Team Microsoft. Viva la Android. Down with Apple

I am going to admit it. I am biased against Apple. I have an Android phone and a Microsoft computer. I’m in the market for a tablet, and am desperately trying to justify a Surface Pro or even a new Chromebook to avoid succumbing to a dreaded iPad or Macbook. Glancing over lecture theatres, it’s crazy to see all of the little lit up apples around the room. Even in my tutorial today, over 80% of the room had an iPhone. I am a lone robot in a room of apples.

Looking at this information, it surprised me to learn that Android is outselling Apple in telecommunications. My biased opinion made me think “well of course, it is the superior product”. What I hadn’t thought of was why. Why did I think Android or anything not-Apple was better. After the lecture, I realised it was because I disagreed with the close-platform approach that Apple takes with its products.

How platforms are created is an ideological choice. Apple has created a closed-platform device that comes with everything included. This gives Apple complete control over the device, content and ultimately the user. Apple products are pretty, easy to use, highly maintained, reliable and the users are comfortable with the hardware and software. Android phones are an open platform, where everything is customizable – anyone can access and modify the code if they know what they are doing. Android has limited  control over their devices, content and users once it has passed into the hands of the user. The ideology behind this is aimed at connectivity verses control.

As was stressed in the lecture, being an open or closed platform doesn’t make something better or worse. In my eyes, open is better, but I can acknowledge that both have their own benefits and disadvantages.

– Kassi

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Copyright Conspiracy Theory

(When I downloaded the Echo360 recording for Monday’s lecture about copyright to review it, a copyright warning played on the screen before the recording started. Coincidence? I think not.)

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Image created by me on memegenerator.com

When copyright was first introduced in 1710 to stop book piracy, it was labelled the “Act of Encouragement of Learning” to give off the impression that it was being created to protect the work of creators. Today, copyright is still considered to be protecting artists. You can’t take anything that isn’t in the public domain and make something with it or you are breaking the law. In terms of creative content, there are four major companies that own pretty much everything; Disney, Time-Warner, Viacom and Newscorp. Disney is the reason that the copyright extension act was created , because they wanted to protect their character Mickey Mouse from becoming available in the public domain. When you look at how the big corporations treat copyright laws, you could speculate that they are not as interested in protecting their creative ideas, content and protecting artists as they are with making lots and lots of money.

– Kassi

What You See Isn’t Always What You Get

Because of our personal cultures, understandings, knowledge and beliefs, the way that we interpret signs, words, messages and images differs from person to person. These misinterpretations can cause problems. Throughout history, artists have provoked controversy through their creative works because of misinterpretations or misunderstood messages.

I have chosen to examine Erik Ravelo’s shock photograph series “Los Intocable” (The Untouchables). The series of photographs were highly controversial when first released in late 2013 because they depict children hung on crosses, similar to crucifixion, to represent some of the controversial issues affecting children all over the world and voice the loss of innocence that is being forced upon these children. These issues are childhood obesity, gun violence in schools, child sex tourism, black market trafficking of children’s organs, paedophilia in the church and war in countries, like Syria.

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Photographs sourced from http://goo.gl/0l8foT

For the remainder of this post I will be talking in detail about the photograph that represents child sex tourism and prostitution.

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When you look at the signifiers in the photo, you see a man in a hawaiian shirt and bright hat, with a camera hanging off his wrist, and a young girl who has her face blurred, positioned as if hanging on a cross against his back. To figure out the signified, the viewer needs to have some understanding of certain things. For example, you need to recognise that the child is in a position that resembles that of being crucified. This notion of crucifiction has a number of connotations attached, mainly, Jesus being nailed to a cross to atone for everyone’s sins.The cross is now used as a symbol for sin (amongst other things). You need to recognise that the Hawaiian shirt and camera that belong to the man represent the stereotype of tourists.

When you look at the photo with these connotations in mind, the meaning of the photograph develops to a deeper level. The little girl is representing young children in countries like Thailand that have a rampant child sex industry, that is mainly used by tourists to the country. The man is representing one of these patrons that engages in the activity, and is the embodiment of the evil that this child faces. The face of the girl (and of all the children in the photograph series) is blurred to obscure her identity, and she is showing the act of child prostitution as a cross (injustice, burden, threat,experience) she has to carry.

The photographs are considered to be controversial because people have misconstrued the images as “pornographic” and of a dark nature because some of the children are only in underwear and some of the issues being explored in the works involve sex with children (the priest and the tourism photo in particular). This reading of the photos is not what the artist was aiming for, showing that the photos can be seen in a way that was not intended. He was hoping to show a visual representation of the injustices that children around the world face, but should not have too.

