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BLOG POST (MODULE 11): HIRAM GONZALEZ, Black Twitter and its Unifying Significance

Over the years, Black Twitter has received more attention because of the amount of Twitter users that have participated in this hashtag #blacktwitter, causing it to garner more attention in U.S. audiences. In Andre Brock’s essay, “From the Blackhand Side: Twitter as a Cultural Conversation” he says that “Black Twitter refers to the fact that African Americans have, since Twitter’s launch participated in Twitter to a degree that seemed to take internet analysts by surprise.” In other words, Black Twitter is a virtual community that focuses on the issues and interests of the Black community, primarily in the United States. This can range from political issues, to comedic current events going on in the African American community.

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In the picture with all the hashtags you can see how most of them are referring to socio-political events happening within the African American community. This picture of the hashtags conceptualizes what Sarah Florini tells us in her essay, “Tweets, Tweeps, and Signifyin’: communication and cultural performance on Black Twitter”. She tells us is that, “What does exist are millions of African American users on Twitter, networking, connecting, and engaging with other who have similar concerns, experiences, tastes, and cultural practices”. This ties into the picture of the hashtags because we can see very famous hashtags such as #blacklivesmatter and #icantbreathe become viral through the connecting and engaging that Florini talks about. These have been some of the most trending hashtags on not just the Black Twitter community but the overall Twitter community because of the amount of retweets and posts that it has received. 

In the second picture there is a meme regarding the current topics about R.Kelly running a sex cult and Usher contracting herpes. This can be further explicated through Sanjay Sharma’s: “Black Twitter?: Racial hashtags, Networks, and Contagion”. He tells us that “Black twitter works through users retweeting and replying to tweets within specific hashtags, causing those hashtags to trend, and making them into memes.” The second picture depicts a girl being taped on the shoulder by both R. Kelly and Usher as she has to decide if she wants to join a sex cult or receive herpes. These two current situations between R. Kelly and Usher should be taken very seriously however Black Twitter has turned them into more of a joke. In addition, O.J. Simpson was given a release date from prison the same week these two incidents were occurring and Black Twitter did not hold back on generating all sorts of creative memes. 

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This image can be seen as a diss to O.J. Simpson, R. Kelly, and Usher. But in this context, a diss is more along the lines of what Florini calls, “shared experiences of humor and critique”. 

Finally in the last picture, there are brown Twitter birds that show how ‘Black people use Twitter.’ This picture went viral because of the different depictions that were portrayed as if these were the only categories that Black Twitter users fall under. This example can relate to Jeff Yang’s piece, “Stephen Colbert: Racism and the weaponized hashtag”. It relates to it because the picture was seen as highly offensive by the Black Twitter community and different weaponized hashtags were “used to rally support around a political cause.” In all cases, Black Twitter has become a space for primarily Black Twitter users to engage in different cultural conversations as a way to garner support or move on with ideas and concepts that are important. By doing so, this community has become one that is very unique in its origin and continuum.

Discussion Questions:

  1. How do you use social media as a way to connect with different audiences that share similar views to yourself?
  2. Can you give an example of a time you saw a hashtag go viral? How was this seen in your social media community? Did the hashtag start something, or did it propagate a situation?
  3. What are the pros and cons of Black Twitter? If they had to pick, what side would Brock, Florini, and Yang be on?

Relevant Readings:

  1. Andre Brock, From the Blackhand side: Twitter as a cultural conversation
  2. Sarah Florini, Tweets, Tweeps, and Signifyin’: communication and cultural performance on Black Twitter
  3. Sanjay Sharma, Black Twitter?: Racial hashtags, Networks, and Contagion
  4. Jeff Yang, Stephen Colbert: Racism and the weaponized hashtag

 

Thoughts and comments welcome below!

