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Duță Ovidiu Ionel, Media Communication 1st Year Before mentioning mass-media and digital culture, I must mention how the whole concept of digital emerged and how it’s understood by the masses, either if they use or not technology. The digital implies exclusively the existence of technology, technics, an interface between the end user and the equipment which allows the handling of the end product in a more efficient manner from the classical analogue, where the time required to manipulate information captured in a technological manner was decisive in how messages where broadcasted and understood by the public. Digital means a struggle between ones and zeros. How two numbers, a maximum and a minimum, the existence and absence of a signal make possible information to be displayed, transmitted and received. In the digital era, where all start and end up into a digital interface such as web-sites varying from the classical html page where you’re only presence is that of a reader, way up to the dynamic web-sites that allow your thoughts to be displayed and read by the masses, either by text, by photos, by videos. The manner in which these are produced isn’t as important as the messages itself. Being a digital era, information must travel must and must be present as fast as possible to the consumer. The digital aspect determines that a culture is formed following the structure of a digital environment, and afterwards it’s development in more specific structures for a certain means of transmitting information, be it radio, TV, online, press. The end product is that this kind of culture is mostly like the pop-culture or the hippie culture when the digital didn’t have such a strong presence in society. To summarize the existence of the digital concept in correlation with a culture and day to day practices, over 95% of the information broadcasted and received are by strictly digital or have started from ones and zeros. And in the good old days, what was touchable was considered healthier because you knew for a fact that it existed. Now, paper money translates into plastic cards, salaries are bank accounts, our tax forms which were written on thousands of sheets of paper are now just pages of internet with small filling areas with a YES or NO1. And the list can go on endlessly in explaining how 3000 years of history can be summed up in the last 5 to 10 years in the digital form. And the most convincing argument that supports
Digital Culture – Charlie Gere, pag. 14, ISBN: 978 1 86189 388 8, 2008
digital cultures is related to the invention, development and naturalization in the human culture, in the collective thinking of the user and consumer of information of the social networking sites, of the new-media theories and of the practices of new-media2. The internet and its welfare for humanity. „To speak of the digital is to call up, metonymically, the whole panoply of virtual simulacra, instantaneous communication, ubiquitous media and global connectivity that constitutes much of our contemporary experience. It is to allude to the vast range of applications and media forms that digital technology has made possible, including virtual reality, digital special effects, digital film, digital television, electronic music, computer games, multimedia, the internet, the world wide web, digital telephony and wireless application protocol, as well as the various cultural and artistic responses to the ubiquity of digital technology, such as Cyberpunk novels and films, Techno and post-pop music, the new typography, net.art and so on.”3 This is a small opinion given by Charlie Gere in its book Digital Culture written in 2008. Adding to what mister Gere has said, from personal perspective and experience in the digital environment, I can say that now the digital is the yellow brick road on which you unwind your personal experiences and make them public. I have been a witness to the social networking sites like Facebook, the online baptize, social revolutions broadcasted on twitter, newspapers written and created souly for the iPad4, and last but not least, although not as new but clearly more spectacular than most of the fore mentioned is the virtual reporter5, created and displayed through a hologram. It’s just the evolution of communication and of a structure on which this communication is based on. If it evolves or involves, those how use or don’t use could say for real. The link between the digital and the human culture is easily understandable in the environments where culture emerge from social structures that developed in the course of evolution of a certain technology or media concept. Until technology as we know it appeared, popular cultures, social cultures were based exclusively on direct communication, afterwards
Digital Cultures - Glen Creeber si Royston Martin, pag. 18, ISBN-13: 978-0-33-5221974, 2009 Digital Culture – Charlie Gere, pag. 15, ISBN: 978 1 86189 388 8, 2008 4 http://www.dailybusiness.ro/stiri-new-media/the-daily-publicatia-lui-murdoch-creata-exclusiv-pentru-ipadamanata-cateva-saptamani-55096 5 http://economie.hotnews.ro/stiri-media_publicitate-5053530-video-premiera-absoluta-cnn-folosit-reporterholograma-timpul-alegerilor-din-sua.htm