“I still don’t understand why some people are mad at me, but they’re not mad about those problems. Some people get offended by the photos but not by the problems the photos wants to talk about.” – Erik Ravelo

 

– Kassi

Don’t Try This at Home.

You always hear the tale of a small child who broke their leg jumping off the garage roof because they were trying to be Batman. Where this story originated from, why everyone knows of it and why it keeps popping up in casual media debates is unknown, but these things happen.   There has been anxieties about the effect that media has on people (usually focusing primarily on  children, adolescents, the uneducated or the working class) for years, especially in relation to television, video games, films, magazines and now, the internet. This media has consistently been used as a scapegoat and justification for violent actions.

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The concept of the media being blamed for negative parts of society is called the “Media Effects Model”. To get an understanding of how prevalent this way of thinking is and how long it has been around, academics have been doing studies to determine whether or not media does have an adverse effect on society for a number of years, and there has been no real yes or no outcome to this question. Famously, the psychologist Alfred Bandura conducted his Bobo Doll experiment where he reached the conclusion that yes watching violence encourages violence, but psychologist Christopher Ferguson did two studies, one on violent movies and homicide rates and one on videogames, and found that there was no correlation between the consumption of violent media, and real life violence.

I'd hit this thing too, it's terrifying.
I’d hit this thing too, it’s terrifying.

Everything from books and magazines to movies and videogames are put under the metaphorical magnifying glass of the media effects model. The novel “The Catcher in the Rye” has been associated with the attempted assassination of Ronald Reagan and the shooting of John Lennon. In 1999, two students at Columbine High School killed 13 people and injured 24 when they entered their school and opened fire before killing themselves. In the aftermath, speculation began on what led these two young men to plan out an elaborate school massacre. Video games, the film Natural Born Killers and music artist Marilyn Manson were all blamed for promoting violence and being behind the perpetrators motivations. Target recently stopped selling the video game Grand Theft Auto V because of the games content and apparent violence against women. Magazines are constantly being blamed for encouraging anorexia.

How to get a bikini body: Step one - Have a body Step two - Wear a bikini
How to get a bikini body: Step one – Have a body Step two – Wear a bikini

Blaming the media for negative things that happen is easy. What is less easy is to analyse the situation by looking at the bigger picture. For example, yes it is true that the two boys who orchestrated the Columbine Massacre played first-person shooter video games and listened to Marilyn Manson, but it is equally true that they were both bullied, one was considered to have psychopathy and the other had serious clinical depression. The video game they played involved shooting people, but tens of thousands of people played this game and there was not tens of thousands of mass shootings from these players. There is no simple causation effect. People are not inherently violent because they play video games, watch graphic films or listen to angry music, there are other issues that contribute, and usually contribute more-so.

My personal opinion is that the media effects model is deep and complicated. It is not justifiable to blame ONLY the media for negative things that exist in our society. Yes, I get angry when I die in a video game for the hundredth time, but that has more to do with frustration at failing than it does with the videogames violent or not violent content. It isn’t black and white, or even shades of grey. It is a far more complicated issue that needs to continue to be studied.

– Kassi

 

References:

Ferguson, C. J. (2014) Does Media Violence Predict Societal Violence? It Depends on What You Look at and When. Journal of Communication, 65:1. E1-E22.

Gutierrez, J. P. (2014) No link found between movie, video game violence and societal violence. http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2014-11/ica-nlf102814.php Accessed 19/04/2015

McLeod, S. A. (2011). Bobo Doll Experiment.http://www.simplypsychology.org/bobo-doll.html Accessed 19/04/2015

Turnbull, S. (2015) Media Mythbusting 1: Television Makes you Fat. Lecture. 10/03/15.

 

The Medium is the What-Now?

Marshall McLuhan certainly was not thinking of the hordes of BCM112 students he would be confusing when he came up with the idea that the medium is the message, and yet here we are.

In essence, it means that the way that an idea is presented is actually more important than the ideas and content that is being communicated. For example, if a photo is shared on the media platform Instagram, what the photo is of is not as important as the fact that it has been shared on a program that allows thousands to see the photo.

I didn't upload this to reminisce on good times, I did it because I wanted others to validate how funny it was via likes.
I didn’t upload this to reminisce on good times, I did it because I wanted others to validate how funny it was via likes.

This idea is further developed in an article entitled “What is the meaning of “The Medium is the Message”, by Mark Federman. He challenges us to take the idea that the medium is more important than the message and interpret it as understanding that anything we create has certain characteristics, and these characteristics form the message. “A medium – this extension of our body or senses or mind – is anything from which a change emerges. And since some sort of change emerges from everything we conceive or create, all of our inventions, innovations, ideas and ideals are McLuhan media.” (M. Federman) This way of thinking can be linked to the convergence of media happening today.