 

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BLOG POST (MODULE 10) SHINYA KADONO, Fake Information in the Age of New Media

Today, the social media is probably the fastest way to have an access to information because of the modern technologies such as laptops and smartphones. However, people are unaware of how this convenience is sometimes very untrustworthy and dangerous. In his essay, McLuhan discusses about the new forms of “news” by introducing Xerox and its system, where an ordinary person can be the publisher. He calls this new system of journalism at that time, “the underground press”.  He also argues that “as new media continue to proliferate, the nature of ‘news’ will naturally change too, along with the perpetually renewed revolution in information speeds and patterns.” Today, we have numerous forms of this “underground press” inside people’s smartphones. The example I give is Twitter. A Twitter is an online app where a user can post and interact with messages, “tweets”, restricted to 140 characters with registered and also unregistered Twitter users.

Fake tweet

The picture above is a screenshot of a tweet by BBC Northampton about President Trump’s Inauguration. The tweet is this, “Breaking News: President Trump is injured in arm gunfire #Inauguration” Although, we know that this isn’t true, because Inauguration already happened in January and Donald Trump hasn’t gotten injured. But, what if you weren’t watching the TV during this inauguration and checked your phone and saw this tweet? BBC Northampton is a verified Twitter account, meaning the account is protected by Twitter from any copyrights. Also this account has over 40,000 followers. McLuhan claims that, “among the unexpected features of the information revolution are… major involvement in the lives of other people, and the extraordinary enlargement of the public sector. This tweet caused great confusions at that time and shortly after the original tweet, BBC Northampton tweeted saying that their account has been hacked and the previous tweet was fake. However, it is hard for the readers to know that the original tweet is fake if they didn’t watch the TV of the inauguration or read the following tweet. This is why social media is scary and dangerous. The fake tweet is an example of what McLuhan would call the “replay” , which takes news “on a totally new dimension”, but clearly this one  took the news on a wrong dimension. We now live in a society where we could find out breaking news through our social media. However, one must be more cautious whenever he or she tries to spread it, because as McLuhan mentions, “at instant speeds… the audience becomes actor, and the spectators become participants.”

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Discussion Questions:

  1. Do you believe that social media’s pros or cons are greater?
  2. Does the character limit on tweets take away from authenticity of posts?
  3. Have you ever read news on social media then realized afterwards that it was fake?

Related Readings:

Sputnik by Marshall McLuhan

Social Media Addiction

On social media sites, users display their networks in order to signal a number of traits social status, political beliefs, cultural tastes and in order to establish trust in a new relationship – Public Displays of Connection by J.Donath and d.boyd 

Whenever I check my Instagram timeline, there are many cute pictures of cute couples. Some of them are getting married and some others just got into the relationship. Sometimes, people are complaining how awful their ex-boyfriends/girlfriends are.

When I was in middle school, if I like someone I confess and if he also likes me back we just get into relationship and go on dates. We did not need to inform others what we are doing, except our close friends just for girls talk. But now I see people posting about happy stories like date night for anniversary and I’ll see them being deleted after awhile because they break up. This can lead to negative emotions and stalking behaviors.

Like it’s mentioned in Public Displays of Connection, the users use social media to establish trust in a new relationship and show it to others.

And everyone is connected with others all the time.

But is it really the best to care about what others will think about you by checking how many likes and comments you get?

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Personally, it is not good for my mental health because it gives me anxious about what others will say about my posts and so on.

And also, it is disrespectful to keep checking your social media when you are with someone else. When my parents were younger, they were writing letters to communicate and call on the phone to make an appointment now it is really easy, which is not too bad, but it is also different. But I’d say the older generation probably had better quality of time during dates.

Here’s my questions:

  1. How has the dating style changed by having more social media available to you?
  2. Is it better? worse?
  3. Why do people post their dating status on social media?

BLOG POST (MODULE 10): SAMUEL JUNQUA, How Social Media Can Influence Interactions

Alternative girl with piercing unmask a good girlThe social media image that one has often does not accurately represent reality. Social media allows people to put on masks of identity using “techniques” to sustain impressions. A dramatization of this concept of masks is presented above where the woman portrayed has a mask that is more conservative than her actual appearance. McLuhan elaborates on the idea of masks by saying that, “the maker tends to project his own image as the mask of the user or reader which he endeavors to ‘put on.'” This is to say that the mask allows the performer to see the world differently and to also be seen differently (De Kosnik). Masks are readily available due to the ease with which people can access social media. Using these masks people construct their life rather than document it realistically and live vicariously through their “character”. In social media people can be who they want to be but the unrealistic image people present leads to possible difficulties connecting intimately.

