YouTube is Taking K-Pop Global
Patty Ahn / University of California San Diego

YouTube map published in Joong Ang Daily on 9/15/2011.
YouTube map Published in Joong Ang Daily on 9/15/2011

YouTube is bringing K-Pop to the U.S. YouTube is taking K-Pop global. Since 2011, these kinds of celebratory declarations have cycled their way through U.S. and Korean news outlets, research studies, academic essays, and promotional literature released by the Korean government. These stories are almost always buttressed by staggering numerical figures about how many views K-Pop music videos regularly rack up on the site, most of which originate in Japan, China, and the U.S. In August, Sun Lee, head of music partnerships at YouTube for Korea, told Bloomberg, “It might have been impossible for K-pop to have worldwide popularity without YouTube’s global platform.” [ ((Sohee Kim, “The $4.7 Billion K-Pop Industry Chases Its ‘Michael Jackson Moment,’” Bloomberg, August 22, 2017, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-08-22/the-4-7-billion-k-pop-industry-chases-its-michael-jackson-moment.))] Views for K-Pop’s Top 200 artists have tripled since 2012, reaching a combined total of 24 billion hits in 2016, 80% of which originated outside of Korea. [ ((Ibid.))]

To be sure, K-Pop’s fan base in the U.S. has expanded considerably over the last five years. This year, KCON, the only major K-Pop fan convention in the U.S., reported its highest attendance record to date, attracting 128,000 total attendees between its Los Angeles and New York events. [ ((Jeff Benjamin, “KCON 2017 Breaks Attendance Records Thanks to Seventeen, GOT7, VIXX, Super Junior-D&E, Cosmic Girls & More,” Fuse, August 22, 2017, https://www.fuse.tv/2017/08/kcon-2017-la-attendance-recap.))] Much of this growth can be attributed to Korean record labels aggressively and systematically using U.S.-based social networking sites, like Twitter and Instagram, to engage fans in the U.S. and western Europe directly and in a variety of ways. A number of scholars now use expressions like Hallyu 2.0, or K-Pop 2.0, to describe how Korean content providers are using online distribution networks to drive Korea’s “second wave.”

Although YouTube acts as one piece of the Korean music industry’s broader strategy, it plays a crucially important role. For one, it provides record labels with a way to deliver music videos and other visual content to audiences in the U.S. without having to go through traditional media outlets. Korean record labels have known since the late-1990s that their particular style of music video promotion has the power to build strong emotional bonds between audiences and their idols in spite of linguistic and ethnic differences. SM Entertainment—Korea’s oldest and most powerful music firm—is widely credited for establishing the “K-Pop formula” with its first generation of idol groups in the mid-1990s:

H.O.T., “Candy”
(SM Entertainment, 1996)

SM’s founder, Lee Soo Man, has said that he modeled the company’s visually-driven approach to musical promotion after Michael Jackson, who displayed his virtuosity as a singer and dancer through high-concept music videos. Lee saw how Jackson reshaped the American entertainment industry while living in the States in the early 1980s, and wanted to reproduce that kind of entertainment to appeal to Korea’s bourgeoning youth culture in the mid-1990s. [ ((Lie, John, and Ingyu Oh. “SM Entertainment and Soo Man Lee.” In Handbook of East Asian Entrepreneurship, edited by Fu-Lai Yu and Ho-Don Yan, 346–52. New York, New York: Routledge, 2015.))] SM developed a company-wide system in which potential idols were recruited based on physical appearance, trained as dancers, vocalists and media personalities, and then aggressively promoted through music videos and televised performances. SM soon learned that the synchronized dance routines, pastel sounds and boyish energy of its idol groups were also captivating young audiences in Singapore, Hong Kong, mainland China, Taiwan, the Philippines and Indonesia. Long before YouTube arrived, regional and satellite networks and local television networks were broadcasting music videos and entertainment programs licensed from Korea.

Chinese-language media coined the term K-Pop to describe this emerging fan base in the late 1990s. It did not take long before the Korean music industry and government assimilated the term into a broader strategy to globalize the “made-in-Korea” brand. In 2009, Korea’s three largest record labels—SM, YG Entertainment, and JYP Entertainment—worked with YouTube to take their visual strategy online. Their incentives for partnering with Google’s video sharing platform were especially high. Between 2006 and 2008, each label ran a failed campaign to bring their top grossing solo artist in Asia to the American market. As for why these campaigns failed, we need only remember the racialized account music critic Jon Pareles gave in The New York Times about Rain’s foray into U.S. music—the JYP Asian mega-star did not meet the American standards of masculinity or originality. [ (( Jon Pareles, “Korean Superstar Who Smiles and Says, ‘I’m Lonely,’” The New York Times, February 4, 2006, sec. Arts / Music, http://www.nytimes.com/2006/02/04/arts/music/04rain.html.))]

That narrative changed in early 2011 when YouTube began releasing metrics that showed how K-Pop idol groups were tracking on its site. The company published several visualizations of these metrics in the form of color-coded maps, which were then circulated to the public through Korean fan sites [ ((thunderstix, “K-Pop Videos Set New Record on YouTube,” Soompi (blog), January 2, 2012, http://www.soompi.com/2012/01/02/kpop-videos-set-new-record-on-youtube/.))], newspapers [ ((“Web Triggers Global Renaissance of Korean Wave,” Korea JoongAng Daily, September 15, 2011, http://mengnews.joins.com/view.aspx?aId=2941492.))], and research journals. [ (( Min-Soo Seo, “Lessons from K-Pop’s Global Success,” SERI Quarterly 5, no. 3 (July 2012): 60–66,9.))] They all revealed that the U.S. accounted for the heaviest concentration of views outside of Asia. A representative from Google Korea declared, “The year 2011 was the first year when K-Pop really established itself as a global trend, instead of a temporary fad. In 2012, K-Pop will continue to grow its influence around the world.” [ (( thunderstix, “K-Pop Videos Set New Record on YouTube,” Soompi (blog), January 2, 2012, http://www.soompi.com/2012/01/02/kpop-videos-set-new-record-on-youtube/.))]

“Point choreography”—the use of key movements to capture the audience’s attention in a song—has served as a crucially important visual strategy for expanding into non-Asian markets. When executed successfully, point choreography will act as a visual hook, almost like an ear worm that conjures to mind a visual movement repeated in the chorus—a perfect ingredient for virality. SM’s nine-member girl group Girls’ Generation proved the point with their music video, “Gee.”

Girls’ Generation, “Gee”
(SM Entertainment, 2009)

The chorus is driven by a simple, repetitive chant of the song’s title, “Gee, Gee, Gee, Baby Baby” as all nine members perform a tightly synchronized dance routine of geometric movements performed in perfect unison. The main dance number in “Gee” inspired fans to upload videos of their own dance covers and flash mobs organized en masse across Asia, the U.S., and even Paris, France.

K-Pop’s hallmarks as a genre are now defined as much by its spellbinding group choreographies as its heart-pounding beats and melodic hooks:

Brown Eyed Girls, “Abracadabra”
(NegaNetwork, 2010)

Point Choreography in Psy’s “Gentleman”
(YG Entertainment 2013)

Point Choreography in Twice’s “TT”
(YG Entertainment 2013)

Metrics and virality only tell one piece of the story. The hundreds of K-Pop videos being shared and re-shared billions of times per year, and recreated in virtual and public space, more than anything creates a architecture of global sound and gendered fantasy, one which captures a feeling or imagined space of a post-millennial Korea.

Image Credits
1. YouTube Map
2. “Abracadabra”
3. “Gentleman”
4. “TT”

Please feel free to comment.




A Rose is A 장미 is A 장미 꽃: Translating Television Across Streaming Services
Amanda Halprin / University of Texas at Austin

Different words, same meaning

Different words, same meaning

The Internet has allowed television to go global. Although foreign language content has been a part of American television for decades (e.g., Telenovelas), almost all content aired on American television is in English. As Netflix and other streaming services grow their portfolios and reach, programs in a wider variety of languages are becoming accessible to US audiences. However, the content of these programs varies from service to service, even when the programs themselves are the same, as different services provide different translations. To demonstrate how these services can translate the same content into different phrases, let’s look at 응답하라 1997, a Korean drama available on Netflix, DramaFever, and Viki.

There is already a linguistic difference before you press play. Netflix and Viki translate “응답하라 1997 ” as “Reply 1997,” while DramaFever translates the title as “Answer Me 1997.” Although both of these titles convey the same general message, “reply” and “answer me” have different connotations, the most obvious being the figure and lack of figure. “Answer me” presents a specific person to the audience: there is a “me” asking for an answer. With “reply,” the speaker is less concrete. A viewer presented with the “answer me” translation might expect the show to have one main protagonist, while a viewer presented with the “reply” translation might not have this same expectation.

The difference in translations is also significant on a more superficial level. Titles are a key component in both drawing in audiences and pushing them away. Although there isn’t a distinct correlation between bad show titles and cancellation rates (as “bad” titles are subjective), bad titles are often cited as one of the contributing factors for low ratings that lead to cancellations (see: Trophy Wife, Don’t Trust the B—- In Apartment 23, etc.). While most English speakers do not have a strong reaction to the words “reply” or “answer” there are some cases where one translation of a word would be preferable over another translation. For example, many people have an aversion to the word “moist.” According to a study published in PLOS One, as many as 20% of American English speakers find the word displeasing.[ ((Thibodeau, Paul H. “A Moist Crevice for Word Aversion: In Semantics Not Sounds.” PLOS One, vol. 11, no. 4, 2016. http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0153686.)) ] So, when describing something as “slight or moderately wet,” it’s probably best to choose “damp” over “moist” because “damp” has fewer negative associations. Although the words have the same meaning, viewers process them differently.

Subtitles

  • Top Left: Viki
  • Top right: DramaFever
  • Bottom: Netflix

The way viewers process subtitles also affect how they process content. The pictures above all capture the same line of dialogue, found one minute and nine seconds into Reply/Answer Me 1997 ‘s first episode. In this scene, a man (Sung Dong-il), his wife (Lee Il-hwa), and their daughter (Sung Shi-won) are performing karaoke in a singing room. Their time is almost up, so Shi-won decides she wants to sing a song. In the pictured line, her father tells her not to pick a song with English lyrics, as he doesn’t care for them. While Viki and DramaFever fit the whole line into one frame, Neflix splits it into two frames. Putting fewer words on the screen allows viewers to process other visual information in this image, such as the actor’s facial expressions, as opposed to just focusing on the subtitles. DramaFever’s subtitles take the same consideration into account. However, instead of splitting the line into two frames they condensed the content contained in the line. DramaFever’s version cuts out Dong-il grabbing Shi-won’s attention by yelling “Hey!” and removes his threat to “kill her” if she picks an English song. Removing these two components changes how the viewer is first introduced to Dong-il’s personality: “Hey” shows the casual nature of Dong-il and Shi-won’s relationship, while “I’ll kill you” (which, it should be noted, is not a literal threat) demonstrates the combative nature of their banter. Both Viki and DramaFever drop the question contained in the line, which again stresses the casual yet combative nature of Dong-il and Shi-won’s banter, while Netflix drops the descriptor “loud” from “English song,” slightly changing the context of their argument. Viki and DramaFever’s use of “loud” is meant to explain that Dong-il doesn’t want to hear an annoying song, while Netflix’s translation could be interpreted by a viewer as Dong-il having an aversion to all English-language songs. All three of these translations are valid.

Translation Chart

Different methods of translation

There is no one “correct” method of translation. The chart above demonstrates different methods of translation divided into two categories: methods that prioritize the initial content of the source language (SL) and methods that prioritize reception of an utterance once it is translated into the target language (TL). The methods of translation chosen depend entirely on the translator’s preference and objectives. Netflix, Viki, and DramaFever have different positions on the translation process. Netflix built on its background of algorithmic matching to develop HERMES, a translator test and indexing system described as “emblematic of Hollywood meets Silicon Valley at Netflix.”[ (( “The Netflix HERMES Test: Quality Subtitling at Scale.” Netflix Technology Blog, 30 Mar. 2017, https://medium.com/netflix-techblog/the-netflix-hermes-test-quality-subtitling-at-scale-dccea2682aef.)) ] Potential translators take the HERMES test and are assigned an identifying “H-number,” which Netflix uses to monitor the number of translators working on any given language and to figure out which translators should be assigned to which genres. The system’s ultimate goal is to “use [HERMES’] metrics in concert with other innovations to ‘recommend’ the best translator for specific work based on their past performance to Netflix,” similar to how Netflix recommends specific content to its users.[ ((Ibid.)) ] Viki’s call for translators emphasizes the fan communities around the shows being translated. Instead of making translation seem like an isolated activity, Viki advertises it as a way for translators to “make new friends” and “meet people from around the world.” They invite those interested in translating to submit language self-evaluations; in addition, potential translators can directly message a “channel manager” (the person who oversees the translation team for a particular program) if they want to write subtitles for a specific show. Viki’s translation teams also include editors, who review the subtitles, moderators, who manage the translators and editors, and segmenters, who cut the videos into segments to prepare them for translation, in addition to the aforementioned channel managers and translators. As with the translators, anyone with access to Viki’s site is able to apply for these positions. DramaFever’s approach to translation is less overt than the other two approaches. In 2014, the site posed an article encouraging users to sign up for WeSubtitle, a “subtitling community” where users could get paid to translate DramaFever’s shows based on factors such as translation ability and schedule availability. However, the website is not taking on new translators as it is currently “at capacity.” DramaFever has not put out a call for translators since 2014. Furthermore, DramaFever’s current advertising strategy emphasizes that its subtitles are written by “professionals.”

Viki

Viki

HERMES

Netflix/HERMES

DramaFever

DramaFever

Although advertising its translators is not part of Netflix’s marketing strategy, this is a major component of both Viki and DramaFever’s strategies. As previously mentioned, Viki positions its subtitles as written for fans by fans, presenting the website as a community where fans can bond over the same content, regardless of language barriers. Viewership communities are also a component of DramaFever’s overall experience, but its subtitles are presented as a separate element, created for fans by professionals. However subtle these differences and their outcomes may seem, these factors push users to choose one service over another. While rose is a rose is a rose, if you asked Google Translate, a rose is a 장미 is a 장미 꽃. The medium may be the message, but so is the messenger.

Image Credits
1. Different words, same meaning
2. Author’s screengrabs
3. Different methods of translation
4. Author’s screengrab
5. Author’s screengrab
6. DramaFever promotional photo

Please feel free to comment.




Of Bhakts, Deplorables and More: Posthuman Communities Performing Political Partisanship in the Age of Social Media
Sushant Kishore / BITS Pilani

kishoremoditrump

The 2014 General elections in India and the 2016 Presidential elections in the USA shared a list of attributes, from two-terms of incumbent liberal governments to the rise of the extreme right to power. Both elections laid bare the complex virtual/real helix that constitutes the digital sensorium that is the contemporary world. Large numbers of netizens were called upon in both constituencies to join ranks with the candidates. In the case of India these groups appropriately called themselves, “Modi’s army”. Neither internet, nor politics has been the same since the 2014 elections. The internet emerged as a political tool where false truths, rumors, sentimentality and sensationalism could explode with a click and eclipse all opposition and politics became more internet marketing than polity. Campaign rhetoric and name-calling became hashtags and hashtags became social media communities.

Theoretically, at the intersection of the digital, the political and the performative, this column attempts to explore the changing terrains of politics with respect to the digital media and the performatives of communitas and political partisanship in the context of the 2014 General Election in India and the 2016 Presidential Election in the United States. The objects of interest are the posthuman social media communities that extensively participated, through multiple social media platforms, blogs, micro-blogs, etc., in the aforementioned election campaigns and continue to shower uncritical and absolute loyalty on the candidates for the highest administrative post in the two largest democracies of the world: India and United Sates of America.

