Everyday Media

An everyday blog about media by everyday blogger Louise Alice Wilson.

Category: Readings

The People Formerly Known As The Audience

I like this idea: the people formerly known as the audience.

“The people formerly known as the audience are those who were on the receiving end of a media system that ran one way, in a broadcasting pattern, with high entry fees and a few firms competing to speak very loudly while the rest of the population listened in isolation from one another— and who today are not in a situation like that at all.” (Jay Rosen, 2006)

Within Jay Rosen’s blog “PressThink” he talks about the shifting of the audience, he states that old forms of media were once exclusive, while the new forms of media replacing them open themselves up to the audience, for example:

  • Printing Presses > Blogs
  • Radio Stations > Podcasting
  • Video Production (used to be an expensive process) > Video Production (is now relatively cheap)
  • The News > Multiple Online News Outlets
  • Centralised Media System (Vertical Flow) > Citizen to Citizen (Horizontal Flow)

Removing the broadcast model, to me, is only a positive thing. Although ‘big media’ has produced countless literary, tv and filmic classics, with ‘big’ comes restrictions. Large companies are often influenced by: politics, money, power, maintaining the status quo, selling and company hierarchy. When makers are bound by such influences its often hard to express ones art in its purest sense, a lot of companies only regarding ‘art’ worthy if it fits within such boundaries and is guaranteed to turn a decent profit. Multiple voices allow for the creation of ‘big’ as well as ‘little’ media, opening the media landscape up to endless streams of creators and creativity, which only adds to the diversity of the media landscape.

Jay Rosen believes that while this new way of approaching media is great, he still agrees that the pleasures of ‘Big Media’ are still real, ” we are still perfectly content to listen to our radios while driving, sit passively in the darkness of the local multiplex, watch TV while motionless and glassy-eyed in bed, and read silently to ourselves”. However, users are no longer ‘on big media’s clock’, users now decide when/where/how/why the point of engagement will be, forcing media to become more informed and engaged in order to reach users.

Delusional ideas such as mass audiences, ‘broadcasting’ and equating viewers to ‘eyeballs’ are on the way out, and the people formerly known as the audience are on the way in. I’m excited to see where this goes but I known it’s gonna be good.

 

Catch you later,

Louise Alice Wilson

 

References

Rosen. J (2006) Press Think: The people formerly known as the audience. Accessed via: http://archive.pressthink.org/2006/06/27/ppl_frmr.html

What Are The Boys At Disney Doing?

Since there were no set readings for this week I get to talk about one of the readings from my annotated bibliography regarding Project Brief 4, which is pretty cool. For Project Brief 4 our group received the topic “Narratives & Texts” which is a pretty broad category but within a day we’d already chosen our intended topic: the representation of women in Disney princess films. Which to a lot of people sounds like a really lame topic, but was actually super interesting, especially for me since i’d never really watched many Disney films as a child.

Haseenah Ebrahim the writer of the article has a lot of experience with Disney films, and peoples interpretations of them, as she teaches an undergraduate course on the subject. Ebrahim explains in her article that many students would arrive at the lecture and expect character, plot and stylistic analysis and would often be ‘taken aback’ at the historical, sociological, and theoretical framing and analysis that Ebrahim taught.

She raises an interesting point in the article, stating that: ironically the texts which are the most influential to developing humans: childhood texts, are often considered to be the least important to analyse. Ebrahim found that a lot of her students scoffed at the idea of taking such films ‘seriously’, which only motivated her more to investigate the potential impact these texts are having.

 

Ultimately Ebrahim found that Disney texts often:

“inscribe middle age as a time of treachery, consumption and anger in the feminine life cycle (Ebrahim, 2014).”

Through their portrayal of characters such as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs’ Wicked Queen, Sleeping Beauty’s Maleficent, Cinderella’s Lady Tre- maine, 101 Dalmatians’ Cruella de Vil, and The Little Mermaid’s Ursula. These older female characters are often portrayed as hideously ugly witches who are vain, selfish or competitive, and are often intent on killing or destroying the younger, prettier female character: the princess, purely out of spite or jealousy.

