Friday, October 29, 2010

An Up-to-Date Satellite Image is a Thing of Beauty

Maps are very important to me. An accurate map might be the most objective thing I have ever witnessed. The globe is even better, the globe is great because unlike maps which split the world, possibly putting the focus on one continent or group of continents. The globe allows the viewer to see exactly what they seek, not what a cartographer views as important.
Satellite images are, in my view, perfect. An up-to-date satellite image is a thing of beauty. Averaging about 250 thousand miles away, satellites can take a picture of your backyard, and the backyards of everyone in the world, provided there’s a yard back there.  Compiling data about every visible (outdoors) thing and presenting this information to the world is great, to me. 
But at what cost does all of this information come? I think it is great to be able to look at Google Earth at different countries like Kazakhstan, Indonesia, or Russia, and feel like I am there. Though I cannot smell, feel, taste, or hear anything that is going on in those places, just seeing it puts me in a situation I had not had access to earlier.  In cohort with SketchUp, architects can recreate 3-D images and import them into Google Earth so we can actually walk around in cities we may have never seen. I now have the access to learn street names and navigate around a city that I have never physically encountered. It’s great. But again, that brings me back to my earlier question, but at what cost? If Yin-Yang is something to be taken seriously I must believe that something so great must also be very destructive.
Google Earth is owned by an American company—Google. Which means, when Google teams up with a federal agency, NASA, to bring the world satellite images of itself, what does that mean for, say, Kazakhstan, Indonesia, or Russia? People living in these countries have no idea that I am technically spying on their city. I have them all figured out. I could find out where to get fresh meat if I was put in the capital cities today. The people have no control over this. It was a nice idea when I was innocently trying to attain knowledge about other cities, architecture, or cultural products, but the more I think about it, the more I feel like one of my favorite pastimes is disgustingly intrusive.  And that’s just me, with somewhat noble aspirations. What about those with fewer scruples? What about the images of nuclear reactors? What about work/prison camps? What about refugee camps? Near unlimited access to information is tough enough to grasp, the idea that for the right price anyone can find out about anything, but the unlimited access to geospatial data (which actually is sometimes incorporated with information, but for the sake of this, it is separate) to go with the intelligence has potential to be very dangerous to many parties. 

Google challenges nation-state sovereignty, promotes bottom-line

With the raising influence of new media and information and communication technology, networks and network societies increasingly have the ability to challenge traditional structures of power.

In our reading from Sangeet Kumar, we learned how Google represents this concept of network influence in regards to the nation-state. Google “represents a new modality of power, increasingly making inroads into the Westphalian nation-state system.” Kumar also writes that Google and other digital media institutions, “leverage what scholars have called network power, an amorphous web of treaties, organizations and institutions, which functions by presenting its private interest as a public one.”

Ultimately the point is that the nation-state power structure is currently being challenged, and sometimes undermined, by the forces of transnational networks and movements.

The article highlights the tensions between national governments (particularly India) and Google Earth, a program through which anyone can access satellite images of practically any place on the planet. Governments see this as a challenge to their sovereignty over national security, as people can access imagery of government and military buildings, possibly providing adversaries with the intelligence to attack. Google’s main argument is that this information is available elsewhere for anyone to access and also the programs has beneficial aspects.

Google continues to face challenges today with Google Earth and its Street View mapping feature. For instance, the Italian government is investigating Google’s allegedly violating people’s privacy. Apparently, “Google admitted that its researches collected wireless information [while collecting Street View images] including entire e-mails, URLs and passwords.” Google is facing similar charges in Britain for revealing the name and address of a domestic violence safe house.

According to Kumar, Google represents this rise of non-state actors and their influence on international relations writing that “[their] uniqueness comes from an architecture that is designed to be a centerless diffused network, which allows them to present themselves as a web where, in principle, each node has as much control as the other.”

In a recent article in Foreign Affairs, the bi-monthly publication by the Council on Foreign Relation, Google executives discussed this concept of the “’interconnected estate,’ – a place where any person with access to the Internet, regardless of living standard or nationality is given a voice and the power to effect change.”

