“I Am Nevertheless Always Cautious, Even On Edge” (Dong, 2012)

Hi Digital Diary Followers

Many would be aware of the ongoing attacks on Indian students during the period of 2009-2010.  It was these attacks that led to consequences including families calling back their children to their country of birth and the number of Indian students applying for student visas falling by half (NDTV, 2010).


However these attacks are not the only instance where Australia has fostered an unwelcoming culture for International students studying abroad. Recently two Chinese international students were victims of a gang assault on Sydney’s public transport system. The robbery, which included racial taunts, left one of the victims with a fractured nose and cigarette burns (Cai, 2012).

The account of the event sent shockwaves through Australia’s international student community (Dong, 2012). With the growth of social media it was not long before the news had travelled back to China. One of the victims, twenty nine year old Xuan, posted online about the incident and the account was re-tweeted more than ten thousand times on China’s popular microblogging website Weibo (Dong, 2012). After this is was not long before the incident was televised with The China Central Television network sending warning messages that there was a serious threat to the safety of Chinese students in Australia (Dong, 2012).  There were even reports that more than three thousand students had signed a petition and were considering staging a rally (Cai, 2012).

With a growing number of international students having negative intercultural experiences with Australia it depicts the country in a tone which is extremely parochial and even to an extent ethnocentric. It is also leading to students preferring to explore education opportunities in other areas of the world such as Canada and the United Kingdom (NDTV, 2010).

Dong, an Asian international student from the University of Melbourne, believes that the incident will add to the growing violent reputation Australia is adopting and states that:

It is a shame that many of us don’t feel acceptance and respect. I would like to feel safe in Australia but it is hard to relax enough to make real connections here with nightmare stories”

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“Audiences Should Not Be Treated as ‘Cultural Dopes’” (Barker, 1999)

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It is fairly obvious that the animation studio Pixar has gained a respectable reputation in regards to its universally appealing films and it’s forward thinking production. Movies such as such as Toy Story, Monsters Inc. and Finding Nemo have built the company’s name exploring the notions of nostalgia, transcending expectations and stereotype deconstruction.

However, although Pixar has grown to become one of the worlds leading animation studios the company has received increasing criticism in regards to the unwelcoming cultural stereotypes portrayed within their films (McMillan, 2012).

In recent films such as Brave and Ratotouille the studio has portrayed a romanticised version of Scotland and idealised notions of Paris. The Incredibles conjured disapproval after casting a black comic relief partnered with his sassy wife (McMillan, 2012) Pixar have even been criticised for upholding a sexist, homophobic culture in Toy Story 3.

 

Christopher Barker describes how content that flows across geographical boarders can play an influencing factor within the makeup of cultural identities. However he also goes on to write that television is a site that frames various cultural stereotypes through dominant ideology.

The animation company serve as an example of cultural imperialism and how Globalisation is leading to homogenisation of a monoculture as it disseminates “Americanised” views of certain places and people. The United States can be seen as the leading exporter of cultural goods with the entertainment industry being one of its largest export earners with the estimated value of the cultural and creative industries sitting at around $1.3 trillion in 2005 (Thussu, 2006). Hollywood films dominate the market share with content being consumed in more than one hundred and fifty countries (Thussu, 2006).

However as Appaduri describes, the exchange of culture is not one way and the United States should not be held purely responsible for inadequacies that come from an array of players within the world economy.

Non Online References
Appadurai, A (1996) ‘Disjuncture and Difference in the Global Cultural Economy’ Modernity at Large: Cultural Dimensions of Globalization Minneapolis and London: University of Minnesota Press, pp. 27-47

A Reflective Perspective 2.0

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As the blogging adventure comes to an end it’s always important to reflect on the experience. It is easy to say that this assignment has allowed me to gain new insights not only on topics relating to the course but on my own writing and reflecting skills. Looking back, I consider these three posts as my best blog entries.

YouTube and Copyright
Not only did this blog post reflect on the lecture/tutorial theory, it also incorporated the platform I was following. I was able see where my platform fit in in regards to the issues surrounding copyright and now I can draw on this content for my final essay.

