Archive for the Uncategorized Category

How the Digital Age Gets Us Where We Need to Be

Posted in Uncategorized on November 20, 2010 by memoirsofcomposition

I recently read a very interesting article that discussed how the main difference between the digital generation and other generations is that the digital generation knows exactly where they are, or if they don’t, they can quickly figure it out.  Through GPS systems becoming more available to the general public, more and more people are gaining this ability to figure out their whereabouts without having to stop for directions (males around the world rejoice).  The article, “Novel Cartographies, New Correspondences” by Jentery Sayers, discusses this phenomenon in regards to her blog, “geoblog.”  Although I was unable to find the actual blog, I did find an article in which Sayers discusses the blog and the results which came out of her research.  The goal of the “geoblog” was to “allow students to use mobile technologies, such as mobile phones, to collaboratively map the University of Washington’s Seattle campus through digital media, including digital photography, video, and audio.  With the geoblog, these media could be uploaded to the Internet, time- and author-stamped in individual blog entries, and pinned on a Google map” (p. 255).

The whole point of this blog is, to not only show the phenomenon of GPS, but also to show the advantages of “participatory learning” by engagement with the Internet and the opportunities it provides (p. 255).  This article is rather ahead of its time considering the hesitation to include non-traditional media into academic spaces.  However, Sayers shows in the article how important it is that we reevaluate those thoughts.  The Internet directly influences participatory learning because it allows for simultaneous information to be found and then analyzed, either individually or in a group.  Participatory learning can also be seen as participation with the Internet itself, engaging with the possibilities it offers.  Blogging is just one of those possibilities.  Sayers outlines this through her blog, asking students to “decide what about their campus matters to them and to document it, through digital media, on a map” (p. 255).  This possibility would never have been possible without the Internet.

Another aspect of participatory learning is the ability to condense everything to one space.  For example, Sayers explains, “With each student participating, these rhetorical choices–these depictions of what about the campus matters–quickly aggregate in a single digital space, and when examined collectively, they start to form relationships and patterns” (p. 256).  This type of learning is better than individualized learning because it allows for multiple viewpoints and personalities to be voiced, which is really the point of the Internet, anyway.

Sayers article articulates the importance of including these non-traditional writing spaces in academic spaces because they allow for participation and deduction of concepts to occur.  The Internet functions in much the same way our brains do which makes it easy for us to participate with it and through it.  The idea that academic personalities are so against incorporating technology in the classrooms is both a problem and a wasted fight.  If we incorporate technology in the classroom, learning will occur on an even greater scale than without it.  Sayers’ article explains how we can do this in a non-threatening way and still accomplish the goal of using technology in the classrooms–it would be in our best interest to take her seriously.

References:

Photo: http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://i.ehow.com/images/a06/9r/ha/make-pushpin-map-streets-trips-200X200.jpg&imgrefurl=http://www.ehow.com/street-maps/&usg=__Kd5VP6v5dKgf4mctXMdbqDae6RE=&h=200&w=200&sz=62&hl=en&start=39&zoom=1&tbnid=9_W4lj70S547CM:&tbnh=149&tbnw=149&prev=/images%3Fq%3Dmaps%2Bof%2Bstreets%26hl%3Den%26biw%3D1280%26bih%3D627%26gbv%3D2%26tbs%3Disch:10,1213&itbs=1&iact=hc&vpx=563&vpy=260&dur=645&hovh=160&hovw=160&tx=102&ty=81&ei=lk3oTKPnN9yynAfR1ezUBA&oei=Xk3oTK_nM8P78AbM8uzADA&esq=5&page=3&ndsp=19&ved=1t:429,r:15,s:39&biw=1280&bih=627

Article: Sayers, Jentrey.  “Novel Cartographies, New Correspondences.”  Writing and the Digital Generation.  Ed.  Heather Urbanski.  Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Compancy, Inc., Publishers, 2010.  255-257.  Print.

