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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:

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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.

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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.

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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]  

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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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Theory/Praxis – [.hegemony.equals.media.]

When I read the description for this week’s blog, I truthfully had no idea what those three terms in the brackets meant before actually writing. Ideology, hegemony, and media literacy were all new to me. I had heard these words in my days, but there would be no way that I could give you an understanding of them, because I didn’t really get them myself. This led me to the World Wide Web!

After learning briefly about all three, as well as other media themes, it was hegemony that triggered the most interest in me. The very first thing that I learned was that hegemony was involved with Marxism, meaning it involved some kind of idea with a theoretical basis for the struggle of the working class, all in hopes to arrive at a higher form in society. The term was coined by Antonio Gramsci who claimed to focus on human subjectivity. [1] He was finding patterns and links to figure out why the majority of one social class has dominance over others.

The interesting thing about Gramsci’s theory was that it didn’t only concentrate on dominance alone, but leaned more to the side of assimilation. This doesn’t just mean how the government is run, money is spent, or clothes are worn by the different classes. It refers to how the dominant class, slowly casts its perception of the world on everyone else, eventually becoming the norms of the society, and being seen as ‘common sense’ and ‘natural.’[2] When we look at the United States “melting pot” country, we are headed down the right path.

Not only in the United States is this happening though. Maybe Canada as a country isn’t as patriotic or robotic as the States, but if you take one look into our media culture, we are just alike. Media is a practice for everyone, because it isn’t one specific thing. It knows what all ages like, and what it will take for all ages to use. Whether it be that new straightening iron I bought off the Shopping Channel, or my weekly catch-up on my favourite TV show Gossip Girl, our society is blending as one.   

I found a cool quote in Mythologies, which is actually referring to myths themselves. However, I am going to take this quote and replace the word myth with media. “…[media] hides nothing. Its function is to distort, not to make disappear. There is no latency of the concept in relation to the form: there is no need of an unconscious in order to explain [media].”[3] (Barthes 121) I really do think this explains the secrecy behind media. Media is just there. I wake up to my mediated radio alarm clock, slip into some mediated choice of clothes, text on my mediated cell phone, and go to class watching and listening about how media has me running in circles. As hegemony explains, whether or not the society likes it, or even realizes it, people’s norms begin to change to what they most dominantly are surrounded by.

I have discovered that the topic of hegemony has a world of its own on the Web, branching off on comics, disputes and debates, and even fires toward the US Government. Hegemony and media come hand in hand because they will forever be part of our ‘accepted’ society. Gramsci noted that “common sense is not something rigid and immobile, but is continually transforming itself” (Gramsci, cited in Hall 1982: 73).[2]

This was just an interesting ‘board game’ I found based around hegemony. Take a look, you may find something funny, but so true. I know I did. J 

[1] Cuneo, Carl. “14 Major Issues or Dimensions or Meanings of Hegemony.” Hegemony In Gramsci’s Original Prison Notebooks. Oct 6. 2008 <http://socserv2.mcmaster.ca/soc/courses/soc2r3/gramsci/gramheg.htm&gt;

[2] Chandler, Daniel. “Gramsci and Hegemony.” Marxist Media Theory. Apr. 10 2000. Oct. 6 2008 <http://www.aber.ac.uk/media/Documents/marxism/marxism10.html&gt;

[3] Barthes, Roland. Mythologies. New York. 1972.

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