THE MEDIA ARTS CULTURE BY DESIGN
THE MEDIA ARTS CULTURE BY DESIGN SMAD 301
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SMAD 301 Online Readings Week 2 Baran amp Davis quotThe Commodification of Culture the 20Muji39171w3 quot 1 the study ofwhat happens when culture is mass produced and distributed in direct competition with locally based cultures 0 media are industries specializing in the production and distribution of cultural commodities 0 they have grown at the expense of small local producers o the consequences are disruptive to people s lives elites have began to develop subversive forms of mass culture that can function as very subtle but effective ideologies 0 leads people to misinterpreting their experiences and then acting against their own self interests 0 the elite take bits of folk culture and weave them together to create attractive mass culture content and then market the result as a substitute for everyday forms of folk culture I the quotselling out of hiphop and rap artists 0 Musical sweatshop in which songwriters were ill paid and overworked while sheet music and recording company entrepreneurs reaped huge profits 0 Provided the model that was later emulated by other US media industries 0 Authors of popular music took melodies from folk music and transformed them into short attractive songs easily marketed to mass audiences Consequences oflifting bits of the culture of everyday life out of their context I a Leaving out minorities emphasizing larger segments of the population where there no poor people working women or ethnic groups in the U S in 19657 involves J those elements of culture that have a Features are added that are known to appeal to large audience segments sex and violence The marketing of cultural commodit merely a marketing device and pollution results hen we carelessly dispose of this packaging the pro 4 The elites who 7 t operate the cultural industries generally are of their work i rll a Ignorance partly based on their alienation from consumers i Live in Hollywood or NYC not in typical neighborhoods Ignorance partly maintained through strategic avoidance or denial of evidence about consequences c Media industries have developed formal mechanisms for rationalizing their impact and explaining away consequences i Supporting empirical social research and the limitedeffects findings that it produces ii Professionalization can have some positive benefits but can also be used to justify routine production practices while they reject potentially useful innovations i 39 i 5 some disruptions are obviously linked to onsumption of especially deleterious content but other forms of 39 subtle and occur over long periods 9 3 m 1 S Squot O 3 a 1 a lt a promotlonal messages attended to and acted on by people who often have little interest in and no real need for the advertised products or services fits older Marxist notions ofideology attempts to stimulate and reinforce consumption even if consumption might be detrimental to the longterm health ofindividuals O OO Gioia quotThe Impoverishment of American Culture Modern Americans can name athletes and celebrities more so than poets artists or scientists Americans may not have been smarter 50 years ago but American culture was and the mass media placed a greater emphasis on presenting a broad range of human achievement lmost ever thin in our national culture even the news has lw N albumin miremrgum m M Adult life begins in a child s imagination and we ve relinquished that imagination to Our education system is the only one social force in America that is potentially large and strong enough to counterbalance this commercialization of cultural values Today a child s access to arts education is largely a function of his or her parents income The purpose of art education is not to produce more artists though it is a byproduct it is to create complete human beings capable ofleading successful and productive lives in a free society Kolker quotFilm as Cultural Practice film is a part ofindustrial production the making of films follows principles of mass production and is now one of the largest commercial endeavors in LA beating out the military as the city s industrial base film is too often condemned as being exploitative commercial and stupid fear that cultural standards are being lowered by popular culture and mass media causes distrust which is followed by condemnation but we still watch movies and TV and music so distrust then turns to cynicism we need to start with a definition of culture and then an examination of popular culture to discover ways to fight cynicism with the understanding of unexpected complexity culture can be understood as the text of our lives the ultimately coherent pattern of beliefs acts responses and artifacts that we produce and comprehend every day 0 coherence system and order are the highlights ofwhat constitutes a text gt anything with known boundaries that produces meaning even self contradictory meaning even meaning that keeps shifting 0 culture is not nature it is made by people in history for conscious or even unconscious reasons the product of all they think and do 0 reading as a critical act is applicable to all meaningmaking entities or texts our culture defines as culture those serious works made by independent imaginations that are complex and acceptable only to the few who have want or like quotculturequot culture segments and segregates itself the culture s culture vs pop culture vs all the subcultures in between 0 o cons1sted of some of the most important leftwing thinkers of the 20th century got closed down by the Nazis in 1933 and many members came to America where they taught and pursued their work studied film and mass media and attempted to describe a cultural mood one that would lead to the cultural and political catastrophe of Nazism by looking at the films the German culture had produced and the conclusions about mass