Journalism’s New Aesthetic – BCM310

There is a definite crossover between what we see as “art”, and what we see as “journalism”. In a time where the definitions of such concepts are rapidly changing in response to outside forces, namely the internet, the lines are sure to blur. From such, the ways in which we express ourselves or tell stories too will change.

Aesthetic journalism is a concept thought of by Alfredo Cramerotti, generally, it is the idea of using artistic practice in the form of exploring a social, cultural, or political issue. A prominent example of this I feel is Banksy, a UK-based street artist with a strong focus on themes of corruption, poverty, race, and capitalism. While personally I find his work a little dull and two-dimensional, I mean, how many variations of “man in gas mask” can a man create? There is no argument that what he does causes a spectable:

“Aesthetics is that process in which we open our sensibility to the diversity of the forms of nature and convert them into a tangible experience” – Alfredo Cramerotti

Through works such as Banksy’s being so big in popular media, the issues he explores, which are no doubt important, too gain traction. It is this idea that exemplifies Cramerotti’s “aesthetic journalism”. The way in which we all convey ideas is different, while journalism leans toward a more explicit nature, artistry relies on interpretation. Is interpretation a good thing, however? Is the chance to engage with, and discuss a work like Banksy’s a greater means of discourse on these issues? Well, I guess that all depends on how much you like to stare at white people wearing gas masks.

gas mask

 

References:

Cramerotti, Alfredo, 2011, “What is Aesthetic Journalism,” in Cramerotti, Alfredo, Aesthetic Journalism: How to Inform Without Informing, Intellect, London

Fear and Loathing in New Journalism – BCM310

The field of journalism is different. It is different from ten years ago, and it will be different in ten years to come. As a reactionary response in the way audiences access and respond to information, the way in which we send it (journalism) seeks to adapt. “Journalism and the media are in the midst of tumultuous change, driven at least in part by technological and economic uncertainty on a global scale” (Pavlik, 2013).

Our current online environment is shaping just what we classify as “journalism”. This is idea can be seen through both the rise of citizen journalism, and alternate news websites. “Traditionally, journalism has been attached to the institution of the media, based on the production of news by dedicated paid labour, the journalist” (Domingo, et. al, 2008). This quote highlights to me the capacity the internet has had in breaking away from the “tradition”. Through cases such as the Boston Bombings – in which citizens were greatly responsible in the investigation and dissemination of material – we can see just the power we all now have as journalists. However, it is very important to be aware of the problems that can bring to accuracy, for as seen by this video, errors in reporting can always emerge:

 

A second and perhaps less important influence the online world has had on journalism I feel can be seen in entertainment, through what is commonly referred to as “the listicle“. A listicle is a very simple form of article, that is structured around the format of top-ten list of pop culture references. These articles are mainly coupled with the phrases “will restore your faith in humanity” or “what happens next will surprise you’, and I find them extremely irritating. These works are loaded with buzzwords and funny images that will return them swarms of readers, despite just how dull and unimportant the article is, which I guess is fine on a fundamental level. My main concern however is that this will cross-over into mainstream reporting in an attempt to build an audience and entertain their viewers. Could this type of reporting work in mainstream news? Who knows, maybe I will decide to explore this in a few weeks to come. But I hope not, I really do not want Mubarek’s regime explained to me through five word image macros and a cat with a grumpy face.

References:

David Domingo, Thorsten Quandt, Ari Heinonen, Steve Paulussen, Jane B. Singer & Marina Vujnovic, 2008, “Participatory Journalism Practices In The Media And Beyond,” Journalism Practice, 2:3, 326-342

John V. Pavlik, 2013, “Innovation And The Future Of Journalism,” Digital Journalism, 1:2, 181-193

 

Breaking Issues – BCM310

The idea of public sphere is vastly different to what is would have been fifty years ago, even ten years ago. The dependency and access the modern person has with their computer almost ensures exposure to opinions that they may never have sought out otherwise. However, the one aspect I find most interesting is the notion of a cultural public sphere. This refers to the articulation of politics, public and personal, as a contested terrain through affective (aesthetic and emotional) modes of communication (Mcguigan, 1996). While this idea definitely is inclusive of modern media, it is not restricted to, as movies, television shows and books  have always been rich with political leanings.

Keren Weinblatt explores this concept through the lens of the show ’24’. Keren highlights how this show invoked support to express different political opinions, and how political identity and media preferences were reconciled (Weinblatt, 2008). Having never seen this show, there is very little I can contribute to this example. However, I would argue that the show ‘Breaking Bad’ is one of the most effective examples of this idea of a cultural public sphere in recent years. While at heart it is purely a thrilling drama, what lies beneath is a text rich in political insight and critique, namely in issues like healthcare, drug enforcement, and public education.

cancy

 Walter White’s move into the drug trade was first prompted, in part, by his family’s fear that he would die prematurely for lack of adequate health care. It is the kind of fear most people in the industrialized world have no personal connection to — but that many American television watchers no doubt do. – David Sirota

To me, the beauty of this cultural sphere is that it exposes such a variety of people to varying political ideas. Similar to current media, namely social networks, we are presented with political discourse on a sub-conscious level. As for what we make think is 40 minutes of stressful and chaotic fun, can turn into one of the most profound and frightening tales of warning that will leave you thinking: “well, I’m never doing that.”

