Below is my DIGC330 Digital Artefact, examining the role portable devices have had both on our society and myself through this semester of researching them. Enjoy!
Below is my DIGC330 Digital Artefact, examining the role portable devices have had both on our society and myself through this semester of researching them. Enjoy!
Over the past couple of weeks, I have delved into studying the history of personal musical handsets, the way they were formulated into existence and the influence they have formulated into today’s generation of devices. As stated in the last post, these observations fall largely under the “Walkman Effect”; that is the influence that Sony’s device brought about from the late 1970’s and of which we still feel today.
The Walkman by no means was the first in it’s category to bring music portably to the individual; it was however the leader in a portable evolution, an evolution of our society and a revolution in technology. In 1978, Sony successfully consummated a compact playback device with lightweight headphones to create the first truly portable, personal technological device, as it was smaller and lighter than any other portable audio device on the market. In 1979, the ‘Walkman’ was introduced in the Japan, selling its entire stock of 30,000 units within the first three months. According to CBS;
“A Walkman cost $200.00 in 1979. Considering the average monthly rent in 1979 was $280.00, that’s a significant amount of money.”
One thing I did not know prior to undertaking this research was that in an attempt to get Japanese students to purchase the Walkman during their summer break, which coincided with the release in July 1979, Sony employees would walk the streets of Tokyo offering students and young people free samples of the Walkman, such as allowing them to walk a block with it on and then return it, of which gave valuable, if not supremely truth worthy, product endorsement.
Hosokawa’s 2008 article “The Walkman Effect” cites a study undertaken in the mid 1980’s by French magazine, Le Novel Observateur, where they ask whether “men with Walkman’s are human or not; whether they are in touch with reality or separated from it?”, in which an interviewee responds that the question is outdated, that “these are the days of autonomy and an intersection of singularity and discourse” This observation came across quite strongly to me, as here is a respondent, aged between 18-21 years old in mid-1980’s France, who states an argument that has been the lightning rod of marketing campaigns of every technology and media marketing campaign, from Apple to Warner Bros. That is that devices, in this case the Walkmen, are beacons of self-government and expression, of taking control of your surroundings but not excluding you from the world you are in. I strongly agree with this sentiment, for as I am a dependent of public transport to go to and from University, a necessity is my phone and earphones, which are far more pivotal than an Opal card.
It is this reliance upon my mobile to provide me and my travelling counterparts with an escape from the mundaneness of the bus ride and the never-ending trip down Appin Road that underlines the importance, not reliance but importance, of innovation and technology. This too is the very reason, as mentioned in the previous post, why Sony initially developed the Walkman, to allow users a slice of escape during whichever activity the like; be it flights, bus trips, roller skating or just walking through the city.
During my research into these devices, my Mum just so happened to have kept her PYE Companion 5000 Stereo Cassette portable radio from her late teens-early adult years. It’s large, chunky and heavy by todays standards, but you have got to appreciate the finesse that went into the device, from the deep blue leather case, to the spongey headset and the dual ability to play tapes and a FM radio. Below is a series of photos, and for a touch of the 21st century, a Samsung S5 belonging to my Grandmother, as this is Digital Asia and an iPhone won’t cut it.
As can clearly be seen, the size difference is astounding. Both devices have cases on them, however whilst you would need to clip the Companion onto your belt or into ones handbag, the Samsung can easily fit into your pocket or palm. The 16GB S5 can hold roughly 4,000 songs, which with the cassette player one would require roughly 266 cassette tapes as an equivalent. Try getting those onboard your next Qantas flight.
History.com Staff, 2009 “The first Sony Walkman goes on Sale”, A+E Networks, http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/the-first-sony-walkman-goes-on-sale
Sandoval, G 26th October 2010, “Goodbye Walkman; Thanks for the iPod”, cnet.com http://www.cnet.com/au/news/goodbye-walkman-thanks-for-the-ipod/
Over the last few weeks, we have examined the role of digitisation plays in various Asian societies and how they interact with those cultures, particularly Japan and South Korea. These two countries have advanced technological innovation that their efforts, both in the past and present, have produced profound impacts on both their’s and our own societies and cultures, a classical result of globalisation.
However, most of these innovations have come through the work of transnational corporations, such as Sony, Panasonic and Toyota. For my individual research project, I wanted to examine the effect these large, robust companies effect the rest of the world, and in keeping with the topics of digital Asia and autoethnography, I believe studying the history, impact and experience of Sony’s revolutionary Walkman would be a perfect fit.
