media theory: My response to PART B # 2 and # 3

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Final Exam :)

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Compared to newer forms of media such as the Internet, traditional media such as radio and TV broadcasting, popular print (serials, romances, magazines) and film seem to move slower in terms of shaking off dominant ideologies that oppress more people than they actually benefit. Classical Marxist theories explain that the mode of material production (base) within a society determines the nature of relationships between people (superstructure). And because the economy of capitalist societies is built upon gain or profit, cultural texts (art, music, film, literature) follow suit in privileging ideas that would gain the producer or owner more profit from the consumer. Dominant ideologies—and the accepted patterns, narrative conventions, codes, significations within cultural texts, for that matter—therefore perpetuate themselves in traditional media. Needless to say, representations, such as characters and events, will most likely be consistent to established icons, images and themes. Furthermore, gate-keeping and agenda-setting theories shed light on actual media practices wherein produces, owners and financiers hold sway over content and representations in media texts. Narratives such as those exploited in telenovelas and fantaseryes follow familiar patterns, use the same old linear and chronological sequencing of events, showcase typical characters by typecasted actors, and even recycle old “twists” and “surprise” endings. The proliferation of and our exposure to these texts make audiences unable to appreciate texts that attempt to break such narrative conventions (ex. Putot, 21 Grams, Babel), and the failure of such “avant-garde” texts to sell in the market all the more maintains the status quo. I apologize if I seem to make hasty generalizations and other fallacies in reasoning; but the state local TV programming has led me to considerably lessen my TV viewing since 2003. Perhaps for others, for the people whom television programming had been geared at, the familiarity of olds patterns

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media theory: My response to PART B # 2 and # 3

http://media210theory.blogspot.com/2007/03/my-response-to-part-b-2-an...

and conventions brings respite from the harsh realities of life (“opiate of the masses”); but more often I had found it disappointing how TV has failed to provide people with alternative characters, ways of thinking, situations, realities—new heroes that might somehow lend insight into the dilemmas of modern life. Going by the Uses and Gratifications theory, by refusing to watch TV I have refused the idea that someone like Ally McBeal or the characters in Friends and in many other programs were representative of me and the life I lead. I felt alienated by experience, taste, culture whenever I watched most of these shows. Just recently however, because of the advancements in technology and subsequently in piracy, I developed this knack for watching foreign sitcoms/tv series by the season (its amazing how a whole season of series such as Desperate Housewives, Sex and the City, CSI can fit into a single DVD). Sex and the City (which I have just started to watch a couple of weeks ago) is slowly turning out to be a let down for me. Despite the great humor, the creative story-telling device and great visual/narrative hooks, I felt that it did not represent me nor the majority of modern women I know. Their idea of “liberated women” was problematic. I thought that the series became sort of a backlash against women’s lib in general, that being liberated for women primarily meant being sexually liberated. Sure it is entertaining, but at the end of each season you find the lead characters back in the rut (the same rut you had originally been in): depressed and unhappy had earlier on been perceived as “new, liberating opportunities for women.” In the end they still long for the security of being in an ‘ideal relationship’ with the ‘ideal man;’ in Sex and the City it was Mr. Big, the elusive alpha male who goes for the ‘uncomplicated woman’. Because of what I said earlier about the Internet I believe that more alternatives are available for me online. The Internet culture has changed so much over the past few years due to opensource software and many other venues for online collaboration. I have been fascinated by the amount of disclosure and obstinate attempts to reach out to others that people put into blogs, vodcasts, networking sites, etc. Surfing the net—made easier by keyword-selection skills, tagging and bookmark organization—is a rich source of alternatives and a freer venue for managing identities. Unlike watching TV, personal/personalized websites, blogs, podcasting, vodcasting (or video-casting), and photosharing on line opens you up to various perspectives, experiences, tastes, cultures, insights, attitudes, ideas, art, images and new icons. The stories people share online have actually opened my eyes to so many possibilities; for

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media theory: My response to PART B # 2 and # 3

http://media210theory.blogspot.com/2007/03/my-response-to-part-b-2-an...

