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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Today 

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.

Cyber Fears

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This week I began analyzing the results from my survey. The aim was to discover the answers to several key questions regarding my research topic about Cyberpunk and Cyber Fears …

  • Are we more accepting of new technology?
  • What kind of fears do we have regarding our current technologies?
  • Do we still have a dystopian view of the future or do we have more positive perceptions?
  • Is there room for the cyberpunk genre to re-emerge in our modern culture?
  • And if so how might it be different?

Originally I was aiming to get around 40 participants, but thanks to Facebook and its mass message capabilities I was able to get 80. This was really exciting because it gave a large range of in depth answers to work with and draw ideas from. Here are some of the trends I noticed…

35% of participants stated they had a negative perception of the future in that they think we are headed towards disaster rather than utopia. This actually contradicts what I had hypothesized. I thought for sure there would be a positive trend in perceptions but the survey showed that the majority had a bleak, dystopic view, reminiscent of classic cyberpunk.

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But then when asked what their perception of cyber technologies was, 50% said helpful and 24% said extremely helpful. Only 6% said they thought cyber technology was dangerous showing a vast drift towards positive perceptions and suggesting a greater acceptance of technological advancement.

When asked their level of fear over technological advancement 50% said not very frightened and 11% said not frightened at all. Only 3% said very frightened again showing a greater acceptance of technology and a low level of cyber related fear.

However,  there were still areas of cyber culture that generated anxiety within the respondents; predominantly in the field of Artificial Intelligence. When asked if there were any current or near future technologies they were particularly worried the most common answer was Artificial Intelligence. Answers Ranged from AI’s killing or enslaving us, to unemployment from AI’s flooding the job market, to the ethics of playing god.

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Others were concerned about their online privacy, online security, drone spying, governments control through wearable technology and social media dependency.  The three issues most concerned about were Cyber Terrorism, Online Privacy and Cyber Security.  From this I have gathered fear is still prevalent when it comes to our perceptions of new technologies and there is growing concern over several key issues.

Due to a lot of mentioning of films in people answers though I have begun to re-shape my thinking in that perhaps it is not people’s fears that shape cyberpunk films but rather films that shape peoples cyber fears.

Johnny-Box

 

 

Six Seasons and a Movie

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(CAUTION LANGUAGE WARNING IN VIDEO)

The reason why I have shown you the hilarious video above is because I believe it makes a thought provoking statement of truth… “Ratings don’t matter in the internet age”… “It’s 2014, we tweet about our shows and binge watch them at our own convenience”.

For shows like that of Community this statement couldn’t be more true as I feel traditional forms of ratings measurement no longer have the capacity to reflect modern viewing habits. Just because no one is watching a show on television does not mean it is not being watched. As a result of this miss-reflection thousands of loyal fans almost lost what is in my opinion one of the best shows on television, without ever making it to the highly anticipated #SixSeasonsAndAMovie.

http://seriesmonitor.com/cancelled/community/index.html

Community Viewership By Season

Community Viewership By Season

Big Bang Theory Viewership By Season

Big Bang Theory Viewership By Season

These two graphs highlight just how poorly Community has rated especially when compared with Big Bang Theory, CBS’s number one watched comedy sitcom, who just so happened to be one of Community’s time slot competitors. From a networks perspective it is easy to see why NBC made the choice to cancel Community after its fifth season. Audience numbers were on a steady decline throughout the course of the series. Compare that to say Game Of Thrones’ Ratings and you would be crazy to keep the show running.

Game Of Thrones Over All Ratings

Game Of Thrones Over All Ratings

The problem is however that measuring a show like Community through its television viewership does not accurately depict its fan base, in fact it does not even begin to scratch the surface. The reason for this is because the very type of fan base Community attracts (Tech Savoy, Pop Culture Loving, Sarcastic humored, Nerds) are the type of people who prefer to watch shows online rather than on television. I, myself am one of those nerds. I have never even watched a single episode of Community on TV before, but I certainly have watched all of them to date, numerous times. This style of TV watching seems to be the trending thing now days which brings forth the question, Do ratings matter in the age of the Internet? Personally I like to wait until a season is finished so that I can watch all the episodes at once in a glorious lazy weekend marathon. Yes, I am a binge watching pirate and no, I am not ashamed to admit it.