As this investigation will be done under autoethnographic methodology, this, as explained by Ellis et al (2011) is the act of observing a cultural experience and discussing how your own personal cultural experiences affect the way in which you experience this, as well as drawing on “subjectivity, emotionality and the researcher’s influence on research”. I find autoethnography to be very fitting for something of this nature, as it draws upon my own experience and views of Japan’s digital/technological innovations, their industry and one of their finest creations- The Walkman. It also means that I will draw upon my experience using either a Walkman or something of similar nature, and understanding how it works and it’s functionality in comparison to todays mobile audio players, which owe their existence to this device.
The mobile audio device industry is currently undergoing an evolution of convergence, as mobile phones are becoming a more popular choice as their functions not only include those done by calculators and laptops, but also come with the ability to listen to audio files and the radio; a speciality that the Walkman instigated.
To understand the development of the Walkman, you will need to understand the differing cultures that were behind the production of it, and those who the producers were aiming to buy it. The Walkman came about at the request of Sony co-founder Masaru Ibuka, who wished to listen to Opera music during his long-haul flights to the United States and Europe. At the time, Ibuka would either have to request the airlines place his exact opera tracks into their sound system, which would of been an extensive and wasteful operation for airline inflight-entertainments at the time, or he would have needed to heave one of these around the aircraft and airports;
Whilst the nature of it’s purpose was exactly what Ibuka needed, it was too heavy and large to bring on international flights, so he requested that it merely be shrunk to fit on his belt. Eventually, the design and tape recorder divisions crafted an end result, a device that allowed the user to listen to the radio or their desired cassette tapes anywhere, anytime (as long as the appropriate batteries were installed)
Sony predicted it would only sell roughly 5,000 units per month; yet the Walkman would in fact sell roughly 25,000 in its first month alone (Time). At the request of Sony Chairman Akio Morita, all Walkmans were installed with a “hotline” switch, which immediately lowered the volume of the cassette/radio and amplified a microphone to allow users to have conversations with others without needing to take off their headphones, this was added as Morita feared the Walkman would be isolating to those in society (Patton 2003)
This is where the design, purpose and usage of the Walkman get’s into the socio-cultural differences of our world. In Japan, and Sony for that matter, the Walkman was designed to accompany travellers on long journeys or to be used in personal spaces, such as the office whilst doing work. In Western countries such as the United States, Europe, Britain and Australia, the Walkman was advertised as a “revolution” (as seen in the aforementioned advertisement) to how we went about our daily lives. Advertisements in the West, from the late 70’s to early 90’s, displayed a liberating, lifestyle-changing movement, which it ultimately did lead to. Take the first United States commercial;
These views are echoed even within our society today, with innovations such as the Google Glass causing concerns over safety and social behaviours. But did the Japanese have a point? Did this seemingly simple, yet magnificent, creation damage our social capabilities? And if so, why and how did it?
My research will look into an array of topics and questions, such as the evolution and impact of the Walkman, how it compares with today’s devices and what todays devices learn’t from it, as well as the social and economical footprint it has left. These will be done using various methodologies, such as observation (how and where people use their audio devices) and research efforts such as interviewing different generations and their experience/perceptions of mobile audio. It will also employ my preconceptions, experiences and tools to get an understanding of just how impactful the Walkman has been.
Ellis, C Adams, T E, Bochner, A P 2011, ‘Authoethnography: An Overview’, Qualitative Social Research, vol. 12, no. 1
Patton, Phil 2003 “Walkman”, philpatton.com https://web.archive.org/20070814024224/http://www.philpatton.com:80/walkman.html
Hair, M 2009, “A Brief History of the Walkman”, Time.com, http://content.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1907884,00.html
Franze, C 2014 “The History of the Walkman: 35 years of iconic music listening”, The Verge
As examined in Part I, we delved into the ownership inequalities that exist in the Australian media landscape. Now, in Part II, I will examine that same inequality though in a more global context, specifically that in the United States, thus drawing both parts together into the revised case study.
Perhaps the greatest issue with media ownership is the ideological debate between public and private ownership and the advantages & disadvantages these bring. Whilst Australia has 3 free-to-air private networks, plus those within Foxtel, it also has two public owned broadcasters; the ABC and SBS, of which both free-to-air and public broadcasting raise issues of bias and for-profit priorities with the formers. In the United States, there once was an array of ownership, so much so that conflicts of interest were relatively low. Take 1983 for example, that year 90% of US media was owned by 50 companies, including many that focused on local issues and were rather independent by today’s standards. By 2011, that same 90% had reduced from 50 owners, down to not 40,or 30, not even 20: but to a mere 6.
