Diasporic Media – Mapping Cultural Experience in the Global Community

Mainstream media often maps the journeys of individuals and their experiences within their community. There is no doubt though, that the journeys often represented are not usually those of minority groups, or ‘migrant’ communities. The representation of different cultures within the one community however is becoming increasingly important – to recognise that we live in a multicultural country, and to ensure the correct images of different cultures are represented.

I discussed the important role media place is the representation of different cultures in a previous post, highlighting the implications that incorrect representations of cultures have of society’s perceptions. The media and politics is central to this, in that the images and opinions these entities represent, reinforce the views of the wider community, who rely on these sources for first hand information.

The lack of access to media means migrants in Australia face difficult struggles in the communities where they live, where language and cultural barriers are just the tip of the iceberg (Salazar,). Often the perceptions people have of migrant communities are skewed by the negativity in the media, particularly when it comes to asylum seekers. It is thus important then to realise the significant impact self-representation in the media can have on the experiences of migrant communities (Salazar,)

Diasporic media can help displace the stereotypes and negative views mainstream media often reinforces, enabling migrant and other marginalised communities to socialise within their environment, as well as maintain their cultural heritage. As Sharma (2011) describes:

Individuals who trace their heritage to a specific region or nation increasingly have had to negotiate a sense of belonging and cultural tenure that takes into account the locations of their ethnic backgrounds as well as their daily lives

bend-it-like-beckham-6Films such as Bend it Like Beckham (2002) are an avenue for mapping the experiences of migrant cultures, and exploring themes of contrast and commonality that can facilitate a positive social discourse (Sharma, 2011). This can develop an individual’s sense of identity within their community, as well as bring different cultures together by identifying common threads in their experience.

In Bend it Like Beckham (2002), the main character Jess (short for Jesminder) grapples with the experiences of being a teenager, including love interests, sexuality, and being part of a team. At the same time, she is also battling with cultural expectations that make it difficult for her to participate in sport, and encounters racism from other players due to her ethnicity. In the end, she is able to overcome the conflicts with her family, and pursue her dreams, with the support of her friends. The film articulates the importance of balancing cultural expectations whilst moving forward in a globalised world, and the positive outcomes that can come from openly communicating with family and friends.

Ultimately, as globalisation continues to blur cultural boundaries, diasporic media has an important role to play in communicating the journeys of communities and individuals that are not given equal or truthful representation in mainstream media.

 

References:

Salazar, J F 2012, ‘Digital Stories and emerging citizens’ media practices by migrant youth in Western Sydney’. 3CMedia: Journal of Community, Citizen’s and Third Sector Media and Communication, no. 7.

Sharma, R 2011, ‘Desi Films: Articulating Images of South Asian Identity in a Global Communication Environment’, Global Media Journal – Canadian Edition, vol. 4, no. 1, pp. 127-143.

 

 

 

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The Global Media Market

Globalisation in media is no longer simply about access to a wider range of media from different countries. The disintegration of global ‘boundaries’, together with capitalism, has led to a new wave of media production that is both local and global at the same time. What we are seeing are television shows and films, which have a noticeably global formula, but have become cultural hybrids.

For such media production to succeed, it is necessary for global production companies working within convergent media environments to tailor media to the individual consumer, as opposed to attempting to appeal to a homogenous audience (Tay & Turner, 2008). Successful global media is thus a media that can traverse a global community whilst remaining culturally different (Voltmer, 2008).

While it may be appealing from a business point of view to adopt the widespread US media model on a global scale, the reality is that the varying political, cultural and economic framework of various countries will simply not allow for it (Voltmer, 2008). Varying levels of government control, consumer attitudes towards media, cultural values, and the strength of the economy, are all play, and will always be reflected in the media market.

It is not surprising then that the international media we experience has recognisable elements of Western consumer culture, and yet has a cross-cultural resonance, depending on the cultures being represented in the media form. This is largely within international co-productions, but is also evident in local media that has adopted a Western formula – for example the Chinese dating show If Your Are The One.

25111_500Of course, the adaptations can go too far. For example, popular American TV show Friends has had widespread popularity across the US, UK and Asia. Due to its popularity, the Chinese TV show iPartment emerged, which is starkly similar to Friends – following a group of young adults, living in the city. The show received much criticism from Chinese viewers, particularly after it reached cable networks (Gye, 2012). Whilst the show’s producers admitted to some plagiarism, a spokesman maintained that it is not a copy, and simply a product of comedic stereotypes, that pays homage to American sitcoms (Gye, 2012). Is globalisation destroying originality and imagination? Whilst it is necessary for a global media market to recognise that there are cultural cliché’s and experiences that have universal appeal, it is important not to get too caught up in being ‘Western’ to the point of losing creativity.

