Digital Disruption & Chill

So, I’m guessing we all know who this guy is. He’s obviously netflix. How though has this handsome streaming service changed our lives and, more importantly, what does it indicate for the future of media?

First up, let’s talk about the ‘digital disruption’. If you’ve never encountered the phrase before, essentially it refers to the fundamental industrial, economic and social shift we are experiencing from the physical to the digital. Simple, right? Only not only does digital disruption refer to the elimination of physical necessity in intangible products, it also applies to digitisation of processes resulting in a physical effect (Willis, 2015 p. 22). Complicated and long winded explanation you say? I like to make things sound more complicated then they are to seem smarter, if you hadn’t noticed. Chill.

Basically all it is the elimination of physical necessities in the distribution of goods and services. The netflix example is a simple one when compared with its predecessors, physical film distribution networks. Not only is Netflix replacing the physicality that was the local video store, but digital distribution and streamer services are replacing the physical medium we previously used to transport media. VCRs, DVDs and even BluRays will eventually succumb to a digitally disrupted world where a physical copy of something is entirely redundant.

Though the same process, the disruption applies slightly differently to traditionally safe sectors outside the media industry. The rise of Uber is a key example of the elimination of the need for physical ownership. Previously, cab companies had to own the car and employ a driver. Digital disruption has allowed the company to bypass the physical necessity, in this case a car, and rely on what is essentially the subcontract of both (Everett, 2016, p. 20).

That’s how Netflix is changing the rules in regard to physicality and distribution. What is most interesting about Netflix, though, isn’t just it’s cunning elimination of the physical, but it’s emergence from solely distribution to production as well. Though not a digital one, this move is incredibly disruptive in of itself. Netflix, with its phenomenally successful original programming like House of CardsOrange is the New Black and Daredevil, has simplified the production process of entertainment media. As well,  the economic success of Netflix and it’s original content has proven the concept for future production/distribution of entertainment, making the future domination of entertainment by a few, digitally based, producer/distributor companies a distinct possibility.

What then, happens to the old dominators of the media landscape? Well, dear reader, I don’t have the word count to do a long winded explanation that makes me seem more smarterer, so I’ll put it simply. The old dominators that relied on the physical have adapted too, but have not shied away from the physical. Instead, they have found a new home in what is, for now at least, one of the last, safe bastions of physical media necessity; specifically the management and ownership of communications infrastructure (McChesney, 2014, p. 69). Check that shit out, I strongly recommend it.

 

 

References

Everett, C 2016, ‘Disruption in the age of the digital business model’, Computer Weekly, pp. 18 – 22

McChesney, RW 2014, ‘The Global Media Giants’, Global Media Journal: Indian Edition, 5, 1, pp. 63-71,

Willis, P 2015, ‘Digital disruption: Our life-changing experience’, Access, 29, 3, pp. 22 – 24,

Crouching Coldplay, Hidden Tourism

I was never that into Coldplay. Not now, and certainly not back in 2002 when my Mum gave me a CD for Christmas. Admit it, Mum, A Rush of Blood to The Head was more for you than it was for me.

Moving on… This weeks topic, orientalism, is something that I’ve always held close. Edward Said was always an interesting character to me and orientalism was one of the first theories I learnt about and really engaged with at university.

Do I believe that Coldplay video was an orientalist perpetuation? Yes and no. Yes, it subscribed to a romanticist notion of the occident and yes, at least to some viewers, it will promote an orientalist perspective. On the other hand, if we are to believe the director, Adria Petty, the music video was meant to be an homage to Chinese martial arts film, specifically the grandiose, over-the-top aspects some of them boast. If the music video is indeed trying to invoke the image of chinese film, is it orientalist or is the film it references itself the example of orientalism? Most importantly, this leads to a further question; can a film perpetuate orientalist ideal if it is made in and by ‘the orient’?

As Kenneth Chan, working out of the University of North Dakota in asian film, wrote in 2004 on the orientalist appearance of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

“On the one hand, a kind of cultural nationalism lured Chinese viewers to root for the film… On the other hand, the films success evoked suspicion of stereotyping, exoticism, traditionalism and orientalism.”

Later, Chan would go on to conclude that the film could definitely be considered orientalist if seen alone, but the origin and creators of the film allowed it a proviso. If the film was meant for western audiences in order to exploit its orientalist image, then it was orientalist . But, and this is important, if the film was designed by the those it represented and was intended to propagate an accurate reflection of the creators culture, it wasn’t (Chan, 2004, p. 15).

