Sunday, April 6, 2008

Re: Vision of Students Today

This video brings to attention a lot of truths for most post-secondary students today. Education needs to be dragged out of the 19th century and it is making it even more difficult for low-income, at-risk kids to compete. The needed technology and connection is not reaching them.

I hadn’t thought much about myself in this situation until I saw this video and quickly realized how lucky I am. During my entire academic life I have never faced any issues dealing with class sizes and teachers that will or won’t remember my name. Oddly enough however, when I had to sit through lectures with over 200+ people in the same room during my first year in Guelph, I felt more relieved than anything. It gave me a sense of freedom to know that I wasn’t being watched over and in the same respect I found some clarity and space to learn on my own. That being said, I still believe it is important for some kind of close mentorship to take place and this is what our teachers and professors should ideally be doing. Since I am in the landscape architecture program here at the university, I admit I do feel privileged to be taught both theory and practice and have it completely relevant towards a professional career. Money isn’t much of an issue either. The only thing I regret is my apathetic work ethic and habit of procrastination I’ve developed, as a child raised in the 90s with technological distractions. McLuhan was definitely on to something. The generation of students who learned well with a teacher scratching on a chalkboard while sitting in a four-walled classroom has long expired.

Live, on Good Mourning TV

Imagine one of your loved ones has just recently passed away in another country and you’re absolutely bogged down with a huge project for your boss or client. You don’t have the time and/or the money to book a flight and get out of the country for a day or two. Would you feel guilty? Distressed?

What if there was another way to witness the funeral that didn’t require you to book a costly flight and take time away?

Wesley Music, a company that specializes on providing music to the bereavement community thinks they’ve got the solution. If people all over the world are communicating and networking in more intimate ways than ever before using the internet, then shouldn’t all distance barricades be broken? With the advent of high speed internet and high resolution cameras, this solution may be a little less than ideal.

But I suppose it should be expected in this age where we are dependant on machines to ease our daily lives. Wesley Music’s idea is to take a funeral, record it live, broadcast it through the internet and have it pay-per-view. I believe this is the type of remediation that we have to get used to. All physical barriers have the potential to be eliminated and be delivered to us electronically.

At last, the world at our fingertips.

The article on Reuters

Coke Reality II: The Transformation

Coca-Cola has gone through a number of different advertising slogans in its long history. In fact, here’s a list I’ve conveniently taken off the official Coca-Cola company website:

Slogans for Coca-Cola -- 1886-present:
1886 - Drink Coca-Cola
1904 - Delicious and Refreshing
1905 - Coca-Cola Revives and Sustains
1906 - The Great National Temperance Beverage
1917 - Three Million a Day
1922 - Thirst Knows No Season
1923 - Enjoy Thirst
1924 - Refresh Yourself

1925 - Six Million a Day
1926 - It Had to Be Good to Get Where It Is
1927 - Pure as Sunlight
1927 - Around the Corner from Everywhere
1929 - The Pause that Refreshes
1932 - Ice Cold Sunshine
1938 - The Best Friend Thirst Ever Had
1939 - Thirst Asks Nothing More
1939 - Whoever You Are, Whatever You Do, Wherever You May Be, When You Think of
Refreshment Think of Ice Cold Coca-Cola
1942 - The Only Thing Like Coca-Cola is Coca-Cola Itself
1948 - Where There's Coke There's Hospitality
1949 - Along the Highway to Anywhere
1952 - What You Want is a Coke
1956 - Coca-Cola... Makes Good Things Taste Better
1957 - Sign of Good Taste
1958 - The Cold, Crisp Taste of Coke
1959 - Be Really Refreshed
1963 - Things Go Better with Coke
1969 - It's the Real Thing
1971 - I'd Like to Buy the World a Coke (part of the "It's the Real Thing" campaign)
1975 - Look Up America
1976 - Coke Adds Life
1979 - Have a Coke and a Smile
1982 - Coke Is It!
1985 - We've Got a Taste for You (for both Coca-Cola & Coca-Cola classic)
1985 - America's Real Choice (for both Coca-Cola & Coca-Cola classic)
1986 - Red, White & You (for Coca-Cola classic)
1986 - Catch the Wave (for Coca-Cola)
1987 - When Coca-Cola is a Part of Your Life, You Can't Beat the Feeling
1988 - You Can't Beat the Feeling
1989 - Official Soft Drink of Summer
1990 - You Can't Beat the Real Thing
1993 - Always Coca-Cola
2000 - Coca-Cola. Enjoy
2001 - Life Tastes Good
2003 - Coca-Cola... Real
2005 - Make It Real
2006 - The Coke Side of Life

