

Hartley’s 2 key concepts and ideas seem to be the intertwining relationship between technology and the temporal realm (time). Here, people are rather connected through time, rather than space. As technology advanced, the information and news we receive gradually became quicker. With the invention of Gutenberg’s press, news became daily. With radio and television, they became hourly. With the advent of the internet, information can now be sent and received across the globe almost instantaneously. People in different parts of the world now can receive information simultaneously. Physical space and distance are no longer issues concerning the transfer of news and information. It is the domain of time that now constitutes most of our society.

“…people are identifying with “virtual” communities based on coexistence in time, not coextension in space.”

For example now, the high frequencies of social sites such as Twitter and Facebook (which have live feeds that update instantaneously) have perhaps strengthened Hartley’s assessment. These sites tell us what we, our friends, their friends, and their friends ( and so on) are doing, reading, writing, posting, talking and even thinking at almost any given moment in time. We no longer need to be physically in the same place as our friends or any other people. We bypass the spatial realm. Through a computer and an internet connection, we are all linked together (as Hartley suggests above) in “virtual communities”.

At first Hartley seems to be providing a warning of sorts about high frequency media, at the very end, he concedes that is just perhaps that the very foundations of society are shifting: “Democracy itself may be migrating from space-based technologies to faster, time-based ones.”

Week 2: The Remote Control and the Couch Potato

March 20, 2009

Disciplined and Disciplining co(a)gents: The Remote Control and the Couch Potato.

The remote control and the couch potato. Stereotypically, the 2 fuse together to produce one of the most recognisable images in recent times (take Homer from the Simpsons for example). However, the text puts forward a rather unique and interesting perspective to this age old stereotype.

The author’s key aim is to highlight our changing habits with new technology (as the title of the book, “In Reconnecting Culture, Technology and Nature” suggests). In this reading, the author uses the remote control as the technological device which has altered our human habits.

The main key concept behind the author’s argument is ‘disembodiment’. This is in relation to how the remote control is making the human body rather redundant as the author phrases it, “There is a sort of bypassing of the body…” where it is almost perceived to the extent that the human mind is directly controlling what it wants to do (in this case just simply switch channels). A form of existential control so to speak. Although we are technically still using our body (primarily our fingers) and hence are not completely disembodied, the author uses the term in more of a metaphorical sense. According to the definition of ‘disembodied ‘in the Collins English Dictionary,

1. Lacking a body or freed from the body; incorporeal.

2. Lacking substance, solidity, or any firm relation to reality.

Using the first definition, the author uses the physicist Stephen Hawking as an example; the author highlights his case for disembodiment. “Hawking himself is not a body…but a pure mind that is in unmediated contact with the cosmos.” Despite being physically crippled with motor neurone disease (http://www.bbc.co.uk/cambridgeshire/science/2003/10/stephen_hawking.shtml), the author has pointed out that he is a true genius, his physical disability doing nothing to damper his mind. Through technology (in this case his artificial voice box) he bypasses the human body the “medium of communication”, making it redundant. However, the author does acknowledge that Hawking and his technologies that have enabled him to communicate his thoughts and ideas are maintained through the help of Hawking’s assistants.

However, the second definition paints or more less idealic picture. In today’s domestic society, the introduction of the media of television along with its companion device, the remote control, have created a new generation of “unhealthy”, “unproductive”, “uncultured” and “uncivic” behaviour. There are stereotypically known as couch potatoes. Using Green’s (1995, p. 78) definition, a couch potato is “one who is addicted to watching television and does this while lying on the couch, as an inert and brain-dead as a potato.” In the introduction of the text, the author admits his guilt in practicing “couch-potato-ness” and it is rather embedded in our society, with nearly everyone participating in this lifestyle.

But really, assessing the author’s argument, we see how imbalanced his case of disembodiment is. Hawking is a rare case. On the contrary to the number of physically impaired, intellectual geniuses, how many people are there on the other end of the spectrum? How many completely able bodied people are there who refuse or reluctantly use any form of physical or intellectual activity, preferring the rather mundane routine of the coach potato? The scale tips vastly under the weight of the physically heavier of the two.