This 6 control such as vast network of the information, freedoms and values that we hold, we could see great dangers if there were to be more consolidation within each other. Below are the 6 with some of their main properties;
General Electric- NBC, Universal Studios
Disney- ABC, ESPN, Marvel Studios
Viacom- MTV, Paramount Pictures
Time Warner- CNN, TIME, Warner Bros
CBS- Showtime, NFL.com
And who could forget our friend;
News Corp- Fox, Wall Street Journal, New York Post
In 2010, the combined revenue of these 6 was $275.9 Billion, which was $36 billion more than Finland’s GDP. General Electric, with it’s control of NBC and Comcast, owns 1 out of every 5 hours of television, which grants it major control of audiences in markets such as Chicago and New York.
As put by William Melody,
“The greatest threat to freedom of expression in the United States or elsewhere is the possibility that private entrepreneurs will always tend to monopolise the marketplace of ideas in the name of economic efficiency and private profit” (Zayani 2011)
However, it is worthy noting that media in the United States is more forefront with who supports who politically. Channels such as CNN and ABC aim more into the political centre, with coverage of both sides, however Fox News and The New York Post are more aligned with right-wing politics, much like The Australian, which funnily enough are all owned by News Corp. News Corp owns two of the world’s largest newspapers, the Wall Street Journal (largest newspaper in the United States by circulation, with 2.3 million as of March 2015) and The Sun (with The Sun printing 1.8 million papers a day.)
In the United States, the Federal Communications Commision (FCC) is the regulatory body established by Congress to monitor and regulate the communication and media industries. These include the radio, cable, television and film mediums to ensure that there are constant updates to support both technology and innovation, and to ensure that healthy competition exists and do not broadcast threats to national security. You may have noticed that there is no mention of print media, such as newspapers or magazines, and that is precisely due to the First Amendment in the Constitution; as print media is regarded as a freedom of speech act, and that the only regulations that can be placed on this industry is whether the papers sell enough for them to continue.
On August 10th, 2016, the FCC voted to maintain the current level of regulations of media ownership, that is that companies cannot own a newspaper and a television or radio station in the same market, and visa versa. So for example, General Electric, with its dominance with its television stations in New York, cannot own or have a relationship with papers such as the Wall Street Journal, New York Times or New York Post.
So where does this lead us to? What does the future hold for traditional industries such as radio and print media, who are owned by the same corporations that own the new wave of media such as streaming services and online film? Let me know what you think about who owns what and where the future may lie in the comments below.
Zayani, M., 2011. Media, cultural diversity and globalization: Challenges and opportunities. Journal of cultural diversity, 18(2), p.48.
Shepherdson, D August 11th 2016 “FCC votes to keep most media ownership rules”, Reuters, accessed 17th August 2016 http://www.reuters.com/article/us-fcc-media-idUSKCN10L2M8
Shah, A 2009 “Media conglomerates, mergers, concentration of ownership”, globalissues.org, accessed 21st August 2016 http://www.globalissues.org/article/159/media-conglomerates-mergers-concentration-of-ownership
Lutz, A June 14th 2012, “These 6 corporations control 90% of the media in America”, businessinsider.com.au, accessed 21st August 2016 http://www.businessinsider.com.au/these-6-corporations-control-90-of-the-media-in-america-2012-6
In a world of over 6 billion people, the vast differences of culture and ideology categorise us into groups based upon perception, prejudice and personalities. These three P’s, as I like to call them, differentiate us from one another in ways that allow us to understand that there are differing values and customs held around the world; without them after all we would be the universe’s boringest party ever assembled.
Whenever we view someone or something as being similar or different from us, or being odd or plain scary, we must remember that when doing so, we are looking through our own experiences, presumptions and knowledge, thus subliminally creating comparisons from the start. This is something that I take great care in reminding oneself when I come across events, cultures or information that catch my eye. It too was mentioned by Chris in the tutorials prior to him playing the film which will be the main topic of this blog’s discussion, the 2013 South Korean film State of Play.
To say that State of Play was an eye-opening piece of artistic brilliance would be an understatement. The film follows the day-to-day life of professional South Korean video game players, or for a more accurate term; athletes, sportsman el al. I had an understanding already of how big video gaming was in Asia, specifically South Korea & Japan, be it through friends or other forms of media, but I must say that this film was the first time I looked deeper than just the tournament.
