From Vietnam to Arab Spring: Mediums Facilitating Revolution

Last week I very briefly touched on the concept of citizen journalism being a way of getting around traditional news media’s tendency to depict war as tame and unobtrusive for the sake of maintaining public support. Today I would like to discuss this a little further and connect it back to idea that the ability to illustrate the true nature of things is facilitated by global networks, convergent technological flows and the rise of social platforms. Not only that but social media has become a way for revolutionists to come together, organise operations and share their messages on a mass scale with little barrier to entry.

Prior to the Vietnam War all the information that everyday people could obtain about war came from mainstream media channels like newspapers and radio, there simply were no other mediums and the general public was given a highly mediated, white washed version of events. By this I mean propaganda campaigns that harboured wide spread support and a sense of patriotism.

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“By the mid-1960’s, television was considered to be the most important source of news for the American public, and, possibly, the most powerful influence on public opinion itself” Erin McLaughlin For the first time the public were seeing war first hand. The horrors entered people’s living rooms and in between school, work and dinners, anyone could watch villages being destroyed, Vietnamese children burning to death and soldiers in body bags. For obvious reasons this created mass opposition to the war and widespread protests. Fast forward to the now and you will see that news corporations, who jump through hoops for the hand that feeds, take every precaution not to make that mistake again.

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The news coverage of war today paints a story reminiscent of early propaganda campaigns, with the us versus them mentality and imagery of merry marching soldiers doing little more than hanging out in barracks and pressing buttons on fancy war machines.  Gordon Mitchel explains how the introduction of smart weaponry allows for a controlled way of marketing war to the public that is alienated from the direct reality of the battlefield. “Bombardiers wielded hand-held Nintendo-like devices that help pilots guide precision weaponry and computerized navigation aids to make their way to their targets – not real locations but map coordinates displayed on a VDU”…”there was little to distinguish the coalition pilots’ experience from training runs made in simulation machines”.

Vietnam War U.S. Casualties

 Sept 18, 1966 

 

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The problem with legacy media is “you’ve got to be silent, to be spoken to- passivity is the logic of that technology” (Richard Senett). Luckily for us we live in an age where you do not just have to rely on monolithic media for your information. We have the internet where information flows freely and citizens upload imagery of war and injustice every day, the truth is out there you just need to look. The ability to do this is a direct result of technological convergence. Convergent mediums have allowed for mobilisation, coordination and dissemination to take place which has in turn has given people, who would otherwise not have voices, the freedom to broadcast messages not in sync with the official agenda. The mobile aspect of modern technology means that people can bring their devices with them capturing things as they unfold and staying connected to the web. The coordination aspect means platforms like FB and Twitter can facilitate revolution by giving activists a place to come together and plan action at great speed and across distance. The dissemination aspect means that messages from individual nodes can be broadcasted to the masses without difficulty and the extent of the spread is massive in scale.

When all these elements come together to create a hive of connectivity the capability emerges for small individuals to enact large change. However simply having the ability to do does not guarantee it will happen, you need to have the right influencers, the right cause and circumstances where action is achievable at a local level (think globally act locally). But when this does happen it gives individuals the power to change the world, Arab Spring is a perfect example of this.

When Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire in protest over harassment from city officials, the local news media sprouted the message that he was merely a psychopath. None the less his death sparked attention all across the globe when the true story was shared across the net and began fueling outrage. The same again occurred when Khaled Mohamed Saeed was beaten to death and the Egyptian government claimed he died of chocking.

By this point protest had already begun to rage but a turning point in the series of events occurred when young blogger Asmaa Mahfouz made a video pleading people to stand up for their rights and take a stand. In this video, that went completely viral, she set a date which germinated the hashtag #Janury25. From there YouTube channels emerged such as Free Egypt where content from the protests could be catalogued and publicly shown. Facebook became a breeding ground for activist communities to form and legitimize and when the Egyptian government cut its people off from the internet, Google and Twitter joined forces giving Egyptian citizens, isolated from the rest of the world, the ability to share their stories globally.

