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10/3-10/17/01 | 10/24/01 | 10/31/01 | 11/7/01 | 11/14/01 | 11/21/01
Group discussions during this period took place primarily in the form of email among group members.
Link to email texts.
Discussion Topic: Media Framework
Group Leader: Annie Zeidman
How do we know what we know from mass media? This week's topic centered on different media views and frameworks of information. We considered the following news agencies and how they chose to cover a similar story:
1. Humanitarian Aid to Afghanistan
Los Angeles Times
New York Times - opinion piece
Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting From The Observer (U.K) by way of Znet.org
By looking at the above articles, we discussed the slant that each agency took. Generally, the pieces were non-objective if not outright opinion pieces. We also discussed and tried to speculate how Middle Eastern publications might frame their information regarding the war. This questioned segued into a discussion on the second set of readings for this week's meeting.
2. Understanding Islam/the East and the media:
Said, Edward W. "The Clash of Ignorance." Nation v273, n12 (Oct 22, 2001):11.
This is a recent article by Edward W. Said, a professor at Columbia of English and Comparative Literature in which he talks about how the East and the West are set up (falsely) as opposites. This is a more current take on one of the important points he made in his 1981 book Covering Islam: How the Media and the Experts Determine How We See The Rest of the World. In examining Said's piece, we further discussed and reiterated the fact that there is more than one "Islam" perspective and much as there is more than one American perspective that is being portrayed in reports and news stories.
3. Understanding popular music and the media
Rose, Trisha. "Rap music and the demonization of young black males." (The United States of Violence: A Special Section) (Cover Story), USA Today (Magazine), May 1994 v122 n2588 p35(2).
In this reading, our group considered how Trisha Rose addresses rap culture and how it's portrayed in the popular culture.
4. Visual art and the media
By examining the book, The Guerrilla Girls' Bedside Companion to the history of Western Art, we were provided with a funny and decidedly different view of art history.
At the end of the meeting we had more examples stressing the idea that there are different sided to everything and as those who will deal with massive amounts of information on a daily basis, we need to aware that these varying sides and viewpoints exist, as well as where we can look to find dynamic discourse about a particular topic, event or phenomenon.
Group then decided that Jennifer Sweeney will be the group leader for next week's meeting 10/31/01. Her topic will be on privacy issue and the media.
Discussion Topic: Technology and Privacy
Group Leader: Jennifer Sweeney
Present: All focus group members (Janet Kaaya, Liza Posas, Shauna Redmond, Jennifer Sweeney and Annie Zeidman).
Jennifer led the discussion in relation to her individual topic, "Perception of privacy in the media", and Janet took notes.
Proceedings: The group discussed interactive TV (iTV), its role as a source of information and increasing concern regarding this medium's threat to individual's personal privacy. This is because, like the Internet-based information, marketers get peoples' profiles and data in their quest for targeting individual consumers. According to Center for Digital Democracy's article that was published in Advertising Age of July 9, 2001, "the model that these companies are following combines the worst aspects of the Internet and mass media, as the new systems are being designed to track not only every activity of users as they surf the Net, but also the programs and commercials they watch … iTV data-collection practices … new threat to personal privacy in America". However, this is more common on the Internet where cookies are used to track surfers' personal data, the group noted, referring to Dave Gussow's article, "Privacy vs convenience", published in Los Angeles Times of May 14, 2001.
In the final analysis, the group observed that under current laws, nothing could be done about this concern. People are rather getting along with it mainly because they don't have time to follow up lengthy court cases that, after all, end up in favor of business corporations or settlements made out of courts. As such, many cases on privacy issues do not yield any payoff for the victims, with examples cited in Edmund Sander's article published in Los Angeles Times of May 6, 2001, "Cases not yielding much payoff: Consumers: With laws predating he Internet, suits alleging misuse of personal data don't have much legal ground to stand on". The group also discussed controversies surrounding new federal rules that protect the privacy of individual's medical records and which comes into effect in 2002. The Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) is particularly advocating the importance of providing information relating to safety or health issues to the public, contending that the new privacy rules ignore these issues. The group agrees with SPJ that the medical privacy rules should give some provisions for releasing information that is of utmost public interest. Finally the group briefly discussed about possible implications of the new Patriot Act and expressed concern that the Act might undermine personal privacy as well intellectual freedom.
Discussion Topic: Mass Media vs. Alternative Views and Herman and Chomsky's "Propaganda Model"
Group Leader: Shauna Redmond
The readings for this topic illustrated the stark factual and perceptual differences among mainstream news media in different parts of the world, and demonstrated the Chomsky/Herman filters quite well. Some of the issues we discussed included how the media influences what we know about events and how we feel about them—and perhaps govern our behavior. How do we recognize or evaluate the authenticity of sources? A critical step lies in recognizing the existence of the filtering mechanisms.
