Khamis, 4 November 2010

WEEK 12 – “Photojournalism: The path to become a photojournalist"

I have a friend who dreamt to be a journalist – the idea of cracking down some secret government plot, or hunting down escaped convict, or anything equivalently dangerous thrilled her. I asked her if she’s not, in any way, petrified of the death-seeking occupation as a source of living? And she said, it wasn’t all about the risk (well, part of it) – but it’s more about exposing the truth, and changing the world.

The fundamental element of photojournalism worked the same way.

Photojournalism is journalism through the camera’s eye (Zelizer, 2005, p.167). Images have been considered as a reflection of the world at large, as noted by Zelizer, how they are not seen as the result of actions taken by individual photographers, their corresponding photo editors, and the larger institutional setting that engages both – but as mirrors of the event that they depict, and not just a construction (2005, p. 170).

When this friend of mine said that she’d be willing to do whatever it takes to just to get the so-called “truth” out, how much of that risk is she willing to take? Will she bend the news, so as to fit in her perspective?

Take for example the following sets of pictures: which ones are real and which ones are not?

Tsunami Strikes Phuket, Thailand

Sandstorm in Iraq

Montana Forest Fire

Tourist Atop World Trade Center September 11

Live Worm in Patient's Eye

Home Computer of the Future as Envisioned in 1954

Rare Amphibian found in Malaysia

Wacky 'Drunk Building'

Some of the pictures look like they are being enhanced or edited – manipulated in some ways in order to make the images look as real as possible. But, you’d be surprised to find out which ones are real and which are fakes. The results of the pictures are as follow:
1) Fake
2) Real
3) Real
4) Fake
5) Real
6) Fake
7) Fake
8) Real

This is where ethics comes in: Is it right to have manipulated images just to fit in the photographer’s needs?

According to Warburton(1998), “every case in which a deception like this is allowed into print (and subsequently exposed for what it is) serves to undermine the public’s trust that the implicit conventions of photojournalism are generally being adhered to” and move on to explain how the downside of lying is not because of the result in people trusting false beliefs, but more of that it obliterate the trust that is necessary for most co-operation and communication (131).


References:

Warburton, N. (1998). Electrical photojournalism in th eage of the electronic darkroom. In Kieran, M. (ed.), Media Ethics (pp. 123-134). London: Routledge. Retrieved fom JUne 21, 2010, from UBD Ebrary Website

Zelizer, B. (2005). Jounalism through the camera's eye. In Allan, S. (ed.), Journalism: Critical issues (pp. 167-176). Berkshire: Open University Press. Retrieved June 21, 2010, from UBD Ebrary Website.

Images link: http://www.hyd-masti.com/2008/08/is-it-real-or-fake.html

Sabtu, 30 Oktober 2010

WEEK 11 – “Information graphics: graphs in exam”

I love tables and graphs. I’d go ecstatic to see tables and graphs in quizzes, tests – especially in the exams – during my school days. For me, if that question came out – let it be Mathematics, Geography, Sciences or even English – it will be a “Free marks all over again” chance for me. You often hear teachers say “Tables and graphs are the easiest section in the exam. They are free marks – all the answers are in there. All you need to do is just extract the information out.” (But, of course it does not necessarily applicable to some).

These tables and graphs are part of what in professional media and communication categorized as “Information graphics”.

According to Petterson, information graphics are informative and may be entertaining and attention-getters as they aid communication by enabling better understanding and comprehension; improving readability and increase retention in a way that they “provide the reader with a rapid and easily grasped overall view of a message and are therefore highly suitable as an introduction to and summary of a subject” (1993, p. 173). Previously, information graphics were a product of hands but with today’s advancement in technologies, information graphics nowadays are computers-generated (Petterson, 1993, p. 173).

Why do teachers have to make their table and graphs as plain and as simple as possible?



The reason is rather obvious: i) so the graphs are readable, and ii) the students are able to extract the information quickly, and iii) they will not waste any time answering in the exam, and iv) they can score high marks.

What would happen if the exam questions appear as the following?







Though, they appear visually attractive – but these are not what you will normally see in any academic context.

