Archive for My Thoughts

Activist Project – [.turning.out.the.lights.on.the.past.]

What’s up mass comm. class? I know we all have the same feeling right now. Yahoo! This is the last academic blog I will have to write… well for this semester anyhow. But do you know what I JUST realized as I was about to get into my “Activist Project” blog disccussion? I have come full circle in this class. My media autobiography at the beginning of the semester was a “magazine” revolving around the daily damage we do to the environment. Driving to school and using plastic coffee cups were both discussed in my 1 minute presentation to all you bloggers. I have done a lot of reading, a semiotics paper, and 12 blogs inbetween, all leading right back to the environment.

Remember how people used to believe that the earth was the centre of the universe (geocentrism), well they were somewhat correct. Instead, I think it should be called “kosmoscentric” the word “kosmo” in Greek, meaning “people”. It seems like this world revolves around the interest of humans, and our short-term selfish wants.    

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Mr. George Stroumboulopoulos, past graduate of Humber College, has his own little activist project going on right now. We have always heard that one small act makes a difference, and George is challenging us Canadians. He wants everyone to participate in One Million  Acts of Green. What is an act of green you ask? Well, it “is an opportunity to help the environment” by “reducing your greenhouse gas emissions.”[1] People who claim they don’t care about the environment are:

a.   selfish (of other people’s future)

b.   scared (of what might happen, so they choose to ignore)

c.   uninformed (honestly don’t know the seriousness)    

d.   all of the above

If you don’t understand George’s message from me telling you, listen to him yourself! J

[2]

As you saw in the video, there were a good amount of little green dots with different pictures in each, kind of looking like this:

week-13-small-acts1

Each picture represents a different act that you can do. Let’s go through these eight examples together:

(1)     Air-dry clothes

(2)     Carpool

(3)     Caulk drafty areas

(4)     Check your tire inflation

(5)     Clean or replace your furnace filter every season

(6)     Clean the fridge coils once a year

(7)     Do laundry in cold water

(8)     Don’t idle

What do you think the two things I always have in my car are? No, not my sunglasses or my Highschool Musical 3 CD. It’s post-it notes and a pen. Sure, they come in handy if someone cuts me off and I have to get down their plate, but I use it so that I can write notes and stick them on other cars. If someone runs inside and leaves their car idling, I’ll write a kind note along the lines of, “You’re idling car in the middle of the parking lot is killing the environment… not to mention blocking traffic. Please refrain from doing this again. Have a fabulous day. J I love it too when I happen to catch their reaction after reading the note. It’s usually a “how dare someone do this?” pissed off kind of look. A bit of a hypocritical move on their side I say.  

People are getting frustrated by petty “environmental laws” that are being passed, which take 5 years to even be considered at in the first place. I couldn’t have said it better myself, so I didn’t: “Now that we’ve re-appointed a government whose policies represent a significant threat to environmental issues, our individual efforts are even more crucial in making our community a little – or a lot – greener.”[3]

Noam Chomsky reminds us that “If our minds were blank slates… we would be very impoverished indeed.”[4] Activist groups are very important because they bring emotions from the heart, and introduce them to other people’s heads. They are able to move away from the  mainstream focus of culture, and look at the picture as a whole. I am looking at my surroundings right now and see my laptop, TV, and light all on. I am blogging at 1:44am. Do I really need to be wasting that much electricity? I think not! I am taking part in George’s OMAOG right now. I am going to turn off my light and shut off my TV. Ready? ……I’m standing up………I’m going now………………DONE! I did my part. Now do yours too! Peace out bloggers. Stay smart, cause I know y’all are! J   

[1] One Million Acts of Green. CBC. 26 Nov. 2008 <http://green.cbc.ca/whatisaog.aspx&gt;.

[2] One Million Acts of Green – George. 29 Oct. 2008. YouTube. 26 Nov. 2008 <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cv9qv0qhpjo&gt;.

