Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Activist Project

Often when people think of activist projects they think of their limited time. People will be touched and heartened by the idea and goals behind the project but fail to fall through with participating because they are busy. An issue that has become more and more serious and lethal in our world is HIV/AIDS. Two-thirds of all people living with HIV are found in sub-Saharan Africa, although this region contains little more than 10% of the world’s population[1]. While marathons, telethons and donations are curious and somewhat effective, activists for AIDs needed a new plan. They need something to spark the attention of everyone: young or old, male or female. This is when the product line (RED) came about. (RED) is a business model created to raise awareness and money for the Global Fund by teaming up with the world's most iconic brands to produce (PRODUCT) RED branded products. A portion of profits from each (PRODUCT) RED product sold goes directly to the Global Fund to invest in African AIDS programs, with a focus on women and children[2].

(PRODUCT) RED is branded products that support the cure of HIV/AIDS in Africa with every purchase. Shirts often say “INSPI(RED),” “ADO(RED),” “ADMI(RED),” AND “DESI(RED).” All (PRODUCT) RED merchandise is the colour red, like red iPods, red shoes, red watches, red American Express cards, red laptops, red CDs, etc. Clearly intertexuality is the main selling point behind (PRODUCT) RED. The goal is so that soon, whenever people see the colour red they will identify and automatically thing of supporting HIV/AIDS. This is an effective way to becoming actively involved because the products are stylish; therefore supporting this cause benefits the consumer as well.

To learn more about what you can do to fight HIV/AIDS visit .

Work Cited:

[1] “Africa.” Averting HIV and AIDS. 11 November 2008. 15 November 2008.
[2] “Frequently Asked Questions.” RED. September 2008. 15 November 2008.

Participatory Culture

Three years ago I was introduced to a show called Sex and the City. Once I got passed the graphic sex scenes and coarse language I began falling in love with the show. Attempting to avoid sounding crazy: it is an amazingly written show taking place in New York City about four, very realistic characters (Carrie, Samantha, Miranda and Charlotte) that all have different personalities. I started watching the episodes on TBS in their later seasons and was always curious about what the show was like in the earlier years. This is when I began purchasing the seasons DVD. Last Christmas I finally completed my series so I can enjoy my favourite show whenever I want.

Over the years I have also purchased Sex and the City accessories, trivia games, books, etc. This was all fun but very individual; I wanted to converse with people about Sex and the City. It was not enough to simply enjoy all of its greatness alone. When I made my Facebook last January and started getting the hang of things I realized I could create Facebook Groups. These are groups that anyone on Facebook can join to talk about whatever they like. There are Facebook groups about practically everything from Favourite Hockey teams to Celebrity Fan Groups to your preferred position when sleeping!

I decided to create a Sex and the City Facebook group entitled Addicted to Sex and the City. Within days, hundreds of people had joined my group. It appeared I was not the only one who felt like chatting. A month later I hit 1,500 members and am now at 5,460. This Facebook group was perhaps the most rewarding experience I’d participated in – including the merchandise I had purchased throughout the years. Creative discussions formed like “Did you catch that mistake?” “Finish this line...” and “A Baker’s Dozen” games. Hundreds of comments and replies were filling the discussion board. I looked forward to logging onto Facebook every night purely for this group and even now I often get e-mails from fashion and make-up companies, or author’s of books related to Sex and the City that ask me to promote their products on my popular group site. I often agree to do my best in helping them out, after all: what would Carrie Bradshaw do?

Culture Jamming

While looking upon thousands and thousands of photographs and videos a particular picture shouted out to me. My favourite band being the Beatles, it is clear as to why this picture struck my attention. Hold on; no, wait. As I looked closer I realized that it was not John Lennon on the far left side of the picture. In fact, it was not any member of the Beatles. Substituting John Lennon was a suicide bomber.

This was extremely disturbing to see. For one thing, rarely have I ever seen what a suicide bomb or bomber look like and the feeling I got was very sad and frightening. It is very coincidental that the bomber’s arms are positioned almost exactly the same as the original album cover. Whoever created this photograph was very creative and intelligent. The fact that the title of the album is Help! is also quite clever. The title now appears as though the bomber is asking for help. An image like this edited onto any album cover would be one thing, but because the photo is pasted onto an album of the Beatles sends a much deeper message. The Beatles are a world renowned group, who even today (decades after their debut) are still as popular as ever. The Beatles are well-known for their outlooks on freedom, love, peace and genuine simplicity. We know them to be the kind of people that would stand up to suicide bombers and attempt to help countries in need.

