Thursday, April 3, 2008

Internet Activism through Facebook

The idea of internet activism as presented by Richard Kahn and Douglas Kellner in the essay “Oppositional Politics and the Internet: A Critical/Reconstructive Approach” unfortunately made me think about Facebook. Ah yes, the omnipresent Facebook. It is an online social networking “tool”. It seems like everyday that I get invited to a group protesting something or supporting something. It has become very easy for me to be able to appear to be a very socially conscious person. All I need to do is search for these types of groups and click “join”. There. Now I can attract all sorts of hot Greenpeace babes right? Right?
…Maybe not. Exactly how much does being part of a group is actually group work? Although this statement is completely assumed, it seems like people just can’t bear to click ‘ignore invitation’ when the group is about saving lives, or helping cute little animals. So instead they become part of a group designed to organize a large amount of people into taking action.
Does this benefit the cause or harm it?One could argue that either way more people become informed of the chosen issue and that’s what is important. Without public knowledge of an issue it would be impossible to create change. I must admit, I myself have become aware of social issues that I had not known of before being invited to join the group. This itself is a form of internet activism because there are many issues strategically not being publicized for fear of public outcry. I have recently been invited into a group called “Keep your censoring hands off Canadian film and TV! No to Bill C-10” protesting the hidden legislation within bill C-10 allowing the Heritage Minister to withhold tax credits to productions deemed against public policy.This is an example of a positive use of Facebook for internet activism because the few who noticed the hidden legislation made everybody aware of an issue that hadn’t even been discussed in the House of Commons.
But are these pleas falling on deaf ears? I wonder how many of the people who joined the previously mentioned group actually wrote letters to MPs voicing their discontent and how many just clicked ‘join’ and never visited the group again. It would be very unfortunate if the latter was the majority. Public image on Facebook can unfortunately be a reason for such apathy.
This is why I don’t mind clicking ‘ignore’ every once in a while. The word ignore makes it sound particularly bad when the group is for such things as peace, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that’s what will happen. I might not be part of the group, but I now know the implications of things such as Bill C-10. But I also don’t feign to be an active protester, which is why if I know I won’t be doing something to aid the cause I won’t join the group.
For whoever’s reading this, this might not be what you feel, but then again you might not be part of Facebook and don’t even know what Bill C-10 is.

Is Culture Jamming Effective? What does that even mean?

I’ve always wondered how effective cultural jamming really is. Does a parodic advertisement truly make the viewers avoid the product the original ad intended to publicize? Although Christine Harold in her “Pranking Rhetoric: ‘Cultural Jamming’ as Media Activism” provides an in depth look into the complexities of culture jamming as a form of activism, the first few paragraphs made me doubt the actual effectiveness of such practices. Harold begins her essay with the telling of an Adbusters campaign that was supposed to “revolutionize capitalism”, the Blackspot campaign against Nike. Harold also chooses to mention that The New York Times Magazine called it one of the “best ideas in 2003”.
Than how come I have never heard of this before?
For such a revolutionary idea, it is amazing that I have never heard seen or felt any repercussions from that campaign. Also, last time I checked Nike was still a worldwide corporation making ludicrous amounts money. This seems to me like an example of how culture jamming techniques work in theory but have yet to produce actual change in cultural practice. Ad parodies such as the iRaq posters presented to us in class lead me to question how we understand such parodies as “effective”. If it is to produce a shift in ideas or train of thought most “fake ads” are effective because it take a considerable amount of ignorance to view one of the aforementioned iRaq posters and believe that Apple is making a statement on the war in Iraq. But how many of the viewers of such advertisements actually did something about it once understanding the message? If agency is the goal, these ads are severely ineffective.
But is agency the goal of such jamming practices? I should hope so. What good can come of a shift in thought if there is no shift in societal practice?
Perhaps I am being pessimistic about the importance of cultural resistance, but apathy seems to be the most common trait in youth today. Most Canadians likely know about the HIV/Aids crisis going on in Africa and the rest of the world, but it is only a select few who actually do something to help the situation. Perhaps they read a “subvertisement” and developed that necessary sense of agency, and perhaps their motivation came from elsewhere. Either way only the future will tell whether culture jamming techniques can produce a significant change in society.