Skins_uk_2This can even happen within Western countries – and go just as horribly wrong. Take the TV show Skins for example. A hugely successful show in Britain, and widely watched in Australia, it was adapted by MTV for an American audience. Instead of airing the original TV show, MTV filmed the entire first season with American actors, and following the script practically word for word. What MTV failed to realise was that the shows popularity was not due to any universal ‘teenage’ experience, but rather the unique, quirkiness of the British characters and youth culture, with many idiosyncrasies that did not translate across to American culture (Jen, 2010). Needless to say, the show did not air for very long.

 

Sources:

Jen, 2010, Skins USA (MTV): Complete Rip Off of British Version of Skins, TV Fiends, Web Blog Post, 24 October, viewed 5 May 2013, <http://tvfiends.com/2010/10/24/skins-usa-mtv-complete-rip-off-of-british-version-of-skins/&gt;.

Gye, H 2012, ‘A Chinese knock-off too far? Shanghai TV show under fire for ‘ripping off’ Friends down to the scripts, characters and that sofa’, Daily Mail UK, 7 August, accessed 5 May 2013, <http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2184727/Chinese-TV-iPartment-ripping-Friends.html&gt;.

Tay, J and Turner, G 2008, ‘What is Television? Comparing Media Systems in the Post-Broadcast Era’, Media International Australia, no.126, pp 71-81.

Voltmer, K 2008, ‘Comparing media systems in new democracies: East meets South meets West’, Central European Journal of Communication, vol. 1, no. 1, pp 23-40.

Race and the media: the struggle with representation and why ‘blackface’ is never going to be funny

Following on from my last post about gender in the media, particularly focusing on the representation of women and stereotypes, it is important to discuss the issues of race and representation. The problem of accurately portraying different races in the media is ongoing. What is an accurate representation? How do we know what is ‘typically Asian’ or ‘typically Arabic’? Is there even such a thing as a holistic image of these groups? Why try and achieve such an image? There are so many questions that can be asked when it comes to race and the media, and they all have complex answers. This blog post will focus on one: What influences the media in the images they choose to represent a particular race?

The media is often heavily influenced by our historical relationship with various countries when representing different races and ethnicities. Take the relationship between society, particularly American society, with Arabs and Muslims, since 9/11. Alsultany (2013) noted that since the act of terrorism occurred, representation of these groups in media have been a balancing act between positive and negative images, that result in ‘simplified complex representations’ (Alsultany, 2013) – predictable characters, that have a deeper significance in the way they portray the complex historical relationship between the Western world and the fear of the Middle Eastern ‘terrorist’. Yet these balanced images can aid the recent history of discrimination and stereotyping that has occurred in Western culture against Arabs and Muslims. The TV show 24 is an example of how Arabs and Muslims have been portrayed as the ‘good guy’, helping out the US counter terrorism unit (Alsultany, 2013). The image of the Arab or Muslim ‘terrorist’ is by no means rid of in media, but the media is definitely becoming more inclined to a variety of representations.

Yet there are still many problems with racism in the media that we are struggling to get rid of. The issue of ‘blackface’ comedy as entertainment is something that crops up every so often when a TV show, film, or other media, accidentally think that enough time has passed to make a joke about dressing in ‘blackface’. In an article from 2009, Melanie Mahony commented on the Hey Hey It’s Saturday Jackson 5 skit, which left many shaking their heads in disgust. Mahony (2009) pointed out that the history of ‘blackface’ entertainment in both American and Australian history represented black people as dim-witted and evil. This degrading history is something that is difficult to forget, and indeed should not be forgotten, because every so often someone slips up and we are reminded of black slavery in America, or the stolen generations in Australia, and realise that it is never going to be funny.

Even if a blackface skit is intended to be completely innocent and light-hearted, can it really be shrugged of as such? It is easy to say yes when you’re not the centre of the joke. A white person might say ‘How come whiteface comedy is never condemned as racist?’ But as we can see, there is more to it than that. If white people had the same history of degradation and ridicule in media, that reflected the way they were viewed in society, they would be singing a different song. And so, movies like White Chicks are acceptable, but roles such as that played by Robert Downey Jnr in Tropic Thunder, are not.

