The Coming Apocalypse

The phenomenon of climate change is one which frequents media discourse on the Australian mediascape. Climate change is presented within the contemporary media as a central theme within local and international narratives of politics, commerce and global order. It is through media constructions and selective discourses that the issue is framed to coincide or at least to appear to, with other socio-political agendas. The presentation of climate change within the media is one with is often fraught with complexities and mystification. This is arguably an intended feature of media portrayals of climate change, as it renders audiences subordinate to knowledge power players, such as media commentators and politicians. The representation of climate change as apocalyptic is another notable characteristic of media portrayals. Media discourse related to climate change often has the effect of the construction of fear in audiences. A fearful audience and as noted above, a subordinated audience, is one which is likely to be more receptive to messages about the issue. This is significant in times of political legislative pushes. Linguistic descriptors are central in this objective in the media, with depictions of the climate change often noting the danger to human subsistence and reduced standards of living in the interim, as well as other descriptions of pending doom and disaster. Climate change is often instituted as a key narrative for the framing of local and international political drivers. An example of which can be drawn from the use of climate change as justification for the commodification of the atmosphere and industrial emissions, as proposed by the Australian government under its Carbon Emissions Trading Scheme. Climate change representations have proven to be a malleable component of media content, which have been shown to transform to complement other contemporaneous political, commercial and social issues on the agenda both locally and internationally.  

 

Hulme, M 2009, Why We Disagree About Climate Change, Cambridge University Press, UK

Cottle, S 2011, Taking Global Crises in the News Seriously: Notes from the Dark side of Globalization, Global Media and Communication, 7: 77

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Now Panic and Freak Out!

The perception of threat can act as a significant advocate in persuasive strategies when employed as part of a fear appeal approach. Thus, much media discourse is often packaged in a way which evokes a sense of trepidation in the audience through both explicit and implicit hints at pending peril. The resulting situation is characterised by the subordination of the audience, with the media as the socio-political commentator and adviser of future direction, placed at the hierarchal pivot of society. The appeal in this for the mediator lies within the power relations it sparks. A subordinate audience is inclined to look to the advising party for future counsel or recommendation. Thus, the incitement of moral panics can prove useful in guiding societal movements in a desired direction, relative to political, commercial and social agendas, as fashioned by media commentators and controllers. Moral panics further possess the function of constructing social binaries; an ‘us and them’ mentality, with the ‘them’ potentially pertaining to all members of the responding audience. This often has the effect of encouraging agreement or participation of the audience with the delivered message, so as to not be characterised as part of the offending ‘them’ component. It is this polarizing nature of moral panics, that renders it such an influential phenomena, and explains the tendencies for media to engage in fear appeal tactics in an effort to incite such panic and manipulate the direction of public sentiment, action and social agendas.

 

Lumby, C, Funnell, N 2011, ‘Between Heat and Light: The Opportunity in Moral panics’, Crime Media Culture, December 2011, Vol 7, no.3

Mr. Monopoly Man

The ownership and control of Australian media is highly contested property within commercial and political markets currently. The media market is experiencing strong competition on both domestic and international fronts for the ownership of both media content and as platforms for such content. The issue of ownership of both media materials and as a platform for communication features prominently in public and political debate in Australian society. As such, policy as an issue is also experiencing prominent attention of late. Policy can be understood as a framework for function. It is a set of guidelines or restrictions which indicate or indeed dictate the conduct, operation or usage of a specified item. Notably therefore, media policy is elemental in determining the form of the media industry and the direction in which it heads. One of the primary reasons for the recent scrutiny of Australian media policy is the recent media phenomena of digital content streaming. This refers to the tendency for digital media items to be created in order to exist independently of a particular media platform. In this way, the media product is multipurposeable, and has a higher propensity for profitable returns for the media owners. This is of considerable import within the commercially dominated media market. With such commercial incentive for media control and ownership, the necessity for policy which will effectively uphold media quality, diversity and integrity, while balancing the needs of both audiences and media stakeholders becomes apparent.

Murray, S. 2005, ‘Think Global, Act Global: Corporate content streaming and Australian media policy’, Media International Australia incorporating Culture and Policy, no. 116, pp. 100-116.

Get inside the box.

