Diasporic Media

Bend it Like Beckham engages with the British national passion of football and the British popular cultural icon of David Beckham in order to subvert the expectations of the South Asian diaspora in Britain. The second-generation British Asian nucleus within the film epitomizes the hybrid nature of contemporary British national identity and complexities of multiculturalism. The concept of convivial multi-culture concerns multiculturalism within urban youth culture and an understanding and accepting of difference. It pertains to an embracing of the potential and the possibility of a British identity, which emerges from everyday contact. The concepts of plurality, diversity and difference are included within the framework of British identity, but there is also the recognition of the possibility of the conflicts and tensions that arise between the clash of cultures.

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The complexities of life lived with the dual cultural influences are embodied within the character of Jess. Her name functions as a semiotic signifier of her self, since she condenses her name from the traditional Indian name of Jesminder to the more British abbreviation of Jess. Her name thus reflects her hybridized nationality.

In terms of the Asian family unit, her mother remains the oppositional power to her demands, refusing to accept her passion for the British sporting tradition of football. Her desire to become a footballer is posited as a threat to femininity and a resisting of the traditional roles afforded to women within the oppressive patriarchal community, and marks the cultural difference between the two generations. She does not conform to the patriarchal societal demands of the diasporic South Asian culture. Jess utilizes the line, which has become the tag line of the film for marketing purposes, ‘Who wants to cook Aloo Gobi, when you can bend a ball like Beckham?’. This line expresses her desire to embrace the British culture, but it also highlights at the same time the difficulties of embodying a hybrid identity and belonging to two cultures. These are the two polarities that the hyphenated British Asian must negotiate in order to satisfy her hybrid cultural identity.

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Digital Rights Management

Piracy of digital content is regarded as a serious problem by content companies. Digital Rights Management (DRM) is considered a potential solution to this problem, but I believe that given the current and foreseeable state of technology the content protection features of DRM are not effective at combating piracy. The key problem is that if even a small fraction of users are able to transform content from a protected to an unprotected form, then illegitimate distribution networks are likely to make that content available ubiquitously.

It is, however, entirely feasible that DRM could at least partially affect piracy. The software industry is currently experiencing a 40% software piracy rate. Nevertheless, the software industry by all accounts appears to be thriving. Media and entertainment companies may face a similar challenge. If piracy could be decreased by just a few percentage points using DRM, then this might translate into millions of dollars of otherwise unrealized revenue. But according to Defective by Design (2014), DRM does not come without a price. First there is the cost of building, deploying and maintaining a DRM infrastructure, which will eat into whatever unrealized revenues are recovered. Second, DRM protected content is economically less valuable than unprotected content. Therefore, deploying DRM will result in fewer sales of legitimate content, which also might offset some of the revenues gained by decreasing piracy. The question is whether or not the benefits of DRM outweigh its costs.

Unauthorized use and unauthorized acquisition are two aspects of piracy that DRM technology aims to address, however, the real problem with piracy is that it only takes a small fraction of users who are capable of dissociating licenses from content to make managed content available to a significant fraction of users in unmanaged form. According to Lessig (2006) current technological measures will never be able to completely stop the illegitimate distribution of pirated content and that content producers must take steps to compete with the piracy as an alternative. Regardless of whether or not DRM can be effectively used as a risk management component, content producers regard themselves as being in competition with the pirates. Therein lies the biggest promotion of piracy. It’s called show business for a reason. Content producers and distributors primary concern is to maximize the value of intellectual property, not to protect it for the sake of protection.

 

 

References

 

Lessig, L 2006,  “Intellectual Property,” Code version 2.0, New York: Basic Books, New York, pp. 169-200.

 

2014, What is DRM?, Defective by Design, viewed 18 May 2014, <http://www.defectivebydesign.org/>

Globalization and Mass Media

The mass media play a major role in enhancing globalization, facilitating culture exchange and multiple flows of information and image between countries through international news broadcasts, television programming, new technologies, film and music. International flows of information have been largely assisted by the development of global capitalism, new technologies and the increasing commercialisation of global television, which has occurred as a consequence of the deregulation policies adopted by various countries in Europe and the US in order to permit the proliferation of cable and satellite channels.