a bit superficial through the means of the printing press that made communication and broadcasting information more efficient and be transmitted far and wide. In 2010, people from the same city, sometimes from the same flat of apartments, use digital structures: chat, e-mail, telephone to communicate an idea, a status quo, a thought, and a communicational situation with social implications. Even more, the social networking systems, which depend on the technological development for their evolution of fundamental social structures following the saying: Sharing is caring. The population active in the digital environment creates pseudonyms to create themselves a virtual existence. For those who take part from these social structures before the advent of new-media technology or trends in social media, the avatar and pseudonym is just as valid as the iron mask or the ball mask worn by those in the classical age. Your quasi-existence on digital form still has a very real background, or mimics the real life as much as possible. And this makes your presence very solid of flimsy as a deck of cards. The internet grants you limitless powers but also grants people that like or dislike you, people you follow or follow you back and people you search to correlate your thoughts with theirs, just as you would do in real life. Virtual people still have a real background and although your virtual presence is somewhat to blame for your lack of real presence, in the digital media, if you don’t exist on the internet, you hardly exist in real life. And the existence of a culture of any sort, especially for digital culture, the internal structures6 create a coherence that establishes a cognitive value of a symbolical nature, representing the vision of that culture of the world, according to Clifford Geertz, either having realities that go with the media current or swim against this current. Even more, the unwritten rules of technology of copy/paste redefine on a relatively large scale, the concepts of copyright and the perception of the audience of what is yours, what belongs to another, what belongs to us and what is a common good. In the digital culture, the respect for copy-right exists only at a superficial level driven by unwritten rules, urban folklore that live only in the digital media that have a small basis in the real life. In the digital realm, what is present and shared by one is used and shared by others without or with little respect for the initial creator. The essence is to manipulate information, create, distort, remix and share information and more than one has access. The concept of public or common good on the internet is still subject of debate. That’s why hackers exist, torrent sites and sharing is more like a right that you have and you didn’t have to earn it. Rule and practice on the internet. Share and receive.
Digital Culture – Charlie Gere, pag. 18, ISBN: 978 1 86189 388 8, 2008
Mass-media isn’t far from these structures. Being the guardian of reality, the ever so faithful watchdog of man-kind, like the saying goes. But mass-media having received an advice from anthropology, what would it say? It would say that mass-media is the alarm that rings even when you don’t have any work to do. Mass-media is the wise owl that keeps you alive even if you want to sleep so badly. Mass-media needs to be studies and kept on a leash by a thought where the basis of everything is the existence of humanity and where humanity defines everything. The only problem now is that mass-media is struggling with technology, is struggles in broadcasting an infinite show with no taste what-so-ever and of a superficial existence in every corner of mass-media, be it written press, television and more and more in the online where from the time that something occurred until it’s published should be instant. And if that’s not all, once you’re online as news, you stay there just as fast as you got there. And it’s all about numbers, the higher the numbers, the higher the pay-check. Besides the fact that you as a human are responsible for the stuff you write, when you read the stuff you write, you start to think if a human being wrote that. Things that once belonged to the human pattern, the pattern of personal thought is transformed into an agora of public proportions. Your thoughts are measured in unique visitors, number of likes, dislikes, comments. You become like a scare-crow, visible for everyone to see, having a solid background but without any substance. You just exist as another number in the sea of numbers that make up the digital aspect. Another aspect that results from mass-media being advised by anthropology that benefits mass-media is the existence of typical cultures even in technological era. From an ancient structure, where the bonds between people on a sociological aspect where linear and direct, until the digital cultures where these bonds resemble more the structure of an atom. They are circular, having centers of interest on which people orbit and focus. Those are the people that represent the leaders of opinion. But this is portrayed now at a superficial level. Those leaders of opinion usually are singers having fans around him, a president having its public voting for him because he is the lesser evil in that society. In virtual communities, poles of attraction exist, certain people have subject brought up in discussions and those discussions have a public appeal. The social networking systems combined with blogging, mass-media and the advent of technology as a whole creates social gurus, people that you look up too because they are credible, they are constant in what they say and you start to follow their creeds because it suits your needs. 4
Still how does the existence of anthropology benefits mass-media? Well mass-media could learn from anthropology the habits of those who consume mass-media. Questionnaires, focus-groups, analysis done at an empirical level or by studying the market for quality content and quality consumption of that content. It’s not enough that you consume now, you must react to what you consume. In that way, mass-media know that is has reached to you as an audience and this translates in bigger numbers, either by generating traffic, reactions, good or bad, by making people respond at an emotional level. To explain this in a more cruel way, it’s easier to train an animal if you know its weaknesses and what makes it susceptible to control and change. The same case can be applied to humans. Studies being made to research behavioral aspects can lead to new ways in consuming mass-media and delivering that in a way that brings more people close to your particular newspaper, television, radio or web-site. This creates a pattern for people that consume