MS 190: Authorship is the course website for the Fall 2006 Media Studies senior seminar at Pomona College in Claremont, California.
Orlan also did a really cool (non-plastic-surgery-related) project where essentially inverted the filmmaking process. Instead of first making a movie, Orlan first made movie posters. She put them around Paris and people became confused when they couldn't find a theater where the supposed film was playing. She made a soundtrack from the (non-existent) movie, a DVD for movie, and even held a forum where famous actors, directors, and critics met and discussed the film! When I heard her talk about this project she hadn't yet actually gotten to the part where she makes the film because apparently she needs to find a producer, but maybe by now production is underway. I actually think it would be kind of neat if she just never makes the film and uses the project as a sort of critique of movie posters, DVDs, soundtracks and movie screenings. When are any of these things ever given a second thought?
In response to Snaggle Tooth = Social Suicide and Spinsterhood, I'd like bring up an artist who turns on its head this idea of having to look a certain way (and having to go through cosmetic dentistry or surgery or what have you to get there). I don't know if any of you have heard of Orlan but she's definitely one of the most provocative artists I know of. Her art is her face. She undergoes cosmetic operations to contort her face in ways that are completely foreign to the operations we usually encounter. For her, a nose job might make her nose enormous or she may try to copy the Roman nose. The surgery that stood out most to me when I got to see her give a lecture in LA last spring were two enormous implants, one at each temple (she had decorated them with glitter for the lecture). Orlan undergoes the entire operation while remaining conscious and even talking. She has the "performance" telecasted to select places around the world. The art is pretty gruesome to watch but that definitely is part of her point.
Remarkably, my classes have crossed over. Finally!!! I'm in 3 econ classes right now so it's a pretty rare occasion (i.e. this is the only time it's happened. Ever. I'm nothing short of amazed.) We talked in class about what media executives' biggest worries should be right now -- the falling cost of producing and distributing digital media (e.g. YouTube) or piracy. According to Hal Varian, who Wikipedia calls "a central academic in the economics of information technology and the information economy," piracy is not nearly as big of a problem for media execs as cheaper technology.
Well, this definitely isn't a very media studiesy post but it is cultural studies and that's part of what we do so I thought I'd write it anyway. So I'm sure this idea isn't actually as original as I thought it was when it came to me this morning but for some reason I've been thinking theoretically about divorce lately (fun stuff!)and I've come to a little conclusion I think. My current thoughts are that the increase in the divorce rate actually could have been predicted not only based on changing attitudes about "till death do us part", a decrease in the stigma of being a divorcee, and a decrease in religious ties, but also from trends that started a long, long time ago...
I think what made me hesitate most before finally sitting down and just writing is the ambiguous nature of what is acceptable to write here and how it should be written. The syllabus says the blog can be a "place of formal, print-on-paper reading responses" or just exploring ideas in "whatever way most appeals to you". Does that mean that anything is acceptable? My blog definitely leans more towards this side of things than the "formal, print-on-paper" side of things, but is this ok? Also, what is it about printing something on paper that connotes formal, proof-read perfection? When I read that the first time it made complete sense to me.
Piggybacking off the last blog. Here's the latest for my revised thesis proposal:
My thesis breaks down into two main sections and a third, smaller section which I will explore less fully. The two main sections will contrast the American media coverage of the Dalai Lama with Chinese media censorship of anything casting a positive light on the Dalai Lama. Surely these two very different modes of media representation will have different outcomes in terms of the perception each of the two cultures has of the Dalai Lama. The part of my thesis I handed in today is a piece of my section on American media coverage and perceptions. Within this section there are two case studies -- one on Kundun and one on Seven Years in Tibet. In each, I have examined whether Scorsese and Annaud have manipulated the image of the Dalai Lama in any way.
I was thinking about Mario's thesis topic yesterday and had a tangent about the psychological response we have to certain words. Particular words, for example "death," "love," "sex," and "dream," have a ton of power. I can't remember which magazine it is, but one of the bigger women's magazines, maybe Vogue, Vanity Fair, Glamour-- something like that, changed their description to include these four words and readership almost instantly went up. (Sorry I can't remember any of the details on this). It would be (completely impossible but) very interesting if Mario could assign each word in the English language a type of juiciness rating and then see if the frequency at which words pop up is correlated at all with this rating. Even more difficult, he could look at the purpose of the text in which the word occurs, and see if texts that were created in order to make money, magazines, newspapers, --, contain "juicy words" at a higher ratio than general texts.
This should probably be taken with a grain of salt. Finals make me cranky.
But-- I'm beginning to wonder what exactly is so critical about critical studies. The TSL writes, "You say post-modern structuralism, I say meaningless bullshit," and maybe they have a point. A lot of the things we talk about from critical theory seem a little circular and detached from the real world. "What is art?" for example. We will never come up with a definition upon which we can all agree; so why, over the course of the course of four years, have I probably wasted about 5 class hours discussing this question and am actually still kind of confused whether this would be a question that would even be considered part of critical studies? (The economist in me is about to come out .. sorry guys!) With tuition at about $31,000, each class hour comes out to about $120. That means I have spent $600 trying (to no avail) to pinpoint what is art. Is this worth it? What do you guys think about our field of study? What topics frustrate you? What has excited you? Why did you choose to be media studies majors in the first place and what has kept you here?
So I was reading this book called Making Sense of Media the other day, and stumbled upon an essay called "A Postmodern Perspective on Madonna" by a professor at Amherst. It starts off, "In the works of Madonna, a predominant concept is the concept of textual consciousness. It could be said that the primary theme of the works of Madonna is not, in fact, discourse, but subdiscourse--" I'm reading the article as I usually read things with the word "postmodern" in their title and I'm thinking, hmmm-- yeah, I guess I can see that, wait, let me read that one more time, hmmm, maybe once more, yes, I agree with that, what is she saying here? Ok, let's figure it out. Ohhh, right right right. I get to the end of the article though, and I see I have been completely duped!!! It wasn't even a real essay. It was written by something called a "Postmodern Generator" which apparently "creates essays that seem, at first glance, reasonable, but turn out to be unintelligible". So I guess it turns out that what I thought were just incredibly convoluted sentence structure and ideas (a bad habit that all postmodern authors just so happened to have a habit of) is actually a systematic form of backward, unintelligible writing that they are TRYING to achieve! The essay I read is just making fun of the fact that a few philosophers, media theorists, cultural critics, etc. have created such a ridiculous form of writing that a generator can produce a "postmodernist" essay just as easily. Go to http://www.elsewhere.org/pomo and the first thing that pops up will be an essay created by a postmodern generator. Here's the one I got:
On the topic of children's media, I still have never really had a good discussion on why there are no mothers in Disney movies and why the mother figures that do exist in these movies either die or are actually completely evil as in Snow White and Cinderella. When I think about it, I'm pretty sure the only kind, loving mother that does not get killed off before the end of the first half of a Disney movie is the dog in 101 Dalmatians, but hey, she's a bitch so that really isn't much better-- :). This phenomenon is pretty weird when you think about it. The likelihood that ALL the mothers would not exist or only exist in a negative capacity solely by coincidence seems very slim.