This gives another reason why academic tables and graphs are, though simple, but is made dull: the context that the graphs appear in does not allow it to happen: i) Schools have their own regulation and guideline of how academic graphs should look like. Students grasped these knowledge and anything beyond these may cause confusion, ii) Schools are portray as a formal and serious place of studying, anything informal or considered as “not serious” (for example comical graphs) may be considered as a “distraction”.

In the world beyond academic environment, any errors and visual distortion to the information graphics are not prohibited. This is because, according to Tufte (cited in Lester 1995), a high-quality infographic should:
1) have an important message to communicate,
2) Convey information in a clear, precise and efficient manner
3) Never insult the intelligence of readers or viewers, and
4) Always tell the truth
(p. 208)

If we apply it to the academic world: is it allowable to distort any information given in the graphs? The answer is: yes and no. Yes, because the exams are allowed to give false information to the students so as to get whatever answer that the exam wanted. No, because, again, too many distortions may create “confusion”, resulting in students inability to answer the exam questions.


References:

Lester, M. (1995). Informational graphics. Visual communication: Images with messages (pp. 187-211). California: Wadsworth Publishing.
Petterson, R. (1993). Visual inromation (2nd ed.) (pp. 167-175). New Jersey: Eductional Technology Publications.

Ahad, 24 Oktober 2010

WEEK 10 – “Games and Avatar: Facebook-The Good, The Bad and The Ugly”

I used to have a Facebook account up until a few months ago, when I finally decided that I have had enough and deactivated it. I found that I could no longer divide my time equally between the ‘real’ world and the ‘virtual’ world: I realized that, little by little, I started spending more and more time in the Facebook world than I should have in the ‘real’ world.

Have a presentation to do? I’d post a groaning status in my Facebook before doing the research. I should be should be doing my assignment? Ah, I’d better take care of my games in Facebook first, almost Level 51. Not up for cooking tonight? I wrote on my sister’s wall to ask her to cook.



Facebook is one of the latest trends in social networking and is used by over 10 million people worldwide – Facebook (FB) started out as a site designed for and available to students at Harvard University but it is now a public site and has become the number one choice of communication (Stern&Taylor, 2001, p. 9)



What was once a little just-for-fun turned into an addiction: I and I finally took a leap in faith and deactivated my account. And the uproar it created amongst my friend was unbelievable: I was interrogated by many and were demanded to make a new one. All along my brain was going: Don’t you think Facebook is disassociating you from the real world?

What was once a direct interaction between two people – the presence of physical touches and a face-to-face interaction – is now replaced by ‘hugs and kisses’ application and writing on each other’s walls?

Fung notes that online communication becomes a platform for users to communicate and interact with others who they think share the same values and beliefs, thus creating imagined communities and the bonds that ties them together are essentially communicative act (2006, p. 134). These bonds, however, as Fung further notes that, will end if someone cuts off his or her communicative, often due to busy schedule during examination time or when he or she moves to a new stage of life.

So, was I right to have closed it down? Were they right to have insisting on me keeping it active?

The golden question is this: In this modern era where our world is shaped by advanced technologies: where does ‘real’ ends and ‘virtual’ begin?

According to Robins, cyberspace and virtual reality give us a chance to substitute a reality for a more conformity with our desires for the unsatisfactory real one (2000, p. 92).

And Fung notes how extended social network – the extended brotherhood or sisterhood on the online communities – also enhances social relationships in real life (2006, p. 132).

It is true that we cannot live without technologies, especially in this age where technologies play a significant role in our everyday lives – let it be in education, business, government, or simply for leisure reason, almost everything nowadays are relying on to technologies to work or operate.


References:
Fung, A. (2006). Bridging cyberlife and real life: A study of online communities in Hong Kong. In Silver, D. M. and Adrienne Steve, (eds.), Critical cyberculture studies (pp. 129-139). New York: New York University Press. Retrieved June 21, 2010, from UBD Ebrary Website.

Robins, K. (2000). Cyberspace and the world we live in. in Bell, D. and Kennedy, B. M. (eds). The cybercultures reader (pp. 77-95). London: Routledge.

