Saturday, December 26, 2009

Espionage, alive and well

Europe has a long history of espionage but the EU acknowledges that underground communication exists now more than ever, thanks to new media. The information battle is controlled by intelligence officers who have expressed concerns about Russia and China, as well as within the EU and especially among women. "We are not only pointing the finger at journalists. It could be the pretty trainee with the long legs and blond hair," said EU commission spokeswoman, Valerie Rampi. Just this year American female journalist Roxana Saberi was tried in Iran and sentenced for espionage, which was later reduced to possession of classified information. The key problem is that the increasing liberation of information through global media is at odds with the strategic information control of most governments, especially in foreign policy.

Saberi, Miss North Dakota, 1997 and accompanying the president of Iran, Mohammed Khatami, 2007

Monday, December 21, 2009

Italian Paparazzi

Fabrizio Corona was sentenced to 3 years for blackmailing celebrities over photos. The photos were not of secret love affairs or scandals, but simply embarrassing shots of celebs with their shirts off or next to unflattering friends. Not only does the incident speak to our era of image obsession but also to the rising power of the mediator. Corona is a celebrity in his own right, appearing on an Italian reality show, dating a top Brazilian model and documenting his muscles for public fans while behind bars. Read more

Saturday, December 19, 2009

A French court has ruled that Google's digital books online break copyright law. This ruling requires Google to remove content that is not contracted by French publishers even though Google defends that the book excerpts are legal. Read more

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

True Hollywood Story & the Memory of the World

Ben Hur, 1959

"In a millennium the old 'swords and sandals' epics will be seen as actual Roman films, dating from the Roman period, as true documentaries on antiquity...the J. Paul Getty Museum at Malibu, a pastiche from a villa in Pompeii, will be confused anachronistically with a villa from the third century BC...Disney already achieves the de facto realization of this timeless utopia, by producing all events, past or future on simultaneous screens, remorselessly mixing all the sequences as they would appear to a civilization other than our own. But this is already our civilization. It is already increasingly difficult for us to imagine the real...just as difficult as it once was, starting out from the real world to imagine the virtual one." -Jean Baurdillard, 1996 re-printed in Screened Out

Fall of the Roman Empire, 1964

Gomorra, 2008

Gomorroa is an Italian film directed by Matteo Garrone and winner of the 2008 Grand Prix de Cannes. The film was based on a novel by Roberto Saviano about real and fictionalized events of the Camorra, Italian organized crime. The film is set in the Bay of Naples, inside an actual government housing project that for the purposes of the film, is divided between two mob bosses. Both actors and actual residents appear in the film. Following the film's release, the author of the novel received death threats from the Camorra. The film invaded reality and reality responded. It also blurs the distinction between reality and fiction, contributing to both Italian history and myth.

Christopher Huber wrote a review of Gomorra stating, "With its interest in moving beyond the categories of novel or non-fiction, Saviano’s work has been identified as part of a heterogeneous strain of national literature, subsumed as the New Italian Epic. A term that certainly isn't disgraced by Gomorra, the film."

Living Italians define what is valuable among them and then shape both the actual culture and the mediated one. However, it is not what is valued but what is true that we appropriately claim as history. Media is transforming what we know as history and creating virtual memories.

Gladiator, 2000

In 1992, UNESCO began the Memory of the World project to prevent collective amnesia and to accurately archive cultural history. The ongoing project amasses images from library archives and private collections in hard copy and digital formats. Click here for more.

The 800 year old "Tabula Peutingeriana" is a primitive map of the world created by the Romans and archived by UNESCO

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

BBC & Bias

by Ashley V. Mitchell

Ashley Mitchell researched the British Media Coverage of the 1990 Release of Nelson Mandela and found a BBC report about South Africa was considered racist by the ANC (African National Congress, South Africa). She explains: Is the BBC biased, racist, anti-Christian and all the other things they have been accused of - my thought is no. The BBC may be state supported but in their "World News" division it functions like any other capitalist corporation. Do their thoughts come from left-wing ideology? Yes. But are they a racist corporation? No. The ANC may want people to believe that the BBC is racist to distract people from the fact that they have an incredibly high crime rate, but the reality is that the BBC is not racist. John Simpson provided raw facts in his report that said South Africa had "50 murders a day," and he had the right to do so, and if he did it before a major event for South Africa (State of the Union address by President Mbeki), then the only thing he is guilty of is trying to get more people to read his article.

