Blog O’Clock

Week 12 Lectorial:

Watching Valorie Curry’s short film, Kara, I was shocked by the sympathy I felt for the machine who had become a girl in front of my eyes. Even though I knew full well that a) she had been developed as a piece of technology and b) she was merely a creation in a film, not real life, when I saw what looked like a human, my response was to think of her as a human. 

I recognise that technology has not yet developed to the extent portrayed in the short film, and also that there are many breakthroughs that we have yet to learn about. However, at the end of the day, I think that humans are more intelligent than machines. I don’t mean that we can do all the computation that machines can, nor can we have 10 tabs open and running in our minds at the same time or speak every conceivable language, but humans are capable of thinking for themselves; machines are not.

If technology humans have developed is clever, it’s because somebody had the idea, the initiative, the tools and the intellect to bring that idea “to life” (no Kara pun intended). What may at face value seem like a machine’s intuition cannot possibly be so. 

Machines of every kind need to be programmed in some way, thus building the options we will then see when we use said technology. I think there is a risk that humans are coming to rely too heavily on technology and this begs the question of how much we are thinking for ourselves. This is the real danger; relying on technology that does not have the capacity to think for us, and losing our own capacity to create and use initiative.

Week 12: Media Materialism

  1.  Technology
    1. Role of human body – technology, functional tool
  2. Technique
    1. Things are taught to us – social expectations and how we react to them, based on our values and upbringing
  3. Culture
    1. Identifying subgroups within population
    2. The world as culture, humankind
    3. Art, theatre, cinema: creative expression

There are contradictions between the above three features of media materialism, each of which are ever-changing and unpredictable. The culture industry, for one, is dictated by people’s own personal tastes and incorporates aspects of human life, as well as design and manufacturing.

“Culture is something that we do, but it is also something that we are.”

  • Technological determinism vs. social constructivism
    • Essential question: Does technology dictate culture or do we control how technology progresses?
    • No matter the innovation, it’s still up to us how we control the use and regulation of technology
    • This view accounts for the humanness in creation and innovation
    • “You’re only human” – development is a process

Examples of Technology:

  • Walkman – create our own soubdtrack, cut out outside sound cues of the world, changed the way we engaged with the world
  • Dziga Vertov believed the camera is a natural extension of the eye and brain, and thus the only way to capture the transactions of life
  • Valorie Curry – Kara

Thinking about the ….

  • Holocene (geological period)
  • Anthropocene – the age of humans
    • Largely the damage (destruction of the planet) is already done
    • Molecular red: theory for the anthropocene – McKenzie Wark
    • In modern media there is an obsession with resources and the end of the world (at least as we know it)
      • Dystopian societies, preparing for an apocalypse


Institutions are organising structures of society that deal with social, cultural, political and economic relations, as well as the principles, values and rules that underly these relations. They cannot simply be ideas; they need to have a form (or a currency of some sort). Examples include the police, city council local government, education and journalism.

Marriage as a Social Institution:

  • Expectations
    • Values (e.g. monogamy)
    • Rituals – exchanging vows
    • Symbols – rings
    • Rights
    • Superstitions – unlucky to see the bride in her dress before the wedding
  • Legal framework/regulatory
  • Meta-institutional frame
  • Widely accepted practice
  • Cultural ‘rules’
  • Social recognition

Media institutions:

  • are enduring
  • regulate and structure activities
  • are ‘collectivist’
  • develop working practices
  • employees and people associated are expected to share values
    • e.g. sports journalist fired for his comments on ANZAC day
    • professionalisation and accreditation
    • qualifications that are necessary to be regarded in a profession
  • public is aware of the status

Institutional Characteristics:

  • Facebook
    • Way of life
    • Ubiquity/Interconnectedness – other apps will ask if you want to “share”
      • Raises the question of privacy
    • Advertisements from other things you have looked at on the internet show up on Facebook
    • Privately-owned
    • Differentiation between real life and the life people see on Facebook
      • Present a certain portrayal of yourself
  • Newscorp
    • POWER
      • Almost a monopoly
      • Channels
    • Status
    • Fair? Balanced?
      • Still needs to adhere to the standards of journalism
    • Vertically and horizontally integrated
    • Journalistic conventions
    • Code of ethics on their website – question the extent to which this is adhered to
    • Agenda-setting/framing
  • Google
    • Innovation
    • Social conscience
      • Do no evil
    • Mission: Organise the world’s information and make it useable and useful
    • Accessibility – global reach
    • Contemporariness
    • Google as…
      • a culture
      • a verb
        • brand connected to a way of doing things
      • googol – a number with 100 zeros
  • Community Media
    • Not-for-profit
    • Lo-fi filming
    • Lack of advertising – commercial aspect much smaller, if it exists at all
    • Content
      • Local focus
      • Passion-driven
      • Experimentation – taking risks
    • Diversity
    • Governance/regulation (or lack thereof)

Work Attachment

Notes about Media work attachment (spoken about in week 10 lectorial)

  • Minimum 1500-word report but often much longer
    • Serves to demonstrate learning experience through the attachment
  • Reflections in google drive – not on the blog or in any other public place
  • Best to get as much experience as possible while RMIT has you insured
  • Minimum 80 hours
    • Must be approved by Paul Ritchard
    • Then fill in form about attachment

Previous internships:

  • Australian Chamber of Commerce – events and communications team
  • Newspaper
    • Australian Financial Review
    • Shanghai Daily

Goals for future internships/work attachments:

  • Newspapers – The Age, the Herald Sun
  • Marketing & communications team – National Australia Bank, Telstra
  • Advertising agency

I’m so excited that this is a part of the degree and I can’t wait to start searching for opportunities!


