Control Room: Every Control is a Contest of Competing Narratives

In today’s media, the concept of truth is a fluid and malleable construct. Because of physical constraints that tie us to our own communities, we, the audience, rely on our faith in journalism to expose us to the world beyond our direct networks through our television and computer screens. The problem arises when too much trust is put on the factual authenticity of the information that we are fed, as giant news conglomerates are all too content and happy to manipulate an audience’s ignorance to project their sponsored perspectives and ideals. Award winning filmmaker Jehane Noujaim’s “Control Room” positions itself as a magnifying glass, scrutinizing this contradictory crisis arising out of modern day media production, particularly Western media. Grabbing the audience by their hand, the film leads the viewer down the grim rabbit hole of a war journalism frenzy, ignited by the events of the Iraq war. Positioned on the side of Qatari broadcaster, Al Jazeera, we become aware of their struggle to provide a balancing counter-narrative to the suggested military manipulation of mainstream news output that was being broadcasted internationally.

As the movie commences, the contrast between Al Jazeera and Western media amplifies. Like two children in a playground fight, the audience is caught in the middle as the East and West media wage war against each other using the actual war between the East and West as their catalyst. While Western media focuses on their perspective of championing over an assumed evil to save democracy, Al Jazeera emerges with a competing reality, showing the impacts of the war without censorship. To do this, they begin broadcasting dead children, bombed communities and captured American prisoners of war. As expected, the Bush administration was appalled, declaring the arab news network as terrorist propaganda – “Osama bin Laden’s mouthpiece.” “Truth ultimately finds its way to people’s eyes and ears and hearts,” Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld declares triumphantly at a press conference as he ironically denounces the validity of “truth” presented by Al Jazeera. This iconic representation of American politics threatened by opposing media becomes a major criticism of the film, as well as an argument supporting Al Jazeera’s stance of playing the role as a counter-narrative.

Despite the apparent sensationalized manipulation of the American political influence on Western media, the issue begins to present itself not as a struggle about finding an actual truth but rather the personal dilemma of navigating through the journalistic code of conduct and one’s own political allegiances. The most drastic example of this in the film is when military media liaison, Joshua Rushing comes to head with his own biases. Although skeptical of Bush’s administration himself, Rushing is portrayed in the early onset of the film as the main supporter of Western media but slowly transforms into a neutral and confused character (much like the role the audience itself is forced to play), as his questioning of his own beliefs puts him in-between the West and East propaganda. Initially disgusted with Al Jazeera’s broadcast of dead American soldiers, Rushing realizes the contradictory nature of his emotions. The night prior to that broadcast of dead POWs, Al Jazeera had broadcasted the dead images of Iraqis of which Rushing felt was “equally if not more horrifying” but less detrimental to him. “I just saw people on the other side,” he explains, “and those people in the Al Jazeera offices must have felt the way I was feeling [about the dead American POWs] that night, and it upset me on a profound level that I wasn’t bothered as much the night before. It makes me hate war” (Noujaim 2004). It is a natural impulse to feel sympathy for your own community or associated group and because of this, the responsibility of journalists to show objectivity is more important than ever.

The integrity of journalism, as senior lecturer from the University of Sheffield, Tony Harcup would explain, needs to serve as a public service of dissemination and analysis of information, balancing truth, accuracy and factual knowledge (2009). Ideally, journalism would act as merely another vehicle to transmit information as a fair and accurate depiction of events, allowing the intended subscriber to conceptualized their own reasoning. As an ideology, this seems to celebrate and protect the idea of what we believe to be ‘truths’, but in reality, our media environment couldn’t be further from the mark. Adel Iskandar and Mohammed cl~Nawawy expand more, explaining that “contextual objectivity” needs to be the “the adoption of a position of detachment, rather than neutrality, toward the subject of reporting” (Allan 2004). They claim that Al Jazeera did just that by realizing their own limitation and constraints with bias and attempting to counteract them by indulging in a wide range of educated and diverse discussion (2004). This can be seen by the station’s practice of interviewing the enemy, by not only showcasing their own perspective but also finding educated opposing stances, and by showing the gruesome reality of both sides during war.

In the first few minutes, the film immediately gives the audience a taste of what they are in for and begins to juxtapose arab civilian life against the sensationalized Western media clips of presidential addresses. It is March 2003 and the potential war between America and Iraq is hitting a climax. In the opening scenes, the audience is removed from the the physical constraints of their own environment, as mentioned prior, and is submerged as a voyeuristic member alongside native Iraq and Arabic civilians as everyday activities are carried out. Before the main storyline evens begins to develop, the viewer is already presented with a counter-narrative, a chance to rebel against their own biased perspective accumulated through their own experiences of watching the events of the war unfold. As citizens from the Western world, our single first person perspective of watching the presidential address declaring war, all the while safe and cozy in our living rooms, is shattered as we are now “behind enemy lines,” with the coffee shop patrons at a Baghdad, watching in disbelief as we are told about the impending bombs that will soon drop over our heads. There is no dramatic music or camera angles to enhance the mood – and perhaps because of this, this particular scene is effective in establishing the escalation of anxiety as the key hole view that we have of the environment feels all too real. Through this counter-narrative contrasting our own narrative, Noujaim has successfully broken down our subconscious predispositions, opening up our ability to move beyond ourselves to understand the film’s overall thesis- Al Jazeera’s need to provide a counter-narrative to Western media’s narrative.

Word Count: 1166

Work Cited:

  1. Allan, Stuart & Barbie Zelizer (eds). (2004). Reporting War: Journalism in Wartime. New York:Routledge
  2. Control Room. Dir. Jehane Noujaim. Prod. Jehane Noujaim, Rosadel Varela, and Hani Salama. By Jehane Noujaim and Julia Bacha. Magnolia Pictures, 2004. DVD.
  3. Harcup, Tony (2009), Journalism: Principles and Practice, Thousand Oaks, California: Sage
Advertisements

Child’s play, no more: Seniors impact Social Media

It used to be that the social media realm was predominately ‘child’s play’, and by that I mean that it was a platform that was controlled by the youth; the tech savvy generation. These were the kids that were brought up with every natural sense plugged into some sort of electronic or synthesized device, while the rest of us watched, scratching our heads, hesitantly adjusting to the massive expansion of the global information highway.

Times have changed despite people’s preconceived notion that this is still the case. When people think of social media, the common belief is that Facebook and Twitter are still ruled by the Tweens to the late 20 year olds. Would it surprise you that 22% of all grandparents are linked into some form of social networking platform?  According to MyVoucherCodes’ latest study of 1,341 UK seniors, 71% were connected on Facebook, 34% activated Twitter accounts and 9% utilized business social network LinkedIn. Though 22% might not seem like a massive percentage, 68% of those surveyed admitted to have joined only within the past year, showing a humongous new awareness across the board of mature users.

This trend shows promise to continue to expand. In another study from Pew Internet, survey showed that within the time frame of April 2009-May 2010, social networking usage rose to a whopping 88% among the 55-64 year old demographic and 100% among 65 and over. Although young people still hold the majority in numbers, their social networking presence only grew 13%.

What does this mean to you as advertisers? A fair warning. No longer is it effective to be relying on merely traditional forms of media to advertise and target your demographic, especially if it is targeted towards seniors. As the baby boomer generation is closing in on their 50’s and 60’s, this group is not only the type to be saturated in depth with a printed publication but also be digitally entwined with the latest smart phone, blog about their rich experiences in life and take joy in knowing how to scrutinize their children’s Facebook accounts. A healthy and targeted mixture of online and print advertisement proves to be the most effective to not only establish your brand but to also show your consumers that you understand that they are no longer a foreigner in the new digital dimension.

For more advice or to plan out your own multi-platform campaign, please contact sales@seniorlivingmag.com

(Article originally published for Senior Living Magazine’s Business Newsletter on July 5th 2011 –Online Brain Melt Cures)

Online Brain Melt Cures

Technology can seem like a bit of a mind numbing epidemic sweeping the youth. It’s not hard to see how dependant people have become with the Internet and digital devices. All you have to do is look around at a crowded restaurant and count how many people are texting with their phones despite being surrounded by present company. People are increasingly living in both realities, virtual and physical and looking on from the outside, it can seem isolating and confusing.  Facebook, blogs, eBay, Google… and what the heck is Twitter all about? Not only that, even when you go online, it’s like a foreign language filled with 3 character words and limited vowels: LOL, BTW, OMG… WTF?

But it is just that- the online world is a new world. Not only for information, social media, email or egotistical bloggers but it also can be an alternate platform of your physical life that you customize for yourself. More and more seniors have been breaking down the barriers of just seeing the internet as a tool to find local restaurants and have started to explore the possibilities of what it has to offer. Social media has been a clear indicator of this as, according to a study done by MyVoucherCodes, 71% of 1,341 seniors surveyed have active profiles on Facebook, 34% were sharing their thoughts on Twitter and 9% were using business social network site LinkedIn to establish a professional presence.

