My Public Sphere

Jurgen Habermas, author of “The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere”and once student of the Frankfurt School defined the ideal ‘Public Sphere’ as “The space in which citizens debate about common concerns, that is separate from the state, separate from the official economy and egalitarian and open” (Middlemost and Turnbull, 2019).

Habermas’ version of the public sphere was primarily comprised of those who were of a respected background, owned land, or were wealthy, white and male – excluding all minorities. For Habermas, the success of the public sphere was founded on rational-critical discourse – every participant is deemed equal and the supreme communication skill is the power of argument.

This ideal of the public sphere has never been fully achieved by most accounts, as gender, ethnic and class exclusions were gradually removed through the 19th and 20th centuries. Whilst Habermas’ version is no longer directly implemented in today’s age, the idea itself remains applicable.

Nowadays, a more contemporary “Public Sphere” is recognised. It is generally conceived as a ‘social space in which different opinions are expressed, problems of general concern are discussed, and collective solutions are developed communicatively’ (Wessler and Freudenthaler, 2018). This concept allows for the formation of online public spheres.

Twitter, an online news and social networking service, is one such example. Millions of Australians (Business Queensland, 2018) – myself included – use Twitter as a means to retrieve and discuss news, follow high-profile celebrities or form online connections with friends.

The service operates on a microblogging basis, allowing users to broadcast short posts called ‘Tweets” (Rouse, 2015).These tweets are instantaneous and most commonly posted as expressions of opinion regarding social, political and cultural issues.

One such example discussed on the platform was the Christchurch Mosque Shooting, where millions of individuals across the world took to Twitter to spread the news and to express their view on the horrific incident. Some tweets included:




Unlike the limited access to Harbemas’ sphere, Twitter maintains an extremely low barrier of entry – meaning just about everyone can participate. However, strict age regulations result in the exclusion of those under the age of 13, and the service’s online access requirement sees those without smartphones or internet connection also excluded.

Irrespective of these exclusions, Twitter still remains extremely accessible, with 261 million users (Omnicore, 2019). Such a huge participatory level is attributed to the highly mediated nature of today’s public sphere. Media – including social media (such as Twitter) – simultaneously provoke debate about issues whilst also providing a space to debate issues (Middlemost and Turnbull, 2019).

I encourage you all to become participants in my public sphere – jump on Twitter! Let me know what you think of it! And if you are already a registered member, comment below if you consider it to be your public sphere as well!

Until next week,

References:

References:

  • Middlemost, D. and Turnbull, S. (2019). The Media Theory Toolbox (RM).
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Representation and Interpretation

Images – whether they be advertisements, photographs, illustrations or paintings – make up a significant part of our every-day lives. The way that an image is represented and interpreted plays a crucial role in the communication of ideas and messages. We as humans interpret images in different ways, as we each possess our own personally developed ideologies that are dependent on factors like experience, background or religion. So naturally, misrepresentation and miscommunication of images is to be expected. Communication models including Aristotle’s and Lasswell’s do not account for this expectation, by assuming a linear, non-problematic, transfer of knowledge. They don’t consider that what is intended to be communicated (encoded) is not always what is actually communicated (decoded).

Semiotics – ‘the study of signs and sign-using behaviour’ (The Editors of the Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2018.) – explains that communication through images involves 2 central aspects: what there is in the image and what the image evokes.  

For example, in this illustration there is a man and woman lying in bed, using their phones, facing away from each other. This is the denotation (the signifier) of the image – the ‘literal’ and ‘commonsense’ meaning behind it (Chandler,2017).

However, upon decoding this image, audiences may develop their own personal interpretation, based on how it makes them feel and what it mentally evokes. This forms the connotation (the signified) of the image– the ‘socio-cultural and personal associations’ made (Chandler,2017). The connotation can be considered arbitrary or subjective as it is likely to vary from person to person or group to group.  

I believe that there are several ways in which this illustration can be received and decoded by audiences.