References:

McGuigan, Jim, 2005, The cultural public sphere, Cultural Studies, 8:4, pp. 427–443

Tenenboim-Weinblatt, K. 2009, ‘“Where Is Jack Bauer When You Need Him?” The Uses of Television Drama in Mediated Political Discourse’, Political Communication, vol. 26, pp. 367-87.

Sirota, David, 2013, ‘Walter White’s Sickness Mirrors America’, Salon, http://www.salon.com/2013/09/28/walter_whites_sickness_mirrors_america/

Use and Play – DIGC335

The video game industry is at a boom. More than a boom, it is an explosive chain of matter folding in upon itself ad infinitum, creating larger and more powerful booms wherever it goes. That’s not to say there aren’t huge issues in production and staffing, rather that demand of these media forms is forever rising. Just look at Grand Theft Auto 5, which last year became the fastest selling entertainment product of all time.

There can be no doubt that gaming and its culture, especially in the modern area, are perfectly valid areas for academic study. The media effects model, and more specifically video games making us “violent,” is one area that will remain a hot topic forever.

“Some scientists, like Bushman, have concluded that yes, playing violent video games will make children more aggressive. Others argue that current studies are faulty and inconclusive. It’s a debate that has been going on for over 25 years. And it shows no signs of stopping.” – (Schreier, 13)

While I do not side with the media effects model, it must admit I no longer want to read or debate about that topic ever again, I am sufficiently bored of it. Is that bad? Rather, what I find most interesting about its current state is the strong user-based empowerment – namely in “Let’s Plays:”

Jane Dorner states in regards to readers becoming end-users: “writers need readers, not users, in order to make a living” (Dorner, 1993). While an obvious sentiment, I find this statement interesting in light of the current technological environment, for it is in many ways almost the opposite. That’s not to say the role of writers and game developers are totally comparable, rather the acceptance and encouragement of people to use their product in front of an audience for free, is a new and more welcome approach to advertising granted by new media. I remember before the release of my favourite game of the year so far, Dark Souls 2, the developers released copies weeks earlier to many popular “Let’s Players.” This allowed for end-users to generate hype, and most likely save a few dollars on advertising, a strategy that would seem almost pointless for writers.

 

References:

Dorner, J. 1993 “When readers become end-users: Intercourse without seduction’, Logos, Whurr, London 4(1): 6-11

Schreier, J. 2013, “From Halo to Hot Sauce: What 25 Years of Violent Video Game Research Looks Like”, Kotaku

Wearable Tech: Are Humans a Ridiculous Species? – DIGC335

To answer the question: yes.

William Gibson’s short story, Johnny Mnemonic, is a science fiction and almost dystopian tale. It portrays a universe where humans and technology live as a singular entity, with characters each having a distinct ability granted to them through these connections.

I had hundreds of megabytes stashed in my head on an idiot/savant basis, information I had no conscious access to.

The interesting thing for me about this story is while obviously an exaggeration, it shows the fear and moral panics in which technological advancement is continually portrayed with in film and literature. These fears are still prevalent today, despite how advanced we are, and I think this will forever stay the same. For as long we are granted cognitive function, people will never cease to ask: “but has technology gone too far?” I mean, just look at this Oculus Rift conspiracy theorist go:

David Tomas in his assessment of Gibson’s work, to me unintentionally captures the resistance we will all witness with the rise of wearable technology: “the [cyborg culture] changes will encompass the human body and its sensorial architecture. There seems to be little doubt that these changes will also produce new domains of domination, contestation, and resistance.” Even today we are just witnessing the birth of a rebellion against new technology such as the aforementioned Oculus Rift, as well as Google Glass – with myself included.

Hold up though, before you begin forming your opinion of me as a traditionalist who spends every living moment clutching at the withering corpses of my old media, savouring the browning pages of my book while vowing to take revenge on the evil fresh-faced Kindle, that’s not me at all. I love where technology is headed, I love my smartphone, I love my Kindle, I love the design philosophies of Google Glass and Oculus, but you will never catch me dead wearing the latter couple. I mean, LOOK at them. Look closer. Nope.

looklol1

occy

 

References:

Gibson, W. 1998, ‘Johnny Mnemonic’, Burning Chrome, Grafton, London: 14-36

Tomas, D, 2000, ‘”The Technophilic Body: on technicity in William Gibson’s cyborg culture”, in Bell, D. and Kennedy, B. in The Cybercultures Reader, Routledge, London: 175-189

 

YouTube and Its Impact on Careers – BCM310

Without trying to sound like a middle-aged late adapter to the modern era, there can be not the slightest doubt that YouTube has done a lot. It has adapted to, tweaked, and surpassed its predecessor, television, in dozens of ways. Whether that be through access, production, control, quality, or media ownership, just to mention a few. The part I find most interesting is monetization. This is not to say I am in favour of it, but I cannot deny the vast effect this has had on the careers of many.

