Break time

After nine extremely fast paced weeks, this ‘mid semester’ break was well needed. It gave me time to get onto those assignments which will no doubt start to creep up all at once again, but also gave me time to think about if I have actually learnt anything.

The BCM111 International Media and Communication subject has been quite a handful, with many new words being introduced into my vocabulary and a number of concepts that I previously did not know about. Each week has been a new and improved experience from going into a deeper understanding of globalisation and how this affects almost every other aspect of global media. Most prominently could be seen within music, especially hip hop, I believe. Majority of commercial hip hop today we hear on the radio or on an MTV countdown contain explicit language, rapping about hardships with drugs or showing off how much pot was smoked while surrounded by ‘hoes’ and ‘bitches’. I have never been a fan of rap or hip hop but once we were shown a more thorough level of the genre, only then did I start to appreciate how it can be a form of self-expression and connection to one’s culture. It is a prime example of globalisation as both technology and the body enabled its spread. An ancient culture just with a new name, classic forms of hiphop can be seen in recent advertising campaigns, such as the Kia car ad, which when watching the original film clip compared to that of the ad, is hilarious but in a cringe worthy way.

The other concept I found particularly interesting was the impact that media capitals have on global media. While it’s true that a lot of the media I consume is highly Americanised, after the idea of hybridity, I have begun to notice that quite a lot of themes are actually a representation of other cultures. I have found it quite hard to distinguish the two and I have come to the conclusion that some forms of media, whether it be film, television or music, can be neither be classified as hybrid or Americansied but both. There is a very fine grey line that separates the two ideas but sometimes it’s just not appropriate to need to define certain aspects of global media as either.

As the weeks pass, each new topic is nicely linking to others and giving them more relevance within the international media and communication context.

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Climate change and our beautiful reef

If half the Grand Canyon crumbled to nothing in less than three decades, would we stand up and pay attention? If Teddy and Abe’s heads eroded off Mount Rushmore would we step in to save George and Tom?

Sadly, that’s what is happening to one of the world’s great natural treasures.

A study by the Australian Institute of Marine Science shows that in just the last 27 years, the Great Barrier Reef has lost half of its coral. (Michael Conathan 2012)

Climate change is one of the greatest environmental issues of our time. It comes and goes in importance within our media landscape but it is always important to those it affects. While we heard about the devastating effects climate change and in particular, rising sea levels is having on small island states such as Kiribati and Tuvalu this week during the lecture and tutorial, what failed to be mentioned was something much closer to home. In fact, it is at home. Our Great Barrier Reef, one of the seven natural wonders of the world.

The Great Barrier Reef is the world’s largest individual formation created by living organisms. As the largest coral reef in the world, the Great Barrier Reef includes over 900 islands, over 2,900 separate reefs, and supports one of the most diverse ecosystems in the world. It was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1981, the first coral reef ecosystem in the world to have this distinction. This recognition continues to highlight the international significance of the Reef, carrying an obligation and responsibility to protect and conserve its values for all future generations and to present its values to the world (Russell Reichelt 2009). So as the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority states, as the reef is a wonder of the world, classifying it into such a category of importance and significance to maintain and protect it, when forces that are not in human control are impacting upon it, this is highly alarming.

Coral bleaching  events resulting from prolonged elevated sea temperatures. Loss of complete ecosystems

Coral bleaching
events resulting from prolonged elevated sea temperatures. Loss of complete ecosystems

While the harming of the Great Barrier Reef doesn’t necessarily directly affect people yet, some people’s livelihood depend on the resources the reef has to offer, for example fishing and tourism. As the back-bone of the Great Barrier Reef ecosystem, corals play a critical role. They form habitats for thousands of species, all dependent on one another. Climate change has already impacted coral reefs in the Great Barrier Reef as corals are highly vulnerable to its potential effects, therefore harming the whole ecosystem and food chain which exists in the reef.

Don’t get me wrong, what is happening to the communities on those low lying islands is horrible. What the Pacific Calling Partnership is doing is a huge step in the right direction by providing aid and solutions like possible relocation in the worst case scenario. With the overwhelming scientific evidence provided by the UN that climate change is due to human activities, we are not witnessing a balance of reporting within the media. Climate change is forever going to be an issue; it will continue to impact upon small communities, nations, ecosystems and numerous industries. And with the Great Barrier Reef on our doorstep providing and supporting all of these things which our country relies on, I want to be a “voice for the voiceless” (Ward 2009) for our beautiful reef so that in decades, even centuries to come, everybody can have the chance to witness such a magnificent natural wonder of the world in all it’s glory.

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West and the rest

What makes the news headlines today takes many different elements into account. Does the country from where it happened have the most impact, or the impact the story has on countries dominate why it becomes news? And does this change when we talk about global news in the media?

