A Retrospective view of Media Ritual

June 9, 2010 by

When I read the Nick Couldry’s ‘Media Rituals’ 13 odd weeks ago I wrote “Maintenance of societies in time rather than transmission of messages across space” on a post-it note.  At the time I don’t think I completely grasped this concept, that media and communications isn’t just about the sending and receiving of messages but an institution that contributes to the maintenance of our society and culture.

When you think about media being a display of our current reality it worries me to think that in the same way 18th Century letters of past political figures are studies, that perhaps some day our facebook page will be a relic of our time?  While current forms of media such as social networking sites and reality television may be considered low culture in terms of entertainment, it does illustrate a change in the tradition power structure of media of producers and audiences.  If media rituals are going to be a representation of our reality then it seems more accurate now that we more actively participate in that process.

Granted I still feel that we are still acting in a time of functionalism, where we act and adapt to media technologies but with the emerging popularity of YouTube we can start to see media being shaped by the general public.  The way we shape our days and space around the media links us to a sense of society that we otherwise may have missed, but the changes in how we act in that space and time is the start of a shift where it’s not this omnipresent power centre, but a dispersed space of interaction.


Who am I?

June 3, 2010 by

In the debating identities reading During points out that in no way is our identity the whole of ourselves.  Even if you take into account that an individual has multiple identities depending on their public/audience there is still never a way to succinctly and accurately label the whole of a person.  So why do we bother?

The key point, and what I feel sums up the course accurately is that an identity is what links an individual to society as an identity is a form of branding that relies on outsiders.  A person’s control of their identity traditionally relied on how they presented themselves physically, how they spoke, whom they spoke to and their public actions and activities.  In online communities you can see the emergence of hybrid identities as the individual has more control and the audience gets a deeper look at some aspects of life that would otherwise be private; you can see how ones identity would be constantly evolving and changing over time.

But why do we bother with facebook and the like?  Why do we open up our private lives to the public?  In the Herring reading he states that we, Generation Y are the most watched over generation.  Think about everything from pressure on the HSC to internet censorship, sometimes I watch kids younger than me and worry about how much cotton wool they are coated in.  Online identities create a forum of freedom where the internet realms are endless and that control is back in their hands.  Teenagers cant vote, rally they are legally bound to go to school until yr 9 even creative outlets like music concerts often have an age restriction so whether the complete shift from public to private is dangerous or negative is irrelevant, it may not be the best way to express yourself but it is completely understandable to appreciate why it is happening.  Teens and tweens, like anyone else are searching for a way to gain control over their identity.


Interviewing the interviewer

May 25, 2010 by

From Weerakkody’s chapter 10: Research Interviewing and indeed the first reading as covered by alyson and Lauren i found myself wondering how many pages were left! At the same time i was admonishing the increasingly required effort on my assignment whilst thinking to myself: is it that hard to be nice when interviewing someone? I guess depending on who you are interviewing thats either an easy question or a tough one…

Weerakkody’s chapter deals with the different kinds of interviews, including structured, semi-structured and unstructured. All of these pretty much depend on how much preperation you did for the interview, and how far outside the guidelines you are willing to stray. For instance, taking a mass survey/interviews would require structured interviews so as to collate/compare the data returned from people’s responses. Semi structured has room for this as well, however becomes less credible as many variables can arise.

Essentially it was about establishing a rapport with your subject, and how far cultural differences can interfere with this. It explained how it might be easy to “break the ice” first, which seems like common sense to me, and also not to ask close-ended questions (also, quite common sense). heres an interview with evander holyfield after his upset win over mike tyson:

I feel sorry for the interviewer here he seems to be pushing hard for a question that couldn’t possibly be answered by religion, haha although if someone is determined, the are going to say it.

Essentially the articles prepared us for our assignments however after asking (and for the majority of us, getting) for a detailed diary of some their most intimate media habits… i think an interview will sit just fine.