instance, there are actually a lot of women who are happy being single, who are fulfilled and empowered by their profession or their art, and who are passionate about empowering other people as well. The non-profitability of zines and their independence from dominant modes of production have given their makers a lot of leeway in self-expression. Layouts are freer, texts and graphics can be as varied (or vulgar) as one needs it to be without being filtered by a profit/reputationconscious editor. Zines are therefore appealing to individuals who want to manage their identities as they can use these texts to represent themselves. This process of representation involves the use and manipulation of signs, codes and symbols to bring about audience effects. For instance, a zine chooses to cut and paste texts and graphics from a magazine and rearrange them unto a page in her zine. One doesn’t have to be a semiotician to perceive how the items she has selected and the way she has placed them onto the page (as in a montage) would reflect her preferences, personal politics, body image, desires or fears. The fonts, spaces (silences), colors, are as potent in meaning as extra-textual aspects of the zine such as the quality of its production (printed, photocopied, risographed), the number of copies produced, the price, and instances or venues of distribution. In the same light, the availability of the Internet and online resources (free blogs, networking, audio/visual streaming) to a greater number of users, the slowly changing dynamics of software (user friendly interfaces, drag and drop, presets, options, etc.) and hardware (plug and play, everything-USB, firewire, etc.), and more accessible media formats (digital video, photo, mp3, 3gp, flash/JAVA script presets) made easier to recreate one’s image and express one’s self online. Perhaps people who have been attempting to define or capture the essence of Postmodernism have been thinking of the Internet because it could very likely be a very liberating tool for transcending established truths and relations. To be more specific, I’d like to share observations I have made on how people construct their images on line. Blogs (Blogger, Livejournal) and network sites (Friendster, My Space) and hybrid sites that combine both such as Multiply make it possible for their owners to manipulate page elements easily to be able to express themselves as freely as possible. One can customize their otherwise standard-layout profiles by changing background colors or graphics, adding photos, rearranging component or adding, classifying their audiences and regulating access to their website (termed “protection” in Friendster and Flickr). Even showcasing who
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media theory: My response to PART B # 2 and # 3

http://media210theory.blogspot.com/2007/03/my-response-to-part-b-2-an...

regularly access their sites (readers, followers, friends) contribute to the identity of the owner. The following are screenshots of customized profiles and blogs that, as I understand using the semiotic method, promotes the author’s personality or aspect of personality that the owner chooses to highlight:

My student Alex Staley’s Friendster profile exhibits a basic choice of changing the site’s background. The choice of choosing this pattern over the standard blank background for her profile page suggests an attempt to express her personality.

Ska band Barrio Morning Glory’s Friendster account, which they primarily use for self-promotion, announcement of gig schedules, and interaction with fans. The bottom right side of the image shows their membership in other groups. This linkages may contribute to their image as a young, hip music group.

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media theory: My response to PART B # 2 and # 3

http://media210theory.blogspot.com/2007/03/my-response-to-part-b-2-an...

This online gamer’s use of graphics from Tekken could be seen as an attempt to attract fellow gamers by disclosing what currently interests her of what she is a fan of.

And this is how another student, Yvanich Agno, chooses to reinforce her image of “young, rebellious rocker.” She used the following elements as signs for her personality: a photo of rock icon Avril Lavigne, an X-mark in red, terms such as “mistfit,” “confessions”, the font used (courier) resembles that of an old typewriter (used frequently in punk zines to mean ‘old school’ or DIY), and the white background to provide dramatic contrast.

The following screenshots show how blog titles and graphics can be used to create or, in the case of my student Joey (egoy), reclaim identity by negotiating new meanings for previously derogatory terms.

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media theory: My response to PART B # 2 and # 3

http://media210theory.blogspot.com/2007/03/my-response-to-part-b-2-an...

Joey Trinidad’s Egoy writes… is a way of ‘writing back’ to those who used to discriminate him by his physical attributes.

Peachy Herrin’s Pinay G-Spot is an apt and witty title for a blog about women empowerment. The color and graphics represent life, growth, abundance and fertility in terms of ideas and potentials.

A screenshot from my own blog below shows how one can use widgets—placeholders for third party sites and external applications within your own page—to construct and promote identity. The widgets located on the left side of the screen may show aspects of my personality, my interest and even my profession.

The activities the people engage in online to express and continuously construct identities, especially the younger generation, are clearly applications of post-structuralist and post-modern thought (or at least the

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media theory: My response to PART B # 2 and # 3

http://media210theory.blogspot.com/2007/03/my-response-to-part-b-2-an...

attitude). I have not even begun to scratch the surface by presenting what I perceive. The internet and other similar activities off-line (zinemaking, indie filmmaking, independent music production, formation of radical movements or special interest groups, etc.) are indicative of the “chaos” that needs to be expressed, and there seems to be no traditional framework that could contain it. Audiences of media texts these days are as empowered as the makers because they have the ability to produce their own texts. I would like to cite what my classmate quoted from Habermas for his/her report on the Frankfurt School of Media Studies...“No aspect of life is interest free. An emancipated society is free from unnecessary domination of any one interest, and everybody has equal opportunity to participate in decision-making.” The way we generate meaning from our reading of the text, however, still calls in semiotic or structural frameworks. We are still dealing with signs and symbols…can we say that they are as stable as before? I feel that the Internet has managed to lessen the potency of what were once dominant codes of meaning; some hardly exist anymore. When we express ourselves on the net through any far-reaching new media (digital), one is aware of the infinite ways in which people can interpret [or misinterpret] our messages, and we open ourselves to new meaning we might chance upon when we share knowledge. Perhaps this is the essence of the new generation, to know that the number possibilities are as infinite as the variety of perspectives and cultures that abound.