In order for news stories to be watch or viewed, they need to have impact and resonate with the audience. With many people today leading fast-paced lifestyles, many want the news packaged up nice and neatly showing only what they need in as little time as possible, like that of the Channel 7 and Channel 9 6pm bulletins. What will make it into these half-hour news programs depend on a number of factors including the story’s cultural proximity, relevance, rarity, continuity, elite references, negativity, composition and personalisation. Not every news story can be covered in such a short period of time, therefore, the most spectacular and relevant issues are summarised and provided to the public. However, this can create a lack of cohesion and background information to the whole story and audiences are then required to search further if they want to know more. Being part of the Western world, Australian media can be criticized about not providing enough ‘world’ news and tends to highlight our own and our allies’ news.

The Boston marathon bombings dominated Australian media

The Boston marathon bombings dominated Australian media

Take, for example, the Boston bombings. On April 16 2013, Australian news was inundated with constant updates about the explosions that occurred at the finish line of the Boston marathon. On the same day, many other significant events happened also which were covered severely less or simply not covered at all. Major events such as “The biggest earthquake in Iran in 40 years“, a military court sentenced a U.S. soldier stationed in Alaska to 16 years in prison, Indonesian volcano Mount Sinabung erupted or that seventeen people were killed in Ghana when an old gold mine collapsed on them. Personally, I cannot recall knowing about any one of these events.

The ways in which the media portray and narrate the suffering of far-away others has always been controversial. In the past, it has raised critical questions about the power relations between the West and the ‘rest’, about stereotypes of the ‘poor South’ and about compassion fatigue among Western audiences. (Chouliaraki, L)

When speaking about global media and news, stating a global news source as reporting from a foreign nation is not enough. It is not just media with a global reach either, but the creation of new public spaces with global influences (Reece 2010). Global news sources such as Al Jazeera and Global Voices are pitching to the global audience with relevance to global citizens.

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Kim and Kath: doesn’t sound right does it

I was pretty excited when I realised we were talking about t.v this week, in particular comedies. However, it seems as though every funny show I watch on t.v is an export from the United States. Modern Family and The Big Bang Theory of course are two of the best that come to mind first. The brilliant wit and irony within the programs has won them many Golden Globe and AFI Awards as well as numerous other awards. While these two shows and others alike are received well on the international market including within Australia, when the roles are reversed and we export comedies to the U.S, our comedy doesn’t seem to translate all that well.

The irony got lost in translation

The irony got lost in translation

A prime example of this is the reproduction of Kath and Kim for the U.S audience. In 2007, the situation comedy series was Australia’s highest rating series of the year. However, when the rights for the format where bought by Reveille Productions (now Shine America), the same company that bought The Office, it was described in the U.S and in Australia as “the worst remake ever.” So why did it fail so much in both America and Australia when shows like The Office and reality t.v shows flourish across borders?

Simple. The irony of the original was lost. “The gap between how a character imagines him/herself to be and how they appear to the audience.” (Turnbull 2013) Both Kath and Kim in the Australian version deliberately make themselves look unattractive, dressing in tight revealing clothes with their stomach for all to see, while believing they are super hot. But in the American version with Molly Shannon and Selma Blair playing the role of Kath and Kim respectively, clearly do not achieve this irony that made the original such a hit. In fact, when you look at the American characters, both are actually rather good looking. The remake had completely lost all elements of irony, therefore losing the comedic side of the series. And without this comedy, it is just a bunch of ladies making “feewwwlllllssssss” of themselves.

Comedy can be risky to transport, but there are many examples of when the risk has paid off and hit shows have been created. Others fail because they don’t capture the essence of what made the original funny and popular.

Sue Turnbull sums it up perfectly: “The translation of a comedy depends not only on the translation of the cultural context from one locale to another, but also on the kinds of production deals which are made and the expectations about audiences which are then inferred. Even more significant may be the choices that are made about casting and the character of the ensuing embodied performances.”

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Films of the world

I had never thought about international or foreign films to like a film themselves, comparing them to those of alien movies, where they invade and take over or they have been among us all along. The theory of “us and them” and “us and us” (Evans 2013). While the United States isn’t even the top country with major film production, nor does it come in second, but third, we are bombarded with it as being the norm and accepted “genre” of film to watch. As Asian, America and Australian movies are not included as foreign film, we are left with European (mostly Western) and some Canadian which are said to be the left overs that don’t belong anywhere else (Byrne 1999).

This divide and definition of what makes a film ‘foreign’ or ‘international’ is creating a homogenized cinematic environment where media capitals of the world are turning us into products of transnational corporations essentially. Hollywood in particular used “soft power” and wiped out many local film industries with their many spectacular films. The alien analogy is evident here with the Chinese film industry imposing strict quotas for foreign films and unique censorship regulations. But during the 1920s, film technicians from the United States trained Chinese technicians in Shanghai and American influence continued to be felt there for the next two decades. As a result of globalisation and creatives seeking out other creatives in media capitals, along with enlarged quotas post 1995, the Chinese film industry saw Hollywood films trickling in.

