Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Mind Your Media

Neil Postman's Amusing Ourselves to Death is a book that criticizes the use of television and its negative effects on society. In his seventh chapter titled, "Now... This," Postman describes his belief that television led news stations to produce news for entertainment purposes rather than true news and information. He goes on to explain how anchors and reporters are chosen based on how "likable" and "credible" their faces look (p. 100). Unfortunately, this is a sad truth when choosing to use a screen as a medium for the message one desires to convey.

I agree that in today's culture, in order for viewers to tune in to sit through a news show, the anchors and reporters must demonstrate aesthetically pleasing features and appear to have the age and wisdom of credibility. In reality, this is only true because for some reason, humans naturally find the flaw or shortcomings in everything. A less attractive news anchor is less likely to catch the attention of viewers because of the viewers. If an anchor has bushy eyebrows or a chipped tooth, for some reason the viewers cannot get past the eyebrows and teeth which causes them to miss the content of the news completely.

In spite of these truths, it is my firm belief that the fourth estate, known better as the media, does still exist to inform, as a watchdog, and to give a voice to the voiceless. As discussed in previous blogs, the media still presents the public with pertinent information. In fact, today I found out that a friend of mine went missing yesterday. After looking into the news, it turned out that an unidentified pedestrian was hit by a car while crossing the street and taken to UF Health for life threatening injuries last night. The media revealed the story even though they had very little facts to go on. This helped a mother locate her missing son.

Another example is when legislation was drafted to change the name of Florida State College at Jacksonville, and other similar colleges. This news showed us what government officials thought of our school and we could then prove them wrong. Faculty and staff fought back, students spoke up, and members of the community voiced their opinions because of the media. Due to this, our college remains as Florida State College of Jacksonville.

I admit, it is evident that entertainment seems to flood the news more often than important information. Be that as it may, what floods one's personal newsfeed depends upon that person. Entertainment news is partially provided for the same reason that attractive anchors are hired -- consumer demand. If viewers expressed an issue with this choice of news, the media would remove entertainment entirely. Nevertheless, as my Media Criticism RTV4403 professor would put it, we mustn't throw the baby out with the bath water. The media remains as a watchdog for the people. It continues to provide us with information and we decide the outcome.

The Art of the Matter

For my Media Criticism RTV4403 course, I was asked to define art. When classifying something as art, immediately minds imagine the complex painting style of Vincent Van Gogh, Michael Jackson's famous moves, or the legendary photographs of Ansel Adams. These forms of artistic expression achieved the title of "art" because of their unique style and bold display. This painting is claimed to be an artistic form of expressionism. When did strokes of color against a cloth become artistic? Who decides when art is art?

For the longest time, I viewed art as something that another person could create with its own diverse makeup, that caused others to view a subject in an uncommon way. However, in my years at Florida State College of Jacksonville, I'm learning that art does not lie only in its completion. In my opinion, art greatly includes the constructing process just as much as, if not more than, the finished product. For example, Albert Einstein is famous for his intellectual accomplishments. There is no doubt he viewed the world differently and greatly impacted mathematics as a whole. At the same time, he turned down an offer to become the second president of Israel because he claimed to lack the ability to deal with people. A mind that could solve universal problems on an extraordinary level could not effectively deal with and lead others.

As a result, it is my belief that leadership is an art. It is something that requires unique style, bold display, creativity, and for the leader to view situations on a different level than the common mind. A child can tell you what he/she likes, how he/she wants things done, and pitch a fit if it does not turn out as planned. This is neither art, nor is it true leadership. A good leader can apply critical thinking to problem solving for the sake of others. Leadership requires patience as one must endure the roller coaster of human emotion, passion, and failure. Then again, leadership cannot be displayed in a museum or put up for auction.

In like manner, I view graphic design as art. The formation of binary code to create digital compositions is absolutely astounding. It takes intellectual comprehension of computational linguistics and an out-of-the-box creative mindset. Inventors who take the time to master this art can then produce complex video games, advertisements, movies, and more. Rather than repeating the same techniques, modern games grant players the ability to create, build, transform, and increase within the virtual realm.

