What is citizen journalism?

According to the Oxford Dictionary citizen journalism is “the collection, dissemination, and analysis of news and information by the general public, especially by means of the Internet”.
As first said by Pierre levy, the main theme of citizen journalism is that “nobody knows everything, but everybody knows something”. Authority is the essence of gatekeeping, and citizen journalism is the absence of authority. It is an open process, with no closure and is continuously under development due to advancing technology.

There are many benefits to citizen journalism. Professional reporters cannot be everywhere, especially if the event is breaking news and they don’t know about it yet. This is where citizen journalists come in and use the internet to alert the general public and the media, while also being able to provide images or recordings of the event. This was certainly the case with a helicopter crash in London earlier this year. The incident occurred at around 8am on January 23rd and almost immediately citizen journalists we tweeting about the accident, while it took news agencies about 15 minutes to pick up on the news. The first video of the accident was posted online within ten minutes of it occurring, and news broadcasts were using mainly this footage for several hours after the incident occurred.

Follow this link for a great video on how citizen journalism affected the spread of information about the London helicopter crash.

While I think citizen journalism can be advantageous, such as the fact that it is free of government and military agenda and censorship, there are also some disadvantages or criticisms. For example, many citizen journalists don’t have the vast resources on hand to fact check their information like the news companies do. Most of the time people assume that the information on a professional news broadcast has been verified and is true, whereas citizen journalism cannot always assumed to be fact. This was also apparent in the case previously mentioned, people were posting information online and telling everyone it was a terrorist attack. Metropolitan police later identified there were no suspicious details, leaving those who cried terrorist looking like fools.

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Reflection of bcm110 so far

When we all sat in the lecture hall for our first bcm110 lecture 6 weeks ago, I was extremely nervous. I didn’t know too much about the media or the different issues surrounding it but was eager to learn. I have never done anything like blogging before, so when we were told that was our first assignment I freaked out a little. I mean, I’ve got a Facebook account but I’m more of a silent scroller, reading what everyone else is up to and watching the funny videos but rarely posting a status or commenting on something. I’ve noticed though, since starting the blogging assessments for this subject and bcm112, I have become a bit more vocal in posting statuses and presenting my opinion more regularly. One thing I enjoyed about the blog assignment was that we were able to read other people’s work and see how their opinions differ to our own, while also getting tips on writing style from our peers.

Throughout the last couple of weeks we have been focusing on many media related topics including, the concept of media effects, semiotics, media ownership regulation and control and the public sphere. For me, the most interesting was the lecture in media effects. I love analysis what causes someone to say or do something in particular so this topic was definitely a favourite. The one I least liked was last weeks because I still don’t quite understand the notion of the public sphere. I know the definition and we discussed it in the tutorial but I feel like its a topic I know the least about.

I have learnt so much in the last six weeks, and I have enjoyed every moment of it. This is definitely my favourite subject this semester and that is partly because of the content but also because of Sue. She is such a great lecturer and I’m sure she could make even calculus seem fun.

What is the public sphere?

According to Jurgen Habermas, a German philosopher, the public sphere is “a domain of our social life where such a thing as public opinion can be formed (where) citizens…deal with matters of general interest without being subject to coercion…(to) express and publicise their views” (Habermas, 1997:105). Basically the public sphere is a metaphor for the place where members of society gather to discuss the news of the community, and the social, cultural and political issues they face.

In “The Public Sphere: An introduction”, author Alan McKee dictates the pros and cons of the public sphere. Some of the points McKee made included that the public sphere is useful for understanding how societies are organised and how ‘liberal’ societies function, it is a useful metaphor because it makes us think about the role ordinary people play in the creation of culture, and it also reminds us that representations in the media aren’t always reality some criticisms of the public sphere or causes for concern are that the media is too commercialised, trivialises issues, concentrates too much on spectacle rather than rational arguments and is too fragmented which is causing citizens to become too apathetic about some important issues. There are two main sides in the debate on the public sphere, one is that the public sphere has been degraded by consumer capitalism, and the other is that it has been enhanced by a changing society and the creation of new public spheres or spaces.