However, I do believe that the BBC at times can be a little more left wing than a government-run corporation should be. The BBC can defend a biased opinion by a journalist all they want, but at the end of the day the people will know these points are not supported by the government whose opinions they will most likely trust more than that of a media machine. If the BBC’s main goal is to educate then they need to be more careful of whom they hire, and what those people are saying, whether it is through radio shows, newspaper articles or Twitter. The BBC is just a typical news source that at times does something controversial which ends up boosting ratings.

Nelson Mandela release, 1990, watch the BBC coverage

When the BBC reported about Nelson Mandela’s release in 1990, they chose the scenes they did, not because they were being racist, but because it created a visually stimulating and emotional broadcast. From going between overly joyful crowds to people being taken away on gurneys, all the while showing Nelson Mandela’s inspirational speech, it puts forth a certain image of South Africa. The BBC did show South Africa as a disorderly nation, but because it is somewhat true. The scene around Nelson Mandela’s release was pandemonium and the crime rates in South Africa are something that the country needs to worry about, more than what media source they find is racist.

South Africans respond to the crime factor
Left: Diketso Lekhelebane, 34
“Thugs attack you because they believe you have something they want. There is still the perception that white people have money all the time maybe that’s why he was targeted. But to create the impression that black people are persecuting whites at every turn is not just wrong, it’s not true.”

Right: Meagan Farquharson, 23
“I think if a person wants to leave the country they should. I’ve been mugged a few times and my house was broken into but it was nothing serious. That happens to everyone. I wouldn’t leave, I love my country. If I ever did, it wouldn’t be because of crime, there is crime everywhere.”

Race & French Fashion Magazines

by Nicole He

Marie Claire France, November 2009

If the images of women in French fashion magazines from November to December 2009 are any reflection of reality, women of Arab descent do not exist in France. Or, if they do—the message seems to be—they do not belong in the world of high fashion and culture. Since after World War II, France recruited many immigrants from North African and Middle Eastern countries to fill a labor shortage, and the Arab population in the country has only increased since (Malonga). In spite of this, however, there was zero representation of Arab women out of 573 pictured in fashion editorials and advertisements from Marie Claire December 2009, Elle November 2009, Vogue November 2009, and Jalouse December-January 2009-2010. But Arabs were not the only racial group underrepresented in this sample; in fact, the women presented were 94.8% Caucasian. In the four magazines analyzed, there were a total of 543 white women (94.8%), 16 Asian women (2.8%), 13 black women (2.3%), and one Latina woman.

Chart numbers indicate race representations of women in photographs with no Arab representation in any (Marie Claire December 2009, Elle November 2009, Vogue November 2009, and Jalouse December-January 2009-2010)

As Peter Braham wrote, “fashion, as well as being a matter of creation, consumption, and identity, is also a matter of production, distribution, and retailing.” The same thing applies to fashion magazines; like all others, they face commercial pressures to gain profit. Both fashion advertisements and fashion editorials are ultimately tied to their effectiveness in selling a product—fashion advertisements aim to sell specific garments, accessories, or brands, while editorials sell ideologies of fashion, and the magazine itself. Because of the realities of commercialization, if a magazine or advertisement doesn’t adequately appeal to the market, it cannot survive economically. Therefore, magazines and advertisements edit their content to reflect what the reader wants to see—or at least, what they think readers want to see. According to Rosetta Brookes, a “peculiarity of the fashion photograph is that it is positioned on a threshold of a between two worlds: the consumer public and a mythic elite created in the utopia of the photograph as well as in the reality of a social group maintained by the fashion industry.”

Jalouse, Asian women featured but associated with the Geisha aesthetic, December 2009-January 2010

As a result, in order to appeal to the highest number of consumers (and thus make the highest profit possible), magazines and advertisements lean conservative in their selection of what kind of woman to present to the reader. This conservatism isn’t the political kind; rather, it means that fashion magazines feel the need to display women that are not different or disturbing looking—they must be relatable to the reader, but idealized as well. Because France is still a country whose social classes are relatively divided along racial lines, what this usually translates to, in fashion, is whiteness.

Monday, December 14, 2009

British Campaign Media

by Ian Hainline

Hainline surveyed British Campaign Advertisements of Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair. The substantial finding was that attack ads during the Thatcher and Blair eras featured the same kind of policy-driven attacks. Attack ads in American politics are dominated by personal attacks and smears, rather than policy discussion. But in a society marked by a more neutral press, albeit with a middle degree of political parallelism, attacks that are more policy-focused will carry more weight, as they are backed up by news articles that discuss these same issues, meaning that the news media can reinforce or refute a campaign’s advertisements. Additionally, because the media in Britain features a high degree of professionalism, their reporting of policy, which will either substantiate or refute campaign advertisements, can be seen as generally apolitical.