Google CEO and Chair Eric Schmidt and Director of Google Ideas Jared Cohen write that the traditional form of governance is being, and will continue to be, disrupted by technology and people’s ability to create networks outside traditional boundaries and mediums. They write that governments should recognize the impact of these networks and learn how to work with them (ideally supporting uncensored access) in order to progress their governance paradigm.

Google is leading this effort (most likely looking to profit ideologically and financially) through the establishment of the Global Network Initiative, “an organization that brings together information technology companies, human rights groups, socially responsible investors, and academics in an effort to promote free expression online and protect privacy.”

Sangeet Kumar, “Google Earth and the nation-state: Sovereignty in the age of new media” Global Media and Communication 2010 6: 154

Italy news story:

UK news story:

Schmidt, Eric and Jared Cohen. “The Digital Disruption: Connectivity and the Diffusion of Power.” Foreign Affairs. November/December 2010. Council on Foreign Relations: New York. Accessed Oct. 29, 2010

Sousveillance - Surveillance from the Bottom Up

On the subject of citizen journalism in Chouliaraki's article, I think this new medium will develop dramatically over the next decade in the world. As Information and Communication technologies become more ubiquitous.  The implications for state behavior will be great as people are able to monitor their government and report on human rights violations.  With more platforms to present these images and video, governments will not be able to assert their authority over their people as they can when no one is watching.  The term, Sousveillance was coined by Steve Mann, an engineering professor from Canada.  Surveillance, implies watching from above, while sousveillance (from the French word, Sous for under) implies watching from below.  He suggested that one day everyone would have the technology to watch and monitor the police and those who are “watching after” them.  He was a pioneer in the field, thirty years before anyone could image the power and spread of ICTs.  (To demonstrate his theory, Mann turned himself into the first human cyborg by fixing a camera over his rights eye that captured everything he saw.) Initially he was seen as a nut, but people are rethinking his prophesy now. The impact of sousveillance is seen already, and is unfolding daily.

Human Cyborg

         On the subject of citizen journalism in Chouliarakis article, I think this new medium will develop dramatically over the next decade in the world. As Information and Communication technologies become more ubiquitous.  The implications for state behavior will be great as people are able to monitor their government and report on human rights violations.  With more platforms to present these images and video, governments will not be able to assert their authority over their people as they can when no one is watching.  The term, Sousveillance was coined by Steve Mann, an engineering professor from Canada.  Surveillance, implies watching from above, while sousveillance (from the French word, Sous for under) implies watching from below.  He suggested that one day everyone would have the technology to watch and monitor the police and those who are “watching after” them.  He was a pioneer in the field, thirty years before anyone could image the power and spread of ICTs.  To demonstrate his theory, Mann turned himself into the first human cyborg by fixing a camera over his rights eye that captured everything he saw.  Initially he was seen as a nut, but people are rethinking his prophesy now. 

Friday, October 22, 2010

Networks Strengthening the Tibetan Plateau

Latour points out that the connection between two nodes in the network is more important than the nodes themselves.  The relationship between each player determines how fast information  spreads across. I witness the power of these network  relationships while working at Machik, whose mission is to  strengthen communities on the Tibetan plateau.  Originally their plan was just to start a school.  As they pulled on more contacts and joined other organizations with tangential missions, they were able to expand into a woman's program, microcredit project, sustainable agriculture, film and social business.  This weekend they held a three day networking event where everyone involved with Machik from all sectors came together to share their work and discuss further collaboration.  The weekend had a lot of down time where people could chat and build relationships that made their connections stronger; as Latour argued the stronger the connection the more likely information will spread across it. 

An interesting trend relating to Latours argument is the rise in organizations specifically designed to make relationships between two unconnected nodes.  The creator of was attended the weekend to discuss his website.  The goal of the organization is to connect business and individuals who are interested in raising money for different causes and want to make sure their money is well used.  He posts specific projects from a wide variety of NGOs allowing individuals to browse and select one to support.  This example demonstrates Catells point that technology is fundamental in enabling tnetwork interconnectivity. 

