I don’t think any artist gets a pass for misogyny or gratuitous violence (Quentin Tarantino included), but we should be skeptical when pundits or presidential candidates rail against gangsta rap or “hip hop” culture given the unchecked misdeeds of the US military and entertainment business. Generally I take those terms as code for “black culture,” so use your radar wisely during this election cycle. Meanwhile, in “Gangsta Rap Made Me Do It” Ice Cube points the camera back at media hypocrisy.
If the world were watching, what story would you tell? This is the challenge, and the premise of Pangea Day, an event slated for May 10, 2008 that will combine music, film and visionaries around the globe. Their Website states:
Pangea Day taps the power of film to strengthen tolerance and compassion while uniting millions of people to build a better future.
In a world where people are often divided by borders, difference, and conflict, it’s easy to lose sight of what we all have in common. Pangea Day seeks to overcome that – to help people see themselves in others – through the power of film.
I’m not a big fan of the word “tolerance” (because that is something you do with colds) and would prefer compassion as a sole value, but I like the spirit of this project. I think too much “alternative” media is just negative, and it’s refreshing to see media put to positive use as a way for people to connect with each other (after all, think about why we go to the movie theater in the first place). Thankfully the organizers recognize that images alone don’t build community so they will be networking organizations in the process as well.
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First of all, OUCH! I haven’t seen MTV in years so I was a little taken aback when its news intro literally blows-up on my monitor. Talk about over-stimulation! Anyhow, the segment looks at the implosion of the record biz from a corporate perspective (geez, if they had only listened to us over the years they would not have been blind-sided). Still, I’m happy that major labels are finally biting it big time (we hope). They should get hip fast: evolve or die. And stop suing your customers! I thought PR is the one thing they could sell to artists.
FYI: Douglas Rushkoff’s take on the situation is that the record companies benefitted from a little bubble that resulted from people trading vinyl for CDs. As we move into an economy of affects (emotions, relationships, ephemerality) all they have to go on now is bad blood. Bad move.
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Big Media is a term commonly used to describe the landscape of consolidated media companies. I object to the term because it is a case of framing gone amuck. The phrase is supposed to immediately generate an image of something big and bad– like the wolf who torments Little Red Riding Hood– but it creates a distorted and slanted concept of media. I don’t deny the facts. There are five major multinational corporations responsible for much of the media viewed, but not the majority of media produced. The difference is subtle, but important. We need to start recognizing that we as a distributed, emergent network of consciously evolving contributors to society. “Big Media” harkens to the old concept of media as a one-to-many broadcast tower that sends information down a one-way channel. This image does not take into account the many small ways that we as fully formed individuals actually respond and form our own opinions about what we consume. I don’t deny the highly distorted and manipulative concepts of the world that are delivered through corporate media, but I also find it necessary to rethink our activist strategy, which in the end can have a subtle message of disempowerment. We have to think like a swarm and not like individual victims.
With that said, however, there was a development yesterday that does not bode well for local and minority owned media. The FCC made it easier for large companies to consolidate even more. At this point it will take Congress to enact a law to regulate increased media ownership. You should most definitely take action by going here. They want 100,000 signatures and or only at 27,000 right now. Please spread the word!
The Pocket Film Festival is for videos only made with cell phones (click here for the Japanese site). I’m a big fan of utilizing the resources that you have. It’s no longer necessary to make a six digit investment in equipment when your cell phone and a Web site like Jumpcut will allow you to upload your footage and edit online. Then instant distribution. Bingo! There’s no shortage of creativity, but in the online video world there is certainly a lot of noise. I’m glad there’s a festival out there to filter some of this stuff.
PS When talking about new media, Isn’t film a misnomer at this point? And footage?
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Slate produced this featurette on the deepening of ad creep as it now penetrates the Web. This should come as no surprise or shock, once we realize that the Web is the new TV. Incidentally, the Slate video itself opens with an ad. Hmmm.
I have a new article up at Reality Sandwich: The Transported Man: Phantasmagoria, Tesla and Magic.
