Global Hip-hop Diaspora

Hip-hop culture originated in the 70s on the streets of New York and south-central Los Angeles, and since has rapidly spread across the globe, expanding from traditional forms. Authentic hip-hop culture was a form of expression, communication and a way to raise awareness of cultural and societal issues. Early genres provided meaningful messages of political consciousness, inclusion, activism, equity, justice, education and success – however commercial hip-hop culture exposes modern manifestations of more negative stereotypes. There is now a stigma associated with hip-hop culture and stereotypes that are predominantly represented in music, gaming and television. The overwhelming repetitiveness of “gangsta-rap” music videos tend to glorify inappropriate behaviour, criminality, brutality, vulgar sexuality and misogyny. Commercial exploitation of hip-hop culture has reshuffled to this commonly presented “gangsta-rap” stereotype, is problematic for youth as they internalise these negative images of racialised ethnicities in the media (Pieters, 2007).

“Music, like identity is both performance and story, describes the social in the individual and the individual in the social. The mind in the body and the body in the mind; Identity, like music, is a matter of both ethics and aesthetics.” (Mitchell, 2007)

Western perceptions of hip-hop are that it is a culture that derived from a genre of music and the derogatory associations the media has portrayed. Hip-hop is in fact a powerful, ancient culture formed by many elements – it is a style, how one dresses, speaks, expresses and carries themselves. Despite all the positive aspects of hip-hop, the media chooses to focus primarily on the negative – seldom exploring the many positive influences that hip-hop culture has brought to the world.

I encourage you to watch (even just 30 seconds) of these two music videos that I feel explore the contrast between traditional and commercial hip-hop culture. As you watch each clip, consider the differences or similarities of elements such as attire, atmosphere, culture/identity, product placement/consumerism, portrayal of men/women/children, instruments, lyrics or any others you can think of.


Pete Rock & C. L. Smooth “They Reminisce Over You”    


50 Cent – P.I.M.P. (Snoop Dogg Remix) ft. Snoop Dogg, G-Unit

The first music video provides a more authentic sense of hip-hop culture, yet is not the kind of clip you would see on MTV’s top hits. The second clip, dramatically varies from traditional elements of hip-hop culture, however is extremely similar to mainstream music videos in this genre.

References:

1. Mitchell, T 2007, 2nd Generation Migrant Expression in Australian Hip-hop, Local Noise,  viewed 22 May 2014, <http://www.localnoise.net.au/site-directory/papers/2nd-generation-migrant-expression-in-australian-hip-hop/>

2. Pieters, G 2007, Hip Hop Cultures Identity Crisis, The Star, viewed 22 May 2014, <http://www.thestar.com/opinion/article/214702–hip-hop-culture-s-identity-crisis>

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Social Media and Employment Policies

Social media is now an integral part of many people’s lives, and it is becoming imperative for employers to establish a social media policy. The role of a social media policy is to provide guidance for employees so they can stay out of trouble, and also to provide a firm basis for disciplinary action. People consider their private lives and work lives to be two separate entities – using social media as an outlet for personal thoughts. However, much of the time employees overlook the importance of maintaining a private and professional online identity (Lupardi, 2014). There are an infinite amount of circumstances where employees have been dismissed because of something they’ve posted online – in many cases the dismissal has been appealed and considered unfair, because of never signing a social media policy. For example, three cases by the Fair Work Commission of employee dismissals in relation to social media use are:
Sally-Anne Fitzgerald v Dianna Smith T/A Escape Hair Design—unfair dismissal case, 2010.

Damian O’Keefe v Troy Williams Muir’s Pty Limited T/A The Good Guys—unfair dismissal case, 2011.

Linfox Aust. Pty Ltd v Glen Stutsel–appeal in 2012 against a decision overturning a finding of unfair dismissal.