How do nation states exert power through networks?

Because I am a very visual learner, this question really resonated with me. Well, not so much the question, but the many diagrams that Mr. CHayden wrote on the board. These diagrams help us to understand the nature of networks and how they ‘work’.  My perception of a network was very literal—I assume a network needs to be a net that works; that is, a series of interconnected nodes whose linkages portray the nature of the relationship.  However, understanding the Arsenault article through the use of diagrams helped me to understand the use of dyads and monads. (Monads still do not make that much logical sense to me, because I do not understand the idea that the node does not connect with anything else...)  A amateurish answer of the question stated above, with the basic understanding of what a network is that states exert power through a network hierarchy. One model that Mr. CHayden drew shows just this relationship.
<--This is the basic model. However, in a real-life scale, we run into issues of complexity. This very complexity is where the power is garnered.
State elected officials exert power over their subordinates- bureaucratic officials, who exert power over their subordinates, and their constituents, who then exert power over corporations and businesses that they patronize. 

Friday, October 15, 2010

Iranians tune in to telenovelas

Iranians are turning the channel on the state-run broadcasting in favor of foreign satellite channels that provide news and entertainment shows dubbed in Farsi.

In Monday’s Financial Times article “Iranians turn off state TV after soap is dropped,” it was reported that Iranians are increasingly upset with the state television system Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) because it cancelled a soap opera (Black Coffee) with one of Iran’s most popular actors, Mehran Modiri. The state censored the series due to its sensitive theme about a historical authoritarian regime whose mistakes were removed from Iran’s history books. Since the state television network dropped the show, Modiri made DVDs of the program of which he sold 500,000 copies the first day.

Clearly, Iranians are big fans of the soap opera genre. Understanding this market, foreign satellite broadcasters are providing the content denied by state television. Although Iran’s constitution gives power to the state media, many Iranians own illegal satellite dishes, using them to access outside channels such as BBC Persian and Voice of America.

One of the more popular satellite channels is Farsi1, a partially owned by Rupert Murdoch who runs News Corp, a global media conglomerate. Farsi1 shows Farsi-dubbed soap operas and sitcoms from America, Columbia and Korea. According to an article from the Daily Beast, “the real draw of the network is its dubbed versions of Latin American Telenovelas, which have most of the country in their melodramatic grip.” Likewise, according to an article from Middle East Online, “Farsi1, which has been on the airwaves for just over one year, is now much part of the social fabric that the shows it airs are popular all across Iran, even in the remotest villages.”

It should come as no surprise that telenovelas are popular in Iran, given the effect of telenovelas on the global media economy. In her article, “Ugly Betty goes global,” Jade Miller says that telenovelas are “appealing cultural products traversing global networks of capitalist cultural concerns.” One of the reasons that telenovelas are universally popular is due their accessibility – anyone can relate or connect to the stories, which are often “rags-to-riches” narratives.

The telenovelas don’t seem to have a deep cultural impact, especially in countries like Iran who have a strong national identity. According to the Middle East Online story, “Some Iranians believe that the government tolerates Farsi1 because its standard fare of entertainment does not present a political challenge, and may offer a useful distraction from the troubles facing the country.”

If the IRIB wants to reconnect with Iranians, it should seriously consider the popularity of telenovela “Second Chance” and broadcast accordingly.