With so many people performing simultaneously on social media and so much content shared instantly it is difficult to sort through what is important and what is unimportant. This is where meaningful connection can be lost because people focus on the wrong things while looking over what matters most. Social media changes the experience of interaction because it creates the possibility to, “have the experience and miss the meaning” (McLuhan). As McLuhan says, “the mysterious thing about this kind of
speed-up of information, whereby the gap is closed between the experience
and the meaning, is that the public begins to participate directly in actions
which it had previously heard about at a distance in place or time.” The closing of the gap is something social media inherently does but the significance of this can have dangerous consequences. Instead of being present, mindfulness is lost when people focus on attempting to connect to people, things and events far away from them and forgetting to value their immediate environment. The effects are less meaning within interactions however more numerous they may be.

Black Mirror

This episode of Black Mirror exemplifies the way in which people are deathly afraid of the consequences of public rejection or criticism. This character in pink, Lacie, is penalized with a deduction of her official public reputation/ranking for making a scene in the airport. In her virtual world, ones public reputation is used to allow people access to things such as a plane ticket in her specific case. This is an example of how peer pressure can suppress behaviors that society decided is “bad” and unwanted. We have varying degrees of how much of our true self we can show to people depending on how close we are to them. The extent to which we trust someone to accept us is the extent to which we can reveal our true selves to that person. In one-on-one interactions there is the potential to be as close as possible to our true self. In groups we have to hold back a bit because you are not comfortable with some people in that group regardless of how much you trust other people within the group. In social media where content is for everybody to see we are the least like our true selves. We have to take into consideration everybody that may view the content and so it is naturally censored or adjusted for acceptance. McLuhan however, asks us to think of social media performances as “making” instead of “faking” although social media can certainly be used to create a new public persona that does not reflect the way someone is in real life. Although people create “characters” to represent themselves on social media which can be interpreted as “faking”, it can conversely be considered to be “making” if looked at from the perspective that separates the “true self” in real life and the “character” created on social media. If we can view these two personas as separate entities instead of as supposed to be one and the same, we can view these social media performances as a creation of a new entity instead of a false representation of the preexisting self.

Discussion Questions:

  1. What is your opinion of social media and do you believe it helps or hurts human connection? Why do you use it or why don’t you?
  2. Do you agree with McLuhan that social media should be thought of as “making” versus “faking”?
  3. In what ways (if any) would you say you are different online than in person?

Relevant Readings:

“At the moment of Sputnik the planet became a global theater in which there are no spectators but only actors” by Marshall McLuhan

BLOG POST (Module 9): REBA CHAWLA, Single in the City?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G7rpR-ul1po

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-92uGOLGIxo

Sex and the City represented a new and groundbreaking television approach to women’s representation and sexuality in the early 2000’s. The show follows the lives of four females as they navigate the challenges of their careers, friendships, and romantic lives in their 20s and early 30s. As Arthur’s articulates in her text “Sex and the City and Consumer Culture” this show focuses on “women as protagonists, whose actions drive the narrative, replaced the marginal and narrow range of roles available previously to women characters in these genres.” This show highlights several stereotypes and sexist experiences that affect women daily and encourage discourse regarding these challenges in an attempt to spark change.

In this video clip, we see Miranda completing the necessary paperwork to purchase her own apartment on the Upper West Side, and she is met with sexist and condescending remarks during the entire process. Her broker repeatedly asks her if it’s “just you” and inquires as to why she needs such a large apartment just for herself, going so far as to attempt to set Miranda up with her son when she says she doesn’t have a boyfriend. As she’s signing the papers, the broker asks her to check the “single woman box” and inquires if her down payment is coming from her father. These offensive and sexist remarks demonstrate the negative stereotypes associated with single women and society’s discomfort with financially independent, unmarried women. Arthur’s emphasizes that this show “publicly repudiates the shame of being single and sexually active in defiance of the bourgeois codes that used to be demanded of respectable women.” In this way, Sex and the City actually brings to light a previously unaddressed issue that was considered an unsuitable topic in television series, and utilizes the scenario to spark discourse as to why this discomfort of single women exists.