Stern, L. A., & Taylor, K. (2007). Social Networking on Facebook. Journal of the Communication, Speech & Theatre Association of North Dakota, 9-20.

Jumaat, 15 Oktober 2010

WEEK 9 - "Cinema and Television: Taylor Swift ‘You belong with me’ and the cultural literacy”

I have got my sisters screaming while watching the video clip of the famous talented singer/songwriter, Taylor Swift. The famous “You belong with me” song charted the billboards many times, and had many young girls went all gooey listening to it over and over.



What is the significance that this video clip carries?



Everyone within the age of 12 to early 20’s even, will find themselves being able to relate themselves to the story that is being told in the video clip.

It portrays how our Protagonist, a typical high-school girl who always considered herself as the ‘Wallflower’ – the nobody – fell for our Hero, a typical high school jock who in turn, (typically) fell for the school’s famous Mean-Girl-type villain.

Even before the video clips reached its end, both of my sisters were already starting to jump to conclusions: “Oh, I know~~ the girl is a nerd…fell for that jock…but the dude’s with that Meanie Girl…but in the end he’ll fell for the Nerd! Aww, so sweet~”. They somehow were able to solve the plot quicker than

The ability to draw this conclusion is a significant proof of cultural literacy present in the audiences.

According to Schirato&Yell (2000), cultural literacy can be defined as “both a knowledge of meaning systems and an ability to negotiate those systems within different cultural contexts” (p. 1)

Schirato&Yell also notes that, the contexts that produce the cultural practices that are closely linked to the notion of cultural literacy that can be understood as:
“1) a familiarity with the rules and conventions of a culture; and
2) a feel for negotiating those rules and conventions”
(2000, p. 1)

In this particular video clip, most teenage i.e. 12 – 18 years of age, are accustomed to the story that the video clip narrates because they have that certain culture that binds them. This culture is the youth culture. Teenagers’ experiences of school life, especially in the West, usually constitute a life of social hierarchy that is made up off:
1) Always there is a renowned (usually good-looking) and much-adored-by-girls male who is extremely good in sports
2) An equivalent female who, instead of participating in sports, usually is the head-cheerleader, and almost always the two are going out together.
3) And the rest who are not the “In” crowd, who is usually labeled as the “geeks” or “nerds”, “emos”, or other social-stereotype label.
These are practically almost an ideology that most teenage chic flick portrays. That is why, most teenagers are able to recognize and familiarize themselves to the story. When the first two features above are not equated, teenage audiences are able to negotiate the rules and conventions that they are exposed to.

In this particular story, audiences are able to negotiate the fact that even a famous guy would fall for a considerably “nerd” girl.

This You Belong With Me video clip represents youth’s love dilemma and the discourse of every love story has a happily-ever-after ending.
However, the politic of this discourse is that: there is not always a happily-ever-after ending that follows in every love situation.

Reference
Schirato, T. & Yell, S. (2000). Communication and Culture: An Introduction. London: Sage Publications

Jumaat, 8 Oktober 2010

WEEk 8 - "Photography - Reconceptualising Culture, Memory and Space: Pictures that trigger forwarded e-mails"

Wright (1999) notes how photography can influence opinions to change social conditions (1999, p. 150). This is true especially in the case of poverty in Africa, where one picture sets of a train of actions taken by many governmental and international groups, and also in many other cases.
However, the notion of how pictures can influence opinions can also be applied to other cases and not just ‘to change social conditions’. In this week’s entry, we shall see how photographs can influence opinions in forwarded e-mails.

I believe many have received forwarded e-mails of different kinds almost all the times, at times endlessly – let it be jokes, news, religious or even spam.

What triggers a massive forwarding of e-mail?

We can look at it by considering the following example:


vs.


I believe some may have seen these particular e-mails before. These forwarded e-mails had been circulating ever since I was still in my Form 6, and one of them is still circulating now.

Now, what is the difference between these two e-mails?
The most noticeable feature is that: one carries with it pictures and the other does not.

Why is it a picture so important? It is amazing how one picture can trigger a dramatic action and create uproar throughout the continents.