Slack Audiences on Active Issues
Within this blog post I drew upon the example of CTFxC. Because I was really familiar with the example, because I am a regular follower of CTFxC, it made it easier to write the blog post. It was also interesting because I was able to relate my university work to something I consumed in everyday life. This blog post also uses a combination of in text links, videos and graphics in a way that complimented my blog and allowed for further investigation and engagement for the reader.

From Transmedia Storytelling to Transmedia Activism
I felt that within this blog post I moved away from the direction of the lecture/tutorial theory however I found the issues surrounding the topic of transmedia activism enlightening and interesting to blog about. I feel that the blog post shows the development of my critical research skills through the links and quotes.

Overall there have definitely been times where the blogging experience was frustrating and time consuming however it was a rewarding experience which allowed me to be able to develop a digital portfolio and skills in both critical and reflective thinking and writing.

“If They Don’t Ignore You, They Attack You” (Moore, 2007)

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Anita Sarkeesian describes herself as “a popular culture critic, feminist, and woman” and is most famously know for her YouTube series Feminist Frequency

Taking a personal interest in the oppressive portrayals of women in video games Sarkeensian launched a crowd funded campaign on Kickstarter to make a web series which looked to deconstruct the representation of women in gaming culture. However the entrepreneur soon became a target for a massive online hate campaign much of hate being targeted toward her gender. Her social sites were inundated with threats of rape, violence, sexual assault and death. Pornographic images of her were created and there was even an online simulated game which portrayed Anita being beaten.  (Sarkeesian, 2012)

Users were working together, coordinating and communicating their raids, bringing them back to message boards as evidence to “show off to each other” (Sarkeesian, 2012). It depicts that the collaborative, participatory experience can sometimes be host to vicious crimes of anonymous hate.

The Internet boasts of the idea that there is a “zero cost” when it comes to production and distribution of content (Mitew, 2013) however with situations like Anita’s it is evident that Internet usage can come at a considerable personal and social cost, especially if you are a woman. Ultimately, for Anita, the situation worked in her favour – her Kickstarter rose twenty five times what she initially asked with 7000 individuals contributing to her cause (Sarkeesian, 2012). She was also inundated with public encouragement in the form of videos, fan art, comics and blog posts and now she dedicates her time using her personal story to give talks on online harassment faced by women in the game space and on the Internet (Sarkeesian, 2012).

However there are individuals who haven’t been as successful as Sarkeesian. TV host Charlotte Dawson is a recent example. Dawson attempted to end her life and was consequently hospitalised after receiving vicious abuse from Twitter Trolls.

These cases can be seen as examples to question the extent of freedom that should be allowed over the Internet, especially if people use it as a way to facilitate unnecessary, misogynist hate speech. Zack Whittaker describes that online there is a severe lack of regulation and moderation at the best of times and although we do have the right to express freedom of speech we should be nice about it.

A Celebrity Call To Arms

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“The NOH8 Campaign is a charitable organization whose mission is to promote marriage, gender and human equality through education, advocacy, social media, and visual protest” (NOH8 Campaign, 2009).

This campaign, created by celebrity photographer Adam Bouska, is a silent protest via photography where subjects duct tape their mouths and write “NOH8” on their cheek to symbolise how people voices are being silenced by same sex marriage legislation. The images will eventually be compiled and be used in a large-scale media campaign (NOH8 Campaign, 2009). The group also offer social media such as Twitter and Facebook as a way to spread their message and gain support. This example however serves as a way to show how social media and activism can exist in two separate realms.  Although the campaign moves towards a good cause it doesn’t ask its participants to commit to any material risk. It deems it as another example of what I’ve identified in previous posts as “Slacktivism”.

Organisations such as NOH8, for me, also raise questions about using celebrities to promote campaigns related to political concerns, particularly in relation to youth. There is a concern about entertainment intruding into politics and the hijacking the Hollywood publicity machine for political ends (Jenkins, 2012). The NOH8 campaign is associated with celebrities such as Josh Hutcherson, Avan Jogia, Corey Monteith, Jane, Lynch, Pete Wenz, Kim Kardashian and Megan McCain to name a few. By using the power of celebrity status it allows for the message to be potentially spread to youth who perhaps do not associate with conventional political rhetoric (Jenkins, 2012). However, although celebrities offer the ability to spread the message to a larger audience it doesn’t guarantee the ability to get youth to drill deep into the political issue (Jenkins, 2012). Jenkins describes it as a “more sociable style of civic participation”.