The tournament is focused around the game Starcraft, which attracts mass crowds, sells out stadiums and is a million dollar industry; complete with corporate sponsorship for the teams, many of which are made up of school-age boys given special leave from their educators to participate. That was the first surprise to me, as I have friends who have South Korean ancestry, and one of the things I knew prior to this viewing was how important and authoritarian the Koreans valued schooling. So to find out that students, or now ex-students, were given permisiooin to leave school, some at the age of 15, to play professional gaming was quite the eye-opener, as I could not imagine for a moment that we would even allow that for our sportsman and women be it AFL or Netball. According to the director;
“The micro-world of the StarCraft Pro League is like a mirror of South Korean society – a society so competitive that it almost seems logical that a simple video game would result in a professional competitive sport. South Korea is a country that aims high. It’s a country in full development that wants to prove itself on all levels – technologically, economically as politically.”
Now for those who are viewing this post from DIGC330 and wondering “Well yes Todd this is all well and good, but where is your statements on autoethnography?” I say wait no more.
Autoethnography is a form of qualitative research in which an author uses self-reflection and writing to explore their personal experience and connect this autobiographical story to wider cultural, political, and social meanings and understandings. So when viewing State of Play, if you have forever viewed sports as a bat and ball, or just a ball involved competition, you would begin viewing it with inner scoffs and wondering how anyone would seriously consider video gaming, or the correct term e-sports, an actual sport? If you manage to get past these prejudices, you will begin to realise just how mentally, physically and socially demanding this tournament is. For myself, the sports I have played were all ball-involved in some way, shape or form, however I can boast to have an open mind when it comes to appreciating the art that is training and preparation for events one holds dear; that is in this case the hundreds of thousands of young Koreans who devote their teenage years to something they truly believe in.
Whilst I can see the seriousness of this competition, having grown up in a generation where video gaming boomed in ways that many members of society enjoy it as both a passion and a pastime, the elder generations, such as those of the competitors parents, in Korea do not view it as a career or sport worth pursuing. During the filming, the only adults (that is about the age of 30) that take the gaming seriously are either the coaches or the corporate sponsors who most likely treat it as an investment rather than a shift in Korean societal thinking. One of the main players the film follows, Park Yo Han, is questioned by the elder males in his family, mainly his father and uncles, about when he plans to retire and take up a real job, such is their way of thinking.
Thus I felt that State of Play was an excellent film, both in it’s own right but too in challenging the preconceptions that those outside South Korea have of their esports industry, and too by showcasing the changes that are currently going in within the highly competitive, structured South Korean society.
State of Play film as viewed in DIGC330 tutorial.
The media landscape in Australia is quite an array of varying television channels, newspapers, magazines and radio stations all with their own distinctive styles of print, opinion and branding. However, despite these differences, would it shock you if I were to tell you that for a country of 24 million people, roughly 3 dynasties rule the Australian media landscape? That these 3, Murdoch, Packer and Fairfax are not necessarily competitors, rather they are co-operators, working steadily together to maintain their steady triopoly over the lucrative market.
For the BCM332 case study, I shall examine and report on the fort emprise that sadly befalls our national media landscape, as part of the overall purpose of examining global inequality in regards to media ownership, and the impact it has. In this first of two parts, I shall give a rundown on the ownership of Australia’s media scene.
In a 2012 interview with the online news site, The Conversation, former Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser stated;
“In my term, there were seven print proprietors. Now there is one and a bit. We have the most concentrated media in any democratic country, anywhere in the entire damn world. That is dangerous.”
Fraser is not exaggerating. The duopoly over our newspapers is shared between Murdoch’s News Corp Australia and the cross-tasman corporation Fairfax Media. News Corp has an extensive grasp on not only the Australian publication market, with the likes of The Daily Telegraph and The Australian, it too has extensive investments in Foxtel and Fox Sports. Such ownership gives News Corp the control over Australia’s sole cable channel, which it shares with Telstra. Fairfax meanwhile has investments in publications such as The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and The Australian Financial Review; as well as streaming services such as Stan to combat foreign powerhouse Netflix, and it too has part-ownership of radio stations like 2GB with Macquarie Radio Network. Such power does not necessarily result financial fortune, as Fairfax continues to battle to remain profitable,and in March this year, announced heavy job cuts which resulted in a 4-day strike.
Our privately-owned television networks consolidate together more often than they compete. Take for example Channel 10, which has investments and thus influence from the following;
Channel 7 is owned by Kerry Stokes through his Seven Group, which besides having significant mining interests also has investments in Yahoo7, Sky News and Australia’s largest magazine publisher, Pacific Magazines, which circulates Men’s Health, Better Homes and Gardens and New Idea.