[3] The Hour’s One Million Acts of Green. 20 Oct. 2008. BlogTO. 26 Nov. 2008 <http://www.blogto.com/environment/2008/10/the_hours_one_million_acts_of_green/&gt;.

 [4] Manufacturing Consent. Perf. Noam Chomsky. 1992.

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Culture Jamming – [.providing.relief.on.smoky.times.]

Culture jamming is a hard term to grasp at first, even though we are surrounded by it day to day. We see it on billboards, street signs, in emails, and even in videos. Companies thrive off of culture jamming, because the citizens love to see it and feel it. The raw way of putting this jamming is “media hacking, information warfare, terror-art, and guerrilla semiotics, all in one.”[1]

There are different types of culture jamming as well. [2] The first type is commercial which is probable the most well-known type. This type of jamming includes creative ads that are targeted at specific over-consuming societies. The ads can go both ways, aiming at either the consumer or the company. They usually want to get a message out on what and why people buy the specific product.

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The second type is political which is less common than commercial, but still just as powerful. Political culture jams generally play on items that people normally wouldn’t take a double look at. Both sidewalks and street signs are favourites for subtly changing their meanings, giving them a clever look and message.  They usually revolve around ongoing issues, or newly developed complaints.

week-11-2-war-stop-sign1

The third and final type is social which is playful in nature and target society in general. Being satirical about a wide range of topics can either be within a town or within a country. They poke fun at little stupid things, as well as expose big names in a comical way. They make us rethink reality and the type of place we live in. They let us smirk, maybe tell a friend, and go on with our chaotic lives.

week-11-3-santa1

As clearly described by Lessig, “creative work has value”[3] and culture jammers take these pre-made works, and add some kind of flare to it, giving it that imaginative touch. However, when bad habits are injected into the society and made part of the daily lifestyle, it leaves a wide open door for poking fun. Eating at McDonald’s or buying Nike shoes can easily be discussed when it comes to culture jamming. But when a daily habit occurs that literally drains the pocket and gives you cancer… now we have something. Smoking has been part of societies since 2000BC and was heavily brought into the media’s eye around the early 1900s.

As the years went on, we began to understand the true side effects of smoking, and the hazards they pose on our bodies. Cigarettes are now ‘hidden’ in convenient stores and warnings are placed on the boxes to prevent purchases. However, cigarette sales still continue to boom. This only leads those who care for our bodies to jump on the jamming train. Subjects such as cigarettes are easy targets because they are “aimed at exposing questionable political assumptions behind commercial culture.”[4]  

week-11-camel-smoking1

Funny one by Ron English for sure! But then we see a commercial like this, and it only makes us question how bad it really was back then.

 [5]

No doubt about it, whether intended or not, ads around smoking have dramatically changed. There are so many spoofs off of anti-smoking commercials that my blog could be listed with videos off of youtube. If you are really interested, check out “funny anti-smoking ads” on YouTube; some of them are pretty good. All in all, what Ian says doesn’t always click right away, but after a bit of research, he makes sense in my books! No questions asked I definitely understand his point of “radically changing the intended message.” Gooooooo culture jamming!  

[1] Dery, Mark. Culture Jamming: Hacking, Slashing and Sniping in the Empire of Signs. 10 Oct. 2004. 25 Nov. 2008 <http://www.markdery.com/archives/books/culture_jamming/&gt;.

 

[2] 3 Kinds of Culture Jamming. WebUrbanist. 25 Nov. 2008 <http://weburbanist.com/2007/10/08/culture-jamming-political-commercial-and-social-signs-of-our-times/&gt;.

 

[3] Lessig, Lawrence. Free Culture: The Nature and Future of Creativity. New York: Penguin (Non-Classics), 2005. 18.

 

[4] Culture Jamming. CCCE. 25 Nov. 2008 <http://depts.washington.edu/ccce/polcommcampaigns/culturejamming.htm&gt;.

 

[5] Flinstones Winston cigarettes commercial. 30 Mar. 2006. YouTube. 25 Nov. 2008 <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mzvhiiwfbbu&gt;.