Bringing the topic closer to home, what responsibility do librarians have in providing access to alternative—i.e. unfiltered—news or other information? Some libraries provide access to websites with a multitude of views. Given the events of September 11, this topic also serves to highlight an emerging sense of a disconnect between what our country “stands for” and what individuals “want” as private citizens. Muddying our consciousness of this emerging sense are the deliberate attempts by the media to distract the public’s attention from larger issues with detailed information on inconsequential events or perceptions.
Discussion Topic: Media Access Restriction and Censorship During War
Group Leader: Janet Kaaya
[Readings for this meeting were chosen from Janet's list of resources for her individual paper.]
We liked the readings quite a lot and had a spirited and passionate discussion about the topics that frustrated us. We found it interesting how the media reports used words like “secretive” to hide the fact that they weren’t fully reporting the story. Many of us were struck by how much censorship is happening, but we’re not really aware of it. We also found it frustrating that “American” seemed to mean something right-wing. We are sort of a cynical group, as evidenced by our reaction to our supposed right to freedom of speech ? as long as you don’t say too much.
The Radio scripts were especially provocative. One passage about the destruction in the US failed to mention how the US did the same thing to other countries. How dare we bomb a whole country to bring down the Taliban, which the US helped establish. We noted too, that the US government wants to have censorship in other countries.
In light of the recent articles about the power of words in the weekly class readings, we had an interesting discussion about language and translation and what gets lost. We also talked about how, when translating, its possible to create tensions and bad feelings as a result of the misunderstandings in the translations.
The group agreed that the expanded powers of the US presidency are scary, that communication among government organizations has not gotten better, but worse (if that’s possible), and that the US PATRIOT act was annoyingly badly named. And the new special secret courts to try “terrorists” were also incredibly frightening.
Discussion Topic: Mass Media and Cultural Exploitation
Group Leader: Anna Liza Posas
Present: Liza Posas, Shauna Redmond, Annie Zeidman & Janet Kaaya.
Liza led the discussion in relation to the readings she had previously distributed to group members, and Janet took notes. Liza's individual topic is "Cultural representation and views in media and popular culture, past and present."
Proceedings: The group discussion focused on three areas:
1. Cartoons and how their past racial insensitivities affect us today
a) Two brief articles on Cartoon Network's "June Bugs", a 49-hour Bug Bunny marathon (see attachment, '2bugs.doc').
b) A cartoon clip from the early days of animation found in LOC's American Memory collection:
"Bobby Bumps starts a lodge" in the Alphabetical Title List at http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/oahtml/oahome.html
The group observed that, initially, cartoon creators tended to be ignorant of how their images now depict racist perceptions and generally, culturally offensive. It is thus important that parents explain to their kids about racist perceptions of the past and their current repercussions. The artistic images are just creating money but are not preserving actual people's culture.
2. Current representation of minorities in television and music
a) Television - the dearth of minority faces on the air begins at the writing and casting phase, where characters are usually assumed to be white, by Dana Calvo, Los Angeles Times, November 20, 1999.
b) SAG report cites rise in black acting roles despite overall downturn for minorities, Screen Actors Guild Jet 99(5): 62, January 2001.
c) Websites regarding the FCC suit against Sarah Jones rappist, spoken word artist and feminist.
The group observed that the roles of African Americans on TV and music have increased in recent years (as opposed to Asians and Latinos) but generally, the representation of minorities is not proportional to their numbers in the population. This is because studios are not developing shows to cater for the minority communities. Besides, their roles do not depict their cultural focus; for example, the media use of a famous comedian, Margaret Cho, an Asian American: her role does not fit the stereotype of Asian American. Also, the media construction of the cultural images of the minorities (e.g. the rap culture) indicates portrayal of ignorance, prejudice, and other social vices. The group further discussed Sarah Jones' revolutionary song, and the situation in which people could play her music: depending on the popular culture, some aspects of her music can either be acceptable or not acceptable at all.
3. Pacific Island representation
a) Article by Huanani Traskit in which she mentions 'hula-hula' girls and the cultural prostitution of the Hawaiians (see attachment '1pacific.doc').
b) Tiki room website and images portrayed there:
The group discussed at length the stereotypes of the indigenous Polynesian people of the Pacific, focusing on the culture of the Hawaiian people (the media has rendered it a commodity culture). As such, as depicted on the media, people have fun on images of the Polynesians which have been completely commercialized for tourist attraction. The group agrees with Traskit's view that this is typically a cultural exploitation/prostitution for commercial purposes and it does not benefit the indigenous community (see also a video, 'Tribunal'). Conclusion Overall, the group noted that the media and popular cultures are complex; but as information specialists, we tend to overlook important aspects of the popular culture. Thus, the objectives of our collection development should ensure that the collections are as diverse as possible, but we should also be careful lest we offend some sections of the society.
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