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Goodbye, Privacy

By Marcus Ray

“The era of instantaneous electronic communications, McLuhan claimed, would engender a ‘discarnate man’ whose identity was no longer contained in a physical body but extended through wires or broadcast through space” (Blondheim; Watson, p.19).

This quote from The Toronto School of Communication Theory sums up an idea that Marshal McLuhan had about the effects of media taking away the private life. He predicted “the loss of both identity and privacy in the era of electronic communications” (Blondheim; Watson, p.19). This theory is more relevant than ever before as social networking sites and retail corporations sell customer’s information to advertisers. Also, the sharing of information in social networking sites reveals more information than should be known.

Signing up to points cards, charge cards, mailing lists, and websites may seem to have benefits, but all of that information that you give away can be a valuable asset depending on the company. “The FTC has acted before to protect consumer privacy on the Web. In 1998, the FTC forced GeoCities to post a notice on privacy after determining the community site misled customers when it asked them to provide personal information it eventually shared with marketing firms,” says Greg Sandoval of Cnet.com. Corporations simply aren’t clear on what they intend to do with the information.

Websites are the absolute worst for selling information. Facebook is a prime example, as some of its privacy policies are in direct violation of Canadian law. Caroline McCarthy of Cnet.com writes that “while it’s easy for members to deactivate their accounts, it’s less clear on how to actually delete them,” meaning that once we think we’re finished with Facebook, it retains our information. “Facebook therefore can retain member data from deactivated accounts for an indefinite period of time, which is in violation of a Canadian privacy law,” states McCarthy, pointing out that the world’s most popular social networking site, with 12 million users in Canada, has gotten away with the violation of this law for so long.

On social networking sites, more information that just addresses, emails, and phone numbers are shared. Entire thought processes of simple everyday events are shared to the world, whether or not anyone cares. We tell everyone what we believe in, who we worship, what we did last night, or even what we’re doing right now. Rather than the individuals keeping to themselves, they extend their personal lives to others through these websites taking away their entire private life. G. Jayashanker of associatedcontent.com says, “what happens unfortunately with the online medium of communication is that people forget their boundaries and begin to extent their comfort zone to far beyond respectable limits for themselves.” They begin to become too comfortable with the impersonal side of social networking, revealing more information to strangers than they ever would in person.

Sources:

http://news.cnet.com/2100-1017-242649.html

http://news.cnet.com/8301-13577_3-10289686-36.html

http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/456335/social_networking_and_the_problems.html

http://www.cnn.com/2009/HEALTH/04/23/ep.facebook.addict/index.html

The Toronto School of Communication Theory by Rita Watson and Menahem Blonheim

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By Jhansher Khan

Yes we can structure our own self image, yes we can have our own opinions and yes we can follow any lifestyle we choose to. However, are our ideas of originality really OUR ideas? Not likely. Much of how we perceive the world and even the way we choose to communicate with others verbally or in a non verbal fashion is shaped by our wonderful media system. Whether you are trying to shape your own body image, the way you present yourself or just your general way of thinking, are all likely shaped by the media world around us. Therefore, we aren’t staying true to our own beliefs to a full extent. However, we do to some extent. For example, women in the media are often portrayed as being dominated by men and as sexual objects or figures. In modern society, many women are strongly opposed to women being represented in that way and believe it is morally wrong. There are multiple feminist groups that strongly advocate for feminine rights and gender equality. The media is one of the sources of enrichment that women would like to address, since the media tends to structure our perceptions about the “outside world.”

