Archive for the 'Commentary' Category

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Mediacology.

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Growing brain cells

Kika-Pp-Edit
This is what the book says: an infant needs to sleep so that she can grow new brain cells. And what about papa? Well, I’m getting by, joyfully, but with little time to focus on work, thus my long absence from the blog. The good news is that my daughter was born healthy and strong. There is no real bad news, except that my normal time management strategy has been completely destroyed.

As for life in Rome… well you probably heard the news that the air quality here, depending on your disposition, is something special. With traces of cocaine, marijuana and caffeine, makes me wonder if Darth Vader found his recent tour of the city intoxicating in more ways than one. No doubt when he left there was tear gas added to the mix. As for the Lord Emperor’s whirling death flotilla, we are more than relieved to have our quiet neighborhood back and our nights filled with the baby’s cries rather than the drone of the aerial death bubble.

Before coming back I decided that I wanted to rework the blog. For a while there were several changes I wanted to make but the time between my initial coding and the latest software versions was too long and it was too difficult to simply over right the old template. Moreover, as I have been working on my book, my ideas are getting clearer; I’ve wanted to create more of a distinct identity for the blog with a unique URL and domain. Please keep in mind that everything is a work in progress, so I’ll be making tweaks here and there, and I’m a new parent, so time is precious!

If any of you brave souls subscribed to MediaMindfulness, please update your readers to reflect the new name, Mediacology, and location of the updated blog, which now lives at:

http://mediacology.com

I will no longer be posting at this site.

The main reason for the switch from MediaMindfulness to Mediacology is a change in emphasis and pedagogy. Mindfulness is a technique I learned from my meditation practice, which is about observing and being fully conscious and aware of what is happening in any moment. As I have been working on my book of the same name I came to realize that what I was really probing was not just mindful engagement of media, but to advocate for a deeper kind of understanding that delves into the very operating system of our cultural consciousness.

Most media literacy that I am aware of just focuses on the analysis of media. For me that is not enough. Our technological world is running on faulty thinking that goes to the core of economics, communications, education and ecology. Therefore, what Deep Ecology is to environmentalism, Mediacology is to media literacy. It’s an effort to move from a dualistic paradigm I call GridThink, to one that is holistic, which I am calling HoloGrok. More on these terms later. I will be testing some of the ideas of my book at the new blog, and also post about interesting things that cross my browser.

And now for some other mundane things. There was a period of a few weeks with no Internet, and to be truthful, it felt great. I got a lot of writing done and a sense of anxiety that pervades a lot of my probing and searching on the Web was abated. I was a little gloomy, to be honest, when the service was turned back on, and even sadder when the TV arrived. Yet I do miss writing and connecting in the blogosphere and sharing with all of you as you have so bravely ventured into my little world. So I plan to continue posting as much as I find interesting and relevant, but not with so much urgency. I want this to be fun again. I hope it is for you too. See you at my new studio!

Although 70-284 is an easy choice, but the credit earned is equal to that in 640-822 or even 640-863, even though they are much harder. Another clever option would be to skip 70-536 and go directly to SY0-101.

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Media evolution

Evolution
The New Science of Human Evolution – Newsweek Technology – MSNBC.com:

New research also shows that “progress” and “human evolution” are only occasional partners. More than once in human prehistory, evolution created a modern trait such as a face without jutting, apelike brows and jaws, only to let it go extinct, before trying again a few million years later. Our species’ travels through time proceeded in fits and starts, with long periods when “nothing much happened,” punctuated by bursts of dizzying change, says paleontologist Ian Tattersall, co-curator of the American Museum’s new hall.

What does evolution have to do with media? There is an internalized belief in the advanced information economies that technology is an inevitable byproduct of the most successful and necessary cultural products of human culture. Part of our culturally biased thinking relates to an institutional attitude that our communication systems are rational, evolutionary progressions of civilization, something that has been thoroughly debunked by anthropology.

The point is that very few people believe what anthropology teaches: that indigenous, small-scale traditional societies are not earlier (or degenerate) versions of our own. They are rather differing solutions to historical circumstances and environmental particulars that testify to the breadth of human intellectual creativity and its capacity for symbolization.

