Archive for May, 2009

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 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.



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.  



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.



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