voluntarily or not, large amounts of mass-media over a large period of time. You start to see rituals emerging: watching TV at a certain hour, schedules being made that correlates to certain social behaviors, traditions that appear in relation to what is being consumed. Reading your newspaper in the morning while drinking coffee, seeing a movie with your family, watching a football game with your friends, soap-operas with your wife, Christmas with the family around the TV or being surrounded by a small amount of technology. These are but a few of the rituals that appear when mass-media is consumed and the human condition is studied based on this aspect. To have a strong argument for my claims, I turn to the Ph.D. thesis done by Francisco Osorio from the University of Chile which says that the interaction between anthropology and mass-media has five points of connection: the study of mass-media, the link between massmedia and the public, the gathering of data from mass-media and with the help of massmedia, educating the public with mass-media and last but not least applied media anthropology. This argument goes like this „using anthropology, can transform mass-media into a tool to broadcast information like an instrument of educating people and as an instrument of studying the behavior in consuming mass-media.” I lean to think that although studies like these are a great help for mass-media, sometimes the education of the audience isn’t that important as is the sodomization if the audience. The transformation of written publications into instruments of intellectual torture, broadcasting cheap values or people with money and little or no moral values and moving 5
away from relating to the public to emphasize the last drops of real values that exist in humanity. When speaking about television, things are even more atrocious, the entire world displayed as a cheap performance, more and more vulgar, more and more filled with nonvalues become sensations instead of broadcasting news that have a real value attached to them. When speaking about the online, anthropology could become a social science that studies the habits of consuming mass-media in the virtual realm. How you communicate and how you relate to someone has to do more with how much technology you use and how much you accept that technology has become a part of your life just like breathing. Each individual has an open-mind regarding technology, but the social structures exist because the individual is deinvidualized. You become the mass and you are absorbed by the mass unless you become a gravitational center for others. As a brief conclusion, superficial in some ways I can say that mass-media has become an instrument that has the power to shape society, especially when society exists in a digital form or has more and more willingness to spend its life in the digital realm. Mass-media can be studied, can study and can watch the evolution or de-evolution of society, after-all it delivers what the public wants or the public wants what it’s being served. But that remains subject of another paper and constitutes a more thorough analysis in the future. The only sure fact that remains after this paper is that mass-media and technology now shape society and cultures emerge because mass-media allows it or thinks it’s okay for them to exist. And to support the claims of this paper, I have drafted the text bellow that conjures up the state of mass-media in Romania, from a very sexist perspective and the fact that news have a bigger message if women present them, especially sports news. In 2012, things are far more interesting than we want to admit, in particular when talking about the differences between men and women in mass-media. Not only differences but more like boundaries where neither man nor woman can cross. In Romania, for example, the sports news are now presented by hot, young, smiling girls. Men although in general are more inclined to sports and have a greater knowledge of this subject don’t seemed to be as prepared as a girl fresh out of high-school, with large or noticeable “gifts” from mother-nature, an easy and fake smile in some cases. I mean, what can be more suited for this role than a 20 year girl from a Business College?
Things couldn’t be more normal than this. But they can. For example men, good looking men present the weather forecast. A huge difference from the weather anchors in western countries. After-all they have a professional view of their workplace, we have a profitable view of our workplace. We know from sure facts that Romanians need something pleasing to their eyes if they want to grasp the information more firmly. And if youth and a smile do the job, why change it? To be more specific than this, all the big, national TV companies have at least one girl presenting how a soccer player has partied all night long and how our teams lose any match possible against any foreign teams. As a bonus, there is even a show at a late night hour where two, sexually pleasing girls, trained for a certain job. Trained to strip while presenting the sports news. And must I see, from my perspective as a man, this is one idea that was sure to have a big success but turned out to be too late in mass-media. If we need sports, we have the regular news and anchors more widely known, if we want striptease, we can go to a strip club or watch a movie over the internet regarding this subject. In other types of mass-media, the same subject can be put into the newspapers and from some time new, a tabloid has instated some sort of a law that only girls half or completely naked can and will present the weather page. Even more so, a large picture says more of the upcoming weather than any sort of information provided by the National Institute for Meteorology. The result is that those girls have a lot of attention from the media because their photos can’t be overlooked by the general audience. Be sun or rain, storm or wind, snow or earthquake, these girls sure know how to