More research on the topic produced more writing, interestingly not related exclusively to Chinese film but also a concerted economic effort. Chinese tourism adverts have been brought under an orientalist lense and found lacking. Specifically, a short film advert, ‘China Forever’, was found to auto-orientalise in order to make a holiday to china seem more appealing (Santos & Yan, 2009, p. 314). By the stressing orientalist factors like mysticism, romanticism and exoticism, Chinese tourists boards have appealed to the orientalist perceptions of western audiences. Though relatively harmless in itself, this practice undeniably perpetuates orientalism.

So, not only is orientalism rampant in main stream media, it does so as well in advertising media. Not only is orientalism perpetuated by the west, it is also possible to be propagated by those it seeks to dominate the image thereof.

And that’s what I learnt about today.

References

Chan, K 2004, ‘The Global Return of the Wu Xia Pian (Chinese Sword-Fighting Movie): Ang Lee’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon’, Cinema Journal , Volume 43, Issue 4,  pp. 3-1

Santos, C & Yan, G 2009, ‘“CHINA, FOREVER”: Tourism Discourse and Self-Orientalism’, Annals of Tourism Research, Volume 36, Issue 2, pp. 295–315

 

Controlling them Interwebs

I spend a fair amount of time on the interwebs. I am considered myself a level 9 crypto-wizard, with a 4.46 ppe on the meme scale, and that kid on the book was based on my image. So, as you’d  expect, I’m a little bit excited to be talking about the internet again. Specifically, I’m going to be talking about my least favourite forms of internet control.

Net Neutrality

Okay, so you’ve probably heard this phrase a couple hundred times. In case you’ve never encountered it, it’s essentially the idea that ISPs, and further governments, should not block, restrict or favour access to content. Though the implementation of anti-neutrality laws would mean that ISPs could restrict access to certain data, it also means that they could restrict data flow and essentially hold your bandwidth to ransom.

This found outrage, more than anywhere else, in the United States. In a post-GFC, corporately-aware America, the idea that exclusivity and market control would enter what was previously a relatively uncorrupted sector hit a nerve with very vocal sections of the American public (Metha, 2015); and even companies that made their fortune on the internet. In the end, net neutrality was defended, with very few concessions made, by the FCC in February 2015. Sweet, so that’s some comment about the economic freedom of the internet. What’s next?

Censorship

As I mentioned earlier, I’m one of the freakbags that inhabits the internet. As such, I am worried about the future. As the internet becomes both more mainstream and more powerful, I worry about the increasing focus there is on the internet, either justified or not, and it’s role. Because of this increasing power, I believe that eventually the internet will be restricted and limited. By god, I hope I’m dead by then.

Access to the internet allows you not just to access media, but to produce it and have it distributed en mass. Because of this duality, the internet is viewed by many of its users as the last free media platform in the world (Wiseman, 2015). In most western countries, anyway. What can be said of the Australian internet experience is completely different to that of the Chinese, Turkish and many others. Numerous countries around the world already hold tight control over the internet, making the imposition of internet restrictions in Australia, at least in concept, a possibility.

Surveillance

Who doesn’t love this guy?

Of course, government surveillance of media is nothing new. I’m sure it happens more than we are aware, as Snowden would attest, but what worries me most in the apparent move toward legislating and popularising internet surveillance in the public. Australia is already heading down a kinda awkward road, what with the whistle blower and blackout laws, but these things are to be expected. The real danger, I believe, lies with the likes of Brandis stirring public sentiment toward agreeing to surveillance. I long ago accepted that certain politicians would like to bring greater power, direct and through surveillance, to the state. What bothers me the most is that, at least in the Australian context, there is growing public support, manufactured or legitimate, for surveillance and internet control. That’s what scares me the most, rather than a government seeking restrictions and surveillance of its people, a people seeking to restrict and monitor themselves.

 

References

Mehta, A 2015, ‘Economics, Ethics, and Public Policy: Values in the U.S. Net Neutrality Debate’, International Journal Of Communication, 9, pp. 3460-3468

Weisman, DL 2015, ‘The Political Economy of Net Neutrality Regulation’, Economists’ Voice, 12, 1, pp. 13-18

 

Dinner.