I call it the “outside world” since the media generally represents a fantasy-like world in my opinion. The “outside world” would be the world that we choose to make our own decisions as a result, which reflects how much the media has impacted our own decisions. Going back to the topic of women in the media, many women in society often contradict their own beliefs about “gender equality” and it results in them following the media’s beliefs. This may include, behaving in a way that belongs to their “gender” (which is supported by the media). By this I mean, communicating with others in a very passive way and not being too outspoken just as an example. Also, wearing revealing clothing,which completely destroys the idea of equality since they are feeding the media system ruled by men. There are other examples, but these are just a few. As an article called, found at “Media Portrayals of Girls and Women: Introduction,” states “We all know the stereotypes—the femme fatale, the supermom, the sex kitten, the nasty corporate climber.”(http://www.media-awareness.ca) This basically outlines the different “models” of women in the media, which are sadly still followed in society. The article states, “Female stereotypes continue to thrive in the media we consume every day.” (http://www.media-awareness.ca) Obviously, the consumption of these female stereotypes will cause people to act out these stereotypes as a result.

How are most of these stereotypes delivered to society? Well through advertising of course! Through fashion magazines, which portray how to be a perfect and ideal female. Through television, where celebrities show you have to dress like them, how to structure your own lifestyle based on their lifestyles and how to behave like them. Through posters, through music, through any other platform you can think of. Women are probably the most manipulated members of society. In the same article mentioned earlier, “It looks at the economic interests behind the objectification and eroticization of females by the media as well as efforts to counter negative stereotyping.” (http://www.media-awareness.ca) This idea is completely true, since the media destroys any idea of “individuality” of women in society. Women are now as dependent on the media than ever, as a gateway to the “outside world”, as I mentioned before.

Sources:

(http://www.media-awareness.ca/english/issues/stereotyping/women_and_girls/)

By Marcus Ray

Today in class we spoke of a theory created by Harold Innis. This theory stated that capitalism and its systems create a dysfunctional society. Advertising is one of the main reasons the society becomes dysfunctional. The relentless competition between products that no one should care about becomes a part of our regular day.

As everyone knows, capitalism is about the money before the people. It is unforgiving to the idea of what men and women are, and glorifies what they ought to be. The competition creates so many different products that each one has to be sexualized, glorified, or unique in some way or another that doesn’t necessarily make a difference to the actual function of the product itself. It is the importance of being different than everyone else through representing different products that matters now. What matters even more is that each product that I own becomes a part of who I am. What matters even more is that I am what they want me to be, and that is because they sold me on their warm branded jacked, or their sleek MP3 player, or even their cell phone that can obtain almost any piece of knowledge I could ever acquire. NO. WRONG.

These features that you love, or “need”, are there simply because at first, the opposition doesn’t have it. It’s another selling point that will make the consumers interested.

“The birth of modern industrial economies was not a pretty picture–considering the human and environmental exploitation that accompanied it” (www.amedianysf.com). Exploitation in advertisements creates an almost utopian idea in the consumers head. “If I buy this, then this will happen because the advertisement says it will.” It isn’t this simple in everyday situations, but for products that people think they really need, it is easier for decisions to be swayed.

The competition that capitalism causes creates new products at fast paces. The amount of new products creates the need to advertise in ways that will most effectively capture the audience.

“In this high tech socio-economic setting, the dividing line between information, advertising and art is fading fast. We now have cop documentaries with superb production values and cop shows with jiggly camerawork, Geraldo Rivera-style, audience interactive, talk shows with local dramas more fascinating than soaps and newspapers and newscasts as colorful as ads. Advertising, in turn, is borrowing from political imagery or avant-garde art, as in the recent Benetton, Absolut Vodka or Coca-Cola campaigns” (www.amedianysf.com). These large scale companies create epic paintings of their procucts to make a glorified image of an everyday object. Commercials become short cinematics creating the notion of products as assets. Theres only so much one can do with a bottle of coke. Or is there? “Advertising cannot help but inch towards more honesty and art, simply to compete with news and culture for our attention” (www.amedianysf.com).

“Why would I want to go to the National Art Gallery if I could just walk through the Rideau Centre? I might even find a couple things I want while I’m in there.” I can only hope that no one has ever thought anything remotely close this. It is one of the major threats capitalism has to offer, and every day it seems to be getting nearer.

As advertising has become such a large part of our culture, it has become a large influence as well.

