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This is my Theories of Meia vidoe project. It is titled “McLuhan, the Matrix, Media Messages, and Evolution”, by Amy Green, Jordan Kawai, and Jenna Love. Just a quick note, the film just excedes 10 minutes so it had to be put into two films, sorry for the inconvenience. Enjoy!

PART 1

Part 2

Who Killed MySpace?

I was in grade 10 when MySpace first kicked off big with my friends and I. It was such a completely new and exciting thing. MySpace not only marked the first time I really established a virtual identity, but the fist time I began to really voice critique of the world around me. If you went to see a new movie in theatres, or began listening to a new musician, it seemed like your relationship with that film or artist was never official until it was posted in your likes or dislikes on your MySpace page.

I guess Facebook has now officially taken over the social networking world, but it amazed me to think that with MySpace as such a huge part in my highschool’s social life that this bond with this particular virtual social world would ever end. And I began to ask why on earth did everyone leave?

In reading OurSpace by Christine Harold, her insight as to why MySpace killed itself began help me connect this phenomena with McLuhan’s statement that “World War III will be a guerilla information war, with no division between military and civilian participation”. I always often wondered what McLuhan had meant by that and often wondered when would I begin to see the emergence of such a prophecy.

Harold quite simply explains the end of MySpace was due it’s purchase and switch of control of power by Ruport Murdoch, who bought the site for $580 million. Murdoch’s purchase of MySpace began to stir great anger and concerns with the once utopia of social networking. The beauty of MySpace pre-Murdoch was the feeling of no commercial constraint. Homepages were not littered with corporate messages, and users could interact freely with real users and real users only. The indie and alternative aspect to MySpace was completely erased when the corporate giant stamped his footprint down hard on the site. In Harold’s book she quotes Msypace users which say it all, “Democracy depends on media capable of performing without having people like Murdoch interjecting his personal political views (Harold, p. 15).”

Though MySpace offered the ability to interact, which I have been stating over and over in recent blogs as the key to a medium’s success, it failed to adhere to the other golden rule in maintaining a successful interactive medium, and this is the ability for everyone connected in the global village to have un-interfered and uncensored opinions. The second a corporation changes the rules of such a networking tool, then he users’ themselves begin to feel like their messages are being parodied by the corporation. MySapce users began to see the negative affects when commercial pop ups began to be displayed as the centre of attention on people’s homepages. Other factors include the using of a user’s name without consent appearing on another’s page that their friend uses a particular product so they should too. This form of advertising is a tricky way of corporations adhering to the effectiveness of guerilla media and marketing to attempt to reclaim the newly turned public space, so it will once again become CorporateSpace.

The notion of parody has been an incredibly important thing. Not only is parody catchy with its quick connections and ties to the mainstream world, but anyone can create them. Parodies have been seen for years on television, which has given shows like MadTV or Saturday Night Live their names. However, YouTube has now given what used to be viewers, the chance to morph into creators.

This age of the parody in television in my mind was the marker for the transition out of TV and into the internet. Watching celebrities parody other celebrities had its time, but the new and true laugh is now coming from the average non-celebrity viewer, recreating and re-acting famous scenes with an often ironic or simply different message. The power in this ability for anyone to create parody symbolizes the movement and evolution of the medium. Interaction is now the basis in which users rate new technologies. Sitting on a couch and commentating witty remarks to yourself is a thing of the past.

Parody now can be argued as original material even with its obvious connections to copying, the context in which the skit is reenacted serves as giving the replicated images a new meaning making it of original thought. This tactic of guerilla media can be found prior to the creation of the internet with the anti-smoking campaign “The Truth Bubble” or “The Truth Campaign”, in which controversy in regards to copyright emerged when blank speech bubble stickers were handed out in magazines and by the campaign representatives, encouraging people to write a witty comment mocking the idea of smoking and then stick it on smoking ads. The high levels of participation of this campaign proved two things, people do have opinions which differ from the corporate messages being told, and that people very much so enjoy the ability to participate and in this interactive style of media message sharing. Giving people the opportunity to participate and interact with the media message is what makes up the tactic of guerilla media, and this interactive notion sparks more participation and more involvement than the standard one way communication of media messages like television. Although, in corporate eyes guerilla media is a bad thing for it allows for others to be exposed to criticism of their products and messages which can possibly lead to people disliking a particular brand or corporation’s thoughts, guerilla media is definitely the way of the future.

