#5 — The Mediated Public Sphere

Part I

(Caption: This is the subvertisement that my group and I came up with. We took the original advertisement for the waterproof Sony Xperia Z3+, which said, “Beautiful inside and out”, and replaced the word “Beautiful” with the word “Water” in attempts to undermine Sony’s claims that its phones are waterproof. I have personally had a negative experience with this aspect of Sony’s Xperia phone series — despite having followed the recommendations for usage in water, my phone had ended up unable to function after I tried to use it to take pictures in a swimming pool, hence this idea. This is a problem that has been faced by many others, as shown in this forum: https://talk.sonymobile.com/t5/Xperia-Z3-Compact/False-advertiing-Sony-Xperia-Z3-is-NOT-waterproof-at-all/td-p/901962 .)

Part II

‘The Legend of Korra’ is the sequel to ‘Avatar: The Last Airbender’, a children’s animated show which aired on Nickelodeon. In the final quarter of ‘The Legend of Korra’, several scenes were suggestive of there being a romantic relationship between the female protagonist, Korra, and her female ally, Asami. The show ends with a scene of Korra and Asami venturing into the spirit world together with their hands held, which many viewers interpreted as proof of a romantic relationship between the two characters.

The possibility of characters being in a same-sex relationship on a children’s television show sparked much discussion – most of which were in favour of such a move. The finale of the show thus faced much scrutiny, as viewers debated the legitimacy of concluding there was such a relationship. Eventually, the creators of the show, Bryan Konietzko and Michael Dante DiMartino, confirmed that Korra and Asami were indeed in a romantic relationship. This pushed the boundaries of themes often covered in children’s television, because children’s capabilities to understand themes surrounding sexual orientation have often been questioned and doubted.

The Huffington Post and USAToday published online articles about this development, shedding light on it in a positive manner and applauding the creators of the show, as well as Nickelodeon, for giving LGBTQ+ representation a chance on mainstream television – something that is rarely done. The coverage of this move has been largely supportive, and many express hopes that this will be the beginning of normalizing LGBTQ+ representation and deconstructing the prejudice towards non-heteronormative couples. This mirrors producer Bryan Konietzko’s opinion that this move “falls short of” a “slam-dunk victory for queer representation”, but that “hopefully it is a somewhat significant inching forward”.

Read the news articles here:

Konietzko subsequently released an artwork titled “Turtle-duck Date Night”, which depicts Korra and Asami on a date. He donated 100% of his share of the proceeds from the sale of this artwork to an LGBTQ suicide prevention hotline.



#4 — Government v.s. Private Owned Media

Despite our knowledge that the media can conceal as much as it reveals, the ideology that the media provides us with the objective truth persists even today. As such, the media wields immense influence over our minds and has the ability to clout our opinions and judgements. The question of media ownership is therefore of great importance to us as it possesses the ability to affect issues of every kind.

Government-owned media provides us the benefit of published information that are more likely to be credible, reliable, and obtained via ethical means. Another benefit is that of the media acting in the interest of the public, censoring inappropriate and sensitive content which may cause outrage or commotion. There will also be an intention to promote nation-building and harmony.

However, the withholding of information may occur, as unfavourable acts by the government will be censored. The media could thus be used to spread propaganda, producing articles that laud the strengths of the government while conveniently leaving out the details of questionable or problematic decisions.

An example: http://thehearttruths.com/2012/10/19/how-the-government-uses-own-mouthpiece-to-shape-own-propaganda/

On the other hand, the advantages of privately-owned media include the higher likelihood of differing perspectives on a range of issues being covered. Such media organisations are unafraid to voice criticisms against the government or educate the public about politics more objectively, as they are not obliged to pay heed to the government. The presence of competitors would lead to products of higher calibre as well. Naturally, the downsides of such media include the consequences of sensationalising or distorting facts as the organisations weigh profit over ethics. The reality of media concentration is also often veiled by the illusion of diversity and availability of choices.