Open braket. Close braket.

May 25, 2010 by

I found this weeks readings a bit all over the place. The majority of first reading focused on the Quantitative methodology of collecting research. This was my personal downfall in the first paper. Not that it necessarily effected my overall mark, but it mean’t that I didn’t get an overall understand of the reasons behind my subjects media use, rather just their uses on a daily basis. So the first reading was lot on me seeing as the second half of the reading was very simple “don’t ask closed end questions if you want a real tangible response” etc etc. It all seems pretty simple.

However, we then got to the juicy stuff! 🙂 The focused outlined in Liamputtong’s writings shows us that we need to make sure that there is a clear orientation of our writing, that we’re writing for a purpose and one that can be clearly explained in qualitative research. And that is what we’re left with, explaining our points clearly. Easy right?

Not so, I agree with Lauren, this could be a really cathartic experience for us in getting the informations we’ve stored and rattled around out of heads and onto paper in, hopefully, eloquently written research report.

Here’s for hoping our subjects don’t kick up a fuss 🙂 I know mine is wearing thin with my probing questions.

Writing towards my own health

May 25, 2010 by

To be honest I found these readings to be somewhat boring yet at the same time they managed to sufficiently stress me out about this final paper (I guess it is time to put my research and interview down on paper so that maybe someday it will have a lasting impact on the world.) Haha. Well I guess we may not be the famously published writers that will improve public health and welfare through our writings as Liamputtong suggests, but I do appreciate the idea that writing helps us grow. Although it may not impact public health, digesting all the information we have covered this semester into one concise report will definitely help my health. Hopefully the ideas will stop being a jumbled mess all mixed up in my head and rather organize themselves into something that makes sense when put down on paper.

It is also my hope that we will all be able to learn a little about ourselves, and the world around us via this assignment. Liamputtong suggests that writing on what we researched expands our life experiences, in the end teaching us more than we would have learned simply in a classroom. This I wholeheartedly agree with. Although teachers can assign as many readings as they like and lecture for two hours on a topic, I for one, find that I learn the most when I have to apply what has been taught to my own works. Taking the general concepts of the course such as domestication, combining it with research, and producing a work that looks at the big picture impact on society is no easy task. Although finding the big picture of these topics is rather daunting to me currently, I look forward to discovering what they may be.

Throughout the course we have many topics, which I have found to be extremely relevant to my life and generation. I guess in the end, I will come to understand what the impacts of our current media usage on the future of our society, and how this will shape the world. Although I do not know the answers yet, hopefully (before next week!) they will present themselves with the upmost clarity. After all, Liamputtong suggests that writing about my research should cure me of my discouragement and boredom, right? I guess writing this blog I have already been cured of my boredom over the readings, hopefully if I continue on this path I will not face too much discouragement trying to discover the bigger pictures of media, culture and everyday life.

The ways of the Researcher

May 24, 2010 by

Who needs to stress about writing up the final research paper when we have the likes of Liamputtong’s advice to push us along in the right direction. In the reading “Writing a Qualitative Research Report”, we are provided the fundamental tools and ideas to make our qualitative research papers ‘good’.

Firstly we need to understand the nature of qualitative research writings. In a nut shell they need to be long. This is due to factors like:

–          Detailed descriptions

–          Freedom to use literary devices

–          The need to explain what and why

Next we are told that we need to distinguish who we are writing for, which can be a critical aspect that determines the ‘goodness’ of the report. Liamputong tells us that “qualitative writing needs to be constructed according to the needs and concerns of the audience”. By doing this your findings will be better understood if they are aimed at a particular audience type e.g. scientists v. publisher

Next we look to the structure of qualitative writing. There are 3 main types:

1)      Reports: they seem to be “more pragmatic” and focused on “policy issues” and as a result will have a greater impact on the groups described in the research

2)      Articles: are condensed forms of the research, normally broken up into subgroups of ideas presented, “discussing a specific issue in depth”

