Archive for October, 2011

10/29/2011

Nodular Thinking

The discussion we had in class  a few days ago about networks was simultaneously amusing and informative.  Before really getting into the readings, my notion of networks  were limited to social media and “networking” in regards to one’s career.  I remember hearing from career advisers “you must leverage your network” in order to have more success while looking for jobs.    Those words didn’t give me much comfort years ago because I didn’t feel like my professional network was very large – I still don’t in fact.   But maybe they were right after all; there were networks all around me that I perhaps had not considered.

My notion of what a network could has definitely expanded this week; for example, the idea that online fan communities was a little eye-opening and not something I hadn’t considered before.  One of the aspects of network theory that Paul Adams points out in his piece is the “self-organizing” nature of networks.  The example of  Glee was raised in class, but I must admit I don’t have to look too far back to my own  younger days when being a fan of certain TV shows meant I was wasting time on the internet posting and reading through online forums (admittedly nerdy).  The way these online fans can rally themselves to, for instance, protest the cancellation of a show they care about is a valid, albeit silly, example of network power.

I think the role the internet plays in network formation is a fascinating topic.  Surely, there were networks before the advent of the internet.  According to Adams, “real-world networks are the outcome of spontaneous growth processes in which nodes and links are added at random (74).”  When I first starting reading the passage where aforementioned quote came from, I wasn’t sure if the internet was part of what was being described given his choice of the worlds real-world.”  Of course, I could see that it was as I read further.

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10/28/2011

The US: Land of the Free? (as defined by the small print)

Grewal’s “network power”, or, the notion that, “people unite in a way that makes them capable of mutual recognition and exchange, whether it goods or ideas” to understand the dynamics underlining globalization very much resonates with my comprehension of globalization and the digital divide. In his work, “Network Power: Social Dynamics of Globalization”, Grewal explains how the social coordination among cooperative regimes at transnational levels and the use of standards developed and coordinated by these transnational players determine who has the primary power to dictate the rules of the globalization game.

Allegedly, entering the game is a “free for all”—anyone can gain network power in becoming the privilege point of access to forms of cooperation. However, as discussed in class while trying to create a meme, those super powers or super-empowered individuals who have certain network power attributes hold a large advantage in their ability to benefit from the networks that constitute our global world. As a class, we identified the following attributes as essential to defining network power: central locality in a network, effective delivery method, content relevance and often most importantly, credibility. These are the attributes that give certain nations a leg up over developing, not so well-networked nations that attempt to play in the globalization game.

After reading this article, I couldn’t help but feel hopeless about the great disjuncture (as Appadurai called it) of globalization effects. Grewal’s concluding modification of globalization as, “the systematic power leading to unfree choices” finally pushed me over the edge. The US, through it’s network power defined by it’s credibility, central locality, and complex and wide-spread distribution system, undoubtedly, has a monopoly on programing the rules of the globalization game.

How will developing nations ever have a fair chance at winning a game or two of globalization? Is Grewal’s suggestion for balancing network power even feasible? For the US to consider setting customized boundary properties for standards so that less affluent nations can reap the benefits of globalization, too, would mean that US policy would have to consider other players of the game in setting standards. Grewal’s idea to balance power would demand a US government that sits down with foreign country leaders and takes the time to know the socio-economic situation and positioning of the country; a US government that is ready to prescribe a standard that meets the needs of every individual player in the globalization game.

I, for one, think this is a completely unrealistic expectation of the US government. As long as we continue to be the primary beneficiaries of the current economic order, unfortunately, there is no expectation that the US will become “self-actualized” and begin looking beyond it’s own power. For this reason, it is no surprise to me that these same intricate networks that have emerged as power reinforcement for the US, are also networks that create wide-spread anger and resentment among external, disadvantaged players in globalization.

For example, we see this domestically in the case of many groups represented at the Occupy Wall Street protests. Former students that once consented to the dominant choice eliminating structure of taking out a large loan to cover high graduate school costs at the promise of high paying jobs that would pay off loans after graduation, are now finding that they have entered a vicious economic dependency cycle. These American students owe private banks and the US government thousands of dollars in loans and yet, there are not enough jobs available to give these young professionals the opportunity to be debt free. This is just one example of how the US lacks the “freedom to choose freely”, or as defined by Grewal, the “freedom of choice over viable alternatives”.