Week 2 : Tutorial Post 1

March 19, 2009

Primarily, the news I receive comes mostly from the internet sites,

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Portal:Current_events

http://news.bbc.co.uk/

The reason for using the internet as my major source of news is because I can access news and recent events whenever I want. Also, unlike news bulletins, using online news enables me to choose what I want to read (such skipping over most ‘gossip’ related news). A handy function on the BBC website is near the bottom of any page on the site, where the list of ‘most read’ articles is listed.

I do also watch the 6 pm channel 7 news bulletin as well as the 6.30 SBS world news bulletin. My main reason for watching the Channel 7 bulletin is to act as a time filler until the SBS bulletin begins. Occasionally though, the tabloid-esque news reporting style that Channel 7 primarily adopts does make the it rather hard to watch at times. I also am a subscriber of the Sydney Morning Herald and read it whenever time permit. I do not necessarily prefer any oe section of the paper, and read over most sections. In terms of radio news, I only ever listen to the radio whilst in the car or at work, and I usually pay little attention to the news broadcasts unless a significant event has occurred. When I do listen to radio, it is for the music, and the frequencies i prefer are Triple M and Triple J, but again, only for music, not as my source of journalism.

Aside from my years in primary school and in early high school, I seldom ever use language tools.

With deadlines, I do not necessarily mind them and I am usually good with deadlines; however they do create quite a bit of stress. My HSC Visual Art Body of Work project drained most of the life out of me when it was completed. Although it wasn’t a pleasant experience, I don’t regret ever doing it. The end result was definitely worth the time and effort.

Week 1 Reading – What Do the Media Do to Us? Media & Society

March 13, 2009

O’Shaughnessy, Michael, and Jane Stadler “What Do the Media Do to Us? Media and Society”

Media and Society: An Introduction, Third Edition. Sough Melbourne, VIC: Oxford Press, 2006, 229-248

In discussing the role and the working functional elements of the media, O’Shaughnessy and Stadler have raised questions related largely to the interactions between the media and society. Instead of resolving these various questions, the authors have instead aimed to incite further debate amongst this issue of the actual role of the media. Primarily though, the authors attempt to raise the awareness of the reader, by revealing the extent to which it has been integrated into our society.

The two key arguments or concepts that are proposed are two opposing models of the media and society. The first portrays the media as a reflection of “the realities, values and norms of a society.” an image of society as it is, and how people act, think, behave and feel. However, in the opposing ‘effects model’ these ‘values and norms’ have been instead created by the media.

In debating these two differing views, an interesting idea raised is the apparent correlation between violence and sex in the media with actual violent and sexual assaults in the real world. The authors have pointed it out to be absurd though, as there are many other social factors that contribute to crime (such as family issues). If this simple correlation was true, then you, I and any person who ever watched television or read a newspaper would be convicted felons. This is obviously not the case. Rapes and murders occurred long before the media existed. In fact, the media may have even curbed crime, as the media generally shine a negative light upon it in its news and a current affair broadcasts. Only in fictional shows are violence and sex shown to be glorified, but it is assumed that us the audience has a responsibility to know the difference between fiction and reality (a point raised by the authors). Just because I enjoy action films, but that doesn’t necessarily mean I would enlist in the army to go on a Rambo style rampage against terrorists in the Middle East or so.

In this case, it was not the media creating the problem of crime, as O’Shaughnessy and Stadler state, “blaming the media is an excuse that denies our responsibilities.” Here, perhaps the media is now being used as a scapegoat. We blame it for all our social problems. Perhaps the problem lies with us humans as we are far from perfect entities. Let’s return to the media’s portrayal of violence and sex. Bluntly, we enjoy them, despite them being listed on the Ten Commandments and Seven Deadly Sins as crimes against God himself (maybe a testament to the imperfection of humans?).

To put thing historically, are the violent movies shown in cinemas today really any better than the Coliseum in Ancient Rome (a time before today’s commercialised media network) where god knows how many soldiers, slaves and animals were slaughtered? The Coliseum spectators demanded violence, much like today’s movie going audience. Through blood sports and various decrees, the Roman Empire was largely supported by the masses through maintaining consent (a point raised in the reading). Apart from border expansions, they enjoyed relative peace within the empire for centuries. Life expectancy also increased. So perhaps by this definition, the media is just a device used to help maintain law and order within society.

Whether this is true or not is not up to me to decide. All I have done is raised one point defending the reflection model. There are many others for the effect model that will almost definitely be discussed throughout this course.

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March 10, 2009

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