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While this all occurred from the right combination of people and events, it is no doubt that technology played a part in shaping the outcomes. This is pure example of the power that connected technologies can bring and proof that networked systems always beat monolithic ones.

The Death of Legitimacy

If you have been following my weekly posts you will know that I last discussed the idea posed by Eric Raymond that networked systems always beat hierarchical ones because more is accomplished at a faster rate due to mass participation… “Given enough eyes all bugs are shallow”. Last week I was referring to this in terms of Apple vs Android and the concept of a single closed source entity vs a collective open sourced network. Well today I would like to revisit that concept from the angle of traditional legacy media channels vs illegitimate citizen journalism.

Traditional Legacy media channels are your television networks, radio stations and newspapers (so basically anything owned by Rupert Murdoch). This model operates on a one to many archetype where information in scarce and value comes from the production and distribution of content. In this media paradigm the News Corporations become the authority on what is considered news and the selection of content is as simple as deciding what information might be interesting. As New York Times proclaims they are “All the news that’s fit to print” and you don’t really get much say.

Axel Burns makes a point that correlates well here “while the audience retained the right to buy or not by the paper and to switch on and off the television this amounted to a choice between news as it was offered or a self-imposed news blackout”(that’s not the exact quote but it’s something along those lines).

These days the Legacy media model still exists but is arguably on the cusp of becoming obsolete. When millions of web users create content every day that can be freely accessed, the creation of content becomes valueless and instead attention turns to the aggregation of content- the sorting, tagging and packaging of information into personalised bundles of interest. This has given rise to new media model where news is collectively generated and shared by individual users over social platforms. Instead of seeing a story from one news giants perspective who is limited to time and space you are able to gain the full perspective from the hundreds of snippets of the same story from all over the web. Think of it in terms of footage, when a news team cover a story they have one camera man capturing from one angle and that is all you will see on the television but if you search the hashtag of the same story you may find hundreds of videos from countless angles filmed by people who were there on their smart phones. The value in this instance comes not from the individual videos uploaded by the users but in the platforms ability to group them under a unified tag.

“Yes they were built entirely out of 140 character messages but the sum total of those tweets added up to something truly substantial like a suspension bridge made of pebbles” (Steve Johnson).

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News giants would have you believe their dated model still holds value in the authority. They argue that citizen journalism is ‘illegitimate’ journalism and that the only shinning beacon amongst the dark depths of the information avalanche is highly produced content that guarantees quality and validity. While there is truth to this ideal (the internet is a disturbing place), it is not always the case and I don’t just mean because every week Channel Nine runs a story on why sugar is bad for you (Goddammit that’s not news!). I am talking about what I mentioned earlier when I said all bugs are shallow given enough eyeballs.

Participatory news platforms like Twitter and Reddit are always on and moving so fast through iterations that inaccuracies are weeded out by the enormous public faster than a singular news entity could even dream of. Meanwhile having such a small amount of staff working as hard as they can to pump content out as quickly as information arises results in errors slipping through the cracks. Remember the time that Danish news channel accidentally thought Assassin’s Creed was real and used it as backdrop to their news story. To illustrate conflict in present-day Syria, TV2 used an image from Assassin’s Creed digitally depicting Damascus 720 years ago. While that little mistake managed to make it all the way to air it was picked up and shared all over social media within minutes. What was that argument about legitimacy again?

 

 

On the other hand the concept of citizen journalism does bring froth a debate about privacy in the public sphere. The thing about legacy media is they are slow but by being legitimate they must go through all sorts of legal steps ensuring they have permission to film people before sharing it on television. Whereas citizens on the street record who ever, whenever and with very little regard for privacy. If we think back to the Vietnam War, that was the first time real footage of war was shown on public television and is a major contributing factor for opposition to the war. These days war is painted differently to prevent opposition, its ‘Nintendo warfare’, showing only soldiers behind computers pushing buttons. Citizen journalism gets around this being real people sharing real footage as it is, uncensored and raw.  This also means however that in delicate situations like war we are seeing videos surface the net of mothers crying over dead children, with their mutilated bodies open for public display. While this is necessarily for revealing the true nature of war and stopping people from turning a blind eye to it, it generates the question where do you draw the line between truth and respect?