The Digital-Political

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Graph of Internet Penetration

Articulating, the mid-20th Century techno-human condition, Marshall McLuhan wrote –

During the mechanical age we had extended our bodies in space. Today, after more than a century of electric technology, we have extended our central nervous system itself in a global embrace, abolishing both time and space as far as our planet is concerned. (( McLuhan, M. (1964). “Introduction.” In M. McLuhan, Understanding Media : The Extension of Man. London: The MIT Press. ))

This was in the 1960s when the electronic medium had started gaining traction in the west, the television and radio had become common household furnishing. The computer had just reached its adolescence and internet was yet to be conceived. In the contingent milieu McLuhan foresaw what the future of technology had in store for humans. With the internet boom, the McLuhanian the digital sensorium expands to envelope all aspects of quotidian life. The internet is growing exponentially and covers over forty-six per cent of the world population. If technology was the extension of the central nervous system in 1960s, the internet embodies the prosthetization of consciousness itself (another Mcluhanian prophecy). A consciousness that is rhizomorphic – networked and hyperlinked with infinite others, virtual and built/stored on inconspicuous corporate servers yet personal and quantifiable with a cornucopia of information – facts, fictions, news, rumors, data, memory – easily retrievable through keyword searches. (( Lyman, Peter and Hal R. Varian, “How Much Information”, 2003. Retrieved from http://www.sims.berkeley.edu/how-much-info-2003 on 07 December 9, 2016 )) These attributes that make the silicon consciousness remarkably seductive and widely accessible to all, also evoke an impression of democratic rapture where a user has the luxury of disembodied presence and disembodied unreasoned voice. Any individual can set up a blog or a website at minimal cost and with minimal skills and social media removes even these hurdles. Social media allows and encourages (with Twitter’s 140 words microblogs) instant, knee-jerk reactions to be posted to the world without any inhibition and/or fear of intellectual confrontation. The episode of the first presidential debate best illustrates what I mean by the “luxury of disembodied presence.” Donald Trump confessed he refrained from bringing up Bill-Lewinsky because he saw Chelsea Clinton in the audience but he could uninhibitedly do so, about Hillary and several other women, on Twitter.

kishore2

Trump’s Uninhibited Online Sexism

Very often the social media does indeed give “legions of imbeciles the right to speak, when they once only spoke at a bar after a wine, without harming the community.” (( Il Messaggero. (2015, June 12). Umberto Eco attacca i social: «Internet ha dato diritto di parola agli imbecilli». Retrieved December 7, 2016, from Il Messaggero: www.ilmessaggero.it/societa/persone/umberto_eco_attacca_social_network_imbecilli-1085803.html )) Within seconds the post snowballs with likes, comments, retweets, shares, reposts of like-minded individuals until the unreasoned impulsive argument/opinion starts to “#trend”. Manufacturing consent becomes easier in this digital prosthetization of the consciousness where users, through their Twitter feeds, Whatsapp, Facebook walls, and more, are constantly bombarded with information/misinformation and search engines literally froth with content manipulated with keywords, backlinks and shock-value. This is the picture – this constant wrestle of attention and distraction – that informs politics in the age of social media. Our ability to assess political candidates and make political decisions has become impetuous, conforming to the configurations of the digital milieu. “Once scuba diver[s]…. Now… [we] zip along the surface like a guy on a Jet Ski.” (( Carr, N. (2008, July). “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” The Atlantic http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2008/07/is-google-making-us-stupid/306868/ ))

2014/2016 – Performing Political Partisanship

Performativity in this disembodied virtual space is reduced to profile pictures, tweets, retweets, blogs, posts, likes and shares. Political assemblies transform into social media communities, and political rhetoric transforms into hashtags. “Bhakts” and “deplorables” became the highest trending ‘tag’ that were used against any candidate in both constituencies. Bhakt is a Sanskrit word which means devotee. In the context of the 2014 General Elections in India, it connoted the apotheosis of Narendra Modi – the Prime ministerial candidate for the Hindu Right party, Bharatiya Janta Party (Indian People’s Party). His campaign team had mobilized an army of Twitter accounts (mostly fake) to campaign for their candidate and slander and heckle politicians and/or supporters of other parties. In a snowball effect, many supporters took the cue and took to social media to glorify their leader and bracket every other alternative as traitor, Muslim-appeaser, pseudo-secular and/or anti-national. The trend has continued even after the elections and dissenters are subjected to frequent online abuse. In November 2015, BJP’s Twitter army launched a campaign against a popular Bollywood actor who expressed his views on rising religio-cultural intolerance in India. The campaign asked people to boycott his films and the products that he endorses. Being a Muslim made his situation worse. It led to the termination of his advertising contract. Several others who have disagreed with governments policies or questioned its objectives have faced similar flak at the hands of these swarms of devotees. The situation would be reiterated with every activity. (( Pal, J. (2015). “Banalities Turned Viral: Narendra Modi and the Political Tweet.” Television and New Media, 16(4), 377-386. )) On 16th May 2014, Modi posted what would be the Golden Tweet of the year and the most retweeted tweet ever in India.

kishore3

Top five tweeters during 2014 Election Campaigns

kishore4

Modi’s Victory Tweet, “India has won! India’s Victory. Good times are coming.”

While the keyboard wars were largely tilted in one direction in India, the Presidential Elections in the US witnessed widespread digital campaigns. Although Donald Trump was unbeatable in his bullying and name-calling (despite a limited vocabulary), Clinton’s prognosis of Trump’s followers as “a basket of deplorables”. shocked people but quickly started trending. After a long campaign that Trump ran on lies, fear and hate, no other word could describe the people who continued to support him as one after another skeleton popped out of his closet.

kishore5

Popularity Trend for #Deplorables

Filtering through claims of sexual harassment, misogynist statements, unfounded theories on migration-crime, blatant generalization of ethnic groups as criminals and terrorists, of women as sexual objects who “should be treated like shit”, the only sections of the demography Trump did not abuse in his campaign were uneducated working class/middle class white men. There were pro-Trump automated Twitter handles consistently tweeting false news and to their advantage there were groups of teenage content writers with absolutely no interest in the U.S. elections accept the attention economy it was generating. (( Tynan, D. (2016, August 24). How Facebook powers money machines for obscure political ‘news’ sites. Retrieved December 8, 2016, from The Guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/aug/24/facebook-clickbait-political-news-sites-us-election-trump )) Thus, Macedonian teens would spin and publish scandalous and sensational stories that would be picked up by Trump supporters and extensively retweeted or shared.

kishore6

Sample Stories from Macedonian content writers

It appears in both cases that in an abundance of information and a decadence of research or critical thinking, people filter information based not on ideology or interest but on a certain kind of inertia that this information highway affects. More than creating bubbles of self-interest or self-preservation the propaganda creates communities and cults of a leader. The two years since the General Elections in India have witnessed a number of radical policy changes, some quite progressive and others outright blunders of management. The notion of dissent as akin to anti-nationalism still dominates social media discourse and the fickle nature of the medium prevents any intellectual debunking of these views. What turn will politics take once Donald Trump assumes office is still unpredictable. Unlike India, partisanship might dwindle once he starts backing out of his poll promises. On a lighter note as a cyborg completely incorporated within the Twitter ecosystem, his quips on China don’t bode well for diplomacy.

Image Credits:
1. Modi Trump
2. Internet Penetration
3. Trump’s Sexism
4. Top 5 Tweeters
5. Modi’s Victory Tweet
6. #deplorables
7. Macedonian Content Writers

Please feel free to comment.




Señal 3 La Victoria: Communication in Service of the People
Kate Cronin / University of Texas at Austin

“If they won’t let us dream, we won’t let them sleep. Communication in service of the people.”

“If they won’t let us dream, we won’t let them sleep. Communication in service of the people.”

Inside the small house behind this banner sits Chile’s first community television station, Señal 3 La Victoria. For two weeks last May, media preservation students from NYU, UCLA, the University of Wisconsin at Madison, and the University of Texas at Austin, came together as members of NYU’s 2016 Audiovisual Preservation Exchange program (APEX). Together, we traveled to Santiago, Chile and teamed up with the founders of Señal 3 to inventory 20 years worth of Umatic, VHS, and Hi8 videotape and to build a fully functioning video transfer station. [ (( For a more in-depth description of our work at Señal 3 and the National Library of Chile visit the APEX Santiago 2016 blog. As a member of the APEX team I spent most of my time working to inspect, clean, repair, and digitize several collections of small gauge films housed at the National Library. Luckily, I was able to participate in a community archiving workshop at Señal 3 on May 28, 2016, where I was able to speak with both the founders of Señal 3 and my amazing APEX colleagues about their experiences organizing and implementing the inventory and a video transfer station. ))]

From the outset, the founding members of Señal 3 made it clear that their primary objective for the exchange was to increase community access to their audiovisual archive. This fervent commitment to the democratizing potential of community television stemmed from their desire to counter what they perceived as the continued exclusion of La Victoria, and other working-class Chilean communities, from meaningful participation in the public sphere. First repressed by a dictatorship, then denied access to the necessary resources to broadcast legitimately by the democratically elected governments that followed, the founding members of Señal 3 felt twice silenced by the Chilean government. For this reason, in the wake of Chile’s overlapping transitions to both a democratic government and digital broadcasting system, Señal 3 embraced their position as media pirates, emerging as a dynamic agenda-setter within their community. In the process, they became the custodians of an immense archive of human rights documentation, a distinctly undervalued contribution to the historical memory of a country still publicly reckoning with its past.

A view of the Andes from the streets of La Victoria.

A view of the Andes from the streets of La Victoria.

La Victoria has historically been a hotbed of leftist political resistance and activism in Santiago, Chile. In 1970, the neighborhood threw their support behind the socialist, democratically elected President Salvador Allende, who was ousted by a US-backed coup in September of 1973 and replaced by the military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet. Over the course of 17 years, Pinochet’s government forced over 200,000 Chileans into exile, tortured 28,000 in secret, executed 2,279, and disappeared 1,248. [ (( These were the figures reported by The National Commission for Truth and Reconciliation. ))] During Pinochet’s presidency, residents of La Victoria vehemently protested against (and were consistently repressed by) the government.

The Wall of the Disappeared in Santiago's Mueseo de la Memoria y los Derechos Humanos (Memory and Human Rights Museum)

The Wall of the Disappeared in Santiago’s Mueseo de la Memoria y los Derechos Humanos (Memory and Human Rights Museum)

Despite La Victoria’s history of political resistance, Señal Tres did not begin broadcasting until 1997, seven years after Chile’s return to democracy. The founders, most of whom grew up during Pinochet’s presidency, are self-taught journalists, cinematographers, and editors with day jobs as plumbers, electricians, and builders. They devote their weekends to Señal 3 and pay the station’s massive electric bill out-of-pocket. They started out with donated equipment and funding from international NGOs, community television partners in Europe, and even a ska band from Madrid. Señal 3 has since helped to establish several other community television stations including Canal 3-Pichilemu, a Mapuche community station. They have never sought or received state funding; instead, over the past 20 years they have developed an extensive international support network of community television practitioners. They’ve also started a local communications school where they teach community members to produce, edit, and broadcast television programs, which they then air as part of their Saturday broadcasts.

All of their production work is done in-house, using pirated software and VHS tape decks to edit their broadcasts. They air everything from protest footage, educational programming on women’s health and sexual education, segments on popular video games produced and created by local children, pirated sports broadcasts, and bootleg copies of mainstream Hollywood films. [ (( A limited sampling of some of Señal 3’s more recent programming is available on their YouTube channel. ))] They broadcast to a 9 km radius on Saturdays, reaching approximately 350,000 homes and 800,000 residents. [ (( These statistics are taken from the Señal 3 website. ))] For the better part of two decades, they have broadcast without the support or permission of the state, effectively rendering them broadcast pirates.

The walls of Señal 3, covered from floor to ceiling with posters.

The walls of Señal 3, covered from floor to ceiling with posters.

Jennifer Ashley has traced Señal 3’s pirate roots back to the years of Pinochet in which clandestine media was a key tool of resistance against the dictatorship, representing both the freedom of expression and the democratization of information. Although Pinochet was voted out of office in 1990, the neoliberal communication policies of his government remained firmly in place, resulting in the privatization and globalization of Chilean media, a high concentration of media-ownership, and a limitation of the electromagnetic spectrum, something the Señal 3 station members see as a public resource. [ (( For a more in depth consideration of the neoliberal reforms of Pinochet’s presidency in the context of the Digital Television Legislation in Chile, see, Etcheverry, Sergio Godoy. “Regulatory Implications of the Adoption of Digital Television in Chile.” Communication Research Trends 29 no 2 (2010): 2-25. ))] Ashley, who spent over a year working with the Señal 3 team and living in La Victoria for her doctoral research, describes Señal 3’s relationship with the government before the transition to digital television as a form of “open secret piracy . . . a way for the Chilean state to defer, but not refuse, demands for greater media democratization” [ ((Ashley, Jennifer. “‘Honorable Piracy’ and Chile’s Digital Transition.” Popular Communications 13, no 1 (2015): 11 ))]. For this reason, Señal 3 and other community television activists organized around the national shift to digital television (beginning in 2009) as an opportunity for the state to re-distribute the electromagnetic spectrum more democratically and to legitimate their participation in public discourse. However, 2014’s Digital Television Legislation neither stipulated a significant redistribution of the electromagnetic spectrum nor allocated support for community television stations to help with the expensive transition from analog to digital broadcasting infrastructure and equipment. For community television activists, this legislation represented the continuation of a long history of excluding alternative voices and media practices from the Chilean public sphere. [ ((Ibid.(14-15) ))]

A mural down the street from Señal 3.

A mural down the street from Señal 3.

Señal 3 adjusted to their position within the emerging digital landscape by continuing to clandestinely broadcast an analog signal for their (many) community members who could not yet afford to make the transition to digital television. They also began to stream some of their broadcasts online. For this reason, when the APEX team arrived in La Victoria in May of 2016, our preservation efforts straddled Chile’s analog past and digital future. The founders of Señal 3 made it clear from day one that their media archive belongs first and foremost to their community. They saw the digitization and digital preservation of their archive as both a practical and a democratic imperative: videotape is an unstable storage medium with a finite life cycle, and digitization presented them with the opportunity to make 20 years of audiovisual documentation of their community, by their community, available on-demand to their community. Now in possession of an inventory of their archive and a fully functioning digitization station, the team at Señal 3 is one step closer to their goal of making the archive widely accessible to the people of La Victoria. While this is undoubtedly a step in the right direction, Senal 3 still faces many obstacles: technological obsolescence, the steep cost of digital storage, and the lack of standardization among digital formats, just to name a few. With neither state support nor permission, they must work with their international network of community television operators to address these challenges.

APEX and Señal 3 team members troubleshoot over the video transfer station.

APEX and Señal 3 team members troubleshoot at the video transfer station.

Much has been written about the media’s role in Chile’s transition to democracy and public reckoning with (or denial of) the human rights violations committed during Pinochet’s dictatorship. [ (( See Kristin Sorensen’s Media, Memory, and Human Rights in Chile and Claudia Bucciferro’s For-get: identity, media, and democracy in Chile. ))] However, few have acknowledged community television stations as active – albeit unsanctioned – participants in the necessary human rights discourses that have taken place throughout Chile and abroad since the country’s return to democracy in 1990. For television scholars interested in alternative media and communications policy, historians interested in historical memory, and archivists invested in human rights documentation, cultural patrimony, and community archiving practices, the longevity and wide-reaching activism of Señal 3 serves as a powerful reminder to consider the potential local, national, and transnational impact of broadcast media practitioners who operate outside the legal framework of the electromagnetic spectrum.

