Race-bending: REALLY The Last Airbender.

While on a search for different articles surrounding cultural diversity in the media I happened upon the term ‘Racebending’ and was actually delighted to find that the term had been coined due to a cartoon program I had watched growing up.

‘Racebending’ refers to white actors being cast in media productions to play characters that were originally written or known to be non-white roles. Racebending.com is an organization supporting equality in the entertainment business in ‘Hollywood and Beyond’ and defines the issue simply as ‘white-washing’ in the media. The term Racebending, then the website, was originally founded by a group of fans of the cartoon series ‘Avatar: The Last Airbender’ after the film adaption cast white actors to play the heroes for the 3 leading roles in an originally Asian/Inuit dominated series (see below). At the time the movie was released I went to see it and found myself confused over the casting choices. I didn’t understand why the entire cultural background portrayed in the show had been discarded. Not only that, but as the hero’s skin got lighter, the villain’s grew darker (their skin tone, not their evil souls). 

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It’s argued that such discrimination that occurs when casting actors stems from the need to please mainstream audiences in western societies. But in Australia we live in a multicultural society, yet why are we still seeing a lack of colour on our so-called colour-television sets? In ‘White Bread Media’ Dreher (2014) emphasizes the importance of diverse and accurate portrayal of non-Anglo individuals in the media. This topic is relevant to today’s society as it is important to understand difference and multiculturalism in the media as well as in everyday experiences. Racebending can negatively impact underrepresented communities and can even lead to inaccurate perceptions of history. Now, the question is what can be done to ensure an increase in diversity in our media? And will it actually work?

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References
– Dreher, T (forthcoming 2014), ‘White Bread Media’ in The Media and Communication in Australia, eds S Cunningham and S Turnbull, Allen and Unwin.
– Racebending.com n.d., accessed 6/5/2013, http://www.racebending.com
– Yellowface n.d., accessed 6/5/2013, http://yellow-face.com/yellowface-whitewashing.htm

Feudalisation of the Internet – The iPhone Drones

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A feudal society usually refers to a hierarchically ordered system that revolves around land being held in exchange for service and those who provide labor are tethered to the land (Sommerville n.d.). Freedom is limited though the ‘appearance’ of freedom is installed.  Some, such as Zittrain in ‘Tethered Appliances, Software as Service and Perfect Enforcement’, argue that the freedom on the Internet has taken a step back since the development of technologies including tethered appliances. Tethered appliances refer to devices such as the iPhone and iPad that have software which can be continuously updated via the original manufacturer or vendor after purchase.

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Can it be said that we have lost our freedom since handing over our information and control to these devices and Internet networks? Perhaps, however feudal societies could often provide convenience, protection and a sense of community. Having a record of all your contacts after losing you phone or iPad is definitely an example of the plus side of these devices … but do we risk our security for the sake of being socially connected? Or what we perceive to be ‘social’ from within a Walled Garden (Dreher 2013)?

To receive all the latest functions and coolest technology a level of trust for our digital ‘lords’ is needed in this so-called feudal society. Giving up a degree of control can often be perceived as a good thing when dealing with so much information in ‘the real world’ and not having to create or install your own security software saves a lot of time and frustration. For many of us that have grown up with the Internet, it doesn’t seem like such a sacrifice. But that’s what they want us to think, right? Having limitations put it place to control what vendors do with the data of us Internet peasants may be the first step to regaining some level of security and control. Or we could just ditch our iPhones…. unlikely!

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Reference List

Sommerville, J.P. n.d., ‘Feudalism’, accessed 29/4/2013, https://faculty.history.wisc.edu/sommerville/123/feudalism.htm

Zittrain, J n.d., ‘Tethered Appliances, Software as Service, and Perfect Enforcement’, In The Future of the Internet and How to Stop it, Yale University Press, New Haven, pp. 101-126.

Dreher, T 2013, Feudalisation of the Internet, Tutorial discussion, BCM310, Emerging Issues in Media and Communication, University of Wollongong, 29 April.

Universities in the Digital Age

With the development of the Internet, the amount of information available to university students has greatly increased. It is true that students still have to utilize actual brainpower to complete assignments, at this stage anyway, however the greater range of information available has surely had an impact on how much a student has the ability to learn.

Drawing on my own personal observations for a moment we can imagine the physical difference the Internet has made to the routines of a university student. When attending university students, myself included, find a place in what is known as the ‘Library’ to sit and study their course content…. from their laptops and mobile devices. Essentially the UOW ‘library’ has gone from being a place that houses books and printed information, to a quiet building for students to sit in, at tables fitted with power sockets.

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However as Miller states in The Coming Apocalypse (2010) there can be negative effects of such freedom of accessible knowledge on the Internet, due to open education and information traveling at such a rapid pace. The ‘Power of Print’ is in decline. This includes the university printing industry’s struggle to keep up operations due to the amount of less costly and often even free textbooks and academic information now available on the Internet. A positive of free information for students may mean a negative and not so ‘free’ for those who provide it.