Drinking Up Dat Liquid Labour

 

“As the use of mobile phones in public spaces is increasing, it is leading to the change in social order by blurring the boundary between public and private spaces. What one would typically call a public place is slowly becoming pockets of individual private spaces where people exhibit behaviors as if they were by themselves’” (Geiger 2013).

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What we are seeing is a world where people are always on, always connected to the decentralized global network and this is creating an environment where there is no barrier between real the world and online world. We take our mobiles everywhere, we work from home and we take our social medias into the office. Some of us don’t even have an office, working from companies that exist entirely in the digital realm providing services that run on the facilitation of information rather than the providing of physical products.  This is the liquid labour environment and I discuss in my podcast above it is extremely flexible and constantly moving.

Right now, convergence culture is getting defined top-down by decisions being made in corporate boardrooms and bottom-up by decisions made in teenagers’ bedrooms. It is shaped by the desires of media conglomerates to expand their empires across multiple platforms and by the desires of consumers to have the media they want where they want it, when they want it, and in the format they want. (Henry Jenkins)

We are both the consumers and the creators, the customers and the product.

Controlled Cyber Freedom

Significantly better than last weeks, now with 30% less tongue ties…

“Cyberspace, as Gibson imagined it nearly 30 years ago, was – or would be – a realm of total-immersion virtual reality…The hero of Neuromancer jacks in to the matrix, his inner eye sees a transparent 3D chessboard extending to infinity on which graphic representations of data re abstracted from the banks of every computer in the human system” (Thomas Jones).

What happened to world Gibson envisioned? While we are close to this vision – living in a highly convergent, ultra technological, globally connected world – it is almost like we are running parallel to this vision never quite reaching it. While our current technology systems give us opportunity to connect and contribute to the virtual cyber world. we have sacrificed bits of our freedom for the sake of aesthetic coherence and convenient usability. You must agree to terms and conditions before using sites like Facebook, you must send your messages through them and adhere to their format limitations.

I remember when android phones first came about, Steve Jobs- the father of walled gardens himself- appeared on television saying something along the lines of “We define everything that is on the phone. . . . You don’t want your phone to be like a PC. The last thing you want is to have loaded three apps on your phone and then you go to make a call and it doesn’t work anymore. This is a perfect example of what I mean when I say we have given up our control and often our privacy for a sense of security.

 

Introduction To The Global Network

The moment when you attempt your first audio blog and realise you said PUGcast instead of podcast. None the less here are my thoughts on week two’s lecture topic and readings…

(ps promise to get better in future)

 

To elaborate further on my podcast the quote from the reading that really stood out to me was “Cyberspace is something more. Though built on top of the Internet, cyberspace is a richer experience. Cyberspace is something you get pulled into perhaps by the intimacy of instant message chat or the intricacy of  massive multiplayer online games Some in cyberspace believe they’re in a community; some confuse their lives with their cyberspace existence”.

This perfectly encapsulates the way the internet has created opportunity to create meaningful interactive relationships without physical interaction. The ability to do so has changed marketing forever. Gone are the days of the old school one way dialogue between a company and its customers. Today’s consumers want more, they want personal relationships, real time communication, opportunity to engage with the brand, to contribute to its culture and to form communities with like minded brand users . My textbooks call this Online Customer Relationship Management but I call it simply being a brand in the networked environment.

Here is a brief history of the evolution of marketing as it coincides with the trajectory of technology itself.

 

Becoming One With The Anime

Last week I continued my auto-ethnographic experience; engaging in some more cosplay make up for the anime One Piece. Unfortunately I did not have a chance edit and upload them so I will be doing two blog posts this week :S

To update you on my previous posts, I have chosen Anime as the topic for my final project. More specifically I want to discuss how Anime has been a major part of my life growing up and how engaging with it makes me feel connected to my kindred anime loving spirits. This is a connection that spans globally as convergent technologies allow me to interact with wider anime communities regardless of distance. While  becoming more involved in these communities makes me feel connected to the niche it also has the ability to make me feel disconnected from what is considered mainstream here in Australia. There have been many instances in my life where others have made fun of me for watching, as they  blatantly put it,”Silly Japanese Cartoons” but there have also been times where something as simple as having a One Piece key chain is enough incentive for a total stranger to strike up a conversation with you.

