Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Communicating about communication

My first opportunity for work, teaching in Ireland, has come and passed. This is not a bad thing although it would have been better if it came and stayed. I look on the "job" of finding a job in teaching media as a process. This process, like everything else, is fodder for analysis, criticism, reflection and learning.

I was delighted to be given the opportunity to offer a night class at the Carrowbeg College of Further Education in Westport, County Mayo. For the course to run I needed ten people to sign up for the class which would consist of 8 two-hour classes. At a cost of 100 Euros per student these types of classes are self-funding. This area of education has come on a lot in recent years with classes in subjects like flower arranging to navigation. This area of learning is referred to as "Lifelong Learning" courses in many establishments.

The title of the class, which was advertised in two of the local papers was, Media and Communication: Educating ourselves and protecting our children in a media-saturated world. I attended the night of registration when the prospective students came in with a financial commitment and signed up for their preferred class. It was a great and new experience for me. Everything is worth doing. Some people spoke to me with interest in my powerpoint presentation and one came and looked at a little segment of Chitty, Chitty, Bang, Bang which I had playing on my laptop.

I couldn't resist embedding that - for old time's sake.

No one signed up for my class and I was informed that the overall registration was down on previous years. However, I wonder if there was something I could have done differently to get a more positive result. Perhaps the economic downturn is impacting people's pockets for further education? On the other hand, people might have more time free now as a result of the economic downturn and therefore might have a stronger inclination towards more education. Maybe people are just not interested in studying media?

If they are not, then it is our (my) duty to inform that studying the media is very important. I believe understanding the media and having the ability to decipher some of the mediated messages is as important in this age as the ability to read and write. We need to get media studies into every educational institution on the planet.

So how do we get this message out to the people with the power?

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Pat Kenny debuts "The Frontline."

Pat Kenny launched his most recent broadcasting contribution, The Frontline, last night. The Frontline is a current affairs program which has, at its core, a desire to attend to the real issues of the day by giving the regular person a voice, but it falls short of this. I had high hopes for Pat Kenny's new program and I still think it might produce, but the first installment is by no means ground breaking.

Fair play, he did take on the issue of NAMA and there were contributions to the discussion by regular folk who are caught up in this mess with great mortgages and no understanding or help from the banks while, they said, the banks get bailed out.

But the contributions of the regular folk seemed to me to be "allowed" as a necessary part of the show and not as THE MAIN part of the show. Therefore, while the audience might be placated (or enraged) by the sentiments shared by some hurting people the main thrust of the program affirmed the status quo and gave the establishment more air-time.

The obvious examples of this are the inclusion of the Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan as the interviewee. Granted, he is damned if he does or does not. If he was not on the stage we could criticise for that, and now that he got the stage we can criticise for that. But we can assume that he was well prepared and versed in media practice, more so than the audience members from the general population.

Including Eamonn Dunphy in the audience was a production decision which is questionable. While he seemd to give voice to the frustration of the general population, I assume many of the Irish would be hesitant to accept him as their spokesperson. He was aggressive and overpowering in relation to the other audience members who spoke. He had his own microphone on his lapel so he was obviously granted a prominent position. Is Eamonn Dunphy just another wealthy "celebrity" speaking out for the masses while he lives in the lap of luxury? Or is he genuine? As an audience member he got most air-time.

Fintan O'Toole, was given less time. Perhaps because he is a writer and not a "known broadcaster" he could get less time on-air? And a professor of economics, (I don't recall his name) who had a totally different opinion on the whole NAMA and economic situation of Ireland was given minimal air-time.

However, O'Toole and Dunphy got more air-time than any other audience member. The impression that the program was attempting to give us was that Pat was going to the public, the masses, the proletariat to get their opinions, to let them be heard on our national TV station - RTE.

But what we got, really, was a token contribution by "normal" people. This token was overshadowed by the aggressive tirades of Eamonn Dunphy. It was qualified by Fintan O'Toole and the Professor. And the Minister got to talk more than listen, to defend more than explain, to promote the status quo more than offer alternatives to the queries...

And now the Minister for Finance, Brian Lenihan, gets to be "congratulated" for (having the courage) appearing on the program. It really is pathetic to hear those in the seats of power criticising those who are trying to live normally for not having an alternative to NAMA when they chose to criticize it. The explanations leave a lot to be desired.

But Pat Kenny's The Frontline is a start. He is back where he is comfortable. Current affairs is his thing. I still have high hopes for The Frontline. It just might get better.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Perception of media: Reality becomes itself.

The Rolling Stone's Peter Travers reviewed It Might Get Loud in the August 20 issue. He was impressed. Davis Guggenheim, who directed An Inconvenient Truth, directed this movie about rock guitar legends, Jimmy Page, The Edge and Jack White.
He refers to the presentation of a behind the scenes look at these musicians as "rock heaven."

On the other hand Professor of Pop titles his review of the movie "It Might get Dull." POP is looking for the movie to live up to its genre identity - the documentary. POP is not happy with the lack of probing, of discovery, or analysis of the political economy of the music industry through discussions with the three guitarists.

I haven't seen the movie/documentary yet but it is interesting to me that two reviews could be so different. POP is demanding some depth. I remember him demanding this in classes that he taught. But I woud expect a reviewer in The Rolling Stone to be somewhat demanding too.

The reception of a media production by a viewer is a very personal one. We, as producers, can plan all we want, and there are ways to direct the receiver in a way desireable to the producer, but in the end it is a decision made by the individual viewer how they accept the production. It is as complex as life itself and also as simple as you want it to be. We can analyse and critique for ever, and this is the fun of the media scholar, but in the end it is received as it is received.

The perception for the individual is what is their reality. After we plant all the psychological, subconscious hints to guide the viewer to what we want them to appreciate it is, in the end, in the control of the viewer.

The viewer has the power to decide whether the show is good/bad, successful/disastrous, desireable/undesireable, etc. The question is "How much power does the viewer really want?"

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Blogging and Ethics

When is it o.k. to hide behind anonymity to hurl offensive names at another human being? Is there a time, even perhaps not under the veil of anonymity, that one should be congratulated for calling another names such as "ho" and "skank?"

A woman whose name is Rosemary Port, it seems, has no issue with calling Liskula Cohen such names. Port assumed that she was acting under the protection of anonymity but after a court order, Google revealed the owner of the offensive blog.

The fact that we have got a look into what is possibly a petty argument between two acquaintances should not take from the bigger issue coming to light here. Should anyone have the privacy afforded them to anonymously slander and call names to another?

I would be inclined to say no. Bloggers have questioned their craft from time to time. I believe that if you are to criticize someone, you should do it in the open. Hiding beind the veil of secrecy or anonymity is cowardly.

I understand there are times when, in the interest of safety, it might be necessary for secrecy. Maybe an example of this would be a jury on a gang-leaders trial.

But for this blogger, Rosemary Port, to cry foul at being exposed as the creator of such slander is pathetic. I think she should step up and take her medicine. The big brother, Google, couldn't protect her from her own idiotic words directed at another individual.

This question of anonymity came up when I started my blog. I seriously considered whether I should go anonymous or not. While I do see times when anonymity could be productive I decided to go front and center. I am content with this decision.

Rosemary Port decided to do something that she felt the necessity to have anonymity, it seems to me. Her intent was to blog in anonymity for the purpose of launching insults. Maybe I am wrong.

There are two truths I am interested in seeing in this story. There is no place in society for this kind of slanderous language being used to describe human beings. And there is no privacy on the blogsphere.