Will the iPad change the way the world thinks?

June 10, 2010

With the recent release of Apple’s latest brainwave the iPad I have begun to consider whether this means an overhaul of the way the world publishes and therefore the way we think. History would seem to indicate ….yes.

Throughout the ages society has been dominated by different modes of publishing; theorist Harold Innis’ has proposed that each medium creates their own monopoly on the knowledge of society1. This concept has been clearly defined by Balnaves, Donald and Shoesmith as ‘a theoretical term used to describe how knowledge gets controlled and the role of communication in that control’2. This philosophy can be demonstrated on a grand-scale through understanding broader concepts of publishing. Publishing throughout history can be divided into two distinct categories:
  • Time – based publishing which consist of clay tablets and stone monuments 3(visualise the Colosseum of ancient Rome, the Acropolis of ancient Greece and the great pyramids of ancient Egypt). The ideas on these monuments are considered to have substantial authority although, spatially they are unable to present their message over a vast community. Innis notes ‘materials that emphasise time favour decentralization and hierarchical types of institutions’4.  
  • Space – based publishing consists of the more modern technologies namely telecommunications and paper5. This form of publishing is not considered to have as much authority but, is able to spread its message over a wider audience. According to Innis mediums ‘that emphasise space favour centralization and systems of government less hierarchical in character’6.   

 

Modern civilizations are often credited with the capacity to embrace both these methods of publishing7.  

Although the broad definitions of publishing provide an indication of the different values embedded within the societies which encompass them, to further understand how different modes of publishing effect the values and cultures of the societies which embrace them or as phrased by Balnaves et al ‘a medium of communication automatically implies a bias in the cultural development of a civilization either towards an emphasis on space and political organization or towards an emphasis on time and religious organization’8. It is necessary to examine one mode of publishing in greater detail. 

One of the most fascinating modes of publishing the history of writing and consequently its impact on society will be further examined in this article. An initial understanding of writing and its impact on civilization is noted by Ong who states ‘more than any other single invention, writing has transformed human consciousness’9.  

Heiroglyphics in the British Museum

The first style of writing I have chosen to examine is an ideographic or picture – based method of writing known as hieroglyphics. Hieroglyphs were a form of writing embraced by the ancient Egyptians. There is considerable remaining archaeological evidence of hieroglyphs in the tombs of the ancient Egyptian Pharaohs’. In order to grasp the impact of this style of writing on the culture of ancient Egyptian society it is easiest to focus on a single example, in this case hieroglyphs and religion. Under the rule of Pharaoh Amenhotep (1372 – 1354BC), Amenhotep chose to impose a single God, monotheism, with the creation of the God Akhenaton10. This attempt was rendered unsuccessful after the death of the Pharaoh due to a monopoly of knowledge within the society, only the priests knowing how to read and write, and the difficulty of presenting abstract concepts in picture form11. They were unable to really visually represent this creation by the Pharaoh and resorted to depicting him as ‘the sun’ despite already possessing a sun God12. Innis also notes that ‘monopoly over writing supported an emphasis on religion’13. From this small case study it is evident that ideographic societies were affected by their chosen mode of publication as it prevented them from circulating abstract ideas.

This is in contrast to the phonetic form of writing which remains an abstract concept itself. Due to the obscurity of the alphabet and its separation from solid ideas it has allowed for the development of abstract concepts14. When examining the phonetic alphabet in the same context as ideographic writing, namely its role in the development of religion, it becomes evident that the two different modes of publication led to two significantly different cultural practices. Both styles of writing exercising a monopoly of knowledge over each society. Significantly, this represents McLuhan’s theory that ‘each medium can change perception and human practices’15. The phonetic alphabet nurtured abstract thought, making it possible for abstract ideas to be clearly expressed. In the case of religion it allowed for the concept of one God who is all seeing and all powerful but, can not be visually depicted to exist in modern society16. As Levinson expresses the phonetic alphabet is capable of ‘representing the unrepresentable’17. Through the examination of both ideographic and phonetic writing it is clearly demonstrated that different modes of publishing affect the dominant culture of a civilization.