Channel 9, who belongs to parent company Nine Entertainment Corporation, however is not owned by a single Australian individual or group, it rather is owned by CVC Asia Pacific, a multinational equity firm that has major investments through other media corporations around the globe. However, remember the aforementioned WIN Corporation that Bruce Gordon owns? Well they too have a 14% stake in Nine Entertainment, giving Gordon sizeable power and influence. Nine Entertainment also partners with Fairfax on their 50:50 ownership of Stan, as well as having a 10% stake in Souther Cross Media Group, shared with Macquarie Radio Network who in turn partners with Fairfax. As we can see, there is more consolidating and partnering than competing amongst our major media networks, and as stated by academic Robert M. McChesney in his work Global Media, Neoliberalism and Imperialism;
“(In Australia) The situation may be stark, where the newspaper industry is largely the province of Rupert Murdoch, who also has major stakes in magazine publishing. Murdoch also controls pay television. In short, the rulers of Australian and New Zealand’s media system could squeeze into a closet.”
So where does this lead us to? How does it affect the coverage and information we receive? In the next post, I will examine the second component of this study, looking into the global consequences of our tightly controlled media industry.
Carson, Andrea March 25th, 2015, “Heed Frasers warning on Australian media concentration-It’s getting worse” The Conversation, accessed 8th August 2016 https://theconversation.com/heed-frasers-warning-on-australian-media-concentration-its-getting-worse-38979
Goncalves, Ricardo 22nd June 2012, “Who owns what in Australian media?”, SBS.com.au, accessed 8th August 2016 http://www.sbs.com.au/news/article/2012/06/22/factbox-who-owns-what-australian-media
Fraser, Malcolm July 12th, 2012 “Does it matter who owns your papers? Yes, it does”, The Conversation, accessed 9th August 2016 https://theconversation.com/malcolm-fraser-does-it-matter-who-owns-our-papers-yes-it-does-7738
McChesney, Robert September 2001 “Global Media, Neoliberalism & Imperialism” The Monthy Review, accessed 9th August 2016 http://monthlyreview.org/2001/03/01/global-media-neoliberalism-and-imperialism/
Janda, Michael 22nd December 2014, “Fairfax and Macquarie to merge radio networks”, ABC News (Australia), accessed 10th August 2016 http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-12-22/fairfax-macquarie-to-merge-radio-stations/5982594
Firstly, allow me to state as someone who watches Netflix, that the Australian version is shit. Crap. It is severely limited in it options, has the one and only season of the British The Office but not a single episode of the far better American version and is a disgrace to the much better U.S. version. However it continues to make inroads and rustle our media and entertainment industries feathers; and for good reason.
With the rise of “imported” streaming channels such as Netflix, who’s on-demand catalogue of varying genres of entertainment are much appreciated after endless seasons of The Block, are causing local networks to voice concern over the fairness of the playing field.Hugh Marks of Channel 9 argued against the rise of Netflix and questioned it’s contribution to local content in an interview with The Australian in January this year. And he doesn’t hold back, stating:
“Netflix has just one person based in Australia, and they don’t employ any journalists. They’re taxed differently. While they don’t use terrestrial spectrum, they don’t pay a licence fee.”
Breaking down his statement below, we can see notably discrepancies:
Stan is better than Australian Netflix (AusFlix for the rest of this blog). 9 has won with this investment in regards to content and value. Take for example AusFlix, who charges $8.99 a month, has 1120 titles to choose from (whereas it’s American version has 7110) and is only available in standard definition. Stan however has a much larger library, offering 7000 hours in high definition for only $9.99, a mere dollar extra for so much more.
So, is Netflix a serious threat to our entertainment industry, both job and audience wise? It is only if we allow it to be, just like Woolworths getting upset that Costco is allowed to operate here; they offer something people want and couldn’t get before. Those who watch Netflix watch it for the purpose of escaping the reality-tv drama and news coverage of free-to-air, and that is why those who watch 9 or 7’s news coverage watch it, for current affairs and updates around the world. The only way Netflix can win and kill our jobs is if 9, 7, 10 and even the ABC simply give in and stop investing in our industries, and if they don’t start listening to what the audience wants.
Ma, Wenlei 27th December 2015, “What Australian tv will look like in 2016”, news.com.au, http://www.news.com.au/finance/business/media/what-australian-tv-will-look-like-in-2016/news-story/170497a2fe18a43e419d1754bd551e9b accessed 6th April 2016.
