Friday, April 26, 2013

The Computer/Internet: Have They Aided the Common Man?

Part of the quote from Postman's book that Donnelly starts out our take-home final with reads:

"Until, years from now, when it will be noticed that the massive collection and speed-of-light retrieval of data have been of great value to large scale organizations but have solved very little of importance to most people and have created at least as many problems for them as they may have solved."  (pg. 161)

I found it amazing, when giving this quote a second read through, that Postman would really think that the computer and internet would be of little or no real use to the individual.  It seems to me that, though the "speed-of-light retrieval" provides us with much information we do not need, causing "irrelevance," "impotence," and "incoherence," it also provides us with a multitude of information that we use to improve ourselves as people.  While learning about what is going on in Africa may not provide directly useful information that pertains to our daily lives, it gives us a scope through which to view the world, and not only our little corner of it.  Postman argues that having access to such information makes us feel obligated to engage in it, keep ourselves always updated, etc., and therefore causes us to become obsessed with meaningless information.  I think this may be true for some, but not for all, and should not be for any.  Succumbing to this obligation is the fault of the individual.

Also, I don't think it would be wise to overlook the impact that the internet has made on our schooling.  The amount of access we have to information: journals, news articles, professional papers, makes our education infinitely more rounded, and our papers more in depth.

I believe that any one person who is not deriving knowledge and furthering himself through his access to the internet own the fault for that failure.  The internet provides us with junk, and it provides us with gold.  It is our choice which to mine.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Are You a Belieber?

Seeing as my presentation topic was about the Public Discourse of Celebrities I thought I would further that discussion on here. I'm not sure whether any of you have heard about this recent Justin Bieber scandal, where he visited The Anne Frank House and wrote in the guest book, "Truly inspiring to be able to come here. Anne was a great girl. Hopefully she would have been a belieber." There's been a lot of controversy over his statement, "Hopefully she would have been a belieber." While many people are ashamed and outraged by this statement others are sticking up for Bieber.

I just wanted to get your thoughts and opinions on this situation. Do you think that Justin Bieber went too far with that statement and was acting too self absorbed?

Here's a link to an article covering the scandal and some tweets from people and their opinions over the subject.

Anonymity, Morality, and the Internet

In my final paper I’ve been doing a lot of writing on the Internet and anonymity because I feel that the anonymity feature of the Internet greatly harms the public discourse on the Internet. Specifically I argue that anonymity further removes one from humanity and allows individuals to post things on the Internet that take the form of insults and hack generalizations, instead of efficient public discourse. I also argue that of the three main mediums of public discourse (books, television, and the Internet) the Internet is the furthest removed from humanity because it fosters anonymity.

So what does everybody think? What is the role of morality in public discourse? And, am I overreacting to this whole anonymity issue?

Dr. Mike's Final Post

In Amusing Ourselves to Death, Neil Postman writes,

“. . . the content of a lesson is the least important thing about learning. . . . 
the most important thing one learns is always something about how one learns”(144).

 So, what have you learned in this course?

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Crime and Punishment

The American prison system is insanely flawed. Our answer in the 1980s was privatized prisons. Thirty  years later we see the effects of what we had created and they havent seemed to work. This follows along with the War against drugs as well. Many people believe that the war against drugs has created criminals and that is one of the biggest factors in our over crowding. The United States makes up 25% of the entire worlds prison population. No other country comes even close. Our lack of understanding of drugs like Marijuana have created criminals all because we have deemed a plant evil. I'm not someone who wants drugs legalized but maybe instead we need to reevaluate our position on drugs. Instead of treating drug addicts as criminals maybe we should focus all our prison spending money on the treatment of these so called "criminals". The medical field is already the largest money maker in the united states. Certain countries have taken the initiative to change this idea of the drug addict. )

In 2001 Portugal became the forerunner for what seemed like an insane policy. Portugal was to decriminalize all drugs. People then could carry 25 grams of marijuana, 1 gram of herion, 2 grams of cocaine without penalty. You could also openly use and distribute. That was 12 years ago. Use has now dropped through the roof. I like to call this the "Rebel" aspect. Their country is doing great right now and this program is working.

