Digital Media and Culture

Digital Music & Culture

Click here for the timed Pecha Kucha pptx file.

Blog #3 – Think Differently

How many of us here in this room own an Apple product? iPads, iPhones, iPods, Macbooks, you name it. I know I do – I wrote this script on my Macbook Pro with my iPod transmitting audio over an Apple Airport. Part of the reason Apple has such a large portion of the market is a history of incredible ad campaigns – starting with the famous “1984” ad (which by the way only aired once on national television), the “Switch” campaign, and perhaps the most memorable “I’m a Mac/I’m a PC” campaign. Apple strives to promote an image of user individuality, of standing apart from the pack. This is not an advertisment for a new Mac product – this is an advertisment for an Apple way of life.

The ad spot features a host of free thinking personalities in black and white from Albert Einstien to John Lennon. How many can you recall?

     Soft, motivational music plays over the black and white montage as a deep, bassy voice reads an uplifting toast to “the crazy ones.” Apple wants to showcase the rebellious point of view, the underdogs. The ad goes as far as to list them – as misfits, rebels, troublemakers.

     When this advertisment aired originally in 1997, Apple called upon an outside marketing and research group TBWA/Chiat/Day to promote a new image. The purpose of the whole “Think Differently” campaign, and in particular this ad spot, is to liken customers’ innovations to those of famous “outside-the-box” thinkers. In essence, these famous faces thought differently and changed the world, and with a Macintosh – you can too.

“…the people who are crazy enough to think
that they can change the world… are the ones who do”

     This is in effect an attempt at branding Apple as one that stands out from the rest – which at the time were white collared, bifocalled IBM and PC/Windows users. Unlike later attempts, such as 2002′s Switch, Think Differently never directly confronts or mentions its competition. Instead, Apple went with a campaign that appealed emotionally to the viewer, while simultaneously connecting those feelings of freedom and creativity with their name. We also never see Mac products, let alone everyday people using them. In fact, those on screen have probably never heard of Apple computers.

     While truly an effective ad, there is a lot to be learned of Apple’s intentions. I urge us all to watch it once more, but this time to think about it, differently.

Blog #2 – Literacy As A Social Practice

1) “Much of what we come by in life, after our initial enculturation, involves a mixture of acquisition and learning. However, the  balance between the two can be quite different in different cases and at different stages in the process…I learned to drive a car by instruction, but thereafter acquired, rather than learned, most of what I know.”

In his article, What Is Literacy? communications writer James Paul Gee explains the inherent difference between two styles of literacy – acquisition (hands on, trial and error experiences) and learning (facts from a commonly respected source taught directly as information as opposed to experience). In his anecdote on learning to drive, Gee illustrates just exactly how both of these styles are used in the real world. Before he can safely start up his car, Gee had to learn the rules of the road. After learning the basics, Gee, like most, probably drove short distances in familiar surroundings until he got more comfortable interacting with other drivers. If he had just gotten behind the wheel instead, things may have gone horribly awry.

compliments of Google Image Search

2) “While social interaction can and does take place in private environments, the challenges of doing so in public life are part of what help youth grow. Making mistakes and testing limits are fundamental parts of this. Yet…teens must be protected form their mistakes.”

On the same wavelength as James Paul Gee, the author of Why Youth (Heart) Social Network Sites: The Role of Networked Publics in Teenage Social Life, expresses the need for the acquisition in the development of our socially aware selves. Danah Boyd, who wrote the article on social networks and their role in teen social development explains that websites like Facebook.com and Myspace.com offer teens a sandbox to define themselves and the social groups the participate in.

compliments of Google Image Search

3) “People seek to define social situations by using contextual cues from the environment around them. Social norms develop out of social definitions, as people learn to read cues from the environment and the people present to understand what is appropriate behavior.”

In this section, Boyd touches on the world of Erving Goffman’s impression management. Boyd asserts that in choosing which information they want to display, who they list as their top friends,  what they choose as their favorite bands, teams, movies and so on – they are learning the ins-and-outs of social interaction. Based on the reactions of their peers, their attempts at identity performance are either verified or contested. The teens readjust their behavior, or moreover their projected behavior, and try again striving to be considered “cool on myspace” or in whichever of Gee’s discourse communities they are trying to belong to.

4) “Discourses are resistant to internal criticism and self-scrutiny since uttering viewpoints that seriously undermine them defines one as being outside them. The discourse itself defines what counts as acceptable criticism. Of course one can criticize a particular discourse from the viewpoint of another one.”

In Gee’s article, What Is Literacy?, he discusses the role of self criticism in discourse communities. Essentially, Gee is saying that in order to belong to a group – that is to be recognized by the others in that group – one must agree with their views to such a degree that is internally understood. For example, a religious community may tollerate certain opposing views so long as there is agreement on what are considered to be major issues.

compliments of Google Image Search

5) “The desire tobe cool on [social networks like] MySpace is part of the more general desire to be validated by one’s peers…Social hierarchies that regulate “coolness” offline are also present online. For example, it’s cool to have Friends on MySpace but if you have too many Friends, you are seen as a MySpace Whore

Boyd taps into the utter essence of “fitting in” in a high school setting in this section of her article on social networks. Try too little and the pack will scoff, try too hard and they’ll scoff twice as much. This balancing act takes place in the hallways at school but also in the digital domain – in real time, simultaneously and as fast as Facebook mobile can keep up. Brilliant observation on Boyd’s part.