It’s an excerpt from my forthcoming book, Mediacology (out in April 2008). Though my article mostly deals with The Prestige, I also delve into some more philosophical musings. Here’s a teaser for the article:
Some art historians claim the Greeks were aware of linear perspectival space as a technique, but rejected it because of its innate distortion of God’s natural order. In this respect, the Renaissance and the project of Enlightenment, which conformed the world to the eye and book, would probably have incensed Socrates as a kind of sorcery, for Socrates hated magicians and poets: “I don’t mind saying to you, that all poetic imitations are ruinous to the understanding of the hearers, and that the knowledge of their true nature is the only antidote to them.” The vitriol continues as he vilifies the Sophist who is a “sort of wizard, an imitator of things.” Ironically, it was the codification of the alphabet by the Greeks that set our imitative technologies into motion.
Cut to the 19th Century when phantasmagoria was a popular entertainment spectacle that incorporated smoke, mirrors, and projected light to create illusions during live performances. The term itself combines roots for ghost or spirit (phantasm) and gathering (agora). Webster defines it as,
1: an exhibition or display of optical effects and illusions; 2 a: a constantly shifting complex succession of things seen or imagined b: a scene that constantly changes; 3: a bizarre or fantastic combination, collection, or assemblage.
The key words are “exhibition,” “illusions,” “shifting,” and “assemblage,” all of which characterize the change that was taking place in the 19th Century as a result of the rise of mass media, commodities culture, industrialization, urbanization and the exponential increase in speed of transportation that was shaping perception. What is particularly interesting about the root “agora” is the sense of an open gathering space of the Greek polis, denoting a collective, public experience , the phantasmagoria being a shared social reality.
What happens when this young man rules the world?
Stay Free! Daily:
A Wall Street Journal columnist blames twentysomething narcissism on Mr. Rogers (unfair!), Boomer-style permissive parenting (getting warmer), and the gospel of self-esteem (warmer still). What the press reports seem to miss, however, is the fact that this is the first generation of children raised in an environment of unabashed marketing. In 1980, corporate lobbying managed to get Congress to abolish the Federal Trade Commission’s authority to regulate advertising to kids. With no watchdog in sight, an entire industry developed to market directly to kids. Full-length commercials began masquerading as TV cartoons. Channel One launched its in-school advertising “news” network. And junk food marketing skyrocketed. The most common message of marketing to tweens and teens is this: your parents are idiots, your teachers are dull, you’re so much cooler than everyone else. But we understand you and know what you want. Product!
What may be bad news for the pampered white kids featured in the segment, though, should be good news for America’s immigrants. Based on this segment, I’d say immigrants who’ve brought over a strong work ethic will have a great shot at out-achieving the coddled elites, once employers stop instinctively hiring rich whites. Let’s hear it for class war!
Carrie McLaren from Stay Free! discusses in the above post the recent whining in the media about what crappy workers the next batch of post-grads have become. The so-called “millennials” are even out-slacking the slackers (that would be my generation: “X”– sorry folks, the name is taken). Like Carrie I’ve been irritated by a lot of the complainers who are attacking liberal media or parenting techniques by the so-called “helicopter” parents. Who are these dreaded parents destroying the world with all their love and affection? Last time I checked (and as a former teacher I can tell you that I checked a lot), most families I dealt with were completely broken: divorced, working ten jobs, alcoholic, impoverished, I could go on. This mythic creature of the suburban parent and the overly protective family is some kind of demographic fantasy, or… I may just live on the wrong planet. Both might be true.
I think Carrie nails a few points. One is that advertising does demonize authority, teachers and parents. If you don’t believe me, randomly select any Budweiser ad and tell me I’m wrong. The common concern of the articles she sites is that immigrants still have a strong work ethic and , boo-hoo, the white race will slack off and die. The problem for marketers and the businesses that depend on them is that their realities are imploding. The whole history of sucking the emotion out of workers is the source of “cool” and the current trend of the ironic disposition. No one is allowed to care anymore, because if you do, you might actually unionize (see my previous post on the writer’s strike). Besides, why should we care? Most corporations of yore (the kind that our parents and grandparents grew up working for) at least offered you job security for selling your soul to the company store. Not anymore. They want your undying attention and will farm your pension to some bankrupt Enron of the future so that every dime of your retirement ends up in the golden parachute of the next defrocked CEO of international finance. Geez, with so much hypocrisy looping around our economic system, it’s hard to find a reason why anyone should care about whether or not a 20 year old has enough focus to read a spreadsheet before switching to Tetras. Slack on!
