Class Work Posts Archive

0

Who’s Sponsoring What, and Why?

In January 2009, BioShock 2 released for the PC, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. Both a sequel and prequel to the original BioShock in a single player story and multiplayer story, respectively, fans across the globe rushed to stores to pickup their copies. After a few short months of offline single player campaign and online multiplayer gameplay, a downloadable content package (DLC, for short) was released on the consoles’ marketplaces. As fans downloaded the DLC, they realized that the size of the file they were downloading was 128.00 KB.

You don’t have to be a Computer Science major to know that anything in KBs is pretty small. Usually, Text Edit and Notepad notes are only 10KB or so. How could a full DLC package for a fifth-generation console game (complete with high-definition video and audio) only equate to 128.00 KB? It can’t. What the fans discovered was that they were downloading a virtual key of sorts that would unlock the DLC content which came pre-installed on the original game disc.

This sparked a large debate over what constituted “DLC” and what people were really paying for when they purchased a game. On one side, the content was already on the disc, and since people paid $59.99 for that disc, shouldn’t they have been allowed to access all of it? On the other side, the content was not pertinent to the single player or multiplayer experiences and only added to the overall experience, so didn’t the developers, 2K Games, have a right to moderate when the unlock code for extra content was released? In the end, no true verdict was reached, and people eventually just moved on to the next problems life threw at them.

Many were felt bothered and betrayed by the realization that they already owned the "new content" they were purchasing.

Many were felt bothered and betrayed by the realization that they already owned the “new content” they were purchasing.

 

In the case of the recent announcement of Sony’s PS4, a similar thing happened. People noticed that of the two posts published on BuzzFeed, one was “sponsored” by PlayStation while the other was not. Both appeared to be identical posts, minus a sponsor acknowledgment and off-white background color. The problem that arises from these two posts is that readers can’t be certain what is the true, objective opinion of the reviewer, or what is the information sponsored and written in by PlayStation’s own marketing team. Like with 2K Games, fans are left with a feeling of distrust towards the company.

Andrew Sullivan of The Dish writes that what’s not being respected here is the ” divide between editorial and advertizing,” a sort of unspoken boundary that exists, much like the separation of church and state. As times have changed and the line between journalism/criticism and industry advertising has widened and dissipated, it’s no longer clear what constitutes a totally unbiased piece of writing.

The infamous PS4 announcement was where the new PS4 controller was unveiled. Will we be able to navigate true journalism and editorial criticism with it? Or just loads of sponsored, influenced content?

The infamous PS4 announcement was where the new PS4 controller was unveiled. Will we be able to navigate true journalism and editorial criticism with it? Or just loads of sponsored, influenced content?

 

Editorial writing and media advertising need one another for both to survive, so sponsored content must continue to exist–without it, many companies wouldn’t be able to continue operating due to lack of funds. However when the two things become indistinguishable, “aren’t we in danger of destroying the village in order to save it?”

The Dish blog post can be read here.

0

99% Certainty Is Not Foolproof

Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert are two super sly newscasters. They know exactly how the American people feel and what they want, they can play to just about any group or audience while basing statements exclusively off the facts (for the most part), and they’re just all-around funny guys. Who better to represent our country that these guys?

In an interview with Jim Cramer, the official commentator of Mad Money, a show about making easy money quickly, Stewart brings up key arguments against Cramer’s work and what he says his purpose is. Cramer says that he tries his best to expose and call out the people in high places (mainly, financial industry leaders and mavens) in order to get them noticed and held responsible for any illegal or distrustful actions. Stewart argues that while Cramer says this is what he’s doing, there is a serious second agenda that he and his show have (as well as the financial network that airs the show), which revolves around creating an entertainment show that tells some of the facts and acts like they care about the state of the economy and serious monetary decisions when they really don’t.

