Reflection

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As a child I always attempted to keep a diary, however it never lasted longer than a week, so when we were told we were to run a blog, I panicked. I was not so much worried about using WordPress but rather writing and posting something EVERY week. It’s the worst nightmare for procrastinators like myself who think “oh, I’ll do it later!” which was definitely something that wouldn’t work for this assignment.

I have in fact surprised myself. With the guidance of our lectures and tutorials I have kept up this blog and truly enjoyed it. When I find something interesting my motivation instantly sky rockets and that was the case with BCM110. As this is my first year of uni, I had no idea what to expect of my subjects, hoping I’d made the right choices. It’s safe to say I have.

This subject has offered me an understanding of the media from a whole other perspective. I have learnt over the past 6 weeks, that the media is interpreted in multiple ways. My understanding of its effects and the idea of ‘ownership’ have allowed me to critically analyse and question how the media works in society and the role we play as an audience. With the idea of ‘being independent’ at university I have found WordPress extremely beneficial. The ability to read other student’s blogs has helped me understand particular topics, allowing me to create my own interpretations. The comments received were not only encouraging but also gave me confidence as an amateur writer.

Although sometimes stressful, I think my blog has contributed greatly to my understanding of media and communications. Don’t think this is the end of ‘Procrastination Place’; my online contributions to the World Wide Web are only just beginning.

Here Comes Public Boo Hoo

Alan McKee describes the public sphere as a place where “information is made generally available to the public”. Compared to a coffee house, it is a place where citizens debate common concerns. The growth of technology has encouraged a dialogic audience; allowing viewers to interact with the media. The modern mediated public sphere therefore is established from fragmented media sources, not only from the producer but also the viewer.

Popular media today, is concerned with issues that matter to in the public sphere, no-matter how controversial they may be. In 2009, TLC debuted their new reality series, ‘Toddlers & Tiaras’ following the families of contestants in child beauty pageants. The extremely competitive parents transform their children into beauty queens, with fake tans, wigs and a LOT of glitter, going to extreme measures to win a grand prize.

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A lot of controversy has followed the series, particularly circulating what the pageant elite call ‘pageant crack’. The sticks of sugar are given to the children to keep up their stamina at a long day of pageants. The public responded through Facebook groups and petitions by demanding TLC remove the show from the air as it encourages ‘bad’ parenting.

The show then aired a particular episode where 6 year old Alana Thompson, (better know as ‘Honey Boo Boo’) is given her mother’s ‘homemade’ concoction called ‘go-go juice’, insisting the sugar sticks had no affect on Alana. This lethal combination of red bull and mountain dew had Alana quite literally bouncing off the walls, claiming, “My go-go juice makes me want to pull my Mummy’s hair!”

The media frenzy once again circulated with articles and public discussions revolving around the debate on whether this lifestyle is healthy for children. Thus leading to issues of child obesity, pedophilia and parenting due to the supposed sexual exploitation of these children.

Both Alana and her mother featured on a number of talk shows, defending themselves, but everyone certainly had their own opinion on the matter. This debate is continuously growing and with the public sphere expanding more voices are being heard.

Involved and Controlled

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Everyday, without fail, I check Facebook and Instagram. I repeat this process any spare moment I have, purely out of habit. I’m never really interested in what I’m looking at but it has become such a part of my daily routine, I’d be lost without it.

Whenever any of these platforms ask me to agree to their ‘terms and conditions’ I do so without a second thought. My initial reaction to the fine print is, “ain’t nobody got time for that!” I click the accept button and off I go, completely unaware of who is in control.

Recent attention has been brought to Instagram, who is currently involved in a lawsuit about who owns what you post. Co-founder Kevin Systrom reassured users by stating; “We don’t own your photos — you do”. However, just because you own something doesn’t necessarily mean you control it. Instagram’s latest intellectual property policy allows Facebook the right to license all Instagram photos. In other words, Facebook can sell the photos you posted on Instagram from a recent holiday, to ANY company who can then use the images as they please. So yes, we may own our photos originally, but we cannot control where they go once they are posted into cyberspace, a consequence many are willing to sacrifice to ‘stay connected’.