In the 2010 Oscars, French animators Francois Alaux and Herve de Crecy won best animated short film for the film Logorama. My and girlfriend and I went down to the Bytowne one evening to see all the nominees for the animated short films. Though there was tough competition in this category with classic animated film producers like the producers of another episode of Wallace and Gromit, the most laughs and reaction from the packed theatre definitely came from the screening of Logorama. The premise of the film is as a simple cops and robbers chase. However, the entire movie which took 5 years to make, is set in a world entirely made up corporate images and logos. From the MSN butterflies flying around the zoo of Lacoste alligators and Playboy bunnies, the entire film uses these iconic images to create satire and new meaning to their brands. Though this is a parody of epic proportions, it is still example of users recreating famous corporate images to send new meaning and messages of their own. The ability to manipulate and interact with messages (especially a message that was originally owned by a powerful empire) is why the internet is a such an evolved and powerful medium; for it allows the people’s abilities within that global village to evolve as well.

Kalle Lasn’s (the founder of anti-advert magazine Adbusters) book Culture Jam seemed loaded to me in proving connections to McLuhan’s old ideas of media theory with current issues in media control. Throughout Lasn’s book there are many references and quotes to McLuhan’s work. However, the most important points Lasn makes about the importance of the internet are through his stories of his own experiences in struggling to get an “uncommercial” message on TV broadcast. Lasn explains in his chapter titled “Media Virus” (p. 29), that in response to a PR campaign in British Columbia which depicted the industries management of the forestation, he began trying to sell his own “uncommercial message” on air, which attempted to show the other side of the story of the harmful impact of the logging industry. However, though Lasn was completing willing to pay the normal monetary price for his commercial slot, no broadcasting corporation (including CBC) would air it.

Innis’s media theories may illustrate TV’s triumph over the issues of messages existing over great period of time, or reaching audiences over great distance, Innis’s theories do not illustrate TV triumphing over a heavily important issue; this being the importance of an interactive medium. McLuhan may illustrate the notion of a global village, but an important issue not explained is; what is the status, roles and abilities of people within this village? I think Lasn indirectly explains with this story of his struggle to get his own personal critique and message on old fashion mediums like magazine or TV, that the internet is the perfect spot for the voicing of personal non-commercial goaled opinions, opinion free from things like broadcasting corporation’s judgments on whether your message is sufficient and worthy enough of the viewers’ attention.

A few years ago I subscribed to a magazine titled Adbusters. While still in high-school, this anti-commercial establishment magazine seemed like a fitting way to fill some inner need for myself to feel like I was being some type of an activist, while sitting on a couch reading words. Reading the magazine over the years made me fairly aware of controversial issues at hand throughout the world, especially in regards to media propaganda. After reading a few issues of the magazine I felt as if I was pretty solid on my anti-advert lingo and awareness level. I had heard the same argument from issue to issue about the importance of unplugging yourself from a hypnotized mind set while viewing any media message However, no matter how many “International Buy Nothing Day” promos or subvertisements (knocking the obvious flaws of particular brands) I viewed while reading the magazine, I still bought an iPod, still bought brand name clothes and still kept being the consumerist monster that Adbuster’s had taught me to hate.

Though it was always fairly obvious how commercial ads always had a loaded message to make you feel a certain way, with the goal of coaxing you into having particular desired and manufactured needs, I never really understood that news could be the same way. It seems silly to think now, but really, my entire life I was under the impression that if you read it in the Ottawa Citizen, that more or less sealed the deal on its validity. In Adbusters’ 73rd issue titled “The Death of Canadian Journalism”, I really got a slap in the face.

In this issue a particular one page article titled, “A Declaration of Journalistic Principle”, really summed up what should have been an obvious already we-known thing. But these four simple paragraphs were really telling me something I did not very well. The article was written by a Canadian journalist who wanted awareness in the corporate controlled and filtered world of journalism. The writer notes that four corporations control 70% of our nation’s daily newspapers, three corporations control the majority of our televised news, and one company owns the majority of Canadian radio stations.

Later, the journalist notes the shift in what it means to be a Canadian journalist, “[we] feel our role shifting from acting as watchdogs on authority and sources of reliable, accurate public information, to simply serving as “content providers” (Sean Condon).