Activism…with a twist

Posted in Uncategorized on November 13, 2010 by memoirsofcomposition

Have you ever been a part of something that you were so passionate about that you were willing to go to great lengths to get the message across?  For Zeke Spier, he began to experience these emotions when he attended college and got involved with political activism.  Larry Elin writes an intriguing essay about “The Radicalization of Zeke Spier: How the Internet Contributes to Civic Engagement and New Forms of Social Capital.”  He begins the essay by saying that “No matter where one stands on the issues, the passion, resolve, and courage of committed protesters make temperatures rise, and onlookers are left either emotionally inspired or intimidated” (p. 97).  This is an apt statement because protesters are people who get their message across with the hopes that people will join them in their struggles to reach even more people–in a way, they are “the embodiment of the first amendment” (p. 98).

Zeke Spier was chosen for the article by Elin because he fit their requirements for “balance in representation across age, sex, ethnicity, political affiliation, and other demographics” (p. 99).  Also, Spier was an activist with a unique tie–the internet.  Elin writes, “The Internet became for him the link between education and motivation and the catalyst for action” (p. 99).  Spier has an interesting history because he has always had an interest in injustice and news.  He grew up in Oregon where “mass media–television, newspapers, and even theater–had played a major role in shaping his sense of self, but had contributed little to helping him find his place in a collective” (p. 101).  When he attended college at Brown, things changed.  He finally found students who thought like him and who were actively involved in making a difference.  He states: “‘One list led to another, and I started getting information about everything.  Meeting updates, discussions, teach-ins, scheduled demonstrations, you name it’” (p. 101).  This beginning helped him when he finally figured out even better ways to get involved with issues he thought important.

For example, his background helped him “feel right at home on the Internet” which led him “to connect [with] people with similar beliefs who were separated by time and space” (p. 101).  In other words, the Internet was the place that Spier was able to find people with similar beliefs and finally gave him that connection with a collective group that he had been missing previously.  The Internet is also a great way to find demonstrations and places that help people meet up and figure out who will be doing what during the demonstration.  The article also mentions how the Internet has made the Black Bloc and affinity groups much easier to organize and find to ensure the most success possible during a demonstration.

Spier says that perhaps the most important reason why the Internet is so influential with people who are interested in activism is because it makes Convergence locations–”places where teach-ins, training, and gatherings take place when protesters come in from out of town”–easier to find and locate (p. 107).  Spier says that without the Internet, “I don’t know how I would have found anybody” (p. 107).

With political activism, there is a constant threat of arrest.  However, for people, like Spier, who are so passionate about activism, this consequence is really not important.  In fact, it is almost like a trophy that one can talk about and show off with other like-minded people to show how dedicated to the cause one really was.  The Internet makes activism more interesting because it allows for the possibility of mass communication at the press of a button.  Spier believes that without the Internet, activism would not be as successful or jarring because the demonstrations would not have the numbers needed to make an adequate statement.

This is an interesting issue that will only develop further as the Internet expands and becomes more and more accessible.  It is hard to imagine how people in the ’60s and ’70s were able to demonstrate without the Internet, purely because it would be harder to communicate with mass numbers of people ahead of time.  However, it will be interesting to see how the Internet continues to affect activism and how it changes the look and feel of what activism is.

References:

Photo: http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://whatsortsofpeople.files.wordpress.com/2008/09/silence.jpg&imgrefurl=http://whatsortsofpeople.wordpress.com/category/human-nature/identity-politics/&usg=__Wq4CbWDKOGuECquFG1P-EWRrWuQ=&h=423&w=349&sz=93&hl=en&start=0&zoom=1&tbnid=Tr_9GxUXomYF1M:&tbnh=132&tbnw=100&prev=/images%3Fq%3Dactivist%2Bposters%26hl%3Den%26biw%3D1280%26bih%3D679%26gbv%3D2%26tbs%3Disch:1&itbs=1&iact=hc&vpx=1031&vpy=309&dur=681&hovh=247&hovw=204&tx=178&ty=134&ei=N_PeTNeDGpOtngfomaGNDw&oei=N_PeTNeDGpOtngfomaGNDw&esq=1&page=1&ndsp=24&ved=1t:429,r:15,s:0

Article: Ayers Michael D. and Martha McCaughey. Cyberactivism: Online Activism in Theory and Practice. New York: Routledge, 2003. Print.