Media is not limited to one platform any more, and audiences have changed from being passive viewers to active participants. Television programs used to be confined to just television, and then maybe a video release months after the episode of something was aired. Today, you can stream most episodes of anything online immediately after it has aired (and sometimes even simultaneously), you can download episodes or watch them multiple times on a streaming platform like Netflix. The audience is no longer limited to viewing, but can comment and create. While the episode is being shown, we can tweet using hashtags to give our commentary on the content (think ABC’s QandA), viewers create memes poking fun at characters or situations (My Kitchen Rules 2015 Memes on Facebook) or create Youtube channels that discuss what happened in new episodes of their favourite shows.

Writing an angry Facebook status directed at someone or calling them and saying it to them personally will wield two very different outcomes. The message of the first is that you want other people to see it, comment on it, hopefully validate your feelings and victimise the intended. The message of the second is much more “I have a problem with you and I’m telling you about it privately.” The messages and content that we send and receive, however we choose to package it, have meaning. But it can be argued that how we choose to send it impacts and effects what we’re saying. The medium is the message.

 

-Kassi

– “What is the Meaning of The Medium is the Message?” by Mark Federman (2004)

 

Gallery

Portrait 1 : Tash Serrano

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“I’m actually really good at taking photos! “

Tash Serrano is in her second year of studying a double degree of Commerce/Communications, majoring in Finance and Journalism and Professional Writing. Upon meeting her, you find yourself thinking “how does such a small girl have such a big personality?”. She would love a career focused purely on Journalism, if money wasn’t important (because lets face it, journalism is a bit of a risk money-wise). She has a big, heavy duty, this-means-business camera, and does photography for parties and as a paying hobby on the side.  It is a pleasure to spend time talking to her and getting to know her.

– Kassi Klower

End of an Era

This morning I woke to the news that the game developer Maxis has been shut down. I stumbled across this information whilst sleepily flicking through my morning newspaper (by which I mean scrolling through Facebook while still half asleep in bed and barely functioning) and a headline that caught my eye made me jump. “It’s A Sim: EA Closes Sims/SimCity Developer Maxis”. My sleepy brain was shocked into action as I thought this meant that The Sims would cease to be made and released, and it is a game that I almost religiously purchase and play. I read on to find out that the Emeryville headquarters of Maxis is shutting down, but its four other studios around the world will be staying open for business, including the division of EA that took over the development of The Sims in 2006, The Sims Studio. The closure of Maxis is still very sad news, however, because the Emeryville studio is where the Maxis brand as we know it was created and developed, so its closure is, in a way, the end of an era for PC gaming.

Maxis is best known because of its creation of The Sims franchise, however, it has made several of other games with various success rates. (Fun fact: if you ever owned a Windows 95 – Windows XP computer, you will remember playing the Pinball game that came installed on the computer alongside Minesweeper and Solitaire. This was 3D Pinball for Windows, and was published by Maxis!) Most of their games are simulation based, for example, their 2008 title Spore, in which players develop a new species of organism until it evolves through various stages of intellect. SimCity, The Sims and Spore are regarded as the companies most successful games. Maxis has a few claims to the gaming Hall of Fame, as SimCity revolutionised gaming when it was released in 1989 because it was the first computer game to not have a clear win-or-lose outcome and The Sims is the best selling PC game of all time.

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Even though the overall success of the company is undeniable, it is no secret that Maxis has been running into some problems in the recent years. Spore received positive critical reviews but had a large amount of negative user reviews. The most recent SimCity game, released in 2013 had a number of issues, ranging from connection problems to users simply not enjoying the gameplay. Maxis also came under criticism because the game required the players to always be connected to the internet to play, which was fixed with an offline option in 2014, however this was too late for many users. The Sims 4 was less well received than any of its previous versions.

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The closure of Maxis as a developer is sad news for the gaming community. Numerous people will undoubtedly be losing their jobs through this decision, and if you the read comments of the mass number of articles written about Maxis’ closure, many people are now uncertain about the future of many of EA’s development labels, namely Bioware (the creator of the Mass Effect series, among others). While EA is consolidating Maxis among its other companies, and insists that The Sims and SimCity players will not be affected by the closure because they will continue to develop game options for these titles, the dissolution of Maxis Emeryville is being viewed as the end of a twenty eight year old legacy.

I personally want to express my sadness at this news, and I want to thank Maxis for creating the games that first opened my eyes to the world of PC gaming. I was seven years old when I first played SimCity 2000 on my uncles computer and now I’m almost twenty-one and on any given night if you walk into my bedroom at 2am it is almost certain that I will be playing The Sims. The closure of any creative company is devastating, and this one is very close to my heart. Goodbye, old friend.

Written by Kassi Klower