Thursday, April 30, 2009

Twittering is bogus?

Listening to Armstrong and Getty on the AM radio this morning, I was amused to hear an idea that I have thought all along, that is since I heard of Twitter.

They were citing some study whicht said that 60% of twitterers stop twittering after a month. I can well believe this. It all sounds a little ridiculous to me. Following people's every move might be interesting to a small population who have voyeuristic tendencies or people interested in research of the media but I think it is a fad and will die out.

That whole escapade with Larry King and Aston Kutcher was amusing too but only just! So what if Aston could beat out CNN? He is a celebrity too. So, one celebrity wins against another. It was all very "reality TV".

"Amusing" is as much as I will give this whole thing. And I say it will die out like a fad that really never was.
I heard about twitter a year or so ago in Professor Marie Drennan's class in SFSU and it wasn't until the last couple of weeks that it got major mass media attention, thanks to Larry King, CNN and Aston Kutcher. Professor Marie Drennan beat the whole mass media to it. Maybe Aston proved that the media has potential to be democratized but we all knew that - right?

Whether democracy LIVES in and through the media is another matter and Larry or Aston or CNN are not helping that discussion along - IMHO.

Armstrong and Getty suggested that it will die out like the crazy fads of yesteryear. I am amused that they are saying it now. I said this a year ago and Professor Marie Drennan was talking about it long long before Larry or Aston.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Advertising for religion in Ireland

The Minister for Communications said "advertising shouldn't be used for promoting a particular religion or as an agent for recruitment" (Minister for Communications in Ireland, Eamon Ryan). Why not? This is an interesting statement from the Minister for Communications. Is he dictating what we can be exposed to? What's next? Will he be inclined to say that a company like Microsoft should not be allowed to advertise their corporate motto? Or will he tell us that a bank organization should not advertise investment accounts?

The 2001 legislation, to which the Minister refers when he says that it is interpreted narrowly, says that, "an advertisement which addresses the issue of the merits or otherwise adhering to any religious faith or belief or of becoming a member of any religion or religious organization" is not allowed for broadcast.

The light is being shone on this issue after Veritas, a company which sells books and things, and is owned by the Catholic bishops, was unable to satisfy the wording requirements for an advertisement. The Broadcasting Commission of Ireland (BCI) said that the phrase "Christmas: aren't we forgetting something" and "Why not give a gift that means more?" was not in keeping with the rules. In 2007 the word "crib" had to be removed from the text of an advertisement before it could be broadcast.

I don't mean to be petty about this but doesn't this all seem a little trivial? Are they having double standards here? What's the difference who is selling stuff? What's wrong with advertising for recruitment? The minister said that "at the same time, I don't want to completely restrict advertising that has a religious connotation." Why be bothered at all with advertising? If he is going to weigh in on advertising, why isn't he simply concerned with equality?

Or if you are to be concerned with advertising then where does it stop? Of course many will agree with the decision to ban advertising for cigarettes (some won't). But what of alcohol? Should the advertising of alcohol be banned? Cigarette advertising was banned for obvious health-issue connotations and this has been accepted, but we have to ask where does this intrusion on the media end? Should we ban advertising of chocolate, sweets/candy? At what point will rules and regulations cut in on our freedom of access to information? And more importantly, when is it o.k. to do so?

Cutting in on advertising seems a little intrusive to me. Advertising is the financing of the mass media (more in some countries than others). I'm no religious advocate but I don't see the big deal in taking money from a religious organization in payment for advertising. Now, I do think there are ethical issues with religious advertising and all that - but I'm open minded enough to see that these ethical issues can be argued against any kind of advertising whether it is for a size zero dress or an alcoholic drink or a mineral/soda which is loaded with sugar.

I suppose sometimes I just wonder. Why is time spent discussing these petty issues when there are bigger fish to fry? Oh, the article was published on April 1st?

Source for this post:
Minihan, M. (2009, April 1st). Controls on religious ads for broadcast to be relaxed. The Irish Times.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

The Press and the Minister for Justice in Ireland

Can wealthy individuals obtain a court order to prevent investigative journalism related to themselves? According to Paul Cullen's piece in The Irish Times on April 1st, this is the newspapers' argument against privacy legislation in Ireland. However, the Minister for Justice, Dermot Ahern, says that there is no threat to investigative journalism in privacy legislation. Investigative journalism which seeks to hold government, institutions of the State, business and other organizations up to scrutiny would not be threatened, he said.

With the Press Ombudsman and the Press Council, I wonder if there is a need for privacy legislation. Is privacy legislation, as the newspapers might argue, simply a protection for the ones who can afford a court order? Is this another example of affording the wealthy a "more equal" opportunity for fair play? So individuals who could afford the law would be able to avail of the security of the privacy legislation while the less-than-wealthy would have to roll the dice and hope the Press Ombudsman or the Press Council would protect them.

