According to Anthon Giddens, we now work hard everyday to construct a ‘self, by what he through ‘a distinct kind of labour’ that is ‘self-branding’. This involves the creation of an image and a narrative through the use of culturally relevant meanings and images.

So basically in this day and age we are all trying to sell our own brand of ‘self’ to the world. We do this by making conscious choices regarding our appearance and life style and by projecting the image we create. Social networking sites are intimately connected with this process as they allow us to give a lot of information regarding ourselves to those who also use the site.

According to Hearn, we are now taught that ‘self-branding’ is seen as necessary for success in the modern world and thus many management handbooks and other literature.

I didn’t really understand Foucault’s statement or why Hearn deemed it so important. However I understand and totally agree with Giddens, especially his view of self-commodification, which I believe is highlighted by society’s love of shows about celebrities and their lifestyles which do nothing but display their wealth. It also covers celebrity endorsement of products.

S. During Identity

In this article, During tackles the difficult concept of identity. It is a difficult task because defining anything about identity can be fraught with ambiguities and generalisations as identity is an intrinsically personal and individual thing, and yet we share many of identities with those around us.

During states that identity defines us by a shared trait for instance gender, race, religion, and this place us in a group, thereby reducing individuality.

In society, we are placed and judged in terms of a trait that society defines as an identity, however, the particular trait is chosen arbitrarily however natural it may seem to define people by their gender, skin colour or ethnicity.

The most important statement of the article, in my opinion, is the fact that identity constitutes our relation between society and ourselves. It must logically follow that without an identity, we cannot participate in society. I’m not exactly sure about this, as there must be some people who have no concept of identity, I’m thinking of people with extreme mental disability or people who had no contact with humans during childhood, such as ‘Genie’ and several other cases. Do we need to know what an identity is to have one? Do people such as ‘Genie’ have an identity? And if not what is their relationship with society?

Another important point that I was not aware of until now is the fact that we all have multiple identities. I guess that we are not aware of this because to us, we are one whole. This is because identities are based different traits that carry different and unequal importance at different times in different places.
It is also important to note that we have identities that we are given and identities that we adopt. Sometimes we struggle to ‘disidentify’ ourselves with an identity that has negative implications for our lives, an example from my own life comes from my father who came from a family of extreme privilege, when he was about 18 years old he joined the royal marines where he tried very hard to hide this fact from his new friends because he thought they would treat him differently if they knew about his family.
My father told me this a long time ago and I had always wondered why it bothered me, after reading this article I have a better understand of how our identities ‘constitute the framework’ of our lives and can cause us hardship or pleasure depending on how we relate to this identity and how society perceives it.

I thought the concept of ‘identity hybridity’ was very interesting even though During believe that it ‘does not move sufficiently beyond identity politics’. It certainly seems to have relevance to myself. There have been times when I have identified with certain identities but because I no longer ‘enact these identities’ since I don’t listen to heavy metal, smoke weed or go to Narrabundah College anymore, I have lost these identities and replaced them with new ones.

Nick Couldry theorises that a new type of audience has emerged alongside the previous forms of audience the simple and mass audience. The extended audience is the result of the perpetual exposure to media that we are now submitted to in our everyday life. Nowadays we are always part of an audience, we are much closer to the point of media production and sometimes we are the producers of media.

The new ‘diffused audience’ has a completely different social and spatial format and this has created some difficulties for those who need to survey and monitor the modern audience’s habits. The first question to ask is whether the study of audiences is even relevant anymore because today their nature is so fragmented and diverse. In order to study audiences in this day, one must examine the wider connections that now exist between places and activities.

Another challenge to audience research concerns how the nature the audience has changed. Audiences are no longer mass centralised groups, now the experience of the audience is deeply individual and decentralised. Thus ‘media culture’, that is audience activity and the meanings ascribed by media, must be understood in order to understand diffused audiences.