Political campaigns are increasingly media based, as media, especially television advertisements, provide a chance to reach and influence a large number of voters in a single instance. Equally important, however, is the content of those advertisements. That they seek to elaborate upon philosophical and policy differences between parties is genuinely good for democracy. Vibrant public debate is the very lifeblood of proper democratic government, and that is only possible with real discussion over genuine differences, rather than partisan bickering over smear jobs. That British campaign media tends to focus on the policy, as opposed to politics, is perhaps the real reason that the sun has never truly set upon the British Empire.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Portuguese Advertisements

by Hannah Minkoff

In looking at the huge mass of
Portuguese advertisements that contain English, several main markets emerge. One such category is personal care products, which is generally connected to the beauty and cosmetics market, though not exclusively. Through looking at many of these advertisements carefully, several patterns are evident, including the use of unnecessary English words or any words at all given the detailed images included, the simplicity of the English words used, and the presence of brand name recognition. Though very little emphasis has been given to its affect on advertisements, there has been a lot of talk about a language hierarchy in the fields of literature and research. The same idea is relevant to the study of Portuguese advertisements as well because English is used more commonly than other perhaps more relevant local languages. The recent fascist history of the nation is also important in analyzing these ads because it seems that the country is constantly on the lookout for potentially oppressive behavior, resulting in an advertising sector, which reflects a very global outlook.



Thursday, December 10, 2009

Finnish Tourism Media

by Molly Cartwright

2009 Visit Finland campaign by Mikael Kivela reads "For those less daring we want to point out that jumping straight from a sauna into a whole in the ice, isn't the only way to spoil yourself in Finland. You can also beat yourself with birch branches."

If a country has only the space on a poster or picture to woo the viewer into becoming a tourist, its effort will be in displaying itself in the most ideal way, whether that means having weird but cool local residents or modern cities and a rural countryside. Because of that, the world will always expect the real country to be that ideal image.

Helsinki promotion, Jorma Suhonen, 1940

In 2005, created an advertisement campaign in Helsinki, Finland. The posters poke fun at the way cities or countries have become so oversimplified by tourism media that a few iconic monuments or characteristics can sum them up. For example, one shows a Finnish girl in traditional clothing, playing a Finnish musical instrument, the Kantele. Its message is “If this poster were about Italy, there would be a pizza and pasta in it” and on the bottom it says “There is so much more to it.” (Hugovk). Still, however much Finland boasts about being unique and genuine, its tourism media strategy generally conforms to the rules of the game of promoting a nation, a necessary move to make when the entire world is competing for the attention of the same audience.

Visit Finland, 2005

Below, Finnair "Book Snow" campaign, Mikael Kivela, 2009

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Early French Hacker E-Zines

by Kevin Gotkin (

Kevin Gotkin, "Lingo, Loyalty, & Lambaste: The E-Zines of the Early French Hacker Scene" explains: Beginning in the early 1990s, the French hacker scene began publishing online magazines in order to share tips, secrets, and, yes, some very vulgar language. What resulted was the expansion of over 77 e-zines being shared via floppy disks and electronic bulletin board systems on French minitel systems and eventually on the Internet. Many of the e-zines were extremely specific, only catering to, for example, radio phreakers or virus masters. However, there were a few notable e-zines became known for their aspirations to become the face of the French hacker scene. Via interviews with modern Parisian hackers, it became clear that these e-zines were widely regarded as poor quality and written by newbies, while the elite hackers met behind closed doors without leaving traces of their work. Via a Hebdigean reading of this failed medium, however, we find that the e-zines still say much about the subculture of the French hackers. The aesthetic appropriation of the Courier font, the anonymity and identity games illustrated by the writers' aliases, and the self-categorization of the role of hackers in society all inform a complex relationship between a subculture operating on the edge of the technological landscape during its most important formative period.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Framing of Parkour

by Elyse Inamine

The banlieue, photographed by JR

Elyse Inamine writes in "Euro-American coverage of banlieue subculture, in particular the framing of parkour from 2005 to 2009," current stigma, only encouraged by les émeutes de 2005, has risen in French culture and even the global society with widespread news documentation and commentary. However, the parkour subculture arises as the new face of the banlieues. A spokeperson for, an online international community dedicated to creating a parkour database, noted in an email interview, “it is possible that parkour has needed the suburbs to born: the lack of freedom, to escape the constraints of the habitat, various structures for training and a diverse population and sources of inspirations.”