Despite the numerous transformations in Coke’s advertising schemes over the century, it’s become obvious that they have continued to focus their slogans to sell “reality” and leisure life; proving Duncombe’s argument of marketing dreams and fantasies. Yes, their campaigns have changed, independent to each, and their media relived to any spectacle one can imagine*, but they cannot let go of what works and ultimately what sells. And they probably know this.
From this list, I have also noticed that Coca-Cola has kept to a modest attitude during the very early years of their advertising. I suppose they soon found out that it wasn’t enough to only sell the beverage based on how well it tasted.

*I’m alluding to the sillier and unnecessary projects that Coca-Cola has created or endorsed to draw attention such as the international exhibit of oversized Coke bottles (some over 10 feet tall), and their popular Times Square spectacular of an electric advertising sculpture being one of the largest digital canvases in the world.


Coke Reality I

Watch this ad and tell me what you see.
Does using and editing a pre-existing Coca-Cola ad successful in convincing you? If you have never heard of the Killer Coke campaign, does the sound byte make you curious enough to know more?

The Campaign to Stop Killer Coke is the largest campaign to spread awareness and protest against Coke’s corrupted practices. Its motivation based primarily upon the scandalous murders and kidnappings of hundreds that occurred in Colombia’s bottling plant since 1989. In an act of resolution, the campaign strives to boycott and remove endorsements or contracts with Coca-Cola products in institutions in order to force the company into negotiating an agreement that will protect the rights and safety of workers in their factories. So far, the campaign has influenced a significant number of high schools and universities, whose age range make up the greater demographic of Coke consumers, to further spread the protest. This is the kind of activism that has been yearned for in Danny Schechter’s manifesto about disseminating the big corporations. It is what Stephen Duncombe imagined in the ethical spectacle and the step forward in the bottom-up model of democracy.

Here’s another clip

Seminar 2: Marxism vs Capitalism & co-optation through media

“A Marxist tradition sees the media as integrated into the existing economic and political elites and therefore reflecting their interests. The liberal approach sees the media as facilitating social agreement through the dissemination of information and contrary opinion. The classical Marxist view sees one class as manipulating the media's content.”

“[Antonio Gramsci] argued that a social group or class exercised dominance in part by force, but more importantly by consent, by obtaining the consent of the majority. The media thus had a central role in developing public compliance. Political and cultural institutions had a 'relative autonomy' from the economic base.”

“The notion of hegemony combined these notions of force and consent, and rested on a particular set of beliefs and ideas that had broad appeal. Central ideologies are seen as becoming most powerful when they are accepted as common sense, i.e. when they are not seen as ideologies at all. According to Gramsci, we can judge ideology to be effective if it is able to connect with the 'common sense' of the people. The ruling class [in Italy] struggled to retain its hegemony over the proletariat. It formally allowed contestation of ideas, which in fact, through linguistic codes etc, the ruling classes' interests were perpetuated. This approach stressed the media's content.”

Arguably the media is an important site of this battle to establish central and dominant ideas and ways of looking at the world. Must any counter-hegemonic project (socialism, radical democracy, feminism, environmentalism) establish a successful media strategy.”