The Press Ombudsman's office opened in January of 2008. It is amazing to think that it was not in existence before this and it is equally amazing to think that in such a short time after its inception the Minister for Justice is seeking Privacy Legislation. Surely this privacy legislation could be incorporated into the functions of the the Press Ombudsman's office or the office of the Press Council, and avoid the courts altogether. (Of course taking into account that the legal option is costly and therefore prohibitive to many.) This seems too close to an avenue of exploration open only to the well off. If I was cynical I might suggest that it is once again those in power using our democracy to instill protection for the wealthy and powerful while trying to appear to be concerned for the general population.

The defamation bill which is up for consideration too "gives statutory recognition to the Press Council and Press Ombudsman and allows newspapers to offer an apology without risking an admission of liability." This bill would allow the publication to defend its reporting as "in the public interest." This is the issue that the Minister for Justice has a problem with - in the public interest. He sees the necessity to support privacy legislation because he cannot define "in the public interest." He says that this area may be abused with "careless propagation of trivial or tabloid issues masquerading as being in the public interest." How many definitions has he used in that sentence which could be analyzed with numerous results?

What is his definition of "careless propagation?" How does he define "trivial?" What does he say is a "tabloid?" And then he uses the term "public interest" so easily when his own concerns are what others will deem to be the definition of this term. He seems to be clear in the definition by his own use of the term!

While his concerns are founded he seems to be looking out for the big guy rather than the proletariat here. How many of the general population really worry about privacy? How many people are concerned for privacy over free access to information?

Cullen says in the byline, "Minister cites 'worrying trend' of media intrusion." Perhaps the Minister for Justice should be concerned with how some have managed to take advantage of others life savings. Perhaps looking for justice would be a justifiable endeavour for the Minister for Justice. Perhaps searching for answers to the questions surrounding the injustice of the economic disaster would help the population to be better prepared for the next upturn. Perhaps the next upturn could be a sustained realistic growth that helps the many and not the few. Would that be justice?

Maybe the Minister for Justice would be serving the proletariat by discovering what went wrong and who brought it all about. Maybe the Minister for Justice could delve into the workings of the government (past and present) and report to the population what he thinks brought this about. The justice in this exercise is to learn from the mistakes. The justice in this would trump privacy whether for an organization or the government or individuals.

Justice brought about by free and equal access to information - Now there's a novel idea. That's an idea that the electorate might expect a Minister for Justice to believe in.

(By the way why is it an ombudsman? Shouldn't it be the ombudsperson?)

Sources for this post: Cullen, P. April 1st, The Irish Times

Sunday, April 5, 2009

U2: No Line on the Horizon

The new U2 album, No line on the Horizon, is excellent. U2 manage to reinvent themselves while holding on to some of their landmark traits to satisfy the older fan while potentially appealing to a newer group also. They are genius in the mastering of their medium. Mixing old with new, they carve a space for themselves to age graciously while exposing their experience as artists in this mediated world.

This album is a powerful collection of tracks with the net result of a finished product which is greater than its parts. The collection is a whole. The sum is greater than the parts. No line on the Horizon is a success. As a mediated experience this album has a lot to offer the listener; lyrics, music, variety, old U2, new U2, heavy rock and ballads. Bono has said, when questioned about his other mediated events, that U2 is fundamentally a rock band. The opportunities this platform has afforded him as an advocate for other causes does not take away from U2 as a band.

The title track, a love song, suggests no sense of time in linear fashion. "Time is irrelevant, it's not linear." Magnificent implies a preoccupation with time in this life but goes on to suggest timelessness after this life. "Justify till we die, you and I will magnify." My favorite part of this album is the track Moment of Surrender which starts with a cryptic or simple metaphor "I tied myself with wire." The narrative leads the singer looking for a way to get back to "the rhythm of my soul/to the rhythm of unconsciousness," and the way to find this is through a "moment of Surrender." Unknown Caller makes a very straight forward suggestion that we "cease to speak that I may speak." Who might this be directed to? There may be biblical intentions in I'll go Crazy if I don't go Crazy Tonight with "how can you stand next to the truth and not see it?" Many references are made to the struggle for truth (or Truth?). Perhaps Bono sees himself as a Jesus-like figure but I rather think he is referring to humanity when he says "every generation gets a chance to change the world." Perhaps a call to action by U2? Get on Your Boots, the first single released, starts with "the future needs a big kiss." Embrace the future now. "Hey sexy boots, you don't know how beautiful you are" are words to titillate the generation to positive action for the future. FEZ - Being Born refers to the energy associated with birth and also rebirth and life and also time. This high energy track seems to be the high point of the album speaking in terms of the musical energy of the album. The tracks begin to seep back to introspective calmness with White as Snow. "If only a heart could be as white as snow" harkens back to a previous lyric, "once I knew there was a love divine." The uncertainty of life itself is reason to look for purity of the heart. In Breathe, the artist has found grace through the sound of music.

As the collection comes to a close we are not allowed to leave in comfort. Cedars of Lebanon awakes us to realize the difficulty of life as it is. "Child drinking dirty water from the river bank" does not let us "breathe" or accept that we are as "white as snow" or that being born is easy or equal for all.

In true Bono/U2 form this story is not over. There is no easily defined "line on the horizon." Time is not linear. The truth is out there somewhere between then and when. U2 has more to say. There is more to come.