The contemporary digital mediascape is on lockdown. Censorship, repression of free speech and propagandist circulation are on the rise. The liberty of the internet is under threat from the emerging fuedalisation of the internets plurality of access, content and voices. The generative nature of digital media is shifting toward a centralized, hierarchical digital information system, controlled by the commercial and political powerhouses who own and control media content and distribution.  Increasingly evident within digital media platforms are what can be described as ‘walled gardens’. The term is used to denote the control of the provider over access, usage and content, as well as the surveillance, monitoring and censorship of undesirable materials, perspectives, and applications. While the movement of users is technically free, the availability and uses of digital information is controlled entirely by content industries. This raises questions as to the reality of the democracy and freedom of the internet and other digitized media platforms. The current media environment is one in which commercial and political imperatives outweigh the significance of egalitarian objectives and as such essentially dismiss previously assumed notions of the internet’s democratic potential. In many cases users are blind sighted by the actualities of the restrictiveness of media stages. Accessibility and application of media content is defined by the terms of the provider, with mere consideration of their own commercial objectives. Largely it has been the fiscal objectives of providers that has guided the shift towards closed mediascapes or ‘walled gardens’. However, the very essence of the internet’s capability poses significant problems for garden maintenance, and cracks are slowly appearing.

Gapinvoid, 2006, Macleod, H http://gapingvoid.com/2006/10/13/walled-gardens-explained/

Active Partcipation

The contemporary digital mediascape is one which is undergoing drastic transformation. The traditional foundations of the media and news industry are being revolutionised by improved technological capacities which have seen the established roles of producer and audience being challenged. The way in which news content is constructed, conveyed, consumed and construed has been fundamentally transformed through the collapse of old school distinctions relating to media reporter and audience. What has emerged is a hybrid media environment in which the traditionalist notions of journalist and journalism have been rendered somewhat archaic, allowing for alternative access to the media platforms by previously passive audiences. The passivity of media audiences has dissolved as a cultural shift has seen the emergence of a participatory media culture. That is; a conception whereby media content is influenced by, inclusive of, or of absolute user-generated nature. Thus has emerged a media climate epitomized by a multiplicity of perspectives, two-way communication, and interactivity. It is argued that this newly achieved access to global audiences through digital media has resulted in social pluralism and an improved democratic state through achievements in equality and accessibility. Some however, question the future of journalistic integrity, as the previously privileged position held by media commentator has been stripped in essence.  This raises further question as to the validity of opinion or thought relative to the origin of its information. Is the newsworthiness or credibility of a story told by a citizen journalist restricted by the relative anonymity of its producer? Will this voice even be heard amongst the clutter of ‘news’ on digital media platforms? Arguably there is a sufficient role for participatory journalism in the new-age media context. Through the active cooperation of news institutions and citizen journalists, great value can be added to the quantity and quality of available news. As such, the rise of participatory journalism does not mean the role of the traditional journalist has become obsolete. Instead, as noted by Jenkins “delivery technologies become obsolete and get replaced; media, on the other hand, evolve” (2006, p13).

 

Jenkins, H 2006, Convergence Culture, Where old and New Media Collide, New York University Press, New York.

Quandt, T 2011, ‘Understanding a new phenomenon: the significance of participatory journalism’, Participatory Journalism, Wiley Blackwell, pp155-176

Socially disabled

The question is posed by Goggin and Newell (2007, p159) as to why the notions of accessibility and inclusion are still so evasive “if we are now possessed of greater knowledge about disability and design.” This proposition led me to consider whether the quandary is in fact a matter of relapse in technological and design capabilities or if it is a matter of considered ignorance. Goggin and Newell go on to further argue their case by suggesting that “reflecting routine social exclusion, the introduction of new technologies sees people with disabilities overlooked, omitted, neglected or not considered” (2007, p160). It seems that attempts to allow for accessibility to those with disabilities are usually only ever an afterthought. I find this concept difficult to grapple with considering the highly politicised nature of contemporary social convention. Much emphasis is placed on the elimination of any such activity, discourse or environment which is seen to be discriminatory in its foundation. So why then is technological disability treated as a matter not requiring concern? I would contend that this is a reflection of embedded social norms whereby the disabled are habitually overlooked, or “included” as an later addition, in order to be seen as politically correct. One such example which highlighted this issue was an article regarding International Pole Dancing Championships – a competition that comprised four categories: men, women, doubles and the disabled. I found this to be highly problematic, as it is a poor attempt to appear to be inclusive of disabled persons, while in fact little effort has been made to allow accessibility and complete inclusion. It is necessary that disability inclusion and accessibility become a matter of course, and not just about political correctness.