The diffused audience that is proposed by Abercrombie and Longhurst incorporates the experience of audiences as shared yet differentiated. However, Couldry disagrees states with their suggestion the relationship between audiences and the media has lost or diffused some of its ‘power dimensions’.

Couldry therefore proposes the term ‘extended audience’ which requires an new examination of the place of media in society in order to understand ‘contemporary media culture’.

Domestication. Incorporating technology into everyday life. It is the bringing of technology into the household but there is also a tinge of normativity an expectation of how things should be, ideally. As stated in the article “in the beginning there was technological determinism” and from this came the idea of transforming the exercise of power in both public and private settings. The notion of domestication was a product of this moment, it was an attempt to “grasp the nettle of socio-technical change” as most things were taken for granted at this time.

Domestication was something human beings did to enhance and secure their everyday lives. Through the domestication of technology in the home, it would bring people together and there for enhance the family setting. Domestication is practice and involves human agency and it is a shift in the everyday. As stated domestication was descirbed as a process of consumption that was linked to invention and design and related specifically to the household. In saying this, it is a procsess of bringing things home – such as a television – which then crossed boundaries between the private and public and brought the social into the home. Domestication developed the household relationship through the definite juxtaposition between the private and public.

The core argument can be seen in this quote “the concept of domestication, with its all metaphoric strengths and weaknesses, is designed about all to intervene in the otherwise singular account of technological change and to instate the human at its centre, not in any dewy-eyed romantic way, but to force all of those concerned with its nature to confront the responsibility that all actors must take, both producers and consumes, for the decisions they make, the choices they pursue, and the practices they develop in the creation of the increasingly sophisticated and increasingly salient strategies of communication and information seeking in this late modern, global, world of ours.” – it is just that, the intervening of technological change and the disturbing of the relationship between the private and the public spaces of communication and meaning.

In terms of the household, we are told that they are no longer what they were, however through the concept of domestication, we are able to hold onto the emphasis on the home and the family, even through all the advances in technological changes seen today. It is a conservative response to the challenges of technological change.

Identity is something that you can’t escape. As stated in the reading “identity is won at the price of reducing individuality” which is entirely true in that identity is something that everyone has and they’re basically categories such as age, gender, ethnicity, class etc. Identities are not given in terms of what individuals are as a whole but they are based on certain features. Individuals don’t have a single identity, they have identities which are based on partial traits and are determined by power relations within a community. The article is dealing with the concepts of power and authority in terms of identity politics as not all is covered by one identity. In terms of power and authority within identities, for example being a man and have a male identity, relates to the concepts of power and authority fundamentally however with the women’s movement for example, there was a shifted balance of power between the gender’s in everyday life.

Therefore when reading this article, it is clear that identities exist within all of us and they can not be surpassed. They are significant in everyday life and in relation to the media, they are used in order to target consumers and they help to specify certain neiche markets therefore increasing sales.

Identity politics are not so relevant in contemporary society, however through the shifts in power and authority in relation to identities in the seventies and eighties, the impact remains important today. Identities are important to everyone and can determine your place and importance in certain communities or societies. They help to define who you are and where you come from.

The ideas behind this reading have to be one of my favourites. The concepts of the semiotics being the study of signs and symbols and the meanings they have created. There a continual layers of mediation in every thing that we see, for example when looking at a picture, it is not just what is in the picture, rather it is a photo (example the pipe). Semiotics are very interesting to analyse as they portray not only a meaning but a meaning that needs to be read into. The ideas about how we view certain images and they express certain meanings, such as love and happiness, or femininity and masculinity are all part of this idea of semiotics.

The reading was difficult to grasp in terms of the ideas that Sassure expressed such as the sign is the product of an arbitrary relationship between the signifier and the signified. When first reading this i wasn’t able to grasp the concept however, when reading the example, of the tree as the signifier and the concept of the tree, when combined they produce a meaning and a sign. Similarly as to what was being said before about photos that portray images of happiness, love and raw masculinity, however they are the concept not the signifier and the photos only portray the meaning, but in actuality it is not what it is.