Sources:

http://www.amedianysf.com/historyofadvertising.html

By Jhansher Khan

Well I want to go back to an older theory that McLuhan put forth and analyze it since it can be applied in modern society. Okay so the big question is, do we actually pay attention to advertising? Well of course we do, if we like it or not. There are two types of media that McLuhan proposed, “hot” media and “cool” media. “Hot” media as McLuhan says, takes more of a passive approach when listening. It’s understandable why we tend not to analyze “hot” media, since these mediums such as the television and radio do not require our utmost attention most of the time. We tend to just absorb everything the media or to go even further, “advertising” informs us about. We fail to question advertising, as well as its overall motives. “Cool” media is when we actually actively participate in “filling in the gaps”, with mediums such as the newspaper and literature for example where we can actually filter out messages that are relevant to us. Yes, we can also do this with “hot” media, but not as effectively since it is difficult to go back and review points for example since messages are basically said in short spans of time. For example, the radio, you may hear something that interests you, but you less likely to “fill in the gaps” since the radio already conveys a message to the listener and the listener happens to take on a more passive role in return.

This brings about the question of “audience”, are we dominated or pluralistic? Do we select what we want to hear or do we listen to everything the media conveys? It tends to be a mix of both, it really depends on the consumer. Some consumers of these messages may internalize these messages while others do not. However, it seems that there is more of a transition towards a pluralistic society. During the 1950’s, society was very much controlled by the printing press and not many bothered to question motives of advertisers. However, during the modern age, yes we are still consuming more and corporations are expanding rapidly, but there is more questioning occurring as a result. Take for instance, Morgan Spurlock, the creator of a documentary called, “Super Size Me”, he questioned practices performed by McDonalds and tried to expose their real intentions as a rich and greedy corporation. Documentaries like these in turn also causes consumers to question what they are consuming. Therefore, there seems to be more “Pluralism” in this case. According to an article called, “How Advertising Works: What Do We Really Know?” by Demetrios Vakratsas and Tim Ambler, there is a certain model that advertisers use to get our attention. The abbreviation known as “AIDA”(26) is proposed to be a model that is behind advertising. It stands for:

Attention——> Interest——–>Desire———->Action

This is an effective model and is actually relevant to how messages are conveyed to us. First they grab consumer attention, get them interested, show them how they would benefit from a product and/or idea and then the consumer acts on it. Within the same article there is a table displaying “A Framework for Studying How Advertising Works”(26)

Demetrios Vakratsas., Tim Ambler. (1999). How Advertising Works: What Do We Really Know?. Journal of Marketing, Pp.26. 63

Educated vs. “Educated”

By Marcus Ray

In The Toronto School of Communication Theory, an Marshall McLuhan has an excellent theory mentioned by James W. Carey that states: “Forms of communication such as writing, speech, printing and broadcasting should not be viewed as neutral vessels carrying given and independently determined meaning.” In a pluralistic society such as ours, or even a dominant society, where one only one view exists, it is important to realize that neutral views are a rarity. McLuhan then proposed that “these forms be considered technologies of the intellect, active participants in the process by which the mind is formed and in turn forms ideas.” Every message that is put out through media is no simple message. They all have a purpose to sway opinion and alter thought.

One point of this entry is to claim that no message delivered through any media should be taken as an innocent remark or statement. In no way am I declaring that all advertisements are concentrated evil, that would be a little over the top. I am saying, however, that they all want your attention, and in most cases, your money, so viewer beware. It’s the simple process of socialization that everyone should be aware of: our surroundings shape who we are. It’s this that makes advertising easier for corporations.