Innis’ theory that each civilization is different depending on the different methods of publication which they choose to embrace is further illustrated not only by how we choose to write but, the act of writing itself18. The decision to move from an oral society to a literate society again affects the way we think and the ideas which we create. When examining an oral society we may choose to focus on one in particular, for example that of Native Americans, whose culture is based on oral narration19. The oral recount of stories is used to retell the history of the nation as well as for didactic purposes for the younger generations20. This creates a publishing culture which nurtures a communal society, one which requires the active participation of the audience through listening and at times questioning or providing responses to the story teller21. It also requires a society based on memory, one which is able to retain the stories of its past as there is little written material to work with.

This is in contrast to a written society where all ideas are placed on paper. Arguments made by Socrates, as ancient Greece made the transition from an oral society to a literary society, propose that a written society would ‘destroy our “natural” memory’22. He also argued that writing was ‘unresponsive’23. You were unable to ask anything or debate with the final written word and similarly the document was ‘unable to defend itself’24 in the face of criticism. 

Inextricably linked to the shift from an oral culture to a literary culture was the invention of paper. The invention of paper again clearly demonstrates Innis’ argument that the dominant mode of publishing in a society has the capacity to affect both the culture and value systems embedded within the civilization25. The development from parchment to paper according to Innis led to different focuses within society; ‘the dominance of parchment in the West gave a bias towards religious organization that led to the introduction of paper with its bias towards political organization’26.

A printing press in the Technical Museum Vienna

http://www.flickr.com/photos/gastev/360505392/ 

Now we will leap from the advent of paper to the creation of the PRINTING PRESS. The printing press invented in the mid 1400s again shook up the world, what Eisenstein labelled a ‘communications revolution’27, taking us from a society where only the elite had access to information and were literate to one of mass production and literacy. The printing press made the written word cheaply available for everyone. The new technology increasing the amount of books available to the public but, decreasing the time required to produce them28. The printing press also allowed for the translation of novels to be sold to cultures on a global scale decreasing the special barriers of publication29. The new technology encouraged more people to publish their personal opinions; it was the advent of journalism and creative writing. The printing press revolutionised society.

Moving even closer to the present day we are able to examine electronic forms of publishing namely the internet which have further revolutionised the publishing of the modern world. Allowing anyone who wishes to have an opinion to present it straight away, it is free publishing cutting out the middle man. This culture has created a networked society; which Castells argues has modified the global social structure30.

An iPad

http://www.flickr.com/photos/ivyfield/4497654857/ 

And now we come back to the 21st Century and the advent of the iPad. The iPad is an Apple produced product which resembles a small electronic tablet. It will allow publishers to create interactive content for its users; providing them both with reading and activities. This is not just affecting the way children read their first picture book but, also how student learn, with interactive text books for medical students. This new product therefore has the potential to change the normal practices of society through its mode of publication. The iPad upon and even prior to its release has been faced by both critics and worshippers. Among those hoping that the iPad does lead to a cultural revolution are the editors and employees of the dying traditional news media who view the iPad as their pontential saviour. This idea was inferred in a New York Times report which stated ‘publishers could possibly use these new mobile reading devices to hit the reset button and return in some form to their original business model: selling subscriptions, and supporting their articles with ads’31.  

Critics of the new technology fear the dominance of Apple over modern media, noting the companies new found dominance in music distribution they indicate that they may soon cover similar ground in the publishing business32. The dominance of Apple does not end there with Apple also dominating over the programming and hardware of its devices, leaving the competition behind33.

Reference List

1 H, Innis ‘Empire and Communications’, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers Inc, United States of America, 2007  

2 M, Balnaves SH, Donald and B Shoesmith, ‘Media theories & Approaches: A global perspective’, Palgrave Macmillan, United Kingdom, 2009, p 43

3 H, Innis, p26

4 H, Innis, p 27

5 H, Innis, p 26

6 H, Innis, p 27

7 H, Innis, p 27

8 M, Balnaves et al, p 80

9 W, Ong in D, Finkelstein and A, McCleery, ‘The book history reader’, Routledge, London and New York, 2002, p 105

10 H, Innis 2007

11 H, Innis 2007

12 H, Innis 2007

13 H, Innis, p 45

14 W, Ong ‘Orality and Literacy: The technologizing of the world’, Methuen, New York, 1982  

15 M, McLuhan in M, Balnaves et al, p 79

16 H, Innis 2007

17 P, Levinson ‘The soft edge: A natural history and future of the information revolution’, Routledge, London, 1997, p 17