( )

Another major issue here is that most of these people have ignored is some of the contracts the states our signing with corporations that control prisons. Most of these corporations won't even touch a state prison unless they are guaranteed that there will be roughly about 1,000 beds per block and the prison will have to have the ability to hold a 90% occupation rate. This basically makes a business out of creating criminals. Most of these facilities that were supposed to create better  places for women wont even take women because of their high healthcare costs. If many of these private prisons took in women they would loose money. The idea of privatized prisons were a great idea in the short term but in the long run the eventually start swallowing up the profits.

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Let me know what you guys think...

-Johnny Lee Fields

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Do you remember...

When coming up with an idea for this post I was left with a blank on what to talk about. I tossed around the ideas of talking about cute, viral videos about a kitten or any other animal to talking about using satire in rhetoric or something like that. But I couldn't find the motivation to talk about them. So what do I want to talk about for this blog post? The 90’s(or rather about the nostalgia of the 90’s that college age adults and above seem to have today). I’ll let that sink in a moment….

To start off I want to share this ten minute video that sums up 1999 in the entertainment/ mainstream department. (If you don’t have time to watch it, that’s fine. It’s a fun video to watch. If you do have time, I would suggest watching the videos on the years 1997 and 2002). 

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Facebook Advertising and the End of the World

Alright guys, forget all that noise I made last week about Google Glass ushering in an era of technological overlords—maybe that was an overreaction.  But now the end is truly upon us.  Facebook has just announced that it will be implementing a new marketing initiative allowing companies to display pop-out, full-screen, auto-play video commercials to its users this summer.  Fire up the old Myspace accounts guys, it’s over.

But it gets even worse, if you can even fathom such a thing.  According to an AdAge article, “The ads will be capped at 15 seconds and frequency [sic] capped to ensure that no user sees more than three per day.”  Though it took me awhile to do the math, that should come out to potentially 45 seconds.  Every.  Single.  Day.  That’s 45 seconds of my life that would otherwise be spent mindlessly scrolling up and down my Facebook feed, eyes glazing over, drool oozing from my mouth, maybe half-asleep.  And at a mere price of $1 million per daily advertiser, it's only a matter of time before everyone jumps on board and we start seeing advertisements all over the place.  Damn you, Zuckerberg.  Damn you.

Sarcastic tone aside; I really am kind of bummed.  While 45 seconds really isn’t a lot of time relatively speaking, I can only see this as opening the door to even more advertising on the net.  Who knows, it really may be only a matter of time before marketing is just as integrated online as it is on television.

What do you guys think?  How long do you think we will still be able to enjoy our super-safe, advertisement-free, slice of heaven that is the Internet?  Should we queue up those dramatic Facebook status about how awful Facebook has gotten and then post them to Facebook using Facebook?

Family Vacations Beneficial to Education?

Today I came across an interesting article about education (which is particularly relevant to the presentation from earlier today). It explores whether it is beneficial for kids's education to go on extended family vacations to different countries and cultures.

The central conflict of the article is that "Many parents agree that an extended period of travel, with its exposure to myriad new cultures, playmates, experiences and languages, can provide a valuable learning tool for children of all ages. However, many also fear that removing them from a conventional educational setting might cause them to suffer academically or from the loss of structure that school provides."

The article then presents various options that parents pursue in light of this. They include (I'll provide excerpts from each section):

Homeschooling - "A term most often used to describe parents teaching children at their kitchen table, many travelling parents these days opt to “homeschool” in the trains, planes and hotel rooms along their journey. Some create their own content from a combination of workbooks and online content."

Online options - "Education pioneer Salman Khan’s acclaimed online Khan Academy, for instance, offers more than 4,000 instruction videos and practice exercises, ranging from simple addition to cosmology and microeconomics. Free of charge and accessible anywhere with an internet connection, Khan believes the strength in his lessons – which have easy-to-keep-track-of progress reports – lies in allowing students to learn at their own pace, rather than the “one size fits all” approach sometimes found in a conventional classroom."