Financial Times article:

Daily Beast article:

Middle East Online article:

Jade Miller “Ugly Betty Goes Global: global networks of localized content in telenovela industry” Global Media and Communication 6, no. 2 198-217 (BLACKBOARD)

The GIF That Keeps On Giving

Since I'll be out of town at the end of next week, I thought I'd comment on our reading/class discussion this week. The Henry Jenkins interview on youtube, where he talks about how we control what we watch, and discard what we don't corresponded well with the idea we discussed, how the line between consumers and producers has eroded as we 'take back' parts of culture and make it our own. Then I saw this article on, about the GIF (graphic interchange format)"renaissance" and how people take a brief clip from a movie or tv show and use it as a form of expressing their emotions or thoughts in a blog or web thread

So in this respect, people take a popular show, interview, obscure movie and make them relevant by using a fraction of it for their own purposes, in their own venue. It's not exactly the same as a mashup or remix of something like the Obama and the "Yes We Can" music video, since the use of gifs isn't something that can go viral (unless you find a website that has a collection of them, like jezebel recently put together), it's something that is developed by an individual for other individuals. They're attracting attention for way a person any where in the world can take an out of context clip and contextualize it, or for finding a brief image (to replay over and over) that visualizes exactly what a person could be thinking.

Considering that more people have access to faster broadband, I'm sure more gifs will show up, and it'll be interesting to see how creative people will get and how they'll take a product sold to us, and use it for a completely different purpose. And with that, I'm out.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Cultural Linguistic and Geocultural Flows

Often we ask ourselves the question, what does this mean for us? I want to ask this question in regards to Thussu's article on cultural linguistic and geo-cultural flows. Today I don't have any answers, just questions. I'm very curious to understand the cultural implications of changes in our world. We can go on and on about what is happening; we can see it in our lives. Or do we?  One particular aspect of this flow has been embodied in 'geo-cultural media centers'. How much of our everyday lives do we Americans actually experience culture outside of our own? Of course, this matters greatly by where we live, and who we interact with on a daily basis, but it is interesting to see what we even consider to be 'our culture' and 'their culture'. We mentioned before that interacting with other cultures over time can create a feeling of oneness, belonging, and possibly acceptance with others, so does this mean that all cultures we interact with are 'our culture'?
In the article, Thussu points out the interaction of foreign based media with their diasporic populations. But what about those who are not in a diaspora (or who do not know/do not believe they are)? What about people watching foreign media on a regular basis? What about people acting in the same function as the media? People bring each other the news, they advertise products, and they tell others what to think. Does that not serve the same function as the media. So when our Indian friend watches Zee TV, our Chinese friend watches Pheonix, and our Turkmen friend watches MBC, and they bring us news from the outside world, what happens to us?

But then, if you do not watch the internews, and you do not have any non-American (or descendants of non-American) friends, you might not at all be impacted by this flow. No?

Vertical (and Horizontal) Horizons

How timely! Just as we discussed and read about vertical integration, 30 Rock has an episode discussing it as well. Definitely check out for a great explanation by Alec Baldwin where he turns the depressing argument on its head and…well, just watch.

I think the issue of vertical and horizontal integration (the variety of media outlets and the supply chain where our ideas come from) is an important one for an informed media consumer, needing to know not only where our information comes from but how much of it comes from the same place. While our reading and discussion made clear to us that we're not told what to think, but what to think about, it was painfully obvious that so many of us weren't accessing truly independent news and media. I think actively seeking out objectivity takes a great deal of discipline that we have yet to reach as a society--nationally and globally. So this is how the topic affects me and will affect me: I will constantly have to work at seeking out a message that is the least "tainted", and I if I have kids, I'll have to teach them to be responsible consumers as well. It seems almost exhausting, actively resisting something intangible, but has tangible results. Regardless of which direction my media goes, I at least have options and internet, which makes the search SO much easier...or at least it will be until Verizon or some other corporation tries to limit my options...(cue dramatic music).

Online Schools, A New form of Media??

Online universities represent a new form of communication.  I think (and this is more mental peregrinations than a solid hypothesis), that online universities can be considered a new form of media.  I recently met a young man who was starting an international online high school with a face-to-face component.  Although he framed the purpose of the school as a new step into open-accreditation, I saw it as a new step into media flows and contra flows. 

The way the school is run, is students enroll online and take classes that are prepared, not by a staff teachers, but by anyone the school certifies as qualified to teach on a subject.  Teachers are typically professors, companies and Nonprofits from any country.  They can form their own class and post reading material, course work and writing assignment.  Currently, the school is in pilot phase, with students enrolled from several U.S. cities, Indonesia, China, Brazil, France and Croatia.