I feel culture jamming is very effective. As generation who generally live in conformity with advertisements and the media, it is refreshing and eye-opening to see something different and witty. We enjoy being entertained dangerously. Though culture jams may often be offensive and disturbing, they always capture attention, and more often than not get our brains moving and thinking.

Buy Nothing Day

My bus ticket, my morning coffee, my salad wrap from William’s, another bus ticket, a cute headband I saw in the window of that store, a new toothbrush, hair elastics, chicken fingers from M&M’s and yet another bus ticket. This is my average purchase rate per day.

There are times when I spend less and times when I spend more but on an average I spend a total of $25 - $30 dollars a day. Between transportation, food and a few needs here and there this is ridiculous! I’ve never considered myself a big spender, but once doing this math, I know feel I know where all of my money goes. The fact that this seems “normal” to me is shameful. There are thousands of people my age who spend probably close to double that which is another thing to worry about. North Americans in general spend way too much money! When Ian first told me about North America’s addiction to shopping, I thought to myself: Well, I only spend money where I absolutely need to. In fact, I’ve always thought of myself as a smart shopper. With this economic downfall on the rise we have no choice to be cautious and actually attempt to spend money only when it is necessary.

On November 28th North Americans will be expected to participate in Buy Nothing Day. The meaning of the day is pretty clear in the name. I asked Ian, ever so wisely, if this included bus tickets, food, etc. It does! This is when I figured I would have to strategically plan. I can buy my tickets ahead of time, make my sandwich and curl up to watch a movie at night instead of going out to dinner or shopping. If we could all manage to do this for one day of the year, imagine if we could attempt to try it monthly? Or weekly? Imagine if we lived our lives happily, whilst watching where and how we spend our money. Perhaps with all of the saving I could finally afford the new television I’ve had my eye on.

Net Neutrality

We are a generation born into the revised and worshiped media phenomenon: the Internet. We live in a time where we have the world at our fingertips – with our fingertips quickly tapping away at our keyboards. With search engines and websites like Google, Yahoo!, Youtube, Wikipedia, etc. there are slim to no reason why we should ever feel lost. The internet has become a safety guard for many; a comfort blanket, if you will. If a crowd of new friends begin to converse about a subject you are unfamiliar with, you need not worry! Google will help you out. If you meet a person of interest but are too nervous to ask for their number, Facebook will be a great way to ease into conversation. If in desperate need for a new song you’ve heard, limewire will always be there for you to go to. Right? Perhaps not for long. The internet that we have all grown to love has been indisputably taken for granted. We can go on the internet whenever we want, look at whatever we want, practically wherever we want. This is all possible because of Net Neutrality.

Network Neutrality is the guiding principle that preserves the free and open Internet. Net Neutrality means no discrimination
[1]. Net Neutrality is what lets us go on whichever site we want satisfying out wants and needs. This is what has made the internet so popular and admired.

One may ask themselves why Net Neutrality would ever stop. This reason being is that the nation’s largest telephone and cable companies (including AT&T, Verizon, Comcast and Time Warner) want to control the internet in every aspect. These companies want to control how slow or fast websites run, and if certain ones will even be able to load. They also want to charge us. Take a minute to imagine what it would be like for your parents to yell at you for spending too much time on Facebook because it costs them too much money. With the loss of Net Neutrality we are losing freedom, control, access, and efficiency... everything we have become accustomed to.

Sign the Save the Internet Petition at or who knows when you’ll be able to view a blog again.

Work Cited
[1] “Frequently Asked Questions.” Save the Internet. March 2008. 10 November 2008. <>

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Media Hegemonies/Mapping Who Owns What

The Big Ten refers to the ten largest and most dominant companies in the world which are AOL/Time Warner, AT&T, General Electric, New Corporation, Viacom Inc., Bertelsmann, Walt Disney, Vivendi Universal, Liberty Media Corporation and Sony. Of these ten I’ve chosen to explore Disney. While discussing this blog with other peers in my Mass Communication class I found many of us chose to investigate Disney’s cross media ownership. As I got to thinking about what it was about the Walt Disney Company I realized why I personally had chosen it.