 

References:

Alsultany, E 2013, ‘Arabs and Muslims in the Media after 9/11: Representational Strategies for a “Postrace” Era’. American Quarterly, Vol. 65 No. 1 <http://muse.jhu.edu/journals/american_quarterly/v065/65.1.alsultany.html >

Mahony, M 2009, ‘What’s all the fuss about “blackface”?’ Crikey, <http://www.crikey.com.au/2009/10/08/crikey-clarifier-whats-allthe-fuss-about-blackface/ >

 

So close, yet so far: Gender stereotypes in TV drama

Gender stereotypes and the media are two concepts that are constantly crossing over. Media is our main source of representation for different groups, and the stereotypes we might find ourselves recognising each day ultimately come from the images we are fed in the news, in film, on the radio, and many other mediums.

We might not think much of it at the time – often it can be quite humourous, perhaps because deep down we know it’s not the entire truth. But such generalisations about groups within society can also be damaging, and create unrealistic and limiting expectations of those groups.

The representation of women in the media is an ongoing debate. When we watch a TV show that features women in key roles, we might not think much of their characters at the time. In 2012, Maureen Ryan and Jace Lacob from the Huffington Post had an interesting conversation about HBO’s drama ‘The Newsroom’. Ryan points out that ‘many scenes involve men setting women straight, men supervising women, a man teaching a woman how to use email…’ (Ryan & Lacob, 2012). It seems quite far-fetched when you think about it. Here are supposedly accomplished female reporters, getting confused over technology that many would say their grandmother can even operate. Ryan also comments that the men are often presented as the ‘hero’ that saves the woman (Ryan & Lacob, 2012). Although this discussion is centred on characters represented in works of Aaron Sorkin, it is easy to make similar connections in other TV shows.

Take the series Homeland for example. Whilst on the face of it, it would appear that Clare Danes’ main character Carrie is the strong leading woman. But her character’s strength is played down by the fact that she is dependent on medication and therapy for her bi-polar mental condition.

Eliana Dockterman wrote in an article that even the strongest female characters in TV all have one weakness – men (Dockterman, 2013). From Olivia Pope’s affair with the president in Scandal, Carrie Mathison’s obsession with Brody in Homeland, Emily Thorne’s childhood crush in Revenge and even Daenerys and her husband in Game of Thrones (Dockterman, 2013). All these strong women allow their emotional dependencies on certain men to cloud their judgement. Thus their characters are weakened.

Dockterman also notes that when the same plot device is used for male characters, the key difference is that these men are seen to be making sacrifices to protect the women in their lives (Dockterman, 2013). Once again, they are heroic, not weak and self-destructive.

Such portrayals as these fuel the stereotype of the ‘weak, emotional female’, and encourage ideas of the male ‘dominant’. Whilst media has come a long way in allowing women to play more key roles, there are still gender stereotypes at play that limit the development of female characters. Media needs to work on altering these stereotypes, not just with females in their lead roles, but other less prominent female characters. Media is the source of many of the gender stereotypes that are so prominent in society. More changes in media representation are needed if we want to make a change to gender ideas and values within society.

 

References:

Dockterman, E 2013, ‘TV’s Strongest Female Characters Share One Stupid Flaw: Supposedly empowered women are making terrible decisions because of men’, Time, 10 October, viewed 3 May, <http://entertainment.time.com/2013/10/10/tvs-strongest-female-characters-share-one-stupid-flaw/ >

Ryan, M & Lacob, J 2012, ‘’The Newsroom’: Women Problems Abound In Aaron Sorkin’s HBO Series’, Huffington Post, 7 February, viewed 28 April, < http://www.huffingtonpost.com/maureen-ryan/the-newsroom-women-aaronsorkin-

hbo_b_1641982.html >

 

 

 

 

Subliminal messages in the film “Oblivion”

Subliminal messages in the film “Oblivion”

You probably thought the film Oblivion starring Tom Cruise was just another sci-fi film portraying the futuristic dystopia that many directors have attempted to create before. It is one of many films that portrays what life might be like after humans render Earth uninhabitable and destroy virtually everything. I personally didn’t think much of it when I watched it for the first time, although I do remember thinking at the end that this film conveyed “surveillance gone too far” and “rise of the machines” messages.

But this article by Jason Di Rosso takes an interesting view. He points out the films underlying fear of drone warfare, particularly relevant given Obama’s plans to introduce drones into civilian airspace. Di Rosso notes the film reflects the “uneasy peace” that we are presently experiencing.

Di Rosso concludes “Oblivion seems to suggest that if you look hard enough in any post-war period you will find the seeds of the next conflict.”, suggesting there will always be a certain uneasiness in times of peace, or perceived peace, as technology and society advance to produce new mechanisms for war and terror.

This film ultimately communicates present discourses on techno-phobia in relation to the war on terror, and in a broader context, is an interesting metaphor of human fragility.