In Response to Cammaert's "Jamming the Political: Beyond Counter hegemonic Practices"

I found this essay difficult to read due to the immense amount of theory discussed in comparison to actual concrete examples. Despite this, a quotation by Deleuze and Guattari caught my interest:
“ the metaphor of the rhizome, 'establishes connections between semiotic chains, organizations of power and circumstances relative to the arts, sciences and social struggles' (Deleuze & Guattari, 1987, p. 7).” (Cammaerts)
Upon reading this I thought about how cultural jamming does in fact create connections between symbols and larger organizations or concepts. Specifically I thought about false billboards like the ones discussed in class. When I see something like an advertisement for Apple, I constantly relate the symbols I see to other issues in life. Currently there is a Mac advertising campaign portraying a young adult as representative of a Mac and an older 40-something year old, slightly overweight, and simply uncool-looking man as a PC. Upon viewing there is a connection made between youth and the mac, which leads me to believe that not only is owning a Mac is representative of my age, but also that Apple as a company is “younger” than those companies making pc’s. The genius behind this idea is that it should work for all ages because older people would want a mac to look or feel younger, and the youth would want a Mac because Mac is more representative of their age and generation. Although this ad campaign is not an example of cultural jamming, Apple’s previous ad campaign with the slogan “Think Different” has been reworked many times with the same mode attack but for a different means. For example, a picture with a man wearing a sombrero and downing a bottle of tequila next to the same slogan made me think: “Well after that he will most certainly be thinking different.” This visual symbol of drunkenness made a connection between “think different” and the altering of one’s mind. This lead to wonder how many people got drunk or consumed mind-altering drugs in order to think different, an idea Apple assumingly did not attempt to communicate. This altered advertisement not only made the connection Apple as a corporation, but also the government and the war on drugs. This has always been a social struggle and my thoughts were drawn to this issue simply because of creative reuse of popular advertising. Cultural jamming does, like “The rhizome 'connects any point to any point' (Deleuze & Guattari, 1987, p. 19)” (Cammaerts).
This is the Think Different advertisement I referred to

Heath and Potter's "The Rebel Sell", Thoughts for my Seminar presentation

I am going to start off with a passage from Rebel Sell in which Heath and Potter are describing Lester from American Beauty:
Apart from the new car, he develops a taste for very expensive marijuana—$2,000 an ounce, we are told, and very good. “This is all I ever smoke,” his teenaged dealer assures him. Welcome to the club, where admission is restricted to clients with the most discriminating taste. How is this any different from Frasier and Niles at their wine club? (Heath and Potter)
Heath and Potter are in effect saying that by buying extremely expensive marijuana Lester is still victim to consumerism, taking pride in the status that is received through this extravagancy.
In my opinion, Lester is not doing that and is significantly different than Frasier and Niles. Just like he was defying mass society by smoking pot in the afternoon, he is doing so by spending this amount of money on it. This is because it is illegal. Not only does its illegality itself defy convention, but lack of taxation on the money spent on it does too. In typical consumerism, one is always giving part of the money one spends on an item to the government through general and provincial sales taxes. This is one thing EVERYONE has in common. Even if ones attitude in style is essentially “F the government” , everyone is partially contributing to that government by buying anything. This is where Lester differs from Niles and Frasier. He is spending incredible amounts of money and the government has no take. Lester is not contributing to the society he lives in by paying tax.
Now what does all this have to do with Thomas Franks second thesis?
2. Capitalism requires conformity of education. Training these corporate drones begins in the schools, where their independence and creativity is beaten out of them—literally and figuratively. Call this the Pink Floyd theory of education. (Heath and Potter)
Well, what does education teach us that makes us conform? In accordance to what I had been saying about Lester, we can look at how schools teach about drugs in school. Good or Bad, Anti-drug messages attempt to streamline the conscious of a mass society. All children are being brought up on an anti-drug lifestyle and thus adding to the conformity in society. Lester is defying this conformity by using drugs and in particular by donning a sort of connoisseur like attitude towards it, in essential, mocking that Frasier-and-Niles-at-their-wine-tasting sense of prestige.
In what ways do you see conformation through education and how does this lead to capitalism? Well Capitalism requires conformity and repression. The Rebel Sell is all about how a mass society makes for a consumerist society, and that is because with a unified idea of earning status, it is possible to sell ridiculous items for ridiculous costs because the knowledge is there that people will want to express their status through money or style.
Education these days is often taught with the goal of having a proper high paying job in the future. Nobody is being trained to be the garbage men/women of this society. Importance and thus Envy are placed on that high level society from a young age. This in effect is the conformity of education needed to achieve capitalism. The simple idea that by buying this over that, you can have this enviable lifestyle.