Parkour is “ultimately a communion with one’s habitat, in goal of exploring how one’s body is shaped by the political geography of the modern city.” Visually, it is leaping from building to building, scaling walls, and seeming to defy gravity. However, within this movement, there is a philosophy and a way of life to this subculture. Using Dick Hebdige’s Subculture: The Meaning of Style, the parkour subculture transforms the commodities of the urban landscape – the streets as dictated by Haussmann’s grids – into a mode a self-expression.

Today, parkour has emerged from the periphery of the banlieues to the realm of media, commercialism, and popular culture as seen in the 2002 Nike Presto campaign, "Le Poulet en Colere," and a 2002 BBC commercial. However, following Karl Marx in “The Fetishism of Commodities and The Secret Thereof,” parkour is thus manipulated by this mythic value which “converts every product into a social hieroglyphic.”

But as seen in The Office, parkour is more than a product – it is a spectacle. In The Society of the Spectacle, Guy Debord defines the spectacle as “simultaneously [presenting] society as itself, as part of society, and as a means of unification…it is a social relation between people that is mediated by images.” In a sense, The Office presents itself as the mediator between the parkour subculture and the audience.

By using media, pakour has acted as the subcultural mediator between the banlieues and the universal public. However, it leaves one to wonder if this universalization of parkour has lead to its global demise as the true parkour has been diluted into the commodified, spectacular parkour.

Food as Medium

by Pauline Ma

Marie Antoine Carême introduced the L'art de la cuisine Française au dix-neuvième siècle, in 1833, codifying haute cuisine

Pauline Ma writes in "Food as Medium: A Semiotic Analysis of French Dining as Established in the French Revolution" that "France leads the culinary world in what’s "haute'." With the roots of haute cuisine directly from France and the highest standard of dining displaying sentiments reflecting its French origin, perhaps then the French have established a kind of “culinary imperialism,” incorporating their successive practices and integrating—or standardizing—them into the industry. The event of eating and food involved are structured by culinary industry patterns that developed fundamentally in France; now adopted all over the world, the morsels of this culinary imperialism sprinkled throughout the experience of dining can teach the taster about him/herself, through a constructed presentation and generated product. Media, whether it be cookbooks, menus, films, competitions, or the very table setting itself carry and further the penetration of France’s hold on this culinary imperialism and what is “haute.”

The table setting works from the outside in, with American conventions in red. The glasses in the upper right are for wine, with a thinner glass for white and a larger one for red.

The French seal of approval, Le Cordon Bleu since 1895

Thursday, December 3, 2009

New Media

Read the New Media report by the University of Tornoto

New Media: Digital, networked communication

global reach

In 1964, Marshall McLuhan wrote in Understanding Media: "Today, after more than a century of electric technology, we have extended our central nervous system itself in a global embrace, abolishing both space and time as far as our planet is concerned." McLuhan's global village was networked communication giving us all increased transparency and accountability to one another.

Just like mass media, new media comes to you but it also gives you the ability to respond and reach outward to global sources.

New media includes both devices and programs that are increasingly dominating our space and time. The chart below separates new media by device and location.

This chart address new media social networking platforms, followed by a chart that identifies the ways in which they work.

Social networking sites that require registration indicate the numbers of regular users. Facebook is estimated at 300 million users. Skype states that is has 425 million registered users.

Tuenti is a Madrid based, invitation only Spanish language social network. The name means “your entity." It is the third fastest rising Google search item. It was founded in 2006 by Zaryn Dentzel from Santa Barbara who came to Spain as an exchange student. It only has 5 million users is considered to be growing faster than any other social network site. It offers users integrated access to other networking sites like Facebook and Twitter.

In a recent lecture at the “The Machine is (Changing) Us : You Tube and the Politics of Authenticity," Michael Wesch explains the advantages and disadvantages developing with new media interactions:
new ways of relating to others
•new ways of knowing ourselves
narcissistic interest
instant desires combined with disenchantment
•contained media-think

Welsch explains that rather than authentically communicating with one another, we are interacting with machines. This comic segment below from E! shows celebrity stylist Rachel Zoe speaking via cell phone to people in the same room.