(Bear in mind that we are not discussing whether the content of the e-mail or the pictures are true or not – rather we are discussing how the pictures can manipulate viewers into taking actions).


According to Batchen (2004), photographs are records and documents as it “validated our experience of ‘being there’” (p. 26). Now, in the first e-mail, upon seeing those set of pictures, readers feel like they are there and it evokes the feeling of sadness, heart-rending and moving feeling in the readers. Even though it is obvious the audiences do not know the person in the e-mail, they are still driven to do something. When we compare this to the second e-mail, the absence of a picture gives little impact to the audiences and they are therefore not as heavily-persuaded to act as the first e-mail.

You can see from the following evidences:

(Date: 8/29/08)

(Date: 4/13/09)

(Date: 2/23/09)

(Date: 5/23/09)

(Date: 5/30/09)


Vs.
(Date: 11/17/08)

The first e-mail occurs in five different occasions in the stretch of two years i.e. 2008-2009 as compared to the second e-mail where it occurs only in a single occasion in the same stretch of two years.

This shows that, however convincing the words are in the e-mail (in the case of the second e-mail: the testimonials attached at the end of the e-mail), it is still the photograph that prompts the viewers to take an action almost by an instinct.
The photographs convinced the viewers, in the way that words cannot.

This proves that a photograph has the power to influence opinions regardless of what the reason is.

References
Batchen, G. (2004). Forget me not: Photography and remembrance (pp. 6-16). New York: Princeton architectural press. Retrieved June 20, 2010, from UBD Ebrary Website.

Wright, T. (1999). Photography as a cultural critique. Photography handbook (pp. 135-151). London and New York: Rout;edge. Retrieved June 20, 2010, from UBD Ebrary Website.

Ahad, 26 September 2010

WEEK 7 - "Visual Narrative and The Media: An Extraordinary Commercial"

I still remember we were shown to this particularly-striking advertisement last year, when we were doing AC-1201 Introduction to Communication, where one of the many presenting groups used this ad to help exemplified their presentation.

I say ‘striking’ because the ad stayed in my mind even after all these while – and I’m pretty sure it stuck in the mind of other fellow Media students as well.

Why is this so?



Yes, it is a Thai advertisement for Pantene. Now, compare this ad to a typical Pantene commercial:



Why is the Thai advertisement seemed to be far more intriguing than the traditional advertisement?










The remarkable difference between the two advertisements is: one was telling a story, while the other was stating ‘factual’ information.

The story-telling Thai ad is adapting a structure derived from a theory called Narrative Theory. Narrative comes from the word ‘narrate’ and according to Lamarque (1994), any narration “involves the recounting and shaping of events” (p. 131). And the story-telling Thai ad did just that – a series of events were shaped and arranged making the events into a storyline.

According to Huisman, the basics of narrative theory include:
1) speaking subject – producer of text, and is related to “narrator”
2) subject of speech – the first-person pronouns in the text
3) narrator – also the producer of text if the text is known to be a narrative
4) focalisation – story is mediated from some perspective; “focaliser” is the person who is telling the story from his/her perspective
5) temporality – simple chronological sequence
6) duration – steadiness of speed in the narrative
(2005, p. 13)

In the Thai advertisement, the focalisation is on the deaf girl, thus making her the focaliser. Events in the ad such as a young girl listening to an old man playing a violin on the street, the young girl walking down the road with a car blaring behind her, a screaming teenage girl and so on, will not make any sense if it is not due to both the temporality and duration of the ad. These events were cleverly arranged into a chronological sequence with the right amount of steadiness of speed, giving just the right sense and feeling to the story.

When compared to a much more traditional Pantene commercial, audiences will be far more fascinated towards the Thai advertisement because of its ability to break away from a typical beauty-product advertisement’s structure of using a model and stating information of how the product works, by structuring it and expressing it into a story.

According to Huisman (2005), narratives are “ways of structuring and representing lived experience” (p. 27). And Lamarque also notes how story-telling helps us to make sense of the world (1994, p. 150).
The creative, story-telling Thai ad therefore gives a much more significant impact to its audiences in a way that the audiences are able to recognise the ad as a story and are able to familiarise themselves to the story. As a result, the ad is restored in the audiences’ mind even after a long time – just like what it did to me.