Faizah Imani from Global Post (2014) states that there are currently no laws that prevent employers from looking through any social media profiles you have. Many companies have monitoring policies that are in place when using their computer or wifi. This aims to prevent employees from posting anything about work on their profiles, and allows employers to monitor browsing history and web use. Monitoring policies are a reasonable tactic to use within the workplace. However, there have been cases of companies threatening employees with disciplinary action, including dismissal, with regard to personal social media use in the home – out of work hours. In 2011, The Commonwealth Bank in Australia insisted that employees must report any criticism of the bank they view on personal social media channels, and then assist with the investigation and removal of the “inappropriate” material. Subsequent to employee complaints and concerns, The Finance Sector Union demanded the bank suspend this social media policy, stating that it was an unfair restriction to individuals’ freedom of expression (Hannan, 2011). Social media culture at this time was relatively new, booming and misunderstood by The Commonwealth Bank – I feel that their social media policy was a desperate act to harness and manage the content posted on social media platforms, which is unfair and naïve. Social media policies are put in place to protect the professional reputation of both the employer and employee, meaning that it should be a fair and reasonable for both parties.
Screen Shot 2014-05-15 at 2.03.52 PM Screen Shot 2014-05-15 at 2.04.18 PM Screen Shot 2014-05-15 at 2.04.36 PMPoor Social Media Choices Lead to Lost Jobs and Scholarships, Storify 2014

If your workplace does not have a policy, a general rule of thumb is if you wouldn’t want to see it on the front page of a newspaper with your name, don’t post it. Particularly when seeking employment (or currently employed), it is important to be mindful of the content you post online – simply DON’T post negative things about colleagues or employers. In addition, you never know when a photo you’ve uploaded, or religious/political/sexual comment could offend a potential or current employer. Legally, employers can view your online profiles, and will often use this as a means for a “background check” before hiring new employees (Imani, 2014).

References:

Hannan, E 2011, ‘Bank threatens staff with sack over social media comments’, Australian, 5 February, viewed 10 May 2014, <http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/nation/bank-threatens-staff-with-sack-over-social-media-comments/story-e6frg6nf-1226000454432&gt;

Imani, F 2014, ‘Can Employers Check Your Facebook profile?’, Global Post, viewed 12 May 2014, <http://everydaylife.globalpost.com/can-employers-check-facebook-profile-1084.html&gt;

Ritter, K 2014, Facing the Consequences: Poor Social Media Choices Lead to Lost Jobs and Scholarships, Storify, weblog post, viewed 12 May 2014, <https://storify.com/Katie_M_Ritter/facing-the-consequences-poor-social-media-choices&gt;

Fair Work Australia 2010, Miss Sally-Anne Fitzgerald v Dianna Smith T/A Escape Hair Design, Fair Work Australia, viewed 15 May 2014 <https://www.fwc.gov.au/documents/decisionssigned/html/2010fwa7358.htm&gt;

Fair Work Australia 2011, Damian O’Keefe v Williams Muir’s Pty Limited T/A Troy Williams The Good Guys, Fair Work Australia, viewed 15 May 2014 <https://www.fwc.gov.au/documents/decisionssigned/html/2011fwa5311.htm&gt;

Fair Work Australia 2012, Linfox Aust. Pty Ltd v Glen Stutsel, Fair Work Australia, viewed 15 May 2014 <https://www.fwc.gov.au/documents/decisionssigned/html/2011fwa8444.htm&gt;

Globalisation and the Media

Globalisation involves two processes that have implications for the media; it is the way technologies are able to conquer global distances – creating a world that seems limitless, and the way that a single economic system, ‘the free market’, now permeates the globe.

“Television… now escorts children across the globe even before they have permission to cross the street” (Meyrowitz, 1985 p238)

The rise of mass television has allowed millions to regularly observe other people and places, anonymously and from afar – blurring the line between public and private behaviours, and weakening the link between physical location and access to social experience. In this sense, television has contributed to the reshaping of social roles regarding age, gender and authority. Television experience also prompts the prevalent use of participatory media, such as the interaction on social networking sites (Meyrowitz, 2009). A journal article by Jinna Tay and Graeme Turner (2008) investigate how the convergence of media platforms is challenging conventional perceptions of how the mass media function. Television is no longer considered a single entity working in the social, political and cultural aspects of media. New media is recontextualising the way we experience television – since the likes of major rating successes such as Big Brother, which incorporated multi-platformed and multimedia events, it is evident that television is no longer a stand-alone medium.

bigbrother-facebook-voting
EG. BigBrother Germany Facebook Voting App – adapting to communication technologies and evolving the TV industry to multiple platforms – leading to new show formats (just as Televoting did in the 90s).   