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Computerized technology, satellite TV and the Internet have also contributed to the reduction of the cost of communications, stimulating home-made productions and gradually widening the access of many to these technologies. The impact of technologies on everyday life has shown how the Internet has revolutionized international information exchange due to its ability in moving data across borders. The Internet has become well suited for the expanding individualism of contemporary reality, with consumers using the web to create their own content and distribute it to global audiences. The Internet is also seen as strengthening the cultural identities of diasporic peoples, as well as assisting in social networking and in forging ties with like-minded individuals, social groups and various communities across the globe.

In contrast to other communication media, the Internet has been the fastest-growing sector of the media. The expansion of the Internet has been enormous: there were 20 million users in 1995 and 400 million by the year 2000. By 2006, the Internet was considered a global medium, jumping from reaching 3% of the world’s population to more than 15%, mostly in the developed countries, with North America having a penetration rate of 30% and Europe and the Asia-Pacific with 30% as well.

Media corporations have been heavily investing in the convergence between the Internet and television and in communication strategies that operate across platforms. American Online and Time Warner for instance merged in 2000 to create an Internet-based media giant which brought together both the old and new media, including film, television, radio, publishing and computing. Giant web portals have also emerged and are contributing to concentrate information, access and profits, with Google “revolutionizing” the way information is processed and used across the world.

Internet Vs Traditional Media Regulations

When discussing media regulations in Australia, the primary difference between Internet and traditional broadcast media is that current ACMA laws simply cannot accommodate for emerging technologies and media platforms. The fact remains that the Internet cannot be regulated by the same means as broadcast and print media – to attempt to do so is both technologically infeasible and ethically unsound. As an international media channel The Internet is fundamentally different from broadcast media. It is a global community that is already ten times larger, more complex, more diverse and more interdependent than all the Australian cities combined. The Australian governments have not sought to impose censorship regimes upon any of the other conversational media due the obvious social and technological obstacles that such censorship would encounter, the same obstacle that prevent them from regulating Internet content.

Green, Hartley & Lumby (2009) argue that most of the information accessible on the Australian Internet is originated by foreign sites, which cannot be controlled by Australian laws. Information is propagated on the Internet with extreme rapidity. The very nature of the Internet is to copy data and with the added bonus of social media sharing capabilities media postings can be read by hundreds of thousands of people within hours of orientation. No complaints body can be expected to act with sufficient speed to prevent the worldwide dissemination of unclassified material originating at Australian Internet sites. Local users cannot be restricted from employing encryption and anonymity services without severe commercial losses to Australia. Yet these services remove any possibility of certainly determining responsibility for offensive material.

Legislation to restrict the rights of Australians to employ strong cryptography could not be effective against criminals, but it would criminalize all corporate electronic security and individual privacy in electronic media. Authentication standards on the Internet are very poor. It is ridiculously easy for one user to convincingly masquerade as another. So easy, in fact, that most people can do this without violating any system security or knowing very much about computers at all. While reliable voluntary authentication can be achieved on the net, there is no technology in existence that will enforce mandatory authentication on the net. These technological realities represent severe constraints on the ability of legislation to enforce any censorship regime on the Internet.

 

 

References

 

2014, Internet Regulation, Australian Communications and Media Authority, viewed 9 May 2014,

<http://www.acma.gov.au/theACMA/About/The-ACMA-story/Regulating>

 

Green, L & Hartley, J & Lumby, C 2009, Untangling the Net: The Scope of Content Caught by Mandatory Internet Filtering. CCI, viewed 9 May 2014,

<http://www.cci.edu.au/sites/default/files/alawrence/untanglingthenet_report.pdf>

Orientalism in Film

Hollywood is nothing if not reactionary. Of course, all storytelling, no matter the medium, tends to be a reaction to experiences, a way of transforming the personal into the broadly intelligible. Yet Hollywood stands out from literature, music, and most television for its insistence on reacting to the same political and social stimuli for decades. However, no group provides more fodder for Hollywood’s regressive stereotyping machine than Muslims, and recent media representations has shown that this is unlikely to change any time soon.

It has been nearly thirteen years since 9/11 and more than thirty years since the Iranian hostage crisis, but two of the most lauded films from 2012, Zero Dark Thirty and Argo displayed little, if any, new perspective on either event. Rather, both films explain the antagonism between the Western and Muslim world with the same ignorant mentality; “they hate our freedoms.”

While it may make for an easy catchphrase, it obviates the West’s history of imperialism, political subversion, and exploitation throughout the Middle East. In Zero Dark Thirty, for example, Muslim characters are presented as an undifferentiated mass of enemies, bearded or burqa’d objects to be mined — through torture — for information about Osama Bin Laden. Their reasons for fighting are unimportant; they have no agency.