APEX Santiago 2016 – Señal 3 Community Archiving Workshop from Michael Pazmino on Vimeo.

Image Credits:

1. “If they won’t let us dream, we won’t let them sleep,” Author’s personal collection.
2. A view of the Andes, Author’s personal collection.
3. The Wall of the Disappeared, Author’s personal collection.
4. The walls of Señal 3, Author’s personal collection.
5. A mural, Author’s personal collection.
6. APEX and Señal 3 team, Author’s personal collection.

Please feel free to comment.




Mapping Media Retail in the Global Midwest: Minneapolis and St. Paul, MN
Dan Herbert / University of Michigan

figure 1

Figure 1: The Minneapolis metropolitan area.

I recently conducted research in Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota, as the last cases in my project to map “entertainment retail” stores in areas of the American Midwest with significant minority and/or diasporic populations. These retail locations include video stores (my primary interest, truthfully), record stores, bookshops, and movie theaters. I have made these maps to indicate different forms of social diversity, particularly along lines of income, race, ethnicity, and national origin, as defined by US Census data.

Throughout this project, I have been interested in simply making the maps and asking a basic question: what do I see? Of course, this leads to countless, more detailed questions, such as: Is there some geographic pattern that these stores exhibit? Is there a significant historical change in the number or location of these stores? Are there discernable alignments between the location of a social group and the retail sites? If not, how might this lack of correlation signify something important as well?

I chose Minneapolis and St. Paul because they have notable diasporic populations: Somalis in Minneapolis and Hmong people in both St. Paul and Minneapolis. I say these groups are “notable” because, despite how cosmopolitan these cities are, the state of Minnesota has been historically understood as “white” because of the large Norwegian and German populations there. But following the end of the Vietnam War, many Hmong people came to this area as refugees, [ ((Anonymous, “Hmong Timeline,” Minnesota Historical Society. Web. Accessed 2 Mar. 2016. http://www.mnhs.org/hmong/hmong-timeline.))] while many Somalis came to Minneapolis as voluntary migrants and yet others came as refugees following the beginning of the Somali Civil War in 1991.[ ((Abdi Roble and Doug Rutledge, The Somali Diaspora: A Journey Away (Minneapolis, MN, USA: University of Minnesota Press, 2008), 3, 135. ProQuest ebrary. Web. Accessed 2 March 2016.))] At this point, the Minneapolis city website boasts, “Minneapolis prides itself on the diversity throughout the city.”[ ((Anonymous, “Diverse Minneapolis,” Minneapolis: City by Nature. Web. Accessed 2 Mar. 2016. http://www.minneapolis.org/visitor/visitor-diverse-minneapolis.))]

These communities are also notable, for the purposes of my project, because I know little about the Twin Cities and almost nothing about Somali-American or Hmong cultures. One of the basic questions for my project is, “What can maps and mapping offer to film and media studies?”[ ((I do not mean to suggest that I am unique in asking this question, as there have been a number of important works in film and media studies that have made use of maps and interrogated how maps might be interpreted by scholars in our field; we can look at least as far back as Ben Singer’s work about nickelodeons in New York, which appeared in Cinema Journal more that twenty years ago. Moreover, I recognize that an entire field of “Critical GIS” has developed over the last twenty years, in which scholars from a range of disciplines have made use of and self-consciously questioned digital mapping technologies and techniques. My three contributions to Flow simply mark my curiosity and small contributions to a much larger, ongoing discourse.))] So I took it as a challenge to map areas and groups that I was unfamiliar with. For me at least, these maps would have to “speak for themselves” to some degree, as I lack any real contextual understanding to help me interpret them.

Beginning in 1985, the maps of Minneapolis indicate no clear correlations between the retail stores and most social characteristics, including population density, income, percentage white, or “foreign born,” which is the best category I could use from the 1985 Census to try to locate the Somali population (figures 2, 3, 4, and 5). One map (figure 6) does indicate that most of the retail sites were not in African American neighborhoods. All the maps reveal an impressive number of bookstores and record stores, most of which are in or near to the downtown area. Alternatively, the video stores are much more dispersed and more remote from downtown. One can imagine that these were the typical “mom and pop” shops found so commonly during the 1980s.

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Figure 2: 1985 Minneapolis entertainment retail locations and population density.

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Figure 3: 1985 Minneapolis entertainment retail locations and median household income.

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Figure 4: 1985 Minneapolis entertainment retail locations and percentage of white residents.

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Figure 5: 1985 Minneapolis entertainment retail locations and number of foreign-born residents.

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Figure 6: 1985 Minneapolis entertainment retail locations and percentage of white residents.

In 1990 we see some important changes and relationships (figures 7, 8, and 9). We now see a great increase in the number of video stores and that they remain more dispersed than other kinds of entertainment retail. Even more remarkable, to my mind, is the fact all the video stores and the great majority of the other stores are not located in African American areas, nor in non-white areas generally, nor in areas with large “foreign born” populations. Entertainment retail, and video rental in particular, appears to be a white, non-diasporic enterprise.

figure 7

Figure 7: 1990 Minneapolis entertainment retail locations and percentage of foreign-born residents.

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Figure 8: 1990 Minneapolis entertainment retail locations and percentage of African American residents.

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Figure 9: 1990 Minneapolis entertainment retail locations and number of foreign-born residents.

As in 1985, the maps for 1999 do not present any clear alignments between the location of entertainment retail sites and the location of African Americans or white people, except for video stores, which still appear in mostly white neighborhoods (figures 10 and 11). By this year, the Census had a category for “Place of Birth: Eastern Africa” (figure 12). And indeed, the map indicates a concentration of Somalis in what is called the “Cedar Riverside” neighborhood, just to the east of downtown. Although there is not a sizeable cluster of retail sites in this area, there are three bookstores and a video store, making one wonder if they catered in material for the Somalis in that area.

figure 10

Figure 10: 1999 Minneapolis entertainment retail locations and percentage of white residents.

figure 11

Figure 11: 1999 Minneapolis entertainment retail locations and percentage of African American residents.

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Figure 12: 1999 Minneapolis entertainment retail locations and number of Eastern African-born residents.

This map from 2015 shows that there are two video stores in this area (although one had closed by the time of my visit), and that one of them is called “Intercontinental Video” (figure 13). City directories and telephone books indicate that this store had been open since 1982.

figure 13

Figure 13: 2015 Minneapolis entertainment retail locations and number of Eastern African-born residents.

This map and the name of this store would suggest a strong relationship between the store and the local community. But the truth is more complex. I visited Intercontinental Video and discovered that it is owned by a 78-year old man from India who came to the US to study genetics. He initially opened the store as a hobby and designed it from the start to attract immigrant patrons, because, as he stated, “anybody who comes from a foreign country, he feels homesick, so why don’t we start an international movie place?” According to the owner, the store has served multiple communities in the Twin Cities area for many years, offering Bollywood films, French films, Hong Kong action films, and so on. Yet the location of the store predates the influx of Somali people in the neighborhood and the owner says he has never had many Somali customers. “They don’t like to watch movies,” he said.

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Figure 14: The exterior of Intercontinental Video Sales and Rental, Minneapolis, MN.

Whether this statement is true or not, it is striking that there is a “diasporic video store” located in the heart of a diasporic community, and if we were only to look at the map, we would likely assume that these things are directly related. But it appears that the global flows of media and people have articulated themselves in a rather disjointed fashion in this local instance. Globalization is complex, to be sure, and so is the local. And, it turns out, “The Midwest” is global, local, and complex too.

Moving briefly to St. Paul, we can see the location of entertainment retail stores and people from “Asia” or “South Eastern Asia,” as indicated by the US Census, in a short series of maps. In 1985 (figure 15), we see a wide dispersal of video stores and other retail sites; other than a cluster of bookstores in the downtown area, there is no relationship among the stores or between the stores and the Asian population. Similarly, the map from 1999 (figure 16) indicates a large number of entertainment retail stores dispersed rather evenly across the area. But one can see a line of video stores dotted along University Ave. (in the middle of the map), an area with a large number of Hmong people and businesses, suggesting that these stores were part of a larger commercial corridor that served this group. The strip of video stores along University Ave. is even more pronounced in 2006 (figure 17) and the names of many of these stores suggest they were owned by and/or served Hmong and other “South Eastern Asian” people in the area (figure 18). By 2015, however, and like most places in the country, many video stores have disappeared from St. Paul; half of those that remain are in the “South Eastern Asian” parts of the city (figure 19). Interestingly, this map indicates a negative correlation between the South Eastern Asian population and the location of bookstores.

figure 15

Figure 15: 1985-86 St. Paul entertainment retail locations and number of Asian or Pacific Islander residents.

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Figure 16: 1999 St. Paul entertainment retail locations and number of Southeast Asian residents.

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Figure 17: 2006 St. Paul entertainment retail locations and number of South Eastern Asian residents.

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Figure 18: 2006 St. Paul entertainment retail locations and number of South Eastern Asian residents.

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Figure 19: 2015 St. Paul entertainment retail locations and number of South Eastern Asian residents.

Although figure 19 indicates that two video stores remain open on University Ave., neither was in business when I walked through this area in November 2015. However, I did stumble upon a shop with videos, clothing, and jewelry for sale in a small indoor shopping center on this stretch (figure 20); the female owner identified herself as “Cambodian” and said that she sold movies from Cambodia, China, and Thailand. More significantly, the map from 2015 includes the Hmong Village Shopping Center, a sizable indoor shopping area that features a variety of vendor kiosks, restaurants, and food stalls. Among these, one can find at least six places that sell DVDs from a wide range of Asian countries, many of which, as I understand it, are dubbed for Hmong viewers (figure 21).

figure 20

Figure 20: Interior of a University Ave. Cambodian-owned store.

figure 21

Figure 21: Interior of a store in the Hmong Village Shopping Center, St. Paul, MN.

On the one hand, we might look at the 2015 map as flawed, as it depicts video stores that are not there, like phantom islands, and does not represent the video retailers that are actually present. On the other hand, we could read this map as pointing the way for an on-the-ground experience of the city, which does in fact reveal some of the ways in which the Hmong diaspora is manifest within the local commercial landscape. The map serves as one point of engagement with a space, which may lead the way to a range of other questions, activities, and modes of experience and knowing.

In my previous contributions to Flow, I have concluded by pointing out some of the problems with the maps I had made and the process of mapping more generally. For this last piece, however, I want to make some positive claims about how the maps, and the entire project, have been useful and instructive to me. First, all the maps confirmed and provided visual “proof” of an argument I made in Videoland, that video rental stores dispersed and diffused movie culture into and throughout local communities; in this respect, the maps serve as an important addendum to my previous work. Second, the maps provided me with a much more detailed and nuanced sense of the complex ways that immigrant and diasporic groups articulate themselves within local retail environments in general and in relation to video stores in particular. To my eye, these maps have represented the “disjuncture and difference in the global cultural economy” of the American Midwest.[ ((Arjun Appadurai, Modernity at Large: Cultural Dimensions of Globalization (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1996), 37.))]

Finally, and abstracting from these last two points, the maps have proven useful in representing relationships – in space, over time, and among different people and places. Seeing such relationships can be extremely helpful in telling historical narratives or, even more so, in making space-based historical arguments. Of course no map can truly or fully “speak for itself,” and so the maps remain, to my mind, useful tools that can work in concert with other forms of argumentation and knowledge production. Maps are not only the products of knowledge, but should be taken as starting points for asking any number of new research questions to generate new understandings. Maps can point the way. And then the ethical and ideological questions also emerge. Not, where do you want to go, or, how do I get there? Instead, why do you want to go there and what will you do?

SPECIAL THANKS

This work was supported by MCubed, a funding program at the University of Michigan, awarded during the 2015-2017 cycle. I am grateful to my “cube” partners Phil Hallman and Johannes von Moltke for inspiration and support. I want to thank Dana Rider for invaluable research assistance in Minneapolis and St. Paul, and I also want to thank Debbie Miller and Jennifer Rian who provided excellent guidance at the Minnesota Historical Society Library. Thanks to Lori Lopez, at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, who provided great insights into Hmong movie culture and tipped me off to the Hmong Village Shopping Center. At the University of Michigan, Laura Caruso did an astounding amount of data entry and was a thoughtful sounding board as well. Ben Strassfeld made the maps, and I am grateful for his skill, timeliness, patience, and friendliness.

Image Credits:

1. The Minneapolis metropolitan area (image made by Ben Strassfeld, provided by the author)
2. 1985 Minneapolis entertainment retail locations and population density (image made by Ben Strassfeld, provided by the author)
3. 1985 Minneapolis entertainment retail locations and median household income (image made by Ben Strassfeld, provided by the author)
4. 1985 Minneapolis entertainment retail locations and percentage of white residents (image made by Ben Strassfeld, provided by the author)
5. 1985 Minneapolis entertainment retail locations and number of foreign-born residents (image made by Ben Strassfeld, provided by the author)
6. 1985 Minneapolis entertainment retail locations and percentage of white residents (image made by Ben Strassfeld, provided by the author)
7. 1990 Minneapolis entertainment retail locations and percentage of foreign-born residents (image made by Ben Strassfeld, provided by the author)
8. 1990 Minneapolis entertainment retail locations and percentage of African American residents (image made by Ben Strassfeld, provided by the author)
9. 1990 Minneapolis entertainment retail locations and number of foreign-born residents (image made by Ben Strassfeld, provided by the author)
10. 1999 Minneapolis entertainment retail locations and percentage of white residents (image made by Ben Strassfeld, provided by the author)
11. 1999 Minneapolis entertainment retail locations and percentage of African American residents (image made by Ben Strassfeld, provided by the author)
12. 1999 Minneapolis entertainment retail locations and number of Eastern African-born residents (image made by Ben Strassfeld, provided by the author)
13. 2015 Minneapolis entertainment retail locations and number of Eastern African-born residents (image made by Ben Strassfeld, provided by the author)
14. The exterior of Intercontinental Video Sales and Rental, Minneapolis, MN (image taken and provided by the author)
15. 1985-86 St. Paul entertainment retail locations and number of Asian or Pacific Islander residents (image made by Ben Strassfeld, provided by the author)
16. 1999 St. Paul entertainment retail locations and number of Southeast Asian residents. (image made by Ben Strassfeld, provided by the author)
17. 2006 St. Paul entertainment retail locations and number of South Eastern Asian residents (image made by Ben Strassfeld, provided by the author)
18. 2006 St. Paul entertainment retail locations and number of South Eastern Asian residents (image made by Ben Strassfeld, provided by the author)
19. 2015 St. Paul entertainment retail locations and number of South Eastern Asian residents (image made by Ben Strassfeld, provided by the author)
20. Interior of a University Ave. Cambodian-owned store (image taken and provided by the author)
21. Interior of a store in the Hmong Village Shopping Center, St. Paul, MN (image taken by Dana Rider and provided by the author)

Please feel free to comment.




How To Save a Beauty Pageant: Donald Trump, Steve Harvey and The Memeticization of Miss Universe 2015
Manuel G. Avilés-Santiago / Arizona State University

Steve Harvey Miss Universe

Steve Harvey’s mishap at Miss Universe 2015

Be it Miss America or Miss Universe, there is a point at which TV critics and academics intertwine. They both contest that beauty pageants are sexist, outdated formulas built upon clichés that promote highly questionable platforms of women’s empowerment. In an attempt to update pageants, TV networks along with pageant organizers have worked relentlessly to transform these events into a more relevant and attractive format.