Unschooling - “What children need,” said educator John Holt in 1969, “is not a new and better curriculum but access to more of the real world." Coined by Holt in the 1970s, “unschooling” puts less emphasis on traditional classroom curricula, and instead encourages children to learn in a self-directed manner, following their own curiosity as they navigate the world around them."

Semesters overseas - "For families planning to remain in one location for several months, spending a semester overseas can afford children a unique chance to truly get beneath the surface of their chosen destination. Many traditional schools are able to accept students for a minimum of one semester; it is vital to contact schools well in advance to discuss educational options and fee structures."

Travelling Schools - " ...Think Global School, an International Baccalaureate World School that spends each semester in a different country, with locations ranging from Boston and Bhutan to Beijing and Chiang Mai. Here teenagers spend months without their parents, becoming instead part of an extended “family” of roughly 60 students from more than 20 countries around the world. "

This is an interesting article from a perspective I haven't really heard much about before. What are your thoughts? Would travelling around be a beneficial environment for kids to learn in? Would you have been up for any of these? Does Education discourse need some more unique ideas like these (or not like these - depending on your opinion)?

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

It Starts...

Credit to Reddit user bobbonew for taking a picture of his/her TV

We've seen the news broadcasts, read the articles, probably even spent a little too much time reading other peoples opinions on Facebook. We know by now that bombs went off in Boston, somebody did it, and somebody is going to pay for it, but until then, we need to watch our backs. Why? Because someone is trying to hurt us. There are people out there who hate that we are America and they aren't, and they want to kill us. We're not telling you to panic, but you shouldn't be not panicing. I found this picture on under the title "and the fear mongering begins." The comment chain associated with the picture was full of anti-media rants by Reddit's seemingly intellectual and persistently left leaning userbase. It reminded me of all those times the television told me that I should be extra careful because today is orange, even though yesterday was yellow. I didn't know why our national security was judged on a rainbow chart that could have hung in any daycare center, but I was sure glad I was able to watch the news so they could tell me how scared I should be.

The point I'm trying to make here is that what happened in Boston was an act of terror, meant to terrorize, to cause us as a nation to halt our daily proceedings so we can stop and be scared. So why does the media say things like "How safe are we?" or "How safe are your kids" or "How safe is your car?" I understand those last two weren't acts of terrorism, but they are shining examples of our media trying to scare us, and it's not to protect us, it's for ratings, for sweeps, for paychecks.

This ABC News affiliate isn't helping our country through this trying time by completing the work for whatever psycho tried to blow up downtown Boston. It doesn't matter if it was a Saudi national or some crazy eyed white guy who thinks he got screwed on his taxes. Things like this happen all the time, and no amount of news report watching or nail biting is going to make us any safer. We just don't need to be afraid.

Anyone else have any thoughts on the media scare tactics and fear mongering?

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

So now that we've been educated...

...what do we do with what we've learned?

We've all examined Postman's work, learned about his positions regarding media and its effects on our society, and why we should all be afraid.

Here's what I want to know:

If you agree with Postman's warnings about mass media consumption, what are you going to do to help stop the problem? (everything must be entertaining, information overload, relevance vs. irrelevance, etc.)

Do you have an obligation to do anything?

Do you feel like you could even make a change if you tried?

In what ways have Postman's teaching influenced the way that you look at the world? Will you ever see anything the way you did before?

Lemme know in the comments b'lo!


Boston Bombing

I'm sure by now many of you (if not all) have heard about the Boston Bombing.  As our class focuses on public discourse, media and rhetoric I am curious to see how all of you heard about this disaster. I personally heard about it through one of my friends who saw it on twitter....

The link I provided above is a type of backwards countdown through time updates beginning at 9pm and digressing to 2pm. I suggest reading through them and watching this video.

Personal thoughts??