Oh, and add to that the need for a volunteer military who cares enough and will willingly die for abstract concepts like freedom and democracy in the world’s shitholes that happen to be of interest because of their proximity to composted dinosaurs. LOL.
I’d like to add the following theory. Part of the reason our culture (the affluent one that is supposed to perform the knowledge work of our society) is imploding is because they are the last generation to play out the final act of the alphabetized, and hence right-brained, mind. Immigrants, many of whom come from countries that are not dominated by the history of print literacy, have spacial minds that contain broader realities, including the multidimensional, multilayered, pattern-like world that is emerging. Perhaps that is is why they will some day (soon) rule the world. I’m crying crocodile tears.
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Sometimes you have to thank the media gods for providing free resources to deconstruct their world. So welcome to Super Bowl Monday Planet: Firebrand, a ridiculously conceived Website that can be likened to a content-free television network, i.e. all ads, now shows. But if you are like me and are infinitely curious and attracted to ads like we are to a car wreck on the freeway, then Firebrand is pure unadulterated consumeristic voyeurism. Forget the strange premise that people will watch ads for entertainment value. We have a free media literacy download site!
You can download any commercials onto your computer and use them for teaching about media. Firebrand supports a number of formats, including iPod, iPhone, Windows Media and Quicktime.
OK media lit folks. Have at it!
From the Website:
We love commercials. We submit, with rare exception, that they?re the best stuff on TV. In under a minute you get the best directors, the sickest special effects, the funniest writers?what?s not to love?
We love commercials. 1984. Mean Joe Green. Whasssup? You know you love them, too. So let?s gather ?round the best of them. Sort them. Judge them. Share them. Love them.
We love commercials. The eye candy. The laugh out louds. The did-you-just-see-thats. The most loved, the most emailed, the ones we still talk about today. Let every day be Super Bowl Monday.
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I haven’t followed the WGA strike as closely as I like, but this video, which is causing a small stir, says it all. The media companies want to squeeze every penny from as many eyeballs as possible, yet little, if any, will be returned to the brains behind the content. It’s an old story and one of the reasons I quit the journalism biz. The contracts were becoming far too one-sided and nefarious. The truth is, media companies in general view the writers as contract workers who have no ownership or right to the product that is the source for the company’s profit. The industry is basically a glorified factory business that manufactures fantassy. For this I am so happy the writers have some spine.
For snarky (and entertaining) updates on the strike situation, go here.
The loss of identity is a Western problem. One argument concerning the multitude is that the growing immigrant and migratory class– including refugees– will have what it takes to survive the global mindfrak, since they are the ones adept at transitioning states of being. Only those attached to a “stable” reality are screwed. While it is true the multinational pop-media-military-fear complex is in the business of producing subjectivities, they are now highly dependent on the user for content. A cynic might argue that the “prosumer” is just a deeper step into the control of our time, because we “work” at all hours producing their content and by giving them our attention. I still feel strongly that deep inside even the most scared and mechanically destroyed consciousness is a sense of authenticity, truth, love, and all that we deem as “good.” The problem for corporations is that their hyper commercialism threatens to cancel their messages out. There is so much brand noise, there isn’t much to be distinguished anymore (except the subjectivity itself which is imploding under the weight of post-irony). I don’t agree with most media critics who believe that we are being brainwashed. That is only true if we continue to believe in the reality bubble of the West that assumes that we inhabit a false reality. Furthermore, we should not fear the media. If we do, they win. But “they” is suspicious. In the end, we are the media.
I have an article up at Reality Sandwich entitled, Reality 2.0. It’s a history and overview of some major trends in the production and mediation of consciousness. Check it out and post a comment.
Forget the content, look at the form. The media monster comes alive…
Some of you may have been following the controversy about the Dove Onslaught ad which was designed to raise awareness of degrading body images in the media (click here to see my previous post). Some ingenious video editor decided to put the truth back into the ad by editing in scenes from sexist commercials for Axe, which is owned by Unilever, the same parent company of Dove. Nice work!
Some interesting facts about Asian youth.
The threebillion project was asked to put together a video on-behalf of MTV Asia for the Music Matters conference last week in Hong Kong.
The brief was to create a facts’n’stats video dedicated to Asian youth. However, when you consider that 61% of the world’s three billion people youth live in Asia, it is pretty apparent that no-one will ever quantify everything and certainly not in a 3 minute video.