From a structural and narrative perspective, pageants have evolved from the traditional formula of a swimsuit-evening-gown-final-question type of event to a more reality-based style of competition. From an audience standpoint, pageants like Miss Universe have opted to capture the Latin American and U.S. Latino/a markets with the incorporation of their symbolic capital into the production, distribution and circulation of the pageant (e.g., Latin American venues, Latino/a celebrities as host/judges, etc.). This is what I refer to as the Latinization of Miss Universe.[ ((http://flowjournal.org/2015/10/nuestra-belleza-latina/))] The process started in 2001 with the celebration of the Miss Universe pageant in Puerto Rico in a prime-time homage to Latinidad that had Ricky Martin as special guest and Miss Puerto Rico winning the pageant.

Donald Trump and Olivia Culpo

Donald Trump and Miss Universe 2012, Olivia Culpo

However, this Latinization reached its highest peak in January 2015 when the Miss Universe Organization (MUO) announced a new alliance with the Spanish network Univision. Former pageant owner, Donald Trump, made this unprecedented announcement right after the crowning of Miss Colombia, Paulina Vega, as the new Miss Universe at a pageant that was celebrated in the Latino/a cultural hub of Miami, Florida. With this new merger, Miss Universe cut ties with the NBC-owned Telemundo in order to house the pageant at the number one Spanish-language network in the U.S. As pageant president Paula Shuggart stated, the alliance would “bring unmatched entertainment to the most passionate, loyal audience that Univision offers to one of the fastest growing and important demographic communities in the U.S.” [ ((http://corporate.univision.com/2015/01/univision-enters-into-long-term-partnership-with-the-miss-universe-organization/))]

The Inevitable Overlap of Pageants and Politics

But this Latino love affair ended abruptly when in June 2015, presidential Republican candidate and then-pageant owner Donald Trump said during his presidential announcement that: “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best… they’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”[ ((http://www.politico.com/story/2015/06/donald-trump-2016-announcement-10-best-lines-119066))] The comments became a social media storm not only among Mexicans but also of Latinos of all nationalities. One by one, major sponsors canceled their association with the MUO, which resulted in the biggest blow the pageant ever had. It ended up with Univision backing out of a $6 million contract with Miss Universe and NBC dropping the Miss USA and Miss Universe pageants. Shortly after, the city of Bogotá withdrew the bid to host Miss Universe 2016, and several contestants from Latin America stated their disgust with the comments and threatened not to participate in the upcoming edition of the pageant.

Things changed in October 2015 when WME|IMG bought the pageant from Donald Trump, and, several weeks after the transaction, Fox Network announced that they had acquired the rights to air Miss Universe in December 2015. With Donald Trump out of the picture, the MUO had only two months to plan an event that needed a major public relations plan. However, their approach was to use the same space where the Trump storm started for their own benefit and turn social media into a haven for the pageant.


As I was conducting participant observation and online ethnography during the most recent celebration of Miss Universe in Las Vegas, Nevada, I was able to identify four social media strategies implemented by the MUO:

1. Social Media Ranking and Take-overs
Upon their arrival, the 80 contestants were asked by members of the MUO to share their social media handles. Then, the MUO gave the delegates with the most followers the opportunity to do take-overs for a day of one of the MUO official accounts on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and/or Snapchat. Some of the contestants selected to do this task were the delegates from Australia, Colombia, Dominican Republic, India, Philippines, Thailand and USA. The contestants would announce their participation on their personal social media before taking over one of the MUO official accounts. All of these contestants (with the exception of Miss India) were semifinalists.

Clarissa Molina's Instagram

Miss Dominican Republic Clarissa Molina’s Instagram account

2. Contestants as Content Producers and Curators

All 80 delegates were asked to act as content producers and curators. They were emphatically encouraged and guided on how to produce videos and pictures and use the #hashtag when uploading pageant material. From the first day, they were encouraged to use #missuniverse, #confidentlybeautiful and to include the major sponsors of the pageant. They were also told to include the tune-in information in both, English and Spanish.[ ((TUNE-IN to the 2015 Miss Universe Pageant LIVE Sunday December 20, at 7/6c on FOX. In Spanish: Miss Universe 2015 en VIVO. Sintoniza el dom. 20 de dic. A las 7/6c por FOX.))] In that regard, the contestants became not only independent storytellers, but also a global advertising platform for the pageant.

3. Live Audience Online Participation

Online voting is not foreign to beauty pageants. Since the advent of the Internet, Miss Universe has included online voting for special awards like Miss Photogenic. However, this year, the MUO gave special emphasis to online voting. From the beginning of the competition, the delegates were asked to request their followers to stay tuned for an online vote. The first rumor was that the audience would be in charge of selecting one of the semifinalists by popular vote. Then, the dynamic changed to the audience acting as one of the five judges during the live telecast. The online voting system was called the Miss Universe Global Fan Vote, and the scores produced were added to the vote of the celebrity judges Emmitt Smith, Niecy Nash, Olivia Culpo and Perez Hilton [ ((http://www.missuniverse.com/news/view/749#.VplO48rUJBw))] .

4. The Possibility of a Viral, Memetic Moment

During the last decade and after the invention of YouTube in 2005, beauty pageants have become a central space for producing so-called YouTube moments. The live element of the pageant leads to situations like the failed attempt to answer the final question formulated to Miss South Carolina Teen USA 2007 and the two-years-in-a-row misstep of Miss USA (2007 and 2008) that lead them to fall on stage.

This year’s Miss Universe needed to become a central scenario for a viral moment. The pageant added the figure of comedian Steve Harvey as a host who peppered the event with funny—often irreverent—comments throughout the competition. Also, there was not only one round of questions, but two. The first one revolved around controversial topics such as gun control, drug trafficking, terrorism, the legalization of marijuana and the U.S. military presence around the world. However, up to the final round of questions, no YouTube moment was produced.

It was not until the crowning moment that probably one of the most memorable YouTube moments in the history of beauty pageants was prompted by Harvey announcing that Miss Colombia was the winner and then realizing he had made a mistake. She was actually the first runner-up, and Miss Philippines should have been crowned. The situation was even more complicated because it confronted two of the biggest factions of beauty pageant audiences: Colombians, who wanted a back-to-back win, and Filipinos, who were looking for their third crown since 1973. In fact, the Philippines produces not only the largest but also the most passionate audiences. For example, the annual video of the live-reaction of Filipino fans during the pageant has become a YouTube sensation generating millions of views.

Something similar happened with Steve Harvey’s incorrect announcement. The video of the live mistake has not only generated millions of views but has also achieved memetic spreadability, which means an “extensive creative user engagement in the form of parody, pastiche, mash-ups or other derivative work.” [ ((Shifman, L. “An Anatomy of a YouTube Meme.” New Media & Society 14.2 (2011): 187-203. Print.))] Social media exploded with images from the event, and thousands of memes, Photoshop jokes and other graphics on Imgur have been circulating for weeks. As never before, Miss Universe achieved occupying a prominent space in traditional forms of media by becoming the hot topic in the news and other variety shows with an unprecedented massive coverage of the event. Everybody knows who the winners of Miss Universe 2015 were.

Steve Harvey memes

The Memeticization of Steve Harvey

Low Ratings but High Spreadability

The Miss Universe pageant did not manage to produce more ratings in comparison to the previous edition. Fox’s telecast had 6.2 million viewers and a 1.7 rating among adults 18–49 on Sunday night, which represented 15 percent less in the demo and 18 percent less audience compared to last year. However, #missuniverse became a trending topic, and the pageant is still a topic of conversation almost a month after the event. The social media spreadability of Steve Harvey’s mistake has made the 2015 Miss Universe one of the most memorable and memeticized live events in the history of television. While writing this column, it was confirmed that the MUO invited Steve Harvey to host the 2016 Miss Universe competition, which is expected to take place in the Philippines.[ ((http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/for-some-reason-steve-harvey-was-invited-to-host-miss-universe-again_567ac90de4b014efe0d7aca9))]

Image Credits:

1.Steve Harvey’s mishap at Miss Universe 2015
2. Donald Trump and Miss Universe 2012 Olivia Culpo
3. Miss Dominican Republic Clarissa Molina’s Instagram account
4. Collage produced by the author

Please feel free to comment.




Content That Travels: International Content and Original Programming on U.S. Streaming Sites
Karen Petruska / University of California, Santa Barbara

Shows
The French series Les Revenants and its American adaptation.
“There’s a more level playing field in content creation and greater professionalism in the execution of small-screen content everywhere around the globe.” —The Hollywood Reporter

For a recent review of The Returned, an American adaptation of the French series, Les Revenants, Hollywood Reporter critic Tim Goodman issued a harsh critique of the A&E adaptation: “This ill-advised remake of the original French series is an embarrassment. Go watch the original.” With the French version of The Returned having completed a run on the Sundance Channel and now streaming with subtitles on Netflix, it has never been easier for U.S. audiences to legally access international programs in their original formats through legal means. As a result, when adaptations prove to be inferior copies of the non-U.S. version—see also Gracepoint for another recent example—a network’s failure to air an international series in its original form can seem short sighted. Why remake a series that has already proven itself, as evident in praise from the U.S. press?

The U.S. television industry has always borrowed from and adapted popular international programming, from program remakes like the 1970s All in the Family to a wide range of reality format series throughout the past fifteen years. Direct importation of these series for linear TV has been less common, however. A format or adaptation provides a number of benefits for the producer and distributor. Adapting a series allows a network to make the program its own, to cast actors familiar to local audiences, and to otherwise frame the story through local contexts. Moreover, by creating an original series, producers and distributors of the new version may be able to complete the hat trick of then licensing their remake abroad, perhaps even in markets that have already been exposed to the foreign original. From Downton Abbey on PBS to Top of the Lake on Sundance Channel, programs that enjoyed American financing as part of an international co-production arrangement are gaining an unprecedented access to American audiences.

Notwithstanding this trend towards adaptation, web-based streaming sites have opened a new marketplace for original international content. For sites like Netflix and Hulu, international content provides a ready supply of programming at good rates. These programs also generate unique promotional opportunities for streaming distributors trying to attract viewers and to build a nationally or globally-recognized brand. My current project takes a closer look at the distribution of international content within the U.S., focusing upon shows that are promoted as “original” series despite having premiered abroad. Among the shows that fall into this category, for example, are Netflix’s Lilyhammer (2012-) and The Fall (2013-) and Hulu’s Misfits (2009-) and Prisoners of War (2009-).

Lilyhammer
Lilyhammer
A number of scholars have called for more work about global distribution patterns and the reception of international content within the U.S., and this post engages that area of study by exploring the implications of an increasing emphasis upon the branding of international content as original series for U.S. streaming sites. My attention to “original” series belies that distributors have always branded series produced by others as their own. For instance, The Big Bang Theory is a CBS show even though it is produced by Warner Bros. But in most instances, the program in question has enjoyed its world premiere on the network that claims it—the distributor has given the producers a means to reach an audience, and in exchange, they claim a sort of ownership stake in that series. But when Hulu promotes an international series as an original, that program has generally enjoyed a successful run in at least one other nation prior to its premiere online in the U.S. online. “Original,” therefore, seems a misnomer.

Hulu has been particularly aggressive in licensing foreign programs, as syndicated, exclusive, and original series. Syndicated content may be found across a variety of platforms, from broadcast repeats to cable on demand, in addition to the streaming access provided by Hulu. Exclusive programs, on the other hand, appear only on Hulu, making this content key to Hulu’s subscriber appeal. With original series, Hulu makes an extra claim—an original series is not only exclusively aired by Hulu, it also carries the imprimatur of the site. When a network promotes a program as an “original series,” it implies not only some sort of fiduciary investment but also a role in making the series come to life. For a show like Top of the Lake, Sundance invested as one many producers before distributing the show through its cable channel in the U.S. For a show like Misfits, Hulu operated only as a distributor.

A streaming video distributor based in the U.S. and owned by several media conglomerates, Hulu has always been sort of the also-ran of the major streaming sites, despite its pedigree. For a site that does not operate outside the U.S., international content has played an important role for Hulu in building its program library and subscriber base. Streaming content, as Hulu’s former content chief Andy Forsell has explained, can break down barriers to foreign content circulation within the U.S.—from the pressure of ratings to time zone challenges. Perhaps even more significantly, one other key barrier broken by streaming is the frictionless experience of viewing on demand. For an audience unfamiliar with international programming fare, streaming provides a relatively smooth mechanism to try a show and see if you like it. Not only is there no “per view” fee to account for when viewing content on Hulu, but it is also incredibly easy to select additional content to view as a binge or instead. Hulu has also tended to be accessed on smaller mobile screens, research paper, particularly for the free users lacking access to the over-the-top interface, and subtitles may be easier to consume on these smaller screens. For a variety of reasons, then, streaming sites like Hulu may provide a uniquely well suited environment for the sampling and consumption of international programming among U.S. audiences.

Prisoners of War
Prisoners of War
One of Hulu’s first “original” series was Prisoners of War, which served as the inspiration for Showtime’s Homeland. Hulu did not produce Prisoners of War, and it does not enjoy licensing rights to the series, which are held by production company, Keshet. Nevertheless, it markets Prisoners of War as an original program. While Homeland focuses on the suspense of Carrie’s investigations, Prisoners of War concentrates upon the soldiers and their families struggles with reintegration. Just as Homeland became a bit of a sensation here in the U.S., Prisoners of War, or Hatufim, was hugely popular in its native Israel. Prisoners of War aired in Israel in 2009, earning mega ratings and Israel’s top award for television. A second season aired three years later. Hulu picked up the first season in 2012, airing it weekly. Season two streamed on Hulu on demand in its entirety in 2013, and though a third season has been promised by Raff, it has yet to air in Israel or elsewhere.

Homecoming
Hulu’s menu for Prisoners of War.
When selecting Prisoners of War within the Hulu program menu, a prospective viewer does not see any indicator that this is a foreign series (see image above). In fact, the program description does not mention Israel at all. Instead, the blurb strives for a more universal appeal, referring to the soldiers returning “home” rather than to a specific location. The program does stream with subtitles, but a viewer will have to begin the screening to discover that indicator of foreignness. Through Hulu’s interface, Prisoners of War becomes a timeless story about the struggles of soldiers returning home. Missing from the plot summary and metadata are specific details at service https://grademiners.com/coursework-help of Israel’s political life, its battles within the middle east, and the complex religious themes of the series. On Hulu, this is a program with no past, appearing in the U.S. seemingly fresh and new, even though this means the critical acclaim it earned abroad plays no role encouraging sampling of the series. Instead, its status as a Hulu original, offering something distinctive and exclusive for viewers, stands as a key allure of the program.

Interestingly, the program’s creator, Gideon Raff, believes the show is best understood through its Israeli context. As Raff has noted, Prisoners of War speaks to Israeli viewers in a different way than Homeland addresses American ones—asking Israelis to work through ugly parts of day-to-day life after heroes come home. Raff wanted to start a national conversation within Israel, amplified in season two when a third prisoner of war turns up alive but is revealed to have converted to Islam. These sorts of local appeals, Raff worried, may be lost due to the success of Prisoners of War abroad: “It’s dangerous, just in the sense that I think part of the success of the Israeli formats is because they’re very local and true to Israel. Prisoners of War, even though it found a big audience, is really a very local show about a very local experience. The danger is that Israeli creators of Grademiners.com will now try to fit what the American audience would love.” Prisoners of War is a featured program on Hulu, but even its creator is unsure if this global exposure ultimately benefits the series or the audience it purports to address.

Americans are enjoying increased access to international programs in their original format and languages, but these shows nevertheless undergo a process of translation that distances the Americans from the series original meanings and contexts. Digital distribution technologies may have made it easier for international content to reach American audiences in its original form, but this does not necessarily mean that these original series are un-adapted, rendered less foreign, or absent a process of translation. The programs may travel but they are doing so without a passport.