 

“since the ‘Classic’ Disney films of the 1940s and 1950s there has been an gains of the protagonists in children’s films while the age of the viewing audience has remained the same” therefore “children may be learning that the best things for them to do is to grow up as quickly as possible” (Ebrahim, 2014).

 

Recently this epidemic of young children acting, looking and dressing older has become more apparent. With the most horrifying element of this realisation being: that young children acting older is often prompted by the lifestyle being marketed and sold to them through large corporations that produce children’s media and texts.

 

The Disney Princess remains an outdated stereotype, that hasn’t changed dramatic until recently in films such as Brave or Rapunzel, which give the female characters less stereotypical roles.

However Ebrahim (2014) states that “(within Brave) the girl-heroine has been transformed into a boyish young woman who in many ways – although not entirely – embodies what Lissa Paul labels “hero[es] in drag” – that is, “female characters who take on traditionally male characteristics in an attempt to subvert the kinds of traditional female roles the first and second wave Disney princesses have taken on.”

This is troubling to realise, as one would hope that Disney could make a well rounded ‘strong’ female character, rather than simply turn the female character into a stereotypically male character and call that a ‘nod to the current times’.

 

Catch you later,

Louise Alice Wilson

 

References:

Ebrahim, H. (2014). Are the “boys” at Pixar afraid of little girls? Journal of Film and Video, 66(3), 43-56.

Fully InFORMed

Let’s talk about sex baby documentary.

We all know what Documentaries are right?  We might not have a pre-prepared google definition, but we could probably list off a bunch of things that we associate with documentaries. Such as: truthful, real-life, handheld, based on, in camera zoom, science, etc, etc.

The curious thing about documentary though, is that the more you learn about documentary films, the more your realise that what you understand to be it’s defining aspects, aren’t necessarily the case. For example, documentaries aren’t necessarily any more ‘truthful’ than standard films and the pure process of filming something, creates a filtered version of the ‘real world’ (if there is such a thing).

But rather than waste 3000 words BLOWING YOUR MIND, lets just bring it back to grad school (shh, I’m pretending to be American) and talk about types of form in documentary film.

 

Types of Form in Documentary Films

Categorical Form: These are documentaries that focus on a specific category of things (often loosely based) such as ‘butterflies’, in order to convey information about the world.

Common aspects of categorical form:

  • Begins by identifying it’s subject.
  • Simplistic patterns of development (small > large, local > national).
  • Overall thematic goal.

Due to the simplistic developmental patterns of categorical form, it is vital that filmmakers introduce variations to adjust viewer expectations. Or rather choose a category that is obscure or exciting in order to maintain viewer interest, e.g. Les Blank’s ‘Gap-Toothed Women‘.

Another brill way to engage viewers is to add abstract visual interest through the use of patterned filmic techniques by exploring the colour, shape and form of the thing being presented. Les Blank does this well through his various close-ups of gap teethed mouths, each with their own individualistic shape, colour, complexity, obscurity and feeling.

Categorical films can also explore other types of form, such as narrative form, or rhetorical form, adding in small scale narratives or including an ideological point. In Gap-Toothed Women Les Blank makes a statement about beauty, suggesting that society’s acceptance or disgust regarding aesthetics, merely reflects societal bias. Thus, you can imagine how combining multiple forms of documentary can create a much more engaging and well rounded documentary film.

Les Blank – Gap Toothed Women (1987)

Rhetorical Form: In these documentaries the filmmaker is attempting to present a cohesive argument. Attempts to persuade the audience to adopt an opinion about the subject matter and possibly convince them to act upon that opinion.

Common aspects of rhetorical form:

  • Addresses the viewer openly, trying to persuade them of their opinion.
  • The films subject is not an issue of scientific proof, but rather an opinion.
  • Since the conclusion can often not be proved beyond question, the filmmaker will often appeal to emotion, rather than present scientific evidence.
  • Often attempts to persuade the viewer to make a choice that will change their everyday life.