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Even the highly esteemed children’s media conglomerate Disney is guilty of employing lazy Arab and Muslim stereotypes. In the first minute of the 1992 film Aladdin, the theme song declared that Aladdin hailed “from a faraway place, where the caravan camels roam, where they cut off your ear if they don’t like your face. It’s barbaric, but hey, it’s home.” Disney changed the lyrics to the opening song of “Aladdin” in the home video release of the film after Arab-American groups blasted the original version as stereotypical. But the theme song wasn’t the only problem Arab advocacy groups had with the film. There was also the scene in which an Arab merchant intended to hack off the hand of a woman for stealing food for her starving child. To boot, Arab-American groups took issue with the rendering of Middle Easterners in the film, as many were drawn grotesquely, “with huge noses and sinister eyes,” the Seattle Times noted in 1993.

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Through all forms of media Westerners have stereotyped Arabs as barbaric since the days of the Crusades. “These are the terrible people who captured Jerusalem and who had to be thrown out of the Holy City.” The stereotype of the barbaric Arab has seeped into Western culture over hundreds of years and can even be found in the works of Shakespeare. This creates the impression that the entire Muslim world is barbaric, and is barbaric because of Islam.

In general, Muslims in Hollywood cinema exist as one-dimensional characters: ignorant menaces hell-bent on kidnapping or killing as many Westerners in service of their exotic, violent god. Edward Said famously coined the term “Orientalism” to describe the cultural practice of transforming those from eastern cultures — both Asian and Middle Eastern — into the “Other”. Orientalism in film presents exotic characters created from a Western political and social bias to simultaneously elicit a strong reaction against Eastern culture while reaffirming American and European values. Simply put: white hero defeats a nameless horde of copper-skinned bad guys, and white audience feels better about themselves.

Movies have always been, and will always be, about wish fulfillment. The most successful movies transform our fears into fantasies, and remind us that at our best the human experience can be a collective one, unencumbered by nationality, ethnicity, politics or religion. But before a film can deliver that wish, it must be unencumbered by stereotype, Muslim or otherwise. Such a film must not react, but instead predict.

Social Media Practices

In our information-rich world, activist and advocacy groups trying to get attention for particular causes increasingly rely on social media as a means of building support. Forms of advocacy urging users to “like” or “share” posts, pages, videos, etc on social networking sites are often referred to as “slacktivism” or “armchair activism”. Slacktivism is a term for giving token support for a cause, like wearing a pin or “liking” something on Facebook, without being willing to engage in more meaningful support, like donating time or money.  These activities pose minimal cost, time and effort to participants. One click to like, retweet, or share and the slacktivist feels as if they have contributed to the cause, when in reality they don’t even have to move from behind the screen of their electronic device.

However according to Howard (2008), Advocating for a cause on social media does not automatically make you a slacktivist and this sort of online activism is not necessarily a bad thing. Social media allows users to organize, network and share what they’re passionate about in a way that wasn’t previously available and the ability to communicate quickly and on a global scale enables the spread of knowledge. It’s now easier than ever to learn about causes and share information. Citizen journalists, tweeters, and Facebook users across the globe certainly serve us by erasing divisions based on gender, religion, race, and nationality, but the unfortunate truth remains that these so-called “slacktivists” rarely take any real further action when they go offline. Someone who “likes” a cause on Facebook wouldn’t be any more likely to donate in the future than someone who had no exposure to the cause at all.

Social media isn’t the be all and end all when it comes to activism, it is simply a platform through which people can connect and raise awareness for certain issues. Social networking sites, primarily, Facebook and Twitter need to be seen as more of a relationship-building tool rather than a fundraising tools (Earnhardt 2013). By themselves they do little to further social causes but people are more likely to participate when they see what their network cares about and decides to care about it too. For example the more exposure an issue receives the higher the chances of gaining support just like you are more likely to support a campaign if your friends and family are endorsing it.

 

 

References

 

Howard, R. G 2008, “The Vernacular Web of Participatory Media”, Critical Studies in Media Communication, Vol. 25, No. 5, pp. 490-513.

 

Earnhardt, J 2013, Cisco Social Media Policy, Cisco Blogs, Weblog post, 15 June, viewed 9 May 2014, <https://blogs.cisco.com/news/cisco_social_media_guidelines_policies_and_faq/>.