Lastly, Condon speaks on the behalf of Canadian journalist when he says that they “call for an empowered, independent supervisory body to implemented, so that it may ensure that the freedom and dependability of the press is protected.” I know and understand that Condon is speaking about the removal of heavy control of corporations within the already existing newspaper, and television and radio broadcasting stations; however, I believe that the Internet can be seen as this potential saviour. I do also understand that there is indeed still corporate control existing within the boundaries of the Internet, but I do see an evolution in the reclaiming of public space by the average Internet user. Adbusters can be seen as a chance for magazine readers to give their own personal non corporate ideas and critiques for others to share, however, though Adbusters is popular and fairly well recognized, I believe the magazine itself is not the revolutionary medium which will change the order of media message control. I believe that McLuhan was right in saying that there will be a guerilla information war where civilian participation will mark the age where viewers and users will reclaim the public realm.

With the rise of such powerful interactive tools like blogging, Facebook, and YouTube it was easily noted that McLuhan’s notion of the “global village” was beaming bright in existence, even more so than he could have ever expected with the power of television. In TV land messages were sent out by corporations, and as I have learned in Dr. Strangelove’s course in popular culture, these messages are without doubt loaded in political and social meaning to more or less teach the viewer how to be in society. The possibility for rebuttal or to voice any notion of refute at the beginning of the life of television broadcasting was basically non existent. The only possible option for an average viewer to voice their disagreement with a message being broadcasted was to simply change the channel, in hopes that other people do the same. Then possibly if the avoidance is strong enough in numbers, the corporation will recognize and then possibly adhere to the problem.

However, though the social networking phenomenon is appearing by many to be a nuisance in the fact that it is a creating a culture of distraction where students spend more class time poking and messaging each other rather than following a lecture, it has given rise to an incredibly important concept that average internet users are prioritizing messages by themselves and others like them who exist in the same realm of the global village, more so than the commercialized messages provided by corporations which are now being seen as intruders within the global village. This important notion is an incredible thing, for if it is true does it not mean that the internet has potential to eventually be the first virtual global village controlled by the people. Would it be so far fetched to say that there is hope in unplugging an entire virtual world from the strong hold of the illusion that we constantly need something in order to have identity? It may seem like a Matrix like reference, but as Dr. Strangelove notes in his course in “Theories of the Media” there are very few radical breaks from our systematic way of living because like in the matrix we are all under an illusion of the mind. However, as anti-corporation and anti-empire thoughts begin to emerge in things like anti-smoking campaigns or anti-advert magazines like Adbusters, signs of reclaiming the public space seem to be rising and with advance in such social tools like Facebook and YouTube what better place to begin the evolution of the medium and the message than on the global universe; the internet.

In reading Alberto Manguel’s book titled The History of Reading, the depiction of the evolution of the medium without doubt began to resonate McLuhan’s highly popularized catch phrase “the medium is the message”. However, though it was quite clear to see that the medium was in fact evolving (from hunks of clay to glossy white gadgets and gizmos that wirelessly sing and dance the information to you) it never really came clear to me that this constitutes that the type of messages we’re able to send and receive have none the less evolved as well.

To an outsider of the human existence, acknowledging a connection from the clay tablet to an invisible yet highly influential and powerful tool; the internet, seems intensely distant and an unlikely tie to mark an evolution, but as we all know is indeed a reality. The distinct features of varying mediums are seen as most definite boundaries and limiters to a specific culture’s ability to function in a social and economical means. The introduction of the clay tablet allowed for mankind to tackle the issue of time. With embedding message in clay, humans were able to preserve thought and communicate to others of alternate ages; therefore beginning to create our first sets of databases. Mediums in which most efficiently tackled the issue of space and distance can be appointed to the introduction of radio and even mass print newspapers. Once the basic issues of communicating to a mass audience had been acquired, the issue moved on efficiency. It can be quite clearly recognized that the internet is without doubt the answer to this matter of efficiency. However, the introduction of the internet evolves our communication on a much stronger level than simply tackling space and time issues (though these are still matters of great feat and importance), it now introduces the ability for a whole new virtual world to interact and most importantly share and critique ideas. Though McLuhan’s idea that there will be a change in the nature of social organization and cultural life, has been heavily critiqued with the argument and realization that the technology of print was dominated by the bourgeois and therefore gave rise to the empire’s notion of capitalism, a revolution in communication just as McLuhan early noted is beginning to emerge.

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