 

 

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Buy Nothing Day – [.or.continue.to.kill.the.earth.and.your.wallet.]

week-10-us-corporate-flagI couldn’t find a better way to start this blog off than that picture. Sure there were some neat clips about consumer consumption and some informative videos about large corporations, but this picture just sums it all up. I don’t want to make Canada look innocent here either; this was just a very clever way of portraying North Americans.   

Ever since we were little kids, we wanted an allowance so that we could buy the things we wanted. Our parents gave us everything we needed, but we still insisted on having more. Very few teenagers today have a job to invest in their future but have one so that they can purchase the newest crazes and most up to date gadgets. Malls are never found empty, and outlet centers are always packed. How is it that no matter the occasion, we find a reason to whip out the plastics and start shopping? The problem is that “real wealth is not a sufficient lien to guarantee the staggering outstanding debt.”[1] Banks give us a false hope with credit cards because we are spending money we technically don’t have. That is only one step into why consumer debt has sky-rocketed.  

Buy Nothing Day “is a day to just stop shopping.”[2] It seems like an easy concept to follow. Come on, 365 days of the year, and we still can’t put aside one day and find something better to do? Of course, big brand stores don’t support this 16-year tradition, but why would they? This only turns people away from purchasing into their name and buying their un-needed products. Buy Nothing Day is made to inform the public about: week-10-points-1-21

 

The interesting thing about Buy Nothing Day is that it “falls on the day after the American Thanksgiving,”[3] meaning there will be huge blowout sales everywhere. Just like in photoshopped magazine covers, the eye is easily fooled. We are immediately drawn to items that have a huge sale sign above them, even if those weren’t our initial shopping list items. Consumer adviser Clark Howard says, “If you just go by what the advertising says, you’ll be totally misled.”[4] Shopping has become a hobby for most people, meaning their homes are cluttered with unneeded things.

I love it when I walk into a store and see something completely pointless and hideous. Whether it is a toy or an outfit, you can find a few of these items in any store. Then by looking at the price tag of these useless things, they usually get put over the top. The creator of the Hello Kitty Hell website agrees by saying it is “truly amazing the crap that people are willing to buy and how much they are willing to pay for it.”[2]

This video made me laugh because of what happens, but it has a bit of more meaning behind it as well.

[5]

 

Did you see all those shopping carts? IN ONE LOAD! That’s insane! Also, these were new shopping carts meaning more than the hundred or so they have already were needed. It is just shocking to see the amount of buggies stores have. Now imagine every single item that gets placed into those buggies on a daily basis. Also, something to keep in mind is how often food is being thrown out because it went moldy at the back of the fridge or frozen foods being tossed because they are frost bitten from being in there so long. Yet somehow, we are still able to look in the fridge and yell, “Mom, there’s nothing to eat in this house!”   

Feel free to watch this quick video before reading on. [6]

I liked this video quite a bit because when we look at ourselves, we really are rats running around in circles. We are told that happiness is just around the corner and so is Wal-Mart. No matter the season or the sale we purchase, and purchase some more. Some people feel that Buy Nothing Day has no effect because people just go back to their old habits the following day. However, it is more of a day to inform, and hopefully inspire others to calm down on the purchases in the future. Some people feel “Rather than tak[ing] my money out of the marketplace for the day, I’ll get a fair trade coffee at a locally owned shop [or] pick up a few Christmas gifts made by independent artists and crafters,”[7] which is totally acceptable as well. Shop smart!  

[1] The Crisis. 19 Nov. 2008. Adbustures. 24 Nov. 2008 <http://www.adbusters.org/magazine/81/the_crisis.html&gt;.

[2] Celebrate Buy Nothing Day (no purchase necessary). Greenliving. 24 Nov. 2008 <http://www.greenlivingonline.com/business/celebrate-buy-nothing-day-no-purchase-necessary/&gt;.