Making Rape Funny?

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YouTube today seems to be one of the largest, host facilitators of the remix culture.

A famous example of the remix culture, which comes to mind, is the YouTube series Auto-Tune The News by the Gregory Brothers. The musical group take popular footage of news stories, anchors and politicians and digitally manipulates the voices to make the figures appear to sing (Claire Suddath, 2009). The group is responsible for the popular viral remix the Bed Intruder Song which is a remix of footage shown on WAFF 48 News of angry citizen Antoine Dodson, who was giving his opinion about the attempted rape of his younger sister in their Alabama home.

The video is an example of detournement, which is described by Andrew Whelan as a change in direction or derailment and can be used in a way to subvert or undermine meaning. The remix is used in a way to satirise and re-contextualise the serious tone of the news.

The rise of this video however was accompanied with discussion about the appropriateness of taking Dodson’s original TV news interview and reinterpreting it into a song. The Gregory Brothers were highly criticized by many blogs and articles because it overlooked the serious issue of the attempted rape. It raised questions about the remix culture being used in a way that was exploitive (Larry Kless, 2010).

However Michael Gregory, one of the members of the group stated, “I think people who think it’s exploitative are filtering it through their own perceptions. What Antoine did was send a message of strength and anger, and we translated it into a song” (Larry Kless, 2010)

The remix culture can raise the “how far it too far” question. However Kenyetta Cheese sums up the argument quite clearly when she states “They made it more participatory, which increases the value of the original work. They embraced the remix culture and understood they have to contribute back in order to make it spread even further.” This can be seen in the countless remixes of The Bed Intruder Song and the release of an App for the iPhone and Android known as Songify This. It shows that the project is now never ending and continually collaboration of a number of participants.

From Transmedia Storytelling to Transmedia Activism

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With the recent launch online interactive fan experience The Capitol Tour it is easy to see how the Hunger Games falls into the category of Transmedia Storytelling. Starting with the success of book trilogy we have seen The Hunger Games empire grow across media channels spanning into four movies, the online experience, mobile applications and Facebook games.

However it seems that Transmedia Storytelling has also given way to a grassroots movement coined Transmedia Activism. Jenkins describes Transmedia activism as the effort to promote social change, like Transmedia storytelling, by sharing media messages across multiple platforms. Activist fan organizations tap into the myth-making capacity of transmedia franchises to motivate social and political change.

Sticking with the theme of The Hunger Games this grassroots style of activism was seen when the movie was released last year. Oxfam America used hundred of volunteers from the Imagine Better Project to blanket movie theatres during the opening weekend to promote the campaign “Hunger Is Not a Game” which sought to battle world hunger. Using the hype around opening of a new transmedia channel the organisation attempted to make a change explains Vicky Rateau who was the manager of the campaign (Dylan Stableford, 2012).

It is not the first time transmedia storytelling has been used to attempt to promote social change. In 2007 a similar campaign was launched known as The Harry Potter Alliance which used parallels from the book to alert people about the effects of global warming, poverty and genocide (Dylan Stableford, 2012). Looking on the Imagine Better website it states It is a place where we take all of the stories and communities that excite us and turn them into fuel for a better world” (Imagine Better Project).

However it seems these heart-warming stories of social change do not have a happy ending again due to this idea of conglomerate control. After the launch of the Hunger Is Not a Game campaign it did not take long for Lionsgate to ask Imagine Better to remove all references to the movie and threaten to take down the site due to copyright (Steven Zeitchik, 2012). A spokesperson also stated that the campaign came into conflict with deals that the studio made with other anti-hunger groups (Steven Zeitchik, 2012).

Evan Dehavan of Ignition Interative sum up the idea well when he states “we want to bring things to life and allow people to tell stories through technology rather than telling people to live within these boxes and these rules while they’re making something. Now we’re just looking forward to fans and the world seeing what we’ve created.”