18 H, Innis 2007

19 G, Haslam ‘American Oral Literature: Our Forgotten Heritage’, The English Journal, Volume 60 Number 6, September 1971, pp 709-723

20 G, Haslam 1971

21 G, Haslam 1971

22 W, Ong, p 106

23 W, Ong, p 106

24 W, Ong, p 106

25 H, Innis 2007

26 M, Balnaves et al, p 80

27 E, Eisenstein ‘The printing press as an agent of change: Complete in volume one’, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1979, p 44

28 E, Eisenstein, p 44 – 45

29 M, Balnaves et al, p 80

30 M, Castells, ‘Informationalism, networks, and the network society: a theoretical blueprint’ from ‘Network Society’ 2005, pp 3-7 and 36 – 45

31 B, Stone ‘Looking to big-screen e-readers to help save the daily press’, New York Times, 4 May  2009

32 P, Kirn ‘How a great product can be bad news: Apple, iPad and the closed Mac’, <http://createdigitalmusic.com/2010/01/27/how-a-great-product-can-be-bad-news-apple-ipad-and-the-closed-mac> , 27 January 2010

33 P, Kirn ‘How a great product can be bad news: Apple, iPad and the closed Mac’, <http://createdigitalmusic.com/2010/01/27/how-a-great-product-can-be-bad-news-apple-ipad-and-the-closed-mac> , 27 January 2010

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Tutorial Posting 2 – Jacinda Valeontis

April 9, 2010

Sinking another shot Michael, a sixteen year old year eleven student, is facing all the pressures of his final years at school with the same relaxed attitude he plays basketball.

On the court Michael, a sixteen year old year eleven student, is the calm defence. Short for the game, only 5 foot 7, this hasn’t stopped him from becoming the captain of his team. Playing basketball since he turned thirteen, Michael is known to calmly stride from one side of the court to the other. An air of confidence in his game.

Unsure of what he wants to do when he leaves school, his main focus now is to achieve the best mark he can. A student at a small Catholic school, he is beginning to feel the mounting pressure of his perilous study schedule. Constant assessments and tests, particularly from his choice of subjects three unit mathematics and physics, has left him craving for the holidays and an escape.

But, just as in the game he loves he remains calm and looks for assistance from his team; friends and teachers. With the formation of small study groups and the constant sharing of information, each member of the team helps the other through.

Michael’s outlook for the next two years is positive, ‘I am just looking forward to chillin’ with my mates and getting through to the end the best I can.’

Elizabeth, Jacinda and Dinky Week 12 Tutorial Minutes

October 12, 2009

Discussion:

Twitter – the positive and negative effects of people being able to spread a message instantaneously.

Twitter’s impact on the film industry:  

Positive – it enables producers to start creating hype around a movie long before its released, hopefully increasing box office profits

Negative – it enables people to write negative comments about a movie immediately after a premiere which may decrease box office profits

Twitter’s impact on the sports industry in the USA:

Positive – players twittering throughout the game may make people feel closer to the ‘action’

Negative – players twittering throughout the game may be linked to match fixing, the governing bodies of certain sports institutions are considering banning this practice to prevent that situation

Government 2:

Positive – it allows people to have more power and a greater voice in government decisions

Breif discussion of the lecture and chapter 15:

The lecture focused on power, particularly in terms of media, and how it functions through laws.

It defined power as:

1. A productive network

2. Not inherently good or bad, relationship that produces an effect

3. Has the ability to shape

 

The lecture also looked at power through a pluralist and hegemonic perspective.

 

Our class discussion also briefly examined Michel Foucault’s ‘The History of Sexuality,’ Volume 1, 1976.

Foucault uses Victorian constraints on sexuality as a means of settng up an argument of power being represented through citizens and media – Foucault relates power to productivity

 

Information surrounding the exam was discussed which can be found on the wiki. The policies discussed throughout the semester were recapped.

