December 6, 2007

911 imagery...

When I was looking at this image to present in class, I thought it was interesting what the reporter was saying about the image. What is she saying...that it never happened?? (coincidences)
This one reminds me of what Dr. Coonfield was tallking about with the movie being made at the same time that 911 happened..surrealism..what is real? Are they suggesting the guy who leased the buildings knew about the attack?? Knew that the attack was going to happen?!! - a simulated version of what happend with the planes. I know this looks simulated but it reminded me of the discussion we had about the real becoming copied..and how the highly produced images become the originals so to speak.

December 5, 2007

Image politcs and the homogeniety of the "Other"

Cohen’s article on “Images of Suffering” and how they are presented and mainstreamed in TV news reminded me of the article by Bosmajian we read in the Strat Comm class. Bosmajian, in his article argues that name-calling is a way of defining and constricting a person’s identity with words. In a larger context then, grouping the marginal under one label unifies them as one, and stifles any diverse voices that might arise out of them. In the example of Hitler’s rhetoric, Bosmajian writes about the dictator’s strategy to appeal to the German audience with the use of the “crowd mentality.” Bosmajian quotes Hitler’s words in Mein Kampf, “It belongs to the genius of a great leader to make even adversaries far removed from one another seem to belong to a single category, because in weak and ucertain characters the knowledge of having different enemies can only too readily lead to the beginning of doubt in their own right” (Bosmajian, 21). By collapsing the enemies under one common label, the enemy can be seen as weak and easy to define.

It was interesting to read Bosmajian’s thoughts in Cohen’s idea about image politics. Images can after all also help play on what Waller calls as the “out-group homogeneity effect.” Images of atrocities in third world countries are also strategically presented as homogeneous and under a single heading, and therefore it becomes easier for us to alienate ourselves from an image of trauma. Through the use of patterns of filtering images the media can present a country’s violence as “just another episode in a centuries-long Darwinian struggle for power, a twist in an endless cycle of retaliation…” (Cohen, 177), so that the viewers remain nothing but passive “bystanders” of the event. Therefore it is easy to distance oneself from the trauma and create the distinction between the “self” and the “other”. Thus news images of famines in Ethiopia, Somalia and Sudan seem so similar to us and we refuse to grant them as incidents from completely different countries.

Here are two images- one from famine in southern Sudan, the other from a famine in Somalia. Can we really tell which one’s which?

p.s – sorry for the images. But I thought it was necessary.

Response to Zelizer

After reading Photography, Journalism, and Trauma, I find myself questioning Zelizer's methods for this comparison. She appears to have presented a well thought out argument, but at the same time, completely ignored the differing perspectives of each example. What I thought would have been an interesting addition to her argument would be some sort of discussion regarding how the proximity of the events played into this portrayal. Although we can be called to bear witness to the concentration camps, it is hard for Americans to fully conceptualize this occurrence from the fact that the only Americans to experience them while in use would have been the WWII POWs. Compared to the World Trade Towers, which were both a New York City and US icons, and clearly had more of an impact on the American public and our daily lives. 

Obviously it is difficult to include every facet of a particular argument into one single work, but for the sake of what she is attempting to convey, I cannot help but feel that dedicating just a page or two to perspective would have vastly aided in her execution.

The End of the Panopticon

Bentham’s Panopticon worked under the assumption of a hidden power watching every move that one made- there could not be any escape from those watchful eyes. Even though invisible, the very presence of the symbol of ‘power’ – the tower, was emblematic of 360 of omniscience and omnipresence. I think Brett talked about this in a previous post, long time back, but I wanted to bring it back in the context of Baudrillard and the simulacra. Is the power of the Panopticon still felt in this age of the ‘spectacle’?