(Eric Michaels, Bad Aboriginal Art: Tradition, Media and Technological Horizons, p. 82)

The Newsweek article quoted above shows that “progress” and “evolution” do not necessarily come together. My desire is for us to consciously choose how we use our tools, and not let them control us (this is the essential anxiety of most sci-fi films). I think this is the lesson we can take away from these evolving concepts of human development. I’m not anti-technology, but I am about perspective, and for positive communication and community building. If our tools are in service of these goals, then I’m all for them.

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Sureal Estate: Dubai is the sci-fi capital of the world

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Forget Vegas, forget Disney. Meet Dubai. Nice beach-front property, just a stone’s throw from Iran and WWIII. God willing for oil economy investors, may the Straits of Hormuz remain open and sea levels even.

If the above promotional video isn’t convincing enough (yes, it’s real), read a sample of Mike Davis‘ remarkable piece on Dubai, sci-fi capital of the world:

New Left Review – Mike Davis: Fear and Money in Dubai:

Welcome to a strange paradise. But where are you? Is this a new Margaret Atwood novel, Philip K. Dick’s unpublished sequel to Blade Runner or Donald Trump on acid? No. It is the Persian Gulf city-state of Dubai in 2010. After Shanghai (current population 15 million), Dubai (current population 1.5 million) is the planet’s biggest building site: an emerging dreamworld of conspicuous consumption and what the locals boast as ‘supreme lifestyles’. Despite its blast-furnace climate (on typical 120° summer days, the swankier hotels refrigerate their swimming pools) and edge-of-the-war-zone location, Dubai confidently predicts that its enchanted forest of 600 skyscrapers and malls will attract 15 million overseas visitors a year by 2010, three times as many as New York City. Emirates Airlines has placed a staggering $37-billion order for new Boeings and Airbuses to fly these tourists in and out of Dubai’s new global air hub, the vast Jebel Ali airport. [1] Indeed, thanks to a dying planet’s terminal addiction to Arabian oil, this former fishing village and smugglers’ cove proposes to become one of the world capitals of the 21st century. Favouring diamonds over rhinestones, Dubai has already surpassed that other desert arcade of capitalist desire, Las Vegas, both in sheer scale of spectacle and the profligate consumption of water and power.

And now for some video to flesh out the story:

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Continue reading ‘Sureal Estate: Dubai is the sci-fi capital of the world’

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The Daily Me

Cartoonist Ted Rall and political commentator nails it:

Ted-Rall-Daily-Me

U.S. Media Overlooked Major Humanitarian Stories in 2006

Study: U.S. Media Overlooked Major Humanitarian Stories in 2006:

Last year millions of people in many countries lost their lives as a result of wars, violence, disease, and hunger, yet the major television networks in the United States did not tell their stories to the U.S. public, a new study on media coverage notes.

The staggering human toll taken by tuberculosis (TB) and malnutrition as well as the devastation caused by wars in the Central African Republic, Sri Lanka, and the Democratic Republic of Congo were almost completely ignored by the leading television networks, according to a well-respected medical aid group that monitors media coverage on humanitarian issues at the end of each year.

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Thinking postitive

Happy New Year! To get things going, here’s some positive attitude about media, something you don’t hear so much these days.

TheStar.com – sciencetech – The year in Ideas:

Massaged by the medium

Metta Spencer is a peace activist and emeritus professor of sociology at the University of Toronto who argues that TV and film have already helped make the world a better place, and could make it better still. Not all TV and movies, of course, but shows with humanity, idealism and a sense of social justice. In a May interview with the Star’s Olivia Ward, Spencer – whose latest book, Two Aspirins and a Comedy: How Television Can Enhance Health and Society, had recently been published – recounted how she watched the Alaska-based series Northern Exposure while recovering from hip-replacement surgery, and “my pain would diminish for hours.”

But in her book, and the interview, Spencer went beyond the biochemical impact of laughter and positive emotions to look at how popular entertainments can spur social change. “Birth rates in the developing world are dropping ahead of schedule – TV viewers see small, happy families and emulate them,” she told Ward. “Intelligence levels are increasing by three points per decade, largely because of exposure to complicated plots in TV shows.

“In 1983, the film Gandhi brought non-violent methods to a wide audience, and activists studied that film closely and implemented those techniques in 1989, toppling Communism almost without bloodshed. It’s astounding.”