10/27/2011

Technology = Networking

It was mentioned in class that Bruno Latour would be upset if we looked at technology as the only way to have networking. He believed that human contact is also part of networking, not just technology. I still kind of disagree with that. I believe that networking is based on technology, yes- everything. There was technology in the cave man era and there is still technology today. Technology back then would be like drawings on walls, writing in dirt, writing on stones, inventing the telegraph, sending letters, owning a type writer, and so forth. These are all different forms of technology that fit in the time eras. Today our technology is based on computers, cell phones, the internet, and the whole shebang of megabytes. Now, my question is how do people “socialize?” How do people meet? If Latour says that the expression of socializing is part of networking, I would agree, but HOW would it begin? People would need to meet. But, how would people meet? They would call each other. They would write letters to each other. They would send emails to each other. Or if you want to go back to the cave men era, they would probably send out fire signals from one territory to another. That is still using technology in one way or another. Therefore our networking is BASED on technology. Our social life, human interactions, begin BASED on technology. So, my perspective is that our networking is all based on technology- even from the old days to the modern days. Care to agree or disagree?

10/27/2011

Does the internet really give us more power?

So I’ve been thinking about Benkler and how he argues that the internet has been changing power dynamics.  He uses wiki leaks as an example of this.  I do understand the argument he’s trying to make.  However in some respects I almost think that it minimizes and individuals power.  With thousands of millions of people tweeting, and blogging and lots of other ‘ings’, I think it creates a constant chatter.  Kind of like sitting in a coffee shop.  Yes you can hear lots of people, but there still is probably only one persona that you can actually understand or hear above the noise.

In many respects the internet has just increased the volume of noise so that it’s more difficult to actually hear what is going on.  It has given us a space to have a voice, and say our opinions, but people have been finding ways to express themselves for centuries without this, and in many different forms.  There has always been some kind of public tv channel, many schools have these as well, call-in radio stations, zines, graffiti, cafe’s dedicated to different organizations.  People have always been organizing and finding ways to voice their opinions.  Regardless, there are still only so many people who are heard, or become influential.  I don’t think that this number has really changed, its just become more difficult to find the people that actually have something good to say.  I’ve always liked the saying that just because you can doesn’t mean you should.  However the internet has practically eliminated this all together making it easy for people to express themselves, and communicate, but often more to just hear themselves “talk” than to actually say something worth hearing.

Ultimately I don’t think the internet has altered the real power dynamic, in many ways its made it easier to find ways to discredit and silence people (but that’s another story).  The people that actually become heard of or work on sites like wiki leaks would be doing something similar and still be “known” regardless of whether the internet existed or not.  It hasn’t provided them with any real power just a different medium.

10/26/2011

Predestination or Free Will…for Networks?

John Calvin & David Grewel: Like-minds?

Religious theorists have asked this question for centuries about the spiritual realm and now network theorists are joining the mix in regard to the nature of the global and social Network system. Have networks always existed (Latour) or do networks formed in the information age now define its current social structure (Castells)?

The understanding of networks directly affects how we interpret globalization, domination, inequality, and how free we are to “choose” to adopt certain dominant global norms. David Grewel argues in his piece Network Power and Globalization that networks seem free also have elements of buried force that explain how the “dynamic operating in globalization nevertheless reflects a kind of domination” (89). Grewel does not disregard the importance of economic dependency or military control in indirect control, but categorizes globalization as empire.

We establish this dichotomy of choice and powerful influence through norms that ultimately contruct “network power.” Grewel defines this as “a group of people united in a particular way that makes them capable of mutual recognition and exchange” (91). Network power requires critical mass and effectively eliminates other choices as it reaches critical mass. In other words, the more people jumping onto one network, the fewer people are likely to remain in alternative networks. Network power chooses the network “market winners” in a way. Grewel perceives this as created fewer choices for free will to be exerted because they existed before a dominant network took power. He does not seem to address the possibility that new competitive networks could enter the market and provide better alternatives to the dominant ones, likely because the dominant networks are tied up in an array of bureaucratic policies. Grewel uses the WTO as an example of a “priviledged point of access” (91) and argues that Nation-States that want to stay competitive must effectively adopt WTO policy (in full) to compete.

While this is done through formal consent and signing of treaties, the WTO requires countries to accept its terms in full. Part of the reason is to ensure compliance and create necessary boundaries for fair trade. But it leaves no room for alternative styles of trade and eliminates certain sectors like agriculture (94). Now that the WTO governs nearly all international trade law, what choice does a country have if it wants to trade internationally but to accept provisions of the WTO?