All things considered, I no longer can limit art to creative paintings and pictures. I am unable to see how capturing a photograph of something that exists somewhere is art. The human mind itself is a work of art that has yet to be understood. Its ability to form thoughts and ideas and to implement said thoughts and ideas is a work of art. I view art as a proficiency and capability that many can recognize, but few can achieve.

Silencing the Tweets


Twitter is a social media platform that allows users the ability to "tweet" or post their current thoughts or ideas in a public way. Users can retweet and favorite posts that they enjoy and comment on one another's tweets. After the beheading of journalist James Foley, Twitter suspended any account that posted graphic images, memes, or video links in connection to his murder. Decisions like this cause people to fear the loss of the freedom to express themselves. In these situations, there is a large area of gray where the right decision lies.

Users view Twitter as an accurate source of news. Even amongst the hormonal, emotional, everyday drama of adolescents, there are many who find comfort in searching their Twitter feeds for the most accurate and updated information. With that being said, enough people expressed their anger toward ISIS posting its tragic accomplishments, and demanded a ban on the release of graphic images. However, if one group of images is declared graphic enough to remove accounts, then what will it take to remove other groups of graphic images? Furthermore, when is appropriate for one group of
people's beliefs to be accepted and another's rejected?

Obscenity is in the eye of the beholder...until enough people agree upon it. The amish would view much of American society as obscene, and would demand the removal of images that conflict with their beliefs. Then again, true amish believers would not have a Twitter account, and would have no room to complain. The point remains that obscenity and "graphic" images have different definitions to different people. It appears as a debate on the epistemology of what is truly defined as graphic and obscene.

If I owned Twitter, I would choose to monitor what is posted and I would not allow specific posts that I deem obscene. This is where many would argue where censorship begins and freedom ends. Nevertheless, I have the right to control whatever I own. For example, if I choose to live a lifestyle that does not involve drinking alcohol, then I would not allow it in my home. Even if I have friends over who enjoy a glass of wine every now and then, whenever in my home, they would need to respect that I do not allow it. However, if I find myself in their homes and they choose to drink, that does not bother me because now I am in their house and there is a different set of rules.

Therefore, I view Twitter's attack on the graphic images posted of James Foley to be ethical. Whether a news source chooses to reveal or conceal certain parts of the investigation is their right. Yet, I do see an issue with how something is defined as graphic enough to remove. It will not keep me up at night or stress me out because I choose not to worry about such things. As a student of Florida State College of Jacksonville in the RTV4403 Media Criticism course, I understand that life is not fair now and it never will be. It is filled with daily decisions that effect the overall outcome of every life and requires careful consideration at all times.

The Purpose and Dangers of Anonymity

Anonymity grants the ability to provide information without risking the loss of life or reputation. Websites from WashingtonFlorida and all over America are specifically designed to reveal the benefit of anonymous tips and how they have helped solve criminal cases. Yet, it is argued that anonymous or pseudonymous comments should be banned from the platforms of digital journalism. It is believed that, while anonymous, people are more likely to write or speak without thinking. This then leads to issues of offense, hostility, and fear, which digital journalism desires to free itself from.

Before digital journalism superseded print, anonymous remarks were not deemed credible. Even a letter to the editor required appropriate contact information, and still does today. However, pseudonyms were acceptable because it was understood that opposing the status quo could cause great harm to the person. Hence, the acceptance and publication of the Silence Dogood letters written by Benjamin Franklin. Through his many pseudonyms, Franklin had the ability to express his thoughts, concerns, or ideas without having to face ridicule or prison. Some might say using Benjamin Franklin as an example is unfair, since he lived during a time when the government ruled through tyranny. If that is so, then let me point to a more recent account taking place in our liberated, independent and democratic society.