It further “self reflexively interrogates media representation of the single woman although the emotional power of these residual stereotypes is acknowledged.” The viewers can see that all these issues Miranda faces while simply trying to buy an apartment does in fact take a toll on her emotionally; however, she refuses to let society’s misogyny stand in the way of what she wishes to accomplish. While discussing her encounter with her broker over her friends at brunch, Miranda shrewdly notes that if she were a man, no one would have questioned her ability or reasoning for buying an apartment. This highlights the immense double standard that females still encounter in modern day society. While this de facto sexism and discrimination still exists, the actions of the independent characters of Sex and the City prod viewers in a direction that shatters these glass ceilings and gender norms in an attempt to empower single women. The clip ends with Carrie articulating that “they’re just threatened because buying a place alone means that you don’t need a man” and they agree that it is preferable to be alone rather than settle down for the sake of being with a man.

The series does an effective job in presenting multiple perspectives to these residual stereotypes, which I believe is imperative when it comes to changing these pre existing and accepted stereotypes. Charlotte, the most conservative of the four, demonstrates the conventional perspective of marriage and female roles within such a marriage. She interjects at the end of the clip that the broker wasn’t necessarily wrong and that’s why she rents,  “if you own and he still rents, the power structure is all off. It’s emasculating. Men don’t want a woman who is too self sufficient” This statement demonstrates an alternative perspective, in direct comparison to the feelings of Miranda, Carrie, and Samantha. This is important because this show provides the one dimensional thought process as a response, in order to highlight how individuals in the real world may think of this scenario. It then further goes on to repudiate this line of thinking when Samantha sarcastically replies, “ I’m sorry did someone just order a Victorian straight up.” Samantha’s incredulous reply to Charlotte’s backward thinking comment directly represents how this series challenges gender norms and refuses to allow this preconceived notion of a woman’s single state to perpetuate in a cycle of sexism.

With that, I leave you with a few question to think about. As always, I would love to hear your feedback, thoughts, and analysis on this topic! Thanks for reading 🙂

  1. Knowing that this show aired in the early 2000’s, how do you believe current TV series are attempting to address and change gender norms more relevant in today’s society?
  2. Can you think of any characters in TV shows you watch that represent the conventional gender norms that Charlotte advocates for?
  3. What are some other way you think television series can utilize this platform to spark discourse in regards to eradicating negative and harmful stereotypes towards females?

 

 

BLOG POST (Module 9): JAMES LI, Representations of Gay Characters on TV

(watch the whole clip for the first one)

(watch till 0:53) enjoy some music and dance 🙂

Glee was a famous television series that aired in 2009, with the reputation of being a gay text. Kurt Hummel, the flamboyant gay character in Glee, presents several stereotypes that are associated with gay characters on TV. The first video clip takes part in the very beginning of the whole series, where Kurt and several other main characters are first introduced. Inside the scene, we see several bullies from the football team tosses Kurt in the dumpster. If you continue to watch the series, we see that there are multiple places where Kurt is constantly getting bullied. This is connected to the stereotype that Miller mentions in the article that gay characters are usually victims in TV series. Inside this short clip, Kurt only has one line, “please, this is Mark Jacob’s new collection.” From this sentence, we can get the idea that he is coming from a family that is economically well off. This is also evident in the second video clip, where he is dressed fashionably and dancing in a large house with multiple floors. Another stereotype that we are encountering here. Gay characters are often depicted as being overly flamboyant on TV series so that producers can make audiences understand that the character is gay when they first see him.

All of these stereotypes create false imagery for the gay community just as what we learned previous weeks regarding how television creates stereotypes for other communities although we do see more gay representations on TV. The increasing appearance of gay characters on TV is mainly because the Slumpy class (Socially Liberal, Urban-Minded Professionals) desires “edgy, risqué programming” with a “socially liberal and fiscally conservative” position. These audiences want to include equality and diversity within their ideology to make them seem more liberal and cosmopolitan without challenging their economic conservatism. There are several issues that we are facing with these stereotypes.