Grewel points to the costs that new standards require, as well as the frequent perceived cultural loss by changing from standards that play an “important role in people’s identities or culture,” such as linguistics (96). These changes greatly affect minority cultures and marginalized populations that do not have equal access to adapting to these changes.

Grewel then opens the door for a compromise through oppenness, compatibility, and malleability (97). While the analysis provides more space for entrants to adopt culturally-sensitive standards through the WTO that are more compatible with their current standards, Grewel does not set out a solution for dealing with human rights policy in these trade agreements. While revision should be easy to do in any network system as a way to respond to outcomes, network power (the dominant) should also be careful not to allow nations to opt-out of imperative human rights requirements, which underline the Declaration of Human Rights at the United Nations.

This article and other network scholars consider language and metrics as the biggest challenge in network power. As networks dominate through globalization, they fear these losses as also a loss of choice and liberty. But networks must invite diverse opinions without compromising on fundamental rights. In other words, Grewel’s opt-out system may be the optimal solution for cultural protection in a network power system, but Nation States should be called to account in an international system not to opt-out of recognizing and honoring the fundamental human rights of their citizens.

10/21/2011

Telenovelas

I was thinking about the article on Ugly Betty and how the television show has been successful in many different countries and languages.  I used to watch the show, but I never got absorbed into it to the point that I had to watch it every week.  I thought it was very interesting how when it was introduced to the U.S.  they changed part of the structure.  I am curious as to weather if it was kept closer to it’s original form if it would have been more successful.  I think it would be interesting to see if shorter term show could be successful in the same manner that our current U.S. sitcoms are.  I would love to watch the original Ugly Betty version and see if it is more appealing to me than the American version was.

10/20/2011

Click here to be grabbed by your lapels……

Dear media consumer,

The fact that you clicked on this blog link and began to consume the content of this blog reinforces Kraidy’s point that sex sells. But do not have shame; for you were incapable of resisting such a provocative title, hinting scandal and lust, naturally human temptations. You are not alone, dear media consumer. You and your vacuous counterparts cannot help but be lured in by us, the omnipotent Global Media System.

Signed,

“The Holy Trinity” (As named by McChesney: Time Warner, Disney and News Corp)

Dear foreign media consumers,

Any chance you felt belittled or patronized upon reading Kraidy’s content analysis of the Washington Post?

According to this analysis, the Washington Post’s hypersexualization and latent paternalism of the United States as the Super-power of the world causes foreign audiences, like yourself,  to succumb to the seduction of US popular culture (442). Articles in the Post are saturated by diction rich in sexual connotation that make us, the Global Media System, irresistible as providers of cultural products. You can’t help but reach for us as we thrust words at you like, “penetrate”, “pleasure zone”, and “desire”. Never mind all those courses you took in High School and at University about media discernment and the mitigation of media effects. For you, foreign audience, are weak when it comes to that three letter word, S-E-X, that apparently is no where else to be found in the local media content near you.

Moreover, we assume that you are more than fluent in the literal and figurative English language to understand statements that make you quiver, like “fraught with turbulence” and “lure of the forbidden fruit”. And we, of course, trust that any dubbing or direct translating of our content to you, dear foreign audience, will be an exact translation of all the powerfully erotic content we dangle in front of your media hungry eyes.

Ostensibly, you are able to act as agents in creating a product in high demand, that only we, the all mighty Global Media System, have the distribution power to satiate;  but ultimately, you have no control or ability as to manage how you receive our notions of US popular culture, dripping with seductive and hidden messages pertaining to power hierarchies and social relationships in this country. For you, foreign audience, represent the aspiring Non-West, an unnamed region that only goes by such a title as you strive to become all that we represent politically and economically.

Stop the resistance to our predictable “hollywood endings”. Stop the questioning of why minority actors are not cast in US lead roles. Kneel down in submission as we give you what you truly want: transnational corporate multiculturalism.  We will show you who you really are.

Trust us, cooperate and we will show you the way,

GMS

10/20/2011

Get Connected, Worldwide, Rock on!

“After watching this video, you will forever be scarred” announced Dr. Hayden in class last Tuesday.

Scarred? I wondered why. As the MDA Senior Management Rap video began to play, seeing the people in business suits singing a rap song, and especially with their choice of dance- yes, I am scarred. Now I have the line “Get Connected, Worldwide, Rock on!” from the song stuck in my head.