Ultimately, Spencer believes that TV and film could literally save the planet. “Motivation simply doesn’t come from information,” she said. “It comes from feelings – sentiments, affects. It comes from caring. It comes from emotional human relationships. Even fictional relationships can have emotional power.”

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Turkmen Leader Opens a Book-Shaped Building

Book-BuildingThis news item (via BoingBoing) came at a fortuitous moment because just yesterday as I was walking past the Morgan Library in NYC I realized that fonts and architecture serve the same purpose. This “book building” created by the Turkmen government is a symbolic convergence of the two. What prompted this thought was the design of the Morgan library with its classical Greek motifs that intimate tradition and knowledge. Here architecture is a kind of font that helps us read the building’s intent. Likewise, fonts are often used to connect words with points of view. For example, Futura, invented in the 1930s, denotes modernism, where as Times-Roman means consistency and reliability (think of the name). Good design, though, should represent ease of use/readibility, without drawing attention to itself. I think this principle applies to both font design and architecture. The goal is to facilitate the use of space, whether it is physical in the sense of a building, or imaginary, in the sense of the mental reconstruction of thoughts through written words.

My favorite book on fonts is Stop Stealing Sheep. People studying media are encouraged to learn more about this very important subject. Fonts are the gateway to everything you read, including this.

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Green roof saves green in Chicago – Nightly News with Brian Williams

Whatworks

As media critics we tend to constantly point the finger at how bad everything is, so it’s nice to be able to also encourage good behavior. In this case, it’s NBC News, which has started a new series, “What Works.” It’s designed to exemplify and showcase programs, projects and people who are making positive changes. This is exactly the kind of thing I wish we’d get on programs like Democracy Now! I find it frustrating to see in media from both the Left and RIght a continuously angry and fearful tone. It remains to be seen how the NBC News series goes; it could ultimately chose subjects that presumably only reenforce the prevailing paradigm. But it’s first segment on green roofs in Chicago bodes well. If you click to the link, you can view video as well.

Green roof saves green in Chicago – Nightly News with Brian Williams – MSNBC.com:

CHICAGO – It’s like a scene from a peaceful meadow: Where wildflowers bloom and the bees are busy. But to reach this slice of Eden, one doesn’t travel out of town, one travels up, 12 stories up.

“I talked about building a green roof,” says Chicago Mayor Richard Daley, “and everybody kind of looked at me whether or not I kind of lost it, ha ha ha.”

But the crazy idea is paying off. Since Chicago installed a 20,000 square foot “green roof” atop City Hall five years ago, the city has saved about $25,000 in energy costs.

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War and media

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Underwhelmed by It All – Los Angeles Times

A great LA Times article that challenges assumptions about the youth and media consumption:

Underwhelmed by It All – Los Angeles Times:

With their vast arsenals of electronic gear, they are the most entertained generation ever. Yet the YouTubing, MySpacing, multi-tasking teens and young adults widely seen as Hollywood’s most wanted audience are feeling — can it be? — a bit bored with it all.

A new Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg poll, the first in a series of annual entertainment surveys, finds that a large majority of the 12- to 24-year-olds surveyed are bored with their entertainment choices some or most of the time, and a substantial minority think that even in a kajillion-channel universe, they don’t have nearly enough options. “I feel bored like all the time, ’cause there is like nothing to do,” said Shannon Carlson, 13, of Warren, Ohio, a respondent who has an array of gadgets, equipment and entertainment options at her disposal but can’t ward off ennui.

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Brave New Media

The Nation has a great special issue out on media. This was my favorite article:

Brave New Media:

A new media era is here. The head of NBC says he is selling to sponsors “on the air, online and on-the-go.” “Cross platform” is the term of the day. For progressives and independents, the old hurdles of distribution–erected by the powerful media conglomerates–are giving way to new opportunities. We don’t need a billion dollars to buy a network. We don’t need hundreds of millions to take over this or that media entity. We have at our disposal a rapidly proliferating array of tools available at low cost to get our messages out–from the Internet to iPods to cellphones and whatever comes next.