Revisiting Remix…

Posted in Uncategorized on November 13, 2010 by memoirsofcomposition

I recently came across a men’s A Capella group that met in college and were discovered on Youtube in 2007.  The group is called Straight No Chaser and they do an incredible job remixing popular songs, but also have written a few original songs.  I have attached a couple of videos to showcase their music and show how they remix their material.  I was so excited to find them and thought it was a perfect addition to this class and our discussions about remix.

 

Cyberactivism

Posted in Uncategorized on October 31, 2010 by memoirsofcomposition

Cyberactivism appears to be a relatively new issue–one that arose as the internet spread to more people–and one that needs to be looked at more closely.  Cyberactivism is defined in Martha McCaughey and Michael D. Ayers’ book, Cyberactivism, as “the presence of political activism on the internet” (p. 1).  This is an interesting definition because of the words “political” and “activism” used in correlation with the “internet.”  The internet, for most, is seen as a way to connect with others through networking sites and email, a place to write down thoughts (blogs), and a place to gather research in a quick and efficient manner.  However, because people are constantly on the internet and receive a plethora of information from the internet, it makes sense that people would start to use it as a political tool to spread their agenda and ways to get involved.  In fact, many people are becoming more and more aware of this phenomenon and ways to take advantage of it.

In Cyberactivism, the authors discuss that “Cyberactivism crosses disciplines, mixes theories with practical activist approaches, and represents a broad range of online activist strategies, from online awareness campaigns to Internet-transmitted laser-projected messaging” (p. 2).  Because of the multi-tasking of the internet, it is a great way to send out information to large numbers of people.  They go on to say, “Understanding cyberactivism is important not only for scholars in cyberculture studies but also for scholars interested in activism, social transformation, and technology.  Online activism raises new questions about political organizing and social change” (p. 3).  In a way, we are all scholars of “activism, social transformation, and technology” due to the world we live in.  For example, those who have access to the internet, to mobile phones, to iPods, etc., all have an interest in technology.  Through using them, we become scholars of the various technologies’ ability to affect our lives by making them more convenient or comfortable.  Therefore, we should all be curious about the possibilities of cyberactivism and how it will change the way we view political activism in the future.

In our class discussion over cyberactivism, we discussed that cyberactivism is more of a support system for people working with political activism.  In other words, we decided that cyberactivsim was not a great way to host a campaign for something but could be used in conjunction with a campaign to help spread the word and find a larger supporting base.  Therefore, even if political activists do not accomplish their original goals, the internet helps to get the word out to more people and since the internet is a permanent source, the information is always available to those who wish to view it.  Therefore, the internet is a great support tool for those who engage in political activism and wish to spread their ideas to others.

An example that we thought was interesting was discussed in the book, Cyberactivism.  The story involves a young man who wished to purchase a NikeID that said “sweatshop” on his pair of shoes.  NikeID denied his request and he published the emails that went back and forth which showed the conversation between him and the people at NikeID.  Although it did not change the outcome, the fact that he published this for others to view on the internet made an impact on those wishing to purchase Nike shoes.  And although this might not have direct correlation to the emails, Nike did change how they treated their employees overseas (pp. 10-14).

This type of political activism is important to know and understand because as our world becomes increasingly more digital, we need to be flexible enough to engage in these types of situations and know how to respond to them.  Cyberactivism is a concept that is interesting to study and to know how people use it because it is increasingly becoming more important to how we view politics and the agendas surrounding political activities.

References:

Ayers, Michael D., and Martha McCaughey.  Cyberactivism: Online Activism in Theory and Practice. New York: Routledge, 2003.  Print.

http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://www.freedomsphoenix.com/Uploads/Graphics/002-1006082436-Your-Move.jpg&imgrefurl=http://www.freedomsphoenix.com/Reference-List.htm%3FPgNo%3D3&usg=__Zv8wkImQKfg3B7TrN0dFiRHYy1g=&h=345&w=271&sz=11&hl=en&start=28&zoom=1&tbnid=IwutdkCLtl15qM:&tbnh=167&tbnw=123&prev=/images%3Fq%3Dpolitical%2Bactivism%26um%3D1%26hl%3Den%26biw%3D1280%26bih%3D679%26tbs%3Disch:10,280&um=1&itbs=1&ei=e8nNTOacH8OOnwfbosDyDw&iact=hc&vpx=338&vpy=421&dur=378&hovh=167&hovw=131&tx=78&ty=80&oei=Y8nNTLrwCtPRnAef98HDDw&esq=2&page=2&ndsp=17&ved=1t:429,r:1,s:28&biw=1280&bih=679