Thursday, February 28, 2008


Television is an interesting thing. It is a medium that enables viewers to absorb whatever is presented to them. A program I will discuss is Spike TV's Manswers. The name clearly identifies the intended audience and intended humour. The show is narrated by a youthful adult male who constantly yells out, spurting almost sarcastically comments on the male condition. The show runs in a similar way magazines such as maxim would, showing some general information on random things like how to remove a bullet from yourself, how shapes of women's breast's can define their personality, how to receive a "happy ending" at a legitimate massage parlour and how to fool a drug test. Amidst these sensible instructions, women pose in all sorts of flattering outfits to contrast the gritty man-ness of the subject matter.
I found interesting what these characteristics mean about our society and how it is presented to us. The mere presence of the show displays how popular interests geared towards one sex are still appreciated in a world of intended equality between men and women. The constant yelling at the viewer adds to the intensity of the experience and is a form of rhetoric that convinces the viewer of not only the extremity of the activity but the truthfulness of it as well. The program uses actual evidence from physicians and professionals to explain the truth about serious guy issues and still tells the viewer certain opinions that seem out of place, like calling a pothead an idiot- even though they have just glorified his actual defeat of the drug test and earning a respectable career. This almost represents what the show is trying to say: These are the things we all wish we could do but won't because they're bad. This is why it is a form of entertainment, it is making spectacle the object of our desires. There is no need to mention why women would be considered "beneficial" to the program.
This is a typical segment on Manswers. The Humour is often geared toward the value of sex and objection of women. But more importantly the way this clip is filmed is interesting because it is filmed on a home video camera pointing at a TV in a room wiht the lights off and you are able to hear the viewers few comments and reactions. This adds a whole new media space within the clip, as there are now two voices: that of the narrator and that of the viewer. There are also now two screens- the television set in the room and the computer screen you are seeing it on. Whether purposfefully or not, the user who filmed and posted this clip brought the viewer into two settings at once, a feat which is not often accomplished in media today.
Early on in Stephen Duncobe's Dream: Re-Imagining Progressive Politics In an Age of Fantasy, one of the ideas presented is that "Spectacle is our way of making sense of the world. Truth and power belong to those who tell the better story." Spectacle is defined in the Oxford dictionary as: "A visually impressive performance or display" and is derived from the latin word spectaculum which means "public show". Stephen Duncombe imagines the News as a spectacle, being the public show that it is, and is saying that it holds the Truth in world because it gives the public a more better viewing, reading, or listening experience. To describe this act of receiving information from mediums of all kind, I would like to use the term 'media absorption', because no matter how the information is physically received the information and type of reception (listening, seeing) leaves a significant amount of influence and thus giving the user a piece of the medium's essence or message.
In a world where media absorption is a regular occurence, there is a certain degree of choice when it comes to where the Truth is believed to be coming from. We can believe whole-heartedly that Stephen Colbert's Comedy is a literal view of the truth in the world, or we can put the same overwhelming amount of faith in our Government's take on life. These media both present their information in a way that is either too grim and plain like the Goverment or too much the exact opposite as with the intense political satire by Colbert. Though being entertained in some way or another, people cannot always completely trust one or the other since they both have an extreme bias toward their own side. Thus, media absorption shifts towards the News as a source of Truth because it can be watched as entertainment and information at the same time without any apparent bias. The News provides viewers with live, up to date information on anything from deaths to celebrity child-births in a way that flashily presents multiple headlines at a time. One could essentially have the News as most of their daily media absorption and still get the same amount of advertising, music, real and non-real stories, seriousness and comedy as someone who watches everything but the News. Despite this, Truth is still placed in what news the News is giving us solely because it does so in a style that pleases our senses (not just physical sense, but emotional senses as well). With so much faith of masses, The News becomes a source of power in society because it becomes an authority. When considering that "author" is the root word of "authority" it is easy to see how what they create gives them power to create, and therefore govern the masses.
In the economic world of today power often translates to money. The more power you have, the more money you earn to represent that power, most evident in the case of major corporations such as news broadcasting companies. These news companies earn enough to money to influence politics through endorsement and henceforth have influence on the government. A huge bulk of news content is government proceedings and legislations and based on what they believe politically the news companies themselves can choose what Truth to tell. This is in the sense of Dream, what is meant by creation of reality.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