The paradigm shift towards transnational films I believe results in a positive effect, enabling the production of more rich, diverse and culturally hybrid films. Transnational cinema encourages a shift away from films with a national brand and instead capitalizes on many aspects and elements of various cultures. With this hybridity of world cinema comes great confusion though as to how a film is claimed or originates from a particular country. Is an Australian film Australian because of its actors? Or its director? Or simply because it was shot and/or produced here? This I do not know. Many successful movies have this dilemma, like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon which has a crew of Chinese and Australians, a Chinese martial arts genre and leads actors speaking Mandarin when it isn’t their preferred language. Or The Great Gatsby 2013 for example which was written and directed by Aussie Baz Luhrmann but had actors from the U.S
but also Australia as well.

Modern movies can not and should not be classified on their origin. It becomes too difficult to define a movie as either an Australian, Chinese, Indian or Nigerian film when elements from across borders are incorporated. So instead of calling ‘foreign’ films world cinema, maybe it is more appropriate for them to be films of the world. Or as it seems, majority of todays films could be classified as films of the world due to the many cultural elements they have embedded in them already.

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When asked where most of the media I consume originates from I immediately thought of America, like many others would. The range of television, movies, books and music I watch, read and listen to is not very extensive. I like the mainstream stuff. Lazy, I know, but it is also what I like and what interests me. So as Australia relies and incorporates large amounts on American media, it is inevitable that my kind of entertainment comes predominantly from the U.S. But where in America is this coming from? What is so significant about the media capitals within America and where else in the world is producing quantitive amounts of media that I don’t even know about?

As Michael Curtin (2003) defines media capitals:

“Locations where complex forces and flows interact. Neither bound not self-contained entities. Understand them in the manner that geographers understand cities, as meeting places where local specificity arise out of migration, interaction and exchange. Media capitals are places where things come together and where generation and circulation of new mass culture forms become possible”

As globalisation is playing a pivotal role in the exportation and dissemination of content, new media capitals are emerging including Bombay, Cairo, Hong Kong and India. Content is being made to adapt to international audiences as creative people go where other creatives go allowing new patterns of flow that are not multilateral in the conventional sense (Khorana 2013). We are seeing Hong Kong and Chinese popular culture gaining a massive following with the emergence of crime dramas and Cantopop. Hong Kong is becoming a new media capital as, similar to Chicago in the 20th century, it has increasing political and economic power and is a major centre of manufacturing, transport and communication.

While Hollywood is a major player in the production and distribution of content, these less known yet extremely powerful media capitals are on the rise, making Hollywood nervous as many are often cheaper to make. But with this comes great opportunity to work together and integrate to create super media capitals.

“Hong Kong is very Chinese and remarkably Western, and yet it is not really either.”(Curtin 2003)

Cantopop: originally a hybrid of Western Pop, and other influences, with Cantonese Opera.
Four Heavenly Kings, are Cantopop’s answer to New Kids on the Block

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Commercial hip hop or hip hop in its totality

I will admit it, I do not like majority of hip hop music and will therefore not listen to it. As a result I am not aware of many hip hop artists, only the mainstream artists such as Wiz Khalifa, Kanye West, Lil Wayne, Nicki Minaj, Jay z, T.I, 50 Cent and those alike. What I have come to realise though is the largely male and African-American dominance within the mainstream hip hop industry. The top 5 wealthiest hip hop artists are men of colour. So where are all the females and white men? Does hip hop have a stereotype and if so, how was this created?

Hip hop culture is commonly recognized by its main elements:
*Breakdancing (B-boying)
*Mcing (Rapping)

However, these elements are simply forms of art designed to express a deeper meaning. The average Aussie I don’t believe would say they are rich in culture, sure there is an Australian culture but at its roots it is not full of art, practice and faith. However, when you experience indigenous culture of any country you see the culture they immerse themselves in and the passion they have. It is this relationship between an individual and their culture which drives such powerful feelings for expressive art forms, hip hop included.

As was demonstrated in the group presentation on local and global hip hop and in April K. Henderson’s reading Dancing Between Islands: Hip Hop and the Samoan Diaspora, indigenous and culturally rich communities such as the Maori’s of New Zealand, Samoans, Tongans, Africans, African-Americans and Aborigines, all seem to have a differing sense of identification with their culture which translates into extremely powerful and meaningful forms of art.

Techno and ethnoscapes helped facilitate the spread of unique forms of hip hop, with cultures drawing their own links and practices from one another to create hip hop for everyone to consume and relate to. The importance of performing and embodying local languages and cultures within hip hop enables artists to send a modern, personal message while being connected to their own heritage (Henderson).

While hip hop music still doesn’t particularly interest me, the deeper meaning behind it is extremely fascinating. You only have to research a little about the hip hop industry to dispel previous hip hop stereotypes and realise the history behind it. That is when you find amazing artists that don’t rap about “bitches”, “hoes” and “gettin’ down” but actually have something meaningful and quite powerful to say. Once you look past majority of the mainstream hip hop you hear on the radio, your ears are opened to a whole new section of the genre which, if you can keep up, is not that bad to listen to.

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