This week, as I’m sure you’ll know, we’ve been focusing on animals and their portrayal in different forms of media. We saw animals from across the spectrum portrayed as uplifting protagonists in fiction and non-fiction, to damaged killers in dramatised documentaries. Then we watched that documentary about chickens and their admirers in the states. That shit was bonkers.

Now we’ve all had a good laugh remembering that particular portion of our university education, let’s talk about something quite a bit darker.

If you haven’t seen this documentary, 2005’s Earthlings, I strongly recommend it. If not for the surprisingly informative content about just how ingrained animal exploitation is in modern life, then at least to hear 90 minutes of Joaquin Phoenix speaking in a terrifying monotone. Of course, if you haven’t seen it or you don’t want to, let me summarise: death, sadness, dead animals, more death, screaming, horror, steak, ecological collapse, apocalypse.

I was shown this film by an evangelical vegan, originally a last ditch attempt to sway my pro-steak lifestyle. It didn’t work. That said, I do appreciate a great many things about the film, what it’s saying and how it is presented, regardless of whether I agree with it’s messages or aims. The first time I watched it, I watched it all the way through. Where the message was lost for me, though, was around the 3 minute mark. If you are going to watch the film, please watch from about 2 min 30 to 4 min 30 now. If you aren’t going to watch the film, please don’t watch this part exclusively. I’d hate to have you write off this whole film and its important message based entirely on one brief sample of it and my negative opinion.

Okay, hopefully you’ve seen what I’m about to talk about. When does an animal rights film go too far in its argument? I’d never really wondered about that until the first time I saw this film. I believe that in it’s attempted equivalence between the industrialization of animals and some of the worst crimes ever committed by and against humans, Earthlings damages its own cause and makes ridiculous, offensive comparisons. Footage of rape victims, beatings, Nazi rallies and executions are shown alongside footage of animals in farms and one particularly brutal slaughter of a pig to create an implied equality between the actions. I understand the point the filmmakers are trying to make, and I even understand their strong motivations for doing so, but not only do I reject that equality, I am offended by it.

This film, specifically the scenes I have discussed, are relevant to our class not just because they are ‘animals in media’, or whatever the topic is, but they feature the anthropomorphism that has been so central to our weeks study. In this case, at least from my personal perspective, this attempt at a sort of common suffering anthropomorphism has not only failed, but backfired. Instead of equating the two as the film intended, the empathy I have for the suffering of the human victim  was polarized against that of the animal victim, which I harbour less empathy towards.

Mine isn’t an isolated case either. As Canadian human rights scholar David MacDonnald (2006, p. 418) wrote on the failure of the comparison,

Ultimately however, campaigns to invoke an Animal Holocaust fail, ironically
for the very reason activists cite as the primary cause of animal suffering.
Most humans have an inability to empathize fully with nonhumans, especially
if empathy implies adopting forms of latent anti-Semitism (p. 418).

Harsh. You tell them David, you quotable devil, you.

Of course, the comparison isn’t there only to inspire empathy, but also to a point to inspire outrage. As I’ve mention in an earlier blog, offense can be easily manipulated not only to inspire action, but to promote a certain principle or notion. It’s possible, though a bit of a stretch, the film makers intended that comparison to stick in my mind and stay with me; which I admit it has. After all, some four or so years after seeing the film for the first time, I’m sitting here writing about the film, and the mere mention of animals in media has made me once again deeply ponder the ‘animal holocaust’.

What do you think? Yeah, you there, with the computer. Does the comparison go too far? Have you seen earthlings? What’d you think?

References

Evans, K 2014, ‘The Valorous, the Villainous and the Victimized: The Melodramatic Framework of Animal Rights Documentary”, Master of Arts, University of Akron, Akron, Ohio, USA

MacDonald, D 2006, ‘Pushing the Limits of Humanity? Reinterpreting Animal Rights and “Personhood” Through the Prism of the Holocaust’, Journal of Human Rights, vol. 5, issue 4, pp. 417-437

 

How to Save the World: Exploitation, Dead Children and Angelina

I don’t think of myself as extremely ‘patched in’. I watch, read and peruse a whole lot of news media, but I would never consider myself to be someone heavily involved in or aware of the global humanitarian situations. I can name a few current conflicts, send some spare change, recite a couple depressing figures and sigh at the latest reports like no one else, but I’ve never really immersed myself in one cause so much that I feel apart of a global reaction.