When Community was cancelled its massive following suddenly made itself known through social media. Fans tweeted out #savecommunity and #sixseasonsandamovie, encouraging others to tweet advertisers to let them know they saw their ads during Community and to sign petitions. Fan made videos began to pop up on the web begging NBC to keep the show running and bunch of fans even flash mobbed NBC’s Headquarters. Six Seasons and a Movie, originally a quote from Community itself, became the war cry of Communities mass underground following who would not rest until that benchmark was met (Jaworski 2014).

community-six-seasons-and-a-movie-poster-sony

Further evidence of Community’s fan base was seen when Community won the right to be on the cover of TV Guide after a  competition was held to vote for your favorite show.

After all the cry out and support for the show, Yahoo saw an amazing opportunity and have agreed to keep the show running at least until season six and a movie. The show will be entirely online which works out perfectly for the average Community fan.

“It’s season six of ‘Community’ — you’ll be watching it the way you always watched it, only now, it’s legal!” creator Dan Harmon quipped of the show’s loyal fan base, which always seemed to find ways to watch the perennial bubble show even when it was bounced on and off NBC’s lineup” (Prudom 2014).

To me as an internet watcher, all of this goes to show that there needs to be a better way of measuring a shows success in the modern era. I propose less concern over a shows television ratings and more attention paid to its level of overall media penetration.  Otherwise more great shows like Community could end before their time.

The Big Bang Theory Graphs 2014, Series Monitor, viewed 17 August 2014, <http://seriesmonitor.com/thebigbangtheory/graphs.html&gt;.

Community Graphs 2014, Series Monitor, viewed 17 August 2014, <http://seriesmonitor.com/cancelled/community/graphs.html&gt;.

Game Of Thrones Graphs 2014, Series Monitor, viewed 17 August 2014, <http://seriesmonitor.com/gameofthrones/graphs.html&gt;.

Jaworski, M 2014, Six Seasons and a Movie: A History of How Community Beat the Odds, The Daily Dot, weblog post, 9 May, viewed 17 August 2014, <http://www.dailydot.com/geek/community-saved-fans/&gt;.

Prudom, L 2014, ‘Comic-Con: ‘Community’ Cast on the Move to Yahoo, Six Seasons and a Movie’, Variety, 24 July, viewed 17 August 2014, <http://variety.com/2014/digital/news/community-yahoo-season-six-movie-comic-con-1201268681/&gt;.

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Everyone Remembers Their First Time… Watching TV That Is

This weeks task was to interview someone about their first experience with the great almighty television. I chose to interview my uncle mainly because he was the oldest person within my immediate vicinity and also because I thought he might have some interesting stories to share. My uncles name is Kenny and as he likes to so elegantly put it he has been 42 (the number of life the universe and everything) for over 25 years; in other words he is 69 years young.

Going straight for the hard hitting questions I asked him if he remembered his very first encounter with television and sure enough he did. He explained that he would of been about 12 at the time. This makes perfect sense as it would place the year around 1957 two years after televisions full scale introduction into Australia, when it was still relatively new and awe inspiring. He was in the car on the way to his aunties house when his mother joyfully informed him the purpose of this particular visit was to take a look at her new Television. He described to me the anticipation he felt sitting in the back of that car as they drove closer and closer towards the house. He had seen TV in store windows before but had never had a full scale, personal experience with one.

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I asked him to tell me what it was like seeing it for the first time and he simply said he could not describe it. He did however remember being enthralled by it, sitting in front of the gigantic box with the grainy pictures and bad reception, taking everything in for hours. He could not even recall what it was that he was watching but he said he will never forget that day. He even said the adds were exciting because they were something entirely knew to him. This surprised me as my uncle isn’t particularly found of adds these days, so much so that he mutes the television every time they come on.