An example of rhetorical form in documentary is Lorentz’ The River, released in 1938. This documentary sought to convince its audience to support President Roosevelt’s policies regarding the Tennessee Valley Authority through it’s use of the rhetoric form. The TVA was a government owned corporation aiming to provide solutions to the country’s  flooding, electricity and agricultural problems  within Tennessee Valley during the Great Depression.

Pare Lorentz – The River (1938)

 

Catch you later,

Louise Alice Wilson

 

References:

D. Bordwell & K. Thompson., (1993). Film Art: An Introduction. 4th ed. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1993.

 

It’s As Easy As 1, 2, 3

When it comes to constructing plots, whether it be for a screenplay or a documentary film the ‘three-act structure’ is one of the oldest tricks in the book, having been invented by the ancient Greeks. It may seem super boring at first, but it’s a great guide to ensuring  direction, interest and tension are worked into your plot, so feel free to change it up a bit.

The Three-Act Structure

Act 1: The Setup; establishes the environment, situation, characters, relationships and the ensuing dominant problem/s faced by the key character/s.

Act 2: Magnifies the complications in relationships, as the key character/s deals with arising difficulties, preventing them from solving the main problem.

Act 3: Intensifies the situation until climax or confrontation occurs, which the key character/s will resolve. Whether this be a good or bad resolution, or how dramatic the resolution is, is up to you. A squiggly example is shown below.

Three Act Structure

 

The Dramatic Curve

Another concept from the Ancient Greeks is the dramatic curve. The ‘dramatic curve’ represents the progression of dramatic elements as time passes: first problem > develop tension > scenes of added complication & intensity > apex/climax > resolution/change. An example can be seen below, it’s more of a ‘dramatic triangle’ but you get the drift.

Dramatic Curve

Catch you later, Louise Alice Wilson

 

References

Extract from Michael Rabiger, 2009, Directing the Documentary, 5th Edition (Focus Press) pp.283-291

The Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy

The Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy 

Alan McKee’s Guide To Textual Analysis

Alan McKee, an Australian Creative Industries university professor at the University of Technology Sydney  has written a handy beginners guide to textual analysis.

Textual analysis is an attempt to predict what the most likely interpretations of that given text would be, through gathering and analysing information from associated academic research.

Although McKee acknowledges that textual analysis often gets distracted by assumptions about ‘correct’, ‘accurate’ or ‘realistic’ interpretations, he does consider it an important tool to discern viewers interpretations and understandings of media texts, when these assumptions can be avoided.

Without further ado here’s Alan McKee’s guide to textual analysis, or rather a much simplified version of Alan McKee’s guide:

1. Choose your topic of interest.

2. Make your question more specific.

3. List texts relevant to this question from your own experience.

4. Find more texts through academic and popular research.

5. Gather these texts.

6. Watch each example, note how particular textual elements work in each (relationships, character development, story arc involvement).

7. Watch other programs in the same genre to see how they work.

8. Understand the wider semiosphere (world of meaning) as you can, to get a sense as to how these texts fit into the wider context.

9. With all this in mind, return to the texts and attempt likely interpretations of them.

Alan McKee’s guide provides a wonderful simplification of the textual analysis process, which will be extremely helpful throughout this degree. McKee manages to avoid assumptions of viewer ability or level of understanding as a mediating factor for viewer capacity to analyse content, which is wonderfully refreshing as it accepts all viewers as potential analysers.

Catch you later, Louise Alice Wilson

 

References

McKee, Alan (2001). A beginner’s guide to textual analysis. Metro Maga- zine, pp. 138-149.

Hear Me Out

Being a musician, i’m pretty stoked toread about sound, I’d happily read through a hundred pages with various diagrams on sound, because I think sound is totally awesome. But since I’m sure that not everyone is as interested in sound as I am, I decided to keep it brief (like as brief as I could). I’ve decided to cover a topic that I think is the most relevant to media students being,

How to record clean sound:

      1.   Use a recording studio:

  • Recoding studios are designed to minimise unwanted noise and reverb.
  • If you can’t then use a space with good acoustics.