Idato, Michael 24th March 2015, “Netflix v Stan v Presto v Quickflix v Ezyflix v Foxtel Play: Your guide to streaming video services in Australia”, Sydney Morning Herald, http://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/tv-and-radio/netflix-v-stan-v-presto-v-quickflix-v-ezyflix-v-foxtel-play-your-guide-to-streaming-video-services-in-australia-20150324-1m6h46.html, accessed 6th April 2016.
Idato, Michael February 16th 2015, “Stan developing local dramas including TV spin-off to Wolf Creek”, Sydney Morning Herald, http://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/tv-and-radio/stan-developing-local-dramas-including-tv-spinoff-to-wolf-creek-20150215-13eajn.html, accessed 7th April 2016.
Davidson, D & Crowe, D Janaury 14th 2016, “Netflix a threat to locals without media reform: Hugh Marks”, The Australian, http://www.theaustralian.com.au/business/media/broadcast/netflix-a-threat-to-locals-without-media-reforms-hugh-marks/news-story/e52d458a4f75df59e543172c463aea21, accessed 5th April 2016.
We the human species, Homo Sapiens, utilise our environments like no other. Nature and her creatures are no match for the fearsome force of our taste for their resources, minerals and organisms. It may occur to us every now and then, however chances are we truly don’t act further upon this unconscious pondering. We claim to be explorers, or at least once were, however we have now become mere exploiters of nature and wildlife,however our knowledge of this depends a large part on how the media chooses how and what to cover. That is what this blog post will seek to examine, on how the media and media industries handle and portray animal’s, their rights and our relationships.
Animal activism has evolved just like those it serves to protect variously throughout the years, with some of the earliest forms of activist publications and mainstream acceptance beginning to appear in the 1960’s & 70’s. In 1965, Brigid Brophy wrote in the British newspaper, The Sunday Times:
“The relationship of Homo Sapiens to the other animals is one of unremitting exploitation. We employ their work; we eat and wear them. We exploit them to serve our superstitions: whereas we used to sacrifice them to our gods and tear out their entrails in order to foresee the future, we now sacrifice them to science, and experiment on their entrail in the hope —or on the mere off chance — that we might thereby see a little more clearly into the present.”
Brophy’s point is central to my argument, highlighting our century old tradition of exploitation of animals rights to cure our superstitions, our hunger and our clothing tastes. I am not arguing for Veganism, merely that it is possible to care for chickens and still have an eggs benedict.
Let’s begin by examining the various types of portrayals animals have on our screens. Predominantly, animals take up the vast majority of appearances in children tv shows, far outcasting human characters. Books such as Charlotte’s Web and Bambi highlight the struggles of the animal world, and can portray humans in negative light, such as the death of Bambis mother, or like in Charlotte’s Web, the human saves Wilbur’s life from one of her own. A main part of of these films is the process of Anthropomorphism, where animals display human characteristics, such as similar societal structures, the quest for belonging and other values that the human audience can relate to.
Or is it really “human”? Are these values and beliefs predominantly human and merely portrayed by animals in film to relate back to us, or can a living, breathing animal such as a deer, a pig, a dog or an Orca too have family-oriented values and the struggles of belonging? Absolutely. Take for example the film Blackfish, the film’s protagonist (or antagonist according to your point of view), the Killer Whale, Tilikum, undergoes severe bullying and the struggle to fit in whilst in captivity in Canada. This, and his captive conditions, would ultimately lead to him being responsible for the deaths of 3 people and the severe public outcry against SeaWorld, which are the main arguments of the film.
Blackfish is intriguing, not only for it’s brilliant artistic and factual production, but that it reverses the status-quo on films that involve animals. As I previously mentioned, most films involving animals don’t highlight humans in a negative light, often it is animal vs animal (Penguin vs Orca in Happy Feet, Mammoth vs Tiger in Ice Age etc) or as the old saying goes “Dog vs Dog”. Blackfish however puts the audience into the mindset and emotional relations with the Orcas, and in doing so, convert the humans into the villians. Whether it is the footage of men in boats chasing down Orca families, or the claustrophobic living conditions in Canada, we humans are the root cause for Tilikum’s anger, pain and attacks.
Below is the pool Tilikum was kept in following his attack on Dawn Brancheau;
And this is the equivalence, keeping in mind the amount of time kept in;
Thus, we can see how the effects of Anthropomorphism impact the way we percieve and understand the animal-related content in our media industries. Finally, as renowned neuroscientist Dr. Paul Spong states;
“If you pen Killer Whales in a small steel tank, you are imposing an extreme level of sensory deprivation on them. Humans who are subjected to those same conditions become mentally disturbed.”
