Social Media – A Revolutionary Tool

The Arab Spring is a term expressing the revolutionary movements in 2010, which began in the Arab region. What made the Arab Spring so unique was the utilisation of social media to establish and promote uprising agendas, as these were the first collective movements in the Middle East since Internet and social media revolutions. A journal article by Richard Lindsey 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.

Sharing mass amounts of uncensored and accurate information through social networking significantly prompted the rise in Arab Spring activists. Not only did they obtain supremacy to overthrow powerful dictatorship, but also Arab civilians were now conscious of underground communities whom they can connect with. This may have not been possible without the significant role social media played, “We use Facebook to schedule the protests… Twitter to coordinate, and YouTube to tell the world.” – Arab Spring activist from Egypt. Stories of shared grievances and hopelessness was overflowing over these networks. The use of digital storytelling through social media is what drew people into the streets to protest.

ArabSpring-Tweeter

Image source

A blog post on PolicyMic describes the use of social networks as 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”. It is worthy to note that new social networking platforms were not the reason for the Arab Spring but function in serving future revolutions with regard to communication.

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The moon landed… on TV

Growing up, there was always a television in our home, but I never thought about it as some extraordinary piece of technology. To me it seemed a necessity, like other appliances in the house. Alas, talking to my father about his early memories of TV, made me realise that it was a big deal for families to own one in the 60s.

When television was first introduced, dad stated that when they visited their friends’ houses who had one it was really impressive “Wow they have a television we don’t have anything like that in our home”. Dad was 7 years old when his parents could finally afford to purchase one of their own. The TV was placed in their “entertaining” or “visitors” room, which was a space with some chairs. I thought it was quite bazaar when I asked, “did you and your sister fight over who sat on a particular part of the lounge?” Dad responded saying that they didn’t have a lounge, and the term “lounge room” did not even exist in their house. Everybody just sat on chairs when they wanted to watch TV, however they did fight over who got to sit the closest, as they would be in charge of the channel. Moreover, because there were only four channels they were constantly switching between, the knobs on the TV would often be damaged or broken.

Dad and his sister would be glued to the TV as soon as they got home from school, which was about 4pm, and stay there for as long as possible. I found this quite odd as me and my brother had boundaries when watching TV, however dad stated, “as long as we were quiet mum didn’t care how long we watched it for”. Dad and his sister spent the most time with the TV, stating that they watched every single show they could. The only time the family would sit down and watch something together was for the “Sunday night movie”, when classics such as The Sound of Music would air.

Apart from not being allowed to eat in the TV room, there were no other codes of behaviour that existed. I found this interesting, as today when observing younger children in their family home the general consensus is “Stop watching that idiot box and go outside and play”. However in the 60s dad explained that in his family, “The TV was brand new and was to be enjoyed. Nobody bullied us from the television. It was like a big social network – because all the kids at school would talk about all the shows that were on the night before”. It was remarkable that dad had compared watching TV when he was younger to social networking as we know it now. I also found it ironic hearing him say that “nobody bullied us from the television” in contrast to the abundance of cyber bullying today.

With regard to a particular event on TV, the first man on the moon seemed to be dad’s fondest memory. Everybody in his primary school was pulled out of class to see Neil Armstrong take his first steps on the moon. Dad described it as a momentous occasion particularly because the whole school had stopped everything just to watch it on TV. I couldn’t imagine being in school when I was young and going to the hall just to watch something on television. The only time class was disrupted for us was emergencies. But I guess back then the first man on the moon would have been somewhat considered an emergency, being an iconic moment for mankind.

My dad stated one of the things that changed markedly is that back in his era; the TV was the only contact they had with the outside world, and without it they did not know what was happening globally. “It was our way to connect to the rest of humanity, my parents loved the documentaries because they could see parts of the world they have never seen. It was a very fascinating experience”. Furthermore, dad stated that in his generation you tended to believe what you saw on the television as the truth, as it felt like it had more influence and credibility. Now people are growing wise to the fact that it’s just entertainment, whereas before people gave it more value. “Today, we are more educated and figured out that a lot of things on TV are sensationalised to sell airtime and commercials. We are more ‘consumer aware’ than we used to be.”

At the Drive-in

I asked my family friend Ray about the memories of his first cinema experience. Even though he was only 3 years of age, he was still able to recall many details of the event. The year was 1982 “and the time of the drive-in cinema”. Ray attended the Kanahooka drive-in with his parents, during its last months of screening and operation, “before it all came to an untimely end,” he added.