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The first problem that we encounter here is the idea of “model minority” that Becker mentions in his essay. We see that gay characters are always educated and wealthy. What they are struggling with is social recognition of their sexual orientation. This phenomenon is evident with the character Kurt in Glee and the gay couples, Mitchell and Cameron, in Modern Family. All of them are middle-class family, who live in a decent neighborhood. We do not see gay characters who are minorities or poor as if gay people are only white and wealthy. This is a stereotype that the Slumpy class wants to see because it offers “straight Slumpies a painlessly passive way to affirm their open-mindedness.” They do not have to struggle with challenges from minorities or people in lower class if they only have gay characters that are white and wealthy on television. This allows them to include diversity and is more cosmopolitan without confronting their economic conservatism of not willing to have redistributive policies for the minorities and the poor people.

This idea leads to the second issue that we are facing with gay representations on TV. We assume the opinion that gay characters are included more and more on television because the audiences actively support gay rights. However, “consuming difference commodified for one’s convenience and being repeatedly encouraged to celebrate diversity did not guarantee that one’s consciousness was thoroughly transformed” according to Becker. Watching more television series that include gay characters does not necessarily mean that the audiences are actually supporting gay rights. It is possible to think about the idea that they are watching it only because they desire edgy and hip contents to be included in the television. It is because gay characters do not hurt their principle ideology that they allow gay characters to be widely represented on television. Becker illustrates this idea by comparing with the decrement of African-American characters on TV. If the Slumpy class truly wants diversity, then there should be more African American representations. However, we do see the fact that the Slumpies “shared the same intolerant attitudes toward blacks as older generations.” This phenomenon hints to the fact that it is not the actual gay rights that they are supporting. What the Slumpy class wants is to make them seem more open-minded with the inclusion of diversity that fits their ideology.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Do you think that the Slumpy class is supporting diversity and gay rights or they simply want to include more edgy and hip contents?
  2. Are there more stereotypes that you can think about are associated with gay characters? What are some TV examples that you think of?
  3. Are there any other problems that are associated with the gay stereotypes on TV?
  4. We do see quite a lot of gay representations on TV but often with negative imagery. Consider the discussion question that we did for Module 7. Do you think gay characters should have more but worse representations, or less but more positives representations?

Relevant Readings:

Ron Becker, “Gay-Themed Television and the Slumpy Class”

Taylor Cole Miller, “Performing Glee: Gay Resistance to Gay Representations and a New Slumpy Class”

Thoughts and comments welcome below!

BLOG POST (Module 8): ANTHONY DIPRINZIO, DEPICTIONS OF NATIVE AMERICANS AS THE NEW SPACE AGE COWBOYS

In an episode entitled, Strength of the Bear, from season 1 of the 1980s American Space Western animated television series, BraveStarr, the main character, Marshal BraveStarr (voiced by Pat Fraley) is introduced as a Native American “space cowboy” who posses mystical powers that can be used by channeling “spirit animals.”

The embedded Youtube video shows the episode in its entirety. However, you only need to watch the portion of the video from 3:42 to 5:27.

In the following clip we observe BraveStarr conversing with an older Native American man who is referred to as “Shaman.” The discussion that Bravestarr and Shaman have revolves around the loss of Bravestarr’s mystical powers. During this conversation we are able to observe many stereotypes associated with the modern depiction of Native Americans in popular culture. In Diana George with Susan Sanders’ work entitled, Reconstructing Tonto, they talk about this idea of the “magical Native American” who consults with a mysterious and magical elder. The fact that BraveStarr is blessed with these magical powers and seeks advice from Shaman, who represents the wise elder, this stereotype is clearly visible. There is an image of Native American peoples such as Shaman holding onto magical secrets that are somehow able to help the “self.” It is this mystery that gives the Native American characters a unique aura that people watching this show become attracted to.