culture were either very negative or ambivalent instead ofa web ofinterrelated texts in which the listener or viewer is part of a complex structure of commerciall roduced and distributed media the O O 0 means of communication fashioning information entertainment and outright propaganda in such a palatable way that its audience could not did not want to resist Tended to look down upon popular culture from an elitist perspective and the perspective was popularized in the 50 s due to a heightened paranoia about being subverted and infiltrated during the Cold War along with a general concern over what some perceived as a decay of the culture and a rise in adolescent misbehavior O 0 Critics of the media misinterpreted the Frankfurt school s idea ofa topdown control ofmedia and the population and instead argued that the media were elitist and left wing Rather than controlling the belief system of the people the media subverted it destroying their values and it led to the redbaiting witch hunts in Hollywood and the blacklisting of film and media people during the McCarthy period The social and cultural complexities of mass media were not as important to 50 s critics as the ronouncements of decay and corruption L 39 lil categorized 50 s culture into three parts began to introduce an 1 e the complex resonant art for the elite 2 popular culture produced for mass consumptlon a quotbad in a new way it doesn t even have the theoretical possibility of being good 3 i something in between not high not low but peculiarly middle class a Reproduces the bad in a better light quotit pretends to respect the standards of High Culture while in fact it waters them down and vulgarizes them b Gives the impression of seriousness while reproducing the same banalities of masscult c Films made from 18th and 19th century novels or recent best sellers might be considered current examples of midcult mm m s quotThe Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction o Helped form the basis of a nonjudgmental appropriately political speculative and complex meditation on popular art and its relation to the larger matrix of cultural practice 0 The difference between the old art of the elite classes and the new popular art of the masses is that popular or mass art is readily available outside the usual highculture sites of museums and libraries The image is not a unique oneofakind event kept in one place and viewed with awe and reverence The image is now infinitely reproducible and available it has lost its a Aura the uniqueness of a work of traditional high art Thought about the growth ofpopular culture as something to be understood not as an oppressive reality but as a one I Everyone could come into contact with works of the imagination and everyone would be free to make of the auraless work what she could I Could lead to a greater intimacy with the work the ritual and awe that surround the creation and reception of original genius might be replaced by the intimate interpretation of each viewer quotThe progressive reaction is characterized by the direct intimate fusion ofvisual and emotional enjoyment with the orientation of the expert Cultural studies is less a movement than a loose affiliation ofintellectual agreements about how to think of culture and its productions O OO o Started by the Germans in the 20s and 30s coalescing around Benjamin s essay develo ed b the Br sh cultural theorist Ra mond Williams name by the 2b IN V n m m Individuals as well as small and large groups determined by their economic and social classes make up subcultures who negotiate meanings with popular teth much like readers of high cultural products to l IEI implies a relationship between the work of a popular culture and the consumer with the latter taking what she wants from a song a TV show or a movie and possibly not taking it all seriously Not all the negotiations unpacking of codes and rereadings of cultural texts are for the good Cultural studies first seeks to describe and analyze and broaden lm I m J ITquot 0 This is a very complex point because it places us between common sense careful analysis and wholesale dismissal It is the style of the postmodern where hierarchies definitions and separations are broken down and the quickly seen is substituted for the deeply understood 0 Images of the poor the hurt and the starving appear indiscriminately on the news call upon our emotions and as rapidly disappear again When images disa u ear so does sympathy I ll the interpenetration ofvarious texts one within the other keeps reminding us how wise we are to the popular culture we ve grown up with Kolker quotImage and Reality Natural Born Killers Oliver Stone 0 Plays with the ways that the real and the illusory break down each other s boundaries and seep into one another 0 scene where Mickey is captured and the u olice beat him alludes to the infamous videotape of the beating of If by the LA police in 1991 I In trial defense lawyers used the tape as evidence against the persecution and convinced the jury that Rodney was simply an offender violently resisting arrest and that the police were simply part of an quotescalation of force by showing the tape in slow motion backwards and forwards frame by frame overanalyzing the film until the jury believed it Many found the film too violent They were unwilling to decipher the compleX visual structure of the film and understand what that structure was trying to say that images ofviolence are manufactured to play upon our desire to see and enjoy violence at a safe distance the took the images too literally and were repelled The Dark Blue Ron Shelton actually i h 39 with no irony intended o the images become part ofa plot line reality is turned into fiction fiction is made to take the place of reality Representation and the thing represented begin to dissolve into each other The Matrix Wachowski brothers movies themes a conscious playing with illusion