When absence says it all: minority representation in film and television

Growing up in Australia was a very different experience as a member of a minority. I was the only black child in a white family, so when I came home trying to explain how I was treated different, it was just my imagination…apparently. When people stared at me walking down the street or touched my hair with wonder it was “just because you’re beautiful…like a doll.” So not feeling like I fit in was how I felt…ALL the time.

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Garry Pankhurst, Skippy & members of the Aboriginal theatre in Yirrkala in Arnhem Land

When it came to watching television or movies, I can remember Gordon on Sesame Street and maybe the odd Aboriginal tracker on Skippy… Mostly people that weren’t white just weren’t there.  As I got older and met so many other African-American/Australian bi-racial children, who also didn’t have any contact with any other black people, I watched how they derived much of their black identity from television and film portrayals of black characters and from music.  So when we were asked to research the spatial nature of media, its (film and television) affect on identity of minorities came to mind.

So here’s what I’m doing, I’ve put together a quick survey on film and television. If you’re not from Australia, feel free to answer also (as I found a number of really old Hollywood Films made in Australia), I’d like as many responses as I can get.

For those who have something to share I also have requested video responses.

Where you can either post me a response on Youtube or send a video clip to my email: cherokee_flower@yahoo.com

This small qualitative study will be compiled into a movie and blog as part of my university work looking at media and audiences.  I also have a wide network of people online, so it’s a fantastic time to educate through storytelling.

I would love to listen to your thoughts. And if you have any questions feel free to ask in the comment box below. I always read them.

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As the ripples move outward: my work in reflection

The following is excerpts from my written reflection.  It’s excerpts, because the entire thing may send you to sleep. The following is part of a blow by blow reflection of the past 9 weeks of my media and audience course.

ghost-stories-940x6261The major gist of the reflection is that through reading other people’s work, I see that we have unknowingly become a story circle. Bringing our own experiences and stories to the table and sharing them and finding meaning in the process.

Defining spatial environments and how they interact and/or are acted upon by different kinds of media is the type of analysis that this project has inspired, forcing us to see the normal environment differently and to ask why.

Finding academic sources on blogging was a challenge, so I am very open to being led in the right direction just as a matter of personal inquiry… in the mean time, enjoy.

Introduction

Writing the blog posts for BCM240 has been a challenge in terms of finding the time to write, but has been of helpful in solidifying the subject matter from the lectures and making it understandable. Personalising the narrative around the week’s topic was a reflexive practice as part of our joint qualitative research. I acknowledged my experiences and used them as the launch pad to engage with the subject matter objectively.

Reading the other BCM240 student’s blogs was helpful. All the students discussed the week’s topic displaying a diversity that helped me expand my own understanding of the spatial relationship of the audience with media.

This experience is very much in line with the foundational view expressed in Nick Couldry’s paper ‘Constructing a digital story circle’, where he explores the transformative nature of the digital story circle, ‘the digital story circle would not have developed into a wider movement if it had not grasped from the outset the socially transformative consequences not just producing but of exchanging stories made from the fragmentary, often painful stuff of everyday life.’ Couldry, McDonald, Stephansen, Clark, Dickens and Fotopoulou (2015, p.2)

***the boring stuff in the middle***

Overcoming Limitations

The limitation on the quality of my posts, are the same limitations identified in the Couldry research project ‘factors of time, and levels of digital development and basic digital access.’ Couldry, MacDonald, Stephansen, Clark, Dickens & Fotopoulou (2015, p.2) When I have the time to research the topics thoroughly and am able to find more relevant academic sources the articles are more compelling in terms of forming a valid opinion. When I have a more developed understanding of digital language and operations controlling factors that will increase traffic, time spent promoting the blog will become more directional.

References

Chun-Cheng, H & Ming-Chuen, C, 2013, ‘The relationship between design factors and affective response in personalized blog interfaces’, Interacting with Computers, vol.28, no.5, p.p 450-464

Couldry, N, MacDonald, R, Stephansen, H, Clark, W, Dickens, L and

Fotopoulou, A 2015, ‘Constructing a digital storycircle: digital infrastructure and mutual recognition’, International Journal of Cultural Studies,

Mattus, M 2007, ‘Finding credible information: a challenge to students writing academic essays’, Human IT, Vol.9, no.2, p.p.1-28

Sullivan, M & Longnecker, N 2014, ‘Class blogs as a teaching tool to promote writing and student interaction’, Australiasian Journal of Educational Technology, vol.30, no.4, p.p.390-401

You’ll like what I tell you to like: love facebook

Last week I watched a shocking video of bombs falling in Aleppo in Syria. Children were left dead or maimed, husbands cradled their dead wives while in the street old men screamed at the sky. I cried. I was viewing the video on Facebook. So I pressed share and wrote a heartfelt plea to my community to watch the footage that can not be seen on commercial media.  My Facebook community is highly responsive to everything, so it caught my attention when only one person reacted to the video.  When I went looking through my feed, the video has disappeared.

A deleted post might not seem like a big deal, but it’s not the first time that things that are political or difficult to watch have disappeared from my timeline, or have not appeared in my friends feeds after I have shared them. Got me thinking about how much our online social networks are censored or engineered.