In class, we all discussed about cultural hybridity. It was an interesting session for me because I never really noticed cultural hybridity until recently. I felt like all the commercials are just “commercials.” But after pointing certain scenes that portray cultural hybridity, it made me realize that I overlooked many others as well.
I do wonder if we have had an influence to Singapore because I came across this commercial (you tube video above). Seeing a man in construction clothes, an old woman, a skater, a man in a business suit, a young teenage girl, and especially a man dressed in Viking clothes; they are all singing about JG Wentworth. It is a corny song that has everyone singing “877-Cash-Now!” But seeing this has made me think that it is possible we set that kind of influence that it is okay for “businesses” to create a funny song to attract more clients. I am not sure if it works? Sure it might attract more viewers, but more clients? I would not call JG Wentworth myself.
Speaking of cultural hybridity, I am trying to figure out if I see any cultural hybridity in the JG Wentworth commercial? Other than the different races, I do not see any cultural hybridity except for different clothing. If you see anything, please do share.

10/19/2011

Return to Zork: Why Ownership Matters

Our class from 10/18 brought up several media references to hybridity in cultural media. At one point, the first computer game Zork was mentioned, and it got me digging into my past as an early gamer, which led to this post about media ownership and its role in curating content and shifting culture.

After some due diligence, I found out that the game I played in 1993 was Return to Zork. It was several phases past the original Infocom game, complete with color graphics and even some video actors. Ironically, one of the enstoned actresses is Blake Lively’s mother! But I digress…

Naturally, discovering childhood treasures, I wanted to download the game and play it. But computers surpassing Mac’s OS X 8 system no longer run this game–they retired their “classic games” apparently. Essentially, unless someone now buys an old computer (assuming it still runs), he or she will be unlikely to ever play this game again. While many PC users can still run this particular game for a long time to come, it still sparked an interest in closed technological systems.

The present reality is the development of games that are so realistic, they could be CGI effects placed in motion pictures. Admittedly, my nostalgia for simplicity crops up in this context, which may be why I stopped playing these games over time.

If a media company decided not to run certain content any longer, it can phase it out through new technology or by limiting technological interoperability. If lovers of classic film were not restoring old movies to DVD, that film would ultimately expire and fail to work without old operating equipment. The same is true if a media company decides to stop giving content its functionality.

The critique is not so much on the right and wrong nature of these kinds of evolutionary technologies, but rather a recognition that even through developing new forms of communication, media owners can effectively shift culture away from previous communication. It also implies that media preserve culture and that archiving history speaks as much to our cultural flows as who currently owns media outlets.

10/14/2011

The belly of the beast!

So next week I venture into the belly of the beast.   I will be in the Time Warner Center in NYC next Monday to view a taping of Anderson Cooper’s new talk show.   I applied for the tickets on a whim and what do you know I got them!  Yes it will be cool to see a famous journalist/celebrity up close, but as someone really interested in media and communications, it will also be interesting to see how a TV show is produced.  I hear the studios are always smaller than they look on TV and I’ve been warned to bring  a sweater in case it gets chilly (something about moderating the temperature to ensure the cameras properly function…who knew?)

Anyway, that’s just a brief aside that neatly dovetails with our discussion about the global media system and media ownership this week!  Coincidentally, I will be going the offices of one of world’s largest media conglomerations.  Again, as some interested in media and communications, I have long been interested in the prospect of working at a place like TimeWarner.  I work at small non-profit now, so the idea of working for a large corporation with offices all over the world is appealing to me.  Funnily enough, the very things that I consider to potential benefits of working at TimeWarner are seen as nefarious symbols of too much ownership concentrated among too few.  Robert McChesney really sounded the alarm about media ownership in his piece and I do see his point.  In order to have a rich and dynamic public sphere, many voices have to be included and one should be vigilant that a corporations like TimeWarner doesn’t use its power to crowd others out.

As a various consumer of media, I think it’s a privilege to live in the U.S. and feel like I have access to whatever kind of information I want, even if I have to spend a little more time to find it.  Perhaps I would feel differently if I lived in another part of the world.   The Thussu reading discusses how non-Western countries are concerned about media flows somehow interfering with their social/political affairs.  If we want to get metaphorical, I suppose the U.S. and it’s media consumers are on high ground where they have the vantage point to survey other media flows?