As a child who grew up with Disney I considered myself a “Disney Princess.” I had the Bell Barbie from Beauty and the Beast, Cinderella pyjamas, Minnie Mouse winter gloves and hats, Winnie the Pooh comforter, Bambi toothbrush, and practically every Classic Disney film on VHS. I was a child obsessed. In my eyes, Walt Disney was a magical man who created stories I loved and characters I admired; there just couldn’t be a bad bone in Mr. Disney’s body.

My point it not to state that Mr. Walt Disney is a bad man. His image is much different than the kind, humble elderly man I’d pictured drawing all of those adorable cartoons. In my mind he lived in a small room somewhere inside the beautiful Disney Castle I’d visited at Disney Land so many times. The truth is, Walt probably had a house more than double the size.

Disney owns ABC; Disney Channel; Toon Disney; Soap Net; ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN Classic, ESPNEWS and ESPN Regional Television; A&E, History and Biography Channels; Lifetime and Lifetime Movie Network; E! and Style; Fox Family Channel; Disney and ESPN Channels in more than 140 countries, plus stakes in other channels. Disney owns 11 different stations and movie production companies like Walt Disney Pictures, Touchstone Pictures, Hollywood Pictures, Miramax Film Corp., Dimension and Buena Vista International [1].

I find the most unsettling thing about finding this out is realizing how much control Disney has over our lives. I once thought that Disney was a movie-making company that offered movies to the public if they felt like watching that kind of movie. Now that I realize just how much Disney owns, it is quite possible I watch, listen and use Disney products practically every day. This shows that Disney has the ability to control and even brainwash society and would have quite an easy time doing so. We must remember Mede-cognition (thinking about thinking) and remember to always speculate what we watch and see because you never know who owns the idea and why they want it out there.

Work Cited

[1] “The Big Ten.” Media Reform Information Center. 2005. 12 November 2008.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Fake News

The United States of America have recently completed one of the largest and most critical elections in history. Senators Barack Obama and John McCain campaigned for what seemed like ages in a battle that began to look exceedingly ugly at the beginning of September. This was at the time when John McCain officially nominated Sarah Palin for Vice President of the Republican Party. Sarah Palin, a woman of obvious physical beauty, became one of the largest targets for the Republican Party. Whether bashing her photo-shopped face on a bikini model’s body, taking stabs at her large, atypical family or most notably: her inability to say the right thing at the right time, Sarah Palin’s reputation throughout the past few months has been quite the rollercoaster.

The most critically acclaimed stabs at Sarah Palin were Saturday Night Live’s parodies featuring Tina Fey. Immediately, Tina Fey’s dead-on impression captured the attention of viewers across the globe, consequently insuring she’d have a spot on the “News Update” section every Saturday. Those who had always kept out of the loop when it came to politics were now enticed by the show’s weekly skit, in most cases causing viewers to stay tuned to the real news and actual campaign. Saturday Night Live is world renowned for its political satire and parodies, but Tina Fey and Sarah Palin’s uncanny resemblance sent rates right through the roof. The implications of SNL’s sketches in turn, popularized the Republic Campaign to a point where viewers were seeing more of Sarah Palin than John McCain, himself. This proves just how persuasive and luring fake news can be and how with just one successful break through, society is changed.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Mass Media

The first things that come to mind when thinking about mass media are radio, television, movies, books, iPods, cell phones, newspapers, blogs, the internet and magazines. I feel most people would probably think of those mediums as well; what differentiates those items is how we feel about them. While many people worship new media, I feel a little more spectacle about them.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my blackberry just as much as the next person, and I can’t imagine my life without my television or laptop; I can’t help but wonder, however, how beneficial these mediums are. Sure they can give us hours upon hours of entertainment... but why are they here? What is the real purpose behind new media?

All of the mediums I listed from radios to television and cell phones to magazines seem like they help humans communicate and become social with one another. The television gives us something to discuss with co-workers and classmates; cell phones help us keep in contact with friends and family; radios bring us information about people and places all over the world; magazines bond us together with those who are also, oh-so-concerned about Britney Spears’ babies. Right?