Personally, when I am working I sometimes get so caught up in what I’m creating that I forget that others will eventually see and (hopefully) enjoy my work. In my final two years of school particularly, I learnt the importance of keeping the audience at the forefront. At the end of the day, my ideas and intentions for my work mean nothing if I fail to clearly convey that to the receiver, or “audience”.

Who cares about audiences?

  • Advertisers
  • Commercial broadcasters, cable networks, etc.
  • Government policy makers – licensing accountability, censorship
  • Social scientists/psychologists, cultural theorists/media scholars – how media affects people in their daily lives

The target audience may completely change the content, the medium and the platforms used by advertising companies to sell a product.

Changing conceptions of audiences and consumers:

  • Broadcast to post-broadcast age
    • Characteristics of a post-broadcast era – changes in aesthetic sensibilities, audience practices, television institutions, technologies of production, distribution and consumption (and how to use them)
    • Rise in network culture
    • How we consume media – all around us, inescapable in the modern world
  • From citizens to consumers

“There are in fact no masses; there are only ways of seeing people as masses… a way of seeing people which has become characteristic of our kind of society… [a way of seeing that] has been capitalised for the purse of cultural or political exploitation.” 

We need to be conscious of how we position ourselves – cannot simply say, “I am better than you” because we all fall under the category of “the masses”.

Theorising the ‘active audience’:

  • Audience’s intelligence recognised by creators
  • Fans and engagement – they contribute in some way
    • Binge-watching television shows (becomes an obsession)
    • Creation of fandoms – keep up with every action of a particular person/band
    • Giving yourself over to the text by immersing yourself in another world and forming connections with characters
  • Stuart Hall’s encoding/decoding model (1980)
    • Communication is a gamble
    • Make short film – code mise en scene, characters etc. hoping audience will understand meaning – hoping they will interpret the same way as it was intended
    • Audience has to recognise, make sense of (by assembling) – happens subconsciously

Interpellation: the process by which individuals/readers are “hailed” (prompted by a text to recognise themselves as being a subject that belongs in a role) – Louis Althusser

Components of the Broadcast ratings convention

  • Exposure is the key element – how many people see an advertisement (challenge)
  • Can’t measure engagement after seeing advertising (limitation)
  • Accuracy of measuring – intensified in recent years but this is not a new issue (challenge)


  • “We are seduced by our own preferences; our likes and dislikes”
  • Different people like and dislike different things – broad range
  • Not inherent (not born with taste) – it is a result of what we grow up with

Without an audience, a work cannot be recognised and will not spark the action it intends to. Research into a target audience is also increasingly important, as we now live in such a world that the consumer decides what they want and companies deliver, as opposed to the other way around.


This week’s lectorial was all about semiotics, which I find fascinating. I think idea that every action or utterance holds a particular significance is so clever, and I have great respect for those who manage to infuse numerous layers of encoded meaning into their work. I can view these works over and over and continue to find new ways to interpret them, which I really appreciate.

Semiotics is a system made up of signs, signifiers and the associated signified. The main purpose is to encourage people to think about how particular elements work together to produce a whole, and this starts even from the smallest of creative decisions. Essentially, semiotics is a method of analysis that delves into the creative decisions encoded in specific works and how these decisions deliver (or fail to deliver) intended meanings (sometimes a number of meanings).

Brian explained in the lectorial that to study semiotics, we need to understand the following terms:

  • Sign: a core element of the text/creation
  • Signifier: a mark of this element (e.g. words, sound, etc.)
  • Signified: (subconscious) reactions and connections to signifier
  • Denotation: first order meaning (objective, simply what is there)
  • Connotation: second order meaning (subjective, connections we make (varies from person to person and may be affected by culture, experience, etc.)

Acclaimed semiotician Roland Barthes was incredibly influential in this field, even developing his own terminologies for breaking down creative works – the studium (that which is constructed with technical skill to generate audiences’ interest) and the punctum (the inexpressible quality that certain media works possess; the element that strikes the viewer immediately and captivates him or her). To me, this concept puts into words something that I had experienced but never understood when I interacted with different media. In particular, I find it a very useful ideological construct for explaining why some advertisements affect me, why certain photographs stay ingrained in my mind and why some media pieces just make me want to pay attention.

Semiotic deconstruction is applicable to all media everywhere we look, at some level. I know that I will be walking around with these ideas in the back of my head for a long time to come.

Note: this lecture’s focus on textual analysis formed part of the basis for my group’s work on Project Brief 4