Policy Documents

Guidelines for the Classification of films and computer games

– ratings are based on the amount of sex and violence contained in the media product

– it is compulsory for all media products to be rated

– issues surrounding the policy – the ratings are supposed to represent the social values of society but, they do not always meet everyones’ expectations

ABC code of practice

– issues – how can you see the ABC as a governmental technology?

– issues – surrounding its policy requirement of – presenting the nation to itself

The SBS charter

– culture

– diversity

– issues – surrounding bringing the channel into a modern context and issues surrounding the multicultural requirements of the policy

– does it cause segregation?

– there is a struggle between government policy and representation of the community

– Why has public broadcasting changed? What is it about government owned media that made it change?

DCITA Review of the Regulations Content Delivered over convergent devices in April 2006

– issues – surrounding who can control the content

– issues – who is going to download the content?

– issues – surrounding payment – who is getting charged for material?

Other policies that were discussed throughout the semester:

ABC Charter

Connecting diversity report for SBS

The government’s ‘Clean Feed Regulations’

Broadcast inquiry report

MDIA1001 Presentation

August 21, 2009

Presentation1

MDIA1001 Presentation

August 21, 2009

Presentation1

Tutorial 11 (Identity)

May 29, 2009

Hearn’s text ‘Variations on the branded self’ argues people’s ‘identity’ is actually the creation of a public persona through the process of self-branding, when people create an image of themselves through pre-created social images. This ‘identity’ determines their social circle. Hearn also explains that self-branding is inextricably linked to today’s capitalist society blurring lines between the corporate world and our private lives, people’s ‘identities’ are linked to various brands and are also used to present them as suitable candidates for the employment they seek.

 

Several key concepts are used to further explain this argument.

 

Themes – The idea of self-branding linking yourself to different brands. Brands create images which embody a lifestyle and certain personality traits. This is clearly demonstrated by the American snowboard company ‘Burton’ which advertises not only their merchandise but the lifestyles of their athletes travelling and participating in extreme sports. They also link the brand to personality traits such as spontaneity and being adventurous. People who believe that this brand personifies a part of them may choose to publicly link themselves with it through wearing their merchandise. Hearn notes that branding is also encouraged in the work place where people are encouraged to create an image to express their ‘individuality’ although this image is simultaneously linked to the functioning of the workplace.

 

Improvisation – This concept acknowledges how people mould an image of themselves without any previous planning. Hearn uses the website 2night.com to demonstrate this concept. It displays images of people partying at clubs, giving them an instant public image.

 

Invention – This explores how people use reality television as an opportunity to brand themselves and for self-promotion. They allow people to create a public persona which enables them to link themselves to brands as well as provide further employment opportunities. Clearly demonstrated in American Idol where contestants develop a fan base; who appreciate their talent and personality which the contestant and the TV network have created, this scenario possibly leading to a record deal and music career. Hearn notes that these shows don’t just provide opportunities to their contestants but also provide a large profit for the TV network with lower production costs.

 

Inventory –This focuses on self-branding through social networking websites such as MySpace and Facebook. People are able to link themselves to brands, post pictures and thereby create a public ‘identity’, whilst companies are able to advertise and blend into the social lives of the users.

 

The idea of ‘identity’ as a public persona based on social expectations and profit generation although, seemingly cynical is sadly true. Walking down the street people, particularly younger people are constantly dressing in particular brands, not even taking off the tags on their clothing, to illustrate their public persona. This is clear in my local shopping centre where many people wear the latest fashions in order to be socially accepted. My friends and family’s Facebook and MySpace pages announce their favourite brands, books and music inadvertently promoting these items and generating an image for themselves.

 

References

Hearn, A, ‘Variations on the branded self: Theme, invention, improvisation and inventory’

Tutorial 10 (Discourse)

May 22, 2009

Mary Macken – Horarik’s text ‘A telling symbiosis in the discourse of hatred: multimodal news texts about the ‘Children Overboard’ affair’ explains media particularly in the case of asylum seekers and the ‘children overboard’ incident use discourse to covertly align the responder to a particular view. Discourse is created by both written and visual texts (known as multimodal discourse) therefore it is necessary to analyse both to understand the way the author has created the message of the text.