One World

Posted in Uncategorized on October 21, 2010 by memoirsofcomposition

Today in class we had a very interesting discussion about identity and how it is affecting the way we view other races and cultures.  In the book, Cybertypes, by Lisa Nakamura, she discusses various advertisements and how these ads reduce other cultures to tourist attractions or take away a very important part of the essence of a particular culture.  By taking away diversity, Nakamura argues that we are left with only one thing–Western culture.  This idea was also brought up in Bolter’s text when he discusses Derrida’s idea of “logocentrism.”  Logocentrism can be decoded to mean Western culture because it revolves around the words that have been looked to throughout the centuries as good literature.  This is such an important part of understanding the internet because it makes the world even more centralized around ideas and various trends.  If we want to maintain a sense of diversity, it is important that the internet not only present trends that are mainly from the Western culture.  However, this is difficult because often people who are not as privileged as the Western culture do not have access to the internet.  This would make including that diversity on the internet more difficult since it is not even being represented by a particular culture.

Nakamura makes some interesting points about how we need to make sure that diversity is not boiled down on the internet–that instead, it recognizes some of the absolute necessities of keeping the differences between cultures.  Her point about the ads is interesting because she presents a series of them and shows how these companies have bought into the idea that technology reduces other (meaning non-Western) cultures to something that is exotic and intriguing, thereby associating it with Western culture because the ad relates the two together.

One ad that was particularly interesting to me, as well as to my class, is an IBM ad that presents an Arab man on a camel (Note: the picture that is next to this text is NOT the ad–I was not able to find the actual ad itself).  Nakamura notes that: “the idyllic image of an Arab on his camel, with the pyramids picturesquely squatting in the background, belongs in a coffee table book.  The timeless quality of this image of an exotic other untouched by modernity is disrupted by the cartoon dialogue text, which reads, ‘What do you say we head back and download the results of the equestrian finals?’  This dissonant use of contemporary, vernacular, American technoslang is supposed to be read comically; the man is meant to look unlike anyone who would speak these words” (p. 93).  Nakamura brings up some valuable points that are worth noting.  For one, she states that the background that is actually quite haunting and beautiful in its simplicity, is undermined by the American slang that discusses the internet.  Rather than appreciating the Arab culture, the ad subverts that and instead reduces it to include the Western culture.  Another point that she discusses is that this ad “makes the planet smaller by causing everyone to speak the same language–computerspeak” (p. 93).  This is interesting because it correlates the cultures purely through the Arab’s ability to discuss computers in the same way that an American would.

I agree with Nakamura that this push towards the sameness of cultures is dangerous and something that we should really try to prevent.  However, I differ from her opinion of the above ad in one minor way: The Arab and the camel would look out of place if they were placed in the middle of New York City.  By keeping the background (which definitely is in the background) of the pyramids, the Arab keeps a part of his culture that the Western culture cannot share.  We visit those areas as tourists but do not know how to navigate the deserts, survive in the deserts, or even how to ride a camel (most of us).  Therefore, this minor part of the ad helps to keep some of the validity of the Arab and his surroundings.  In this one instance, the ad does not denote “one world” but in fact, two–that of the Arab and that of the more universal computer.

Our class discussion and the essay were both interesting commentaries on identity in a virtual world.  It is getting trickier to keep diversity on the internet (at least as it is traditionally thought of) but it is worth the effort to keep diversity alive.  Without that, we lose so much from our world and that would be such a loss.