bring a smile on your face when standing topless in front of your newspaper page. The long term result is that these girls reach stardom or any sort of stardom for their standards. The condition is to say as little words as possible because looks and wits aren’t the best of friends in mass-media, the Romanian mass-media. Because the western world is ugly, well the professionals are. Anchors, presenters and talk-show hosts don’t have the ideal shape needed to bring ratings. They have talent, a thing Romania seems to forget as the years pass. The old anchors caught in the regime were forced by the situation to be professionals and this can be seen even now. Shows having more than 50 years of life compared to one or two season of some imported series which only makes us look incapable of creating something suited just for us. An example of a woman’s role that only suits as a luxury item in a stage-set bringing rating just for the sure pleasure in making men in the morning wake-up with a smile on their face. A young, dumb-minded girl with a nice body ensures a steady flow of viewers. This was 7
started several years ago when a girl, winning a Miss Romania title needed a “job” to have a financial secure future and a small step to stardom. And so, without making her saying too much and yet creating some profit for the television network made her an assistant for the presenter which usually is widely known and appreciated for his effort in waking you up with a smile and presenting things that makes sense in the morning. This has evolved to more serious assistants, being more and more a luxury item on the set and a diva, sex-symbol, a pray for the rich and single. Now, the morning shows must have some presenters usually young, a cooking area and a baby-doll acting or pretending to be doing something useful for the show. If the case is true and her place is well deserved, only the audience which consumes and keeps this trend alive has a word to say about it. Romania has a different market than the rest of the civilized countries. We had for more than 40 years an oppressive regime which fed us the same thing over and over. Once escaped from this, we searched for any form of freedom and as time passed, this freedom was miss-understood and now anyone willing to be a star only has to strip, act weird, have a relationship with a soccer player and appear on the pages of Playboy. The trend was started by Loredana and after that, many girls were portrayed on this magazine exclusively for men. Only the girls know how much this has helped them in their careers or how much respect or self-esteem they’ve got over time. Some appearing on the right moment have a successful career, being identified as a sex-symbol for men and girls alike, case being Nicoleta Luciu, others just proved that nudity is good on certain occasions or used with a purpose. Money being the main argument for accepting or declining an offer sometimes doesn’t explain their decision to appear when they are already well-known. This can be interpreted as the role of sexual desire and satisfaction offered by a woman, demanded by all men. And a woman has being portrayed like this for some time now. Not in Romania due to certain difficult times but the world had plenty of time to enslave the woman to a sexual object, merchandise in selling products, services and pleasure none the less. If the feminist movement appeared and needed the same rights and stop the “objectification” of a woman’s body, it seems these days it hasn’t so much success or doesn’t try as much. After all, if they like the current situation and feel their role in society, mass-media in the end is fulfilled according to their principles, I see no reason for change. That being said, women are now inferior to men in the principle department and superior when it comes in convincing someone to buy, try, and consume a product or a service. 8
Where as men have a less obvious role in mass-media. They present talk-show about politics, most of them, the trend is to have a co-anchor to back-up the discussion, they are moguls and business-men capable in offering the necessary amount of money to run a massmedia corporation and in the end deciding if a candidate is suited for a particular job in the network. Men although generally known as superiors, seem to be beneath women when it comes to supremacy on television or adds. They’re not as tempting as a half-naked woman laying on a bed saying: passion pour l’homme. It’s not the same thing, and the case is given by the greater number of men interested in models selling stuff and women eager to look or try to look as those models who sell stuff. It’s the law of offer and demand and the offer is to give something beautiful for the consumer, being either men or women. And in general women are the main subject in ads, infomercials and any object designed to be sold. This is their role, nobody has anything to say about it and if this is the case, let the moral degradation of a woman continue. And this was the happy time and place where these things happened in our dreams. Dream on, life is happy just the way it is, mass-media is offering just what we want. Sex and money. Bibliography 1. Mass-media Anthropology, Francisco Osorio, Ph.D. thesis, 2001, University of Chile 2. Beyond Multiculturalism, Views from Anthropology, Giuliana B. Prato, Kent University, Marea Britanie, 2009 3. Digital Culture, Charlie Gere, 2008, second edition 4. Digital Cultures, Glen Creeber and Royston Martin, 2009 5. Convergence Culture, Henry Jenkins, 2006, 6. Tele-ology, John Hartley, 2003 7. Uses of television, John Hartley, 2001 8. Media discourse, Representation and Interaction, Mary Talbot, 2007
9. The complex whole, Culture and the Evolution of Human Behavior, Lee Cronk, 1999 10. The internet, an introduction to new-media, Lelia Green, 2010 11. How Big Media Locks down Culture, Lawrence Lessig, 2004 12. Understanding society, culture, and television, Paul Monaco, 1998 13. Media Control, Noam Chomsky, 1997