versus reality becomes part of the weave of the worlds I 0 1 l by indicating that the false can appear more real than reality and that what we think is reality isn t and must be destroyed before it destroys us A thing seen directly or through a visual representation brings us closer to some actual reality Things that are seen appear to be and even feel as if they are unmediated they seem to be conveyed directly to us not conveyed indirectly However an image is not the thing itself it is a representation ofa mediated transmission We choose how close to reality which is itself something built upon complex often unconscious but always learned agreements we have made with our culture an image might be 3m V the love oflooking 0 Slightly more benign than 7 1 the act oflooking at a person who is unaware of our look but it is stlll erotically charged The emotions we attach to an image or to the images that make up a film can be simply set in motion by the images themselves and we can ignore the origin as well as the formal ro u erties o n wmn what is chosen to be in the shot and how these elements are arran ed in the frame 0 m the placement of the shot in relationship to others Footage eXists not merely because there was someone there to ta u e it but because control over the natural P v DU the illusion of depth on a twod1menslonal surface based on mathematical principles of linear convergence the way lines can be drawn so they appear to vanish at a single point in space 0 People have theorized that perspective was invented for ideological and cultural reasons because it allowed the wealthy patrons who sponsored artists to be given a privile ed lace in viewing the canvas Perspective allowed the viewer a H that was made for his gaze In the neoclassical period late 17th to mid18th centuries in Europe interpretation and ins u iration were subordinated to ll and to the capturing of the image to it proclaiming that nature could be taken and owned whole by the imagination We want our images to be 39 11 to seem to relate some kind of story that we understand to allow us to look through them to the meanings they seem to convey They eXist to transmit the real world to our eyes and to trigger emotional response Images in the cause of economics and politics is different from the image in the cause of art only in its purpose The particular designs ofjournalism and advertising photography are narrow and focused wanting the viewer to buy into something an attitude idea commodity or ideology o This f h h does not rimarily imitate reveal or show Rather It exploits fully the one abiding reality of representation and mediation a call for some kind of response from the viewer 0 Something does indeed come between the thing itself and the image I In the case of the work of art that quotsomethingquot is a form and structure that ask of us an emotional and intellectual response meant to help us understand the artist and the way she understands the world In the case of the journalistic advertising or political image that something is a form and structure that ask us to agree to the general values of our culture and the various commodities it creates to form an opinion to spend money or cast a vote In the case ofmovies form and structure ask us to respond to many of these same requests simultaneously The 39 the effect of being transported before nature s wildness and in front of representations of that wildness in painting and poetry Week 3 Garfield quotThe Numbing Effect Images that Flicker and Fade 11 year old Carlie Brucia was taken away by a tattood man and it was caught on a 39 ta e The image was played and replayed on every news channel at some point the stomach stops twisting and desensitization sets in the I when a journalistic image ceases to tell a story but becomes a for a story denuding it both ofits actual news significance and of its inherent drama a commodity has its value set by the marketplace and today s marketplace has determined the value of all sensational clips to be approximately equal with an accelerated depreciation schedule that would be the envy of accountants everywhere Grossberg et al quotThe Interpretation of Meaning inter retation how u eo u le arrive at an understanding ofa teXt If i n I In maximize the likelihood that the receiver receives the exact same message meaning as the sender sends 0 communication is assumed to function in such a way that the two ends of the u rocess of communication and its success or failure r u n W uestions must be answered before someone decides what a teXt means 3 H 1 i a The signs and the codes are themselves located in and cannot be separated from a compleX set of relations to the artist or author to the audience to other texts and the history ofpopular culture to knowledge to other forms ofbehavior to the media to different audiences and their various structures of taste b There is no single text that can be isolated for the sake of analysis c Every text is an a the meaning does not exist outside of the codes the relations of difference which the text produces to which the text is articulated and in which the text itself is located d There is a radically nature ofmedia messages every text is potentially a number of d1fferent texts each with its own set of u ossible meanins Liijh will i391 n E quotrules for living or implicit instructions on how to do something ii More commonly one looks for some meaning that is not obvious to everyonebelow the surface in many cases the deeper meaning of the text is identified with questions about social organization of reality a Sometimes when we have already decided what a text s meaning is we might be more interested in understanding how the text produces the particular meaning we assume it has techniques ofinterpretation 0 even if the text cannot be said to have a single definitive meaning the text does offer us certain organizations and structures ofmeaning that