 

In order to further explain how discourse is created three key concepts surrounding identification:

 

Genericisation – Specification –The journalist may identify specific people thereby creating a connection between them and the responder; this is accomplished in a written text by the use of their name and in a visual text by clearly depicting their face. The people may also be grouped into general categories, removing them from the audience; this is created by the use of collective nouns in text and blurring images in pictures. For example the current headline ‘Britain backs down on Gurkha rights’ which generalises both the British the Gurkhas through the use of collective pronouns.

 

Categorisation – The method of identifying people in texts by either what they currently do i.e. mother or mountaineer (functionalisation) or by identifying people by physical or relational means i.e. race, gender or sexual orientation. In visual texts this is accomplished through commonly understood symbols i.e. a white veil and dress identify a bride.   

 

Role Allocation – This focuses on the relationship between the people in the text created by the author. In a written text one party is represented as passive the other active. Similarly, in visual texts one party is known as a Goal (which are largely passive) and an Actor (which are largely active).

 

The concept of Multimodal discourse is particularly relevant in today’s society where both advertising and news use a combination of written and visual texts to convey meaning. The most common examples of media stories which are created or further enhanced by visual aids are tabloid articles which base their text on scandalous photographs. A memorable incident is the publication of supposed naked photos of Pauline Hanson; which identified her visually by her hair colour and facial features (physical attributes) and in the text specifically by her name. The press was able to use these photos to portray Pauline in a negative light.  

 

 References

Macken – Horarik, M, ‘A telling symbiosis in the discourse of hatred: multimodal news texts about the ‘Children Overboard’ affair’ From ‘Australian review of applied linguistics’, 2003

Tutorial Posting 9 (Semiotics)

May 15, 2009

Lukin argues that journalists use grammar to inconspicuously shape the meaning of texts. Further arguing that it is necessary for audiences to understand these processes and their effects in order to interpret how the facts of the story have been presented. She believes the importance of this knowledge to the general public is heightened with increased war reporting in order for them to understand how the facts have been angled by journalists and therefore what is actually happening.  

 

The article explores different grammatical voices and grammatical processes revealing how each alters the audience’s perception of the facts.

 

Grammatical Voice – There are two types of grammatical voice: middle voice and effective voice. The former, Lukin explains, eliminates the catalyst which produced the event. For example ‘Emergency line advice ‘ignored’’ (Sydney Morning Herald headline). The latter includes both active and passive voice. Active explicitly states the ‘external agent’ which triggered the event. For example if the headline had read Victorian government ‘ignores’ emergency line advice.  Whereas passive voice provides the option of explicitly stating or merely implying that there is an ‘external agent’. For example if the headline had read emergency line advice was ‘ignored’ by the Victorian government or emergency line advice was ‘ignored’. These minor grammatical adjustments alter how the audience is positioned toward the event and its catalyst.

 

Grammatical Processes – Lukin focuses on the process of Nominalisation. This is the process of converting a part of speech usually a verb into a noun which enables the author to create an ‘agent’ which is intangible removing a human cause.  An example of this process is the Courier Mail headline ‘Mother mourns for twin girls killed in Woombye car crash’ this statement eliminates a human cause for the event, who crashed the car, instead naming the ‘car crash’ as the catalyst. This uses the facts to alter the position of the audience, who feel sympathy for the mother but do not lay blame at the person who instigated the crash rather at the event itself.

 

This article is particularly relevant in today’s media driven society. The grammatical forms which not only newspaper journalists but also television and radio presenters implement in order to express the facts are key to how the public understands major events. The reporting of numerous current events such as the financial crisis, the Queensland floods, the Victoria bushfires or even the recent rugby league scandal involving Mathew Johns exemplify this issue.

 

References

Lukin, A ‘Reporting War: Grammar as Covert Operation’ From ‘Dissent’, p 14 – 20, 2003

Fraser, Kelmeny and Martin, Hannah ‘Mother mourns for twin girls killed in Woombye car crash’ From ‘Courier Mail’, May 10, 2009

Collins, Sarah-Jane and Cooke, Dewi and Rood, David ‘Emergency line advice ‘ignored’’ From ‘Sydney Morning Herald’, May 15, 2009

Week 8 Media Audiences

May 8, 2009

Haddon’s core argument within the text ‘Research Questions for the Evolving Communications Landscape’ argues that it is necessary to investigate mediated communication in general and analyse their relationships with other communication technologies in order to gain a greater understanding of audiences communication practices.