Image Credits:

1. The French series Les Revenants and its American adaptation.
2. Lilyhammer
3. Prisoners of War
4. Hulu’s menu for Prisoners of War.

Please feel free to comment.




Flow Favorites: Seeing in Spanish: The Nat King Cole Show
Herman Gray / University of California in Santa Cruz

Flow Favorites

Every few years, Flow’s editors select our favorite columns from the last few volumes. We’ve added special introductions and included the original comments to the piece below. Enjoy!

Flow Co-Coordinating Editor Keara Goin:
Herman Gray in this piece addresses the complexities of African diasporic connections that have a musical alignment and confluence. Linking the work of musician David Murray to that of Nat King Cole, Gray articulates a sonic thread running through the web of the Black Atlantic. The Spanish language recordings of Latin American music by both African American artists, what Gray terms diasporic conversations, inspire him to reflect on the power of transnational musical expression to provide people with a way to hear visually and see sonically. Concluding with a reflection on contemporary African American-targeted media, Gray laments the relative inability for diasporic projects like Cole’s or Murray’s to be utilized in these media spaces.

Nat King Cole

Album Cover for Nat King Cole en Español

Long before he was a television host and celebrity Nat King Cole was an accomplished jazz pianist and song stylist. Over the course of a very successful musical career Cole recorded hundreds of songs with his innovative jazz trio including a series of records featuring classic song from Latin America including pre-Castro Cuba.

Nat King Cole Performing “Quizas, Quizas, Quizas”

In his most recent compact disk release, David Murray’s Cuban Ensemble Plays Nat King Cole (En Español) (3d Family 2011; 3d Family.org), saxophonist, composer, and arranger David Murray revisits some of these classical Latin American recordings by Cole. David Murray’s reinterpretation of Nat King Cole prompts me to rehear The Nat King Cole Show, especially in the context of black televisual presence in today’s digital platforms. What Murray has done with this remarkable project is to signal some of the radical possibilities in sight and sound, hemispheric transnationalism, border crossing, and the politics of representation that Nat King Cole gestured toward in the short run of his television show. David Murray’s sonic riff on Cole’s often commercial and sometime brazen south of the border collaborations is no mere project of nostalgic recuperation either. David Murray links Nat King Cole’s sonic presence on television to a powerful musical tradition and diasporic conversation.

Murray’s exploration of Cole’s Latin music archive provides the chance to reflect on Cole’s impact on 1950s American television sonically (through Murray’s sound, arrangements, and reconnections to what Jelly Roll Morton called the Spanish tinge) rather than just visually. Indeed for me Murray’s recording suggests a conception of Cole as Ellingtonian, a figure exuding the celebrity persona necessary to command a television show and cultural gravitas to disturb (even if momentarily) the racial order of things. Murray, who came of age politically and culturally in the 1960s, uses the musical and television legacy of Cole to take listeners through the history of exchange, collaboration and borrowing from Cuba, Mexico, Argentina, and Puerto Rico; Murray places Nat King Cole in the company of black American composers and performers (e.g. Randy Weston, Sarah Vaughan, Josephine Baker, Duke Ellington, John Coltrane, John Birks Gillespie, Miles Davis, Melba Liston, and Sonny Rollins) who musically probed black American diasporic connections to Central and Latin America, the Caribbean, and Africa.

Sonny Rollins Performing Jazz Calypso Live

Forging connections to the political and racial history of the US and Latin America in the 1940s and 1950s is fraught since it is saturated as much by nostalgia for the good old days of resorts and playgrounds for the wealthy as by illicit commerce, Jim Crow racial terror, economic inequality, and authoritarian governments. Yet, it is precisely these collaborations, both Nat King Cole’s original work with musicians in Cuba, and Mexico and David Murray’s contemporary collaborations with musicians in Cuba, Argentina, Spain and Portugal, that continue the complex sonic transactions that go back to the founding moment of black Atlantic exchange and exceed the boundaries of the national and the visual.

David Murray

David Murray

Sonically, Murray manages to do what television could not or perhaps, more to the point, would not. That is, make explicit Nat King Cole’s (and black America’s) cultural and aesthetic alliances with diasporic communities of affiliation in Europe, Latin America, and the Caribbean. After listening live and on record to David Murray’s Cuban Ensemble play the Spanish music of Nat King Cole when I see black and white television footage of Nat King Cole on fifties American television it is not just though the patina of nostalgia for the golden age of television or the liberal American gesture toward racial tolerance. (Anna McCarthy’s excellent, The Citizen Machine: Governing By Television in 1950s America analyzes, in rich and fascinating detail, the role of American broadcast television in the story of liberal racial tolerance.)

This is a double move too. Cole’s musical collaborations with musicians in pre-Castro Cuba occurs at the same time as black artists like Harry Belafonte, Lena Horne, and Paul Robson in the US and revolutionaries like Fidel Castro, Ernesto “Che” Guevara in Cuba were helping to imagine and usher in a new world. In his embrace of Cuba, Mexico, Argentina, and Brazil, both Nat King Cole and David Murray continue to forge sonic links among black diasporic speaking communities in the global south and the global north.

What better translator to reanimate this imaginative possibility for our time than David Murray. The songs featured on David Murray’s Cuban Ensemble Plays Nat King Cole (En Español) include some of the most recognizable and frequently recorded Spanish language material—“Quizás, Quizás, Quizás,” “Cachito,” “Piel Canela,” “A Media Luz,” and “Aquí Se Habla en Amor.” Murray’s arrangements update the Nat King Cole songbook without sacrificing the soul of the music or the richness of its tradition.

David Murray plays Nat King Cole en Español – “Quizas, Quizas, Quizas”.

To hear this material and to look at that old television footage now is to see different black Atlantic communities with distinct cultural histories engaged in diasporic collaboration and celebration. While this collaboration is neither original with Nat King Cole nor unique with Murray today (others worth noting include Steve Coleman, Jerry Gonzalez, Roy Hargrove, Stephan Harris, Regina Carter), with this recording Murray conjures something valuable and important, what I would describe as the invitation to hear visually and to see sonically in the black Atlantic sonic and visual imagination.

This raises the question thus, of what The Nat King Cole Show and the Latin American songbook might mean for black televisual presence in the US today with the new crop of new black owned, themed, and focused broadcast platforms: OWN (Oprah Winfrey Network cable network which partnered with The Discovery Channel), Bounce TV (broadcast network started by Ambassador Andrew Young and Martin Luther King III), TV One, BET (Black Entertainment Television). Ironically, like the broadcast environment in Cole’s time, these days black original programming is a rarity in the contemporary prime time schedule. Unlike television in the mid-nineteen fifties, black characters and black story lines are considerably more dispersed and visible across broadcast and cable programming schedule.

What is more, it is not surprising that more black owned cable and media platforms appear with the transformation of the digital television environment and capacity to identify and reach distinct demographic niches. For the new black focused networks, access to the archives of global entertainment companies like Viacom makes syndicated programs and reality-based appeals to race, gender, and lifestyle more cost effective than expensive original scripted programming. Russell Simmons, BET, and Oprah Winfrey’s Harpo Productions demonstrated that they could brand and market blackness across different media platforms. BET and then TV One proved the financial viability of stocking the broadcast schedule with low cost and high return programming. So viewers turning to recent ventures emphasizing black themed content will find a mix of old movies, sports, syndicated situation comedies, in-studio talk shows, and canned programming from the archives of parent and affiliated companies.

What, I wonder, of the histories, collaborations, aspirations, and memories in this generation of broadcasting platforms aimed at black audiences? The programing offered by these new ventures model middle class arrival and tutor viewers in normative ideals of citizenship and self-improvement that turn histories of struggle and collective action into iconic images and heroic individual efforts. The poor, displaced, and most marginalized sectors of our communities stand as the limit of what is morally permissible and at the limit of a social order that continues to be ordered racially. David Murray’s homage to Nat King Cole’s Español recordings and The Nat King Cole Show taken together evoke, for me, the hidden histories of black diasporic collaboration and circulation. Unlike Murray, the account of our present and the programing choices presented in the new black owned platforms remind us as much about the exploitability of the black market niche for corporate investments and brands as they do about the unwillingness of sponsors a generation ago to invest in The Nat King Cole Show, because it defied the racial order.

Image Credits:
1. Nat King Cole en Español Album Cover
2. David Murray

Original comments:

Meenasarani Linde said:

Thank you for this elegant post. The connections you make are lucid and provocative, and make me want to reconsider Cole’s show in light of his connections with the Latin American songbook. Additionally, I’m struck by the modernist set design of his performance of “Quizas, Quizas, Quizas.” Owing more to Mondrian than trying to capture a postcard-like setting of the Global South, this mixture of a sonic Latin-inflected transnationalism with a visual minimalism, also resonates with Lynn Spigel’s work on television and modern art, specifically Ellington’s Black Atlantic created in the TV special, A Drum Is A Woman. As Shane Vogel has also worked on this special, especially the importance of dance, I wonder how a consideration of dance on television as it relies on the visual and the sonic, would impact a reconsideration of other black televisual performances in the 1950s as well as today? Keeping in mind how Katherine Dunham was also invested in the project of making diasporic and transnational connections, as well as education, what other performances are there to be excavated from tv history that are part of this circulation? How does the movement of bodies on screen connect to a body politic or public if at all? This post excites me, as Gray asks us to look past what could be nostalgia for exotica, and consider television as that which can look past the confines of the nation and the racial order.

-January 30th, 2012 at 9:22 pm

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Sometimes a kiss is just a kiss: (not) responding to the Richard Gere-Shipla Shetty controversy in India

by: Shanti Kumar / University of Texas-Austin

Shilpa Shetty, it appears, cannot stay out of controversy and news headlines these days. Shetty, a well-known Bollywood actress in India, shot to international prominence after appearing as a contestant on Celebrity Big Brother in the U.K. in January 2007. The British reality TV show was engulfed in a major controversy when Shetty became the target of racist remarks and bullying by some of her housemates led by the now infamous Jade Goody. When Shetty went on to win the show, she not only became a household name in Britain, but was also the focus of attention in many newspapers, television channels and online sites around the world.

Shetty was back in the global news headlines in April 2007, when she was embroiled in another controversy, this time in India. At an AIDS awareness campaign organized in Delhi to benefit truck drivers, the American actor Richard Gere planted a series of kisses on Shetty. Although taken aback by Gere’s actions, Shetty reportedly laughed it off with a comment directed to the truckers, “yeh thoda zyaada ho gaya” (“This is a bit much.”)

Shipla Shetty and Richard Gere

Shipla Shetty and Richard Gere

Condemning the kiss, Prakash Javadekar, the spokesman for Hindu nationalist party, Bharatiya Janata party (BJP) proclaimed, “Such a public display is not part of Indian tradition.” In Mumbai, members of the right-wing Hindu nationalist group Shiv Sena stormed onto a set where Shetty was shooting a film, set fire to her photographs and burned effigies of Gere. Poonal Chandra Bhandari, an advocate in the city of Jaipur, filed public interest litigation accusing Gere and Shetty of committing “an obscene act” in a public place. Conceding that the kiss at the public event was “highly sexually erotic,” Dinesh Gupta, Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate in the Jaipur Court, issued an arrest warrant against Gere and summoned Shetty for appearance on May 5, 2007.

Sensing trouble due to the growing controversy, Gere tried to set the record straight with an apology. In a statement addressed to “My dear Indian friends,” and released to the media, Gere wrote, “What we thought was a very successful HIV/AIDS event has taken a sad turn. The evening and event in question was intended to celebrate courageous people and partnerships in the supremely important fight against HIV/AIDS, a worldwide pandemic which has afflicted over 5 million Indians and is still increasing.” Applauding Shetty for taking a leadership role in the fight against AIDS, Gere said, “I assure you, I have utmost respect for her, and she knows this. Of course, I’ve felt terrible that she should carry a burden that is no fault of hers. The burden is mine and no one else’s.”

Shetty, on her part, strongly defended Gere saying, “He is such a gentleman. He is incapable of indecent behaviour.” Lashing out against her critics, Shetty argued, “It was just a kiss on my cheek! What’s the big hue and cry about?” She explained the reason for the kiss as follows: “Earlier during the day during lunch we were teasing him about a dance step in Shall We Dance? When he suddenly bent me down on stage he was doing that whole step from Shall We Dance? I was as taken aback as the people who saw it. It was nothing but a joke and not pre-planned at all.”

But some critics of the kiss seemed unwilling to accept either Gere’s apology or Shetty’s explanation. “The indecency might have been purposefully done as a publicity stunt,” argued Lily Agarwal, a BJP member of the Bhopal City Corporation. Supporting the protests, Agarwal said, “An Indian woman’s greatest asset is her modesty, her reputation and dignity. Shilpa’s lack of any protest only confirms that we are still slaves of the ‘White.’ We will tolerate all humiliation just because we feel the ‘White’ is our master.”

In many postcolonial nations like India, the myth of a homogenous and homogenizing (white) Western culture is a convenient reference point for many political parties and ideological blocs struggling to establish their hegemony in the very diverse terrain of culture. As the noted postcolonial critic Ashis Nandy argues, the myth of “the West” has engendered (and has in turn been engendered by) three responses in colonial and postcolonial India; or more precisely, two responses and one non-response.

The first response, writes Nandy, is to model Indian culture on the idealized myth of Western culture. However, there is more than mere imitation or mimicry involved in this process: It involves “capturing, within one’s own self and one’s own culture, the traits one sees as reasons for the West’s success on the world stage.” This process is seen as a liberal synthesis of “Indian” and “Western” cultures, and justified in terms of universal principles such as “democracy” and “civilization.” In the Gere-Shetty controversy, for instance, some in the Bollywood fraternity embraced this view in their defense of Shetty. Noted Bollywood director Mahesh Bhatt declared, “When the mother of civilisation gets obsessed with trivia, you can be sure doom is around the corner.” Actress Celina Jaitley asked, “If she [Shetty] does not have an objection, why should others be bothered? She is above 18, is grown up and knows what she is doing. I really wonder what has happened to the world’s biggest democracy where every citizen has the right to expression and this reaction from fundamentalists groups is really uncalled for.” Shetty also seemed to endorse this view when she said, “I don’t want the Indian media and Indians to look foolish to the outside world.”

In a similar vein, former attorney general, Soli J Sorabjee criticized Judge Gupta for behaving like the “Taliban moral police,” and opined that “the order is unsustainable and makes us look ridiculous.”

The second response to the so-called clash between “Indian” and “Western” cultures is that of the fundamentalist zealot whose sole aim is somehow to defeat Western culture at in its own game. Examples of this type of response abound in India; the over-zealous moral policing of the Gere-Shetty episode by Hindu “fundamentalist” groups like the Shiv Sena in the city of Mumbai, and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) at the national level being only the most recent. The strategy of the Hindu fundamentalist groups is all too evident. As Nandy puts it, the goal of the Hindu fundamentalists is to:

[D]econtaminate Hinduism of its folk elements … then give it additional teeth with the help of Western technology and secular statecraft, so that Hindus can take on, and ultimately defeat, all their external and internal enemies, if necessary, by liquidating all forms of ethnic plurality — first within Hinduism and then within India, to equal Western Man as a new ubermenschen.

Many liberal-minded Indians who are embarrassed by the political manipulation of religion by fundamentalists tend to classify the response of the Hindu right wing groups as “a retrogression into primitivism and as a pathology of traditions.” But look closely, argues Nandy, and there is nothing “fundamental” about the “fundamentalists.” The almost complete lack of tolerance of the fundamental principles of religion, and the inability to accept the diversity of cultural traditions demonstrate how Hindu right has morphed into a highly modern political machinery that seeks to create an “Indian” culture which not only equals but ultimately surpasses Western culture.