References:

Photo: http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://www.portpromotions.com/upload/1272055963_giza-pyramids-at-dusk.jpg&imgrefurl=http://www.portpromotions.com/index.php%3Fregion%3DEurope%26port%3D96%26exc%3D224&usg=__K2fc17hhqvI8qllxIAa5r9AHh6M=&h=337&w=450&sz=45&hl=en&start=0&zoom=1&tbnid=S1FKbvyGBYL5OM:&tbnh=162&tbnw=216&prev=/images%3Fq%3Dpyramids%26hl%3Den%26biw%3D1280%26bih%3D679%26gbv%3D2%26tbs%3Disch:1&itbs=1&iact=hc&vpx=983&vpy=135&dur=471&hovh=167&hovw=223&tx=145&ty=117&ei=ALXATMr1McH58AbHppHnBA&oei=ALXATMr1McH58AbHppHnBA&esq=1&page=1&ndsp=15&ved=1t:429,r:4,s:0

Book: Nakamura, Lisa.  Cybertypes.  New York: Routledge, 2002.  Print.

Identity Crisis

Posted in Uncategorized on October 17, 2010 by memoirsofcomposition

Through the world of Facebook, Myspace, blogs, and other internet profiles, it is progressively becoming more difficult to remain anonymous on the web.  Almost everyone–and there are still people who do not have access or refuse to become addicted to an online social network of sorts–creates profiles and blogs/vlogs in the hopes that someone out there is reading their thoughts.  We no longer write something just for fun.  There is always some sort of subconscious thought that there will be an audience to our thoughts or by some miracle, we will be discovered as some brilliant personality.

I remember when I first created my Facebook profile.  I was never allowed to have a Myspace because my parents thought that it was dangerous.  When Facebook first came out, I remember talking them into letting me have one because of all of the “privacy” settings.  However, Facebook really isn’t that much more private than Myspace unless you specify–and then keep specifying–that you want your profile set that way.  And really, the whole point of Facebook is to connect with other people, so in a way, privacy settings are obsolete anyway.

I was intrigued by our class discussion last Tuesday because it made me think about the identity I present to the rest of the world (potentially) through online social networking sites.  I never really think about Facebook as something dangerous or scary–rather, it is just a way for me to connect with friends I might not be able to see on a regular basis.  However, recently my “friends” list reached over a thousand people.  I started looking through some of those “friends” and realized there are several people that I don’t actually know.  These people only know me through the profile presented online.  I do not have any interests or TV shows or music, etc. listed on my profile and rarely post a “status” about my day or anything.  Therefore, these people who are my “friends,” but who don’t know me, can only create an identity for me based off of my pictures and what others post on my wall.  Because I don’t know these people, this is completely fine.  If they knew more about me I might be more nervous.

Cyberstalking has recently become an issue worth debating because of the social networking sites and people like me who have befriended people they don’t actually know.  Cyberstalking is scary because the only identity you can place on someone is what they present through the screen.  You cannot really see the person and there really isn’t anyway to know for sure if they are who they say they are.  Therefore, a whole new set of rules, based off of old rules, have come into play.  For example, the rule, don’t talk to strangers, now becomes, be careful about what you post online for strangers to see and if they decide they want to meet you and you agree, do so in a crowded and safe area in case of a problem.  Simple, old-fashioned rules have now become complicated because online identities create complicated problems.

Anyone can create an alternative identity online and only their closest friends would actually know the difference.  This is intriguing because many thought that the online source would dissolve race and stereotypical issues.  Instead, those issues are heightened because of the identities people create online.  People are still discriminated against and stereotypes become more prevalent because of what is posted online.  I once read that stereotypes are a way for people to make sense out of an overstimulating environment.  If this is true, it would make sense that people are creating and still using already existing stereotypes.  The internet can be a very overstimulating place because of the overload of information that is provided to people at the click of a button.  Therefore, creating stereotypes to categorize and make sense of that over-stimulation would be a natural response.  The problem with stereotypes is when they become emotionally charged and aimed at certain individuals or groups of people.  And the other problem is that stereotypes often become that way.  The internet is, if anything, feeding those stereotypes rather than hindering them.

I am anxious to see how this identity crisis plays out in the future and how people seek to resolve it.  The first step is recognizing that there is a problem.  I’m pretty sure this is starting to happen.  The next step is figuring out ways to make sure it doesn’t get even more out of hand.