This is astonishing considering, when asked, 68% said that they had signed up within the past year. As faceless as technology can seem, it also has the ability to give you an independent voice, directly impact your environment, join specialized communities and integrate yourself into the expanding global village.

Here are some interactive ways to take advantage of being online:

  1. Start a Blog – It might seem a little self absorbed but a blog is a great way to document your opinions, feelings and passions without the fear of being reprimanded. Anonymous or bravely as yourself, sharing your experiences online can be great for your soul as well as connect you to other like minded individuals. You might feel a bit exposed and venerable at the start but you might be surprised at how liberating it can be.
  2. Join the Discussion – When I first discovered discussion boards, I was sceptical. It seemed like a waste of time and also a place where people just wanted to feel smart and give advice, despite knowing what they were talking about in the first place. Then I discovered that there actually ARE great discussion boards out there and within those boards are close communities of people that grow to care about each other, despite never meeting in the physical sense. Most websites also have comment sections on their articles, giving you the ability to respond and have insight on the media that is presented to you. By giving this feedback, you are not only speaking your mind but giving the publication an idea of who is reading their articles, allowing them to be able to bring you more relevant content in the future.  Discussion boards additionally have the ability to allow you to let down otherwise guarded limitations and speak your mind, be yourself. And besides that, where else could you find 1,000 other people that have the same strange fascination with old German novelists.
  3. Social Media – Everyone knows to some degree what the major player social media sites are: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Youtube. Whether or not you are actively involved in any of them, understanding the power and social importance of these sites, not only online but offline, is very important to staying in touch with the drastically changing global world. Businesses, publications, organizations, political parties, friends, family – in some part, everything is hooked into these platforms. I’m not advising for someone to be that person at the restaurant tweeting about what type of sandwich they’re eating, but exploring and familiarizing yourself to these medias can prove to be rewarding. Social media allows you to customize your online interface so that you are surrounded by your interests. By liking things on Facebook, following brands and personalities on Twitter and joining groups on LinkedIn, you are connecting yourself to communities of organizations, interests and relevant information that you otherwise would be ignorant to therefore decluttering your internet experience.

So what does this mean? It means that there are no excuses not to take the plunge and explore everything that the internet has to offer. Take a hike up Mount Douglas and blog about it. Connect with friends from 20 years ago and gossip on Facebook on whose gotten fat. Feeling silenced? Go online and debate your stance on whether or not Elvis is dead. Before you write off the online world as a mind numbing brain melt, take the time to understand the possibilities and smell the virtual roses. TTYL.

(Article originally published for Senior Living Magazine’s Reader Newsletter on July 5th 2011 –Online Brain Melt Cures)

Personality versus Technique

There is a common debate over what is more of an impacting catalyst on the road to success – people skills or technical skills. Granted, an ideal world finds us wanting a healthy balance of both talents but how do you determine which essential skill to focus on to improve your personal, professional and business’ advancement?

On one hand, technical skills are the foundation for efficiency, talent and productivity. We spend our youth accumulating skills, paying high prices on tuition and trade programs and working much into our mid-life, gaining experience while perfecting tasks and processes for minimum pay.

On the other hand, personal skills are what connect us to our social and professional worlds through relationships, both in business and personal environments. We gain professional relationships, consumer loyalty and trust in our brands by how we appeal and approach our audiences.

Stanford Research Institute, Harvard University and the Carnegie Foundation have all spent bundles of money and years to study what exactly impacts a person’s success in life. Their results found that technical skills, despite the profession, were responsible for only 15% a person’s success with getting a job, keeping a job and succeeding at the job; the majority of responsibility falling over to personal skills at 85%.

Not a believer? Think about arriving at a 5 star hotel and getting horrible service. Despite the hotel’s outward beauty and amenities, would you be inclined to go back? If you were eating at an expensive restaurant and your server was unenthusiastic and abrupt, would your experience as a customer be positive? The hospitality industry is based around the importance of great customer service, making most of its business from returning customers and word of mouth.

The numbers are alarming considering the time and effort put into memorizing and exacting our techniques, all the while leaving our outward personality and communications skill sets, for the most part, to our natural abilities. This is not to say that you should quit mastering your trade, but rather to shift the focus on providing your talents through making it a wonderful experience for not only yourself but for your employees, business partners and clients. By going out of your way to ensure that your relationships are as positive and enthusiastic, you are inevitably setting yourself up a perfect environment to gain appreciation and exposure for your technical skills, as well as a fantastic business reputation.

(Article originally published for Senior Living Magazine on May 31st 2011 – Personality vs Technique)

(Image source: http://afroblush.wordpress.com/)

Social Media for Dummies

 

With the international success of social media websites (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter , etc.), being tapped into these networks can prove to be a goldmine of great exposure, viral  marketing and a great way to build brand trust within your audience target. Because social media marketing is still a fairly new concept, many businesses are confused as to what to use it for- many are reluctant to try to implement it as a marketing tool and many have gone to the other extreme and have abused its power; both running the possibility to be detrimental to your brand and business. The following 5 tips are quick and easy, do-it-yourself ways on how to effortlessly set-up, manage and control your social media.

  1. Pull Traffic to your Website and Promotions
    This is an important one and pretty straight forward. The point of your social media should always be to lead people back to your main website. Profiles on your social media platforms will help you build a personality for your brand in the eyes of peers and clients but the goal really should be to drive viewers back to your webpage. This is important because your website is where you can control what information they get, how it is promoted and the overall experience. Promoting specific deals and coupons on these platforms is also a great and cheap way to give people current information and keep them interested in your business. Be careful though- there is a fine line between promoting and spamming.
  2. Provide Value
    Even though the first point was about website traffic and your own personal promotions, an overall commercially saturated profile will defer people from visiting and interacting with your page. People like buying, deals and specials but no one likes to feel like they are being pressured. The best way to get your promotions across and keep interest in your profile is to balance out your marketing approaches with other relevant content. Provide related articles, advice, comments and viral media to give your customers value. This ensures that they don’t feel pressured into continuously being sold to and will feel more comfortable to begin to build a stronger, more trusted relationship. Keep your profiles current and updated- people are not going to revisit a page with no new content. Write your own articles or direct your audience to interesting information in order to build yourself a reputation as a leading expert in your industry.
  3. Interact with your Audience
    One of social media’s amazing attributes is that it integrates you directly into your user’s social experience, allowing you to interact and communicate on a personal level with them. By having conversations and discussions, you can obtain vital information on your demographic (what marketing campaigns work and which ones don’t, what is important to your target, how to gain their loyalty) and build a strong personal relationship with them while getting great exposure. Don’t be afraid to reach out and directly interact with your audience!
  4. Network with Your Peers
    With both small and large businesses, it is important to have great connections within your group of peers and industry. Having a strong social presence online allows you to expand your networks beyond territorial restrictions and make global partnerships. With social media websites such as LinkedIn and Facebook, it is easy to find contacts of other industry professionals and associations that could provide you with both the networks and advice needed in order to advance your business.
  5. Be Consistent and Everywhere!
    If you’re going to go the social media way, make sure that you are everywhere on the internet. Create a profile with all the major players (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Youtube, etc.) and know the differences and functionality of each site. You don’t exist if your users can’t find you online. Don’t rely on them to hunt you down or put any effort into finding you.

Providing a social media presence for your business, at first, might seem daunting and confusing, especially if you are unfamiliar with the platforms in the first place. As the internet becomes more and more of an integrated influence in our lives, it is essential to access the possibilities of what social media can do for your business.

(Article originally posted for Senior Living Magazine on May 31st 2011 – Social Media for Dummies)

Digital Shape Shifters

Online games, blogs, and social networking are just a few examples of how modern communication has been revolutionizing our sense of community and identity. These venues of technology allow us to virtually project our sense of self and also detach ourselves from various physical and emotional realities that society fixes on us, conceiving new and sometimes multitude forms of identity. It is hard to imagine a time without having several representations of ourselves distributed on the digital platform that we interact with daily. Identity is an illusion of security that we rely on in order to classify and stereotype ourselves and others into neat tidy categories in order to make sense of the chaotic nature of reality. As the digital revolution continues to expand and blur the lines between virtual reality and physical reality, the theory of identity and self perception becomes increasingly more difficult to define as the ability to separate key aspects such as physical characteristic traits and environmental influence continues to impact social negotiations on all fronts. A virtual avatar, meaning “a perceptible digital representation whose behaviours reflect those executed, typically in real time, by a specific human being” (Bailenson & Blascovic, 2004), is a prime example of this separation mimicking very much the representation of self but having the ability to be seemingly foreign in nature at the same time. Elizabeth Reid (1994) describes the importance of avatars as, “much more than a few bytes of computer data – they are cyborgs, a manifestation of the self beyond the realms of the physical, existing in a space where identity is self-defined rather than preordained.” Through the use of online avatars as seen in games like World of Warcraft (WOW) and Second Life, how we choose to represent ourselves through digital projection effects how we interact in such environments and even carries over to face-to-face reactions. As we separate further and further into different versions of self, the technology begins to impact every aspect of ourselves despite the illusion of fantasy involved in such avatars and game play. Just like how an individual can have a different type of relationship with a parent, sibling, friend, or lover, we now find ourselves dividing up into further replicates of the self, having the ability through digital virtual reality’s avatar selection to emphasize certain personality traits that inevitably become who we actually are and how we interact online and offline.