One of the most frustrating experiences I’ve ever had was slowly discovering that, at least in my immediate social circles, sentiment and individual activity for global humanitarian conditions are low even compared to my own relative inaction.

Conversations with friends or acquaintances, as they do, stray into the dangerous area of current affairs and the humanitarian crisis of the month. South Sudan, Syria, DRC, Hotline Bling, Typhoon Haiyan, even Australian refugee policy. People would have something interesting, poignant  and worthwhile to comment and I would drop one of those depressing figures. We’d agree shit was fucked and call it a day. Frequently, however, people would know nothing or very little about a topic. Workmates, friends and even the esteemed intelligentsia that make up UOW would have little care or interest for that topical tragedy. This, as I’m sure you would know, isn’t a result of ignorance. Though the media constantly displays the atrocity that man and nature commit and though the most complex and advanced communications system in the history of our world sits at our literal fingertips, we have embraced apathy.

This brings us to this weeks topic. Specifically, the question of whether it is ever appropriate to capture and display suffering. I’m going to argue that, in fact, much to the chagrin of some, the answer is a definitive “sometimes, sorta”. In some cases it is justifiable and in some others, it is not.

First, let’s address the claim that the portrayal of suffering, wherever you find it, is a form of exploitation. Even in the examples we observed in class, media was created specifically with a goal in mind, a goal that wouldn’t directly advance the individual subject of the example. Even the Jack Black example, by far the least exploitative example, does not specifically advance the individual child that Nacho Libre interviewed, rather promising wider systematic change. In the mean time, music, a talented, dim lighting and depressing music is used to create the most impacting video possible. Does that make it unethical?In an age of that apathy I mentioned earlier, it isn’t. To create motivation among a public that is already at least vaguely aware of a problem, an aggressive, emotional, individual based strategy is needed to stir action. Though exploitative, the focus on the individual is justified if it is intended to bring about action from the viewer. Were that video meant solely as entertainment or were fund raised from that video sent direct to Jack Blacks new pool, then that exploitation could not be justified. 

The Jack Black video is mild compared to our next example, that of Aylan Kurdi. Though a similar focus on an individual, the picture of the dead boy is obviously a far stronger example in almost every regard. The purpose, specifically with the exhibition of the photo across the world, is the same though; to motivate through exposure to a particular horror. As opposed to the Jack Black example, the exploitation wasn’t just of the dead boy and his family, but also to a point the exploitation of the public. Inherently offensive images, including that of Kurdi, and their display to the frequently unwilling and unexpecting audience, is designed to exploit the horror and guilt of the viewer in order to promote a political agenda (von Engelhardt, 2015, p. 701). 

This exploitation of offensive, while deliberately affecting peace of a viewer, is justified if it would inspire actions that would promote a humanitarian good.

Now, that’s the depressing part. Let’s talk about inspiration and celebrity, but I’ll do it quickly because my word count is getting pretty high.Celebrity involvement in humanitarian or political media, as we all know, is not restricted to Jack Black.

Angelina Jolie currently holds the position of “goodwill ambassador” in the UNHCR, a highly effective role that sees her using her celebrity to bring public attention to the plight of refugees around the world. Now, this too is an exploitation of sorts, though a willing one. Jolie herself and the UNHCR exploit her celebrity to bring about public attention through inspiration and exposure.

 

Now, let’s get cynical. This is not necessarily true, of course, but an interesting hypothetical. Say Jolie doesn’t actually care about celebrity and just acted as though she did for the sake of her own publicity. As long as that exploitation, the appearance of humanitarianism and a public deception, resulted in a greater public support for the UNHCR and an increase in the capabilities of the organization to relieve suffering, would that not be a justified exploitation? Mrs Jolie, if you’re reading this, I didn’t mean that. Just a hypothetical. Please don’t have me killed.

Now, all these examples, though varying greatly in effectiveness, scale, and impact, they all rely on exploitation – an exploitation that is totally justifiable if it is done with the intention of promoting humanitarian progress.

 

References

von Engelhardt, J 2015, ‘Studying western audiences vis-à-vis mediated distant suffering. A call to venture beyond media studies’, International Communication Gazette, vol. 77, issue 7, pp. 695-707