Which begs the question, if you were to be locked up inside a bathtub for 25 years, wouldn’t you go a little psychotic?
Brophy, Brigid. The Sunday Times, October 10, 1965, cited in Ryder, Richard. Animal Revolution: Changing Attitudes Towards Speciesism. First published by Basil Blackwell, 1989; this edition Berg, 2000, p. 5.
James M. Jasper and Dorothy Nelkin, The Animal Rights Crusade: The Growth of a Moral Protest (New York: The Free Press, 1992). ISBN 0-02-916195-9
Ryder, Richard D. “All beings that feel pain deserve human rights”, The Guardian, August 6, 2005.
The Chinese revolutionary Deng Xiaoping stated in the early 1980’s:
Dǎkāi chuānghù, xīnxiān kōngqì hé cāngying jiù huì yìqǐ jìnlái –
“If you open the window for fresh air, you have to expect some flies to blow in.”
Xiaoping was referring to the beginning of Communist China’s transition to more foreign investment and trade, with these economic reforms having large success in building the world’s second largest economy by GDP (with $12.253 trillion USD). However, whilst China continues to emerge as a global powerhouse, both financially and militarily, as a result of these economic freedoms and relaxations, the communist government’s values and political ideals continue to be as authoritarian as ever before. China’s leader, Xin Jinping, continues to rely on the political guidance of Xiaoping of “swatting the flies” of unwanted foreign ideals and influence; this is especially true in the case of an authoritarian-governments greatest enemy; The Internet.
Dubbed The Great Firewall of China by Geremie Barme and Sang Ye in the 6th of June, 1997 issue of Wired Magazine, or known officially as jīndùn gōngchéng/ Golden Shield Project by the Chinese Government, it is the world’s largest, most extensive surveillance of the internet. The point of this mass censorship is for two main reasons;
To firstly understand just how significant and powerful Golden Shield really is, let us firstly break down some facts and figures:
Now, you might be wondering if or what websites are allowed to be accessed in China. By clicking here, you will be taken to a website that is live and up-to-date with what can and cannot be accessed. Whilst, as previously mentioned that sites such as Facebook and Google are banned, China does allow it’s own versions; albeit heavily monitored and censored ones, such as Ren-ren and Qzone.
In 2013 however it was reported by the South China Morning Post that specific zones of Shanghai would see internet-restrictions lifted. Considered part of the Free-Trade Zone of Shanghai, this would allow sites such as Facebook, Twitter and organizations such as The New York Times to be unlocked and accessed “freely” by internet users. The report however does not state whether surveillance monitoring will be stopped; which is highly unlikely and most probably would be covertly stepped up.
However, is this a sign, a slowly, but surely, sign that China might eventually drop Golden Shield and allow for more transparent, relaxed online activities? China should learn from the mistakes of the past, particularly the effects internet-led campaigns such as the Arab Spring can bring upon and eventually bring down authoritarian governments. No wall, or golden shield, can protect them from the public and China’s leaders should know this. I will finish this blog off with a quote from Oliver August’s 2007 Wired article;
“Their predecessors built the Great Wall of China to keep out Mongol invaders. It proved as useful as every other fixed fortification in history, and the Mongols still invaded Beijing and overthrew the political elite.”
“What the mass media offers is not popular art, but entertainment which is intended to be consumed like food, forgotten, and replaced by a new dish.”
― W.H. Auden, ‘The Dryers Hand’
The above quote from Auden, I believe, is a form of reasoning of how the media can feed the public many different narratives of the same issue. What may start out as a tragedy will eventually evolve to be depicted in many varying forms, from tragedy, to conspiracy and throughout, the wave of exploitation will eventually consume the whole event. This is what this blog post will discuss, as to whether traditional forms of the media, i.e. newspapers and television, seek to exploit or raise activism regarding events of our lifetime.
The central example of my argument will be the John F. Kennedy assassination, as I feel that this event has gone through a “media shift” over the past 50 years, from tragedy to exploitation.