Speaking of days that he will never forget I ask him if he remembers the Kennedy assassination he replies with “Off course, everyone  remembers that day”. He then proceeds to tell me his story… “I was running late to work when I heard the announcement on the radio”… “I stopped the car straight away and pulled over to the side of the road, other cars did the same so I knew they were also listening”. After siting there and listening to the broadcast for several minutes he eventually continued on to work. He told me that he must of been about 30 minutes late, but nobody noticed. “It was if the world stopped functioning for a moment, like time had stopped”.

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I pondered on what a  moment like that must have felt like. When a simple broadcast of information has such power and spread that it can stop an entire world in an instant. The closest thing to that experience I can recall  is 9/11. As a child I remember waking up to watch my morning cartoons and thinking, whats going on? Where is my Dragon Ball Z? Then i just sat there watching the replay over and over. I felt extremely saddened but I didn’t exactly understand why. I continued to watch alone in the living room as I waited for my mother to wake up and explain what was happening.

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My uncle also had a 9/11 story which differed greatly from mine. He was arriving home from night-shift at 11pm and turned on the TV to what he thought was a repeat of Die Hard or some other, in his words, “stupid action movie”. He was confused as to why they kept playing the same scene. Thinking this is one poorly directed movie it suddenly dawned on him that this was not a movie at all.

Wanting to end this interview on a more positive note I change the subject by asking him what shows he liked to watch. He said that he liked all of them, particularly Pick-A-Box hosted by husband and wife duo Bob and Dolly Dyer. Pick a Box was one of first game shows to be broadcast on Australian television airing from March 2, 1957 to June 28, 1971.

Bob and Dolly

Bob and Dolly

Top 20 shows of 1966- Australia

Top 20 shows of 1966- Australia

He also said he liked the classic movies best, he asked me if I remember any of them or any show in black in white for that matter. I laugh and tell him I was borne in the 90’s. He then tells me that in a way I am lucky because watching a film back then was like watching one now with the volume and saturation down while someone holds a sheer curtain in front of the screen. He then goes on to say that I am unlucky because shows today just aren’t as good. His favorite thing about modern TV is that it allows him to watch classic movies in high definition, again this makes me laugh.

 

media CAPITALS (see what I did there)

What do you know about other countries? for most of us our information is limited to what we see on television or what we read in articles. This gives us an understanding of the outside world that is little more than a mediated snapshot, However thanks to globalization and the rise of Media Capitals, the line between cultural borders is decreasing exponentially. Traditionally when It came to global influence there was no competing with the media monopoly that was old school Hollywood. Back in the 1930’s Hollywood produced around 80% of the world’s films. During that time and all the way up until the modern era of convergence, America had cultural dominance over the rest of the world. They had the largest film and television industry as well as the greatest scope of  cutural influence. Nowadays things are a little bit different, as Michale Curtin (the godfather of Media Capitals) suggests… “Although  Hollywood exports continue to dominate global entrainment markets, debates about transnational flows of television have moved beyond the media imperialism thesis to focus on deliberations about globalization”.

Prior studies that emphasized a one-way flow of US programming to the periphery of the world system are now being reassessed in light of the increasing volume and velocity of multi-directional media flows that emanate from particular cities, such as Bombay, Cairo, and Hong Kong.

Hollywood is now only third when it comes to sheer volume in film production. The largest film industry in the world today is India’s Bollywood, followed closely by Nigeria’s Nollywood. On top of this cities like Hong Kong are also producing up to forty thousands hours worth of television programming a year. Although these industries may not have as great a scope as Hollywood in terms of international recognition, convergent communication technologies such as the internet are rapidly blurring regional boundaries. We are beginning to see a media landscape where information is no longer linear but in fact multidimensional and because of this “political, economic and cultural phenomena overlap and collide, disrupting our prior confidence in holistic approaches to culture and society” (Curtin 2004).