Not only are we decreasing in authentic communication with one another, we are increasing in self-interest. Websites, Facebook, Blogs and Twitter are used for self-promotion and can generate a false sense of self-importance and a shallow, quick byte understanding of others.

We are now willingly, publicly revealing ourselves with new media. The idea of continually exposing our innermost thoughts is socially unprecedented. Wim Wender's film Der Himmel über Berlin (Wings of Desire, 1987) from just 2 decades ago, featured a famous subway scene in which only an angel could hear what people were really thinking.

Now on Twitter, anyone can have a window into anyone else's soul. For example, Douglas Coupland, author of Generation X, comments on a feeling of not feeling, while days before he was laughing at flamethrowers on YouTube. Twitter commentary varies from blatant self promotion, as with astronaut Buzz Aldrin, to corporate promotion like the NYTimes (which has gift ideas for the inner child with everything). Even a dog's owner has decided to post for him. Some people consider new media a type of democratization. However with only 1.6 billion people regularly using the internet, 5 million are disconnected. There is also the question if using new media can break through existing social barriers. While it is true that many small voices have received recognition, the most followed Tweets and blogs are those that belong to celebrities and corporations.

New media rules: We are witnessing a fast moving era of social communication that has no established rules. Margaret Mason created her book, "No One Cares What You Had for Lunch," to provide an Emily Post meets Dale Carnegie self-help for bloggers and their style of communication.

New media content: The question of content is the relevance and social influence of what is expressed with new media. The Pew Research Center for Excellence in Journalism has created a New Media Index that follows content. They closely analyzed the content of blogs versus mainstream media during the first week of Obama in office and found that blogs gave more subjective responses to the inaugaration while mainstream media focused on the economy. Pikanews is a similar European website for surveying old and new media. It allows users to enter topics and scan both journalism and blogs and other content.

New media authorities: Because new media is largely independent, subjective and unlimited, the result is anyone can be an authority of anything. The "new media tastemakers" include teenage girls influencing the fashion industry to shared sites that give popularity ratings through voting.

New media and business as usual: In response to consumer independence and tastemaking websites, businesses are utilizing new media strategically. Below is one model that suggests businesses integrate all new media, from putting staff on hourly Twitter updates to connecting their Facebook, blog, website and email newsletters.

In 1984, Billy Idol appeared in an MTV commercial stating, "Too Much is Never Enough." We can ask that of unlimited digitized new media, what is the limit? Will people ever want less options or limited means of communicating?

New media and television: Pappathanassopoulos describes that television and the internet are converging into screen culture. TV websites began as auxiliary and are slowly providing the same thing as the internet. TV websites are an advantage to channels because they add archiving and a more global audience.

Many European media platforms began offering interactivity in the 1990’s and like the US, the EU will cease analog. The author concludes by suggesting that “The European viewer has gone from being a silent citizen to a valuable consumer." A valued consumer is still anonymous however. Part of new media is not only having options but gaining an individual voice and influence, which of course is also a question for politics.

New media and politics: Alec Charles discussed the E-state of Estonia in "New Media, New Europe: Estonia’s E-mediated State."

Charles states, “Technology becomes a tool to reinforce existing power structures.” Educational and class differences in voting are increased in e-elections. Estonia is a country that went directly from isolation into pc banking and e-government. While it was rated favorably for economic and media growth, only 50% of citizens access the internet. In 2007, they held the first ever full scale internet election from homes or access points, with results favoring the preference of the educated. The election created questions of a new Europe and new world that would be driven by new media.

Estonia was considered an old world Russian-Nordic fishing community. Since its independence it has joined Eurovision and generated new media like Skype. The e-election showed photos like the one above, with seniors demonstrating card readers and e-voting publicly. By contrast, computerless peasants like those featured below, dominate Estonia outside of Tallin.

New media Vs. the old world: Conversational cafe society, historic political conflicts, traditional ways of doing things and old machinery, are just some of the European aspects surrounding new media. The more that governments go electronic and corporations do e-business, the less we interact with power directly. In order to truly achieve egalitarian social participation with new media, it must be expanded to include as many people as possible all along the way, for the best of all possible solutions.

Solio: Bringing solar power to the people!
Solio is a company that has created global chargers for new media devices. Only one hour of sunshine gives 20 hours of Ipod use! For every Solio charger that is purchased a Solio charger is provided to a family in global poverty who may be living with little or no electricity.