Some have called it at once the biggest and the smallest stage—the
most public space in the world, entered from the privacy of our own homes.
Through it, we can reach out to a next-door neighbor or across the world. – Michael Wesch

As Wesch shows above, with the assistance of just a simple webcam, no matter how talented, untalented, compassionate, bigoted, funny, unfunny, sincere, or ironic, anyone can produce content. Anyone can find content, and anyone can share content. Sometimes when I’m bored I like to find the most obscure videos I can for this thrill of it:

Image

As unintentionally demonstrated above, this does of course mean you could produce thousands of videos and have them continually seen by next to nobody. But on the flip side, you could make only a few and become the next big internet celebrity. The latter reality is where my interest lies. For example, now successful stand-up comedian Bo Burnham could be seen as slowly becoming a household name, all from one viral video (language warning):

 

While it is a much less common form of monetization, it is still not unachievable for anyone with a webcam.

A second, and perhaps more common sense of monetization largely found within the YouTube community is advertising – most notably perhaps through “vlogging.” I find vlogging interesting for while it is such a simple idea, it is so difficult to fully define. As Patricia Aufderheide states in reference to this public documentation: “Such work, whose compelling quality is the drama of its storytelling, crosses the makeshift line between journalism/public affairs and culture/art/fiction. As it becomes a minigenre of its own.” I find this analysis interesting, as it to me acknowledges this different forms that vlogging can entail. While I think it is most commonly portrayed as attractive, young adults telling you about their day, it’s important to remember this is not always the case. There are many people who speak on such issues as race, religion, and homophobia, who too have been able to forge careers through this medium.

While I still find it strange whenever I’m told by a superior that YouTube is having a drastic effect on our current lives, as if no-one else was aware, I would be unable to find any counter-arguments on the case. Even though this phenonema has left us with many quirky British boys who sit around making money by eating cinnamon off a spoon, it is probably not fair to hold this against the site as a whole, as it does allow for people to pursue some great careers.

Pick Up Your Slack – DIGC202

The most amazing thing about the internet is that you are able to fully overcome every single political, social, and economic crisis the world will ever face simply by writing a few generally unfunny words in big white letters underneath an ugly cat that vaguely appears to be frowning. Just last week I overthrew a couple of dictatorships by churning out some fairly sick Condescending Wonka memes on Meme Generator.net. It’s amazing to me just how powerful the internet truly is.

“Online communities broaden our scope of empathy. They do so by introducing new issues to our collective consciousness and exposing us to the lives these issues affect… empathy is the missing link between awareness and action — it’s what enables us to act for the well-being of others.” – Maria Popova

Ok I give up, the above quote has next to nothing to do with justifying my first paragraph. Everything I wrote was a sham, and is a prime example of a buzzword popular with media students in the present day: ‘slacktivism.’ Slacktivism refers to the act of half-heartedly sharing an important political message on your social media website to fit a fashion trend, then doing nothing else about it. Slacktivism is definitely a huge issue we face in the current online environment, but is it as big as people make it out to be? Yeah, probably… but I can definitely understand its existence.

woodmuffin

 

I see slacktivism as the browning discarded banana peel balancing on the side of your overflowing bin that has become a speed dating centre for lonely flies in your neighbourhood. It is the oily remnants from what was once a great Christmas feast and is now the on-going delayed chore of a lazy house husband. It is the inevitable consequence from what was once something good that leaves behind a few unwanted stenches. The internet has proven itself to be an overwhelmingly useful tool for revolutions, and equally as good a tool for spreading fashionable opinions in an extremely underwhelming manner.

In the end though, I think it’s safe to say that slacktivism is unavoidable. This practice however eye-rollingly optimistic it may be, is in the greater scheme of things mostly harmless. Cases such as “We are Khaled Said” in which suppressed information on Said’s tragic death was released over Facebook, and the Egpytian protests, which were heavily assisted and organised by vlogger and activist Asmaa Mahfouz over Youtube, demonstrate social media’s power as an assisting tool to overcoming oppression. It is important to keep three key ideals in mind when protesting through the web:

1. Be mindful not to discredit the work of the active and oppressed minorities in the face of Twitter’s influence in sparking and bringing about change,
2. Do not view social media as the primary component of protest, rather as an extremely valuable and now almost essential tool of the people,
3. Do not believe a single word that idiot Grumpy Cat says.

grumpycat