The “Disruption” of Journalism – What It Really Means

Before reading this post, watch these two videos:
The first is an interview with NYT’s David Carr and Bloomberg Media’a Any Lack, conducted by Tom Fielder from Boston University. The second is a TED talk presented by Tim Rosenstiel.
Each of these provide interesting perspectives on the future of journalism in the age of new media.

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New York Times’ David Carr, and Bloomberg Media’s Andy Lack have a lot to say about the direction of journalism.

However they don’t seem to think there is any real concern. What is needed is simply for journalism to follow the direction new media is taking and adapt. ‘Convergence’ says Carr, is such that in 20 years time we will not be able to tell the difference between old forms of journalism and new media forms of journalism. The wider pool of resources available to journalists through news media necessarily means that they will need to adapt to technology in order to survive. The issue lies in finding the right business model that can work with new technologies. Carr argues that a starting point in achieving this is getting rid of the old styles of journalism education, and getting students involved in the making and distribution of news on new media platforms.

Is society however, developing shorter attention spans, and lacking the ability to think critically?

Carr and Lack don’t seem to think so. Whilst people in general aren’t encountering as much face-to-face communication, behaviour changes with the way content becomes available. It is to expected that with mobile technology, less face-to-face communication will occur. That is just the natural evolution of technology. As Carr says, it is a ‘worry’ that comes around every ten years or so when new technology emerges. It is a natural instinct to be concerned about the destruction of what has been the norm for so long.

But what of quality control?

“The important things will surface”

Carr seems to think that new media can be ‘self-cleaning’ – that people will naturally filter out what isn’t quality news, and seek what they know to be legitimate sources. Both Carr and Lack pointed out that new media is adopting old media tactics, such as hiring journalists and conducting field research. In a way, there is more opportunity to know what is good news, because of all the resources that are now available. An interesting article on the marketing potential for social media in hiring professional journalists was written a week and a half ago on getsocialeyes.com by user Brianne. She argues that journalists have a lot of skills that simply can’t be replaced.

Tim Rosenstiel’s TED talk also provides an interesting perspective on the future of journalism.

“This disruption holds the key to journalism’s reformation”

As Carr and Lack discussed, whilst the news room may appear to be shrinking, there is nevertheless more news out there. The traditional ‘gatekeeper’ roles have disappeared, and have been replaced by this concept of ‘open journalism’. Whilst this might be sending journalism into a state of financial shock, Rosenstiel argues that journalism simply needs to adopt to the new cycles of behaviour. With new media, comes new behaviours. No longer do people access news at only one or two points in the day. People are now accessing it at all times of the day, with a large peak period from when work ends, and further into the evening than before. Mobile devices mean we can access news during our travels, in bed, or on our lunch breaks.

“Journalism needs to know the rhythms of its audience”

People are still seeking out trusted sources – they’re just finding them in places they never used to exist. A level of selection still occurs when it comes to ‘good news’, but it is happening on the user’s end, not the creator’s. This is the essence of what Rosenstiel calls the shift from a “trust me era” to a “show me era”, where the “me” is no longer the media, but the audience. What journalism must do now, is adapt to this change and constantly feed society information that it can choose from. We have no become what Rosenstiel quotes as being a “bored in line culture”. People know they don’t have to be bored with technology at their fingertips, and so refuse to be. Journalism that adapts to new media can exploit this mentality.

There is a long way to go, but the future of journalism is on its way to finding the right model that works with the multitude of resources that are now available. Like the advent of the radio and the television, we will not see old forms of news distribution fade away – we will see them evolve into something better than they have ever been before.

Reading between the lines: when art and journalism converge

In my past blog posts, I have considered various emerging aspects of media which have posed challenges to the concept of journalism – Wikileaks, YouTube, Selfies, Reddit – the list goes on. The cultural public sphere is creating new ways for society to engage in discussion of current issues, and themselves create news content. This culminated in the question “what is the future of journalism”? The answer to that was, in summary, innovation. I would like to conclude this idea of where journalism is headed by developing the idea of aesthetic journalism, and how it can play a role in counteracting the effects of having what may be perceived as “too much information”.

Aesthetic journalism is the exploration of social, cultural and political issues expressed through various art forms which produce a more tangible experience for the audience (Cramerotti, 2011). The purpose is to evoke an emotive, thoughtful response in the viewer, rather than informing them of fact situations. It is a way of transforming meaning, of processing everyday lived reality in a variety of ways. Instead of simply absorbing information, the audience is encouraged to question the content put before them.

