Monday, October 31, 2005

Week 5 Analysis

Well this week I decided that if the project my colleagues and I are working toward is a wiki resource for Christ-followers which will be posted on wikipedia... then I better know what is already in the wikipedia that covers some of our subjects.

The wikis covering subjects like Media Ecology and Media Literacy do little more than define the topic in a pretty general way and then provide lists of key figures and links to external resources. I don't know that we need to do much of that, then in our wiki. That should free us up a bit to focus on applying the learning we've gained from those areas and then to focus our resource listing on more practical guides and examples for Christ-followers seeking to effect cultural change in the area of Global Media and Culture.

Other helpful stuff from this week, though, will be those pieces helpful in mapping the Global Media landscape. The article, "The New Global Media," paints a useful picture of the corporate scheme (at least as it had developed in the 1990s) and describes the "creation of a global oligopoly... [like] the oil and automotive industries earlier this century." That means that Media on the global scale have become controlled by the same few HUGE trans-national corporations that control all the US media. I'm sure this has only become more the case thus far in the 21st Century.

Week 5 Reso & Eval

1. wiki on Media Ecology

2. wiki on Media Literacy

3. wiki on Media Studies

These first three resources are just for my colleagues and I to take note of so that as we interact with each of these areas in the development of our own wiki we do not find ourselves repeating too much. Also, we may want to link to them for simple definitions.

4. A well known article in Media studies circles on The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction by Walter Benjamin. This is perhaps a bit too philosophical and aesthetically focused for our purposes, but is nevertheless a fascinating article on how the role of Art society has changed since it shifted from being a unique, one-of-a-kind expression to a product reproducible by mechanical means.

5. A book entitled Media, Communication, Culture: A Global Perspective by James Lull. Only a few pages of this are viewable online, but it seems to offer a uniquely Global look at things, particularily with Sports as an example (at least in these few pages).

6. Another book entitled Spaces of Identity: Global Media, Electronic Landscapes and Cultural Boundaries by David Morley. This book also has only a few pages available online, but it looks promising for the purposes of understanding and mapping the Global Media landscape as it has developed over recent decades.

7. An article, New Media and Borderless Education: A Review of the Convergence between Global Media Networks and Higher Education Provision An interesting (and LONG, at 250+ pages) study and report on the issues surrounding Global Media and education. Doesn't end up sounding as promising as it could, but has some good insight into the affects of globalization through the Media on significant areas of culture such as higher education.

8. An article, Cultural Studies, Multiculturalism, and Media Culture by Douglas Kellner. Kellner has also written a great book entitled Media Culture, but both this article and the book approach the subject mostly from a Cultural Studies stand-point. This may not be as helpful for us because we are not so much wanting to study a culture or cultures by analyzing their media (as Kellner does), but rather our task is leaning more toward understanding Media's effects on culture in order to work within Media to bring positive change to a culture. Nevertheless, both are worthwhile reads if you are interested in such things.

9. An article, The New Global Media: ItÂ’s a Small World of Big Conglomerates by Robert W. McChesney. Sets the stage pretty well, and helps us in our mapping of the Global Media climate, including its structures and practices.

10. The website for Global Media Outreach, a ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ. One of my colleagues may have already pointed out this resource, but is is quite possibly a good practical resource for stories and examples of people/groups doing this well.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Week 4 Analysis

The question is just about as perennial as one can get: Is society just bad, or did the Media make it so? Should we blame our brokenness on the Pop Culture machine, or did something of our own brokenness seep into our inherently neutral Media and corrupt it from within. I think to some extent we have to say both. We cannot, like the man in the comic strip, cop out and blame our own downfall on anything external (on an individual or corporate basis)… if we find ourselves in Hell (whether you mean it literally or figuratively) it will be of our own doing, you can be sure of that. And yet, at the same time we cannot deny the power Media has to shape our culture, and those changes will inevitably express both good values and bad.