Baudrillard gives an instance of the 24 hour reality show “American TV verite” experiment to talk about the Panoptic gaze. The concept of the reality TV he explains, lies in the paradox- “They lived as if we were not there” (Baudrillard, 28). The producer’s accomplishment was in the fact that participants in this reality show ‘reacted’ rather than ‘acted’ in front of the camera. The end of the Panopticon lies in the fact, that even though the power of the gaze is present, and visible, it does not affect any decisions taken by the participants. This paradox, he explains fascinated the viewers more than the perverse “pleasure of violating someone’s privacy” (Baudrillard, 28).
It is hyperreal in the sense that, although we know that the camera is present, we do not for a second feel that the show presents a ‘manipulated’ reality. In the world of simulation, reality TV has reached the zenith of hyperreality. In shows like America’s Top Model, Project Runway, Big Brother- we, as the audience know and can see the camera following the participants, but we still assume them to be ‘real’ rather than a ‘tampered’ real. As Baudrillard says, -“such is the watershed of a hypperreal sociality, in which the real is confused with the model…”. There is no subject, no periphery that was seminal to the panoptic gaze; the simulacra only involves a diffused and ‘diffracted’ real, where the ‘medium’ (here the gaze of the camera and the TV) is eradicated altogether.

December 2, 2007

Careers in Communication - Representation

I am going to assume that since we are all enrolled in this program that most of us either are currently or will be in the future working in the field of Communications. When we were discussing the ideas of representation, I was immediately able to relate the importance of this concept in our field. As managers of a communication process, whether it's internal, public relations, marketing, advertising, production...etc., our world revolves around sending and receiving messages. Representation may very well be the most prominent theme in our field. Since employees and the public look to us for information, we must constantly be aware of the way our messages will be interpretted. Since we are not physically present in order to explain our messages, we must ensure that whatever we send, whether it's a picture, an email, a press release, an advertisement...etc., will be accepted and interpretted correctly. Obviously there will always be room for error and a portion of the audience who will misinterpret no matter how hard we try to eliminate room for error. However, especially in today's world where new words and definiteions are continuously and frequently added to our language, we must remain up to date on the most current experiences and inventions in order to help us control the receiving end of our messages. We live in a very critical world and this class has definitely provided us with a plethora of examples of communication pieces that can easily be distorted.
Working in a large corporation, I have seen many instances of miscommunication gone bad. A simple miswording of an email or unclear sentence can lead to a world of chaos!

Portrait of Giovanni and his wife.

In the first chapter of the Virilio piece, he briefly explains the evolution of art starting from the cave painting through to the impressionist era. During his explanation he remarked that during the middle ages art saw "the background come to the surface" (page14-15). He later stated that in these works there is no blurred background and that all is important. Virilio used the example of holy pictures to make his point. Upon reading that section, the painting "Portrait of Giovanni and his wife" by Jan Van Eyck came to my mind. The painting (pictured right) is on display in the National Gallery in London in the wing devoted to Dutch artists. While it is a rather small piece, it is a rather famous painting because as Virilio said, there is no background. In this piece everything is important, the mirror displays a painting within a painting and the significance of the bed and dog both contribute to our interpretation of what is happening between husband and wife. My question is what if it were a photograph taken of this couple instead of a painting? Would we still receive the messages that the artist wanted to communicate to us? And are there really any photograph that like this painting do not have a background, where everything is important? I think this supports some of Virilio's arguments about photography. yes?

Additional Benjamin

While this section of the Benjamin article is not directly linked to Meg's previous post, it still have some relevance to the cameraman. On page 233 Benjamin uses the comparison of a magician and a surgeon to that of a painter and a cameraman. He talks about how one maintains a natural distance from their patient while the other does not eventually saying, "In short, in contrast to the magician- who is still hidden in the medical practitioner-the surgeon at the decisive moment abstains from facing the patient man to man; rather, it is through the operation that he penetrates into him. Magician and surgeon compare to painter and cameraman. The painter maintains in his work a natural distance from reality, the cameraman penetrates deeply into its web." He then makes the connection that the cameraman creates a significantly comparison to reality than the painter does. This brings me to question by what terms is he comparing "reality" in what a cameraman produces and what a painter produces? While there are obvious similarity to a film and reality vs. a painting, couldn't we argue that film can also be a misrepresentation of reality just as much? At least in a painting the artist is capturing the present and complete picture. In film the reality is recorded but is broken down, chopped up and edited to create a assumed reality. And finally if Benjamin is comparing the painter to the cameraman, the painter seems to be the observer and creates as a reaction to what he sees in reality. Can't you comment better on reality when you take a step back and look at it in the big picture sense? Does this make sense?