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When the tv show “My big fat gypsy wedding” first aired in the UK, it’s aim was to shine a light on a little understood section of the community, with the first season attracting 7 million viewers. Each episode of the show follows one or two families who are having a big event, usually a wedding but also sometimes christenings. These gypsies or travellers are portrayed as being not poor but they are shown to live in caravans rather than houses so some people see them as being lower class. The events shown in the program are always very flashy and some of the wedding the dresses are over the top and amazing. The “spectacle” includes teenage brides and grooms, elaborate dresses that can weigh in at more than 70 pounds (including one that lights up in the dark), bouffant hairdos, spray tans, stretch limos, and scantily clad female guests.
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However, the controversy around this show is growing steadily. Some members of the travelling community believe gypsies are being shown in a negative way which breeds negative connotations. according to the UK Guardian “The London Gypsy and Traveller Unit lodged a complaint with the Advertising Standards Authority arguing that Channel 4’s marketing of the show was offensive and racist.” Meanwhile some people are shocked by the sexism in these communities, eg. The practice of ‘grabbing‘, where men engage in grabbing a girl and dragging her away to try and kiss her. This is an insisted upon courtship ritual in the travelling community. According to an article on newrepublic.com “To watch “My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding” is to see Travellers and Roma as uneducated, flashy, and closed-minded people who live in mobile-home parks and throw enormous parties”. The article also states that the show portrays travellers and Roma as one group rather than clearly identifying the two groups and their origins, which is seen as offensive to both communities,

A women’s role in a gypsy household is to cook, clean, look after the children and basically do whatever her husband tell her. They are usually not allowed to work and most can’t because they leave school between the ages of 10 and 14 so most are illiterate. The episodes show a girl getting her dream wedding with a sparkly princess dress, but they don’t always get the ‘happily ever after’.

Media ownership and control

Media users these days are evolving into a hybrid of a consumer and producer: prosumer. Being a prosumer involves, file sharing, creating blogs and video posts etc. which is creating a dilemma for the media industry because if people are producing their own content, there is less demand for content produced by high profile companies. Meanwhile there is a decline in the diversity of media ownership, more commonly, people who own media platforms such as newspapers, television stations or the larger companies that own them, have ownership stakes in more than one. Therefore there is less share percentage left for the ‘little guy’ or individual to buy. But why does it matter who owns the media we consume?

Media ownership means that very few organisations or conglomerates have control over the majority of media. Many smaller organisations are owned by these large corporations and therefore controlled by them. The six largest media conglomerates include Walt Disney, News Corporation, Comcast, CBS, Time Warner and Viacom. Each of these control multiple smaller companies with various roles in the media industry eg. TV/radio stations, newspapers and publishing companies.

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These conglomerates have produces cooperation between their various sub branches or companies, such as cross promotion. This occurs when one conglomerate promotes their products through their own media outlets. A great example of this is when watching channel eleven and a commercial for a program shown on channel ten is aired, such as “the project”. This happens because Ten Network Holdings has ownership over 2/3 of channel eleven, with CBS Studios owning the remaining third. Channel eleven advertises channel ten shows because they are told to by the ‘parent company’.

One problem with media ownership today is that because many smaller media outlets are owned by one ‘parent company’ their stories may also be presented with the same bias. This means that the people who consume any of the media produced by the conglomerate are getting the news presented to them in the way that the owner views it, or the side they take in a particular debate. In cases such as this, the presentation could be biased, or they might decline to run a story purely because the owner doesn’t agree with it.

Every formal media message an audience receives is controlled by a conglomerate who decides what information we get, where from and from what perspective. People should remember to keep an open mind and look deeper into an issue or article to see all the perspectives before they make an irrational judgement on it.

The image cannot lie: representation and interpretation

Semiotics is the study of signs, symbols and their use and interpretation. A sign is anything that conveys meaning and is divided into two parts, the signifier and the signified. A signifier is anything that gives meaning, such as a word or image. The signified is the mental concept or emotion that is evoked by the signifier. In semiotics, denotation and connotation are two terms used to describe the relationship between the signifier and signified, and a distinction is made between the denotative signified and the connotative signified. Denotation is said to be the literal or obvious meaning of a sign, while connotation is the personal, ideological or emotional associations of the sign. The connotation of a specific image on an individual is different for everyone based on their age, gender, life experiences etc.

While researching controversial advertisements this week, I came across one in particular that struck a chord with me. In 2008, CONAC: Chilean corporation against cancer advertised their campaign with a specific image and slogan.

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The little boy in this campaign looks to be suffocating with a plastic bag over his head. Looking more closely you can see it is actually cigarette smoke that is causing him to suffocate. There have been various responses to this campaign, some positive: “A plastic bag over the head gives me the willies but I sat up and took notice. Message received”. While others have been more negative: “Since when are images of innocent children suffering appealing to the target audience…it portrays this organisation as killers rather than one who is trying to save children”. I think the aim of the corporation when designing this advertisement, or the denotation, was ultimately to encourage people to stop smoking by shocking them with this confronting image and the related text “smoking isn’t just suicide. It’s murder”. The connotation of this image Is the possible or probable effects a parents smoking will have on their children, and the reference to murder would only increase their guilt.