Note that the first image, of passengers on a bus, depicts a range of varying styles, from ones recognizing his career and those that have KENNEDY DEAD blasted over their front pages. However, the bottom two are more surreal; and especially for their time period, would be quite confrontational. The U.K.’s Daily Mirror, with it’s subheading of Jackie holds dying husband below the image of the widow and Secret Service Agent Clint Hill trying to protect him. New Yorks Daily News meanwhile depicts two photographs of suspected-assassin Lee Harvey Oswald’s final moments as he is shot. The final expression caught on Oswald’s face is incredibly ghouly, as the bullet penetrates his body. Today’s print media would be stepping over one-another to print these images, and quite honestly, had Zapruder’s film been caught on a smartphone and quickly uploaded to Youtube, a still-image would be on the front page of The Daily Telegraph and be consecutively looped by our TV networks.
Jon Herskovitz of Reuters states in his article, How the JFK assassination transformed media coverage,
“Six seconds in Dallas 50 years ago changed the way media worked for decades to come… For four days, starting with gunfire in Dallas and ending with Kennedy’s funeral procession in Washington, major U.S. TV networks went live with wall-to-wall coverage, suspending commercials.”
In 1950, roughly 9% of U.S. households had a television set, by 1960 it was 90%. Prior to this media form, radio and print media were the only access to flash media reports, however television now brought tragedy into the living rooms of Americans, and with that brought the images of chaos and emotion. According to Patty Rhule of the Newseum in Washington D.C., a survey at the time found that 2/3’s of Americans watching the JFK events unfold either fell ill or felt emotional distress. CBS, whose Walter Cronkite’s reports would become legendary, were the first to implement instant-replay when they looped the assassination of Lee Harvey Oswald, a technology that was meant to debut weeks later at the Army vs. Navy NFL match. On the day of the late President’s funeral, 81% of American households had their television sets switched on and tuned in, one of the largest ever recorded.
Whilst initially media coverage was just as shocked and saddened as the general public, over the next 50 years we have seen the JFK tragedy turn from being a day to remember to a day to exploit. The Zapruder film has been viewed millions, if not billions, of times around the world, with the images of a dead Kennedy on the autopsy table being included in a range of television documentaries and print media articles. The journal article, JFK and Dark Tourism: A fascination with assassination, by Malcolm Foley and John Lennon, examines this foray into the dark fascination of one man’s death. Their central argument is that in the years since JFK was killed, the media has shifted away from depicting it as a somber tragedy to mere exploitation with darkened tones and grisly showcases. Foley furthers this by noting that when John F. Kennedy Junior died in 1999, the media seeked to exploit the sadness of the public with constant coverage and hounding Kennedy family members; examples of being pure exploitation and the opposite of what should be done if one was truly saddened and concerned.
The 2001, New York Times article; “Photography Review; Can suffering be too beautiful?”, by Michael Kilman, discusses that photojournalism is a form of exploitation. Specifically, the article investigates the work of Sebastian Salgado, whose photography talents have seen him travel and document regions of Africa with famine, gold mines and slave labor. The photos look beautifully artistic, with their black and white style, gloss over the content of the malnourished African people. This raises questions, is this a form of exploitation, or does it raise awareness? If the photos raise awareness, raise anger and shock around the globe, then it is activism for a good cause. However, if Salgado’s work is just recognized for it’s artistic beauty, with little ho-hum “those poor people” and not much else, then it is pure, to the core exploitation. Photos of the Holocaust, it’s dead and alive, are examples of history captured to remind us of where we should never go back. And the same can be said for Salgado’s work, we should look beyond the beauty, the media deception of art, to the content and be shocked, horrified that this is a day to day practice in the same world we share. As the article pinpoints,
“Of course his photographs are exploitative. Most good photojournalism is. As Cartier-Bresson once said: ”There is something appalling about photographing people. It is certainly some form of violation. So if sensitivity is lacking, there can be something barbaric about it.” (pg.2)
So, in final thought, does the media exploit or does it try to raise awareness and activism? The answer, much like the question, is purely subjective. Blasting images of a dead President Kennedy, or his final moments in Frame 313, or merely just broadcasting Salgado’s work recognizing his photolistic talent; are all forms of exploitation if we choose not to recognize the tragedy and look into the art and content, not just it’s one-dimensionalism.
Carl Mydan, Time Life Pictures
Herskovitz, J 2013 “How the JFK assassination transformed media coverage”, Reuters, accessed 18th March 2016 http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-jfk-media-idUSBRE9AK11N20131121
International Journal of Heritage Studies, Volume 2, Issue 4, 1996, “JFK and Dark Tourism: A fascination with assassination”, accessed 18th March 2016 http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/ref/10.1080/13527259608722175
Kimmelamn, M 2001, “Photography Review, Can suffering be too beautiful?”, New York Times, accessed via Moodle 19th March 2016