The program got me thinking about online schools in general.  They are emerging rapidly, with many traditional schools offering online courses.  Even Glenn Beck has an online university with classes in Hope, Faith and Charity ( 

These schools facilitate flows and contra flows of information across and between communities. Communities could be formed by age, geography, language, beliefs, culture or interest in a common field.  Although educational institutions have not been under the heading of media, now that lessons and schools are being disseminated throughout the world, I think it’s worth examining the possibility.  Schools publish information on the Internet, then individuals access it and read it; how is this different from reading a website, a blog or online newspaper that you subscribe to?

Thinking of schools as media, we can look at the Thussu and McChesny articles to provide insight on trends in globalization.  McChesny was concerned that the oligarchic nature of the media prevented diversity and plurality.  But it we consider schools to represent a new un-conglomerated source of media, than we bypass the media.  This is a way of getting information to people on current events and the global society in a way that isn’t a “don’t rock the boat” agenda from major corporations.  Thussu focused on media transcending borders and the flow and contra flow of information.  Because online schools can come from different countries, be accessed all around the world they represent high levels of information flow.  They also represent geo-linguistic and cultural communities.   
I don’t know how salient this theory is, but I think it something worth investigating, especially as the popularity of online courses grows. 

ACTA won’t dent the piracy ship

During a meeting this week in Washington, DC, the Office of the United States Trade Representative released the public draft of the negotiations of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA). This seems to be the newest development in a long list of efforts (including the World Intellectual Property Organization or Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights of the WTO) to police the underground market of pirated audio-visual content.

The USTR website lists the ACTA’s purpose:

“Consistent with the Administration’s strategy for intellectual property enforcement, ACTA establishes a state-of-the-art international framework that provides a model for effectively combating global proliferation of commercial-scale counterfeiting and piracy in the 21st century. The agreement also includes innovative provisions to deepen international cooperation and to promote strong enforcement practices. Together these provisions will help to protect American jobs in innovative and creative industries against intellectual property theft.” 1

Members of the ACTA include Australia, Canada, the European Union, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Morocco, New Zealand, Singapore, Switzerland and of course the U.S. Apparently these countries represent 50 percent of world trade. 2

Notice that China and Russia, two countries notorious for pirating communication goods, are not involved in this group and have no say in the negotiations.

The U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk released a statement on Wednesday, applauding the work of the ACTA, which held its final rounds of negotiations in Tokyo on Oct. 2:

“This text reflects tremendous progress in the fight against counterfeiting and piracy – a global crime wave that robs workers in the United States and around the world of good-paying jobs and exposes consumers to dangerous products. The leadership shown by our ACTA partners in reaching solutions on tough issues should send a strong message to pirates and counterfeiters that they have no place in the channels of legitimate trade. We must now work quickly with our partners to finalize the results achieved in the Tokyo. This work represents a significant victory for those who care about protecting and enforcing intellectual property rights.” 3

This strong message that the ACTA hopes to send to “pirates and counterfeiters” who “have no place in the channels of legitimate trade” will continue to be the empty threat it has been for so long. ACTA doesn’t seem like it will have more traction than the previous effort of TRIPS and WIPO.

In our readings from this week, Tristan Mattelart discusses how piracy operates in the cultural and communication globalization realm. He writes that “In order to understand piracy, we need to move away from the approaches which criminalized it and to consider the various possible social, economic, and political reasons for its rise.” 4

In class we discussed how piracy plays a role in development, giving people access to communication information they wouldn’t be able to afford otherwise. It also enabled people to access the technology needed to watch the pirated material, which also has a development component. Economically, piracy creates markets and income in countries that are struggling to create jobs and rise above poverty. Mattelart gives the example of Nigeria, where 300,000 people are employed in the pirate video market. Politically, pirated material plays a role in rising political dissent and opposition, as in Iran in 1979. Pirated satellite signals allow audiences to resist political media censorship.