In Australia, television advertising is plummeting as online advertising booms. As a result, market-specific variations are increasing. Television in the 21st century has had to adapt to a demanding, competitive and technologically convergent environment by targeting consumer groups. Broadcasters utilise reality television programs, as they are suitable for cross-media interactivity – taking advantage of modern communication technologies, in turn allowing industries to experiment with younger demographics. This reformation of television challenges authoritarian-style governments across the globe, as they struggle to maintain control, as there is no longer a single foundation to provide a basis for national conversation (Tay & Turner, 2008).

References:

1. Metzger, MCM 2011, Endemol’s BigBrother launches voting via Facebook Credits, Monty’s Blog, weblog post, 6 july, viewed 16 May 2014,<http://blog.monty.de/2011/07/endemols-bigbrother-launches-voting-via-facebook-credits/&gt;

2. Meyrowitz, J 2009, We Liked to Watch: Television as Progenitor of the Surveillance Society, Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, vol. 625, pp. 32-48.

3. Meyrowitz, J 1985, No sense of place: the impact of electronic media on social behaviour, Oxford University Press, New York

4. Tay, J & Turner, G 2008, What is Television: Comparing Media Systems in the Post-broadcast Era, Media International Australia, no. 126, pp71-81

Race & Ethnicity in Grand Theft Auto

Videogames (specifically urban/street games) create cross-cultural learning experiences, particularly for young people, growing up in a media-saturated environment. Different kinds of learning take place in videogames, which is said to influence young people’s perceptions of race, gender and ethnicity. The shift to a more digitalised and interactive culture is problematic in this sense because youth can now actively participate, rather than passively internalise discourses of race and gender, say, from a TV program (Everett & Watkins, 2008, pp141-142; Leonard, 2003, pp1-2).

‘No title epitomises urban/street gaming more problematically than the GTA franchise.’
(Everett & Watkins, 2008, p150)

The designs of urban/street games have very aesthetic and narrative properties. Developers bring in highly skilled designers to create a world that imitates popular perceptions of urban culture. For example, the radio in GTA is so popular because developers have called upon celebrity hip-hop producers, performers and radio personalities to voice the DJ’s on many of the stations. Artists and producers also help to select music for the game that will evoke ethos and energy of urban or “ghetto” life (Everett & Watkins, 2008, pp146-148). The setting is one of the vital aspects of how learning takes place in videogames. It teaches dominant attitudes and assumptions about race and gender; as they draw heavily from discourses that already circulate in mainstream media. These messages are then intensified through the appeal of interactive game play, and are achieved by providing graphically real and culturally authentic environments. Unlike school, where youth are more used to the system of “telling” and “doing”, gaming provides an immersive experience in an active environment rather than passive. Users work their way through the game via trial and error, engaging and exploring in the actual context of practice. Where television TELLS gender and racial narratives, videogames allow for active participation – performing and reproducing socially prescribed notions of gender and race through a dynamic process (Everett & Watkins, 2008, pp142-149; Leonard, 2003, p3).

This paves a way for how gamers, particularly the young, are developing their knowledge and familiarity with popular views of urban culture. Spatial environment becomes a culturally specific location that animates ideas of race, class and gender. It works ideologically to underpin notions of urban communities as deviant and dangerous. In Grand Theft Auto, the atmosphere has characteristics of socially and economically marginalised communities; graffiti-covered buildings, dilapidated housing, trash-filled streets, and background characters typically associated in petty crimes, drug deals and prostitution (Everett & Watkins, 2008, pp145-146).

steretype gtaA gamers response to choosing a character in Grand Theft Auto V

Designing characters in earlier videogames was restricted by technology. Now, they are able to easily portray racial characteristics through skin colour, body language and voice. However, even though videogame designers have the ability now with upgraded software and technology, depictions of gender and race are still very narrow and stereotypical. For example, the GTA series is populated by predominantly black and Latino based characters associated with crime, enhancing hegemonic views of black masculinity (Everett & Watkins, 2008, pp143-144; Leonard, 2003, pp5-6).