can be identified 0 the signifiers of the text their organization by and into particular codes the intertextual relations of this text with other texts and the questions and methods we bring to analyzing the text all limit or constrain our interpretations o technique 1 focus on the themes that are most obvious in the text 0 technique 2 look at the symbols that organize and give shape to the text itself semiotics o chains ofmeaning are established this red white and blue cloth means the US ag which means the country itself which means patriotism and these chains become codes 1 describes a text s organization and how its signs are connected in time or space I changing the syntagmatic organization ofa narrative or a photograph can seriously alter the ways in which meanings are produced This is next to that gt Is this next to that 3 describes the potential substitutions that one can make without changing the syntagmatic relationship watching a story in which a boy is bitten by a dog one can imagine substituting a wolf or a cat for the dog and the story would remain the same but one could not substitute the dog for an elephant or a train in a photograph ofa current president next to a portrait ofAbe Lincoln George Washington could easily be substituted but not Richard Nixon the communication test simply asks etc and such codes create structures of meaning by establishing equivalencies between the terms of different binary oppositions I will not read any more of this bullshit Week 4 Williams Here I Am Taking My Own Picture the digital selfportraiture is an extension ofbehavior typical of the young like trying on different identities which earlier generations might have expressed throuh clothin and hairstyles 39 the idea that adolescents think people are more interested in them than they actually are that people are always looking at them and taking note ofwhat they are doing even ifit is just walking across the school cafeteria Sturken amp Cartwright quotSpectatorshipquot not only is the spectator s gaze constituted through a relationship between the subject who looks and other people institutions places and objects in the world but also the objects we contemplate may be described as the source of the look in the gaze the concepts of gaze and spectatorship provide a set of terms and methods through which to consider some aspects oflooking practices that the concept of the viewer does not reall allow us to consider in de th activity engaged in by someone who forms internal mental representations that stand for a passive image ob39ect quotout there rather than theories of reception in which methods are used to understand how actual viewers respond to a cultural text instead we consider the ways that an image or visual text invites certain responses from a particular category ofviewer the use of these concepts typically signals to the reader that the author does not take the concept of the individual or the person as a given TM All loft nu not just spoken language but the broader variety of institutions and practices through which meaning is produced im a process ofinterruption through which an individual viewer comes to recognize himself or herselfas among the class or group of subjects for whom the image s message seems to be intended it s about situating the viewer in a field of meaning production organized around looking practices that involves recognition of oneself as a member of that world ofmeaning The gaze helps to establish relationships ofpower the act oflooking is commonly regarded as awarding more power to the person who is looking than to the person who is the object ofthe look The photograph is a central tool in establishing difference 0 We believe we know what culture is because we can identify its opposite nature thus difference is essential to its meaning Categories of difference are themselves overlapping and not mutually exclusive 0 Femininenot masculine but in reality people can be understood to have aspects ofboth One of the primary oppositions that is reiterated today is that ofthe differences between western and eastern cultures 0 Occidental vs oriental orientalism describes the tendencies ofwesterners who have fetishized mythologized and feared the cultures lands and peoples ofasia and the middle east and creates a binary opposition between the west the occident and the east the orient Gender and the gaze 0 Until recently most collectors of art were men In a typical depiction of a female nude a woman is posed so that her body is on display for the viewer s easy appreciation women are posed as objects of an active or quotmalequot gaze and returning looks are more often downcase indirect or otherwise coded as passive 0 Mirrors were used in paintings to offer another view in the image but it was also a code for femininity while she is on display for the presumed male spectator the mirror establishes her gaze as narcissistic 0 Ralph Lauren ad female model gazing outward at the spectator and away from the man who is embracing her The man is a mere prop and the woman s connection is with the viewer who meets her look Rear Window is explicitly about gendered looking 0 Protagonist Ieffries is a photographer who has a broken leg and is confined to a wheelchair and he spends much time in front ofa window watching the windows of his neighbors in the building across the street 0 Has been read by film theorists as a metaphor for the act of film viewing itself with Ieffries standing in for the cinematic audience his gaze is voyeuristic in that he freely looks at but is not seen by the objects of his gaze 0 One can reread the interplay of gazes and power in RW differently it can be defined by an ambivalence about femininity in which women who know too much threaten patriarchal structures Ieffries gains power by looking but he is emasculated by his confined state and must rely on the eyes and legs ofa woman to gain access to knowledge