The continued criminalization of piracy will only increase the demand for pirated goods, and the actions of international regulatory bodies, including the ACTA, will not change the reality on the ground.


2. ibid.


4. Tristan Mattelart Audio-visual piracy: towards a study of the underground networks of cultural globalization, Global Media and Communication 2009 5: 308 (BLACKBOARD)

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Murdoch squashes media plurality

The sun, quite literally, never sets on the News Corporation. It’s like the British Empire in the heyday of colonialism but with better technology. As Thussu tells us, Rupert Murdoch’s media empire “straddles the globe.”

The company’s assets are vast:
• Largest number of English-language newspapers
• Fox Broadcast Network (owning 35 stations across U.S. in 2005)
• Fox News Channel (plus local affiliates and sports channels)
• Gemstar-TV Guide International
• Twentieth Century Fox film studio
• STAR, the first pan-Asian network
• National Geographic Channel International
• HarperCollins, international publisher
• Etc., etc., etc.

As the chairman and CEO for News Corporation, Murdoch has the potential to influence issues such as global infrastructure, global governance and media regulation.

News Corporation controls expansive international communication infrastructure. According to Thussu, “he was one of the first to realize the commercial importance of digital, investing a great deal of money to get it off the ground, his empire is most likely to dominate the digital globe.” Murdoch continues to invest in emerging cable and Internet companies as well as spreading News Corporation’s presence in China and India – world’s biggest TV market.

“Murdoch’s growing political influence as a multimedia mogul, and his extensive control of both information software (programme content) and hardware (digital delivery systems), make him hugely powerful,” Thussu writes.

Murdoch’s extensive control over media markets relates to our class discussion about diversity and plurality. With one voice dominating a significant portion of the media and gaining more each year, diversity will become less and less important in the media value system. Transparency, minority voices and openness could evaporate. Also, the plurality of media – more than one entity being in control – would also cease to exist. As News Corporation extends its ownership of TV stations, newspapers, radio, satellites, plurality is fading. News Corporation fits into a wider sphere of media conglomerates consolidating ownership and control of media outlets, thus decreasing plurality and diversity in global communications.

As one of the world’s largest media mogul’s, Murdoch has power to shape the U.S. political landscape, advocating for conservative values and privatization and liberalization of the communication economic market. Murdoch’s political agenda was highlighted in a recent article on

News Corporation donated $2 million to Republican causes for this election year. The money was split between the Republican Governors Association and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, “the business lobby that has been running an aggressive campaign in support of the Republican effort to retake Congress,” the article said.

Murdoch’s conservative beliefs are also evident in the program content of his Fox News Channel. The views and news covered on Fox News (despite their claim to be fair and balanced) are notoriously right-wing dominated.

For people who aren’t media literate – those who don’t recognize bias and are passive consumers of the media – the one-sided presentation of news may seem like the whole story. They will not act as active consumers to seek out alternate news sources.

Due to News Corporations widespread control of media and their singular value perspective, the argument for media regulation is strengthened. Unless there is a limit to how much one company (or one man) can own, there will not be diversity or plurality in the media. Also, unless media consumers are more literate about their choices, it may be necessary to protect them as well as the public service model of journalism.

Daya Thussu “Creating a Global Information Infrastructure” in International Communication: Continuity and Change.

Politico article:

Friday, October 1, 2010

What we've got here is FAILURE to communicate...

On Thursday, my most recent media concern was over the arrest of many journalists in Uzbekistan.  The arrests came as a result of photographers taking pictures of everyday life in Uzbekistan, or reporting on everyday activities in Uzbekistan.  My general reception of these matters is to pay more attention to patterns of progression and regression of civil and human rights and change over time than understanding what is happening right now. However, this blog has given me the opportunity to look into how this may have happened.