[3] Buy Nothing Day. Media Awareness Network. 24 Nov. 2008 <http://www.media-awareness.ca/english/resources/educational/teachable_moments/buy_nothing_day_tm.cfm&gt;.

[4] Dratch, Dana. Is that store’s sale really a sale? MSN. 24 Nov. 2008 <http://articles.moneycentral.msn.com/savinganddebt/consumeractionguide/isthatstoressalereallyasale.aspx&gt;.

[5] A Day In The Life Of A Target Employee. 23 Oct. 2008. YouTube. 24 Nov. 2008 <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=acWfossz1rc&gt;.

[6] Rat Race (live more!). 17 July 2008. YouTube. 24 Nov. 2008 <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X4OPFl2Kxhs&gt;.

[7] Why I Shop on Buy Nothing Day. 24 Nov. 2006. The Tyee. 24 Nov. 2008 <http://thetyee.ca/views/2006/11/24/bnd/&gt;.

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Net Neutrality – [.equalizing.us.all.]

Net neutrality was a term known by maybe one or two of the 95 of us in class. After the 1st week of discussion about it, we understood what companies were trying to do. By the 2nd week, we were furious by what this meant to our access on the internet. And by the 3rd week, this term came up in my Internet Survey & Research class. When Bernie asked our class, “So who here has heard about net neutrality?”, about half the class snickered as we remembered the lectures and videos that we were shown in our Mass Comm class. Bernie was surprised we knew so much, and happy that we seemed passionate about the topic. I think Ian would be surprised to see how much we actually took from these net neutrality lessons, realizing “we take a lot for granted”.[1]

We think back to the early 1900s and see how controlled their life was. They had social classes, dress codes, and society rules enforced by law. We watch movies from this time and seem to think life back then was so strict and reserved. Then we come back to what we have now in the 21st century, and think we have so much freedom. Little do we realize, our lives today are more controlled than ever before.  

Simply put, we understand that “everybody’s website gets the same speed and quality,”[2] meaning every person has equal rights on the Internet. No matter who you are, or what service provider you use, your access to sites is exactly the same. The elimination of net neutrality would be like allowing only certain people into the library to read books, or others into an arcade to play games. It is a shame to think that these network providers will be deciding what “Web sites go fast or slow and which won’t load at all.” [1] The internet is known as “content that is streamed to the user when the user demands” [3] but is slowly losing that meaning as net neutrality becomes a more serious issue day after day.

If we lose net neutrality, big companies like AT&T, Bell, Time Warner and Verizon will “use their power to control your internet connection by degrading or blocking access to other providers.”[4] What seems like a valid reason for these companies to restrict who uses what sites on the Internet? All I have to say is: MONEY. To me, eliminating the same access for everyone is what cable companies have already done in the US. As of February, cable companies “will stop broadcasting on analog airwaves and begin broadcasting only in digital.”[5] This means that you have to purchase the digital boxes, along with what package you want. Depending on what you like, decides what package you buy. The same thing will happen with the Internet. You will have different packages to purchase through certain providers, depending on if you use the internet for online banking, email, Facebook, games and so on. Companies love money in their pockets, and this is another opportunity for them to jump on.     

Myself, along with any sane person who uses the internet, and is not part of one of the major phone and cable companies, hope net neutrality is here to stay. The internet was a fabulous invention that was created for everyone. J.C.R Licklider had a vision of creating a “galactic network” in the early 60s, which is what the internet has become. He saw his idea as “the greatest boon to scientific and technical communication, and to the teaching and learning of science and technology, since the invention of writing on a flat surface.”[6] I couldn’t agree more, and the idea of the Internet being taken away from me is something I don’t want to imagine. We are definitely weaving ourselves into one tangled web.

[1] Frequently Asked Questions. Save the Internet. 24 Nov. 2008 <http://savetheinternet.com/=faq&gt;.

 

[2] Save the Internet! 18 Dec. 2006. YouTube. 24 Nov. 2008 <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cwt0xuocvie&gt;.