Whether it be teenage marriage in India, mobile phone usage in Japan, Filipino TV watching or Saudi Arabian Bluetooth porn, each market is rich it’s own brand of youth culture. This video is dedicated to the best thirty six facts we could find.
Periodically I get requests to review material to see if it’s relevant for media literacy. I was asked to view the above clip, which I found instructive in terms of how not to think about media. What follows is my reading:
Upon reviewing the video I would not recommend it for media literacy. While it is true that the many people in corporate media are on the CFR, I don’t believe they take directives from a secret group. It’s an issue of them all sharing the same values and worldview in the same way the same people mentioned probably all went to Ivy League schools and were in the same fraternities. Also, in terms of its educational applicability, it’s my opinion that it’s better to demonstrate how coverage of certain issues benefit specific sectors of society. A good example of this would be from the Noam Chomsky documentary, Manufacturing Consent, because it has good case studies.
Furthermore, I really don’t like the idea of conspiracies and secret cabals. Life is chaotic and messy. It’s easier to create chaos than order, although there is a point that generating a perpetual state of disorder is one kind of control, and that certainly has been true through out history. But that tiger is not an easy ride. If mind control truly were possible, we’d all be pretty mind-frakked right now. The system is in place to do it. Why hasn’t it happened?
Also, all the media discussed in the clip are increasingly irrelevant because the entire mediascape is evolving into a new paradigm. The assumptions of the narrator is that we inhabit a one-to-many, vertical model of information distribution, when in fact we are now in a more horizontal, many-to-many distribution flow. I’m not saying that corporate media are not dangerous to the planet, but we need newer ways of understanding, and unfortunately this particular clip features some outdated views of how media currently operate.
Finally, I don’t believe in the “conduit” form of media: that is, the idea that information exists as objects that are delivered from one person to the next without being altered. Communication is messy, so ideas don’t transfer that well. For example, how many of you can repeat all Ten Commandments and agree on what they mean? What is dangerous about media is how they produce “subjectivities”: ways of thinking. In a sense, the above clip just repeats the same “subjectivity” of the people it purports to critique, yet another example of the snake eating its tail. Time to change our diet.
Douglas Rushkoff made the above graph to outline his approach to the matrix between the medium and social control.
There are many other cool formulas by great thinkers. Be forewarned, though, the site’s navigation really sucks.
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I admit that Dove’s first round of postironic anti-“beauty” beauty commercials rubbed me the wrong way. I posted that it was a little too close to the edge of self-promotion for a beauty supply company to market itself as the anti-product. But this one is pretty darn amazing, to be honest, and it really hit me viscerally because I have a young daughter. The advice is wise: we shouldn’t let media parent our children. So though there’s a tiny cynical voice inside me that decries this as an insidiously ploy cloaked inside the protein shell of a corporate virus, I believe the intention behind it is sincere. I believe this would be a good teaching tool, as long as it is presented within the context of other messages.
I just became aware that Dove’s parent company Unilever also makes Axe, which has one of the most heinous, misogynous marketing campaigns in the universe. It is so insidious and evil it almost nullifies all the good will that Dove creates with its ad. Because on the one hand, Dove is promoting the self-esteem of girls, but on the other, Axe not only promotes the degradation of girls, it creates the fantasy that women are just tools of male sexuality. It subtly promotes a rapist mentality by encouraging the belief that every woman’s goal is to rip off her clothes at the first sent of a boy using Axe. And if she doesn’t, what will he do with his false expectations? It is quite infuriating and disgusting.
You can send a letter of protest here:
Unilever says it wants to promote girls’ self-esteem. Its Dove Campaign for Real Beauty has been lauded for challenging the standards of the beauty industry.
There’s just one problem: Unilever is the beauty industry. A manufacturer of diet aids, cosmetics, skin whiteners, and other beauty products, Unilever is responsible for much of the advertising it claims it wants to help girls resist. Unilever’s advertising for Axe grooming products – which appears frequently on MTV and other youth-oriented media – epitomizes the sexist and degrading marketing that can undermine girls’ healthy development.
If Unilever is serious about promoting girls well-being, they’ll start by looking in the mirror. Please take a moment to urge Unilever CEO Patrick Cescau to end the degrading Axe campaign.