If we think about how journalism is evolving through user-generated information on a global scale, it is not so surprising to think that aesthetic journalism may have a larger role to play in giving audiences a more authentic experience of their world. Increased user participation means increased sources of information, which in turn means sources become less reliable. This may be an unintentional flow on effect of participatory media, but nevertheless it is the case that journalism needs an avenue of re-authenticating the news experience.

Much of this occurs within the space of exhibitions. From March to May 2014, a free exhibition titled “We Are Family” is on at the Australian Centre for Photography. In summary it is a collection of photos which challenge the idea of the “family”, and depict constructions of “family” from the perspective of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer contexts.Image

This exhibition carries strong messages on current issues facing society today. It causes the viewer to stop and absorb all the different perspectives, and question their own understanding of what family means. This is aesthetic journalism in practice. It comes at a time when such policy issues as gay marriage are constantly circulating in the media. Instead of simply throwing information out there about the GLBTIQ community, the exhibition creates a much more subtle and reflective experience of current issues. There is much knowledge to be gained from this exhibition, but it is for the viewer to tease out these ideas and give them meaning.

ImageA more localised example of aesthetic journalism was created by Melbourne artist Louise Lavarack in her display ”Triage” – a 30-year-old tree in Melbourne that was covered in cotton wool and gauze bandages to draw attention to the growing issue of tree vandalism in the area. This project brought to light an issue, which perhaps people were aware of, but did not really consider in depth. Whilst a news article on the growing number of vandalized trees might make people concerned or angry, this public display evokes an emotive response. It makes the individual pause for a moment and consider what the issue means for their community.

References:

Cramerotti, Alfredo, 2011, Aesthetic Journalism: How to Inform Without Informing, Intellect, London.

Image sources:

http://sydney.concreteplayground.com.au/event/184430/we-are-family-and-s-m-wonderland.htm

http://www.peterburke.com.au/news/2013/7/31/triage-the-bandaged-tree.html

Political messages in film

Political messages in film

Following on from my post on March 30th, this blog post I came across provides an interesting discussion on the topic of the public sphere in relation to political messages in media. The focus here is on film. This blog post looks at a recent film, which I will also be looking at in my research – Olympus Has Fallen.

Journalism: out with the old, in with the new

The line between journalism and its audiences is becoming more and more blurred (Domingo et al. 2008). This has been the message coming across over the past couple of weeks in BCM310 as we have looked at the various challenges to journalism, such as Wikileaks, Youtube, the Selfie, and the broader cultural public sphere in general. They are challenges, because they question the traditional models of communication society has been familiar with for so long. It is the every nature of communication however, that has allowed new mediums to emerge and flourish. Domingo et al have broken down the communication process into the categories of access and observation, selection and filtering, processing and editing, contribution, and interpretation (Domingo, et al. 2008). These processes are not necessarily occurring in a direct line. There may be points of repetition (Domingo et al. 2008), such as the selection and filtering process, and contribution, which may then revert back to observation. It goes on. The changes within these processes are arguably due to emerging technologies and new media forms. For journalism, this has meant that basic communication processes have become a complex web of interaction between journalists and audiences. This process has been coined ‘participatory journalism’ (Domingo et al. 2008) whereby users play an important role in generating media content.

So what does this mean for journalism?

Studies have shown that audiences are becoming increasingly fragmented as new media continues to grow (Pavlik 2013). This means that users are accessing a wider range of news sources. Popularity in traditional print media is dwindling as online news and advertising continues to grow (Pavlik 2013). Additionally, social media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter are enabling online news sources to reach out to their audiences from all directions.

In one word, the message coming across is ‘innovation’.

If journalists are looking for long-term sustainability, then they need to not only continue creating quality news content, but make the process more interactive, diverse and reach out across all the available platforms (Pavlik 2013). Without facilitating this convergence, journalism may not survive the digital age. However, as society continues to show its enthusiasm for news, it is vital that journalists continue to provide quality content for their audiences in the most accessible way possible. This calls for innovation.

It is interesting to note that participatory journalism has also led to the ‘unbundling’ of news. Specialist news sites are continuing to emerge which focus on a particular interest area. This may appeal to users more as they can be more selective about the content they receive.

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Have a look at WellBeing magazine’s website. One of the most successful and popular lifestyle magazines in Australia, it now reaches audiences through an iPad and mobile application, Facebook, Twitter, Blogs, online articles and an optional e-newsletter.

 

References:
Pavlik, John V, 2013, “Innovation and the Future of Journalism”, Digital Journalism, vol. 1, no. 2, pp. 181-93.
Domingo, D, Quandt, T, Heinonen, A, Paulussen, s, Singer, J B & Vujnovic, M 2008, Journalism Practice, vol 2, no. 3, pp. 326-342.