Reference:

Photo: http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://blog.jammuredefine.in/wp-content/uploads/2009/09/IdentityCrisis.jpg&imgrefurl=http://blog.jammuredefine.in/2009/09/13/jamm

The Daily Prophet

Posted in Uncategorized on October 7, 2010 by memoirsofcomposition

While reading in Lessig’s book, Remix, I was struck by a story he tells about a young girl who starts an electronic newspaper, The Daily Prophet.  Lessig says, “This was not a religious paper.  It was instead an effort to explain and extend the story given to her generation by the extraordinary author, J.K. Rowling” (206).  Harry Potter has become a world-wide phenomenon that students everywhere are familiar with.  They enjoy the stories, the characters, the movies, the video games, etc.  This is incredible; because of the mass production of anything Harry Potter, students automatically assume that they can interact with the media and, in a sense, make it their own.  In the instance with the electronic newspaper, Heather Lawver was simply engaging with other fans of the media and creating an online space in which they could come together and share their love for the stories.  However, “As Rowling’s success migrated from the printed page to a major Hollywood media company, Warner, the ‘control’ over what was now Warner’s ‘property’ shifted from a storyteller to a pack of lawyers” (206).  During this time, Lawver received threatening letters from Warner which then transpired into what is now known as the “Potter Wars.”  Lawver fought Warner with intimidation factors like gathering petitions and using the media to her own advantage.  According to Lessig, “Lawver’s campaign of course leveraged the Net.  Warner quickly became saavy…It avoided threatening Lawver directly; it hoped to avoid her following generally” (207).  Lawver gained allies and a following of supporters because people saw her activism as a positive influence and something that would help other “kids” learn about the culture in which they live and make decisions about that culture.

One of the main points that Lessig discusses in regard to this situation with Lawver is how “every major franchise of content is coming to understand the value of the community of fans who work (for free) to promote their content” (212).  The 21st century has to deal with these issues because of the multitude of media content available on the internet.  In fact, the internet itself plays a huge role in recreating the role of copyright laws and how people interact with major companies, like Warner, because of accessibility and availability.

Lessig discusses some valid points about Lawver’s issue with Warner.  He depicts both sides which shows how each entity felt during this “war.”  Lawver’s desire to have a common place that was accessible to people all over the world to share their stories and feelings about Harry Potter is not technically wrong; however, the fact that Warner Bros. takes the “rights” to Harry Potter complicates the issue.  What Warner needed to understand is that making an online site titled The Daily Prophet does not infringe upon their rights.  Rather, it is a strong fan base that spreads the devotion to the actual content instead of decreasing interest.

Lessig’s book Remix is a fascinating read because of the examples he provides in illustrating his point about the ridiculousness of the so called “copyright wars.”  This war is really unfounded in many ways because of the pettiness of the arguments.  Just like in the example with Lawver who did nothing technically wrong but was rather caught in the wrong place at the wrong time, the other examples in the book touch upon why it is necessary to recreate the meaning of copyright.  Warner, on the other hand, did not understand that Lawver’s intentions were completely pure–that of gathering a fan base in a central location.   What Warner had to learn was that this centrally localized site devoted to Harry Potter could actually aid them and Warner would not even have to pay them for their troubles.  It is these sorts of examples that prove that the copyright wars are unnecessary in today’s digital world.  This is not to say that copyright should completely disappear.  It is necessary because it protects the rights of the individuals who create the originals; Lessig’s (as well as my own) argument is merely to point out the problems with the copyright wars and the fact that they focus on the wrong issues of functioning within a digital society.

References:

Photo: http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://harrypotter.warnerbros.com/hogwarts/dailyprophet/img/header.jpg&imgrefurl=http://harrypotter.warnerbros.com/web/hogwarts/dailyprophet/media_archive.jsp&usg=__1jVJUrtmpSnyuAyBFnsFvNn1CXA=&h=123&w=471&sz=21&hl=en&start=0&zoom=1&tbnid=d-XOOXgnawKr-M:&tbnh=45&tbnw=171&prev=/images%3Fq%3Dharry%2Bpotter%2Bthe%2Bdaily%2Bprophet%26hl%3Den%26biw%3D1280%26bih%3D679%26gbv%3D2%26tbs%3Disch:1&itbs=1&iact=hc&vpx=793&vpy=477&dur=1533&hovh=98&hovw=376&tx=190&ty=68&ei=NjWtTIHfKYO78gaMiLT5Ag&oei=NjWtTIHfKYO78gaMiLT5Ag&esq=1&page=1&ndsp=27&ved=1t:429,r:25,s:0

Book: Lessig, Lawrence.  (2008).  Remix: Making art and commerce thrive in the hybrid economy.  New York: The Penguin Press.

