Friday, February 2, 2018

For WFOL 2018

"Dreaming of Summer"

by, Rosemarie Salvatore

*The full quote is :

“In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer. And that makes me happy. For it says that no matter how hard the world pushes against me, within me, there’s something stronger – something better, pushing right back.”

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

As the (Globalized) World Turns

When I was growing up I watched soap operas with my mother, grandmother, and aunt. This was especially true during the summer months when my sister and I were out of school. Sometimes my grandmother and aunt would come to visit for the afternoon and we would watch "the stories” (as my grandmother referred to them) together. But even if we couldn’t watch them together, we would always discuss them when we saw each other. This gave us a way to talk about a variety of social issues as they were portrayed on the shows.

My favorite program was As the World Turns. At the time, there were not many strong female characters on prime-time TV. But soap operas were ahead of the times. They had more female characters and were able to depict more of a variety of personalities.  I admired one character in particular on As the World Turns. Even then, I thought she had very good communications skills. She was a strong woman and I liked how she handled various situations. I decided that was how I wanted to be.  Even today, I think back on that character has being a big help to me in defining what kind of woman I wanted to become.

Later, in high school, I did a report on the history of the radio. It was then that I learned that most American soap operas had come into being during the heyday of radio. Years later, when television came on the scene, they transitioned to that medium. I was reminded of all these memories when I read the above article.   

In class, we have talked about global public relations and the challenges of getting a message across in an area that does not have the media capabilities that we are used to here in the United States. The article illustrates exactly what we discussed, that sometimes, plays or stories are the best way to reach an audience.

According to the World Health Organization, depression is a big problem among adolescents around the world. They estimate that half of mental disorders begin by age 14, but usually go undiagnosed.  In order to address this global problem, several non-profit organizations have put together a program that broadcasts 5-7 minute dramas on the radio. These soap operas are aimed at teens. In the one mentioned in the article, the main character is 16 and dealing with issues like teen pregnancy and depression.

In areas of East Africa, like Malawi and Tanzania, radio is the only means by which they can connect to the outside world. Little is known about depression in these small villages and this is a way to educate young people. The teens who listen to the dramas are then encouraged to ask questions after the broadcast. Sometimes they can text the radio station. Other times, these programs will be listened to as a group in a community center and a facilitator from the program will lead the discussion.

A project manager in Tanzania said, “Many of them [the teens] have said they didn't realize that it was okay to talk about the thoughts in their heads, and they hadn't realized that anything could be done about the pain.”

Soap operas as a genre often get little respect, but I have always felt that they really do serve an important purpose. This article confirms that. It is good to know that this art form can help young people around the world.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Not Just For Geeks and Nerds Anymore

The above article talks about how Dr. Who, a British Sci-fi/Fantasy show is becoming more and more popular here in the U.S.  I first realized this about two years ago when I attended a large multi-media convention in Atlanta. It was the weekend of the Dr. Who U.S. Season Premiere and there was a much anticipated new Doctor character being introduced for the first time.  Representatives of BBC America attended the convention and held a pre-screening of the episode for convention attendees. My friend wanted to go to the screening and I went with her. I was stunned when the line for the event was wrapped around the block several times! As I sat in that huge hotel ballroom with people from all over the country, watching a British TV show, I was struck by what a global world it really is!

I love to talk about fandoms, because one fandom in particular has had an incredibly positive impact on my life. That is the 1980’s TV show Beauty & the Beast. When I first got involved in this fandom, Fandom Studies itself was only in its infancy.  Over the last 20 years, Fandom Studies has become an acceptable area of communication research.  This has been such a wonderful discovery for me!

It all began with the publication of the book, Textual Poachers: Television fans and participatory culture, by Henry Jenkins.  It was published in 1992 just as Beauty &t he Beast was being canceled with a major uproar from the fans - who were angry at not only CBS executives, but also at each other. Jenkins devoted a whole chapter in his book to the Beauty & the Beast situation and some of his insights are very enlightening, even all these years later.

In the article that I did my case facilitation on, Plant, Reysen, Roberts and Gerbasi (2014) take a very positive view of fandoms and show how they can be a force for Globalization and prosocial values.

I see this in my own life. Being from a very traditional Italian-American family, I had a very narrow view of the world growing up.  This view might have continued into adulthood if not for me falling in love with Beauty & the Beast. Slowly, through attending Beauty & the Beast conventions, I was able to meet and become friends with a wide variety of people.  These conventions are mostly held in the U.S., but people from all over the world attend them. I have what I consider to be very good friends who live in Italy, France, and Australia. Not to mention acquaintances from many more countries.

When the terror attacks in Paris happened months ago, my first thought was about the fans that I know in France, one of whom lives near Paris.  Years ago, I might have heard about something like the Paris attacks and thought it just a news story, a horrible one for sure, but still one that was very far away from me.

The values of Beauty and the Beast are about seeing beneath the surface of a person and respecting them for who they are, not what they look like, or how much money they have. The world of the Tunnels beneath New York City (where the Beast lives with a group of societal outcasts) was presented as the utopian society that we would all like to see in our world. Beauty & the Beast fans try to uphold these values as much as we can. Like the Furry Fandom mentioned in the article, we also raise money for charity at our yearly convention. We are a small group too, but we often raise thousands of dollars for a charity that we select each year based on how it relates to the shows values.  For me, I think the give and take of values associated with the show is definitely bidirectional. That is, I think I always had some of these latent values in me, but being around people who also have them has definitely helped to shape those values even more and given me an outlet to put them into action.