The third response of postcolonial Indians to the myth of a Western culture, writes Nandy, is a non-response. This (non)response emerges from a pragmatic recognition of the cultural and historical continuities and tensions between the “colonial” and the “postcolonial,” “Indian” and the “Western” or the “traditional” and the “modern.” This non-response, according to Nandy, is voiced by a majority in postcolonial India and is based on the belief that diverse cultures in India have known how to live with each other for centuries. This belief emerges from a cultural consensus that religion is not a tool for political manipulation but is a way of life with its own principles of tolerance.

The three responses outlined above are inextricably linked in the political, religious and cultural realms of everyday life in India. But, paradoxically enough, both the enthusiastic admirers of the “West” and their over-zealous opponents in the Hindu right wing would like to believe that the third response is merely a minority view. However, the non-response is clearly in evidence as a majority of Indians ignored the controversy over the Gere-Shetty kiss and the protests organized by Hindu right wing groups fizzled out with a whimper – notwithstanding the excessive media coverage in India and abroad. But the perhaps the most powerful impact of the non-response by a majority of Indians to the Gere-Shetty controversy has been that Judge Gupta (who issued the warrants against Shetty and Gere) was quietly transferred from his post in Jaipur to the small town of Kishangarh several hours away. A spokesman for the Court claimed that the transfer was “routine,” but he also said that Judge Gupta acted on a “frivolous” public interest litigation, and noted that the transfer order came from the state’s Chief Justice. Although it is not clear what effect the transfer will have on the Gere-Shetty case, one can only surmise that the judiciary has recognized that the non-response to the controversy is indeed a majority opinion in Indian public culture.

Endnotes
Effigies of Richard Gere burn in India
My dear Indian friends, I’m surprised: Gere
Richard Gere cannot do anything obscene
Gere has apologized: Shilpa
Nandy, Ashis. “The Politics of Secularism and the Recovery of Religious Tolerance,” Alternatives, XIII (1988): 186.
Ibid.
Gere has apologized: Shilpa
Indian judge who ordered Richard Gere’s arrest transferred: report
Nandy, 187.
Ibid.
Ibid., 188.

Image Credits:
1. Shipla Shetty and Richard Gere

Please feel free to comment.




La info-estructura de los 22 portales o sitios ciudadanos de los países

por: Octavio Islas and Arturo Caro / Tecnológico de Monterrey, State of Mexico

(for English, click here)

Map

Introducción

El desarrollo de la economía del conocimiento — en la cual Internet observa un papel central–, ha impuesto profundos cambios en el orden económico mundial. De acuerdo con Neil Postman -quien con Marshall McLuhan son reconocidos como los fundadores de la Media Ecology, Ecología Mediática o “Escuela de Toronto”–, el impacto de toda nueva tecnología no es aditivo sino “ecológico”.[i] Efectivamente, el impacto de Internet en las sociedades contemporáneas es profundo, complejo[ii] e irreversible. De acuerdo con Thomas Friedman, autor del libro La Tierra es plana. Breve historia del mundo globalizado del siglo XXI (2006: 164): “Jamás en la historia del planeta tanta gente ha tenido la posibilidad de buscar por sí misma tanta información acerca de tantos temas o acerca de tanta gente”. Además de la abundante información que hoy es posible consultar a través de Internet, la velocidad en el procesamiento de la información ha registrado notables incrementos. Se estima que a finales de la presente década las computadoras podrían llegar a alcanzar velocidades petaflops, es decir, capacidades para realizar mil billones de operaciones matemáticas por segundo.

El número de usuarios de Internet aumenta cada año. A comienzos de enero de 2007, la World Internet Stats estimaba 1,091,730,861 usuarios de Internet — el 16.8% de la población mundial. La primera tabla, elaborada con base en información de la World Internet Stats, comprende información relativa a la concentración geográfica de los usuarios de Internet en el mundo.

Tabla 1. Usuarios de Internet en el mundo, 2006.
Tabla 1
Fuente: Internet World Stats. Última actualización: 31 diciembre 2006.

El tránsito hacia la sociedad de la información y el conocimiento representa un profundo cambio ecológico en las sociedades, y tomará tiempo. De acuerdo con Alfons Cornella (2002: 2):

“Cambiar hacia la sociedad del conocimiento llevará su tiempo, y para conseguirlo es preciso entender mejor por qué ahora el conocimiento es la clave del crecimiento y la riqueza. Y es preciso que la gente adquiera como valor personal la renovación intelectual; que esto no sea patrimonio de un colectivo, la intelligentsia de la sociedad del conocimiento, sino que sea un valor extendido a todos los niveles de la sociedad”.[iii]

De la tensión creativa entre la cultura de un país -que también comprende su percepción positiva o negativa de lo nuevo, su voluntad o reticencia a innovar, y la disposición más o menos abierta de su estructura política dependerá, según Cornella, (2002:13): “que su sociedad pueda modernizarse mediante el avance tecnológico o, al contrario, se estanque”. Declarar voluntad de cambio para transitar a la sociedad de la información y el conocimiento no es suficiente. La cultura de información es factor clave en la transformación de la economía de la información en sociedad de la información y el conocimiento. De acuerdo con Alfons Cornella (2002:34-35): “un país puede disponer de una potente economía de la información sin que llegue a constituirse en una sociedad de la información (…) y al revés, una sociedad puede estar constituida por ciudadanos y organizaciones informacionalmente cultas sin que ello conlleve automáticamente el surgimiento de una economía de la información”.

El tránsito hacia la sociedad de la información y el conocimiento depende fundamentalmente de dos variables que guardan estrecha relación entre sí: infraestructura e info-estructura. La infraestructura comprende “una red suficientemente dimensionada (es decir, con suficiente ancho de banda), de fácil acceso, barata, abierta a ciudadanos y organizaciones” (Cornella. 2002: 37). La info-estructura “deriva de la idea de que la riqueza de un país con infraestructura no se genera como simple consecuencia de tenerla, sino de usarla, de explotarla. La info-estructura consiste en todo aquello que permite sacar rendimiento de la infraestructura.

El adecuado desarrollo de la info-estructura de un país supone radicales reformas en no pocas instituciones. Algunas de las reformas que propone Cornella son (2002:38): un sistema educativo que tenga por objetivo esencial enseñar a aprender; un sistema ciencia-tecnología que aproveche la capacidad creativa de los ciudadanos y la transforme en nuevos productos y servicios competitivos en mercados mundiales; un sistema legal capaz de responder a los retos que impone la velocidad de desarrollo de las tecnologías; una base de contenidos que haga posible que las actividades de ciudadanos en la era de la información sean más fáciles; un entorno fiscal que facilite el surgimiento y desarrollo del sector información local; una administración que sea ejemplo en el uso eficiente y eficaz de las tecnologías de información.

Análisis de la info-estructura que presentan los 22 portales gubernamentales de los países ubicados en la plataforma continental de América (2006)

El imaginario de las sociedades informacionales –que de acuerdo con Alfons Cornella (2002), sólo es posible concebir con ciudadanos que efectivamente dispongan de una profunda cultura de información-. Aún cuando no pocos gobernantes ya reconocen que del adecuado desarrollo del capital intelectual dependerá la “nueva riqueza de las naciones”, en pocos países hoy es posible advertir que el comportamiento del Estado efectivamente se ajusta al desempeño deseable de todo actor inteligente.[iv] Para no pocos gobiernos la expresividad del Estado digital representa asunto accesorio y secundario. La calidad de la expresividad desplegada en el ciberespacio por el Estado revela cuan honesto es su interés por acceder a la sociedad de la información. La formidable capacidad de las avanzadas tecnologías para transferir información no basta para asegurar que los usuarios recibirán la información que efectivamente necesitan. De acuerdo con Alfons Cornella (2002: 41-42):

“un país puede entrar en la economía de la información mediante un esfuerzo de inversión importante en la creación, adquisición e implementación de sistemas y tecnologías de información, pero eso no es garantía de que, como consecuencia, la sociedad se transforme en una sociedad de la información. Para llegar a ella tiene un papel importante lo que se ha venido a denominar cultura de la información”.

La burocracia acostumbra ignorar las auténticas necesidades de información de la ciudadanía, anteponiendo sus visiones, relatos e intereses. No pocos sitios web y/o portales gubernamentales se apartan del genuino propósito de contribuir al desarrollo de una cultura efectiva informacional en la ciudadanía. Pocos desarrolladores de sistemas de información gubernamental en línea reparan en la importancia de ubicar el desarrollo del sistema en el reconocimiento de necesidades de información cambiantes en el usuario.

En el Proyecto Internet[v] — Cátedra de Comunicaciones Estratégicas y Cibercultura del Tecnológico de Monterrey Campus Estado de México, desde 2003 hemos venido realizando estudios comparativos de los contenidos y usabilidad[vi] de sitios web y portales de instituciones gubernamentales en América. En el verano de 2006 decidimos centrar nuestra atención en los “portales ciudadanos”, sitios web desarrollados por instituciones de gobierno que advierten la necesidad de concentrar toda aquella información que facilite al ciudadano el acceso a los principales servicios proporcionados por el Estado, simplificando significativamente los trámites.

El estudio de 2006 fue coordinado por Arturo Caro Islas, egresado de la licenciatura en ciencias de la comunicación en la Universidad de Occidente, en Los Mochis, Sinaloa. La captura y procesamiento de la información fue responsabilidad de Janeth Everastico Bautista (Universidad Autónoma de Guerrero); Carolina Apodaca Prieto (Universidad de Occidente); Blanca Talamantes (Universidad Autónoma de Ciudad Juárez); Josué Enrique Bañuelos Peña (Universidad de Occidente) y Luis Zaragoza (Instituto Tecnológico de Estudios Superiores de Occidente).

En el estudio de 2006 — realizado de junio a agosto del año pasadazo-, decidimos centrar nuestra atención en la información contenida en los principales portales ciudadanos o sitios web que asumen tales funciones informativas, de los gobiernos de veintidós países de nuestra plataforma continental: Canadá, Estados Unidos, México, Belice, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Panamá, Argentina, Bolivia, Brasil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Paraguay, Perú, Surinam, Uruguay, Venezuela.

Nuestra matriz de usabilidad fue el resultado de integrar los contenidos específicos de cada uno de los portales y sitios web gubernamentales, derivando un total de 50 unidades de contenido. Desde la perspectiva del emisor web, hasta el momento de integrar la información — julio de 2006–, nuestra matriz representaría la estructura de información más completa, pues aglutinaría la suma de unidades de contenido consideradas en todos los portales gubernamentales analizados Las 50 unidades de contenido fueron agrupadas en cuatro ejes temáticos: información que se ofrece en el portal; servicios de información; accesibilidad; seguridad y transparencia. Se añadió un quinto campo para estudiar la eficiencia en respuesta por parte de los webmasters.

Tabla 2

1 Información que ofrece el portal

Este eje temático comprendió las primeras 26 unidades de contenido: idiomas, nombre del presidente o jefe de gobierno, estructura del Estado, información del gobierno, agenda gubernamental, directorio del gobierno, perfil de los funcionarios públicos, programas y acciones del gobierno/ programas sociales, leyes, regulaciones, decretos, gaceta oficial, discursos del presidente o jefe de gobierno, relaciones exteriores, embajadas y consulados, gobierno local, educación, salud, vivienda, economía y negocios, medio ambiente, agricultura, cultura, ciencia y tecnología, deporte, turismo, trabajo, estadísticas, efemérides.

Tabla 3

2 Servicios de información

Este eje temático comprendió las unidades de contenido 27 a 35 de nuestra matriz: trámites, formas y servicios en línea, licitaciones, asistencia legal y jurídica, preguntas frecuentes, glosario de términos, chat y foros, URL, recursos multimedia.

Tabla 4

3 Accesibilidad

Este eje temático comprendió las unidades de contenido 36 a 48 de nuestra matriz: página principal, inicio, portada; mensaje de bienvenida del presidente o jefe de gobierno; visita virtual; públicos -secciones para niños, jóvenes, personas de la tercera edad, discapacitados-; sitios relacionados y sitios de interés; medios de comunicación; buscador; mapa del sitio; sistemas de ayuda; nombre del webmaster; correo; dirección; teléfono/fax.

Tabla 5

4 Seguridad y transparencia

Este eje temático comprendió las unidades de contenido 49 y 50 de nuestra matriz.

Tabla 6

5 Resultados generales

Estos son los resultados que arrojó nuestro estudio. Los portales gubernamentales de Canadá y Chile recibieron una alta calificación (88 y 84, respectivamente). Los portales gubernamentales de siete países recibieron una calificación no aprobatoria: Honduras, Guyana, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Surinam, Belice, Paraguay.

Tabla 7

Conclusión

Los resultados que arrojó nuestro estudio ofrecen una útil radiografía del estado que presenta la marcha de las sociedades informacionales en América, pues permiten identificar el tipo de prioridades informativas en las cuales han reparado los responsables del desarrollo de sitios y portales ciudadanos.

Los resultados del presente estudio fueron remitidos a cada uno de los administradores de los portales analizados.

Notas
Una de las mejores explicaciones sobre el impacto del cambio tecnológico en la economía política de las sociedades — tema medular en la ecología de medios–, corrió a cargo del propio Postman, entonces decano de la Universidad de Nueva York, quien el 27 de marzo de 1998 dictó una de las conferencias magistrales del “Congreso Internacional sobre Nuevas Tecnologías y Persona Humana: Comunicando la fe en el Nuevo Milenio, o NewTech´98”, en Denver, Colorado, Estados Unidos. El título de la conferencia fue: “Five Things We Need to Know About Technological Change” (Cinco cosas que necesitamos conocer aceca del cambio tecnológico). Las cinco tesis son: 1. La cultura siempre paga el precio de la tecnología; 2. Siempre hay ganadores y perdedores en el cambio tecnológico; 3. Toda la tecnología tiene una filosofía; 4. El cambio tecnológico no es aditivo; es ecológico; 5. Los medios de comunicación tienden a convertirse en míticos. Véase: Postman, N. “Five things we need to know about technological change”. Fecha de consulta: 12 de enero de 2007.
La complejidad, nos advierte Marcelo Manucci (2004: 28) “es una palabra problema no una palabra solución (…) La complejidad como un estado que se encuentra en el orden y el caos, concebidos éstos como situaciones extremas, situación que los científicos (matemáticos, en particular), denominan fenómenos al límite del caos. Otra definición general se fundamenta en las teorías de la autoorganización, y la define como una tendencia constante y espontánea de un sistema en la que sus elementos interactúan entre sí y con el entorno, dando lugar a patrones de comportamiento global”, sentido en el cual, precisamente, destacamos la complejidad de Internet.
El texto original consigna las itálicas.
David Osborne y Ted Gaebler figuran entre los primeros analistas digitales que anticiparon que las avanzadas tecnologías de información y comunicaciones asumirían un rol fundamental en la positiva reingeniería del Estado. Al Gore -quien admite ser reconocido como primer ciberestadista-, perfiló las bases del nuevo contrato social sobre el cual bien podría reposar el desarrollo de las sociedades informacionales, en un discurso que dictó el 12 de octubre de 1998, conocido como la “Declaración de la Independencia Digital”. La mayor parte de los programas de e-gobierno en el mundo recuperan las tesis expuestas por Gore en el citado discurso. Fecha de consulta: 7 de noviembre de 2006. Richard Rosecrance fue uno de los primeros analistas que reparó en el advenimiento del “Estado virtual” y las condiciones en las cuales se desarrolla la “nueva gobernanza”.
El Proyecto Internet del Tecnológico de Monterrey, Campus Estado de México (ITESM CEM), fue creado en 1995 por iniciativa de académicos, investigadores y estudiantes de la licenciatura en ciencias de la comunicación del ITESM CEM. Entre 1996 y 2000, el Proyecto Internet del Tecnológico de Monterrey, Campus Estado de México, desarrolló algunos de los principales sitios web del gobierno de México, destacando: Presidencia de la República (1996), PEMEX (1996 y 1998), Cámara de Diputados (1997-2000), Senado de la República (1998).
La palabra usuabilidad, procede del término usability (inglés). Usabilidad nos permite referir el conjunto de técnicas y elementos de medición susceptibles de ser empleados para evaluar la facilidad, rapidez y amigabilidad de determinados productos o servicios. En cuanto a aplicaciones informáticas, de hardware o software, el modelo conceptual de usabilidad responde a necesidades de evaluación de prototipos de diseño centrados en las necesidades del usuario — considerando entre el extenso conjunto posible de prototipos de diseño, páginas web o sistemas de información en línea. Un elemento íntimamente asociado con la usabilidad es la utilidad. En inglés, utilidad + usabilidad se conoce como usefulness.