  2.   Scope out the acoustics of your space prior to deciding to record there and most certainly prior to      recording:

  • Record a sample piece of audio and listen to it back.
  • Check for background sound like cars, people talking, dogs, humming lights, air conditioners etc.
  • Does this sound remain consistent? Is the space noisier/quieter at different times of day/week/month?

  3.   Check the acoustics of your space:

  • Clap in the space, and listen out for obvious reverberations, distortions and ringing.
  • Record a sample piece of audio and listen to it back.
  • Does the room have highly audio reflective walls and floors? Or is the audio dampened by carpets and ceiling mouldings?
  • How is this effecting the overall audio?

** Clapping often helps to pinpoint sources of distortion: I once left a music stand in my recording studio whilst recording some vocals. I noticed upon listening back that there was high pitched ringing in the background, so I clapped in the space. I immediately heard the clap hit the metal of the music stand then bounce of it and ping around the room. It’s safe to say I no longer use music stands in recording spaces.

4.   Check the room tone of your space:

  • Record a sample piece of audio and listen to it back.
  • Does the room tone suit the visual footage? Does it add to it or is it jarring? Are you recording audio in a large echoic church, but you want an intimate, clean audio track?
  • If it doesn’t work, think about changing locations.

5.   Check for interference in your space:

  • Record a sample piece of audio and listen to it back.
  • Is there interference from electronic devices, mic cables and/or radio signals?
  • Make sure mic leeds aren’t running parallel to electronic cables to minimise distortion.

6.   Use the most suitable microphone:

  • Are you recording audio from a single person talking?                                                 Uni-directional, shotgun or lavaliere
  • Or are multiple people talking at once?                                                                                 Omni-directional or bi-directional
  • Are these people sitting next to each other?                                                                       Uni-directional
  • Or are they opposite each other?                                                                                                   Bi-directional
  • Do you want the room sound to be obvious?                                                                 Omni-directional
  • Or would you prefer it to be clean vocals only?                                                            Shotgun, handheld or lavaliere

7.   Dampen the audio:

  • Use acoustic panelling, vocal booths or vocal shields to dampen and trap the sound coming from the sound source.
  • You can even use blankets, mattresses or plants to dampen audio signals if you lack other options.
  • If your also filming visuals think about where you can position acoustic panelling or vocal shields so they are not in the frame.

8.   Mic Technique:

  • Make sure the sound source, or person talking is as close to the microphone as possible, with singers or people talking sometimes you legitimately need to be close enough to kiss the microphone, to get optimal quality audio.
  • If someone is about to radically increase their volume (yelling, making a point etc.), make sure they know to pull back from the microphone to avoid distortion.
  • This of course differs with microphone type, such as shotguns that usually need to be a feet away, so make sure you know what distance works best with your particular mic.
  • You can also use pop shields to minimise vocal pops and sibilance (’s’ sounds).

9.    Monitor dB levels:

  • Make sure that your decibels are sitting within the optimum range.
  • There are various handheld sound meters that can monitor dB levels or some microphones and cameras have inbuilt sound meters.
  • Always leave a small amount of headroom before distortion, to allow for increases in audio volume.

10.   Continually monitor sound while recording:

  • Use good quality headphones, closed back headphones are advisable so that the sound won’t bleed from your headphones back into the audio you are recording.
  • When shooting you often focus on the subject, automatically filtering out background noise, mic’s can’t do this, they will pick up everything.
  • Constant monitoring is important, so that if another sound source appears on your audio track, it is noticed immediately and you can re-record. Rather then realising that at the editing stage.

Hope this helps! I said I was gonna keep it brief, my version of brief seems to be 777 words? Haha.

Catch you later, Louise Alice Wilson

 

References

Roberts-Breslin, 2003.  ‘Sound’ in Making media : foundations of sound and image production, Focal Press, Amsterdam ; London, pp. 115-144.