Is the Media to blame for our cultural depravity? Well according to one writer, at least Hugh Hefner is. “It's pretty hard to deny the complete cultural victory of pornography in America today.” Analizing the Playboy-effect on our society and culture, Mercer Schurchardt says, “what was really happening was that Hefner was imposing his new standards on society, making us conform to his new ideas of goodness, truth, and beauty.” Schurchardt (touching on one of CT’s favorite subjects) even goes so far as to just about blame Hefner for the rise of Abortion: “The Playboy philosophy, which requires women to be thin, infertile, and always available, essentially requires childlessness. And you can bet your birth control packet that abortion is the natural bedfellow of the successful playboy.” Does the kind of Media produced by the likes of Hugh Hefner really shape our culture that much? Is Playboy to be given credit for the wide-spread acceptance (at least behind closed doors) of pornography and sexually explicit media in general in America? Well, on at least that count I do come pretty close to agreeing. Again, we cannot underestimate the power Media has to subtly shape our perspectives on a cultural level.

I appreciate the Charlie Peacock article for its exhortation and optimism (perhaps it would work well to be quoted in our exhortation section on the wiki). His perspective, illustrated through the story of the Sarajevo cellist, applies well to the kind of message we should encourage Christians to carry into the Media. This quote summed it up well: “I should rise each day and ask God, ‘What rubble do you want me to breathe your life into today? Where do you want the Kingdom rule to be made visible? How can I help to make something or someone beautiful?’ This kind of lifestyle is world-changing, and you never know how far or how long a story will travel on its trajectory of good.”

The “Lies that Go Unchallenged” resource I found both intriguing and disturbing. First and foremost, I think it is very important for us to be AWARE of how we assume things or take things for granted in culture. We can’t ignore the subtle ways we are affected by culture because being aware of such forces is the only way we can work within culture for good.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Week 4 Res and Eval

1. Non-Sequitor - This particular strip offers a humorous illustration of the way many of us (whether the finger is being pointed politically, culturally, morally, or religiously) blame the Media for the bad state we find ourselves in. Well, is it true? Is our living Hell entirely the fault of the Media?

2. CT Article: “Hugh Hefner’s Hollow Victory: How the Playboy magnate won the culture war, lost his soul, and left us with a mess to clean up.”

3. CT Article: “Blockbuster Evangelism: Millions have been converted after seeing films about Jesus, and Hindu radicals are responding with violence.”

4. “Recreating With Eyes of Faith” – yet another article by John Fischer, published in Relevant Magazine, Nov/Dec 2003. Couldn’t find it online, but here are some quotes and summary…

5. CCM Article: “So Much More” by Charlie Peacock - read both pages.

6. CT Article: Free PowerPoint Challenges Misconceptions in Pop Culture - reporting on a free PowerPoint presentation for Christians to download to be made aware of the “lies” around us in culture (including the media).

7. Lies That Go Unchallenged
The actual site for the free PowerPoint, based on the book by Chuck Colson… all of it is interesting, but these last few “lies” especially so:

The Arts
Lie #4: Art should break traditional norms and challenge outworn beliefs.

Christians in Culture
Lie #5: Christian beliefs are a private matter.

The Media
Lie #6: Entertainment is a vehicle to help us fulfill personal desires.

Spirituality in Culture
Lie #7: God accepts us as we are, and there are many ways to him.

8. Books & Culture article: “Book of the Week: Moody, the Media, and the Birth of Modern Evangelism.”

“Bruce J. Evensen, a communications professor at DePaul University, masterfully recounts both how the newspapers elevated Moody to celebrity status and how they came to occupy a central role in modern mass evangelism.”

9. Book Review: “How The Monster Grew

A Pulitzer Prize-winning historian looks at the origins of modern media.”

10. Communication As Culture - Some interesting resources on the theory surrounding Media, Communication and Culture.

I don’t know how I found this, but it contains some of the good theory pieces I saw presented by Shane Epps when he lectured on Media Ecology in my Media and Ministry class. That particular bit of information is James Carey’s understanding of Transmission vs. Ritual models of communication—which essentially allows us to analyze the kind of effects different modes of communication have on groups of people (or societies and cultures).

The site also includes some great sub categories of resources like Media Theory, which discusses other theorists I’ve mentioned, like Marshall McLuhan.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Week 3 Reso, Evalu, Analy

Left Behind 3
Wow… so how’s this for a media shift… this movie is being released on DVD only, and then screened in CHURCHES instead of theaters. What do you think of this shift if it becomes a trend?