In the episode, BraveStarr seeks to regain his powers in an effort revitalize the “self.” We see the desperation of BraveStarr and his willingness to fully trust what this elder has to say. The scene also presents some religious elements in the way that it presents this idea of “spirit animals.” Here one can see that certain religious elements are utilized in order to contribute to the entire “mystery” behind BraveStarr and his powers.

We also get to see a quick flashback to when BraveStarr was a boy and how he had to enter “the darkness” and now as a man how he must enter the “wilderness”. In Gretchen Bataille’s work entitled, Native American Representations, she talks about this notion of indigenous peoples seeing themselves as being a part of the world and one with nature. By suggesting that BraveStarr must enter the wilderness to regain his powers reinforces this stereotype of Native Americans being one with nature. The fact that he must relinquish his weapons and go into the wilderness with nothing but his “self” shows that there is some connection between his Native American heritage and the surrounding environment. Although this belief of being one with nature does resonate amongst Native American peoples, the concept is overplayed to the point that it becomes a defining factor of all Native Americans in general.

Other important aspects to analyze when watching this clip are the actual names of the characters and the clothing they are wearing. It appears that the name BraveStarr is supposed to be a play on words that is based on actual names of  Native Americans. For example, an actual Native American historical figure that pops into my head was named Sitting Bull. Just as actual Native American names have meanings, the name BraveStarr is supposed to signal that he is both brave and associated with the heavens due to his mystical abilities. When it comes to Shaman’s name, well this is pretty obvious. His name relates to the role that he plays as a wise elder. In S. Elizabeth Bird’s work, Gendered Construction of the American Indian in Popular Media, she talks about how male Native American characters are portrayed as hyper sexualized brave men who are very muscular and act as the hero. This fits the description of BraveStarr perfectly in both his name and his physical appearance as a space ranger trying to save the day from evil forces that are at work. She also notes that usually if they are not portrayed in this manner, then they are seen as being a mystic, which is what Shaman represents.

In terms of clothing that the men are wearing, we see BraveStarr wearing a ranger type outfit whereas Shaman is wearing traditional Native American ceremonial garb. In Fantasies of the Master Race by Ward Churchill, he talks about how many times diverse Native American cultures are clumped into one category simply for commodification. Based on the garb that Shaman is wearing, this stereotype is known to be true. For all we know, the garb he wears may belong to a specific tribe, but in the show it is used as a generalization for depicting how every Native American probably looks. Also, being a show that is supposed to take place in the future, it is essentially labeling Shaman as what Churchill calls, a “creature of a particular time.” Essentially, Shaman is depicted as somebody from the 1850s to 1880s as opposed to a person from the future. It is almost as if we are seeing Native Americans as relics of the past even though they exist today as unique peoples.

Based on the way that Native American characters are depicted within the show BraveStarr, it is apparent that many of the stereotypes discussed by the authors mentioned in this blog post are seen to be very accurate. The stereotypes presented in this show reduce the complex and diverse cultures of Native American groups to a single, inaccurate depiction. From the way that the characters are dressed to their mystical attributes, both BraveStarr and Shaman only perpetuate these stereotypes.

Discussion Questions:

1.) Do you agree with Diana George’s claim that many Native Americans on television today are depicted as the “magical Native American”? Explain why or why not.

2.) Are Native American characters on television playing the role as the muscular hero like in BraveStarr? Or are they more often then not depicted as untamed and destructive savages? Provide an example to support your claim.

3.) Can you think of any television show today that does not depict Native Americans with the stereotypes that we discussed in module 8 or this blog post? If so, please name the show and explain how they do not abide by these stereotypes.

4.) Who do you think the intended audience of this animated series was and why do you think it was so popular when it first came out in the 1980s?

I hope that you enjoyed this blog post! Please leave your thoughts and comments below. All responses are appreciated.

Related Readings:

Diana George with Susan Sanders, Reconstructing Tonto.

Gretchen Bataille, Native American Representations.

S. Elizabeth Bird, Gendered Construction of the American Indian in Popular Media.

Ward Churchill, Fantasies of the Master Race.