As I gather, in the Marxist state the dominant class obtains such hierarchy through consent of the majority of people, thereby using the mass media for developing public conformity and obedience. This method is certainly relative to an in-class discussion of Althusser’s Ideological State Apparatuses (ISA) being used in ours homes, work places, churches, schools etc. as a tool for cultivating and sustaining the ideologies of the ruling class. Furthermore, Gramsci stresses that the most powerful ideologies were accepted as common sense and thus when they aren’t seen as “ideologies”. If we are all being asked to participate in culture and media in general, then through interpellation we should seek in order to intercede on the ideologies of our hegemonic institutions. What if we ditched our capitalist idealism? Nearly impossible since we are a culture too satisfied with our lives in the moment; obsessing over getting what we want, when we want it. Despite the dilemma we face when we attempt to give up our capitalist grounds, there may be some options left unexplored for whatever reason. “Dominant views are of course open to contestation, and to those who wish to promote counter-hegemony.” Could a step away from our capitalist ideals, such as a communist movement, be suitable to provide a counter-hegemonic alternative?


Seminar 1: My response to Heath and Potter’s The Rebel Sell, discussing the central postulates.

“Capitalism requires conformity in the workers. Capitalism is one big machine; the workers are just parts. These parts need to be as simple, predictable, and interchangeable as possible. One need only look at an assembly line to see why. Like bees or ants, capitalist workers need to be organized into a limited number of homogeneous castes.”

The capitalist society is one that thrives on constant economic competition which in turn, makes the people who produce the goods and services the ultimate gears of society. From this it is understood that unemployed are the ones outside of the social realm, and not integrated members of society.

In order for something to happen or any kind of productivity, there needs to be conformity. We can look at the signs and symbols we see in our daily lives that indicate worker conformity, including uniforms (to maintain status), unions (to maintain fairness between workers and employers), as well as clubs that encourage similar interests. All of these stimulate a sense of egalitarianism. With these conforming groups there is strengthened communications and the ability to establish goals and even embrace change as a group.

Unfortunately, the resulting effect is workers being repressed to conform.

In American Beauty, Lester sets an example of rebelling against worker conformity when he quits his job, flips off and blackmails his boss. In the article, Heath and Potter express “individuals who resist the pressure to conform therefore subvert the system, and aids in its overthrow”.

Workers of the capitalist society are also concerned about their social standing. They have accepted the values of the ruling class as and will try their worst to achieve them.
Our social and economic goals are common, but the ability to obtain these goals is class-dependant. By the ideologies of Willem Bonger, a Marxist criminologist, most people desire wealth, material possessions, power and prestige; however as we know the lower class is less able to achieve these symbols of success.

In No Logo, Naomi Klein knows this concept very well. She tells us how people are fighting over the “new” lofts where she currently lives, as has lived for a while, because they are a highly desired location. And thus want a piece of her status, even if they are “not the genuine article but mass-produced, commercialized facsimiles of it”.

All in all, the notion of capitalist conformity creates an illusion that everyone is equal and that there is no greater divide between wealth, hereditary rank or profession.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Web News

Check out this article: More Americans turning to Web for news

Not so surprisingly, what immediately came to mind after reading this headline was Marshall McLuhan’s theories of media as the message, along with the concept of remediation. We have evidently transformed our habits of acquiring news from primary sources like newspapers to television and now the internet. McLuhan emphasizes the characteristics of the medium as the way in which it affects the society. And it is through theses characteristics that that engage the viewer in different ways. Now apply this to the tools used to access web news: computers, laptops, cell phones, PDAs, and more. People are simply more absorbed into an atmosphere where they are able to interact with their medium. Their source of news can now be customized to their liking, including whether they prefer real news or satirical fake news. From drag and drop, copy paste, forward or share, the user is now in control of their news at the tip of his/her fingers and where it goes. However:

“While most people think journalism is important to the quality of life, 64 percent are dissatisfied with the quality of journalism in their communities, a We Media/Zogby Interactive online poll showed.”

This statement caught my attention as it linked to what we have discussed in class about the quality of information that floats around the web. I was interested to see that there is a significant amount of people who have also noticed their quality of journalism have decreased. What itches me further is the question of change. Is this group of dissatisfied readers and viewers able to ignite social change for higher standards of journalism?