 

[3] Lessig, Lawrence. Free Culture: The Nature and Future of Creativity. New York: Penguin (Non-Classics), 2005.

 

[4] Net Neutrality. 21 Apr. 2006. YouTube. 24 Nov. 2008 <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l9jhon0ew8u&gt;.

 

[5] The Digital TV Transition. 14 Nov. 2008. Federal Communications Commision. 24 Nov. 2008 <http://www.dtv.gov/&gt;.

 

[6] Relevant History.” Weblog post. Quote of the Day. 24 May 2007. 24 Nov. 2008 <http://askpang.typepad.com/relevant_history/2007/05/quote_of_the_da.html&gt;.

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Media Hegemonies/Mapping Who Owns What – [.GE.stays.in.the.fight.]

Here I am, reading the back of my ‘Red Lobster’ gift card, “it may also be used at…” naming off other restaurants owned by GMRI. This of course followed my drive home today to see ‘The Barn’ grocery store sign gone, and ‘The Dominion’ replaced by ‘Metro.’ What is going on? How the heck are all these small businesses being bought out and owned by one huge corporation? All we know is that these corporations somehow “shape and control the opinions we hear.” [1]

 As a fan of My Big Fat Greek Wedding, I know that you can take any word and find its Greek roots. In this case, hegemony relates back to the Greek verb “to lead.” As discussed in previous blogs, we know that hegemony refers to the power of a single group that essentially leads and dictates the other groups of the same society. [2] When I say it like this, hegemony definitely seems like a communist kind of living, but it isn’t necessarily like that. I am referring to the control of the media, and how there are certain influences on what shows get aired and cancelled, what magazines pictures are too provocative, and even the censoring of certain movies. The interesting thing is that it is often the same company making the important decisions with the same reasons and biases. How is possible for one company to gain so much power?   

When someone talks about General Electric (GE), I immediately think home appliances. HA! Little did I know, GE is an enormous corporation with a huge amount of power. They have many products and are part of services that never seemed imaginable for a company that combined with Thomas Edison’s company way back when. I like charts, so I created one just to show how involved GE is with the world, even for a United States run business. [3] 

GE

My chart only touched the surface of all the GE owned businesses. Check out this awesome site to see a long list of GE holdings, as well as a timeline of the corporation up to 2003. (http://www.cjr.org/resources/?c=ge)

In the world, GE is ranked as thirteenth for companies with the greatest market capitalization. Funny thing, they actually ranked third closer to the beginning of 2008. [4] Interesting how certain companies rise and fall like that! *snaps fingers* Losing a high rank is sometimes as easy as it was to gain. But with all these corporations being multi-owners, it really takes away from the “diversity of editorial voices in the same market.”[5] It’s like having 4 group members. They may all contribute equally and have great ideas, but the louder and more popular group member will gain the attention and even more popularity. The same idea applies for cross media ownership.    

The idea of all these companies trying to make it to the top has to do with the ‘rip, mix, burn’ theory proposed by Lessig. [6] Companies know what the public wants. The only thing that determines the difference is the way of delivering their findings. They rip the culture around them, mix their ideas into something new and creative, then burn it into the culture the best they can. Cultures all around the world get involved, even if the media isn’t actually going on in that country. In China, teens spoke against “the Western Goebbels’ Nazi media” because of the supposed distortion in the Western’s coverage of a certain event. [7] All in all, if you watch one news station, or only read one newspaper, you’re not getting the news. You are merely getting the facts in the way they want to be heard.

[1] Manufacturing Consent. Perf. Noam Chomsky. 1992.

 

[2] Ellis-Christensen, Tricia. What is Hegemony? 2003. WiseGEEK. 17 Nov. 2008 <http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-hegemony.htm&gt;.

 

[3] Media Giants: Who owns what? July 2004. Think & Ask. 17 Nov. 2008 <http://www.thinkandask.com/news/mediagiants.html&gt;.

 

[4] Stock Screener. Nov. 2008. Yahoo! Finance. 17 Nov. 2008 <http://screen.yahoo.com/b?mc=100000000/&b=1&z=mc&db=stocks&vw=1&gt;.