Stewart told Cramer that the money and finances that he's always talking about are very serious parts of our nation--"they're not a f***ing game." (Jon Stewart Interview)

Stewart told Cramer that the money and finances that he’s always talking about are very serious parts of our nation–“they’re not a f***ing game.” (Jon Stewart Interview)

 

Stewart uses clips from another interview with Cramer where he’s caught discussing financial decisions and practices that he seems to be against on his own show as an incentive to try and get him to speak freely. As Stewart attacked Cramer and the people he represented, I realized that he’s a heck of a lot like Will McAvoy from The Newsroom, a show which our Mass Media class is watching this semester. Like McAvoy, Stewart gets straight to the point and interrupts the interviewee every single time s/he goes off topic. It’s a form of questioning and investigative journalism that is almost completely unseen on regular news channels. On Fifth Estate shows like The Daily Show and The Colbert Report, this kind of questioning is not only possible, it’s heavily desired.

This two-part interview with Jim Cramer can be viewed here.

As for Stephen Colbert, he interviewed Julian Assange, creator of WikiLeaks, a site devoted to releasing corporate and government secret documents and media to the United States public. Assange believes that what he’s doing is something that is and always has been a part of the flow of information to the people. By providing them with information that would otherwise be denied from them, the people have a freedom to know who did what when.

In a very similar manner to that of Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert gets straight to the point with his statements and questions and allows no time to dance around the straight, hard answer, whatever it may be.

In a very similar manner to that of Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert gets straight to the point with his statements and questions and allows no time to dance around the straight, hard answer, whatever it may be.

 

Colbert counters what Assange believes with some humor, but true humor at that. “Governments are elected based on what the people know about the government…if we don’t know what the government’s doing, we can’t be sad about it.” It seems funny at first, but there is some truth to this statement, especially in the fact that many people have a policy of ‘ignorance is bliss.’ Assange doesn’t believe in this kind of thinking, and feels that by reveling secrets to the public, he and the site can 1) provide the source of the leak with the maximum possible political impact, and 2) provide the public with the full, uncensored source material.

In the case that Colbert brings up involving a secret video of an Apache helicopter attack on innocent people in Baghdad, Assange makes it clear that he titled the video “Collateral Murder” to achieve maximum political effect for the source. “That’s not leaking. That’s a pure editorial,” Colbert responded.

The extended interview with Julian Assange can be viewed here.

These two video interviews lead to very serious questions about who has the right to edit what the public sees. Even though both appear to have only the best intentions for the American people, there are clear underlying motives to persuade and influence decision-making processes and opinions. As Dr. Alan Grant said in Jurassic Park III, “some of the worst things imaginable have been done with the best intentions.”

0

Shock Radio A.M.F.M.99.LifeF76Rock!@#$%^&*

The spoken word is a very powerful thing. That probably goes without saying (and is also probably a cliche way to begin a short blog post about shock radio), but I think that people often forget just how powerful it really is. It can command, objectify, transport, alter, move, kill, spark–just about everything that can happen in this natural world can be caused or begun by words.

In a clip from Talk Radio, Barry Champlain does something that isn’t very far from what most radio show hosts do today. He speaks directly to the audience (sometimes including himself in the congregation, sometimes not) and tells them what he thinks of them. Not only that, but Barry flat out tells them to go to hell–after all, his audience is made of “voyeuristic, perverted, hate-filled, prideful, sad little swine.” There’s no doubt that what he says is filled with his own self-pity, self-hate and disgust, but there is some insight amongst it all.

 

In a different clip from Pump Up The Volume, Mark Hunter also speaks directly to his radio audience in an extremely straightforward and blatantly offensive manner. Again, this is something that’s certainly both shocking and refreshing to listeners, but there’s serious insight amongst all that is said.

 

The insight that I’m referring to lies with the fact that “we create the experience.” That’s something that a teacher in my high school told me. He was and is, in my opinion, a crazy but amazing man, who doesn’t deal with whiny, fake, selfish people and things. He said “we create the experience” because we choose, every day, how to live our lives and how to react to things. We choose out words and our actions, and we choose how to interact with others.

Barry Champlain and Mark Hunter are definitely whiners, in a sense. However, they’re choosing to create a very real and non-invisible environment for themselves. By addressing the audience directly and saying flat-out how they feel about themselves and everyone they’ve encountered in their lives, they’re showing everyone that they’ve nothing to hide. Barry talks about how disgraceful the people of the world are for delving deeper and deeper into a social abyss of sorts; Mark talks about how if you don’t feel disturbed all of the time (living in the world that we’re all living in), then there’s something wrong with you. Both men are creating a very serious, shocking experience through words over radio.