 

Don’t Dis My Ability, 2012, http://www.dontdismyability.com.au/news, accessed 01/04/12

Goggin, G and C, Newell (2007) ‘The Business of Digital Disability’ The information Society: An international Journal, Vol 23, Issue 3

Pole dancers compete in the international championships in Hong Kong, 2012, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j7BAXbNzgbs&feature=player_embedded, accessed 01/04/1

To whom it may concern,

Dear Diary.  Dear global audience,

It’s that time of the week again, approaching Sunday midnight – show time; equivocal to the routinized watching of the 6 o’clock news. It’s when my global following of millions log in to catch up on my latest commentary regarding this week’s prescribed reading.

Miller notes and credits the internet’s capacity for connecting communicators to a global audience. This proclamation led me to question who is actually reading this material. Does anybody actually read blogs? I don’t.

Miller goes on to highlight the quandary faced by the art of literature. Audiences are on the decline.  Miller asserts that “self-sponsored acts of reading are declining across the board” and yet “self-sponsored acts of writing…are on the rise.”  For the most part I would agree with the assertion that blogging has become a realm for individually motivated self-expression. If the future of writing and textual representation is entwined with online sources, and yet the majority of online content becomes lost in the masses of internet material, does writing matter? If no one is likely to read it, does it matter if it’s grammatically incorrect or riddled with spelling errors? This by no means intends to overlook the existence of quality writing that circulates on the internet; however I would contend that the proportion that can be categorised as such is minimal.

I do hope against hope though, that I do attract a global following, or that someone, anyone out there decides to read my posts. Perhaps I should get the ball rolling; stop writing and start reading.

 

 

References

Miller, R 2009, ‘The Coming Apocalypse’, Pedagogy: Critical Approaches to teaching Literature, Language, Composition and Culture, Vol 10, Issue 1, Duke University Press.

“So you’re Facebook official?”

Facebook has emerged as more than merely a social networking platform, rather, becoming embedded into our very social existence, with particular influence on our personal and intimate relationships. Facebook has come to act as not only a social commentary but as an agent for social legitimacy and actualisation. Perhaps the Facebook phenomenon renders necessary a revision of the philosophical proclamation “I think therefore, I am.”  ‘I Facebook, therefore I am’ seems suitable. Facebook has come to saturate our personal and social lives to such an extent that I would contend that connecting and sharing is no longer the primary function of the platform. Instead I would like to propose the notion of social validation. Social and personal experiences and interactions are documented on Facebook to advertise and compound our social connectedness both virtually and in actuality. Bilandzic (2012) in his article notes the effect of locative media on the creation of indistinct “barriers between the physical and virtual world.” With its capabilities of photo and location tagging, ‘friending’ and ‘unfriending’ and its advertisement of categorical relationship statuses, Facebook has a profound ability for highlighting our social connectedness. Issues arise when this becomes central in determining our real world relationships. A romantic endeavour cannot be deemed valid until it has the officiality of a Facebook status.  Elphinston and Noller (2012, p634) note the potential for severe psychological detriment as the result of a reliance on Facebook for feelings of validation and positive affect. “Although feelings of social connection may enhance psychological wellbeing, there are costs to individuals and their intimate relationships, if they develop a reliance on Facebook for these positive outcomes.” Is Facebook really a social utility aiding in connectivity or has it come to be the slayer of our real world relationships. Nothing a few random friend requests can’t fix…

 

References

 

Bilandzic, A, Foth M 2012, ‘A Review of Locative Media, Mobile and embodied Spatial Interation’, International Journal of Human-Computer Studies, vol70, p66-71

Evangelista B, 2010, ‘Facebook’s Places raises more debate’. San Francisco Chronicle, 360Link, accessed 22/03/12

Elphinston, R. A., & Noller, P 2011 ‘Time to face it! Facebook intrusion and the implications for romantic jealousy and relationship satisfaction’, CyberPsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, vol 14, p631-635, 360Link, accessed 22/03/12

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