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Busting Adbusters

AdbustersMy colleague over at the New Mexico Media Literacy Project, Christie McAuley, wrote the following letter to Adbusters. I think it is right on, and speaks for itself. I want to qualify this as constructive criticism. I have loved Adbusters for many years but have been somewhat disenchanted with its direction. It used to be really easy to read, but now it ventures into a very postmodern realm with its efforts to deconstruct the concept of a magazine. My suggestion: stop publishing a magazine if you don’t like the format. It has gotten so artsy, I find it incomprehensible. I also find the tone very us vs. them, which to me is a lot more tired than traditional magazine formats. I actually confronted Adbuster’s founder, Kalle Lasn, about this and he just said that it was worth the risk of alienating folks such as myself. Well, I’m not alienated, I just can’t use the magazine anymore as an effective tool for change. Anyhow, please read Christie’s letter, I think it’s great.

Hello Adbusters folks,

I am jazzed to see that you included New Mexico Media Literacy Project (NMMLP) on your “After 50 Years of Media Activism, What Will it Take to Break Through?” chart in the May/June 2006 issue. The organizations you referenced, including Adbusters, do important media work, and bring a much-needed perspective not covered in Big Media. In fact, NMMLP relies on many of the resources and insight provided by these very groups to help fulfill our mission.

However, what’s a chart without any critical analysis of its content?

In any piece of media, chart or otherwise, not all points of view can be accommodated. Editors choose to include some perspectives, while excluding others, even if they are trying to present objective and unbiased information. Thus, for every piece of media that tells a story, there are untold stories as well. Unfortunately, those untold stories often include under-represented populations like people of color, the disabled, youth, the working class, immigrants and LGBTQI communities.

While the groups mentioned in your chart do necessary and compelling work, there are other organizations that were not mentioned yet are breaking ground in terms of media analysis, production, justice and activism. I’ll list only a few (due to space and time constraints): Project Censored, Bitch Magazine, Third World Majority, Bodies of Work and Listen Up. I’m inspired to know that in the fight for better communities.Whileh stronger when we join together to know the media, change the media and be the media.

United in democracy,

Christie McAuley
Director of Curriculum Development
New Mexico Media Literacy Project

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Warnography: DIY frontline Iraq war videos and the explosion of on-line video

Iraq video stillI guess the Marine training that equates a hard-on with a deadly weapon translates well to the optical unconsciousness. At FreeVideoBlog soldiers are posting their combat footage (and in other cases doing things as mundane as doing BMX bike tricks in the middle of a vacant desert). Some of the clips are straightforward sad, with titles as simple as the great American lament, “Iraq Sucks.” Others though, are adrenalin-fueled, quickly cut montages of door knockdowns, home invasions, and assaults on Faluja. Overdubbed voices celebrate the “once in a lifetime opportunity” to attack a city full of insurgents. One video is just a guy “getting some” as he fires his machinegun from a helicopter; hell knows where those bullets are landing. Continue reading ‘Warnography: DIY frontline Iraq war videos and the explosion of on-line video’

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Village Voiceless, Village of the Damned

Village of damned VS. voice-logo
Some stories lend themselves to great headlines (“Cocaine cola a real buzz” for instance), but the demise of the Village Voice tends to not offer much humor (except in the Twainian sense of “news of my death is greatly exagerated”). I have mixed feelings. For those of you outside the Manhattan echo chamber, the Voice’s storied tradition of radical politics and culture was absorbed by a national chain of weekly urban “independents,” New Times Media based in Phoenix. The company also owns the LA Weekly, Seattle Weekly and SF Weekly among others. Many are alarmed by the firing of long-time investigative reporter, James Ridgeway. Add to the mix resignations, articles with bogus anecdotes, a shift in priorities and the international trend of media consolidation, and you get one pissed off crowd of readers. Plus New Yorkers are a tough audience to please. Go to a Yankees game and you will know what I mean.

Unfortunately, I think the Voice lost its relevance a long time ago. Continue reading ‘Village Voiceless, Village of the Damned’

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Ain’t no TV holiday in Cambodia

TV-WeekIt’s that time of year for the international holiday for freaks, TV Turnoff Week. Sponsored by Adbusters, this has become a calling card for school librarians (yes, they are feeing the pinch) and is a good time to reflect on our addiction to media. A few questions, though. What is a TV anymore? With TiVo, V-cast telephones and Web TV it seems like TVs are very old school as a thought process. It has always been my contention that TVs are structures, not objects. When I suggested to Jerry Mander (author of Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television) that environmentalists start using media literacy, he said: “It’s a good idea, except that it makes media more interesting, so I’m against it.”
tv-smashIn a past life when I was a student at Berkeley, we used to have a TV smash party on Sproul Plaza. It was quite dangerous, actually. Did you know that tube TVs hold enough of an electrical charge to kill a human? (This is so you can fire it up on demand!) But we put on our goggles and had cathartic fun anyway. What will you do for TV turnoff week? I’ll be recording all my favorite commercials, so I won’t miss a thing anyway.