Neil Postman said in his keynote speech, The Humanism of Media Ecology, “In Democracy in America, de Tocqueville worried that the printed word would lead Americans away from a sense of community and toward what he called egotism. De Tocqueville could not know of radio, television, or the Internet, but if he could, I’m sure he would ask of them, Do they help maintain a balance between a sense of social cohesion and individuality, both of which are necessary to a humane democracy? I do not think he would be impressed by media whose formats encourage isolation.”

This is an amazing, eye-opening point. Isolation.

As we move forward and embark newer and newer media, humans are distancing themselves further and further away from each other. Now we can buy groceries online without having to step a single foot in the local grocery store! We can purchase clothes on eBay instead of shopping at malls. We can video-call our friends instead of really seeing them. We can order movies through cable instead of going out to the video store. We can even “poke” people through facebook. We can virtually do just about anything we want without leaving our homes. This is a frightening reality and it is happening now!

So while I understand why people value new media, I encourage them to also step outside into the real world. This is where they can really smell fresh air, feel and touch real objects and communicate face-to-face with each other!


Information Junkies

In Neil Postman’s keynote speech he mentions a quote from Henry David Thoreau Walden that really moved me.

We are in great haste to construct a magnetic telegraph from Maine to Texas; but Maine and Texas, it may be, have nothing important to communicate... We are eager to tunnel under the Atlantic and bring the old world some weeks nearer to the new; but perchance the first news that will leak through into the broad, flapping American ear will be that the Princess Adelaide has the whooping cough.

This statement jumps out at me for being so true to our world today. Postman later referred to us as information junkies. Humans today have the world at their fingertips and while this may seem enticing and brilliant many of us have somehow slipped through the cracks of our keyboards and can’t seem to get out. We are obsessed with our computers... our personal private investigators; whether it is the latest news on Brangelina, the hurricane in Texas, Sarah Palin’s impregnated daughter, or your next-door-neighbour’s boyfriend’s sister’s friend, we are fixated on news and people that really don’t affect us. Because it is all “at our fingertips” however, we find ourselves trapped behind our computer screens discovering information that is high unnecessary. The form of media I feel endorses this obsession most, in my life and the lives of many, is of course: facebook.

Facebook has become overwhelmingly popular in the last four years; and while some try to kid themselves into thinking it is just a “social networking website” the truth is that it is a human search engine. I cannot count the amount of times I have seen received friend requests from people I do not even recognize. After sending a private message to them asking them who they are and how they know me, often I receive a message back explaining either “we met at that party!” or “I’m Amanda’s friend’s brother!” After reading this most people, inlcuding myself, just accept the invitation and get on with their lives, leaving Amanda’s friend’s brother and that random guy at that random party on your “friend’s” list.

Another term that facebook tries to fool us with: friend.

To me, my friends are the ones that know practically everything about me and truly care for me and, well, who I’ve conversed with for more than 15 minutes! Facebook uses this familiar and warm term to describe perfectly anonymous strangers. It is because they are so mysterious that we find ourselves creeping their pictures, comments and statuses to find out more. We always want more! With the click of a button we can find out what they wear, what their friends look like, if they’re in a relationship (if so, what kind? Married, engaged, dating, it’s complicated?), if they are partiers or home-bodies and even what they did last Friday night. Because of the vast number of “friends” everybody has - usually anywhere between 100 and 700 – humans can find themselves on facebook for hours, even days lurking the lives of others.

My point? I feel this is the greatest waste of time known to man! This is the definition of insignificant information. We shouldn’t be aware of what everyone has done on their own time, or if they are in a relationship or what their sexual orientation is. Those pieces of information should only be known by those who are truly friends. Those that do not require facebook to find them out.

People are fascinated with facebook so much so that it is corrupting our lives. I was shocked to find so many facebook screens appear in my lectures. University is thousands of dollars and people are paying attention to facebook instead of their professors! Tasks like assignments or even doing the laundry seem to take so much longer because of our “facebook break times”. This seems insane! Why is it we feel so compelled to log on to facebook every time we are on our computers? Why do we accept friend invites when we do not really know the person? Why do we feel obliged to post pictures up every few weeks? Why do we feel the need to comment on others’ albums and facebook defaults?