Online gaming not only provides a source of entertainment for an individual to plug into for a few hours to escape the stresses of life but has developed into a massive social network in the form of massive multi-player online role-playing games (MMORPG). In these games, the individual assumes the role of a fictional character, usually existing in some sort of a fantasy realm. These games are mostly non-linear – which means that the character is emerged in a world where they can interact with almost anything with no scripted game play structure. The character continues to evolve, developing new skills and higher status among other players through its interaction with others and their effort invested within the world. Many people flock to games such as World of Warcraft to enact a fantasy of heroism or connection that is lacking in their own life, creating an escape and alterior existence that their physical one encapsulates. Avatar selection therefore becomes the utmost importance in how other players view an individual and inevitably how an individual interacts in the game overall.

World of Warcraft, the leading MMORG with a gigantic subscription base of 10 million users worldwide, was the subject of one study in relation to avatar selection. In an experiment based with 40 undergraduate student volunteers, Nick Yee and Jeremy N. Bailenson found that avatar selection was a key determiner for how the gamer interacted within the game (2009). The study tested 2 key attributes, attractiveness and height of the characters. Result found that when the participant was randomly given the taller avatar to control, the user was far more likely to be aggressive and bold in game play, showing increased confidence and achieving higher potential for power compared to the shorter ones. The more attractive the characters, were the more likely they were to approach other users and be inclined to behave in a friendlier way, despite the fact that it is merely a digital character. The choice of online self perception inevitably does play an impact on self perception behaviour online as this study’s results have shown. An user subtly chooses to conform to their online identity through the expected attitudes and behaviours that are originally conceived and absorbed from the avatar’s own identifying characteristics.

As we absorb these characteristics through online gaming, one question is raised on whether or not our online identities stay on the virtual platform or if the impact carries over to our physical reality realm. The average role-playing gamer spends about 20 hours a week online, emerged in a fantasy world, affected by their avatar (as explained before) to react and behave a certain way online (Yee 2004). 20 hours dedicated to one game translates into one eight of an individual’s week, equating almost to the amount spent at a part-time job. Just as our physical reality has the ability to affect our online one, such a dynamic amount of time spent in one application has the ability to affect all aspects of our identity. In another study done by Yee and Bailenson (2009), they attempted to find empirical data of this effect. In this experiment, 40 more undergraduate students were used and immersed in both virtual interacts via avatars and face to face communication with each other. Initially participants were paired into two face-to-face interactions for a designated time span. They, then, were given a randomly chosen avatar and placed into a virtual scenario. Most of the avatar-performed interactions where linked very closely to the representation of the characters. The taller ones once again were more likely to be dominant despite their actual size and the attractive ones more approachable and friendly towards the other participant. When separated from the avatar and brought back into face to face communication, a carry over of this behaviour was recorded as the participant still held onto the characteristics of their digital representation, showing a distinct difference in the previous physical reaction. The research showed that there was a visible lasting effect of the avatars influence as the volunteers became immersed in the roles they had just interacted in. As we see ourselves as harnessing and controlling the digital sphere in a pixelized form, we must recognize and understand that the avatars in return change our behaviour also.

So the important choice of choosing an online avatar becomes a more tedious task. Unlike the previous discussed experiments, most avatar implementation is not random and is carefully developed by the online user. Amy Axelsson (2002) observed that, “avatars in virtual environments were used to denote qualities of their owners… Users create avatars that display overt aspects of themselves which become more stable over time as their participation in the online community continues.” The more time being a certain persona that represents exaggerated characteristics of one self, even if it is merely an online representation, the more developed that characteristic becomes in its user. Depending on the online platform you are consorting with, your avatar psychologically essentially becomes a piece of you, despite possible gender swapping, physical exaggerations and role-playing tendencies (being heroic, aggressive, sociable). Adrian (2008) argues that essentially this can make our self awareness in a post-modern society a bit “schizophrenic” and that because of the consequences of an easily manipulated sense of self online towards offline, we should be more rational in terms of our choices of digital self depiction.

Today’s multifaceted technological environment allows us to be as many different people as we need be to express or escape ourselves. More and more so, the physical reality is becoming less solid in determining who we are, how we view ourselves individually, and how we fit into the hordes of subcultures that categorize us as societies. We believe that turning to lucid environments is something that we can control just as we control who we become on these online social networks and game communities. It is undeniable that the virtual and physical world are blurring together, creating more opportunities for the expansion of personal self. What we as users must recognize though is that there is an ever-increasing lack of division between online and offline persona, as each influences the other in a multitude of interactions of self perception (confidence, socialization, and irritability). Yee and Bailenson describe this phenomenon as “what we learn in one body is shared with other bodies we inhabit, whether virtual or physical” (2009). So as clear as we are our physical selves interacting in a rational based society, we are no longer confined to these dimension as we can manipulate our sense of self through the online influence of avatars.

Works Cited

Adrian, Angel. “No One Knows You Are A Dog: Identity and Reputation in Virtual Worlds.” Computer Law and Security Report 24 (2008): 366-371. Online

Axelsson, Amy. (2002). “The Digital Divide: Status Differences in Virtual Environments.” In R. Schroeder (Ed.) Social life of Avatars: Presence and interaction in Shared Virtual Environments (pp.188-204). New York: Springer.

Bailenson, Jeremy and Blascovich, Jack. (2004). “Avatars.” In W.S Bainbridge (Ed.), Encyclopedia of human- computer interaction (pp. 62-64). Great Barrington, MA: Berkshire. Print

Reid, Elizabeth. (1994) “Text-based Virtual Realities: Identity and the Cyborg Body.” http://www.alualei.com/cult-form.htm. Web.

Yee, Nick and Bailenson, Jeremy. “The Proteus Effect: Implication of Transformed Digital Self- Representation on Online and Offline Behaviour.” Communication Research 36.2 (2009): 285- 312. Print.

Yes.. I would like fries with that carcass

After reading an article written by James Rachels, I have come to exist in the continuing and idealistic argument that it is wrong to buy factory farmed meat. Factory-farmed meat meaning pretty much anything you pick up at a supermarket – oh, and don’t forget McDonald’s, Subway, Wendy’s, Burger King, etc. They have they’re own massive conveyor belts specifically harvesting animals so you can chomp into your extra greasy Big Mac. But I don’t think anyone would argue in favor of animal cruelty and therefore I’m not going to pretend that my opinion is something I need to prove. We all know its wrong. To argue anything else is to believe that animals do not have certain primal rights such as the right not to suffer.
Most people would instantly say that “No, I do not believe in cruelty to animals.” And a lot of the time, if they were to see an animal hurt, would try to help or put them out of their ‘suffering’ if help isn’t an option. What is then the difference between this and buying factory farmed meat? Inevitably, by buying into the industry when purchasing meat at a local supermarket, we are supporting, if not inducing, this demand for the market, creating such torture on animals like mutilation, mutation, and suffering. Just because you are not the one clipping off a chicken’s beak or confining a small lamb into a cage, does not mean you are not the one paying money to ensure that this is done. Yet the majority of people do not acknowledge this and continue to have excessive barbecues with cheap meat and eat hormone-injected chickens from KFC (more info) . This leads to an overall sense of hypocrisy. I do not think our convenience or cost should trump over the millions of pigs, cows, chickens, and many other animals that are put into assembly lines every year just so we can have our cheap and fast Big Mac or Chicken McNuggets. And this is where the problem lies. Most of us have some kind of inkling that animals are being manufactured but could it be in the facelessness of the meat that we find a comfortable place to live in ignorance? We don’t have to see the suffering take place or the idea that the meat we are buying was an actual animal once so therefore it does not exist.

We see this in correlation with how we’ve treated humans in the past – races and genders that we, as a majority, have had belief to be of lesser worth . If we go back to Egyptian times or Colonial America, we can see slaves being mistreated and used as work horses or Nazi Germany, where a whole race, the Jews, were tried to be potentially brought to extinction. We see an underlying lack of sympathy for causes that are not directly forced upon us. We’ve adapted our ways ideologically towards people, promoting human and gender rights, believing that we’ve triumphed over inequality to a certain degree and advanced as a civilization, embracing nationality in a sense of multiculturalism. So, just because animals don’t fit into our species or definition of ‘human rights’ than we should use them as tools for mass consumption? This may seem like a radical statement, reaching for dramatic emphasis but nonetheless holds truth in rationality.
An argument supporting this consumption is to lay refuge in nature: we are on the top of the food chain so therefore it is in our mammalian right to harvest a food supply. There is merit in this argument but does not address the moral crisis at hand. When watching the discovery channel, we see a lion hunt the gazelle, kill it, and eat it. We have empathy for the gazelle but realistically realize that it is a natural course of nature and therefore acceptable. Now if we were to see the lion hunt down its prey, contain it, torture it excessively and unnecessarily before killing it, I doubt anyone would be to able to say that this is within the lion’s natural right to do so. Conveyor belts and giant machines deal with the fundamental aspect of being involved in a naturalistic environment.