Be A Media Maker

David Gauntlett makes a good point in his newest book (Making Media Studies: The Creativity Turn in Media and Communications Studies) and that is that traditional forms of media studies are no longer applicable. Gone are the days of massive institutions and production companies, gone are the traditional audiences and simplistic texts. In, is the new age media companies, the everyday media makers, the consistent consumers and the fantastical mess of The WWW.

While universities are pumping out the same content areas since the 1980’s (e.g. institutions, production, audiences and texts) that are only relevant to a handful of media forms (cinema, television, online broadcasting and publications), the rest of the world is moving on. David Gauntlett so rightly says that creativity in media, should also refer to thinking creatively about the subject. What are the new ways of running media and communication studies? How has the subject itself changed? What approaches and methods can help media and communications studies to become innovative and useful in spheres beyond itself?

David Gauntlett encourages a kind of call to arms, an acquiescence of the incapacities of the old system and a redirected gaze to the future needs of media students and media studies programs. Inspired by Tim Ingold’s book Making, David believes media studies should have making at it’s front and centre. He also believes the ability to do things with media should be embraced over and above the ability to talk about what others do with media, or what media does to us. The notion is that media studies should be hands on, that it should be all about ideas and critical engagement and this should be expressed through actual making.

To borrow three key distinctions from the anthropologist Tim Ingold:

  • It’s about learning WITH media rather than ABOUT media.
  • There is an intent to move FORWARD rather than looking BACKWARDS at how things are.
  • It’s aims are TRANSFORMATIONAL rather than DOCUMENTARY.

When we live in an age of mass media consumerism, where our experience of the physical world is so strongly linked with our experience of the digital world, we need media studies to be exceptional. To move forward media studies must look forward. We need to to emphasise the knowledge of the makers as they are the ones with the power to make a difference. We need to encourage research THROUGH design rather than research INTO or FOR design to ensure our makers are well equipped and we need to see change occurring.

If you want to see the change, be the change. If you want to be the change, be a media maker.

Catch you later, Louise Alice Wilson

 

References

Extract from David Gauntlett, 2014, Making Media Studies: The Creativity Turn In Media Studies, Found at http://davidgauntlett.com/making-media-studies/extract-from-new-book/.

 

Blood In The Gutter

Scott McCloud’s ‘Blood in the Gutter’ is a great comic and probably one of the best descriptors of editing that i’ve ever read. Blood in the Gutter does inherently focus on editing within comic books, but it’s easily applied to film form.

McCloud introduced me to four key elements involved in the editing process: closure, gaps, transitions and interpretations. Closure is our brains ability to observe the parts but to perceive the whole, completing that which is incomplete based on past experience. An example would be our brains additive reaction when seeing an image of baseball in a persons hand, then seeing an image of a baseball in the air. Our brain naturally inserts the images of the baseball reaching the point in mid-air in order to maintain continuity, or to achieve ‘closure’.

Expressions of Closure:

  • Intentional: Deliberate inventions of storytellers to produce suspense or challenge audiences.
  • Automatic: Automatic process requiring minimal effort.

Forms of Closure:

  • Simple: Mere outline of a shape or newspaper image.
  • Complex: Continuous, largely involuntary and virtually imperceptible. Film is shown at 24 frames per second or a television, which is a single point of light racing across the screen.

Gaps are just as important as images perceived as it allows the audience to construct their own scene or chains of events. Within comic books the gaps are the literal gaps between the images, nicknamed ‘the gutter’ for film these gaps are a little more complex. Within films gaps can be left purposely such as not showing a murder on screen, this way the audience decides how hard the blow was, who screamed, who died and why. Each reader or viewer commits that murder in their own style (i.e. ‘blood in the gutter’), this invites audience participation and allows the story to be customised by and to the individual.  It also allows for off screen discussion of the text, such as much of the hype that existed around Donnie Darko, that was created through off screen audience discussion surrounding ambiguities in the films storyline.

Transitions are an extremely important element within comic books and also very important within film. In relation to comic books, McCloud states that there are six forms of transitions: moment-to-moment, action-to-action, subject-to-subject, scene-to-scene, aspect-to-aspect and non-sequitor.

Moment-to-moment transitions: Are instance to instance shots with very little closure required.