Fearless Faith
This is a great book that I think helps us think about Media and Culture from a Christian sub-culture perspective. Or rather, challenging the Christian sub-culture’s perspective. The book by John Fischer is entitled Fearless Faith: Living Beyond the Walls of “Safe” Christianity. This link is from Fischer’s web-site, and has a first-chapter excerpt from the book. Check it out.

More John Fischer
An article from Fischer (originally in CCM magazine) that fits some of what our group discussed in class today about the high ideals of creativity and artistic integrity and how quickly that can be usurped by the powers and practices at play in the Entertainment Industry in the U.S.

Roaring Lambs
Roaring Lambs: A Gentle Plan To Radically Change Your World. Another one of the books I mentioned to my group in class the other day… Bob Briner was the president of ProServ Television and an Emmy winning TV producer… and a Christian who wrote this book as a “manifesto of our proper stance regarding the ‘culture-shaping arena”, arguing that “Christians can and ought to be the movers and shakers of social change.” He applies it particularly to Media and the Arts and other areas he saw as “culture-shaping arena” that Christians have not had much presence or influence in.

The 500 Year Delta
This book is quoted in Fischer's Fearless faith book, so I only know that part of it that applies to Fischer's book, but they way Fischer references it, he talks about it as being "one of the first books to talk about the vast changes facing society [in the near future]." They suggest that what society is heading toward is the deliniation "of the current splintering of the social, political, and economic organization of society into what they call "media communes." And they identify one of those separate groups as "God Talk," the Christian "media commune. We are relegated to our own separate niche, being marketed to and sold to based on our "demographic," but without any effective crossover into the rest of society and life. That certainly does not bode well for Christian interaction and engagement with the rest of culture, and that in effect means Media, as a power and structure in this world, will have pushed the Church a safe distance away from the rest of culture. Yikes!

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Week 2 Resources, Eval and Analysis

The subject of Media Ecology is one that is very intrigueing to me, and in general I think we need to be thinking deeper about just how Media shapes and influences individuals, communities, societies and cultures. Media Ecology is just that, the study of how Media effects people, and then how we can make decisions about using Media that are well informed and good for our cultural "eco-system."
Here is a reading list of potential resources. Marshall McLuhan is a must for informing us about the effects of Media on society and culture. A genius before his time.
More avtual content from this site will help us figure out whether the subject of Media Ecology is a direction we want to go with this project.
This is a site list of resources having to do with media ecology. It has a couple great quotes about the subject at the beginning:
Media ecology looks into the matter of how media of communication affect human perception, understanding, feeling, and value; and how our interaction with media facilitates or impedes our chances of survival.”Neil Postman
"Media ecologists are interested in the interactions of communications media, technology, technique, and processes, with human feeling, thought, value, and behavior."Christine Nystrom
Further down the page it lists resources under Academic Resources, Organizations and Programs; and then some Online resources. I’ve began checking some of them out, and a few of them are also on this week’s list.
Sage publications looks like a promising source, if only as a bibliography of further reading. Particularly, they are the publishers of the journal, “Media, Culture & Society” which “provides a major international forum for the presentation of research and discussion concerning the media, including the newer information and communication technologies, within their political, economic, cultural and historical contexts. The journal is interdisciplinary, regularly engaging with a wider range of issues in cultural and social analysis. Its focus is on substantive topics and on critique and innovation in theory and method.”
The Sage website itself doesn’t have much else in the way of content, but I should take a look at that journal in future weeks.
Another one of the programs listed on the media literacy site is this study abroad program through Michigan State University, “Media, Environment and Culture in Australia.” I don’t really know how helpful this would be for this project since it seems more like they are three separate areas for the program, rather than one program covering the integration of these three areas.
A really intriguing-looking book. There might be some helpful information here on the site as well, but I wonder if this book could be helpful. know this is an interview about an upcoming movie, but if you’re like me you can’t wait for the Lion The Witch & The Wardrobe to come out. The interview is with the head of Walden Media, the company that is producing the film (it’s only being marketed and distributed by Disney, Walden kept all creative control). The interest I have in this interview from the perspective of this blog is the way it discusses the phenomenon of interaction between a Media corporation and the mass public over the production of a well-loved story. It’s almost as if because the story is so well known and the book is so deeply loved, there’s a powerful though indirect relationship between culture and corporation which puts pressure and leverage on the decision-making processes of the project. The not-so-silent partner in Media decision IS the culture which it both caters to and shapes.