Ultimately, I believe that government-owned media will be more beneficial to a country like Singapore, because of the racial and religious diversity that exists here. Even under the influence of government-owned media, people have the option of sourcing out information online, thus mitigating the negative effects of government-owned media.

#3 — Uses and Gratification Theory (UGT)

The Uses and Gratifications Theory (UGT) postulates that “media users play an active role in choosing and using the media” (Lane, 2001) and that “media consumers are actively choosing specific media content according to their needs” (Matei, 2010). In other words, users discern between various forms of media and select one that serves their intended purpose, thus fulfilling their needs.

Read more about it here: http://matei.org/ithink/2010/07/29/what-can-uses-and-gratifications-theory-tell-us-about-social-media/ .

we can do it1
(Source: https://americaniconstemeple.wordpress.com/tag/rosie-the-riveter/)

An example of UGT in action is when the ‘Rosie the Riveter’ image was used by the United States Government to motivate millions of women to join the workforce due to a shortage of labour when men were enlisted for WWII. This poster of a woman wearing a distinctive bandana, flexing her muscles and proclaiming, “We Can Do It!” was used to boost the morale of female workers. This is a prime example of how a group of people, in this case the U.S. Government, actively made use of an image to make a stand that women should serve the country by entering the workforce, thus fulfilling the workforce’s need for labour.

More information: http://www.history.com/topics/world-war-ii/rosie-the-riveter .

wwf image
(Source: http://www.fubiz.net/en/2014/06/25/wwf-campaign-stop-one-stop-them-all/)

Another example is the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) using powerful images to make a stand about our need to stop harmful actions towards nature and wildlife. The above image depicts men standing in the shape of a pyramid, with consumers of the fur trade standing at the top and animal hunters at the bottom. The caption of “Stop one. Stop them all.” serves to remind us that consumers are also perpetrators of this trade, as they provide incentive (monetary returns) for hunters to kill the animals. By stopping any one of the participants (not necessarily the hunters), the pyramid would fall apart, a metaphorical representation of this trade ceasing to exist.

wwf sharks           wwf rhino
(Source: http://www.fubiz.net/en/2014/06/25/wwf-campaign-stop-one-stop-them-all/)

As one of the main tools of advertising and propaganda, the UGT permeates more aspects of our lives than we consciously realise. People are constantly making use of media to make an argument or stand.

#2 — The ‘Media Effects’ Model

This week’s topic: the ‘Media Effects’ model!

The ‘Media Effects’ model is based on erroneous assumptions that the audience are passive and impressionable recipients of media messages, when in reality, most consumers of media are independent, discerning, self-directed thinkers. The basis of this faulty assumption, the transmission model, is similarly flawed as it is an over-simplified perspective on communication. The path of communication is rarely ever as linear as this model claims. Individuals have different ways of ‘decoding’ and interpreting messages, and how they choose to respond to the information thereafter also depends on their distinctive values and principles. Thus, the ‘Media Effects’ tradition is fallacious.

Moving on to the topic of media anxiety — I believe this is caused by the dystopian views inspired whenever a new form of media comes into use by the masses. Numerous and various experiments have been conducted over the years, attempting to prove a causal relationship between the media and its audience. Often, conclusions drawn from these experiments are inaccurate and highly misleading. For example, in Bandura’s Bobo Doll experiment, children who were still unable to grasp the concept of reality were used. They were provided with violent tools and shown a video depicting violence which they had misunderstood as instructions, hence their violent behavior after viewing it. Yet, the conclusion that watching violence would induce violent behavior was drawn, and this proceeded to misguide the public into thinking that there is indeed a causality, ‘confirming’ the dystopian views and fueling the anxiety.

Finally, I believe that the notion of ‘television makes us fat’ is a myth. The causes of obesity range from biological factors like genetic predisposition to social factors like social eating. Physical factors including diet and level of activity also play a large role, and while watching television is a sedentary activity, that in itself is not the cause of obesity. It has to be combined with a number of other factors to actually cause obesity.

That’s all for this post! 🙂