3)      Books and monographs: normally have minimal limitations and allow freedom in writing for the researcher. Structure will vary depending on characteristics of the writer themselves but content still needs to flow and vast descriptions need to be made

And to make our lives even easier we are then provided the Holy Grail: what makes for good writing; guys our job is done for us at this point. The key factors include:

–          Writing needs to be as “readable” as possible and “straightforward and understandable” – ok so this is an obvious

–          It should be “cogent, conceptually coherent, and comprehensive” – ok another obvious one, so this Holy Grail is looking more like a chocolate bar

–          Aesthetics are important e.g. catchy titles, grammatically correct, citations to match references, etc – wow I could have told you that as well

Ok so my high spirits when I began this article thought that I’d find the perfect answers to make my writing for this final assessment perfect, but inevitably, just like everything, there are no easy answers, just a little help to sway you in the right direction…thank you Liamputong. Good luck everyone for the research paper, if I go by the quality of your blogs I’m sure you all will kill it.

Give me a sign

May 19, 2010 by

A key point I that I felt was illustrated was that we can make explicit the meaning we want to create through the use of binaries.  For example if someone said the picture a sandwich to me today I would automatically think of the chicken schnitzel sandwich I had as a late night snack last night.  If this person were trying to tell me a sandwich was a healthy choice, in the context of my reality it wouldn’t work –I wouldn’t make the connection.  However if they were to say, “you could eat a greasy Big Mac, on the other hand you could have a sandwich” by explaining what they are not talking about I gain an understanding of what they are trying to convey.

The problem with Saussure’s ideas on semitoics and signs is that he doesn’t take into account that the signified (concerpt being evoked by the signifier) is also a signifier in itself.  If you say cats I think

But then when you think about it that image of a cat can change from person to person and therefore depending on the image evokes a different concept.

I felt that the Lury reading further explored Peirce.

“something which stands to somebody for something in some respect or capacity. It addresses somebody, that is, creates in the mind of that person an equivalent sign, or perhaps a more developed sign.”

When doing some further reading on Peirce his ideas involving the connection between a sign, the object and interpretant follow very closely to Saussure it still leaves room for interpretation and context.

I guess essentially signs/logos/language is all about the attempt to control meaning and therefore a power struggle between those conveying a message and those receiving.

Reworking our wiring

May 18, 2010 by

Like most of you, I found this weeks readings to be very though provoking and insightful. Not only in a linguistics sense but also in human interactivity with the world. Without being too existential, the key idea that I gained from this weeks readings is that perhaps as a society, we have become lazy and rely on the sign to dictate our thinking. We see this so much in the way advertising has infiltrated our lives, no longer do we have to have all three systems of relation in the one ad to understand what is the ad purpose. Nowadays we will just see one of the 3 and understand subconsciously what is being presented to us.

Think of the way that language has evolved. MacDonalds is a universal empire, however we have uniquely taken it’s name and evolved it into our conversational repertoire    – Maccas, MD’s, etc. This is a clear indication of Volosinov’s propositions, particularly that of signs being adaptable and changeable. This video show’s how we are able to so intrinsically take in so much branding without recognising. Lauren might recognise the brands a bit more than us, but you get the gist of it!

However it’s even more dangerous than the infiltration of marketing and branding into our brains constantly. As seen in the Annabelle Lukin reading “Reporting War: grammar as covert operation”, the power of the masses is destabilised through the editing and control of the signified. By controlling the active voice of communication many journalists can dramatically impact transformation of the sign to the signified. The political meaning overlap between this reading and the original Signs and Meaning readings by Shirato+ Yell is seen through the censoring of content, and it’s something that is still very relevant in an age of internet censorship and how the government frames the key concerns of this generation – violence, pornography, fraud, lack of morality and a constant lack of privacy . It’s a bit scary to see how this impacts us so easily every day. But we have such limited control over any of it.

Happy pondering all.