Castells, M. (1996). The rise of the network society. USA: Blackwell Publishers.

Cornella, A. (2002). Infornomía!com. La gestión inteligente de la información en las organizaciones. España: Deusto.

Osborne, D., y Gaebler, T. (1992). Reinventing government. How the entrepreneurial spirit is transforming the public sector. USA: Addison Wesley.

Rosecrance, R. (1999). The rise of the virtual state. Wealth and power in the coming century. USA: Basic Books.

Imágenes
Imágen cortesía de los autores.

Octavio Islas es director de la Asociación Latinoamericana de Investigadores de la Comunicación (ALAIC), coordinador de los consejos editoriales de la revista web Razón y palabra, y la Revista Mexicana de Comunicación. Miembro del Sistema Nacional de Investigadores (SNI).

Arturo Caro Islas es investigador asociado de la Cátedra de Comunicaciones Estratégicas y Cibercultura del Tecnológico de Monterrey, Campus Estado de México, y director de organización de la VIII Convención Anual de la Media Ecology Association.

Favor de comentar.




by: Octavio Islas and Arturo Caro / Tecnológico de Monterrey, State of Mexico

Introduction

Development of the knowledge economy — in which the Internet plays a main role — has imposed deep changes in the economic order of the world. According to Neil Postman — who along with Marshall McLuhan are acknowledged as the founders of Media Ecology, Ecology of the Media or “Toronto School”–, the impact of every new technology is not additive but “ecologic.”[i] Indeed, the impact of the Internet in contemporary societies is deep, complex,[ii] and irreversible. According to Thomas Friedman, author of the book The Earth is Flat. A Brief History of the Twentieth First Century (2006: 164): “Never in the history of the planet has many people had this possibility to look up information by themselves about so many subjects, themes or even about so many people.” Aside from the abundant information that is possible to consult on the Internet today, processing speeds of information has noticed important improves. It’s estimated that by the end of the present decade computers will be able to reach petaflops speeds, meaning, they will have capacity to do about a thousand billion mathematical operations every second.

The number of Internet users increases every year. At the beginning of January 2007, World Internet Stats estimated 1,091,730,86 Internet users — 16.8% of the world’s population. The first chart, elaborated based on information of World Internet Stats, comprehends information related to Internet users in the world depending population in geographical regions.

Chart 1. Internet users in the world, 2006.
Chart 1
Source: Internet World Stats. Last updated: December 31, 2006.

The transition to the knowledge and information society, represents a deep ecological chance in societies, and will take time. According to Alfons Cornella (2002: 2):

“To change towards an information society will take its time, and to accomplish that it’s necessary to better understand why now knowledge is the key to growth and wealth. It is also necessary that people acquire as a personal value, intellectual renovation; this shall not be collective heritage, the intelligentsia of knowledge society, but a value extended to all levels of society.”[iii]

From the creative tension amongst a country’s culture — that also comprehends its positive or negative perception of the modern, its choice or not to innovate, and the availability more or less open of its political structure will depend, according to Cornella (2002:13): “that its society can modernize through technological advances or, be stuck.” To declare a will of change to the society of information and knowledge is not enough. An Information Culture is the key player in transforming the economy of information in the society of information and knowledge. According to Alfons Cornella (2002:34-35): “a country can have a powerful information economy without it becoming an information society (…) and backwards, a society can be constituted by citizens and informally cultured organizations without this meaning the born of an information economy.”

Transitioning towards a knowledge and information society fundamentally depends on two variables that keep a close relation in between: infrastructure and infostructure. Infrastructure comprehends “a sufficiently dimensioned network (broadband), of easy access, inexpensive, open to citizenship and organizations” (Cornella 2002: 37). Infostructure “derives from the idea that a country’s infrastructure richness is not generated just as a consequence of having it, but to use it, to exploit it. Infostructure consists in all that allows getting the best utility off infrastructure.”

The adequate development of infostructure in a country supposes radical changes in many institutions. Some of the changes proposed by Cornella (2002:38) are: an educative system that has as an essential objective to teach how to learn; a science-technology system that takes advantage of the creative capacity of the citizenship and transforms it in new products and competitive services in global markets; a legal system capable of responding to the challenges imposed by the velocity to which technologies develop; a content base to ease the activities of citizens in the information era; a fiscal environment that softens the coming and development of a local information sector; an administration that can set an example in the efficient use of information technologies.

Analysis of the Info-Structure presented in the 22 web gateways or citizen targeted government websites of countries located in the continental platform of America (2006)

The imaginary of informational societies — that according to Alfons Cornella (2002), it’s just possible to conceive with citizens that effectively have a deep information culture available. Even when not many governors acknowledge that the “new wealth of nations” will depend on the adequate development of intellectual capital, today is possible to notice in a few countries that the State’s behavior effectively adjusts to the desirable outcome of every intelligent actor.[iv] For many governments the expression of the digital State represents an accessory and a secondary issue. The quality of the expression displayed in cyberspace by the State reveals how honest their interest is to access the information society. The wonderful capacity of advanced technologies to transfer information is not enough to assure that users will get the information the actually need.

Bureaucracy is used to ignore the actual informational needs of the citizenship, therefore putting upfront their own visions and interests. Not few websites and/or governmental web gateways distance themselves from the genuine purpose of contributing to the development of an effective informational culture in citizenship. Very few developers of online governmental information systems take into account the importance of incorporating into the development of such systems the recognition of how the needs of information in users changes.

The Internet Project[v] — Cátedra de Comunicaciones Estratégicas y Cibercultura of Tecnológico de Monterrey Campus Estado de Mexico, has been conducting since 2003 comparative studies of contents and usability[vi] of websites and web gateways of governmental institutes in the American continent. In the summer of 2006 we decided to center our attention on “citizen targeted government websites,” websites developed by government institutes that foresee the need to concentrate all information that eases citizen access to every main service provided by the State, certainly simplifying some actions that had to be done in person at government offices before.

The 2006 study and research were coordinated by Arturo Caro Islas, a Communications graduate from Universidad de Occidente, in Los Mochis, Sinaloa, Mexico. The processing of information was done by Janeth Everastico Bautista (Universidad Autónoma de Guerrero); Carolina Apodaca Prieto (Universidad de Occidente); Blanca Talamantes (Universidad Autónoma de Ciudad Juárez); Josué Enrique Bañuelos Peña (Universidad de Occidente) y Luis Zaragoza (Instituto Tecnológico de Estudios Superiores de Occidente).

In the 2006 study — done from June to August of said year–, we centered our attention in websites with the aforementioned characteristics and from the following countries: Canada, the United States, Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Panama, Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Paraguay, Peru, Surinam, Uruguay and Venezuela.

Our usability matrix was the result of integrating the specific contents of each and every website and web governmental getaways, deriving in a total 50 units of content. From the perspective of a web emissary, to the moment of integrating the information — July of 2006–, our matrix would represent the structure of the most complete information, because it would conjoin the sum of content units considered in every website analyzed. Those 50 units of content were grouped in 4-themed axis: information offered at the web getaway; information services; accessibility; security and transparency. A fifth one was added for efficiency in contacting the webmasters or those responsible of such websites.

Chart 2

1 Information offered at the web gateway

This theme axis includes the first 26 units of content: languages, president or head of State info, state structure, government information, governmental agenda, government directory, profile of public functionaries, government / social programs, laws and regulations, official gazette / magazine, presidential or head of State speeches, exterior relations and embassies, local government, education, health, housing, business and economy, natural environment, agriculture, culture, science and technology, sports, tourism, jobs, statistics, holidays.

Chart 3

2 Information services

This theme axis includes the units of content located from 27 to 35 in our matrix: applications, forms and online services, service-prior-asking, legal assistance, frequently asked questions, glossary, chat and discussion rooms, URL, multimedia.

Chart 4

3 Accessibility

In this theme axis, the units of content studied were the ones located from number 36 to 48 in our matrix: homepage, welcome message by president or head of state, virtual tour, information targeted to specific audiences (kids, youth, adults, handicapped), links, media, search engine, map, help, webmaster name, e-mail, address, tel./fax.

Chart 5

4 Security and Transparency

This chart includes the units located in the spots 49 and 50 of our matrix.

Chart 6

5 General results

These are the results obtained from our study. The web gateways of Canada and Chile received high ratings (88 and 84, respectively). The web governmental gateways of seven countries received a disapproval rating: Honduras, Guyana, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Surinam, Belize and Paraguay.

Chart 7

Conclusion

The results obtained from our study offer a useful overview of the current status in the development of information societies in America, therefore to allow identifying the kind of information priorities of the webmasters and responsible of said web governmental getaways and websites. The results of this study and research were sent to each and every one of the administrators of the analyzed websites.

Notes
One of the best explanations about the impact of technological change in political economies in societies — a core theme in media ecology–, comes from Postman himself, then dean of NYU, who in march 27, 1998, was a keynote speaker at NewTech’98, in Denver, Colorado, United States. The title of his keynote was: “Five Things We Need to Know About Technological Change”. The five theses are: 1. Culture always pays the price for technology; 2. There are always winners and losers in technological change; 3. Every technology has a philosophy; 4. Technological change is not addictive, it’s ecological; 5. Media outlets end up becoming mythical. Source: Postman, N. “Five things we need to know about technological change”. Website consulted on January 12, 2007.
Complexity, as signaled by Marcelo Manucci (2004: 28) “is a problem word not a solution word (…) Complexity as a state found in order and chaos, conceived as extreme situations, situation that scientists (mathematicians, in particular), denominate phenomena at the limits of chaos. Another general definition is based in theories of self-organization, and is defined as a constant and spontaneous tendency of a system in which its elements interact amongst themselves and with the environment, giving place to patterns of global behavior.” This is the sense in which, precisely, we see the complexity of the Internet. [Editor’s note: translations from English to Spanish were provided by the authors, and subsequently edited for clarity during the production process – jl.]
Emphasis based on the original.
David Osborne and Ted Gaebler were amongst the first digital analysts that foresaw how advanced communication and information Technologies World assume a fundamental role in the positive re-engineering of the State. Al Gore –who admits to be acknowledged as the first cyber-statistic-, profiled the basis of a new social contract over which could reside the development of informational societies, in a speech he gave on October 12, 1998, known as the “Declaration of Digital Independence”. The majority of the e-government programs in the world recover the thesis exposed by Gore in said speech. Website consulted on November 7, 2006. Richard Rosecrance was one of the first analysts who saw the coming of a “virtual State” and the conditions on which such governance would develop.
Proyecto Internet (Internet Project) of Tecnológico de Monterrey, Campus Estado de Mexico (ITESM CEM), was created on 1995 by an initiative of academics, investigators and students of the Communications major of ITESM CEM. Between 1996 and 2000, the Internet Project of Tecnológico de Monterrey, Campus Estado de Mexico, developed some of the most important websites of the Mexican government, like: Presidency (1996), [The National Petrolium Industry in Mexico] PEMEX (1996 and 1998), Congress (1997-2000), and Senate (1998).
Usability allows us to determine the group of techniques and elements to size up or study and evaluate the easiness, quickness and the level of user-friendly factors on determined products or services. Talking about hardware or software in the computer world, the model concept for usability answers the evaluation needs of design prototypes centered on the needs of users — considering the vast number of design prototypes, websites or online information services. An intimately related element to usability is utility. Utility plus usability is also known as usefulness.

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Image Credits:
Images provided by authors.

Co-Author: Octavio Islas is Director of the Cátedra de Comunicaciones Estratégicas y Cibercultura del Tecnológico de Monterrey, Campus Estado de Mexico. Also director of ALAIC (Latin-American Association of Communication Investigators), coordinates the editorial boards of Razón y palabra web magazine, and Revista Mexicana de Comunicación. Member of the National System of Investigators (SNI).

Co-Author: Arturo Caro Islas is an associate investigator and researcher of the Cátedra de Comunicaciones Estratégicas y Cibercultura del Tecnológico de Monterrey, Campus Estado de Mexico. Head of coordination of the 8th Annual Convention of the Media Ecology Association.




The Open University, Media Studies and New Times

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The Open University

The Open University

I’ve spent much of the last three years putting together with colleagues a new undergraduate media course for The Open University. Many US readers of Flow will be familiar with this British institution. Its mission is to provide part-time higher education for anyone who wants to pursue it in the form of supported distance learning. Yes, anyone. Thought up in the heyday of European social democracy by Harold Wilson’s Labour government, it goes without saying that this mission was enormously unpopular with Britain’s famously inegalitarian press when the university started up in 1970. Yet somehow the OU has survived newspaper scandal, Thatcherism and even, so far, the galloping onset of marketisation and audit culture in British universities. And it’s a non-profit, state-funded, public institution.

Why’s all this relevant to Flow? Well, the OU has had quite a role to play in the development of media studies. Even in the USA, it quite often gets a mention alongside the usual and now-tedious invocations of Birmingham cultural studies. The OU’s Mass Communication and Society (1977-1982) and Popular Culture (1981-7) courses were hugely important in Britain. Many well-known media-studies names authored teaching materials: Tony Bennett, James Curran, Stuart Hall, John Hartley and Janet Woollacott, to name some contrasting examples. Dozens more cut their media studies teeth teaching the courses at the OU’s summer schools and local centres in the 1970s and 1980s. Literally thousands of students took the courses as part of social science, humanities and other programmes. And hundreds of thousands watched the OU’s television programmes on the BBC. Communication, film and television studies barely existed in Britain before the early 1980s so these courses filled a huge hole for many who wanted to engage with the media and popular culture.

The most recent OU contribution to undergraduate media and cultural studies was Culture, Media and Identities, launched in 1997 and chaired by Stuart Hall. By the 1990s, the Open University was producing some of its teaching materials with publishers such as Sage, Routledge and Blackwell. The ‘Walkman book’ which introduces Culture, Media and Identities, and Hall’s own edited collection on Representation, have become well-known beyond the OU, along with other books in the associated series. The course also introduced the much-cited ‘Circuit of Culture’ really a development of Hall’s earlier encoding/decoding model.

The Open University system

People often ask how the OU system works. The short answer is: painstakingly. Courses (which usually form one-sixth of an honours degree programme) are produced by teams of dozens of people, including OU and external academics, local tutors from around the UK, professional editors, TV producers, website designers, technicians and others. This course team system of production is very intensive and the fact that it’s survived decades of managerialist drives for greater efficiency in the UK public sector is a minor miracle of academic autonomy.

In order to ensure that the distance learning materials are clear, cogent and academically rigorous, members of course teams read each other’s work in a number of different drafts — at least three – and make comments on these drafts at a series of meetings. And often in writing too. I remember with particular agony email exchanges of many hundreds of words about one sentence. (In defence of those of us involved, it did happen to be a sentence about Adorno and Horkheimer). To sit listening while a number of very bright people make detailed criticisms of your work is a process that is probably best described as character-building. If I said that no-one ever fell out and that each meeting began and ended with a group hug you wouldn’t believe me, and you’d be right. The process is wonderfully stimulating but unless you have a vast and impermeable ego, at times it’s also pretty terrifying.