That being said, the main point of this entry is to say that an education of media is important in today’s society, so that people may be aware of the intentions and purposes of advertising. Would it not be better to be educated on media before we get educated (or uneducated) by media. Interpreting each and every aesthetic or social aspect in advertisements isn’t what needs to be done, but simply analyzing why the ad is really there. Corporations spend money to make money, and billions of dollars isn’t spent for nothing. To show how bad they want your attention, here is an interesting figure: www.zenithoptimedia.com published a report stating that the advertisement budget for 2009 in the world is an estimated $495 billion. Think about it this way: How much money in comparison to that figure is spent on things that are actually important. Either way, it shows the power and influence behind the media, and the disgusting amounts of money they are willing to spend to get to you.

An article by written by Jessica Shepherd on www.guardian.co.uk states that people need to teach children as young as five to beware of advertisements. There could be quite a few arguments made on how these corporations offer opportunities that they may not have otherwise had, but in the long run, I think they could do fine without them. The main argument against this is that it’s appalling to see that five-year-olds have become such a large target market. It’s difficult enough getting adults to be aware of this concern.

N. E. Marsden, an educator specialized in media research said on www.huffingtonpost.com that corporations now are not only having advertisements placed in television shows, but are paying to alter the scripts to give the product more attention. “The problem cannot be overstated,” she says. “Directly ahead, we face a hostile takeover of the public airwaves — not to mention the invasion of movies, youth novels, videogames, music videos, songs and even comic books. Giddy marketers are gushing about the prospect of controlling media, instead of just sponsoring it.”

If all of this is true, we may have to revise how we watch television, how we surf the web, and how we walk through malls and streets. Their power is taken for granted, and as I mention in my previous blog about manipulation, there are powerful people who’s life job is to discover easy access into the public mind. The only way to prevent this is to educate yourself on the methodologies and epistemologies of the media. It could be much more important than we realize.

Sources:

http://www.zenithoptimedia.com/gff/pdf/Advertising%20Expenditure%20Forecasts%20%20March%202007.pdf

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/n-e-marsden/stealth-advertising-the-d_b_117810.html

http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2009/dec/14/children-advertising-exploitation-report

By Jhansher Khan

It is pretty obvious we see the media everywhere and advertisements that corporations reach out to us with (I mentioned this in previous articles). One thing that I found astounding is that not only are we indulged in a world of mass consumption, we are actually being controlled in terms of our behaviour and attitudes as well. According to what the media advertises generally, this in turn influences us to conform as a result. However, you may think that it was the state that had all of its dominant control on us, but it is in fact the “Marketplace” that shapes our lives as individuals.

I’ll just use one example that I am aware of in the case of mass consumption. Take the iPod for instance, do we really need one? Sure it can store a lot of memory and has a friendly user interface, but do we need to buy a new one every few years since the newer ones have more features and more space for songs? Well, you earn money, but why are you keeping all of this money? Why can’t you spend it on entertainment? The Marketplace has geared us into a mode of thinking and effectively uses this tactic in order to influence us to consume constantly.

This is mainly what you call a “dominance” in society, those who are the heads of corporations. The majority of us in society are passive viewers and are largely dependent on media outlets. As a result, this causes a type of social order in society, whereas everyone conforms and gives into new technology. Advertisements work as a bridge to essentially “hook” consumers, therefore its just a mere tool at the corporation’s disposal.

I know that Marx is one of the most quoted individuals in history, but this situations is very much like the class struggle between the Proletariat and the Bourgeoisie in society. During Marx’s time, the rich Bourgeoisie class consisted of private factory owners who owned the “means of production.” In the 21st century, corporations actually own the “means of production.” It is the capitalist system, but without the cheap manual labour that existed in the past. However, by consuming we basically give feedback back to these large corporations. So in a way, we are generally working in their best interest. Sure we have our own jobs and we do not work directly for the corporations themselves, but by consuming the products created by corporations, we are in fact aiding in expanding this “consumption empire.” Therefore, the control over us is being asserted even more since these corporations are expanding their enterprises to large degrees. If you draw the same type of model now and compare it to the days of Marx, they both do in fact strongly correlate with each other. One of the major differences is that the “means of production,” have changed according to technology. We are living in the exact same system with a few tweaked aspects!