While it’s easy to say that videogames don’t force people to go out and imitate direct actions of violence and crime, it’s not so easy to make that judgement with the inherent depictions of racial ideologies. Because these representations are everywhere in the media, it’s not fair to say that videogames are responsible for constructing racial and gender stereotypes. While they are present, and aren’t probably helping… it’s still not justifiable to say that they are to blame.

References:

Everett, A & Watkins, C 2008, “The Power of Play: The Portrayal and Performance of Race in Video Games.”, The Ecology of Games: Connecting Youth, Games, and Learning, Cambridge, MIT Press, pp141-164.

Leonard, D 2003, ““Live in Your World, Play in Ours”: Race, Video Games, and Consuming the Other”, Studies in Media & Information Literacy Education, vol. 3, no. 4, pp1–9, viewed 26 March 2014            <http://mediastudies.viu.ca/dougstetar/courses/medi265/resources/articles/Leonard_LiveinYourWorld.pdf>

 

Social Media & Activism: The Arab Spring

Warning: potential unsettling content and imagery

The Arab Spring is a term expressing the revolutionary movements in 2010, which began in the Arab region. What made the Arab Spring so distinctive was the utilisation of social media to promote uprising agendas, as these were the first collective movements in the Middle East since Internet and social media revolutions. Western perceptions of the Arab Spring surround ideas of social media being the driving force. However, the initial trigger for the protests was in 2010, when authorities shut down Mohamed Bouazizi’s business and physically harassed him. As a result he lit himself on fire in front of a Tunisian government building, a form of protest or sacrifice known as “self-immolation”. This sparked immediate uprisings in Tunisia, and then spread to many other countries in the region.

mohamed-bouazizi-tunisie
A journal article by Richard Lindsey (2013) explores the significance of social media during the Arab Spring, allowing individuals to influence public opinion and gain international support through the global distribution of news. Lindsey assures that techniques and procedures via social media will affect future revolutionary tactics in globalised societies, however the degree to which is questionable. Research by Wolfsfeld, Segev and Sheafer (2013) uses the Arab Spring as a case study to define the role of social media within a more general theoretical structure. The study examines two theoretical principles; that we cannot comprehend the function of social media without considering the political environment in which they operate, and that an increase in social media doesn’t necessarily prompt significant events – but follows them.

women arab spring

Newsom and Lengel (2012) investigate the use of social networks by Arab feminist activists. The online engagement was intended to aid social change, and assisting to remove the psychological barrier of fear for Arab civilians by connecting and sharing information. The consistent flow of news provided a sense of reassurance that they are not alone, and that there are others experiencing hardship, prejudice, and similar accounts of brutality. Professor of mass communications from Cairo, Hussein Amin, stated that social networks ‘for the first time provided activists with an opportunity to quickly disseminate information while bypassing government restrictions’ (Kassim, 2012). It is important to understand that social networking platforms were not the reason for the Arab Spring but function as a significant communication tool, at present and for future revolutions.

References:

Kassim, S 2012, Twitter Revolution: How the Arab Spring was helped by social media, PolicyMic, weblog post, 3 July, viewed 8 May 2014, <http://www.policymic.com/articles/10642/twitter-revolution-how-the-arab-spring-was-helped-by-social-media&gt;

Lindsey, RA 2013, ‘What the Arab Spring Tells Us About the Future of Social Media in Revolutionary Movements’, Small Wars Journal, vol. 9, no. 7

Newsom, V & Lengel, L 2012, ‘Arab Women, Social Media, and the Arab Spring: Applying the framework of digital reflexivity to analyze gender and online activism’,Journal of International Women’s Studies, vol. 13, no. 5, pp31-45

Wolfsfeld, G, Segev, E, Sheafer, T 2013, ‘Social Media and the Arab Spring: Politics Comes First’, The International Journal of Press/Politics, vol. 18, no. 2, pp115-137

Gender & the Media

Ideologies of gender and body image are consistently presented to the public in an idealised manner. The media propagates these philosophies to support consumerism and maintain social order. We live in an image-based society, where sexual identity of an individual is skewed by messages represented in advertising, films, music, television, magazines etc. (Dines, 2011; Kinnick, 2007, pp9-15). Conflict theory, known as Marxism, was developed in the 19th century by anarchist Karl Marx, and explores how media attempts to control the behaviour of other classes in society to modify status quo. A conflict perspective is where the media reflects the needs and interests of a ruling class. The media somewhat achieves this by creating fear and anxiety on unimportant issues (dealing with social values) to distract us from big issues (McLelland, 2012).

