Brian G. Morrice RM
The first reading was a short writing from Plato. It used an analogy of a cave to describe peoples ignorance and limited viewpoint. It describes how some might escape and expand their horizon and level of knowledge. I found it interesting from the perspective of someone living thousands of years after it was written. It was interesting to read the "Manufacturing Consent" piece right after and see what Herman and Chomsky have to say about the mass media, which I suppose could be considered a cave imposed upon citizens in today's world.
In their piece, "A Propaganda Model," they describe five ways in which the media censors itself, and how it is used as a propaganda tool for the government and corporations despite its supposed independence. Although the examples and discussions of anti-communism were dated, overall it was a very relevant piece of writing that applies today. Perhaps it is even more relevant because at the time of the writing cable was a new thing, and CNN was the only 24 hour news network. The feeding frenzy described for filling news programs is even larger now. There are even fewer media corporations today as they have gobbled each other up even more in the last 20 years. The passage I found most interesting was on 22 when they wrote "It should be noted that in the case of the largesse of the Pentagon and the State Department's Office of Public Diplomacy, the subsidy is at the taxpayer's expense, so that, in effect, the citizenry pays to be propagandized in the interest of powerful groups such as military contractors and other sponsors of state terrorism." I had never thought about that particular circular cycle.
The reading on "Democracy and the News Media" was interesting. It provided a broad outline of the different ways that various national news media's are bias. The funny thing was the very obvious liberal bias of the article itself. It provided examples of the different ways American and European newspapers reported on the Iraq War, with an implication that the European news was more fair than the American news. At least that is how I read it. Later, it is written that the New York Times readership is "basically conservative," and "overwhelmingly supporting...the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq." These are both observations that I think a domestic audience would find curious. Also, there is a part where they imply what the news should be. The article discusses what stories would typically get attention in the press (sex scandals, bank robbery) rather than bank fraud of millions or hungry children all over the world. While these may in fact be valid news stories (I believe they are) it is interested for this particular article to be telling me what should and should not be considered "real" news. Finally, their suggestion for a good news source, or at least one that discusses dissident views, is The Nation, a publication that is very liberal in the United States, and cemented my viewpoint that this article was written with a liberal bias.
The New York Times article was extensive. It covered the use of retired military people as analyst on television. It discussed the conflicts of interest this entailed. There were two aspects of this article that stood out to me most. One was when Mr. Krueger (what an appropriate name), who helped coordinate the analyst program, talked about how effective the program was. He says "We were able to click on every single station and every one of our folks were up there delivering our message. You'd look at them and say 'This is working.'" This is a terrifying image, in my opinion. It reminds me of some horrible dystopic future film, in which every "message box" carries the same big brother talking at you. The other aspect of this that surprised me was how often the analyst knew what they were saying was wrong. I had always imagined the the Pentagon simply tried to get the ideologues that they thought would support them, which is true to an extent, but in a lot of ways it was much more about business. Many of these guys were linked to companies that depended on access and Pentagon contracts, and that meant that analyst often repeated talking points they didn't believe or left out doubts they had in favor of glowing reviews and maintaining access. When one of those analyst, Mr. Eads, recognized that they were being mislead on the progress of Iraq's security forces, he did not share it on TV. When asked why, he said "Human Nature."
I still don't get Twitter. The article made me understand it a bit more, but it's still silly to me. I have a Twitter-there was one Field Work Term where I needed as many things on the web to waste my time as possible. But I probably tweet once or twice a month. It's just like Facebook status updates, except you don't have everything else that Facebook has. Why would I want just one part of something awesome? The article does provide some interesting information, however. The information comparing it to Google in searching, and how Twitter is better for the most recent news, was something I hadn't heard. The weird satisfaction in answering Oprah's question and feeling some level of connection to her is also funny and something I had not thought of, but I could see how it would be hugely appealing within the culture of celebrity we have. The article covering McLuhan was fine. I feel like i have read so much McLuhan I don't know what to think anymore. I enjoyed the introduction more. The reading offered two of McLuhan's pieces, the more famous of which is "The Medium is the Message," which boiled down offers the argument that the medium on which a message is being delivered (television, radio, newspaper, etc) is just as important as whatever the message is. While many of his arguments are persuasive (society cannot depend on one resource for its economy, a metropolitan area cannot rely on one resource for its news), I just can't believe that what is being said or written is overwhelmed by the medium itself. I can see it to a certain extent, but overwhelmed is too strong. One thing I did like was a line from the first piece. He wrote that "For the popular press offers no single vision, no point of view, but a mosaic of the postures of the collective consciousness." Perhaps that sheds light on what he is trying to say in "The Medium is the Message." But I still am uncomfortable with the argument and need to think more about it.
Rethinking literacy was an interesting argument. It makes the case that in today's world, textual literacy, while still vitally important, is not the only form of literacy one should possess. The argument is that in today's world, young people should also learn digital media and research skills. They also argue, appropriately for this class, that "Such groups have long called for schools to foster a critical understanding of media as one of the most powerful social, economic, political, and cultural institutions of our era." They go on to say that they will list eleven core skills in the new media landscape based on a review of modern scholarship surveying forms of informal learning. Before going over some of those things, though, I should note my immediate agreement with this argument. While I had the traditional typing class in early high school, and there were optional classes to expand basic computing skills, there was nothing on the level I believe we should have had. Every field work term job I've had, I've been expected, because of my age, to be "the computer guy." I can use the internet and do basic file transfers and basic maintenance, but I am by no means trained to the extent that my older employers have expected by virtue of my age. If my generation is going to just be "expected" to have these skills by employers, than schools better be teaching them. Even Bennington could vastly improve what its offering in the computer science department. For a skill that is so expected of my age group by the workforce, Bennington has little to nothing to offer. But of course, it is a liberal arts college, not job-technical-prepatory training school. But I would argue that computer science is vital to todays liberal arts. And this paper basically argues that as well. The format of the paper is to lay out the key skills they have identified and then give ways classrooms could incorporate these skills. The first one is play and the importance of play for helping kids learn. One of the examples they gave for a classroom setting, though, is having kids entertain an alternative history in which Native Americans colonized Europe, which I thought was silly. Another was simulation, in which one of the examples was to make imaginary investments on the stock market and track the return, something that is done in one of Geoff's classes. The next one was performance (model UN). Appropriation surprised me, but I thought it was a good one. This is one where generation, or technology gaps, are very apparent. They say that it is understood as "a process by which students learn by taking culture apart and putting it back together." Examples include sampling, which is often derided as copyright infringement, and also photoshop, which they compare as being similar in manipulating image to the traditional collage. And yet, often "school arts and creative writing programs remain hostile to overt signs of repurposed content, emphasizing the ideal of the autonomous artist." They argue that despite resistance to these types of forms, "most of the classics we teach in the schools are themselves the product of appropriation and transformation..." Multi-tasking, the next skill they mention, is another gap I've observed. People think you're not paying attention when you're doing something else on the computer or cell phone or whatever is, which is just as often not true as it is true. Distributed cognition and collective intelligence are the remaining two listed before the article cuts off.