One Sunday afternoon, Ray and his parents left home in their Ford Fairlane and made their way out to the lake in the outskirts of Kanahooka. Ray described the car park seeming infinite through his eyes and the filming screen, enormous. They parked near the candy and refreshments booth, where they ordered some goodies. An usher came to the car to greet and assist them in fixing an audio line from a post near the car, which plugged in to a slot under the aerial. “This is how audio was broadcasted from vehicle to vehicle”.

drive-in

“I remember getting cozy in the middle seat that divided my parents and settling in to watch the first movie of the double feature. Dark Crystal (1982) & Star Trek (the original motion picture) (1979).”

Ray stated from that point onward Dark Crystal became his favourite film as a child, only later to be later contested by Labyrinth and The Never Ending Story. His recollection of the film was hazy however he managed to stay for the entirety of Dark Crystal, despite being 3 years old. “I do remember being terrified of the Skeksis armoured soldiers, finding them to be the first representation of evil that I had seen on the big screen. Simply put, I was in awe of that film and ultimately it was very influential for me to this day.”

This followed by the screening of the original Star Trek. Ray stated that he was able to tell this film, was not made for children, as he struggled to stay awake for the first 20 minutes. His Mum later reminded him that he had asked her “Why is everyone running around in their pajamas?” obviously not really understanding the Trek at such a young age. “I later became an avid fan of the Next Generation a good decade or more later.”

“Though that’s the short of it. My love of cinema all started with that first experience at the local drive-in that I can’t help but wish, with nostalgia it still stood today.”

Hearing Ray’s story was really interesting to compare to my own. Our stories differ because I honestly cannot remember the early years of my life let alone my first time at the movies. And so, my first cinema experience (that I can recall) was just at a local Greater Union, with some family friends and their parents. I cannot remember what film it was, but I do remember being uncomfortable in the chairs. As I got older I visited the cinemas less and less, I just didn’t enjoy watching a movie surrounded by strangers whom would chatter or throw lollies, the expensive food and drink, and missing parts of the movie if I needed to go to the bathroom. I would like to visit a drive-in though; I like the idea of being confined in your own space. Also, they should provide an usher at every cinema still, when hearing Ray’s story about the usher greeting and assisting them, it really made it seem like an authentic cinema experience. Today I just watch movies in the comfort of my own home. I can pause and rewind whenever I want, there’s no advertisements, and I can eat whatever I want without paying a ridiculous price.

Street Violence – Reflection

An issue which I found to be significant in the media is violence, and in particular, street violence. All kinds of mediascapes contribute to street violence in one way or another. This includes the influence from certain television programs, films, music etc. Not only is violence represented throughout the media, but violent related behaviour as a result of drug and alcohol abuse is common, sending an important yet persuasive message to audiences. Images and music film clips especially tend to present violence semiotically, particularly through the use of gender ideologies; such as men being portrayed as mysterious and dangerous.

In relation to street violence some popular topics I found the media liked to exaggerate were schoolies, riots, protests and nightlife. When the media focuses on these issues they tend to  single out certain vicinities as well, often producing a poor reputation for that area. An example would be the Cronulla riots in 2005 where the media played a significant role by influencing locals on which side to take in an discriminating manner. The series of incidents known as the Cronulla riots have echoed throughout the town and surrounding areas to this day. Right-wing media groups had been accused of broadcasting political agendas via radio and print media, flaring tension between locals. The media used this sense of community to connect with locals on a personal level,  and even encouraged violent behaviour.

Ageism is also a factor, especially when the media talks about schoolies violence. The ideology of teenagers is highly pressured within the media. For example it is easy to represent a group of teens as ‘out of control’ rather than, say, a group of elderly people. Violence is an easy topic for the media to nudge on the emotions of readers. Language if often in a negative tone which can make the reader feel uncomfortable, concerned, and scared. The way information is presented is just as important as the content itself, as emphasis is placed on particular words and phrases, audiences are more likely to be convinced.

 Violence portrayed in the media through television, films, video games and music has been known to increase the likelihood of aggressive and violent behaviour. This material is harmful especially to the young, prompting immediate and long-term effects. Representations of violence in the media directly provides a child with  particular ideas and experiences which shape their attitudes and influence their behaviours. It is important to consider these mediums as elements in a controlled societal media among children especially. This is because certain characteristics, environments and media content can affect the degree of media violence.