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I believe education has certainty benefited from the increase of information available on the Internet, especially communication and discussion in collaborative works. Our ability to now reach such large amount of information on the Internet and connect with peers and tutors saves us a lot of time and allows more time to delve further into the depths of knowledge. Despite this positive growth I believe universities will still be necessary in the future, as indicated by Miller (2010) the nature of thought has not been altered by the nature of communication.

Reference List

Miller, R 2010, ‘The coming apocalypse’, Pedagogy, vol.10 (1), pp143-151

Traditionalist or Evangelist? – The debate on Participatory Journalism

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Participatory Journalism as described in Understanding a New Phenomenon (Quandt 2011) refers to not just user-generated content but rather how it influences news agenda and how it is utilized by the media in connection with community communication and public debate. Over time, journalism has evolved from a traditional position of power to communicate with society, to one that can now be involved in democratic communication between the media and the public as well as be a platform for the public to communicate to the public.

The results from interviews with journalists done by Quandt (2011) indicate the environment in which journalists work from can influence attitudes towards participatory journalism. Quandt identified two opposing positions in the debate on participatory journalism, the “Journalism Traditionalists” who were against participatory journalism and the “Participatory Evangelists” who supported it. Journalism traditionalists perceived it as a threat or as devaluing journalism as a profession which may cause a loss of trust in the media in the public. However, editors and journalists still hold the position to serve as gate-keepers of information to the public and in many cases prove to be the most trust-worthy sources as people turn to traditional media for reliable information (Lasica 2003). Take Wikipedia for example, one of the largest encyclopedia based websites providing content created by participatory journalists, although it is not always regarded as a reliable source (Lih 2004), notably in academic articles. In a hyper-complex society, it is difficult for journalists to supply content on demand by themselves for such a wide range of different information needs that are continuously evolving. This complication can lead to bias reports due to either the beliefs of the journalist and/or the institution or sensationalized stories being chosen to gain a greater audience.

Overall, I believe that having a ‘relationship’ between journalists and the public promotes positive growth in societal communication. Inclusion of and adapting to the use of participatory journalism is beneficial to a democratic society as social technology is continuously growing and those who do not adapt may be left behind.

Reference List

Quandt, T 2011, ‘Understanding a new phenomenon: the significance of participatory journalism’ Chapter 9 in Herminda et al Participatory Journalism, Wiley Blackwell, pp155-176.

Lasica, J.D 2003, ‘Blogs and Journalism Need Each Other ‘,  Nieman Reposts, vol 57.3 2003, pg 70-74, accessed 5/4/13, via http://www.ufrgs.br/limc/participativo/pdf/need.pdf

Lih, A 2004, ‘Wikipedia as Participatory Journalism: Reliable Sources? Metrics for evaluatin collaborative media as a news resource’, acsessed 5/4/13, via http://www.ufrgs.br/limc/participativo/pdf/wikipedia.pdf

Technological Convergence & Regulation

The fast paced growth of the Internet, transformations of media consumption and the number of new emerging media platforms has challenged the current Australian media regulation framework. To illustrate some perspective on the nature of digital convergence I have included a video from Youtube, a website contributing to such growth that was declared last year to have the second greatest percentage of social media site users in Australia at 47.11% of the population behind Facebook with 51.45% (Adcorp 2012).

With the Australian public having access to such huge amounts of media and over so many growing and changing platforms, a consistent framework is in demand and a singular regulatory body is being debated. The Australian Law Reform Commission (ALRC) stated after the review of the National Classification Scheme, that due to the nature of media convergence a framework concerning media content rather than the media platform should be developed to regulate media in Australia (ALRC 2011). However, with technological convergence and the changing nature of media consumption posing such a threat to our current framework it presents a challenge that does not seem realistically achievable for a single body to regulate. These media platforms that produce such large masess of information are bound to continue their rapid growth in the near future. Those who stand to be impacted by this debate include not only the media owners but most importantly the public as they are not just an audience but also now regular participants in the production and sharing of media.

In my opinion, even though the task of regulating such a huge mass of growing digital platforms would be difficult and may even prove to be impossible, a singular regulatory body can assist in a more consistent result if the framework is developed and maintained with the ability to adapt to convergent media and ongoing change.

Reference List:
Adcorp 2012, ‘Social Media Statistics’, accessed 26/3/13,
http://www.adcorp.com.au/Social-Media-Statistics-January-2013-Aust-NZ
Australian Law Reform Commission 2011, ‘Review of Censorship and Classification – Term of Reference’,
http://www.alrc.gov.au/inquiries/classification/terms-reference

A new beginning in the Blog-o-sphere

Introductions are in order! I’m Emma, a Communications & Media student at the University of Wollongong and you are the reader (If not, this is awkward)! Over the course of the next few months I will be posting my opinions on current emerging issues that concern the media and communications industries. These topics are of a particular interest to me as I hope to be involved in these industries in the (not so distant) future.

First, since we are here communicating on the internet I though we could start at the very beginning; typing. As it turns out I am not only blogging but also burning calories at the same time! Thanks for reading.

Emma