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Essentially, people are handing over their rights of control to others the moment they sign up to Facebook andInstagram. Most of us
presume that Mark Zuckerberg has our best interest at heart but does he? Of course we would be naive to think the success of his company is not his foremost concern. It is reasonable that we may disagree with the control such companies have over our personal content, but do we act on this? We have the ability to opt out and delete our accounts. However, our reliability on social media and its dramatic influence in our lives, results in most of us not choosing this option.

“Have a heart go Anderson…I mean Vegetarian!”

If you don’t care about the environment today, you are considered a monster. As a global issue, the entire world is attempting to make ‘environmentally friendly’ choices, however, animal activist group PETA have a very unique way of displaying their beliefs. Although they may be friendly to the environment, are they friendly to society?

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is the largest animal rights NGO in the world. It works through animal rescue, legislation, celebrity involvement and protest campaigns to protect all animals from harm. In July 2010, long time supporter of animal rights, Pamela Anderson released her newest PETA advertisement, encouraging vegetarianism.

The image portrays a nearly naked, blonde Anderson, posing seductively in a bikini. Her body is marked with paint, mimicking a butcher’s diagram with words such as “breast”, “rump” and “round”. The caption for the advertisement “All Animals Have the Same Parts. Have a Heart-Go Vegetarian” stands out against the ‘pure’, white background.

Nudity isn’t a new territory for Anderson who is well known for her days as a Playboy Bunny. Nor is this a crazy step for PETA, known for pushing the boundaries in advertisement and repeatedly using nudity, to encourage the idea of being ‘natural’. Nevertheless, is this sending out the right message or is PETA stooping too low, sexualising their advertisements to gain support?

The denotations of this image do not immediately bring to mind the idea of becoming vegetarian to protect animals. Semiotician, Roland Barthes put forward the ideology that the reader produces the meaning. Therefore, different people may interpret images differently. As a result, the original true meaning of an image can often be misunderstood; in this case, PETA’s reasoning behind vegetarianism. The connotations of the advertisement make me see vegetarianism as a way to have a ‘perfect figure’ and ‘sex appeal’ like Anderson’s; but is it the same for you? Some definitely think so with it being banned in Canada for being “sexist” and treating the actress “like meat” (see article here).  Standing out is one thing, but being controversial is another. Companies like PETA often blur the two ideas, creating images that question morals as a result. Many may find it creative, but not everyone will agree.

Although signs can be universally understood, depending on their context, they can be interpreted a number of ways. Did you know that in 2012, 889,000 advertisements were banned? Well yes, thousands of images had their denotations and connotations questioned and they clearly pushed the boundaries of ‘simple ideas’ too far. To successfully interpret the ‘true’ meaning of an image, it must be understood that images go beyond ‘one’ message and what you see isn’t necessarily what it means.

Blame Anyone But Us

Society tends to blame others for its problems and quite commonly the media falls victim to this blame. ‘TV makes you fat’ and ‘violent video games equals violent children’ are basic examples of statements, often used to explain the ‘unethical’ or ‘unhealthy’ behaviour of individuals. This idea that ‘the media has a direct effect on audiences, causing them to act a certain way’ has been proved by many studies; however some claim this ‘effects model’ is clearly flawed, challenging the legitimacy and authenticity of these conclusions.

The article, “10 things wrong with the effects model” by David Gauntlett, argues the media effects research has quite consistently taken the wrong approach to the mass media, its audiences, and society in general”. Instead it treats children as inadequate, follows conservative ideology, assumes superiority over minorities and makes no attempt to understand the meanings of the media, rather bases theories on artificial studies.

Gauntlett refers to Bandura’s ‘bobo doll’ experiment whereby a group of young children witnessed adults acting aggressively towards a bobo doll and were then given the opportunity to play with the same doll after. Majority of the children similarly attacked the doll, concluding that ‘children learn social behaviour such as aggression through the process of observation learning’. Nevertheless, it was not considered by Bandura that these children knew they were being watched, therefore possibly altered their actions. This study also, did not acknowledge that the children faced no repercussions for ‘hurting’ the doll. Not only does this study fail to consider major factors that may alter the outcomes, but assumes children will automatically act violently when exposed to violence. How can such tests be therefore used as evidence against the media and its effect on people?

Gauntlett’s ideology effectively argues the media should not be the initial starting point in investigating the particular behaviour of individuals. Society cannot successfully blame the media without understanding its true causality; that is the relationship between cause and effect. So can the ‘effects model’ be truly used against the media? I believe this is a question that can only be answered by looking at all the factors of the problem.