It is very true with what Sassure was saying about everyone sending messages and signs, even if it is not deliberate, however in relation to the media, they can use the idea of these semiotics in order to portray a message, which usually would be deliberate, for example clothing or advertisments. The idea of Semiotics are used throughout the media and they are fundamental in the selling and advertising of products, goods and services which I believe is important when considering how this is important in relation to the course.

I understand the meaning of semiotics now and enjoyed the revelation of meaning and signs throughout this reading.

Convergence. The most important line of Jenkin’s Buying into American Idol is on product placement – “on the one hand, higher consumer awareness and on the other higher consumer scrutiny” – revealing the careful balance treaded by advertisers in a new age of cross-format entertainment. His article is predominately geared towards the advertisers’ frantic chase after viewer loyalty – and how this is both fuelling and following a technological convergence revolution. Words like breakdown are bandied around to describe the growth in viewer disloyalty – however I feel more credit is due to the audience. Whislt the democratisation of media has led to a splintering of viewer temporality, the reader is not left convinced that this equates to a splintering of viewer loyalty. In fact I would argue that in the midst of a flurry of channel, network, medium and technology surfing to locate meaningful/bombastic entertainment, all an audience is truly searching for is quality of programming. Once this is found the viewer is transformed from ‘zapper’ into ‘casual’ or ‘loyal’. Jenkins touched on the not-so-revolutionary concept that each of these characteristics will often be found in the one character, i.e. viewer. What appears to be a ‘perpetually shifting mosaic of audience microsegments that forces marketers to play an endless game of audience hide-and-seek’ is actually incentive to create more engaging programming than ever before. The hindrance to this, and what the article is dealing with in the fore, is the money behind this creative power. In an unfortunately negative feedback loop, greater product placement and trans-medium marketing alienates and angers viewers, turning loyals into zappers again as they feel the product has been cheapened. Hence the creation of brand-worlds, like Coca Cola being transformed from a soft drink into a worldwide phenomenological experience, yet these too lead to an over saturation of advertising. This I felt was a large theme untouched in the article – what I would term the ‘Heisenberg Effect’, a physics phenomenon whereby to locate the direction a particle is travelling affects its speed, and to gauge its speed we affect its direction. Thus the frenzy of marketing leads to an oversaturation at the consumer end, through convergence, and an overall loss in the power of advertising.

The article did deal with new advertising strategies that moved from ‘intellectual property.. [to] emotional capital’ and being an enabler of a democratised audience rather than a hindrance to it – letting the audience find the brand, not the other way around. At the same time that it is claimed by Jenkins that advertisers are choosing to throw their money behind ‘high favourability’ shows rather than ‘high rating’ ones, in order to capitalise on emotional capital, I would argue the television industry predominately is still ruled by ratings – clunky, unwielding tools in a converged age.

Personal reflection: advertisers increasingly utilizing new technologies that have seen audiences watch less ads as they have greater control over what and when they view media, however this infiltration of marketing into traditionally narrative-based media is alienating viewers. Whilst some power is held by the viewers the broadcasters still pull shows that ‘fail’ in terms of ratings, alienating viewers further from the network’s own brand.

Castell’s Network Society hinges upon one central theme: technology. His key assertion is that social structures are made up of (electronic) networks, and whilst this is increasingly the case in many areas of life, he then goes on to state that networks are not specific to 21st century society. I felt there needed to be a more succinct separation of electronic networks, networks, and network societies – rather than using fragments of all three to define his concept. This statement also contradicts his notion that networks are made up of nodes with no centre – not so in pre industrial societies and not necessarily so today. Hence I felt this article assumed much to explain more, rather than evidencing much to explain succinctly. His three components of a functioning network, flexibility, scalability and survivability, are true and lend themselves to the diffuse node concept. While he argues that information technology should be regarded as communication technology, not that I disagree with this, I don’t agree with the assumption that information non-communicated is dead. In fact if there is anything less than a mutually-exclusive relationship, it is that communcation is pointless without information to transmit. The semantics of the issues are the only problems I had with this article, not the concept itself nor its everyday application to a mediated lifestyle. The space of flows, or the flows of space, are important in that with the introduction of the nodal concept, the information flows being processed are given physical boundaries, or at least identification. This is a welcome shift from the paradigm of ‘spaceless’ networking whereby time and space have been deleted in the face of instantaneous communication technology – which disregards multiple physical restraints still present.