This may seem obvious to some, but maybe not: the Uzbek journalists do not believe what they are doing is libel, and the Uzbek government do not believe that the journalists are not trying to harm their country. So maybe, this is a communication breakdown? The simple understanding of purpose is causing massive human rights turmoil in Uzbekistan; various groups do not fully understand what the other groups’ main purposes and intentions are. Of course, a journalist shouting that they did nothing wrong while they are being arrested does not exactly help their cause, perhaps there can be another way of getting these two groups to come to an understanding in order to prevent, or at least reduce these types of arrests.

Another way of looking at it, as proposed by Serena, is that the government could have interpreted the journalists to have framed their particular stories to make the Uzbek people look a certain way to the international community, and thus drawing negative attention from those who do not understand Central Asian lifestyles. Of course, this is closely linked to the issue of miscommunication of purpose, but perhaps we can place the blame somewhere? Is it possible that the journalists had a motive when producing their stories? In class, we mentioned that all people, and thereby all journalist have their opinion, by extension we effectively eliminate all real forms of objectivity in journalism. Journalists can try to be objective, but even in their style and manner of going about becoming objective has a motive and/or political stance. I have read some of these translated articles and have seen some of the photos that journalists have been arrested for, and I can see how, (especially when the government is looking for a scapegoat) they can be accused of creating a bias against the Uzbek people and the Uzbek government. For the sake of the journalists-- the government had to be looking pretty hard, and for the government-- the journalists should have known what was considered unacceptable.

Here we run into the issue of acceptability. What is acceptable in one country or region will obviously not apply to another, and, what one journalist feels they should be allowed to do, in a country that is notorious for journalist abuse, will almost always conflict with the view of what the government believes is acceptable conduct. There are issues at stake regarding media policies, the environment, international and domestic policies to say the least.

Libel is rarely covered as free speech, not even in the US. So the question then is to what extent is freedom of speech libel? One might say the speech in Uzbekistan is not free enough, and some might say speech in the US is too free, so what do we do with that? Can there be an international standard? When journalists and the government are both claiming that their duties are to the people-- so that the people are protected from libel, and so the voices and the culture of the people can be expressed-- how can one say one is right and one is wrong?

Everyone is framing their story. Everyone has their own opinion. No one can be right or wrong.

Unless you are the Uzbek government. Who is always right.

Jessica F

Media Illiteracy

In our reading of Brian O'Niell and class discussion on Media Literacy, we learned about our individual right and responsibility to choose an effective and appropriate medium. In other words, we learned about the depressing challenge each person in the world faces to become media literate. We've established that we have a right to accessible information, the right to communicate and, probably most valuable to Americans at least, the right to privacy. I say the challenge is depressing because even if we take our viewership/readership/listening-ship seriously and actively seek out objective, or at least less biased, news and media, we're still a small minority of people who chose to do so.

In some cases, like in Italy, the public doesn't get much of a choice, as it's president, Silvio Berlusconi, owns a chunk of the media there. It's interesting to note though that last month, his own paper, Il Giornale criticized his lack of leadership and ineffectiveness as a leader. ( If you're interested on the mad-house affairs of what's going on in La Bella country here's a good article: I should warn you though, there's a huge, menacing picture of Berlusconi that took me by surprise.) At what point do we collectively finally freak out and stop the deepening divide in what get's communicated to us?

I think what is driving the nonobjective slant in news is fear. We've been running on fear for about a decade now. Fear is irrational. Irrationality needs to be fed or soothed, and naturally someone figured out how to make money off of it. And this isn't just in the States either, every country's media can easily play the fear card. So for example, a right wing publication somewhere in Europe decries the rise of Muslim immigrants within the borders. 'They aren't assimilating, they don't look or act like us and there are so many of them they'll take over the country and we'll lose our heritage.' This gets picked up by a right wing media outlet in the US and instead of letting the other country adjust and think of constructive solutions, people here freak out and talk about the rise of Londonistan (referring to the large Pakistani population in London) or how Christian Europe will die with the Baby Boomers. The idea or fear that originated in one country gets picked up and circulated over the internet, so much to the point that there are more Americans worried about it than Europeans.