Keeping all this in mind I must admit that I am a hypocrite. I’m not a vegetarian nor do I think that I would ever really try to become one. Maybe it was growing up in a hunting and farming family but I can arguably say that I have seen animals killed humanly for food, have taken part in the act of slaughter, therefore gaining an overall respect for the sacrifice of the animals I eat. The meat always has a face. And this is where I find trouble avidly agreeing with James Rachel. He declares that if you find any unmoral aspect of factory farmed meats than you should ask yourself why… and then ask yourself why again… and evitably you morally are obliged to be a vegetarian – case and point.  Although I respect the will power of vegans and vegetarians and their dedication to their view, I do not necessarily agree with taking away our primal instinctual choice to eat meat. It is the mindset of meat eaters that must change and a respect for every life, including animal and plant, that needs to be enforced as an individual and capitalistic ideology.  Now in a time where antibacterial soap and 3G telephones rule our lives, we don’t have to get our hands dirty and respect the lives we consume. We’re all too happy to have our food handed to us on a cellophane platter.

War of Scriptures: A look at the comparisons and contrast between Islamic and Christian Fundamentalism

Religious fundamentalism is unlike many other political ideologies. Whereas many ideologies such as liberalism, fascism, and socialism focus to control and restrain social problems in relation to government, fundamentalism is a reaction to society for a variety of different reasons hoping to reintroduce traditional values, merging the gap between church and state. This makes it an especially charged and tense ideology as the tendency of conflict between religions or as Samuel Huntington (1996) explains, “clash[es] of civilization” are prone to occur. Throughout history, religious wars have shown the power of fundamentalism and usually are more predominant in cultures that become fragmented in ideological belief leading to the search of societal identity and security. As religion has been a foundation of this in many people’s private lives, the reintroduction of belief into government attempts to abolish doubt and return society to its ‘rightful’ order (Heywood 283). This is not an extinct ideology despite its traditional orientation and bloody past. It is an ideology that has cut across and respawned in an array of cultures and religions, having an appeal of fanaticism ranging to a more docile and peaceful approach. As we look towards the major confl icts in our modern world, as liberalism becomes the norm (an ideology, in a way, void of group consensus and unity, focusing primarily on individuality and freedom), we can see two major fundamentalist groups gaining power – Islamic fundamentalism and Christian fundamentalism. Despite being very similar in many ways, Islamic and Christian fundamentalism represents a rift between Eastern and Western ideals not only through a religious premise but also through social, economic and political structures.

Islamic fundamentalism centers around implementing guidelines on morals outlined in Islam’s sacred texts, the Quran and the Sunnah. As the world’s second most followed religion, Islam’s strong structure is not just ritual ceremony of tradition but has established itself as a way of life for many people. Very much like Christian fundamentalism, Islam and the Quran have been interpreted in many ways, splitting the Islamic state into separate fundamentalist groups. Three main divisions are recognized to be Wahhabism, Shia Islam and liberal Islam. Wahhabism was initially the Saudi Arabian political state dating back to the eighteenth century that implemented the banning of modern technologies (pictures, music, videos) in order to restore culture and society back into a pure state. Wahhabism’s doctrine was the cornerstone for a fundamentalist group called the Muslim Brotherhood, an organization the spawned Islamic philosophers such as Sayyid Qutb. After spending time in the states and being repulsed by the overtly saturated liberal state of materialism and sexual promiscuity, Qutb developed an anti-western standpoint that “highlighted the barbarism and corruption that westernization had inflicted on the world, with a return to strict Islamic practice in all aspects of life offering only possibility of salvation (Heywood 298). This philosophy has been the reference of thinking that many later and modern Islamic fundamentalist groups such as the ‘jihadi’ conform to.

The ‘jihad’, meaning an internal or external struggle of one’s body or soul, involved in such groups shows a strong militant aspect of this fundamentalist thought process. Groups such as al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and Hamas use the devotion of Islam to spread across their distaste for Western views of Capitalism and ideals. The prolifi c World Trade Center attacks, on September 11, 2001, brought this crusade to the limelight as the world was forced to recognize the fanatical war of religions that was being waged now in the fore front and no longer behind closed doors. Paul Berman’s comparison of totalitarian movements and fascism towards these forms of political and militant Islamic groups shows the significance of recognizing Islamic fundamentalism as not just a political ideology but a passionate political movement gaining power out the East in reference to Anti-Westernism (2003). Political Islamists (secular nationalists) and traditional Islamists have not always agreed on policy but do share certain key factors that contribute to its view of fault in Western views. In his article “Joseph and Pharaoh: Religious Fundamentalists and Secular Modernists in Contemporary Islam and their Hostility towards Western Liberalism”, Stephen A. Harmon explains this, “Yet despite the mutual hostility of Islamists and secular nationalists towards one another, the two factions agree on one thing: they both hate and fear classical western liberalism, though for different reasons”. The Islamist reason for the dislike of classical liberalism is its individual based mentality supporting the separation of church and state. The secular nationalists hate classical liberalism because of the decreased precedence of government’s role and the free choice of political affiliation (Harmon 2010). As society becomes more unstable in the Eastern societies, radical fundamentalism can be seen to be on the rise as people try to find stability through religion.

Christian fundamentalism, as stated before, is not unlike Islamic fundamentalism. Christianity, as the world’s largest religion, is deeply entwined with Western culture, dating back to the Roman Empire and spreading through conquests throughout Europe and eventually to the Americas (Heywood 2007). As Islamic nations held onto the words of the Quran, Christianity’s sacred text lies in the Bible, encompassing it’s own structural guidelines of morality and establishing itself also as a way of life for its followers. A key aspect in understanding this ideology is the evangelical Christian’s belief in the second coming of Christ. The Rapture, where Christians would be embraced by Christ and granted eternal bliss, shows the belief’s emphasis on following the doctrine to reach this salvation and those who do not are left behind and condemned to peril in hell. Because there is no temple in Jerusalem, the place where he is supposed to reappear, alliances of Christian fundamentalists and Jewish followers were made and support for Israel by Western societies was made essential. This can be seen in both the democratic and republican parties in the United States as pro-Israel strategies have been used to win elections and popularity.

Interpretations of the Bible also caused divisions within the religion resulting in three main sub-groups: Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant. The emerging liberal and stable state of the Western world has resulted in the privatization of religion therefore inspiring secularism to be an attempted mainstream system of political process. In terms of fundamentalism, the ‘New Christian Right’, a collaboration of Christian groups that focus on integrating Christian ideals and religious culture back into society, was formed in reaction to this ever-changing, constantly evolving liberal society which threatened these traditional ideals. These Christian ideals focused on social issues can be seen in the United States political sphere through legislative controversies surrounding topics such as same sex marriages, stem cell research, and especially abortion, all which are strongly denounced by the Bible. President Ronald Reagan’s famous speech said, “I have always believed that this anointed land was set apart in an uncommon way, that a divine plan placed this great continent here between two oceans to be found by people from every corner of the heart who have a special love of faith and freedom” (Lewis 2002). This showed the mixture of secular idealism and religious theology incorporated within his administration. Switching now towards modern times via the Bush administration, it is very easy to see the religious triumpalism and moralism that was referenced in certain actions like declaring the ‘war on terror,’ (militarization towards the Middle East) as a triumph over evil.

Islamic and Christian fundamentalist groups can be seen to encompass many of the same key factors in establishing themselves as an ideology. Although on separate spectrums of the world (East and West) and both symbolically pitted against each other, they’re foundation of reasoning and even passionate following can be seen as a mirror reflection of each other. One major aspect is the preference of militancy. Heywood addresses this by stating, “Fundamentalists are usually happy to see themselves as militants, in the sense that militancy implies passionate and robust commitment” (2007). Although both sacred scriptures promote a sense of peace, the Quran talks about the equality of man and the Bible preaches about the virtue of loving your neighbour, and despite the fact that for the most part the two fundamentalist groups uphold peace and compassion for all, both groups can have a tendency contain extremist groups that will result to violence in order to press their beliefs on another cultural group. Famously we can see this in Islamic fundamentalism through the use of suicide bombs and through Christian fundamentalist groups in use of bombings of abortion clinics. Both fanatical sides say that the violence is justifi ed “as they are intended to eradicate evil [and] they fulfi l the will of God” (Heywood 2007).

Another major comparison between Islam and Christianity is that by introducing a fundamentalist approach to society, it enables a sense of nationalism to unite the public through times of insecurity and unrest. Heywood describes this strategy of induced collectivity by dictating that the reasoning is is that “if ‘we’ are a chosen people acting accordingly to the will of God, ‘they’ are not merely people with whom we disagree, but a body actively subverting God’s purpose on Earth, representing nothing less than the ‘forces of darkness’” (2007). By creating an opposing side for the public to defend themselves against, it unites the masses as they fight collectively against one great evil. Both fundamentalist groups believes that they are under attack from some threat and therefore through the return to the merge of the state and church, a strengthened and controlled society is able to withstand such a danger.