A Quick Idea About Tom Cruise

Recently I was was thinking about the relevance of the three clips presented to us during our last class together and how they had to do with the idea of "fake" news. At first I didn't understand how the clip of Tom Cruise acting crazy on Oprah demonstrated this. After a short while of pndering I came up with an idea. Tom Cruise is a huge superstar, and people like his agents know that superstars get in the news for almost anything. It seems to me that Tom Cruise's actions were dictated by his agent or a PR group to make news. See, after this incident, Tom Cruise was in the news constantly. Whether good or bad everyone was talking about how "Craaaaaazy" he was. And of course, his new movie Mission Impossible: 3 was on its way to theatres so the huge publicity of the main actor of the movie was a generous boost towards ticket sales I'm sure.
This is fake news because there are other people creating it for the sake of the buzz. They are deciding what we should be seeing for the next two weeks by simply making a superstar do ridiculous things. Tom Cruise isn't really news, it's advertising in disguise, similar to the so called "newscasts" that we watched which simply take an ad from a company and twist it into a story that is supposed to sound important to us as viewers.
So yes, that video of Tom Cruise is fake news. I mean, he didn't even say anything intellectually stimulating, he just smiled and jumped around.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Superbowl Sunday

Yesterday was the big day. The day where major corporations spend ridiculously huge amounts of money for 30 seconds of advertising. The day when most people in North America are watching the same thing. The Superbowl. Despite the incredible action on the field (Woo Giants!) there was also some incredible action off the field. In fact that action happens to be unavailable to those present at the actual game. This action I'm referring to is advertising. Advertising has always been a big part of the Superbowl. Beer companies work hard to write some of the funniest commercials of the year so that their pride about their "Fresh Taste" can be heard by the masses. This is not something new to me, however this year soemthing very interesting piqued my curiosity. During the game we were reminded by the commentators and analysts (whose jobs also now include explaining to the viewer what is on after the supebowl) that if you missed any of the commercials during the superbowl go to to watch all your favourites. For some reason that shocked me. Media really is dying. Apparently people don't like missing commercials these days? This just goes to show how a huge aspect of watching tv is watching commercials, and those commercials seem as important as the programming itself, especially since there is a way that you can watch them at will at a human networking site. Not only are these advertisements being advertised, but a website as well. Maybe Myspace is trying to fight back against the Facebook community. It makes me wonder how much Myspace paid to get advertised during the Superbowl.
Another interesting thing. Halftime reports are nothing out of the ordinary for football games. But last night it was the "SOBE Life Water Halftime Report". Man was I excited to see this. The name made it sound so different than usual, I thought perhaps there would be some intense action requiring extreme amounts of hydration or maybe a SOBE lizard commenting on the game. Needless to say I was disappointed. The Halftime report was simply the same guys they ALWAYS have, doing a simple rundown on the game so far. I was seriously confused as to how this was the "Sobe Life Water Halftime report" until I saw a sign in the conference room that had that slogan on it. Really? Sobe calls it THEIR halftime report, but really they have nothing to do with it.
Media truly is dying. Advertisers aren't even trying to mask the fact that they're just trying to sell more stuff anymore. They instead make their advertising a form of entertainment in itself, and name events after their products simply because you know they paid a ridiculous sum of money to have their name simply on the screen at the same time.
I'm curious to know when original programming will end, and programs created by the advertisers will air. Imagine instead of the Superbowl, CorporateBowl! The Sports event for advertisers! Who will become the next champ of the TV?

for those interested in seeing an entire Myspace page dedicated to advertising, visit