Many people don’t actually realise how powerful the media is. It’s power derives from accessibility and the fact that it is all around us, everywhere we go. Following initial presentations of media violence, other forms of media are then used to perpetuate and emphasise outcomes. This is common within traditional news media such as TV broadcasting, radio, magazines, newspapers and other forms of print media. The media achieves this by blasting biased perspectives on violence related issues, in hopes to mould the minds of viewers to their own attitudes. Language, tone, lighting and sound all add to this effect of influential media.

BUT something I find to be more significant is that…

As violence is continuously targeted and now this new era of social media is evolving, now criticism of violence is also in the hands of the audience – of what is known as the outbreak of citizen journalism. There are new, different, instant types of distribution which are hard to keep up with, proving difficulty when trying to regulate user content. Within the public sphere, sites such as Facebook and YouTube are used to discuss and propel violent behaviour. Violence can often be fuelled or expanded by nasty comments, videos or images online through these platforms. Online video streaming has become an explosive medium, and YouTube has presented a dominance in this area. Whilst this user generated content may be used for research and entertainment, it has also been treated as as a medium for expression or documentation regarding violent behaviour. These videos uploaded by users which incorporate violence are often in public places such as schools, parks and just on the streets.

It’s issues like these which fuel moral panic about the media, as we are told to trust and believe what they say; however the outcome is not always favourable. As citizen journalists, the role of the media is ever-changing in a free and open public sphere. The representation of violence within the media is already being altered as a result of online prosumers.

Street Violence – Media Influence

Violence portrayed in the media through television, films, video games and music has been known to increase the likelihood of aggressive and violent behaviour. This material is harmful especially to the young, prompting immediate and long-term effects. Representations of violence in the media directly provides a child with  particular ideas and experiences which shape their attitudes and influence their behaviours. It is important to consider these mediums as elements in a controlled societal media among children especially. This is because certain characteristics, environments and media content can sway affect the degree of media violence. This content is threatening to young children as they cannot comprehend the connection between violence and its consequences. For example in many children’s programs there is a “good guy” and a “bad guy”. In the majority of cases both are included in violent acts yet the “good guy” isn’t punished. Children are then able to observe that cartoon characters typically recover from severe violent acts almost immediately. This type of exposure is then placing a false interpretation on reality to the child. It leads them to believe that in real life, victims of violent acts are rarely hurt.

A classic representation of violence in children’s cartoon shows is Tom & Jerry (1975). This show has been hotly debated because of the quirky violent behaviour between a cat and a mouse. Another important feature is that the show does not incorporate dialogue., which then demands more focus on the physical actions. Within the context or cartoon/animals it seems harmless, but the actual behaviour still seems unreasonable to some. An article in The Guardian described the show as “ultra violent” “morally unquestionable”.  However, other types of media have poked fun at the cartoon. One example would be in “The Simpsons” where a parody of Tom & Jerry is made, known by the characters as “Itchy and scratchy”. Scenes where Itchy and Scratchy feature in The Simpsons, Bart and Lisa are always laughing in hysterics after each episode, which consistently entail gruesome (for cartoons) and violent behaviour.

DEAR K-MART’S MOST RECENT COMMERICAL,

A brief post on advertising (influential media)…

Has anybody else noticed that K-marts most recent ad on television is ENTIRELY caucasian, middle-aged women? Now before you go thinking “der, obviously, that’s their target market/most popular group of consumers” just hold up a second – this really bothered me because shouldn’t the advertisers be trying to appeal to all different kinds of people? Middle aged women aren’t going to stop shopping there if they are not being advertised to directly. Now i’m not having a stab at K-mart, heck I love that place. They sell all kinds of essentials for various ages, gender, sex and race. My problem is with whoever’s in the big seat of their commercial advertising, seriously, update your code of ethics. I found the ad so sexist and stereotypical… some may disagree and say “dude it’s just an ad” but it’s these sly forms of advertising that further endorse stereotypes and ideologies of women… a very clever backhand to the face for society in my opinion.

Advertising plays a very significant role within the media and some don’t realise how much of an impact it actually has. It’s happening right under our noses and is primarily uncontrollable unless you are to remove yourself from the source itself – which is almost impossible. All across the internet, strewn through the streets, advertising gets exactly what is wants without people thinking twice until it is brought to their immediate attention.