Antimodernism is also a common theme among most religious ideologies. The desire to return to a pure and family oriented society is very evident in Islamic and Christian fundamentalism. Both sides have a range of adherence to the resistance against modernism. For example, certain orthodox groups such as the Amish in the states and Wahhibism in Saudi Arabia, reject all modern technologies whereas some groups use modern technology as a tool for mass media to spread their beliefs and word of God. The incorporation of modernity is not always seen as an evil to religious fundamentalist groups but as a “reconstitut[ion of] religion within the limits of modernity, even as it copes with modernity within the limits of religion” (Parekh 1994).

Throughout the ages, religion has played a fundamental role in the shaping, reinventing, and influencing the world. It is hard not to see the impacts of religious undertones in every social environment despite its claims to be liberal, socialist, or conservative. As we look towards the East, we can see the strict governance over education, women’s rights, and obedience. As we sit here in the West, we can see the religious controversies over the limitations of personal liberty and freedom as birth control and assisted suicide issues are constantly on the forefront of political and public arenas. Islamic and Christian fundamentalism, both being very authoritative ideologies, have been around for hundreds of years, constantly adapting to modern situations while still upholding the need for the immediate return to traditional values in an otherwise chaotic and heretical society.

Works Cited

Berman, P. (2003) Terror and Liberalism. New York: W. W. Norton.

Harmon, S. A. “Joseph and Pharaoh: Religious Fundamentalists and Secular Modernists in Contemporary Islam and their Hostility towards Western Liberalism.” Midwest Quarterly 49.2 (2008): 179-199. Web. 28 May 2010.

Heywood, A. (2007) Political Ideologies: An Introduction.

Lewis, B. (2002) What Went Wrong? Western Impact and the Middle Eastern Response. Oxford: University Press

Parekh, B. (1994) “The Concept of Fundamentalism”, in A. Shtromas (ed.), The End of ‘isms’? Refl ections on the Fate of Ideological Politics after Communism’s Collaspe. Oxford and Cambridge, MA: Blackwell.

Stealing the Past for the Future: The Fight Against Intellectual Property Rights

Piracy is a word that instantly is meant to catapult us into fear, warning us to steer clear of file-sharing and labelling offenders passive aggressively as thieves. Piracy, essentially the derivative of the word ‘pirates’, is as Oxford Dictionary spells out for us “the practice of attacking and robbing ships at sea” and the alternative being “the use or reproduction of another’s work without permission” (p. 671). So why go so far as to compare attacking and robbing with the reproduction of creative work? Control – a struggle of control between an artistic freedom of shared knowledge and a capitalist barricade of intellectual property rights and copyright infringement laws. To take this concept a little further, a look into ‘sampling’ and ‘mashing’ (building upon and recreating stolen creative work) raises many controversial questions about ownership and creative freedom, forcing many people to draw a line and pick a side.

On one side of this line, we have copyright officials and enforcers. These are the people, such as the looming giants of the music industry, that will protect their investments and capital, fighting to all extents of the law. These are also the people that refuse to allow adaptations or share their work, shielding it from the world just for the sake of ownership or lack of cash flow incentive. On this side, money is a momentous factor in the argument’s inflexibility and is the cornerstone of most of their power. Swinging to the other side, we find copy-fighters – organizations of the belief that information belongs to the masses for the betterment and advancement of the creative culture. The philosophy is simple: build upon the past and create the future. Knowledge should be shared, not stolen. Artists such as Girl Talk and Madlib, known and famous for sampling others’ music to create something new and unique, are on the forefront of this media battle. Depending on what side you fall on, they can be either thieves needed to be dealt with or martyrs for an evolving creative revolution.

The act of sampling music is not a new concept despite common belief. It can be seen almost everywhere, in every genre, in every era. Influential blockbuster artists such as the Beastie Boys, Public Enemy and Madonna are all guilty of transforming someone’s previous concoction and creating hits that have become internationally known. It is hard to imagine the masses calling the Rolling Stones a bunch of musical hacks just because they launched their career reinventing old Chicago Blues numbers by Bo Diddley and Chuck Berry. And furthermore, it is a well known fact that Hip hop has been stealing other musicians’ tracks for years, building a multi-billion dollar industry with such culturally significant hits as The Sugarhill Gang’s ‘Rapper’s Delight’ (a Chic Sample) and Eric B. and Rakim’s ‘I know you got soul’ (a James Brown sample). All of these artists are what we, as a pop culture centralized society, call trendsetters, idols, and entrepreneurs at the same time as we penalize and suppress those who cannot afford the hefty licenses initiating the ability to mold these creations. Heller and Eisenberg (1998) allude that “[t]he need to pay for patented and copy-righted ideas and products, thereby limiting their availability and use in one’s creative engagements, may be a restriction and deterrent to further creative works and novelty” (p. 699). The hypocrisy lies in the record company folk continuing to prohibit the common use of intellectual property, while the same offence by their own artists is paying their salaries and mortgages for their million dollar mansions. The common folk are left with giant restrictions on how and what to create. Hettinger (1997) argues, “[h]ow wasteful private ownership of intellectual property is, depends on how beneficial those products would be to those who are excluded from their use as a result” (p. 33). The benefits of sampling or stealing something that falls into the category of intellectual property many times outweighs the negative effects of infringements of that copyright.

What about Joe Blow, the average graphic designer and not the rich executive, that just doesn’t want his work stolen? The issue in question is not plagiarism but referencing the work in the same process that the original was brought into existence. Everything, even complete original works of art, builds upon concepts, ideas, images, and metaphors that were born long before its creation, establishing a theory that no idea or creation is pure in said originality. Another easy argument for someone to make is that if there is no property protection than why create at all? But this fallacy can be disproved by looking at Confucian China, a society that invented such groundbreaking developments such as the compass, gun powder, printing and paper (Yung, 2008, p. 48). This society lived in a ‘creative commons’ arrangement that had no restrictions on the expansion of others’ ideas. Betty Yung (2008) explains that “[i]t may be even argued that with new ideas being shared as ‘cultural commons’, rather being treated as private properties, with any use of them involving payment to or permission from the owner, it would be likely to encourage free flow and exchange of ideas and may even lead to future innovations as inventions very often rest on previous works” (p. 47). The point being that by setting such high restrictions on copyrights, we are inevitably preventing revolutionary ideas and art forms.

So as stated before, sampling through piracy is not a new construct. It is something that has existed for decades and has undoubtably shaped our present world today. How could civilization have advanced without the criticism, reproduction and evolution involved in the process of sampling others’ ideas and how have the newly developed strict set of regulations involved with intellectual property rights dwindled our advancement now? In a society of digital mass media, being a virtual pirate has become more and more prevalent as the information flow has become virtually unstoppable making this battle of rights brought into the limelight.

APA Works Cited

Heller, M. A. & Eisenberg, R. S. (1998). Can Patents Deter Innovation? The Anticommons in Biomedical Research. Science, 280, 699.

Hettinger, E. C. (1997). Justifying Intellectual Property. In A. D. Moore (Ed.)., Intellectual Property: Moral, Legal and Intellectual Dilemmas (p. 33). Maryland: Rowan & Littlefield.

Piracy. (2001). In C. Soanes (Ed.), The Oxford Paperback: Dictionary, Thesaurus, and Wordpower Guide (p. 671). New York: Oxford University Press Inc.

Yung, B. (2008). Reflecting on the Common Discourse on Piracy and Intellectual Property Rights: A Divergent Perspective. Journal of Business Ethics, 87, 47-48

Dying to be heard


Technology has a way of suppressing our voices. This may seem like an oxymoron considering every time I go online I can instantly tell how many shots of espresso my Twitter friend has in his coffee. I also can read and write editorials, much like this one, on any topic I feel inclined to be interested in, exposing myself to the global village and the global village to myself. But Technology, in all its glory and liberty, has a way of shutting all of us up due precisely to these examples alone. With so many voices and so many opportunities to scream out our opinions, when are we ever heard or listened to? And to what extent will people go to in order to be louder than everyone else?

This draws me to the ‘Unabomber’. I had heard this word mentioned over the years but until I read a chapter focused on this in Slack and Wise’s Culture and Technology, I never gave much thought to the chaos of absolute freedom of speech and communication through technology. The chapter focuses on Theodore Kaczynski, the Unabomber and member of FC (Freedom club), and his anti-industrial revolution manifesto. Kaczynski’s famous manifesto believed that essentially the industrial revolution and all of it’s capitalistic qualities would inevitably be disastrous for society and that a revolt against technology was needed. In 1985, for Kaczynski, this revolt came in the form of mail-sent bombs to various experts in fields of strong technological backgrounds. Years later, when the taste of his reign of terror was dulled, he contacted newspapers and media outlets, demanding to be published, to be heard, and he would stop the death toll. Now Kaczynski could’ve easily been that crazy and psychotic guy that everyone labelled him to be (and most likely was), but the bombs and innocent deaths have catapulted a spotlight onto his otherwise ignored manifesto, which is now still being taught in universities and known worldwide. The deaths of innocent people was a price Kaczynski was willing pay in order to be listened to – and that he was. Essentially we can see this same fanatical method in religious fundamentalists (suicide bombers and terrorists) in today’s society. As CNN’s terror alert goes red, in our fear, we are all too eager to listen.