I've digressed, but the point I'm trying to make is that currently, we're not making educated choices, we're not pausing to think and reflect, or seek out another opinion. And short of PBS news surging in popularity, I think media literacy is something that will be absorbed by people younger than 40. We discussed in class how it's starting to be incorporated into elementary and high school education (albeit very slowly), but I think the effects of being media literate won't be felt for a while. In my sociology class and comm class I took in college, we watched different parts of the documentary "Killing Us Softly" which is a lecture by Jean Kilbourne about the affects of Advertising on Women. (There are a few clips online if you google it) We wondered why the government didn't do more to educate people about the Ad/TV/Movie industry and teach people to be effective consumers of media. We finally conceded after a long debate, that despite efforts to expose misleading information (like what the UK is currently doing about photoshoped images in advertisements) it ultimately hinges on our personal responsibility. We have a HUGE selection to choose from and I think we gravitate to the 'comfort food' option. And after a long hard day of work, or dealing with job hunting while being unemployed some people want to hear Glenn Beck say/yell/cry what they're thinking, or Jon Stewart to skewer those inept politicians who drove this country into a swamp.

I agree with O'Neill's conclusion that young people will be the ones who are critically engaged with the media and the ones responsible for holding institutions accountable. I wish us all the best of luck! And because I'm on a role with the mock vintage posters...

The Multicultural Spin Zone

Media literacy is vital for our socialization in society and our ability to form ideas. It hadn’t occurred to me until Brian O’Neil’s article that what my mother devoted her parental pedagogy to, was in fact media literacy. 
My mother is a staunch conservative: Rush Limbaugh is referred to as Rushy Baby, Michael Steel spoke at my house for the Potomac Women’s Republican Club and dessert was always followed by a trip to “No Spin Zone”  (we relished in O’Riley’s no-nonsense knocked out of illogical liberal arguments).  My mother was so concerned with protecting us from the liberal media that she made sure we had a healthy and constant dose of conservative opinion in our house.  She knew that to be a good citizen, able to see passed the untruths of environmentalist-wackos and purporters of radical agendas, we had to be media literate. Sadly for my mother, her tactics of allowance money for conservative articles and arming us with alternative Christian books during evolution and global warming lessons, failed  (I am now an liberal, something we don’t discuss at the holidays).
But, in her attempt to fight one bias with another, she successfully instilled a knack for seeking alternative opinions and questioning the dominant logic. I am, thanks to my mom, media literate, although not the way she perhaps would want me to be. If one took her determination and applied it to a more diverse set of opinions, the result would be an individual prepared to engage in the public sphere.
            Exposure to a diversity of media is crucial to forming one’s individual opinion. Experiencing a well-rounded host of news and facts increases capacity to understand and interpret divergent opinions. Media literacy can bring this type of multifaceted learning to the classroom, giving each child the ability to question and understand our global society.  If I were teaching a media literacy class, I would use the following approaches:
  • Presenting opinions from at least two different news sources from every continent.
    • Sources would alternate countries and opinions.
    • Articles would report on the same story to illuminate the differences of opinions.
  • Students would read blogs and learn how to check for accuracy by fact checking and engaging with the author. 
    • Blogs would come from different countries and reflect a variety of opinion.
    • Blogs are important because they present a cultural and personal perspective on a issue that isn’t expressed in news reporting.
  • Students would practice voicing and defending their opinions in peaceful productive ways.
    • They would be encouraged to share their opinions with other students and teachers to learn how to communicate.
    • Because alternative opinions are often met with different reactions; it’s important for students to know how to support and evolve their opinions through dialogue.  
  • Hopefully the exposure to so many alternative opinions would ensure positive and collaborative discussions with an acceptance of alternative opinions.
Media literacy is imperative for America to progress beyond its stiffening dichotomous ideologies.  For our society to adapt to a globalized word, individuals must be able to construct their own informed beliefs and truths of our society. To do this, a strong approach focusing on diversity and plurality must be taken.