A significant value that is consistently shaped and reshaped by the media is gender socialisation. The media creates ideological images of gender, which humans adapt to and learn the ‘appropriate’ ways of being masculine or feminine in society. Ultimately, the media sends messages that seem idealistic but in reality it is an assumed expectation of how an individual should look and behave. Hyper-sexualised advertisements first appeared in the 1990s, and have since perpetrated the continuous stream of sexualised content we are exposed to today. 90s sony woman ad Popular culture places pressure on males about masculinity by often portraying them as dominating and powerful, and imposes a false realism of how women should act, look and be treated. In 2007, a Dolce & Gabbana print advertisement caused a lot of controversy as it connotes gender stereotypes and sexual objectification. The positioning of models is what disturbed consumers the most – a man is physically restraining a woman while other men watch – alluding to a “gang rape” scene. D&G’s edgy attempt at marketing caused the ad to be banned, first in Spain and then Italy. Some consumers may not think much of this ad, as the media consistently desensitises society by producing sexualised content; sometimes subtly, though it is apparent in this example. dg_girl_down ‘People who have not been raped do not understand the depths of the horror… Imagery such as this is inappropriate because it may call to mind someone’s past and put them into a bad place mentally. It’s awful. Certainly doesn’t make me want to buy anything…’ (Rebekah, 2007)

This example reaffirms the constructed ideology of gender stereotypes that the media transmits. It illustrates the importance of male dominance and masculinity when with a woman. Men should be tall, tanned and buff whilst women should be petite and sexy. We now live in a sexist culture where women are subordinated and commodified (Dines, 2011). Nevertheless, masculinity is also damaging to sexual identity. It isolates men emotionally by removing endorsed feelings of vulnerability and pain, and from participating in nurturing and caring relationships. As a result of gender stereotypes, men and women judge and compare themselves to others, by their aesthetic, sexual and economic performance (Itzen, 1992, p63).

References:

Dines, G 2011. ‘How Porn Has Hijacked Our Sexuality’, ABC Big Ideas (12 July), accessed 5 May 2014, <http://www.abc.net.au/tv/bigideas/stories/2011/07/12/3266838.htm&gt;

Felix, S, 2012, 18 Ads That Changed How We Think About Women, Business Insider Australia, viewed 3 May 2014, <http://www.businessinsider.com.au/18-ads-that-changed-the-way-we-think-about-women-2012-10?op=1#1990s-the-era-of-the-hyper-sexualized-woman-in-advertising-begins-11&gt;

Hall, S, 2007, Dolce & Gabbana Ad: Cartoonish Edginess or Gang Rape?, AdRANTS, viewed 3 May 2014, <http://www.adrants.com/2007/02/dolce-gabbana-ad-cartoonish-edginess-or-g.php#comments&gt;

Itzen, C 1992, ‘Pornography and the social construction of sexual inequality’, Pornography: Women violence and civil liberties, Oxford, OUP, pp57 – 75

Kinnick, K 2007. ‘Pushing the Envelope: The Role of the Mass Media in the Mainstreaming of Pornography’, in Hall, A & Bishop, M (eds.), Pop-Porn: Pornography in American Culture, Conneticut, Praeger, pp7 – 26

McLelland, M 2012, SOC104, Theoretical Approaches, lecture notes, accessed 2 August 2012, eLearning@UOW

Rebekah, 2007, Dolce & Gabbana Ad: Cartoonish Edginess or Gang Rape?, webpage comment, AdRANTS, viewed 3 May 2014, <http://www.adrants.com/2007/02/dolce-gabbana-ad-cartoonish-edginess-or-g.php#comments>