 

The key concepts explored to further this argument are the limitations of object study, the historical context, factors influencing audience choice and the long term dynamics between audiences and mediums.

 

Haddon argues that to fully understand communication related practices researchers must explore the boundaries of the communication technology that is being researched. This theory can be placed in the context of the audiences’ use of email. Researchers should consider who is provided with the email address and how the consumer moderates their usage. Other factors such as the types of communication (i.e. language style and content), and practices such as having multiple email addresses for differing purposes should also be considered.

 

The historical contexts of mediums are explored through their continuities. Haddon contemplates whether mediums which appear brand new are really technologies evolved from older forms of communication. Haddon argues that information surrounding the old mediums usage can be used to explain the patterns of use for the current medium.

 

The different factors which influence an audience’ choices is argued in the text to be another crucial aspect of investigating communication technologies. This can be illustrated when analysing the decisions surrounding why a person may choose to use a mobile phone. For example there may be social expectations surrounding the medium as well as the features which the technology itself offers (i.e. mobility, storage capacity, personalizability and the amount of people it allows its user to simultaneously communicate with).

 

The long term relationship between audiences and particular mediums is explored throughout the text. Haddon argues that it is necessary to understand why people may choose move to new technology or remain with older communication devices and why people may move toward using newer technologies despite first being presented with difficulties.  The text explores ideas such as changes of circumstance, societal changes, increased and varied options and promotions as well as the movement of entire social networks from one medium to another.

 

I agree with Haddon’s argument as there are many reasons which certain people choose to use specific communications mediums which effect the information which is collected by researches. For example there are many external factors which contribute to my younger brother’s use of his mobile phone and MySpace. These relating to the key concepts discussed by Haddon in particular factors influencing his choice such as the technological capabilities of each medium and the fact that these mediums are predominately used in his social network.

 

Haddon, Leslie ‘Research Questions for the Evolving Communications Landscape’ From Ling and Peterson, Eds, ‘Mobile Communications’ Springer, 2005, p 7-22

Tutorial 7 Networks

May 1, 2009

Castells’ primary argument explains that we live in a network society. This being a society where networking technology has formed a new global social structure which is ‘key to ensuring productivity, competitiveness, innovation, creativity and, ultimately, power and power sharing.’

 

Informationalism is explained by Castells as how information technology has changed how information is distributed and due to the power which comes with the knowledge it has created a whole new social order. Network technology as vessels for the distribution of information is found in all facets of society. There are media networks, financial networks and social networks. These networks allow for the almost instantaneous transfer of information.

 

Castells further enhances his argument with the concepts space of flows and timeless time. The article defines space of flows not as being ‘placeless’ but rather an electronic virtual location where information is exchanged and stored. Time in network society is no longer linear instead time is compressed or blurred. These concepts are clearly exemplified in internet chat rooms and social networking games such as second life. Uses are located in a virtual space where time is either irrelevant or an alternate time.

 

The culture of network society is defined in the article as a continuously changing, a diverse mix cultures which do not merge but rather remain independent; they are linked only by the common thread of communication. YouTube and WordPress are virtual spaces where people are able to freely communicate. Users can present their own information and opinions. This allows for a variety of cultures to share space in communication but not necessarily merge forming one single culture. As Castells argues that information is the ‘source of productivity, wealth and power’ these new networks which allow all users to participate have created a new global social structure highlighting Castells core argument that we now live in a network society.  

 

Castells main argument that we are a network society is clearly demonstrated in my daily life through my constant use of the internet. I am regularly tapping into various networks such as the social network Facebook, YouTube a network enabling people to share videos and various media outlets for example the UK newspaper Guardian. Networks such as financial networks and government networks indirectly influence my life on a daily bases as they constantly exchange information and make decisions which effect the wider community.

 

Castells, Manuel ‘Informationalism, networks, and the network society: a theoretical blueprint’ From ‘Network Society’ Elqar, 2005, pp 3 – 7, 36 – 45