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MoveOn.org petition to stop nukes

I don’t always agree with MoveOn.org’s tactics (I don’t like their fear-mongering political ad techniques), but we should at least go and sign their petition to Congress to prevent Bush from using nukes on Iran. It may not seem like much, but it’s a start. We need critical mass.

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Forget the moon, nuking Iran is on the table

So I was being snarky when I posted on a wingnut’s case to nuke the moon. As I explained in that post, crossing the “insane” threshold is a political and military strategy to make people believe you will do anything to rule the world. After all, when logic fails, why not scare the shit out of people? So what follows is very serious and is not done in the spirit of trying scare but to make sure we understand the grave situation we are in and that as many citizens as possible understand what could potentially happen in the very near future concerning Bush’s desires to use nukes. Hopefully this is just a worst-case scenario and is simply alarming to make the point that there needs to be a cogent response to what appears to be a rather scary mentality at work.

You can read here the AP article on Iran’s enrichment program and reader comments at the Huffington Post.

The following interview with Jorge Hirsch, a professor of Physics at the University of California, on the recent news that Bush plans to nuke Iran should be considered as just one opinion among many. I encourage people to inform themselves as much as possible, and do what ever is possible to create a space for a peaceful resolution to the current situation. (Please send alternatives and I’ll post them.)

ZNet |Iran | Nuking Iran :

“I believe there is a high probability of war with Iran because key people in the administration desperately want it, but I don’t believe it is inevitable. I hope there will be a sufficiently large public outburst of opposition, eg thanks to Hersh’s and other’s revelations, to make it impossible. The dire situation in Iraq of course is making it more difficult, and I hope there will be strong voices in the administration and influential republicans that will recognize the likely disastrous consequences and oppose it. Or perhaps influential old-timers like Bush Sr. and Scowcroft will be able to dissuade President Bush.”

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Anti-commie culture jams

anti-cheWho said all culture jammers are lefties? (Discuss amongst yourselves.) Here’s a T-shirt company unafraid to use our tactics against us, and I love it! Sure they are distasteful, but they are funny in the same way that “Let’s kill ’em all and let God sort ’em out” is funny. But seriously folks, they are spot on with the Che thing. Rather than checking facts at the door, people should reconsider this Che craze. Did you know that Che had his political enemies shot? Just because the most beautiful boy in the world played him in a movie with sepia tones doesn’t mean we should see things through the same crimson glasses. Che is corporate rebellion!

You might also want to check out the Hillary Clinton egg yolk separator and incense burners.

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Nuke the Moon

nuke-moonHere’s the crappy thing about our culture today: I can’t tell anymore if I’m a total sucker. Is this another Yes Men prank?

The campaign is called, “nuke the moon.” Strange thing is, there is some rationality to this irrationality. The argument is that if the US as a superpower acts totally crazy, then no one can predict what it will do and fear its insane, random application of power (sound familiar?). If you have read any Chomski, you will know that this is a real military strategy practiced today. But it doesn’t always work. Think Iraq.

Anyhow, read at your own peril. This poor blogger really hates hippies way too much.

Nuke the Moon:

“My idea is to nuke the moon; just say we thought we saw moon people or something. There is no one actually there to kill (unless we time it poorly) and everyone in the world could see the results. And all the other countries would exclaim,’Holy @$#%! They are nuking the moon! America has gone insane! I better go eat at McDonalds before they think I don’t like them.’

But why stop there. We’ve got like tons of national parks; we surely wouldn’t miss just one if we nuked it. Our excuse will be that we heard a drug dealer was hiding there. Then the foreign nations would be like, ‘Sacre bleu! These Americans are nuking themselves! Surely they will think nothing of bombing us! Let’s adapt their vapid culture as our own so they might consider us one of them.'”

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