Not only are corporations controlling our consumption habits, they also play a “cultural” role as well. Yes, they are going far beyond what they originally set out to be. I’ll use the iPod example once again. We are generally listening to and consuming even more music than ever before in the past. With all of this easy access and availability of music, music has become an even more important part of our lives. We did in fact have mp3 players before the iPod’s release, however, the iPod revolutionized mp3 players and stood out to consumers. This lead to heavy consumerism in the music industry as a result. Even in popular culture, the iPod is always depicted as an ideal mp3 player that stands far beyond others and due to popular cultural beliefs, consumers feel as if they need iPods.

It is questionable how much more of a grasp corporations will have on us in the future. The idea of control is always feared, but how much control do we really have to fear? Should we be worried?

By Jhansher Khan

Determinism, is the idea that we must think in extremes and only through one model or idea. However, when assessing a reason for why anything occurs, there is more likely multiple reasons and explanations that are at hand. The theorist I would like to bring up, whom is very deterministic would be Marshal McLuhan. His type of view is that society changes due to thriving technology and that is the only driving factor in this case. In the book, “The Toronto School of Communication Theory: Interpretations, Extensions, Applications,” the author states, “What about the institutional power and political implications of electronic communication?”(86)

It is true that besides technology, there are political and corporate factors at play. According to McLuhan’s view, society is heavily ingrained in the idea of the printing press, since that is where technology seemed to begin in the media and newspapers were one of the first mediums in society. Newspapers were a source of enrichment and education, as well as an outlook of the outside world. Through this medium, the media was able to exercise its own power and domination over people in society. It could be at times bias or misleading as well, which brings in the idea of how the political and corporate world begin to use these mediums, as well as the idea of cultural factors being imbedded behind messages. If a government for example wanted to use this medium to justify acts of war for example, through the newspaper, a one sided biased article may explain how the government essentially has the right to invade another country. Therefore, the use of mediums can lead to corruption and deceit in society.

As technology developed over time, new mediums were formed and generally the same messages and the idea of control was implemented. The invention of televisions, the radio, and computers for example are used in modern times. All this new technology did was open up a new window of opportunity for the corporate and political world to reach us in society. This idea of reaching us and conveying messages to us has been implemented for years, regardless of technology. The only major change is that it is now much easier to convey messages across to us, since the mediums we use in modern day society can be flooded with advertisements put forth by corporations. Therefore, we are more manipulated now than ever.

An advertisement does not necessarily just sell products, but presents us with certain ideas that corporations want us to absorb in everyday lives. Even the political world may use advertising, it is not just limited by the corporate world. One example that was more prevalent in the past two years was the idea of Barrack Obama running as a presidential candidate in the United States of America in the democratic party. Certain ideas were created in his campaign, such as the idea of “change” during the aftermath of an economic crisis caused by the previous government. There were multiple advertisements for his campaign and he eventually took a stand in popular culture as some sort of political prophet that would take office and would succeed in completely reshaping the United States of America.

“Barack Obama looks more like a movie star than a politician”

Here is an article by CNN, that has already analyzed the idea of Obama as a pop culture figure:
http://www.cnn.com/2009/POLITICS/01/18/obama.cool/

Not only did his reach take effect in North America, in other countries around the world that praised him. Even products that certain companies made had the label of “Obama” on them. (I’ll attach a few pictures to give examples) He was basically seen as a charismatic leader and a sign of hope, much like other political influential leaders, such as Nelson Mandella in South Africa. It wasn’t just a simple election. Something originally intended to be just in the realm of the political world, extended its reach into the corporate world as well. Everyday, before he was eventually elected into power, citizens of the United States of America were always reminded of his change campaign and all of the positive hope he presented to society. Through multiple advertisements presented on T shirts, pins to his face on practically every magazine, advertising was effectively implemented and practically being treated like a pop icon may have tremendously helped him win the election. Yet once again, this is an example of the political world at play and its relation to advertising.