Monday, April 15, 2013

The Manipulation/Stifling of Emotion in Film and the Media

Last year, I became a film studies minor here at BSU, and I must say, learning about technical strategies and effects in films has really opened my eyes to how they affect the viewer.  If someone were to ask you why a director made a certain lighting choice in a certain scene of a certain film, you would most likely reply something like "in order to give such and such a mood to the scene," and that would be the end of it, right?  You might have a different opinion, but that would my answer.  It never dawned on me before, however, how such effects really manipulate the viewer's emotions.  It's just the next step in the cause > effect chain, but I'd never taken it that far, even being such a movie fanatic for so long.

To demonstrate this manipulation of the emotions by technique, I'll present an example from a clip of Robert Wise's 1947 noir film Born to Kill.  The part I will be referring to is specifically from about 4:00-4:40 in the video below.

The video shows all of this, but in case you didn't watch it all, the part from 4:00-4:40 takes place directly after a man and woman are murdered by the woman's boyfriend of sorts for "stepping out" on him with said man.  The woman seen peeking in through the doorway is an acquaintance of the murdered woman, simply trying to return her dog to the house.  When she peers inside, she is met with the sight of a man's hand connected to an unseen body, and a woman's legs, the rest of her figure laying in shadow, also unseen.  They are obviously dead.  Page 109 of Wes D. Gehring's book, Robert Wise: Shadowlands, references this technique, saying, "In cinematically reducing the victims to mere body parts, Wise has metaphorically permeated the sequence with the torment of a horror-film dismemberment, without the gratuitous violence of the Saw series."  This sentiment has stuck with me over the past few days.  It is really true that, by showing the audience only the hand and the pair of legs, Wise makes them seem less of people and more of objects, like the dismembered limbs of numerous modern day hack-em-up horror films.  This view of them will give any viewer an eerie, gruesome, even macabre feeling to accompany the scene, something that could not be done if the camera were to simply reveal two dead bodies laying on the floor.

The whole concept reminded me of the "Independent Media in a Time of War"video that we watched in class back in February, and its mention of how the media refuses to show us the more gruesome images of war, the twisted, burned bodies, the serious injuries, especially when they're children.  Based on how I've demonstrated that the effects in this scene of Born to Kill make the outcome more macabre, just as gruesome photos of war already are, and incite emotions in the viewer, it becomes clear that the media is trying to avoid inciting similar emotions in its audience.  It seems a simple point to make after so much speculation, but does everyone completely agree with it?  Any objections?  What are your thoughts?

Breaking News

This class has sure changed the way I view news reports now (which, of course, is the point). I am currently flipping through the stations that are covering the breaking news about the explosions in Boston that happened this afternoon. It only happened about an hour ago, so the information they are giving are very limited. The most interesting thing I've observed is that the FIRST publicity this situation received was from a photo posted on Twitter (click here to see the photo). The news station I was watching (Channel 13) admitted that's how they first heard about it. The videos of the blast that they have been showing in a loop on all the channels are from someone's phone or personal camera.

On CBS, the announcer was letting the viewer know that people in the area were not allowed to make phone calls from cell phones because "perhaps cellular phone calls could trigger a latent bomb." This is an odd request to make of people, and I doubt it'll hold up long because people will be calling family and friends to be sure they are okay. I believe this is just a result of people scaring easily, but that's just my opinion.
Speaking of scaring easy, the way they are replaying and replaying the exact same videos, and will be for the rest of the day, is not good for people. I agree with my roommate: It's unhealthy to stare at the same thing all day long. Especially with headlines like "Patients with limbs blown off" sitting along the bottom of the screen. Thanks, Fox News. :/ At least CBS had the decency to say something like "people with amputated limbs." Fox is making it sound like a video game.

If you notice anything about how they report this, post it here. I sure hope those people are okay....
(I don't mean for this post to sound cold-hearted or apathetic, I just found myself watching this differently than I usually would).