Changing politics, changing media pedagogy

For those of us charged with the responsibility of developing a new Open University media course, its earlier achievements in media and cultural studies were hard acts to follow. One of the most interesting aspects of working on the course (which, typically for the OU, has a less-than-thrilling title: Understanding Media) has been to observe the ways in which it has ended up reflecting shifts in the field of media analysis and shifts in the big wide world beyond it.

The mandate of the Understanding Media course team was to provide a secure foundation in media analysis for a new generation of OU students – and for others reading our published textbooks. One of the major dilemmas we faced was whether, in an introductory course, to stick with the production-texts-audiences trio which is at the heart of most ways in which the field is pedagogically carved up — including Hall et al.’s circuit of culture — or whether to try to innovate beyond it, as, say, Simon Frith does in his essay on ‘Entertainment’ in Curran and Gurevitch’s Mass Media and Society. With some trepidation – we were worried that it was becoming stale through familiarity — we played safe and opted for the trio as the basis of the structure of the course.

But in other respects, we have departed significantly from what a media studies course in the 1990s would have looked like. For many years, well-rehearsed tensions between political economy and cultural studies have divided the field; and, for better or for worse, to say that this division is ‘boring’ will not make it go away. Equally important in my view have been fissures deriving from the troubled legacy of post-structuralism. All this has led to real difficulties on some undergraduate media courses in bringing these various approaches and positions into dialogue with each other. In many universities, at least in the UK, the compromise has generally been that particular modules would be taught by critical realist/political economists; others by post-structuralists and constructionists; and others by popular culture academics. Or, worse, entire courses or programmes would in effect pursue one approach, with only tokenistic recognition of competing lines of thought.

For many amongst a new generation, whatever their own preferences, an adequate grounding in media critique needs to take serious account of cultural studies, post-structuralism and of the Marxian approaches that were sometimes portrayed as a thing of the past in the 1990s. Rather than advocating a particular approach, the Understanding Media team encouraged its authors to put different critical perspectives on particular topics into dialogue. In the fourth book in the Understanding Media book series, for example, the constructionist approaches that have tended to dominate textual analysis are rubbed up against critical realist positions. Across the course, our goal was to avoid caricature and un-necessary simplification so that students gain a real understanding of the different approaches on offer. This does not, however, mean a bland relativism: the preferences of individual authors shine through in their presentation of competing perspectives.

The course reflects changed political priorities too. For all kinds of understandable historical reasons, many cultural and media studies teachers in the 1990s, like much of the left, were overwhelmingly concerned with the politics of difference and identity. The political role of ‘culture’ itself, arguably sidelined for so many decades, became central – and indeed in some accounts the realm of culture in effect came to be equated with the social, or with politics. This was the aftermath of 1989, the period where political debate was dominated by conflict in the former Yugoslavia, and by the continuing struggle for gender and ethnic recognition.

To put it another way, though, this was the world before the WTO protests, before 9-11 and Afghanistan, before the second Gulf War. The politics of identity and difference remain key in the new course, but I suspect there is much greater attention to issues of social inequality, class and imperialism than there would have been if we had been producing the course ten years earlier. And the issue of market liberalism keeps coming back like a chorus in a pop song – especially in the book on Media Production, but not just there. For many years, consumption was where the action was felt to be in cultural and media studies, and was often understood as the privileged site of cultural creativity. Understanding Media’s book on audiences has a different inflection, and is centrally concerned with the experience of living in nations penetrated by transnational media flows. Here too, neo-liberalism, in its many guises, is a spectre haunting the teaching material.

In trying to create a media studies course for the first decade of the twenty-first century, we’ve tried to draw upon the widest possible range of critical media scholarship. Readings from over 70 authors are integrated into the textbooks, hundreds more are cited. And now that we’ve finished it seems to me that there is actually a tremendous body of critical media work to draw upon in meeting the challenge of teaching the media to new audiences. As for whether the Understanding Media course team has drawn upon this work successfully – that’s for others to judge.

Image Credits:

1. The Open University

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Intellectuals

Edward R. Murrow

“I do not advocate that we turn television into a 27-inch wailing wall, where longhairs constantly moan about the state of culture and our defense.” –Edward R Murrow (1958)

“It is all in the grand tradition of American anti-intellectualism: the suspicion of thought, of words. And it very much serves the purposes of the present administration. Hiding behind the humbug that the attack of last 11 September was too horrible, too devastating, too painful, too tragic for words — that words could not possibly do justice to our grief and indignation — our leaders have a perfect excuse to drape themselves in borrowed words of contempt.” –Susan Sontag (2002)

Outside the pedagogical tasks of babysitting (high school), transitioning (college), re-infantilizing (graduate school), and hegemonizing (professional training for business, the law, and medicine), intellectuals have two roles in US public life. The first is to be technocrats, providing solutions to problems that will make money or allow governments to achieve policy targets. The second is to offer cultural critique and political intelligence to the élite, both inside and outside the state. Sometimes it appears as though critical public intellectuals in the US are, in the words of the Economist, ‘a tiny, struggling species, whose habitat is confined to a few uptown apartments in New York and the faculties of certain universities’ (“Susan” 2005).

Neoliberals and conservatives utilize the media spectacularly. Policy proposals are left up to their corporate masters, because right-wing media discourse does not undertake rational analyses aimed at technocratic outcomes. Instead, it works via a blend of grass-roots religious superstition and public outreach that stresses column inches and shouted seconds, not professional expertise (Kallick 2002). Funded by some of the wealthiest US foundations and families, such as Olin, Scaife, Koch, Castle Rock, and Smith Richardson, there are over three hundred right-wing ‘coin-operated’ think-tanks in Washington, dealing with topics from sexuality to foreign policy. They hire ghost-writers to make their resident intellectuals’ prose attractive — a project to market opinion, rather than to conduct research. Each “study” they fund is essentially the alibi for an op-ed piece. The corollary numbers for media coverage are striking. Progressive think-tanks had a sixth share of media quotation compared to reactionary institutions during the 1990s. In the decade to 2005, reactionaries averaged 51% of citations and progressives 14%; journalists even call the supposedly independent Heritage Foundation when the White House has no-one available. If we believe in market-based rhetoric, then the people who appear on the major three TV networks’ newscasts as experts should be indices of consumer desire; in which case, the public “wants” 92% of these mavens to be white, 90% born between 1945 and 1960, 85% male, and 75% Republican. That might expose us to the cohort that is responsible for our troubles, but not to disinterested critique (Karr 2005; Alterman 2003: 85; Dolny 2003 and 2005; Hart 2005: 52; Claussen 2004: 56; Love 2003: 246; Cohen 2005).

Media attention does not correlate with scholarly esteem or achievement, and the academics most likely to be interviewed have worked in government. These public intellectuals are general rather than specific in their remarks, and disdainful of both theory and fact — an unusual combination. They have displaced expertise and journalism with position-taking. It can be no accident that Fox News Channel, which employs few journalists and foreign bureaux, has the most pundits on its payroll of any US network — over fifty in 2003 (Tugend 2003). Margaret Carlson, a correspondent for Time and one of CNN’s vocalists, explained the key qualifications for her television work in these damning words: ‘The less you know about something, the better off you are … sound learned without confusing the matter with too much knowledge’ (quoted in Alterman 2003: 32).

The system bespeaks the right’s success at culture capture. This taps into a rich vein of anti-intellectualism that derives from creepy Christianity, populism, and instrumentalism. It dates back to newspaper assaults on John Quincy Adams for ‘book learning’ and Adlai Stevenson as effeminate (Claussen 2004: 18-21, 40-41). There is minimal room for intellection on network television, as the still-extant mass audience is the target, and is assumed to despise universities. So few if any professional academicians appear on air to explain the history of US foreign policy, despite the country’s relationships with oil interests, arms manufacturers, and despots to keep oil prices low; its complex twists and turns supporting and undermining various brands of Islam and Arab rule; and its bizarre insistence on an ethical reputation, while essentially rejecting international law other than over copyright. Nor do we see consistently competent contextualization of the hypocrisies and horrors of its opponents. Instead, a jingoistic and spiritual message comes through, juxtaposing freedom and decency with repression and fanaticism in a way that always seems to break down the binary rather disturbingly, and heightens a sense of risk without explaining it other than via the clash twins. E pluribus unum is part of the networks’ discourse, but it is applied as a loyalty test, where talking in a way that is counter to the Administration is equated with lack of professional objectivity, and the unity of the nation is embodied in military action, seemingly the last legitimate government arena.

Ibrahim Al-Marashi was unusual — a critical Arab intellectual able to enter the lists of such discussions. He was ushered in because his work had been plagiarized by a British intelligence dossier that Colin Powell formally presented to the Security Council in 2003. Al-Marashi (2004) hoped to use this as a platform to differentiate himself from on-air Iraqi-Americans, who were calling for invasion and destruction. But of the hundreds of interviews he gave, virtually none presented the opportunity for commentary on the war. He was restricted to the discourse of secreted weaponry. Not surprisingly, my search through Lexis-Nexis found that Edward Said’s by-line did not appear in any US newspaper in the 18 months after September 11, finally reemerging in July 2003 (Said 2003). By contrast, subscribers to the Independent, El País, the Guardian, the Observer, Rebelión.org, and the Weekend Australian had the opportunity to read him during this period.

Academics are sometimes excluded through direct political action rather than deregulatory pressures, popular-cultural obsessions, ignorance, or jingoism. For example, the right-wing think-tanks that dominate Washington policy on the Middle East have sought to discredit area studies across US universities, especially Middle-Eastern programs. The Washington Institute for Near East Studies is the key front organization for the Republican Party, while institutions like the American Jewish Congress, Campus Watch, and the American Council of Trustees and Alumni (run by the Vice-President’s wife) warn against ‘Middle Eastern Arabs’ in universities, and place conservatives in vital opinion-making fora that feed into TV current affairs, such as the op-ed pages of the Wall Street Journal, the Jerusalem Post, the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post, and the New York Times (Beinin 2003 135; Whitaker 2002; Brynen 2002; Davidson 2002; Abrahamian 2003; Merriman 2004).

Away from the live media, the Arab world has been chided for being closed to ideas from the outside, as measured by the fact that only 330 books are translated from foreign languages annually. But the US, with an almost equal population and a vastly bigger book trade, translates the same number! The comparison of these two regions with the rest of the world is highly unflattering on this score. Still, with books can come knowledge, and something must be done about that. Attorney-General John Ashcroft recognized their importance when he interpreted the Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act (USA PATRIOT Act) to permit FBI scrutiny of book-buying and borrowing — but not fire-arm purchase (Dilday 2003; Grieve 2003).

Meanwhile, the government establishes front organizations to select, train, and promote apparently independent figures. The State Department financed the Iraq Public Diplomacy Group, which coached Iraqis to appear on US television in support of positions prepared for them, on the grounds that they would be more effective than Yanquis. The Iraqi National Congress was the creation and creature of the CIA, via the Agency’s public-relations consultant, the Rendon Group, whose motto reads ‘information as an element of power.’ Its advertised services run the gamut from generating ‘a favorable environment before privatization begins’ to providing alibis for state violence. It coordinated propaganda for the 1989 invasion of Panama and the 1991 Gulf War, and has received more than US$100 million from the CIA (Alterman 2003: 82-83; Rampton and Stauber 2003: 55, 43; Downing and Husband 2005: 73; Chatterjee, 2004).

The press should be interviewing intellectuals trained in area studies, military strategy, international law, business ethics, and battlefield medicine. But that would provide media coverage that was multi-perspectival. Instead, the paranoid form of reporting favored by US networks militates against journalistic autonomy, other than when the information comes directly from battlefields and is a “soldier’s story” — or derives from the Pentagon or the Israeli government (Fisk, 2003). The prevailing doctrines of regulation favor a small number of large entities that appeal to anti-intellectualism, regardless of their niches. Scott Adams’ comic-strip Dilbert (Los Angeles Times, August 21 2005) parodies this beautifully via the fictitious ‘Dogbert Easy News Channel.’ Easy News provides ‘all the news that’s easy to gather’ and features ‘a debate between two middle-aged white guys’ about why ‘[p]eople in other countries want to kill us.’ One of the guests says it’s because ‘we are so wonderful.’ The other warns ‘[b]uy my book or you will all die.’

I have some limited experience of these tendencies. I worked for many years in Australian radio, and later as an academic commentator on popular culture. On coming to the US, I was interviewed fairly regularly across the media, I suppose because I was at NYU and had a plausibly English accent. Just days before September 11, I appeared on CNN International to talk about a crisis involving Afghan refugees in peril off the Australian coast. At the time, CNN had 23 satellites, 42 bureaux, and 150 foreign correspondents. But you’d never know it from watching the network’s parochial domestic stations, with their blinking, winking, walking-dead presenters, for all the world propped up by formaldehyde and dedicated to eastern-seaboard storms, missing white children, and entertainment news. The day I was interviewed, most of the workers at CNN in New York were tuned to CNN International, which actually covers news stories, as opposed to the network’s laughable domestic programs. Even so, during the interview, the anchorman looked at me disbelievingly as I listed the history of racialization by successive Australian administrations. He asked incredulously ‘So are you telling us that the Australian Government is racist?’ — another sign of the deluded faith in official sources that dogs contemporary Yanqui journalism’s ‘stenographic reporting’ (Moeller 2004: 71).

When I appeared on New York 1, a local cable news channel, shortly after the attacks on the US, I was asked to comment on the psychology of terrorists in a trans-historical way: What makes people do these things? Are they maladjusted? I endeavored to direct the conversation towards US foreign policy and its support of totalitarian regimes in the Middle East that restricted access to politics, hence turning religion into a zone of resistance. And I spoke of US TV journalists’ sparse and prejudicial narrative frames and background knowledge. The production staff later told me that the board lit up with supportive reaction when the program accepted phone calls from the public, and those I spoke with thanked me for saying the non dit. The staff said I would be invited back (but they may say that to all the boys). I was not. Station management eventually acknowledged that most of its coverage at the height of the crisis had not been ‘analytical,’ because the attack was ‘an open, gaping wound’ (quoted in Boehlert, 2002). By contrast, when Radio Scotland came to town and interviewed a stand-up-comedy venue owner, a media consultant, and myself about cultural reactions to these events, we were not dealing with overdetermined presuppositions from our questioners. There was time for me to draw on theory and history to complement their approaches. The same thing happened when I was interviewed on All-India Radio in Delhi. But when CBS News contacted me in 2005 to discuss George Bush Minor’s admission that he had instructed the National Security Agency to spy on US citizens sans judicial review, contra the law, something quite different occurred. The producer first asked me if I could contextualize this in terms of the history of the media during wartime. I replied that I could. He then asked me about the limits to publicizing information, and I indicated that whilst most critics would agree that the precise timing and location of an event such as D-Day could legitimately be kept secret, extra-juridical contravention of civil liberties would generally be considered another matter. The producer thanked me for my time, and noted that my services would not be required. He already had a lawyer to support the revelation, and needed someone who would attack the New York Times for having broken the story and forced Bush to tell the truth. He had not wanted the history of the media during wartime. He had wanted a nationalist, opposed to civil liberties.

WORKS CITED

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Murrow, Edward R. (1958, October 15). Speech to the Radio-Television News Directors Association, Chicago.

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Whitaker, Brian. (2002, August 19). “US Thinktanks Give Lessons in Foreign Policy.” Guardian.

Image Credits:

1. Edward R. Murrow

Please feel free to comment.