In Alex Koppelman’s piece MySpace or OurSpace?, he examines the privacy and freedom of speech implications of social networking sites and their high school users. I found this article by thumbing through Danah Boyd’s citations – her views most closely represent my own and I figured that her referenced work would be of interest to me.

In response to sharing a “photoshopped” image of a high school official, 17-year-old Dimitri Arethas was suspended from school. Arethas, who claims to have only passed along the image, stood up for his freedom of expression and repealed the suspension. “Maybe what I did was wrong, morally,” Arethas said in a recent e-mail, “but I had every right to express myself. I just chose to do it as a picture, instead of rambling down the hallways yelling, ‘Man! This school sucks.’” The implications of such a situation strike me as particularly interesting – it brings up a double standard.

“The question of what public school students have the right to say, and where they have the right to say it, remains murky, with little in the way of definitive jurisprudence to guide schools and courts. Indeed, just about the only thing experts on the topic seem to agree on is that no one really knows what the law is.”

Students utilize social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace as outlets for expression, as an extension of their hallway social lives, and as a socializing tool (as in one that socializes, or forms social norms) that continues to redefine the infrastructure of teenage life. They turn to websites like these to define themselves as members of their communities and sub-communities. Yet at the same time, wish to have the content they post remain relatively private – that is to stay among themselves and their friends. Should they / could they be held responsible for the content they post?

 

Koppelman, A . (2006). MySpace Or OurSpace?. Salon Media Group. http://www.salon.com/life/feature/2006/06/08/my_space/

Using New Media to Communicate with a New Generation

In his article “Marshall McLuhan and the Book: A Reconsideration”, Wayne Urban discusses McLuhan’s love/hate relationship with the printed word. The paper examines McLuhan’s work in The Mechanical Bride (1951), The Guttenberg Galaxy (1962) and Understanding Media (1964). 

The overall idea of McLuhan’s work focuses in on  the both the good and bad that printed word has done for humanity. While it is more than evident, especially today, that we have come quite far as a society because of Guttenberg’s printing press – the negative effects are far less noticeable and, as McLuhan explains, far more detrimental than we may care to admit.

He surmises that “Any culture is an order of sensory preferences, and in the tribal world, the senses of touch, taste, hearing, and smell were developed for practical reasons, to a much higher level than the strictly visual…” When we as a society introduced the written word, our sight climbed to “the head of the hierarchy of senses…”

Literacy allowed for sharing of thought to the masses, allowed for reasoning, scientific discovery. At the same time, however, it diminished our reliance on our other senses and sent us along a track far from where we would have developed naturally.

Print also allows for, as McLuhan puts it, “a fixed point of view… [it] fosters  a mentality that gradually resists any but a separative and compartmentalizing or specialist outlook.” This applies to the formalization of language, and the formulation of nationalism.

He goes on to criticize the printing press for its effect on society – “Print created national uniformity and government centralism.” McLuhan also asserts that it allows for protest, organization of dissenting opinion, political ‘watchdogs’ and effectively the building blocks of democracy.

Guttenberg’s press lead to industrialization by way of a more linear way of thinking due to the societal impacts of such a technology – including but by no means limited to nationalism, uniformity of speech, propaganda and so on.

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It is not very often that someone in their early twenties gets to fulfill both sets of shoes in the classroom.

Throughout my college career, I have maintained a handful of part-time jobs to make rent, pay for books, and for all intents and purposes make ends meet. In addition to these jobs, which for the most part have left me stranded behind coffee shop counters, I worked weekends at a synagogue out in Merion Station. My job there, as I have come to understand it, is to provide an engaging alternative to formal “Hebrew High School.” What does that mean exactly? Your guess was as good as mine, two years back when I first started teaching.

Traditionally, Jewish children in secular families attend public school throughout the week as the rest does the rest of the country – eight o’clock in the morning straight through to three o’clock in the afternoon.

Very much like Sunday school, Jewish kids head over to the synagogue once or twice a week through their grade school education to brush up on bible Hebrew (as opposed to modern 2011 state of Israel Hebrew with words for computers, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and so on), learn the basic set of prayers and rituals, and of course the bible stories that define them culturally and morally. The average grade-schooler finds all of this, as expected, pretty boring and inapplicable to their Facebooking, iPod listening, sports blogging lives. Nonetheless, they truck on through because there is, in fact, a light at the end of the tunnel. The Bar/Bat Mitzvah has come to be the turning point in many young Jewish adults’ lives. It is, sad to say, the last day many will spend in a synagogue.

For those that wish to continue their Jewish cultural education, they may carry on at accredited Hebrew High Schools across the country with standard curriculums, testing, leveled classes, and so forth. The issue is the average student has no desire to take up more of their valuable free time. They have SATs, college applications, school sports, plays, clubs, and a million other things they would rather be doing than sitting in a classroom on a Sunday morning learning antiquated lessons that they have a loose understanding of already.

My job, as a Communications major with an interest in New Media, was to provide an alternative based around electives that the kids found interesting enough to come by for a few hours on Sunday mornings. I taught a class on modern Judaism’s relationship with technology, a film study on the American-Jewish story from Eastern Europe through to today, an environmental / green movement class with roots in Jewish life, and a contemporary music genre study that took various styles’ backgrounds and tied them together with traditional Jewish commentary.

We used blogs, video sharing sites, wiki pages, podcasting, digital photography and so on. Over the two years that I’ve taught there, the students have gotten not only more engaged, but bigger in number. They recruit their friends, they show off their work to their families, they tie in their high school projects to what we’re doing on Sundays.  Its been amazing, and wouldn’t have happened without the mediated experiences the kids provided.

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