Should we go around killing people so everyone will listen to whatever burns and ignites our passions? No, that’s not at all what I’m saying. Is technology a time bomb ready to countdown the destruction of modern social structure? No. But a strong and unsettling question comes into my mind as I sift through my facebook news feed, dismissing and barely paying attention to how Dan’s day was or how much Jenny hates ice cream. As technology is already wrapping us up in its barrelling ambition forward, it is giving us all the freedoms we so aptly accept to uncensor ourselves to the world inexplicably. Through all the positive aspects of advancement and connectivity that these tools have given us, the balance of instant communication and expression may lead to an overall isolation in itself. Meanwhile updating my facebook status, the only question I undeniably ask myself is, “is anyone even listening?”

Works Cited

Slack, Jennifer Daryl and J. Macgregor Wise. Culture + Technology: a Primer. New York: Peter Lang, 2007. Print.

Juxtaposition

Juxtaposition of historical observations creates an interface for generating new insights.


We were all raised in a specific culture or traditional format. We have all grown up hearing folklore stories, stories of nationalism, and stories that are deeply engrained with how our own cultural boundaries have been formed. Years ago, we were dependant on our own societies to feed our knowledge and curiously of what’s going on in the rest of the world by means of it’s own biased, nationalistic, and conforming agenda. Due to lack of sources for individuals to balance and find their own truth, stronger values of culture and behavioural norms were imprinted in generational upbringing. Now with the bombardment and freedom of media and its chameleon-like existence, we are now faced with a new dilemma – a challenge of discovering and inventing individual filtration systems. When something happens of historical magnitude in today’s world, not only are people faced with viewpoints from opposing forces (each encapsulating their own bias) but there is also a multitude of sources available from every standpoint forcing people to educate themselves, determine their own conclusions, and question culture and society in general – opening the door wide open for the possibility of misunderstanding, misinterpretation, reactionary stubbornness and overall confusion. Now as we reflect to the times void of massive enterprises of communication readily available to us, we must ask ourselves how this new evolution of a globalization will shape and form the way we understand government, foreign nations and culture. Will the result of the past ten years of the information and communication technological explosion diminish our traditional values and cultural viewpoints in order to expand to new horizons and unite us globally or will it essentially form more specialized subgroups of opinion, creating a larger gap between harmony in the global village?

Explorations in Medium Theory in Mass Communications


Throughout the ages, cultures of communication have evolved over and over again, reflecting our society’s ideals back towards us. Marshall McLuhan, famous for his work in popular culture during the ’60’s, explains that we are now living in a ‘global village’ (Littlejohn & Foss 285); a place where we can instantly connect with anyone anywhere, despite location or cultural traditions. With new forms of communication, we’ve broken down barriers of distance and are able to virtually interact with and download information at our convenience and discretion. With the touch of a button on a Blackberry, a person can talk to a relative overseas, check the weather and today’s headlines, and store vital data such as schedules, phone numbers and music. But which is more important; the data being stored or the device or channel conveying the data? Many would instantly say it to be the data being stored and that the device (medium) is just a tool devised to showcase this information. To bring this to a more practical context, imagine a television. It is easy to state that it is the tv shows that are watched (the content, the propaganda, the advertisements) that are of more essential importance than the idea of broadcast media, in general, that underlines and contains such media. McLuhan and his mentor Harold Adams Innis, along with many other scholars, would disagree with this theory, arguing that ‘the medium is the message’ (Littlejohn & Foss 290). Medium theory, tied closely to the sociocultural tradition, is the exploration into such theory of investigating society’s interaction and influence over media and media’s interaction and influence over society. It takes us away from the information being displayed (the tv show) and allows us to visualize the cultural impact of such medium (broadcast media) separately. This essay will outline the concept of mass media, encapsulate medium theory into two main sections, classical medium theory and new media theory, and strive to show the significance of recognizing the medium as an overall force in shaping society throughout the ages.

Mass media is a term all too familiar within today’s culture as we look towards a vast array of information that swamps our daily lives. We associate mass media with advertisements, tabloids, tv shows, news, and anything of manufactured intelligence or truth that floods the vast populations in any given society. As it is impossible to consume everything that is thrown at us in the form of communication, mass media dictates what we should be paying attention to and what we should ignore (Littlejohn & Foss 287). This is not to say it is on an unifying front that everyone absorbs the same information with the same context, but rather it guides us to personally filter out excess information to get what we want with unifying reference points of genre. George Gerbner describes this, explaining mass media as “the ability to create publics, define issues, provide common terms of reference, and thus to allocate attention and power” (Littlejohn & Foss 285). In a sociocultural sense, it establishes and presents unifying trends of culture and genre, allowing us to determine where we fit in the great scheme of society and what we want to soak up. Watching the television, a person does not just allow the tv channel to dictate the show that they want to watch but rather the person chooses the show from a sense of what they feel targets them within the genres they belong to, as specific tv shows and news channels are constantly changing and shifting information.

Joshua Meyrowitz attempts to organize and distinguish theories associated with mass media by separating the schools of thought into 3 main categories: medium as a vessel, medium as a language, and medium as an environment (Littlejohn & Foss 287). ‘Medium as a vessel’ supports the idea “that media are more or less neutral containers for content” (Littlejohn & Foss 287). This means that in the case of the television, it doesn’t matter what the focus of the information presented is but rather that the television brings across all information unbiased in the same demeanour. ‘Medium as a language’ reflects exactly what is sounds like. Different mediums will express themselves in different ways, with different cultural slang or grammar to define the genre. With printed mediums this could reflect in the format of the piece, the way in which something is written (choice of words and style), and even the font choice. The last category and the one in which medium theory is strongly based upon is ‘medium as an environment’. This idea is derived from the concept that media has the ability to create and directly influence our personal and individual experience within a mass population whether or not we realize it.

The concept of medium theory believes that even when separating content from media, the medium still creates dominant repercussions in society. Within classical medium theory, McLuhan gained mainstream acknowledgement by “calling our attention to the importance of media as a media” (Littlejohn & Foss 290), bringing recognition to this theory. This means that the television, Internet, newspaper, and radio are all going to influence the population despite what is spoken or conveyed through them. He also believed that technology, in any aspect, was a way in which humans amplified their own abilities; the car is an extension of the feet, clothing is an extension of the skin, mobile communications are an extension of the voice, and so on. This ties into the importance of the medium in itself as we interact with our own realities.

McLuhan, with help of Harold Adams Innis’ previous work, also went on to describe media as an “extension of the human [therefore] the predominate media in use biases any historical period” (Littlejohn & Foss 290). Time binding is a term to describe an aspect of medium theory, where the medium is more or less permanent and unchanging therefore as it is passed from generation to generation, despite new shifts in cultural idea or rebellion the information stays the same. For example, travelling back to cave art or to Roman stone carvings, these forms and uses of the medium (the stone or cave) rarely changed and acted as a strong reference to a society’s tie to tradition. Space binding, on the other hand, allowed communication to be more flexible; to have the ability to move locations or shift slightly in thought. Speech (passing information through word of mouth) and written media (paper based) was easily ready to be manipulated, revised, and reproduced with more comfort.

Correlations between media and human perception and thought begin to surface as one starts to shift, so does the other. In ancient times, stories, news, and law were carried through word of mouth sculpting the way in which we acted upon the knowledge. Now, with all of technological advancements, we interpret information in a different way and react accordingly. Donald Ellis delves even deeper into McLuhan’s theory bring it to a more modern context, recognizing drastic contrasts with our reactions to the different breeds of medium through oral, written, and newly electronic media (Littlejohn & Foss 290).

Oral communication is a very traditional form of communication, and as stated before, was a way in which information was passed down through generation to generation. Because of the process of a person first storing the information within themselves and then transmitted it to another, it produced a society of community, where collective harmony among ideas and concepts trumped individuality as self and the overall population merged together (Littlejohn & Foss 290). In order for the information to be valid and rational, everyone had to come together to establish an overall consensus between the facts.

Written communication permitted a different way to store information. It allowed the “separation of knowledge (what is known) from the knower (who knows it)” (Littlejohn & Foss 291). By writing something down, the message was no longer alive and organized chronologically as with speech, but had the potential to be revised and edited, disconnecting it from the instance of transcription and holding it in space indefinitely. As a person reads a book, they no longer see a person’s words but rather an illusion of a sense of ‘truth’ separate from human interaction. With the invention of the printing press, this cracked the sense of the group collective and divided people into those who “held the knowledge and those who didn’t” (Littlejohn & Foss 291).