All in all this reading is useful in its implications for culture, both mediated and social, as networks increasingly gain not just access to but control over the ‘meaningful communication encoded in culture’. The complexity inherent in network cultures is addressed saliently as the globalised, thus differentiated, nature of the system provides for one in a state of flux. However as Castell chastises the nomenclature for suggesting we were ever in an ‘information’ age, whilst this has certainly been enabled by increased ‘communication’ the argument that information was always relevant has yet to be stringently self-applied – communication networks, it seems, were always present too.

Mizuko Ito’s study of Japanese youth’s use of mobile phones revealed many interesting connections between technology and everyday life.
The thing I found most interesting is the fact that the functions and designs of mobiles are shaped by the cultural and social contexts that they exist and are used in. She exemplifies this with the adoption of mobile phones by young Japanese girls as well as the business men that they were aimed at. This shaped the functions of mobile phones, especially the messaging function, which was more widely used that expected.

Japan’s formal and socially restrictive society has been changed quite considerably since the ‘technologically linked paradigm shift”, it has been a positive change since it allows youth to communicate with each other much more freely, which was very difficult for them before because of power relations in their society. However they are used with respect for family, school and the public.

Mobile phones have been an integral part of forming an identity at a time when peer and friends are very important to a youth life and Ito’s study has confirmed this and highlighted the strengthening role that text messaging plays in the relationships between youths in Japan.

In her study, Ito focused especially on space, and how the particularity of the organisation of space in Japan has influenced the way that her study participants use their phones. The study showed that the participants used their mobiles to circumvent the little space afforded to them at home and the strict rules of school and public places.

Many young mobile users use mobile phones to create a space for themselves and their friends and lovers to be together, because it is so difficult for them to do so otherwise. They also negotiate the rules regarding mobile use on trains by switching to messaging instead of calling, and they do the same thing when they are at school. In doing so they are communicating while obeying the rules and remaining respectful to the power geometries of the institutions of school and the public.

Couldry’s ‘The Extended Audience’ is essentially a review, or redress, of Abercrombie and Longhursts’ Audiences: Towards a Theory of Performance and Imagination 1998. Essentially Couldry argues that in the face of an increasingly diffuse, inter-connected and mediated audience, the discourse and creation of comprehensive accounts of said phenomena should not be abandoned as traditional audience observers throw up their hands at the changes. He argues the diffused media is not a result of lack of media appetite, but rather a culmination of combined diffused mediation. The media is increasingly omni-present in our lives, therefore our lives are increasingly involved in multiple forms of media. I understood the argument that the broadcaster-audience or creator-consumer divide has not broken down, but been blurred, as the audience can, potentially or actually, become creators of widespread media content through (mostly) internet, television, social networking, etc. This is shown as the democratisation of media, and yet (finally for the topic area) Couldry admits that the diffused audience discourse, while enjoying widespread dissemination globally, is inherently a privileged  world phenomenon. This is important as it reinforces the fact that this phenomenological discussion is driven by technology, money, and power, and not one of widespread indifference/disloyalty to traditional media sources.

The linchpin of Couldry’s argument is that the democratisation of media has led to an increase in both power and identity within the traditional audience, and that the study of media cultures must acknowledge that the empowerment of identity and the identity of empowerment inscribe meaning upon the audience. The challenges presented to audience research are triplicate: technological, social/spatial and experiential. Couldry uses many sources, case studies and examples to reinforce the transition of old power into new power, rather than a destruction of it. Older questions of power relations re-emerge as institutions seek to address the diffused audience, where ready-made assumptions of audience fail.

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June 2022