 

The Arts v. Technology

Posted in Uncategorized on September 26, 2010 by memoirsofcomposition

I read an article recently that dovetails nicely with my last post.  I mentioned in Modern Plato that technology is becoming a crutch and causing our generation to grow up over-stimulated.  In an article called “Last Rites” by Sara Hamdan, she discusses how the arts, and in particular, ballet, is losing its audience.  How many of us view ballet as in the image below?  Beautiful, graceful, and completely irrelevant to our daily lives.  In fact, we often don’t enjoy attending the ballet because it is such a passive activity.  We sit in chairs and watch these dancers do incredible things but we cannot relate to them because we can no longer appreciate the stories.  In other words, we are not a part of those stories.  This is such a loss for our culture because ballet does so much more than just allow people the opportunity to watch something incredibly beautiful and almost ethereal.  It keeps our culture grounded, as do most of the arts, because it is something that everyone is supposed to relate to and find something enjoyable in the viewing of it.  The over-stimulation caused by video-games and other technological devices are causing the arts to disintegrate.  Also, the lack of funding due to a lack of audience is a detriment because the ballet and the other arts cannot survive without patrons.  Jobs are so scarce in the ballet world that because of the lack of funding, dancers are being let go and new dancers are pushing themselves to new extremes just to get hired by a dance company.

As a former dancer, this article made me sad because I have always enjoyed ballet for what it is–that is, something that I can appreciate because I know the time and effort and sacrifices the dancers put into what they do.  Because the present generation is so wrapped up in entertainment that allows them to be a part of the story (look at 3-D movies, for example) and interact with many mediums at once that to sit passively in a chair and watch something from afar seems like a punishment rather than a privilege and an enjoyable, fun activity.  Because of this, the article mentions a few ballet students at the Joffrey Ballet in New York and their response to what is happening within the culture.  These students are not despairing even though their futures are looking different from those of the dancer pictured above.  In fact, one of the students, Claire Sargenti, wrote:

“We had the greatest conversation of my life.  We were so excited.  Every single last word was shouted, even though we sat in a small circle.  We shouted about art in America.  We shouted about performing arts, and dance, and ballet, specifically, and how it’s dying in America.  We shouted about how, as young dying American artists, we had to do something to make a change.  Or we would explode.  Or defect to Europe.  We shouted about saving ballet in America, or contributing to its death, bringing on a better, faster version of the inevitable–slow unnoticed death or a high speed dramatic suicide.  Why can’t we perform with other non-dance artists, like how there were graffiti artists in the early productions of Billboards?  Why can’t we try a few crazy things and possibly get arrested in the name of art, and really just make ballet?” (pp. 23-24).

Enter New Bridges Ballet.  The concept that was born that night. Instead of the graceful dancers pictured on stage in flowing, gauzy outfits, we get the juxtaposition of grace against the background of the city.  Instead of gauzy outfits, we get jeans and tee shirts.  This new concept of placing ballet in the middle of daily life, instead of quarantined to the stage, shows the dramatic response to the end of the arts as we know them.  Instead of allowing the culture of technology and lack of funding to defeat it, ballet transforms its image to invite people to take a second look and not completely write it off as something we cannot relate to.  The young dancers that are part of these companies are trying to make it on limited funds and are searching for job options that are going to support them while at the same time the dancers are able to be a part of their first and great love–dance.

The article was fascinating to me as a former dancer but also because of the juxtaposition of technology and stimulation versus the passivity of the arts.  I hope that New Bridges Ballet and other young dancers continue to make a stand and share their passion with the over-stimulated generations.  Society needs culture to survive and by recreating that culture to include more of the population–mainly, the younger members–will help the culture of the arts to survive.  The article was also interesting because it made me think about some of my comments in my previous post, especially those about technology becoming too much of a crutch in society.