As soon as electronic media came along, a new shift of consumption erupted through culture. The creation of broadcast media allowed information to be sent to mass amounts of people, despite location or vocation, no longer only being contained in a physical sense. Television allows for us to view the world in our living rooms, without ever having to move, except for scanning channels with the remote control. Broadcast media does not only apply to television but to a vast array of of different mediums, combining both oral and written communication in a new form of information frenzy. With the capability to propel mass amounts of information, truth is now not definite, as various forms of contrasting truths are projected, and the individual is forced to sift through the flood of opinion for their own personal adaptation of the truth. Now with the more individual form of communication ingestion, the community of orality and the culture of class from literacy changed to “create a culture of cells” (Littlejohn & Foss 291). People are now specialized in their ideas, now free to choose what theories or activities to support and educate themselves in, and thereby segregating themselves into subcultures organized in contrast to other subcultures.

New media theory is at the heart of this development with the popularity of television and the explosion of the Internet. Mark Poster describes the new era of communication technology as the Second Media Age. Now media was not just for the overall population, as it is when watching tv, but could also be used to convey information on a very individual level (Littlejohn & Foss 291). There are distinct difference between the first media age and the second: ‘centralized’ (first media age) versus ‘decentralized’ production (second media age); ‘one-way’ versus ‘two-way’ communication; ‘state control’ versus ‘beyond state control’; ‘the reproduction of social stratification’ versus ‘democratization’; ‘fragmented mass audiences’ versus ‘promoting individual consciousness’; and lastly, ‘the shaping of social consciousness’ versus ‘individual oriented’ (Littlejohn & Foss 292). This shows an ever revolving sense of media within media. Even as some sense of the information stays the same in content, new forms of medium that transfer it will undoubtably change the way in which we receive and interact.

Two dominant approaches, social interaction and social integration, are also used to explain the complexities of medium theory. Social interaction approach attempts to organize communication “in terms of how close they come to the model of face-to-face interactions” (Littlejohn & Foss 292). Television does not fall very close to human to human interaction but is more of a form of people engaging primarily with the media. Contrasting this, using a web cam to talk to a relative across the country is seemingly close to having a conversation in person, despite the possible hundred of miles separating the two individuals. Social integration approach, on the other hand, “characterizes media not in terms of information, interaction, or dissemination, but in terms of ritual, or how people use media as a way of creating community” (Littlejohn & Foss 293). As people are devoted to specific tv shows at a certain day and time or consistently logging onto a favourite website, this approach directs our attention to the need to ritualize experiences, explaining that the content is not always primary but the act and comfort of the repetition of the action makes us feel involved. This is easily seen with the morning ritual of reading the newspaper with coffee and can be easily transferred over to other areas of new media. Facebook, for example, is a prime reflection of this approach. An individual will log into their account many times a day, more out of ritual rather than truly being interested in whether or not Brad ate a roast beef sandwich or the fact that Sandra can’t wait until she goes to Mexico in two weeks.

As we evolve in media and medium, we evolve in culture and society and vice versa. In a lot of ways, medium theory shows us that how and in what way we send our content is more important that the essence itself. Television, mobile communication, web cams, the Internet, online gaming, magazines, billboards, movies, music, and many others all play an important role in creating our human experience, formulating our reality not only through interaction between society but now also with devices that imitate human interaction. Society has become and has always been an ever moving target as we advance further and further into new ways to express communications through media. Throughout the ages, we’ve seen radical shifts of societal ideals based upon this concept and as we look further, one cannot predict the impact the next big advancement in technology will do to our relationships within self, society, and reality.

Works Cited

Littlejohn, Stephen W., and Foss, Karen A. Theories of Human Communication, Ninth Edition California: Thomson Wadsworth, 2008. Print.

Seven Traditions of Communications

Everyday we have images, symbols, signs, and impressions flashing before our eyes. Messages upon messages collide with our own sense of individuality and create the reality in which we perceive our existence. How do we process the enormity of information and comprehend the symbols of what each import or export of the message means? There are many theories that try to understand the broad nature of communication and how it applies to the individual or society but because of the complex nature of the topic, traditions are formed to help organize and explain different viewpoints and concepts. Robert Craig developed a model that labelled and separated the field of communication into seven traditions (Littlejohn & Foss 34). These are known as the semiotic, the phenomenological, the cybernetic, the socio-psychological, the socio-cultural, the critical, and the rhetorical traditions. Each tradition focuses on a different aspect or specialized area of communication and knowing each one gives new and sometimes conflicting viewpoints on why we relate and comprehend the information we absorb on a daily basis.

The semiotic tradition is one discipline that brings to light the importance of signs and symbols and how they come to represent ideas and concepts through our own experiences and perceptions. This comes to project the thought that through our own perception, we come to interpret meanings for objects that hold a symbolic presence rather than it merely being just an object of reality. Two main important attributes of this theory are the definitions of signs and symbols. A Sign meaning “a stimulus designating or indicting some other condition” and a symbol “designating a complex sign with many meanings, including highly personal ones” (Littlejohn & Foss 35). Signs, more so, are connected to an object in reality and symbols having more of a subjective realization. One person might look at a photograph of Asia and see a foreign and exotic landscape, whereas a person who has lived or travelled there might look at it completely different, as home or a place with specific memories or experience, despite the fact that it is the same image being shown. The meaning, according to to this tradition, therefore, is a bound relationship of three things (the object, the person, and the sign) as Charles Saunders dictates, calling it the Triad of Meaning (Littlejohn & Foss 35). To branch out a little further in semiotics, there are also three subdivisions that separate the vastness of this tradition: Semantics (what signs represent), Syntactics (relationships between signs), and Pragmatics (utility of signs) (Littlejohn & Foss 36). The semiotic tradition is important in the aspect that we are governed by icons, signs, and symbolic forms of information consistently. It is within the relationship between the symbols and us that tells us not to drink the bottle with the skull symbol on it or not to cross the street when the light is red.

The phenomenological tradition has a different focus than that of the semiotic. Its focus is more on the individual interpreter rather than the function and symbolic nature of the sign itself. People interpret messages and experiences by filtering the comprehension through their own values and understanding and therefore deciphering the world through this. An individual comes to know the world as they participate and engage within it and how they relate to an object is how they assess the meaning behind it (Littlejohn & Foss 37). This is why the process of interpretation is at the central point of this tradition, stating that it is literally what forms the reality of the information or existence for that individual (Littlejohn & Foss 38). Direct experience is therefore very important in this theory. The phenomenological tradition is also split into three schools of thought: classical phenomenology, the phenomenology of perception, and hermeneutic phenomenology. Edmund Husserl, considered the founder of modern phenomenology, held an almost controversial view that instead of seeing things through our own psyches, we should take ourselves away from our biases and see things in an objective way in order to be able to interpret the actual experience (Littlejohn & Foss 38). Many scholars disagreed and thus the phenomenology of perception came to be. This is the concept that says we only know things through our own experiences. Hermeneutic phenomenology is similar to this but goes a little bit deeper and connects communication and language more in depth.

Cybernetics is a little bit different than the previous two traditions. It examines the overall workings of communication in relation to systems. A system being “a system of parts, or variables, that influence one another, shape and control the character of the overall system” (Littlejohn & Foss 40). To put this in an easier way to understand, we’ll use an example of a classroom system. The relationships between the students and teacher, students and each other, subject matter, environment of the classroom, cultural diversity of students, and homework all come together to form a cycle of networks and connections. Basic system theory (the outside observations of the actual flow and structure of systems), cybernetics (the study centred on circular networks and feedback loops), general system theory (the relation of similarities of systems across other platforms), and second-order cybernetics (the affect the observer has on a system as well as how it affects the observer) are four variants of the cybernetic tradition. This tradition gives a great overview of how the system works but because of this, it does not take into consideration the smaller individual pieces and influences that interact with each other (Littlejohn & Foss 41). By understanding the cybernetic tradition in relationship to communication, it shows the intricate and elaborate network of possibilities that people adapt and are absorbed in.

The next tradition, socio-psychological, is linked very closely to the cybernetic tradition in the sense that even as individuals, we are more likely to adhere and accept any new communication that abides to already set systems of knowledge, beliefs, or values. The socio-psychological tradition stems from psychological theories and is focused heavily on the individual as a socialized entity, a part of a network of people, but still independent in their actions (Littlejohn & Foss 42). Trait theory, a major focus in this tradition, explores attitude and the connection between personality and one’s communication. It is easy to understand the collaboration between communication and psychology in the sense that one’s personality or psychological influence will impact how they react to certain messages, accepting them or being biased against them, and how they communicate their own values, in the form of coming across in certain stereotypical behaviour.

The socio-cultural tradition in comparison to socio-psychological tradition is the study of one’s relationship as a whole to a culture rather than individual differences. Reality is the sum of all the parts when viewing people as components and the influence the sum has on the individual (Littlejohn & Foss 43). To put this is lament terms, we are a product of how people see us and represent ourselves accordingly. How we present ourselves is how we wish to be perceived by other people and how they perceive us, although initial views might be stereotypical, is a direct instigator on how they act towards us and thereby reaffirming our identities.