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Google Glass and the End of the World

I’m sure a lot of you have some idea what Google Glass is, but for those who don’t, check this out:

And for those of you that didn’t watch the video even though I told you to, Google Glass essentially refers to a pair of augmented reality glasses being developed by Google that pretty much do everything a smart phone does (and more!), except you wear these on your face.

Anyway, what actually concerns me about this project is a recent statement issued by Google Creative Lab creative director Alexander Chen in which he states that Google Glass marks the beginning of a new era in technology.   He explains, “…I hope that technology disappears more and more from my life and you forget that you're using it all the time instead of feeling like you're burdened [by it].  I hope it becomes more like the water running in our house and the electricity running through our buildings:  we use it when we need it and then we forget about it for the rest of the day and just enjoy being people."

As I read this, The Twilight Zone's theme song immediately began chiming in my head, along with visions of machines taking over the world.  Barbara Warnick warned us this would happen in her explanation of transparency, after all.  She says that when we lose sight of the technologies we use, we also lose sight of their implied meanings.

What do you guys think?  Is Chen’s statement a prophecy for the end times, with Google as its catalyst?  Or do you also share Chen’s vision?

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Does TV cause ADHD?

Postman has made very clear that television is full of negative side effects. However, have you thought about television having a positive correlation with ADHD? The article from the website ADDitude- Living Well with Attention Deficit strongly believes in this correlation. The article says, " The more television a child watches between the ages of 1 and 3, the greater his or her likelihood of developing attention problems by age 7." Maybe Postman was on to something when he said that our attention span are shorter due to television.  The article also says, "The rapidly moving images on TV and in video games may rewire the brains of very young children, making it difficult for them to focus on slower tasks that require more thought." This sounds vaguely familiar to Postman's argument about commercials in his  "Now.. This" chapter. 

What do you guys think? Is there really a correlation between TV and ADHD?

Friday, April 5, 2013

Public Discourse and Consumerism

What products we choose to use can be a a form of public discourse. What a person wears, what food and drinks they purchase, and  their choice of car can publically show what they find important in their lives. For example, a person wearing TOMS shoes might show that the wearer chose a shoe company that gives back to the world. However, companies also use public discourse to promote their products and make consumers feel good about buying their products, and they ultimately choose what image their consumer projects.

In this white board video (by the same group that produced the education video we watched in class) philosopher Slavoj Zizek discusses cultural consumerism and how companies like Starbucks and TOMS use public discourse to convince customers that consumerism can help the environment and other causes. I know it's a long video, but I really suggest watching it, it's quite fascinating.

So what do you think? Do you agree with Zizek's view of "cultural consumerism," or are Starbuck's and TOMS really helping the world?

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Growing Up

When finishing up Neil Postman's, Amusing Ourselves To Death, I came across a chunk in his last chapter that struck me.
"The problem, in any case, does not reside in what people watch. The problem is in that we watch. The solution must be found in how we watch. For I believe it may fairly be said that we have yet to learn what television is...We have apparently advanced to the point where we have grasped the idea that a change in the forms, volume, speed and context of information means something, but we have not got any further." (bolding is mine)
This quote resonated with me, because it, in a way, surprised me that Postman could think this, yet still have such an emphatically negative outlook on television throughout his book. I think that television, like any new media, must go through a phase in which people try to figure out how to best use it.

When Postman wrote Amusing Ourselves To Death in 1985, regular commercial network television was approximately thirty-seven years old (since it began in the US in 1948). Twenty-eight more years have gone by since then, and in nine more years it will be twice as old as it was in '85.

Haven't we grown in twenty-eight years? Aren't we moving to another range of programming?

I guess what I'm trying to say, very inarticulately, is that Postman is writing and thinking about a form of media that wasn't even a century old yet, and wouldn't be for awhile. Of course there were lots of bad programming in 1985, we were still figuring out how to use the television. I like to think that we have gone from our toddler years in 1985 when Postmen wrote his book, to our preteens in 2013, and now are preparing to buckle down for adolescence.

So here's my question for you, classmates, are we getting better? Was television too young to be analyzed by Postman, is his argument out of context? Where do you think television is going to go from here?