  • Uncommonly used within American and European comics.
  • Sometimes used within Japanese comics.

Action-to-action transitions: Features a single subject in distinct action-to-action progressions.

  • Most common type of transitions within American and European comics.

Subject-to-subject transitions: Taking us from subject to subject while staying within a scene or idea.

  • Second most common type of transitions within American and European comics.

Scene-to-scene transitions: Transports us across significant distances of time and space.

  • Third most common type of transition within American and European comics.

Aspect-to-aspect transitions: Bypasses time and sets a wandering eye on different aspects of a place, idea or mood. Often used to establish mood or a sense of a place when time stands still. Encourages the reader to assemble a single moment using the scattered fragments presented.

  • Very uncommon within American and European comics.
  • Highly common and integral within Japanese comics.
  • Within Japanese comics, dozens of panels are often devoted to portraying slow cinematic movement or to setting a mood.

Non-sequitor transitions: Has no logical relationship between panels.

  • Often used within experimental comic books, like those of Art Spiegelman.

Interpretations are often guided by the artist of filmmaker, however the less guidance given the more elastic interpretations can be. Some artists are deliberately ambiguous, only giving us a small piece of the puzzle. Sometimes, this ambiguity can lead to something wonderful happening in the spaces left between, for there is nothing more imaginative then never ending possibilities.

Catch you later, Louise Alice Wilson

 

References

McCloud, S. (1993). ‘Blood in the Gutter’, Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art. Northampton, MA: Tundra Pub.

Don’t Follow Your Passion

“Find what you love and don’t settle”

In the summer of 2005 Steve Jobs made this statement and it was misinterpreted by essentially most of the American media as “follow your passion”. This is not surprising as follow your passion is a statement that most of the western world is obsessed with. We’ve all heard this statement a million times, especially in relation to career choices and we even hold ourselves accountable with this statement. Do I really love what I do? But am I really passionate? Is there something better out there?

Online blogger Cal Newport has heard this statement a million times and he’s had enough of it. Newport’s Law states that “telling a young person to follow their passion reduces the probability they will end up passionate”. He believes the problems with “follow your passion” are:

  1. Pre-supposes you have a passion and one that is relevant to a career choice.
  2. Pre-supposes that passion alone can lead to long term job satisfaction.
  3. Steve Jobs stumbled into Apple and then ending up BECOMING passionate about Apple.

Bill McKibben like Steve Jobs is extremely successful and essentially gets to ‘do what he loves’ which is sit around his beautiful home and write passionate articles about the environment. However Cal Newport want’s us to know that this wasn’t always the case, Bill:

  • Wasn’t born a skilled writer.
  • Had an insane work ethic.
  • Wrote a huge number of articles before he first became an editor then a freelance writer.
  • Systematically built up his skill set then used this to be able to follow his passion.
  • Didn’t expect a really great working life, without being really great at something.

The educational psychologist Benjamin Bloom conducted a study interested in deducing how people build up world class talent and he found then generally followed this pattern of behaviour:

  1. Serendipitous first encounter (nice teacher, friendly teammates etc.)
  2. More persistence with practise
  3. Became slightly better than peers
  4. Persistance to keep going
  5. As they got better and began to develop skills their passion grew

Since were not all eight years old and can’t turn back the clock, how can we achieve great things in life if we didn’t have that serendipitous first encounter? Well Cal Newport believes the answer lies in ‘Deep Work’. Deep work requires the individual to pick a certain area of study say guitar playing, creative writing or playing tennis and devote a decent amount of time studying this subject, wherein the focus of study lies in purely building upon previous skill and challenging oneself to move beyond the current level of ability. By challenging yourself to move forward and having clearly defined outcomes for each deep work session you can ensure that you are continually improving, thus moving closer to the overall goal of building up a skill set.

“If you wan’t to love what you do, do what Steve Jobs did and not what he said” – Cal Newport

Catch you later, Louise Alice Wilson

 

References

Cal Newport: “Follow Your Passion” Is Bad Advice from 99U on Vimeo.

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