Another controversial advertisement I researched is also from 2008 and is related to the Victorian government and their views on abortion. The advertising standards bureau (ASB) processed two particular cases regarding complaints about campaigns presented by the Tell the truth coalition, a pamphlet and a television commercial. Both campaigns featured images of human foetuses in various stages of development which aimed to shock the audience. The pamphlet also contained details of the development of a foetus, comments from women who have had counselling after an abortion, and of the health and psychological problems suffered by these women. All complaint made to the ASB were in reference to the graphic images shown and the way the textual content affected women who have lost their children, by choice or not. While researching these advertisements, the only original content I could find was an image of one section of the pamphlet, which I have edited to crop out one of the images that may have offended the audience.

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I’m assuming there is still record of the original advertisements, but based on the complaints detailed in the ASB reports of both the pamphlet and tv ad, I’d rather not see them. The denotation of these advertisements is to condemn the legalisation of abortion proposed by the Victorian government, the connotations of both campaigns affects not only people who have had abortions and their families, but also those people who have had miscarriages or lost their baby to no fault of their own. They are forced to re-live the trauma of their own experience and many complaints referred to the possibility of their children seeing the ad and the psychological effects it could have on them.

The evolution of the audience

Being part of an audience used to mean that you would be constantly consuming what other people were telling you. If there was a breaking story you would see it on the television, hear it on the radio or read it in the newspaper, and people would gather to gossip about the current events and voice their opinion.

Since the introduction of the internet, there has been a shift in the way the audience is seen my media conglomerates and also how the audience sees themselves. An audience that was once passive and concentrated on only consuming information, has evolved into active responders who not only consume information but are also involved in producing and sharing. The old style of information broadcasting as known as monologic, where everything you are being told is controlled by gatekeepers. They could be the publisher, a government censor etc. but either way, they restrict access to information. The reinvented information broadcasting approach is unmistakably dialogic. This style promotes two sided conversation and discussion, and is strongly influenced by the realisation of “the people formerly known as the audience”(Jay Rosen) that their voices or opinions can be heard. The same message or information is received by the audience, but now it is mostly digital. This means if someone reads a news york times article online, if they have an opinion on the subject they can post a comment on the site for potentially the whole world to see. This opinion is broadcast instantaneously, and there are either no gatekeepers or weak ones who hold little power against the digital culture of today.

Not only can people now comment on what other people produce, they are able to participate in the production of media sources. Everyone wants their voice to be heard and it seems like today’s digital generation of people are all fighting for the microphone. With the increase in social media sites whose aim is to share information, pictures and videos, everyone’s a content producer. The line between consumer and producer has become blurred, creating whats called a prosumer. Someone who produces content for consumption, but also is a consumer themselves.

I thought this short clip was pretty cool so I though id put it up for you guys to see.
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Open and closed technologies: Apple vs Android

Society is often debating on the subject of open and closed platforms, with the most publicised war being between Apple and Android.

Apple products are known to be closed devices, or a walled garden of opportunity. Which basically means that Apple has complete control over the platform, content and the user. Android products on the other hand are open devices, or an unwalled garden of opportunity. These devices are open and free, meaning that anyone can access and modify the code, and there is no control over the platform, content or user.

The creation of the iPod in 2001 revolutionised the way we listened to music. There were other types of MP3 players available before the iPod came out but they didn’t seem to be very popular, and neither was the iPod at first. It was only when it was made compatible to Windows that sales really took off. Then came the iPhone in 2007 and the iPad in 2010, apple’s sales were spiking every time a new product or generation was brought out. But what i want to know is why is it so popular? I suppose some people like the simplicity of the devices and the ease with which they can be navigated. Then i believe there are others who want the devices purely because other people own them and they want to follow the crowd.

Android devices have played an important part in the individualisation of the smartphone. The fact that android allows the rooting of OS, means that you can have complete control over the hardware and software. While Apple products are developed with the ideology of permission culture, indicating that they are limiting our options for our own good, android devices are developed based on an open culture and the idea that we take responsibility for our own free choices. This shows the unwalled garden approach that android has. You can have a beautiful, diverse garden of apps, layouts, settings etc. but there are no brick walls to block the flow of creativity or content.

I have to be honest here, I owned an iPod nano, and I still own an iPod touch and an iPad. However, I don’t have a MacBook, or an iPhone, I have an Asus laptop and a Samsung galaxy SII. So as you can probably tell, I’m a fence sitter. I love to fence sit because I don’t like decisions and I’m one of those people who sees the glass both half full and half empty. I can see the benefits of apple products and the convenience they provide with the iTunes Store and the simplified device management. On the other hand, I can also see the positives side of android devices, such as having the ability to create your own apps, and the fact that the creation of apps is only limited by the skills and marketing strategies of the developer.

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