 

[5] CRTC imposes cross-media ownership restrictions. 15 Jan. 2008. CBC News. 17 Nov. 2008 <http://www.cbc.ca/money/story/2008/01/15/crtc.html&gt;.

 

[6] Lessig, Lawrence. Free Culture: The Nature and Future of Creativity. New York: Penguin (Non-Classics), 2005. 24.

 

[7] Students rap media ‘hegemony’ 26 Mar. 2008. CHINAdaily. 17 Nov. 2008 <http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/china/2008-03/26/content_6565420.htm&gt;.

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Fake News – [.it.isnt.all.bad.]

In a couple of my classes, professors are constantly explaining that news has become entertainment. The 6 o’clock and 11 o’clock news are merely programs entered into our long list of TV watching for the night. News might as well be made up because it has limited long-lasting effects on us. No matter what form you are getting your news it is laid out in the same basic ways in order to keep us coming back. Newspapers are surrounded by interesting real estate ads, while TV news headlines are only followed by funny phone commercials. How can news be taken seriously if our mind is constantly jumping back and forth from horror news story, to everyday civilian life? We no longer question the ideas we are presented with because nothing can shock us in today’s generation. News has undoubtedly “threatened society’s sense of distinction between fact and fiction – of the real and unreal.” [1]  

“Few of us have a sense of how media works” [2] because we have no need to understand it. The only time people investigate the information they are given is when something seems altered. As long as news stays as entertainment, people are satisfied. As ‘Toxic Sludge’ explains case after case, people (AKA us), are constantly being conned into believing lies. Fake news is everywhere we look, because ads surround us no matter where we go. Billboards, TV commercials, newspapers, the Internet and the sides of buses all try to tell us something. However, “thanks to clever public relations [so many facts] simply haven’t been announced.” [3]

No one proves it better than Noam Chomsky when it comes to misinterpretations and the fake world we live in. He repeats, “We live in tangled webs of endless deceit,” [4] meaning we have no choice but to love what we are presented with. “People have the capacity to see through the deceit… but they don’t make the effort,” [4] especially with the idea of citizen journalism. Today, anyone can contribute to the media around them. Whether it be calling in to your favourite radio station, or sending your cell phone video into CityPulse, playing an active role in the process of collecting, reporting, analyzing and disseminating news and information is critical in today’s democracy. [5]

Lastly, no longer is ‘fake news’ a bad thing, for it has been taken to a whole other level. As I have referred to before, ‘The Onion’ has made big bucks off satirical news broadcasts. The topics range from sports, to entertainment, to political, just as the real news does. As a commuter to UGH, I got a good kick out of this ‘traffic solution’ from The Onion News Network. Enjoy.

 

 

[1] News as Entertainment and Entertainment as News – Forum Summary. 4 Mar. 1998. CCJ. 14 Nov. 2008 <http://www.concernedjournalists.org/node/332&gt;.

 

[2] Lessig, Lawrence. Free Culture: The Nature and Future of Creativity. New York: Penguin (Non-Classics), 2005. 36.

 

[3] Stauber, John, Sheldon Rampton, and Mark Dowie. Toxic Sludge Is Good for You! : Lies, Damn Lies and the Public Relations Industry. New York: Common Courage P, 1995. 178.

 

[4] Manufacturing Consent. Perf. Noam Chomsky. 1992.

 

[5] “We Media.” How audiences are shaping the future of news and information. 21 Sept. 2003. The Media Centre. 14 Nov. 2008 <http://www.hypergene.net/wemedia/weblog.php&gt;.

 

[6] “The Onion News Article.” Tired Of Traffic? A New DOT Report Urges Drivers: ‘Honk’ The Onion News Network. 14 Nov. 2008 <http://www.theonion.com/content/index&gt;. 

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[.internet.beef.]

Haha. Could you imagine? This just made me laugh. That’s it. J

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