A sign of the meaning

May 18, 2010 by

Shirato & Yell’s reading, signs and meaning, was one that i thoroughly enjoyed due to the simple yet paradoxical nature of their points. The reading explores what and how we take meaning from the signs (images, ads, actual signs, situations) around us.

I personally believe, as the authors have pointed out, that it really is all about context. A stop sign tghat we see on the street carries the meaning that we associate with it on the street. For instance, if we were to see that exact sign say… on the toilet, it carry a similiar meaning but be entirely different, due to the context. one of the definitions that the reading points out is:

“contexts are never identical for, or completely shared by, particpants.”

So every situation we see around us carries seemingly similar meaning, yet differs in an almost infinite number of possibilities. The authors of the article discuss Saussure, which this video covers quite well:

I think to simply this morning and recognise, like the example used in the piece (the ‘violence’ example) that words can take entirely different meanings. Tony Abbot’s gaffe about his remarks in ‘heated or robust discussion’ have stirred the media and in reality voters to question the validity of all of his responses. the words he used, would they be used in a different context, would take on the meaning of someone merely admitting a mistake. however, as the authors concluded:

  1. words do not function as labels that can be unproblematically attached to things or acts or experiences;

What we ordinarily define as a ‘sign’ is simply a static form of communication. all communicating, whether be by language, body language, viral, signs, etc etc etc etc, carries a unique set of meanings that we associate to each part of the equation. The responder communicates by sending data (hand signals, words, facial expressions) and the respondee interprets this data against the set of meanings normally associated with it. It all sounds very digital and unhuman but seems the easiest way of metaphorically describing the communication between two humans (ironic hey). to end i’ll leave you guys with a little abstract video about semiotics.

*tip: read into the meaning whatever you want

Is it a boy or a girl? … I think it’s a little early to start imposing roles on it, don’t you?

May 18, 2010 by

Until this week’s reading “Signs and Meanings” I have never really sat down to contemplate how meaning is produced by words, in my head it just was, that is a ‘dog’ is a dog. But when you put this term into different contexts you find yourself extracting a number of meanings from this word, this sign. A dog can be an animal we all know and love (except for those weird looking balding, miniature dogs people like Paris Hilton keep in their handbags, I don’t really care for those things) or if we shake up the context in which we use the term ‘dog’ we can change it to symbolize a derogatory term for a female, or use it to describe a friend who has abandoned you. Already we have found three different meanings for the one word so where do we go from here.

I tend to agree that we need to move away from the idealistic take that Saussure uses (even though many points he raises are true in that “reality, the world, and material conditions are not given, but rather are produced as meaningful through signs”, to agree more with the Marxist take of Volosinov where he advocates that there is “no such thing as an autonomous language system”. The three summarized propositions taken from Volosinov were:

  1. Signs are adaptable and changeable (e.g. the different meanings of the term ‘dog’)
  2. Words have a history of meanings (e.g. using ‘dog’ in a derogatory sense established later in history as part of colloquial language)
  3. The meanings created by signifiers are dependent on context (the meaning we take from the signifier ‘dog’ changes upon the way and situation it is used for)

The 3rd proposition is most important because the context of a symbol can have a powerful impact on individuals in their everyday life and the idea of “politicising meaning” as a result of context can often become detrimental for individuals associated with these symbols. E.g. the idea that the word ‘woman’ is associated with “emotionality, lack of reason, unprofessionalism…” These meanings are not extracted by all of society but there is a large sector that still associates these ideas with the word ‘woman’ and this meaning can affect women on a number of levels while trying to sustain a more worthwhile image within society.

So, inevitably, people are going to take their own meaning from the words (symbols) that are produced in everyday life; my advice is…try to be as careful as you can when raising an argument or point of view because the number of meanings read into what you say can sometimes get you into a lot of trouble..Sometimes, however, the meaning you take is right. Here’s a clip of George. W. Bush bloopers.