A perfect example of this, that I can remember, was one time at work. It was a normal mundane day at the o’l IGA and I was standing behind the counter serving on auto pilot. A boy around the age of 16 (I think) came up to the counter to buy a can of coke. When he went to pay I noticed he had a One Piece wallet and being a lover of all thing OP, I was all like “Nice wallet, One Piece is the best”. He was completely taken aback and replied with “You.. you watch..One Piece”, I’m still not sure if it was because he was simply excited that an opportunity to discuss anime had come up or if this was the first time a girl had spoken to him but needless to say we had ourselves a grand discussion. Ever since then the same boy comes into work on a regular basis and every time we converse about the latest episode and what we think is going to happen next. I still have no idea what this boys name is but we are now connected by our love of One Piece.

What I have been noticing a lot lately is that watching anime here in Aus is becoming more and more popular. There has always been a huge fan market, but I feel like now it is becoming more accepted. In my own experience I am noticing that the instances where people make fun of me for watching anime are rapidly decreasing and suddenly it is not unusual to watch it. At uni alone I have met heaps of people who love it as much as I do and plenty of them have been girls; which is good to see because it used always seem to be only boys.

On to my experience…

Last week I did make up for the characters Enel and Buggy and today I posted them onto my personal Instagram account.

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Enel 2

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Once again the experience of posting these to my account was a little scary because once again I was worried that people who don’t watch anime would think I was weird. This worry was misguided though because I received many positive responses from people who have never even heard of One Piece. Even with the positive remarks I still found myself justifying my actions by telling people I was doing this for uni. This can be seen in the first picture. The truth is I wasn’t just doing it for uni, It was for my own fun and after taking the pictures I found myself running around the house pretending to be the characters it was awesome. I don’t really know why I felt the need to explain myself, I guess it just comes down to a confidence issue stemming from negative past experiences. I used to always wish I was born Japan, I wanted to grow up in culture so immersed in Anime they erect 18 meter scale replica Gundam Robots in the capital city. Maybe then no one would think I was strange.

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REFLECTION: International Perception

“Tolerance, inter-cultural dialogue and respect for diversity are more essential than ever in a world where peoples are becoming more and more closely interconnected. People of different religions and cultures live side by side in almost every part of the world, and most of us have overlapping identities which unite us with very different groups. We can love what we are, without hating what – and who – we are not. We can thrive in our own tradition, even as we learn from others, and come to respect their teachings” (Kofi Annan).

After 11 weeks of studying International Media and Communications here at UOW, I would have to say that my perceptive of the outside world has ultimately broadened. This time last year I thought I had a pretty good idea of what it truly meant to live in a globalized society, thinking that simply knowing about the customs of other counties and eating multicultural foods meant you were a global citizen. Now, having attended all my lectures, having read the works of several scholars and having participated in many interesting and somewhat heated class discussions, I have come to the conclusion that the concept of globalization is far more complex than I could have ever imagined. Firstly I learned that although the world is becoming more interconnected there is still a hybrid co-existence between Parochialism and globalization.

Through studying several aspects of the international media landscape in terms of Film, Television and News I found out that our individual perception of the outside world is shaped by what we see. This can narrow our perspectives by offering a limited viewpoint of other cultures or promoting Americanization but at the same time things like media capitals and  international education can increase our global awareness and create a sense of inter connectivity.

After studying this subject I learned that in order for globalization to work there need to be a healthy balance between the concepts of both assimilation and separation in the sense that we as global citizens need to learn to assimilate and adapt to cultures other than our own but at the same time we need to promote the cultures of our heritages so we do not loose our cultural identities. As Kofi Annan the former Secretary General of the United Nations States…

“We can thrive in our own tradition, even as we learn from others, and come to respect their teachings”