Three days ago I was met with an onslaught of panicked posts as I opened my news and twitter apps. News companies were having public anxiety attacks over Facebook changing their algorithm to favour friends over news. Apparently many media companies had changed their business models over the years to depend almost completely on Facebook for distribution.

Then today blew up twitter and news feeds with another Facebook censorship story. Facebook is accused to deleting the accounts and stories of several Palestinian journalists.  Al Jazeera detailed the accounts involved and the apology by Facebook, ‘Our team processes millions of reports each week, and we sometimes get things wrong. We’re very sorry about this mistake.’Hyatt (2016) Al Jazeera suggested a reason for Facebook’s involvement in the deletion of many Palestinian journalist’s account may have a legal answer.

‘Over the summer, an Israeli legal advocacy group – connected to the Israeli army and intelligence agencies -filed a $1bn lawsuit against Facebook claiming the company was violating the US Anti-Terrorism Act by providing services that assist groups in “recruiting, radicalising and instructing terrorists.’

This is not a Facebook only censorship issue, as referred to by digital freedom advocate Rebecca MacKinnon in her TED talk ‘Let’s take back the internet’, it’s is symptomatic of the issues that occur when a corporate body is given the role of public governance when there is a monetary interest at the fore. McKinnon also shows how living in China for much of her career as CNN Beijing Bureau chief and time spent studying Taiwan as a Fullbright scholar which has increased her understanding of censorship of the internet as a new problem of the global society as it departs from the sovereign state.

We have a situation where private companies are applying censorship standards that are often quite arbitrary and generally more narrow than the free speech constitutional standards that we have in democracies. Or they’re responding to censorship requests by authoritarian regimes that do not reflect consent of the governed. Or they’re responding to requests and concerns by governments that have no jurisdiction over many, or most, of the users and viewers who are interacting with the content in question.

So here’s the situation. In a pre-Internet world, sovereignty over our physical freedoms, or lack thereof, was controlled almost entirely by nation-states. But now we have this new layer of private sovereignty in cyberspace. And their decisions about software coding, engineering, design, terms of service all act as a kind of law that shapes what we can and cannot do with our digital lives. And their sovereignties, cross-cutting, globally interlinked, can in some ways challenge the sovereignties of nation-states in very exciting ways, but sometimes also act to project and extend it at a time when control over what people can and cannot do with information has more effect than ever on the exercise of power in our physical world.’Mackinnon, R (2011)

Benjamin Jackson raises the same issue in his article ‘Censorship and freedom of expression in the age of Facebook’, explaining that social media companies are presenting something of a conundrum as private companies are not covered by the 1st Amendment (USA), ‘The prospect of censorship on social network websites is especially troubling because it is unclear whether the First Amendment provides any protections for communications on social network websites.’ Jackson (2014, p.121)

Facebook’s mission states their mission as,

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But, being a global private company, just like it’s peers—such as Google—they are under no real obligation to create a space where information is truly free.  Meeting a need for end users and other stake holders while staying financially viable would be of the up most importance. Facebook like Google is not a democracy…they are a private companies. As with anything new in our world the legislation is retroactive.  Possibly that places ‘us’ the users in a powerful position to make our voice heard and press for a level of censorship (or no censorship) that everyone is comfortable with. Either that or wait for the separate sovereign states to exert their control on a technology who’s greatest benefit and vision was the free exchange of information on a global level.

I’ll finish with a quote from a journal article by Sadja Qureshi speaking on the possibilities of networking to empower people,

‘Access to other individuals with similar thoughts and ideas is made possible through the Internet. Combined with the power of social networks and cellphones, people can have access to the people and resources they need to go about achieving better livelihoods. The social revolutions in Egypt, Tunisia and the Occupy Wall Street movement that went global, illustrate how these networks of change are enabling information to be disseminated instantaneously, transforming perceptions of the world we live in. Castells (2012) states that “when societies fail in managing their structural crises by the existing institutions, change can only take place… by a transformation of power relations that starts in people’s minds” (p. 228). He adds that the Internet is a “privileged platform for the social construction of autonomy.” This means that individuals can define their actions around projects that meet their values, and interests independently of social institutions (Castells, 2012).’ Qureshi (2013, p.98)

censorship-quotes-85
(Hoover,M – Source unknown)
Taking into account the transformative power of a openly networked population, is it any wonder that institutions are grappling through governments, corporations and courts to gain control of this new global plane.

References

Carr, M 2013 ‘Internet freedom human rights power’, Australian Journal of International Affairs’, vol.67, no.5, p.p.621-637

Hyatt, S 2106, ‘Facebook ‘blocks accounts’ of Palestinian journalists’, Al Jazeera, 26 September 2016, viewed 3 October 2016, <http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2016/09/facebook-blocks-accounts-palestinian-journalists-160925095126952.html&gt;

Jackson, B 2014, ‘Censorship and freedom of expression in the age of Facebook’, New Mexico Law Review, vol.44, no.1, p.p. 121-168

MacKinnon, R 2011, Let’s take back the internet, video, TED, July 2011, viewed 2 Oct 2016, <https://www.ted.com/talks/rebecca_mackinnon_let_s_take_back_the_internet?language=en&gt;

Qureshi, S 2013, ‘Networks of change, shifting power from institutions to people: how are innovations in the use of information and communication technology transforming development?’, Information Technology for Development, vol.19, no.2, p.p. 97-99