You may ask yourself why I still have facebook if my feelings are so strong. The answer is simple. I too, have fallen through the cracks of my keyboard.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Social Uses/Implications of Technology and Media

Put on your head phones and you’re in the zone. The sounds from your white head phones blast through yours ears and pound at your ear drums. You feel the music in your head; in your soul. The sound buzzes through your body. It can make you move; it can make you stay perfectly still. There is no pressure to be friends with your iPod; you are automatically compatible the second you connect the USB port to your computer. You do not have to impress the iPod or feel shy around it. The iPod does not judge you. You sing if you feel like singing, dance, cry, laugh – you can do whatever you want. He’ll fit in your pocket, coat or hand. He can grab a hold of you and pull you out of time. He can crawl into your thoughts and tease your ideas. He can make you look at things differently and impair your judgement on everybody and everything else going on in the real world.

The real world: something that enters your mind when the teacher nags, “hey, can you take those things out and pay attention?” or when a parents yells on the family drive, “turn those things down, you’re going to wreck your ears”. You lose focus to the words you are listening to. You lose sense of rhythm and you are conscious again. Your parents try with all of their might to hold on to their cognisant child but you loose eye contact and go back to starring out the window and carrying on the tunes.

How has this tiny mp3 player influenced and taken over society? For one thing, four of five people reading this know what I am talking about. If you do not own an iPod, your brother, sister, friend, cousin or even teacher does. So great! Now everybody has something in common to chat about! The question is: do we chat? Do we still know how to communicate now that these iPods have so comfortably moved into our lives?

Some feel no need to talk or communicate with others for they have their loyal iPods tucked inside their pockets. Why start up a conversation with someone when you can listen to your favourite song? Isolation. We are conforming to the feeling that there is no pressure of conversing with others or paying attention during a class as long as we’ve got music playing in our ears.

This small object can affect our society in more ways than one. The music we chose to listen to truly does affect our views and outlooks toward society. Listening to heavy, angry music when at a park might cause the listener to become interested in a deep dark area of the park with lots of trees; whereas listening to light, happy music may cause them to find significance in the swings or light blue sky.

Consequently, music affects our moods which affect our actions which, in turn, affect society. Can we control this? Next time you go for a walk or take the bus home, attempt to turn off your iPod and listen to and examine the things and people around you. Do not isolate yourself – those bright white wires are no excuse. If the desire to put those headphones back in your ears arises, go for it; but make sure that your tunes stay in tune.

Decoding/Deconstructing Advertising

Well ladies, if any of you ever had questions regarding how to get handsome young men to wait on your hand and foot – your problem is solved! All you have to do is own an expensive pair of sketchers shoes and your wishes will come true.

Reality? Of course not, but that is most definitely the message that this advertisement is sending.

If we examine the photo we notice that there is an attractive female being waited on by five handsome men. I do not know about your reality, but I find it hard to get one salesperson to help me when shoe-hunting, let alone five.

I also find it ironic how neither the customer nor any of the five salesmen are paying attention to the many pairs of shoes or her feet. None of the men have even bothered to measure their customer’s feet with the foot scale that is anxiously waiting underneath the bench. I am surprised a grumpy, middle aged woman isn’t tapping one of the salesmen on the shoulder and asking for assistance in this harmonious scene.

The message that is being sent in this ad is that if you are a beautiful girl with bleach blond hair, life will be easier for you because men will be attracted to you.

In this ad we are not even drawn to the half a dozen pairs of shoes! Due to line and rule of 3rds in this photo, our eyes automatically focus on the customer’s gestures and facial expression.
The influence that this ad has had on me is not to go out and buy a brand new pair of sketchers shoes, but to get a brand new hair colour. I am more drawn into the customer’s hair than anything else therefore I am tempted to imitate her example.

Whether or not Skechers was selling shoes in this ad, they were sure selling something. Perhaps they will focus more on their merchandise next time.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Ecology of Media

A specific technology that I personally enjoy is the television.