Society has a lot to think about.  In order to maintain itself, it is going to have to continue supporting the arts.  But in order for the arts to be maintained, they are going to have to recreate their images.  This will take time and effort and money, all of which are rather limited.  However, the time and effort and money will be well worth it when the arts continue in our culture and people once again realize their worth and importance.  Fortunately for us, this has already started with ballet companies.  Just look at New Bridges Ballet.

Below is a video commercial for last year’s Nutcracker performed by the Oklahoma City Ballet.  I thought it was an innovative and fun commercial that shows some of the changes being made by the arts.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WFmBzo3xwBI

Reference: Hamdan, Sara.  “Last Rites.”  First Things. Issue 205.  (2010): pages 18-25.  Print.

Logocentrism & Reverse Ekphrasis

Posted in Uncategorized on September 6, 2010 by memoirsofcomposition

I am fascinated by the correlation between Derrida and Ekphrasis, or the ability to explain or present an image through words.  For example, the above image is a picture of Derrida to orient the reader of this post to what I am going to explain.  In the book, Writing Space, by Bolter (2001), he states that “as we have seen in digital media and even in print, we get a reverse ekphrasis in which images are given the task of explaining words” (p. 56).  This is interesting because the media does inundate the public with images that we are supposed to interpret and understand.  Through television broadcasting, newsprint, and other writing spaces (like Facebook), we have become more familiar with this idea of image explaining words and probably do not even consciously think about what we are doing when we look at an image and come to a conclusion.

For Derrida, the idea of ekphrasis fits perfectly with logocentrism, or the idea that knowledge is found through words and arrives at a truth.  This idea characterizes Western culture because of our phonetic alphabet.  Derrida, himself, refers to logocentrism as the “metaphysics of phonetic writing.”  According to Bolter (2001), Krieger writes:

“In speaking of ekphrasis, or at least of the ekphrastic impulse, I have pointed to its source in the semiotic desire for the natural sign, the desire, that is, to have the world captured in the word…this desire to see the world in the word is what, after Derrida, we have come to term the logocentric desire.  It is this naive desire that leads us to prefer the immediacy of the picture to the mediation of the code in our search for a tangible, ‘real’ referent that would render the sign transparent” (p. 57).

Bolter (2001) continues saying, “if we connect this desire with Derrida’s logocentrism, then we could say that the desire comes into existence with the invention of writing itself” (p. 57).  Therefore, phonetic writing is the truth that explains the Western world as we know it.  Metaphors are of utmost importance because through metaphor we realize the ambiguity of writing and why it is vital for readers to take into account the world around them, or as Derrida would say, “to begin wherever we are.”  This process of beginning where we are (culturally and historically) and understanding metaphor allows readers to grasp the nuances and variances within cultures and arrive at various conclusions that we then have to analyze to arrive at a truth.  However, like Krieger says in the above quote, it is easier (or so we believe) to arrive at these conclusions when presented with an image.  The cliche, “a picture is worth a thousand words,” is applicable in reverse ekphrasis because it captures the desire to “see the world in a word,” or in this case, an image (p. 57).

Reverse Ekphrasis, therefore, is fascinating in regards to logocentrism because it is actually saying the exact opposite.  Instead of arriving at a truth through writing and metaphor, it arrives at truth through image presented as word.  According to Bolter (2001), “the breakout of the visual, the ekphrastic impulse, is at its most vigorous in the electronic writing space, where new media designers and authors are also redefining the balance between word and image” (p. 58).  It is then imperative that when redefining that balance, designers take into account the history of logocentrism and how it has defined our modern world.

Describing and presenting words through image is becoming more and more mainstream.  This shift from logocentrism to an image-centered world creates more stimulation for viewers/readers.  This influences many aspects of daily living but perhaps most importantly, it influences education and the need for educators to create a more stimulating curriculum to keep the interest of students.

Therefore, reverse ekphrasis, ekphrasis, and logocentrism are redefining how we view writing, reading, and the world of education.

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