One thing I love about the Plant, et al study is that they see a practical use for the link between fandoms and prosocial values.  They say there might be the potential to find alternate ways to correct or prevent negative, anti-social behavior. This would surely be a major breakthrough. Personally, I would love for more people to experience the transformative power that fandoms have had on me, and I hope that fandoms will prove to have an even greater positive impact globally in the future.

Plante, C. N., Reysen, S., Roberts, S. E., Gerbasi, K. C. (2014). “One of Us”: Engagement with
fandoms and global citizenship identification. Psychology of Popular Media Culture. 3/1, 49-64.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Captain Picard Would NEVER Believe This

This article caught my attention as being not just advanced - but BEYOND.  I love to see technology that brings to mind something I saw on Star Trek years ago.  But this seems beyond anything they would ever show on Sci-fi TV - unless it was Sci-fi/horror.

Neurocam and it's accompanying app was demonstrated at the Human Sensing 2013 conference in Japan recently.  It is a whole system in which a headband holds an iPhone next to the wearer’s temple. The phone has a special prism so that the camera can record things from the wearer’s point of view.  There are EEG sensors that will scan the brain for spikes in interest on a scale of 0-100.  If the wearer's interest level goes above 60 - the device will begin recording and store each recorded file in a journal format so the wearer can remember the things that interested him or her.

As it says in the article, advertisers would love to get their hands on that info - and as such - a large advertising company is teaming up with the company that has created this prototype.

I don't seem to mind so much the personalized ads that we have talked about in class.  If Facebook or other websites can show me something that I really like, as opposed to an ad that I find annoying - well - that hasn't upset me as much as some others have expressed.

But the idea of something like this being the future of advertising really does concern me.  They say it will capture a "life log" and maybe be used for purposes other than direct advertising - but it still makes me very uneasy to have anything "reading my mind."

And then of course there is the danger - as there is evidence that cell phones are linked to brain tumors.  So a question seems to be: will technology just ignore serious health concerns?!?  As we have discussed in class - where are the limits to what we will accept?  

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Everyone (not just Techies) Should Read Fiction!

I found this article on Mashable that really intrigued me.  In class we talked about Technological Determinism, and at the time, I tended to agree that technology does control our lives a lot of the time.  If someone doesn't have a cell phone or is not on Social Media often times they are seen as being hopelessly outdated.  There are times when one feels compelled to learn this program or that program because everyone else knows it.  Once, I was let go from a temp job because I didn't know Excel well enough for my superior.  I knew the basics, and was more than willing to learn, but that wasn't good enough for her.

However, this article brings up a good point.  It says that in 2007 China allowed it's first ever government approved Science Fiction & Fantasy convention.  Why did they suddenly do this when Science Fiction & Fantasy had be disapproved of for so long?  Because they realized that the Chinese where brilliant at putting existing things together, but had no imagination to create new things.  When they interviewed American innovators at Google, Apple and Microsoft, they found that all of them had enjoyed science fiction as children.

I am a lover of Science Fiction & Fantasy myself - I've even attended many Sci-Fi/Fantasy conventions.  Sometimes I get laughed at for doing this by people who don't "get" it - but I have always appreciated the creative potential of it most of all.  I came from a family who did not encourage creativity - in essence they were a lot like the Chinese government - didn't see the point of it.   As I got older, I discovered Sci-Fi & Fantasy and found that it's an amazing feeling to attend one of these conventions and be surrounded by so many creative-minded people.  I believe that, my own creativity was nurtured by my love of Sci-Fi & Fantasy in a way that it never would have been otherwise.  I'm also a book lover in general and I think this idea can also apply to fiction of all kinds if you don't like Sci-Fi/Fantasy. After a day at work or reading articles for class - I usually feel the need to relax with a good fiction book.  

I can't believe that I didn't see this side of the argument until now, but maybe it's because many people don't approve of those of us who go to Sci-Fi/Fantasy conventions - so I've learned to keep the "business" and "fun" sides of me somewhat separate.  Whatever the reason, this article has changed my view on the Technological/Media Determinism debate.  

Sunday, October 6, 2013

"Fall"-ing in Love with TV

I was very interested to read this article about how there are many apps out there now that help you manage your TV viewing.  Recently, I heard a conversation on the morning radio about how TV is better than it's ever been - even better than the movies that are out there.  While I like some movies, I have always liked TV better because you can follow favorite characters for a longer period of time.  So I am really happy about this trend!

Television programing used to be seen as trivial compared to film. This shift, though, is at least in part due to technology.  DVRs make it much easier to record multiple programs.  It is also much easier to keep track of what you still have to watch. This was not possible with the VCR.  You can also get episodes on-line or on services like Netflixs.  And, worst comes to worst, you can buy the DVDs.  Many people, these days, do not even start watching a series until it is over.  That may have been possible years ago, but only if you could find the reruns somewhere - usually at an odd time or on an odd channel.

Technology has truly changed the way we watch TV.  As a result, maybe networks are taking more time to have better quality programs.  Or maybe people are taking more time to find the good programs that were always around. At any rate, technology then responds to the new trend with apps that further help us to organize our viewing.  As the article says, gone are the days of the TV section "black & white grid" in the newspaper.

I think this is a good example that relates to the "Technological or Media Determinism" that I just read about in our article for Monday's class.