Oh, how I absolutely love the places it takes me! Almost every night before I go to sleep the television in my bedroom takes me to New York City to meet with my friends Carrie, Charlotte, Samantha and Miranda. Every morning the television in my kitchen takes me all around the globe, lately to Washington, accompanied by my friends at City News at six AM. Once or twice a week, the television in my family room takes me to wherever I order it to, using Rogers Cable.
Quite obviously, I get good use of the televisions in my home.
As a child of the 90s I have never felt that the television has occupied too much of my time. I watch it more frequently now that I am older and more interested in the news; but even so, I enjoy my television with moderation. I am not a "couch potato" and would find it extremely difficult to sit in front of the TV for hours at a time.

When I was younger, it was nearly impossible to get me to watch TV, unless my ultimate favourite shows were on (Full House, Fresh Prince of Bel Air, etc.) I would have rather been playing "house", dancing, painting or taking good care of my dolls. My imagination was extremely large and wild when I was little. At a young age of twelve, I had dozens and dozens of stories written that would just form in my head. I was instructed to write them out and hang on to them. To this day, I look back in awe at how articulate and detailed I was. My point being: I do not feel that the impact of television had a negative effect on me as a child.

As the new millennium approached, research and statistics proved that childhood obesity was on a steady rise. What was to blame besides Philo Farnsworth's television?

I truly do believe that television has taken over children's lives nowadays and that the role it plays is far too great. Children stare mindlessly at the TV for hours on end, memorized by the bright colours and interesting sounds. I found one of Neil Postman's quotes in his keynote speech, The Humanism of Media Ecology, very disturbing. He says, "I think some of you know that among the severely negative consequences of television - at least as I see them - is its role in making the institution of childhood obsolete. I would call that a moral decline. Of course, there are some people, especially merchants, who think that the disappearance of childhood is a good idea. But even those, like me, who think it is a catastrophe have to keep in mind that 100 years from now, it may not seem so. In fact, people might believe that the idea of childhood was no great advantage, at any time, either to the young or to the old, and the sooner television wrecked it the better." This seems terrifying to me. Life without childhood? This thought is seriously disturbing and unimaginable.

How could we be willing to give up childhood for the price of a television? As I grow older and life becomes more hectic and demanding, I often find myself looking back to the simple times when I could run around my backyard through the sprinkler or build forts in the basement.

The impact of television has not seemed very catastrophic in the last 81 years but perhaps its impact was not strong enough beforehand. Nowadays, televisions are in every room of the house and on almost all of the time leaving children gazing at them habitually.

Television has made and continues to make a strong cultural impact all across the globe. Almost anyone can afford to buy one with the prices greatly declining. Heck, even children can afford to purchase a television! The price? Their youth.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Influence of Film on my Life

Here is the video I created for the first assignment in Mass Communications. I showed a bit of it during class but it was a little too long to watch the whole thing. If any of you were interested... here it is! Enjoy (again) !

Friday, September 12, 2008

Academic Blogging

As soon as a friend of mine in Ian Reilly's class mentioned that she were to be blogging as a major part of her mark I knew I had to change courses. Writing, a huge passion of mine, is something I love to share. Hence, here I am - courses switched - about to start my blogging journey!

Ian was right. Creating a blog was a relatively simple process. The most difficult part was coming up with a blog title. Another thing he was right about: what is it about Canadians' name choices?

We put so much emphasis on names. We think long and hard about what we call things. Often, we make lists of names we like, names we sort of like, names we think we might like. After this, we ask our friends and family what they think about our selections so far. They either pick two or three names they enjoy or offer new ideas - which confuses us even more!

Why not be spontaneous? We're spontaneous most of the time anyway and usually that turns out fine. Shopping for clothes? Pick the blue shirt! Choosing a movie? When Harry Met Sally! Hamburgers or hot dogs? Well, you get the point. What is it about names that throw us for a loop? Some of us even name things that shouldn't be named! Have you met the guy who names his car? "Hey darling. Hop in my car... her name's... Vicky..." He says deviously. You can tell from the satisfaction in his voice he's thought long and hard about the name of his
98 Volkswagen Jetta.

While thinking about the name for my blog, I found myself reaching into my desk for a pen. I was about to write out different ideas. I stopped myself. No. No I will not. I was listening to Blackbird by the Beatles and was filled with sudden contentment.

Found it.

So, with my blog now named and my first entry almost complete I am on the road to playing my part in the public sphere!