In 1971, the government fought to conceal the leak of the Pentagon Papers in regards to the war in Vietnam on the grounds of national security. All 7,000 pages were release in 2011. If that is too distant, then let's look at 2013 when Edward Snowden revealed the truth about the government's role in surveillance through phones and the Internet. He was later forced to flee the persecution of the United States and remains in Russia to this day. If a major purpose of journalism is to fulfill the role of a watchdog, keeping the public aware of political discrepancies, then why when fulfilling that role are they incarcerated and charged with compromising national security?

On the other hand, there have been countless examples of digital comments resulting in serious issues of harassment. When former baseball player Curt Schilling tweeted about his daughter's success, he was met with vulgar remarks about men raping his daughter. Instead of ignoring it, he tracked down the very men who hid behind the screen and those who apologized were left alone, but others were fired from their jobs or expelled from their universities. This generation of online users demonstrates a lack of control and thought when posting opinions. This comment section from an article written in response to the Baltimore Riots shows a greater need to censor certain choices of expression from its readers.

Overall, as I continue to learn in my Media Criticism course RTV4403 at Florida State College of Jacksonville, I do not believe that anonymous or pseudonymous comments should be banned. Anonymous and pseudonymous ideas permit the people with the right to propose an idea that goes against the grain. I believe that pseudonyms are safer than anonymous writing because claiming a name and sticking to that name creates an identity, which builds the credibility of the user. Fear will always rise during times of war and national security will always be threatened. When we, as a people, have the right to express our views in a dignified manner, we have the ability to cause our fellow people to think. It is not my job to force you to believe anything, instead I desire to present you with enough information that will cause you to think critically and allow you to form a conclusion.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Literacy Culture in the United States


Within the past couple of years, several cases of police brutality and misconduct have surfaced. This picture rapidly spread in light of the recent Baltimore riots. When I first saw this image circulating on social media, I cringed at the horrifying thought of living in a world full of people with nothing more than potential. To clarify, I focus on the choice of words in the image, and not the officers themselves. 

According to the Newspaper Association of America, print advertising in newspapers decreased more than 8% in 2013, while the revenue from digital advertising, circulation and marketing services rose 5.8%. Today's society finds itself printing less and less as consumer demand rises for the ease and convenience of digital access. In fact, there are fewer classrooms that use a print syllabus when the online educational tool Blackboard is in use. These such examples are the reasoning behind the belief that American literacy is exponentially decreasing, to which I must disagree. My initial shock to the grammatically incorrect photo of the police officers did not cause me to question our country's literacy rate, but its potential.

Potential energy is stored based on an object's position. Likewise, Americans find themselves in a position of great importance, building potential energy. This society grants people the ability to access and utilize advanced technologies in amazing ways that can increase literacy and knowledge. The problem is when that potential energy never becomes kinetic energy--in other words, put in motion. People can be enrolled in educational institutes, but if they never apply what they learn, it is a shame and disappointment.

I do not believe America is increasing in illiteracy. Instead, I believe that a society built on quick Internet and digital access causes people to rapidly post anything at anytime without taking the time to edit, revise and update. Interestingly, this is not new to America. In the third chapter of Neil Postman's Amusing Ourselves to Death, he references a remark from Alexis de Tocqueville's Democracy in America, which declared, "In America, parties do not write books to combat each other's opinions, but pamphlets, which are circulated for a day with incredible rapidity and then expire" (page 37). Similarly, Internet memes and social media postings have replaced the pamphlets of de Tocqueville's time.

While I am saddened by every grammatically disappointing post online, I am not discouraged enough to believe that this country is deteriorating. America is full of brilliant minds with the potential to use the available technology at their fingertips. With proper instruction and application, the print and digital literacy will undoubtedly increase. As the pamphlets of America's early years contributed to the involvement and literacy of its society, we can be assured that our technologies will do the same.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Statement of Purpose

The purpose of this blog is to observe, analyze and discuss current media-related issues while specifically referencing the content of Neil Postman's Amusing Ourselves to Death, Henry Jenkins' Convergence Culture and similar written works.