The critical tradition is centered around very idealistic views. To be involved with the critical tradition, acquiring knowledge is not enough but action is also a very fundamental key value. Sociological change through communicate is essential as studies within this variation tend to pivot around the powers, oppressions, inequalities, and demographically different privileges of a society (Littlejohn & Foss 45). Marxism (study on economy and production in alliance to society), postmodernism (the emergence of the information age and powers of media), and feminist studies (the critique and study on gender roles, race and sexuality) are all main disciplines of the critical tradition. Usually theorists of these parties are involved in activist organizations and community groups, challenging standard norms and roles.

The seventh and final tradition in communication is the rhetorical tradition. Because of the use of human symbol use, many scholars broadly link this to where initially the discipline of communication came to be dating back to 5th Century BC Greece (Littlejohn & Foss 49). In a nutshell, rhetoric is “adjusting ideas to people and people to ideas” (Littlejohn & Foss 49) through the use of language and symbols. The art of persuasion is embedded within this section, as communication and information go hand in hand with educated societies and individuals.

Although all seven traditions outline and have depth in each specialized area of expertise, they themselves are connected together and each cannot survive on its own to explain all aspects of communication. Certain traditions clash against each other (semiotic and cybernetic) whereas others work together and help explain one another (cybernetic and socio-psychology) but nonetheless, they all form a puzzle that tries to piece together what communication is all about. Keeping this in mind, I find the socio-cultural tradition, in my experience, to be one of the most valuable when it comes to communication. Although individual traits do have a strong role in the act of communication, cultural influences such as family, society, media, and religion all create rules and regulations on what, why, where, and how we are to communicate and act. Slangs and terminology in different genres or cultures dictate a certain understanding of the particular group when used and can be a determining aspect on one’s identity. Even those who choose to not conform to these views, within their rebellion, are conforming to another set of rules established by society’s views on revolt or resistance. Because of the undeniable force and power of today’s media, with the bombardment of advertisements and targeted television shows, it is more crucial to understand socio-culturalism in the sense that our culture is being sold to us through these mediums.

In conclusion, the study of communication has many variables associated with it. Even within every tradition, there are subgroups, all attempting to explain the complexities on how we interact, communicate, interpret and explore our reality. From the moment we wake up to the moment we fall asleep at night, we are apart of an intricate system of receiving and shipping ideas that govern, identify, and influence us as individuals and as a culture.

Works Cited

Littlejohn, Stephen W., and Foss, Karen A. Theories of Human Communication, Ninth Edition California: Thomson Wadsworth, 2008. Print.

The soundtrack of my life

The most detrimental moment of any day is when my ipod dies. Forget about loosing my house keys (which happens bi-weekly) or getting into a fight with one of my roommates literally over spilt milk, the battery warning sign on my mp3 player is equivalent to an umbilical cord being cut. Considering people are dying from starvation or fighting wars in distant lands, the truth in this statement sounds superficial and a little ignorant. I will try to explain why my ipod can be considered my lifeline. Being an army brat by nature, having moved every year or so from birth, I have drawn incredible reliance towards introspection and theoretical cues, as opposed to physical ones, especially on topics like a sense of my past, a sense of my present, and an overall sense of my self. The portability and convenience of the ipod allows me to separate the chaotic nature of my ever-changing environments and decode them by using music. As I walk down the street, my steps in tune with the bass undertone of music exploding through my ipod, I have learned to grasp the ability to connect myself with my surroundings through the music. Like the rewind, play, and pause button on my ipod, a section of my identity reflects and grows with my dependance on this technological device.

Rewind. My past is scattered to put it at best. Being shipped around the globe resulted in loosing friends, home bases and cultural standards, continuously having to reinvent myself and reorganize my environment. How could I possibly make sense of every person I was at a particular place, the stages I’ve gone through, and feel complete enough to learn and adapt? Like a portable photo album of experience and old mindsets, listening to my ipod grounds me, connecting me to my past with the absent nature of being able to drive by old houses and hangouts or drop by an old friend’s place. Every place I have lived has a separate soundtrack and tapping into these specific cues allows me to remember that time I spent with my best friend in Germany making cookies or who I was when I was 15, listening and idolizing punk and hard rock. My ipod allows me to go back in time like a time machine and remember my roots and the things that were most important to me at particular points in my life. Whenever I listen to the Backstreet Boys (which, yes, is still on my ipod), it brings me back to the time when I was 10, sitting in my friend’s place in Holland and lip syncing to ‘I want it that way’. When I listen to NOFX, I remember the first time I kissed a boy as he clumsily played the songs on his acoustic guitar. Now as I hear the hard strumming of the song’s guitar, I can almost smell the cheap aftershave he excessively drenched himself in and feel my heart explode with anxiety as it threatened to beat out of my chest. All of these times and songs show me a reflection of my ideals and experience. I have always been envious of those kids that have grown up in one location their whole life, being able to see the stages they’ve gone through by visual landmarks and adapt themselves to friends that they’ve watched and helped mature. Just plugging in my headphones, where ever I am, in any part of the world, gives me a strong sense of my past and my own way to embrace my history. This is why my ipod has been a strong crutch for me in times of isolation or life change.

Play. Like with my past, by having the convenience to listen to my ipod, I can create an illusion of a personal soundtrack for myself while doing daily tasks and routines. Organizing my moods and thoughts, I can create playlists to manipulate and reflect my state of mind. Going to the gym? I’ve created a list of fast tempo songs to evoke determination and pep. I doubt listening to the irregular snorts of the person on the treadmill next to me or the hum of overused machines would really allow me to push past my personal physical goals like K-os or the Rapture do. Homework? The soft and ambient sounds of Imogen Heap and Tom Yorke help me calm down and focus as opposed to listening to the chaos living in my house. The loud chatter of roommates or the blaring Death Metal song from the room next to me wouldn’t exactly put me in the right mindset to be reading and comprehending the philosophies of Aristotle or Kant for my Ethics class or even trying to write this essay now. And self reflection? I’ve left myself with two choices: angry girl rock or the purity of the acoustic guitar to induce emotion and deeper thought process. I can’t remember the last time I was able to sit in complete silence and be motivated. While doing art, I find that I can reach a greater zone of creativity with the help of my ipod. The ability of completely falling into a controlled environment of my senses helps me target specific emotions and therefore I can become more productive in any given task. My ipod has become a medium I use to evoke the link between my conscious and subconscious self. In some strange way, I have found a way to connect to my environment and self more by eliminating certain aspects of the environment. Walking down the street, listening to Massive Attack, I feel more grounded to my surroundings than I would be if I would just be hearing the birds chirp and the crunching sound of my feet crushing dead leaves on the moist ground. As I listen to the hauntingly beautiful song, I notice the person walking in front of me is in unison with the beat and the heavy traffic on the street below is crawling along like the soft instrumental rhythm. Everything is connected. If life is a movie and we’re all actors, my ipod provides emotional cues in the sense that it’s a soundtrack, adding to the overall essence of the plot itself.

Pause. With due dates for 6 courses in school, living with 5 roommates in their twenties, and constantly being on the go, it’s hard to find serenity or piece of mind. With the incorporation of the additional constant bombardment of other medias and issues– advertisements, commercials, fights between friends, worries about money– all combine, resulting in a very frantic and hectic lifestyle. On any given day, I could be trying to balance an enormous amount of stuff to do and deal with like paying rent, doing homework, being a mediator between roommates, working at my job, dealing with freelance design clients, and cleaning my room. It’s overwhelming for me just to map out my day, managing my time with a list of chores and duties that must be done. This is where my ipod comes in. I can be walking in the middle of a hectic mall, filled with a vast array of people and images, and just push my earphones in to instantly find solace and ease anxiety. I can create a personal and mental bubble for myself, amidst the mayhem. Due to the fact of living in a very energetic and full house, there are always people coming and going on any given night due to differences in all of our schedules. My weekend is completely different from some of my roommates or friends, as well as work and relaxation schedules. Because of this, studying and forcing out access noise- partying roommates, the loud snaps of the pool table in our living room, or people yelling about petty differences- is more essential for me than ever before. My solution, as pointed out previously, is simple. With one click of a button, I can enter into an alternate reality, where I can have some sense of control over my information intake and pause the commotion for specific time lapses. Information overload, to some degree, can be cured by the information selection and inspiration that I find within my ipod.

By rewinding, playing, and pausing, I find myself entwined within the cords of my ipod. Not only does my mp3 player reflect my current state of mind, with my music choices, but it also allows the process of shaping the world around me for myself. What would I do without my ipod? I would have an extremely hard time making sense of the rapidness and randomness of my life; past, present, and future. Just last week, amidst the swarm of midterms and assignments due in class, I was panicked, completely marinated in the stress. I sat down, took a few cleansing deep breaths and shuffled through my ipod. I traced my songs back to sorrowful times (break ups, moving away, and funerals), good times (moments with friends, achievements, and traveling), monumental times (first time experiences, graduations and first loves), and finally where I am now. I close my eyes, able to see myself through the voices of others. I don’t know where I’m going to be in a year or who I’m going to be in six months, but it’s nice to know that comfort is only one click away. That is, if my battery is not dead.