I enjoy and appreciate what both are doing. They’re basically telling people to look at themselves and either make a choice: go higher or go lower. We’re already low enough, in a sense, so why not go higher? Why not try to start improving thing (our lives, our personalities, our mannerisms, etc.) and create better experiences for ourselves? I see no valid reason as to why anyone should go lower, so I’m definitely a believer of the more positive side of what can be found in what Barry and Mark are saying.

When an event comes along like the shooting at the Tennessee Unitarian Universalist Church, an event caused by words (and shock words at that), it makes people really think about the power of words. Especially when those words directly involve popular political and social movements, which many people take extremely seriously.

 

I believe that Bill Moyers, among other things, speaks about what my high school teacher has always been speaking about: creating experiences. The terrible thing that the man who entered TUUC caused to happen was a strong and direct example of someone creating a very bad, negative, powerfully misguided and mislead experience. What that man chose to do may have stemmed from political beliefs, but it ultimately involves personal feelings and experiences. No matter who or what the man was or believed in (liberal, conservative, republican, democrat, devout church-goer, atheist), he chose to create a very specific experience and drag himself lower down than he already was–after the action, he ended up in jail facing major criminal charges. If he had only bettered himself and chose a different path–created a different experience–he wouldn’t be in jail and there wouldn’t be blood on his hands.

Radio talk shows, among other things, are very powerful ways to convey messages through spoken word, since they involve nothing BUT spoken word. There are no images or sound effects or background music tracks–only words and opinions. Harry, Mark and Bill, in my opinion, all seem to believe (in their own unique ways, of course) that this spoken word causes people to do different things, act different ways, create different experiences. And this is very much the truth and reality.

 

For the record, the way the clip from Talk Radio was shot is absolutely amazing. A continuous, full outward 360-degree camera tracking shot was a perfect way to get across the feelings Barry had inside of him–being watched from all sides, feeling judged, but also feeling like a judge himself.

1

All The President’s Drones – Investigative Journalism Everyday

Recently, President Obama has been getting ‘lots of heat’ for nominating John Brennan as the new head of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). All of this criticism, confusion and possible foul play begs the question: Should President Obama’s affiliation and support of John Brennan be investigated (could there be unspoken motives at work here)?

All of the criticism stems surrounding Brennan stems from his history as the Deputy Executive Director of the CIA during the Bush administration, a time when torturing prisoners in the United States was legal. When Obama was first elected president, one of the main things that he did was to “drop the Bush administration’s torture policies” and make it illegal to torture prisoners. (Rachel Maddow Video) Regardless who though what about this policy change, everyone agrees that President Obama’s support of Brennan is extremely questionable. Rachel Maddow raises the point that it’s completely illogical that a president who makes it clear s/he is against torturing would support a man who was an integral part of the CIA during its torture days.

A screen-cap from Rachel Maddow's video about President Obama's potentially illegal actions regarding the use of drone strikes to kill American citizens.

A screen-cap from Rachel Maddow’s video about President Obama’s potentially illegal actions regarding the use of drone strikes to kill American citizens.

 

President Obama is also receiving a lot of criticism due to his support of Brennan being “the face of President Obama’s drone program”. (Rachel Maddow Video) Drone strikes have killed over 4,700 people since 2002 (according to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism), most of whom were residing in countries like Pakistan. However some of these victims were American citizens, and this is where much of the current controversy begins. According to the NY Times, a secret 50-page document was published within the government that allows the president to kill US citizens via drone strikes. Unfortunately, this document has not been released and the government is very clearly against releasing it any time soon.

Further arising questions involve the media’s role in establishing whether or not the president is right in his support of Brennan and the joint drone program, as well as being allowed to kill US citizens. It’s clear that the NY Times was informed of a secret document conceptualized and created within the current administration, but anything further than that is just speculation. Investigative journalists and US citizens alike are “either with the president’s logic or can’t understand it at all.” (Media Versus The President Article)

Like investigative journalists Woodward and Bernstien did during the Nixon administration, investigative journalists must do today during the Obama administration. No matter the president, no matter the topic or concern, no matter the difficulty, these types of potential crimes against the United States and the country’s citizens must be investigated. Even if no real crime has been committed yet (meaning in any case involving a president not being clear and completely open to the public when asked about the deaths of American citizens), it’s the job of investigative journalists like Woodward and Bernstien to explore the case and develop a story.