Reference
Huisman, R. (2005). Narrative concepts. In Fulton, H., Huisman, R., Murphet, J. and Dunn, A. (eds), Narrative and Media (pp. 11-27). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Lamarque, P. (1994). Narrative and invention: The limits of fictionality. In Nash, C. (ed), Narrative in culture(pp. 131-132). New York and London: Routledge

Isnin, 6 September 2010

WEEK 6 - "Visual Rhetorics: Rhetorics in Gisele B√ľndchen ad"

Ever wonder why when we look at certain images, we seem to be able to grasp what was the picture trying to convey even though it was not actually being said out loud?

How we seem to be able to link between the available elements in the image, and derived to a particular conclusion without the conclusion being spelled out one by one?

This is what we termed as, ‘Rhetoric’. Rhetoric aims to identify all available means of persuasion in any given case (McQuarrie, 2007, p. 5). Simply put, Blair defines 'Rhetoric' as a method of persuasion – an art of convincing someone into accepting a particular view (2004, p.41). He notes that an Aristotelian enthymeme is an argument in which the arguer deliberately leaves the unstated premise that is crucial to its reasoning so as to draw the audiences to partake in its persuasion by filling in the premise (2004, p.41) This is the strength of rhetoric becasue it corners the other person into reaching a conclusion as you intend it to be.

So, how does rhetoric works in advertisement?


According to McQuarrie and Phillips (2007), the primary goal of advertisement has always been “to cause a specified consumer response” (p. 7). And since this has been likewise the main aim of rhetoric, it seems likely that rhetorical perspectives can provide substantially to the understanding of advertisement.

Let’s see how Rhetoric actually works, by looking at the advertisement below:



1) The first thing you see, of course, is the beautiful, sexy woman.

2) The next thing you see is a pair of shoes floating right next to the sexy woman.

Is there a visual rhetoric?
Some people may not know what the picture is all about (2 out of 3 girls whom I asked thought the girl was actually posing for a nude picture). But, as a media communication student, I say: yes, there is a visual rhetoric. Why? Because there is an unstated argument in the ad above.

Enthymeme
Enthymeme, in layman’s term, is the incomplete argument – the unstated argument that the other person deduce.

Here, the enthymeme is: If you wear these shoes, you will be as sexy as her. This is the unstated argument for the image.
It was not being said out loud, but audiences make the deduction themselves after seeing the shoes, the sexy woman, and made the link between the two.

How the rhetoric was created syntactically and semiotically?
Syntactically, the image satisfies the following rules:
1) Rule of colours: the 3rd rule states that the large area or background of muted or greyish colour will let a smaller, bright colour to stand out dramatically. In this image, the strong brown colour stood out the most from the greyish colour.

2) Rules of composition: larger area but is lighter, together with smaller area but is heavier, when combine creates balance. In this image, the background is of larger area, but the background is empty, which demonstrate lightness. On the other hand, the foreground image i.e. the woman and the shoes are heavier because they are a mixed of different brightly coloured elements, which demonstrate heaviness. When all these are combine, balance is achieved.

Semiotically, the image can give two connotations: sexiness and comfortableness. What is/are the signifier(s) that bring about these connotations?
1) The splash of water that twirls around the woman’s body suggest to the wearers to feel ‘as sexy as wearing transparent clothes’

2) The splash can also suggest to the wearers to feel comfortable ‘as being dipped unto water’.

Overall, this advertisement is rhetoric in a way that it has the unstated premises that the audiences need to fill in that fits in with what the advertisement intend it to be.

References:
Blair, J. A. (2004). The Rhetoric of Visual Arguments. In Hill, C. A., and Helmers, M. H. (eds.). Defining Visual rhetorics (pp. 41-61). New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

McQuarrie, E. F., & Phillips, B. J. (2007) Go Figure! New Directions in Advertising Rhetoric. Armonk, NY, USA: M. E. Sharpe, Inc.