Posted by Ruby Soho at 9:08 PM Labels: media and identity formation, post-structuralism and postmodernism, semiotics and structuralism

3 comments: betsyenriquez said... Ok, I think I follow what you're saying, and you've made some very interesting points. Can we assume that the new generation, as you call it, is now free and unfettered inside and even outside the web? What happens to those who have yet to gain access and, perhaps more importantly, the skills to access well and therefore be able to discover, disclose,
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media theory: My response to PART B # 2 and # 3

http://media210theory.blogspot.com/2007/03/my-response-to-part-b-2-an...

connect and co-create? What about the older generations, including older generations of scholars/students/writers/journeyers/etc. (to which I belong), who may not be equipped with the non-linear thinking abilities required to understand the web? How do we drag them (us) along? How do we empower ALL so that no one, as Habermas would put it and as you quoted, unnecessarily dominates and so that everyone would have an equal opportunity to participate? 9:04 PM Ruby Soho said... hi ma'am betsy, thanks so much for posting your comments here. is this your first? yes, the dilemmas that you have brought up are relevant and prevalent issues regarding the internet. but, would you believe ma'am that the person who has encouraged me to explore and radically changed my view on the internet is actually older than me? (sorry sir joel, mukha ka pa namang bagets, hehe)...he's in his mid-40s already, i think. so, it would not really be a matter of age but of willingness to venture into something new. besides, the internet is becoming more and more surfer-friendly. and yes, not everyone has access to the internet, but i'd like to get my hand on recent studies about internet accross different classes in the philippines (if you know of any timbrehan niyo po ako). because i suspect that even those in the lower income brackets have some kind of access to the internet, even if its just email, friendster, YM, etc. i think it just takes encouragement to get people to explore, even from the older generations, to motivate themselves to teach themselves and gain skills...as long as they discover something worthwhile and interesting, i'd like to believe that the rest will follow. di bale po, i'll give it more thought and then write more entries on this blog. will it be ok to share it with my classmates? 6:26 AM betsyenriquez said... Sure, it's ok to share it with anyone. That's the idea, right? Yes, this is my first time to participate in a blog. :) I've been meaning to wade into the many blogs I find intriguing, but haven't had the time to do so. Ok, poor excuse. Anyway, you got me in and that's great. Thanks.

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media theory: My response to PART B # 2 and # 3

http://media210theory.blogspot.com/2007/03/my-response-to-part-b-2-an...

Concerning older and lower-income (for want of a better term) people, I didn't mean the terms purely in their literal sense. While there are quite a few who are older than you and even me (am much older than sir joel) who are very good at this, I think they are more the exception than the rule. Anyway, I'm more concerned about "older" habits of thinking, which may hinder some to appreciate the benefits of the non-linearity and the open-endedness of the net. Well, maybe I'm unjustifiably pessimistic. Maybe someone should study how the 50 and older are using or not using the net. That should be an interesting study. Some quanti data might be helpful so we know how many are alredy in the net, just lurking, or refuse to go in and why. Concerning the lower-income netizens, I'm sure their number is greater than I would have been willing to believe five years ago. Physical access to computers and the net is so possible now through net cafes and the like so one does not have to have a computer and a connection at home. Also, thankfully, schools and workplaces are more and more making this access something we can take for granted. And this is fantastic! But I suspect they come from the urban areas. (I have quite a bit of anecdotal data to support this, but it's anecdotal for the moment.) Which leaves a huge number - those in the vast rural or less urbanized areas - behind. Or maybe I'm being pessimistic again. So there's another study that should be made. I'm sure you've also heard a lot of cynicism about the potential of the net to let everyone have the ability to claim space and voice, especialy as capitalist interests have been obviously quick to plunge in to mine it for its commercial value, given the numbers out there. But you and I and probably many others think that in spite of the attempts to co-opt the net (which is to be expected and, indeed, there has been success along that line; after all, as Habermas put it, no aspect of life is interest-free), its potential to emancipate society from unnecessary domination of any one interest (Habermas again) remains. Thanks for getting me into this. :) 6:44 PM Post a Comment Newer Post Subscribe to: Post Comments (Atom) Home

► 2009 (1) ► 2008 (1) ▼ 2007 (2) ▼ March (2) My response to PART A #1
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media theory: My response to PART B # 2 and # 3

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My response to PART B # 2 and # 3

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Ruby Soho hi, my screen name is ruby. i dont really like giving my name away on the net--but then, that hardly matters over the net. View my complete profile

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