Some might say that the actions of Woodward and Bernstien could not be replicated in today’s government and society, where it’s hard to keep a strong focus on a certain subject and the internet has become so integrated into people’s lives (an example of this type of person being Greg Krikorian, a reporter for the LA Times). However if Americans begin to take up this point of view, then nothing will be investigated. Maintaining the status quo is simply not enough in today’s world.

 

Kentucky Senator Rand Paul is an example of someone who will not be content with the status quo. Today, he began filibustering the nomination of Brennan as the head of the CIA at 11:47 a.m. (Senator Rand Paul Filibuster Article) Whether or not anyone agrees with this particular politician’s views or beliefs should not be the main concern. What people should be concerned with is that fact that not as many politicians are acting the same way that Senator Paul is, and/or the fact that more Americans aren’t standing up for their rights to know why the current administration believes it might be alright to kill US citizens via drone strikes.

 

References:

Rachel Maddow – Drone Strikes on Americans (Video)

The Media (Investigative Jounralists) Versus The President (Article)

Woodward and Bernstien – Lighting the Fire (Video)

Senator Rand Paul Filibustering Brennan’s Election (Article/Video)

0

Louie – Mr. C.K., The ‘King of Slow Comedy’

Pregnancy is never fun. Especially when you’re giving birth to a fart–no one wants to give birth to a fart.

Louie C.K. makes this pretty clear in the episode of Louie entitled (appropriately enough) “Pregnancy.” While trying hard to be a single parent, good father, professional chef, funny comedian and kind family member, Louie’s sister comes to visit him in his tiny New York City apartment. After a series of “hello’s” and “how are you’s,” night falls. As everyone is sleeping, a piercing scream rings out through the apartment–Louie’s sister is having the baby. As Louie freaks out over what to do, his two neighbors from across the hall come over to offer their help. After one neighbor stays to watch Louie’s daughters and the other neighbor helps Louie load his sister into an unmarked taxi, Louie’s sister is rushed to the hospital. Then, just as Louie’s sister is about to rushed into an operating room, an ultra loud fart is let out. Louie’s sister was giving birth to a fart that night, nothing more.

A still from the opening sequence of Louie.

A still from the opening sequence of Louie.

This is the comedy style of Louis C.K.’s new show, Louie. It’s something that’s built up over the span of the entire half-hour episode, then pays off right around the ending. Along the way there’s hilarious acting and narrative scenes intertwined with funny jokes performed live by Louis C.K. at various comedy clubs around the city, sure, but the main joke and payoff is what everyone enjoys the most. This is the style of “slow comedy” that Mark Shafeek talks about in his article (SplitSider Article).

I personally saw the pregnancy fart joke coming from the start, but the slow comedy style still worked fantastically. It’s safe to say that building up a main joke throughout a full episode of a television show and then bringing it to a conclusion near the end has been done before, but Louie seems to have perfected it. By incorporating real events that take place in Louis C.K.’s real life in the real New York City, this television show appeals to many people. Unlike other comedy shows that focus on fictional narratives to carry the stories and jokes (a good example being The Office), Louie balances unscripted reality with scripted hilarity.

Jonathan Valania of The Huffington Post believes that Louis C.K. is “the perfect comic [for this] Age of Lessness that we’re in.” (HuffPost Article) Since our country is not only in a poor economical state, but a poor state of pride and respect (the psyches of most Americans are mentally exhausted and depressed after all of the bad that’s been going on in the country lately), it’s a good thing to know that Louie is around. While watching this episode, I felt an odd sense of feeling alright–no matter how bad the overall situation got, everything would be alright in the end. Louie’s personality is one that calms and soothes (chatting with his sister, talking about life), but it can prove to be dark and perverse when it wants to (cursing his daughters out during comedy sketches, giving the middle finger to family members behind their backs).