MS 190: Authorship is the course website for the Fall 2006 Media Studies senior seminar at Pomona College in Claremont, California.
So I've been trying to learn how to juggle recently, and I figured I would use that as a springboard for writing a blog entry, since I am definitely behind in my blogging. And my juggling. I really suck still. But that's what practice is for, right? Anyway. I wanted to share a clip that I love, and didn't think I'd have much to talk about, until I found a second clip. Please excuse my ineptitude with our blogging system, and my inability to post actual links, but please just copy and paste the urls to take a look at what I'm talking about in each case.
Sometime last semester I saw this awesome video that many of you may have been already privy to, us having our ear to the ground of the Internet buzz and all:
Is that saying about things are better late than never really true? ...
So, I feel pretty stupid and kinda embarrassed. I talked a big game and tried to catch up all during November by blogging everyday. But then I forgot (on day four) and then shortened my commitment to during the weekdays only -- and then I was like, I don't have time to blog on Wednesdays and then it just all went to hell.
I apologize for leading you all on. That wasn't right of me, but I was really hoping I would actually write so many blogs so I wouldn't end up where I am right now. Which is now hovering between screwed and lostcause territory.
I thought y'all would find this interesting. Ghostwriter are both taking (were both taking :) ) Sociology of Popular Music and our final project was probably more applicable to this particular Senior Seminar class, since we tackled the issue of authorship.
Along with a Pitzer student who's a singer, the three of us decided to perform three different versions of the same song - Jose Gonzalez's "Crosses". I don't know if you all are familiar with the song, but it's a pretty good slow acoustic number. Really folky. So Ghostwriter did a slow, keyboard-based soulful ballad. I did an uptempo, punk-ish version on my acoustic guitar, and the Pitzer student, who is Latin-American, sang it poppier and included a verse in Spanish. We were looking at how the song's meanings and style were altered in the mind of the audience when singers with different ethnic backgrounds sang it in a style more closely associated with their ethnicity. It was a great song to choose for that project also because Gonzalez is Swedish, born of Argentinian parents, playing a style that isn't really associated with either of those countries - at least in "Crosses".
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 just realized that it's been a while since I've posted anything relating to my thesis on the blog, even though I've been working on it a LOT lately (as we all have, I'm sure, given last week's deadline). Here's my revised proposal. Congrats to everyone on all the work you've done this semester... it's been really interesting to hear about how far you've all come.
::: BEGIN REVISED THESIS PROPOSAL :::
"Humankind lingers unregenerately in Plato's cave, still reveling, its age-old habit, in mere images of the truth."
-Susan Sontag, On Photography
In my senior thesis, I plan to explore and examine the evolution of photographic truth, a concept that has intrigued and influenced theorists, artists, photojournalists, and the general public since the time of this medium's invention. I became interested in this topic as a junior while taking a class on the history of photography with Professor Kathleen Howe. For my final project in the course, I created a digital exhibit called "Contesting the Myth of Photographic Truth," which featured about 40 images dating from 1839 to 2004. Through this exhibit, I wanted to illustrate the longstanding power of photography as a tool of deception and counter the popular notion of the photograph as "an unmediated copy of the real world, a trace of reality skimmed off the very surface of life" (Sturken and Cartwright 17). Pictures have been altered since the nineteenth century, but the proliferation of digital image-editing software has made manipulation more efficient, convincing, and widespread than ever. As a result, people know that photographs have the ability to deceive--yet in spite of this knowledge, they still perceive photographs as unadulterated depictions of reality. This phenomenon, mentioned in a number of theoretical texts, strikes me as an interesting contradiction. If we realize that photographs can lie, why do we still believe them?
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.
While trying to decide between focusing my thesis on the U.S South Africa or Japan, I was doing a little research on protest art in Burma/Myanmar (look up the story of Aung San Suu Kyi, it will bring tears to your eyes). During the protest of 8888 (on 8/8/88) near 80% of Burma's citizens organized peaceful marches and nonviolent protest of the dictatorship's violent and economically devestating regime. I looked up some of the songs sung during these protests, expecting to find traditional Burmese music. Instead, they sound like techno-disney made by an 8-yr-old on a 4-track cartridge. Take a listen:
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?
I don't know if anyone else is doing a web-based project for this class that we could all see, but I just thought I'd post a link to mine in case anyone was interested... If anyone else did anything we could see on the web, you should post it!
Speaking of perusing Facebook, I don't know if any of you have come across this before, but there is an entire fake community created by Harvey Mudd kids of people from Guttlesohn Falls, Wisconsin. It's difficult to describe, but all the pictures are like old daguerrotypes from the 1800s and they've got ridiculous names like Thatcher Worthington Guttlesohn. They've created groups like the Guttlesohn Falls Rotary and the Guttlesohn Falls Hunting Club. It's an entire false reality that they've been able to realize through the virtual social networking tool that is Facebook. I definitely recommend that everyone go check this out, because they have been so diligent and thorough about it. I've thought about joining their community, since there are dozens of them, but for some reason it feels really wrong to try that. It seems like a well-defined space, but I know that anytime I want to I could join it and no one would know/be able to stop me. It's a really cool idea, and if any of you are involved, mad props to you.