Monday, January 28, 2008


I have always said that despite how much time I spend watching television I don't really like anything that's on. I've always found it difficult to answer questions regarding my favorite programs, simply because I don't have any. This is not to say that I spend less time than others watching TV, I just don't like it. Some people have asked me "If you don't like TV, then why do you watch it?". My answer is always the same, simply that I start watching TV while I'm doing something that requires hands. By that I mean eating. It always seems that I prepare myself food, and if I'm alone turn on the TV and end up watching for sometimes up to three hours. Three Hours! And I don't even like what I'm watching! It brings me to believe that television is somewhat of a drug, and idea touched on in Danny Schechter's The Death of Media: And the Fight to Save Democracy. In fact, Schechter refers to television as a "plug-in-drug", which really made me look at it from a wider perspective. By this I mean I took a step outside my little television world and tried to see the television audience as the huge amount of people it really is. I thought about how many people come home from a stressful workday or something of the sort and, feeling the need to forget and numb themselves from that hectic life, turn on the TV and do absolutely nothing. Alright I'm sorry, not nothing. They breath a bit. Maybe eat. Maybe the occasional outburst of an answer for Jeopardy! But I really began looking at TV as a drug.
My roommates and I have toyed with the idea of dropping cable from our list of bills because we don't feel like paying for it anymore but there has really been no progress. We can talk all we want about how we hate whats on, or how it's expensive to keep, but really nothing happens. It may be a fear of boredom. Last year when I was living in residence I had no access to television, and for some reason I can not recollect any time saying "I wish I had TV," or even "I'm bored". So at the beginning of this year, I had the idea that I don't really want to have cable in the first place because, well, it will make me watch it. And as I said before, I don't even like anything that's on anyway.
Well, 3-1 and I'm outvoted, so we got cable. I don't like it. I still watch it. A quote from The Death Of Media came to mind "programs exist to sell eyeballs to advertisers, not information to viewers". So Maybe the reason why I don't like anything on TV is because the programmers are no longer creating enjoyable programming for our entertainment or information, but rather creating programs so that advertisers will have an audience when the actual program isn't even playing. It makes sense because television gets its money from advertising costs, so why shouldn't they attempt to boost their profit? It's not like we HAVE to watch it if we don't want to right? I can quit any time I want. I swear.

Monday, January 14, 2008

My First Post- Class, Reading and Video games

On my way to class last week, I was struck suddenly with the question of what exactly I was getting myself into. It seemed like the answer was there in my head: MEDIA. Despite the fact that my answer is essentially summed up in one word, it didn't make it any easier for me to understand. Media involves so many things...everything really. every single mode of communication whether it be speech, art, music, can be considered media. And to add to this complication comes the idea that every specific medium that relates any form of media is in itself a form of media. So I came to the conclusion that learning about media is in a way simply learning about life through representation. Whether we like it or not, it is a media-saturated environment in which we live, and coming to terms with that is something everyone must do in some form or another. Whether it be simply accepting it and living freely through text messages and iphones and trying to keep up with the latest trends in personal technology, or condemning society for its overuse of perhaps unnecessary technologies and resolutely using the card indexes in the library as opposed to the computer, every has their own way of "dealing with it".
As I sit here typing a posting on a recently created blog, on a (relatively) new computer, with my digital camera and my ipod on my desk, I know that I am a part of that media-saturated world. But does it cross my mind everyday? Not necessarily. Recently however I have been thinking about what forms of media I use. In the readings from Remediation: Understanding the New Media(1999 MIT Press) by Jay David Bolter and Richard Grusin, the distinction between immediated and hypermediated forms of media is described. In the glossary, immediacy is defined as "A style of visual representation whose goal is to make the viewer forget the presence of the medium" and contrarily, the definition for hypermediacy is "A style of visual representation whose goal is to remind the viewer of the medium." (1999) For some reason, as I read this, I was reminded of a particular video game I have experienced in the past known as "Pokemon Snap!" for the Nintendo 64 system. I was trying to think of this video games in terms of hyper-/immediacy, and what that meant. In this video game, the player plays the role of a photographer who is meant to take pictures of these magical creatures. I found that there are elements of both immediacy and hypermediacy in this game. In the general game play, you are viewing from the photographers perspective in an imaginative world. It is intended that you feel you are within the realm of the Pokemon, and you have the ability to see above, below, behind and to either side of you while playing. This would be the developers attempt to try to get the player to look past his or her living room and actual television set and thus make them forget that they are in a game. Within the game, you get to take pictures, which eventually become "developed" which you can look at and edit at will. This is thrusting the medium of photography into the players mind. The game is entitled Pokemon Snap! for a reason: they are playing off the idea that in this game, it will be like actually taking photographs of actual imaginary creatures. The way I see this game is hypermediacy embedded within a world of immediacy.
Thus I've come to the sort of unsettling fact that I happen to be wondering how I am intended to perceive the media I am experiencing day to day. The use of some technologies seem so common now that I think that is in a sense immediacy, for example a technology that is so simple and quick to use that you forget the way you used it but simply remember the effect. But I also think the same about hypermediacy, because maybe the companies are intending to make whatever that technology so present in our lives that through marketing they can constantly update and remind the user of a better, faster, smarter medium to use instead.

ref: Bolter, Jay David and Richard Grusin: Remediation: Understanding New Media Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1999