I decode the image as being an overall representation of society’s increasing reliance on technology and how this reliance is destroying the quality of human interaction.

In this digital world, it seems that we have more extended connections than ever, and yet as these online connections develop, we ironically become less connected in real life.

The man and woman appear to be a couple (as they are sharing a bed) who have become disconnected due to their attachments to their devices. Their back to back position conveys that the couple are attached to and focused on technology, to the point where they are subsequently neglecting one another in real life. The contrast of the overly dark bed/background to the small beams of light coming solely from the phones suggests to me that the only source of joy or happiness in their relationship is emanating from their online connections.

This is my interpretation of the image, which is based on my own personal experiences, education regarding the impact of technology and my opinion in general. However, it could be read by others in many different ways. Perhaps it could delve further into the addictive nature of technology or the distraction of technology to sustain relationships or maybe even deeper into technology being an actual cause of relationship breakdowns.

Maybe you will take on a dominant reading of the illustration, a negotiated, or a completely oppositional one(I am unable to decipher which form my interpretation takes on, as there is no accessible information regarding how the artist encoded the text – his website is in a different language!).

This is why I find semiotics and representation/interpretation concepts to be so fascinating. Every single person has a unique framework of mind. Sometimes, something that I see is not what you see, and no matter how hard I may try to get you to see what I see, you may never see it (what a tongue-twister!).

I’d love to find out your take on the illustration! Leave me a comment below or reach out to me on Twitter.

Until next week,


References:

Media Industries and Ownership

For better or worse [my company] is a reflection of my thinking, my character, my values – Rupert Murdoch.

‘Fox’s political agenda’, Television Digest, 4 March 1996.

As a budding journalist, I’m afraid to admit that up until very recent times, I was choosing to live in a state of blissful ignorance when considering the topic of media ownership. I’ve always known about the risks associated with it, as they’ve been demonstrated throughout the course of history. An example of this being the Nazi-German regulation of media, which saw Adolph Hitler and his regime gain control of primary media sources, allowing for the production and vast distribution of staggering amounts of propaganda prior to World War II – in a successful attempt to incite an atmosphere of hatred and violence regarding the Jewish population.

Despite being partially-versed in the issue of media ownership, I’ve never taken the time to question my own personal sources of news and in turn the people who control it. Why? I’ve never wanted to challenge the familiar, the reliable. For the past two years, I’ve developed a steadfast habit of, at the end of each working day, taking home to read “The Australian” and “The Daily Telegraph” from the café I work at. It is this habit that formed my ignorance, why would I question something so deeply embedded into my life?

Well, now I have a reason to. BCM110 studies have shed a light on the brutal reality that is media ownership and how it is imperative that we (students and the greater community alike) be aware of exactly who controls our media. Owners of media outlets have the terrifying ability to manipulate and influence the “news” they disseminate so as to align with their own opinions. In doing so, media owners are able to prosecute their personal, political and economic causes. A terrifying thought.

So, this newfound understanding begs the question: Who owns the media I consume?

Rupert Murdoch is the owner of News Corporation Australia, who is responsible for the publication of “The Australian” and “The Daily Telegraph”. (News Corp Australia, 2018).

Murdoch has exercised dominance over Australia for many years by controlling 70 per cent of its newspaper market (Mcknight, 2012, pp. 15), with studies showing that ‘the national daily The Australian and Sydney’s Daily Telegraph, are perceived as the dominant agenda-setters in the daily news cycle’.

You may be thinking, in a digitally-oriented world that is seeing a decline in newspapers, does this control even matter? The short answer: absolutely and undoubtedly YES.

Why? The physical copy of a newspaper is not the only way it’s information can be disseminated. Newspaper-generated stories remain the largest source of ‘online’ news (Mcknight, 2012, pp 15). This means that those who aren’t exposed to actual newspapers, are still consuming them online in one way or another. Such wide-spread exposure allows for Murdoch to exercise great editorial and ideological control, news and information that oppose his views can simply be supressed from the public, whilst his own can be promoted.

An example of this can be seen in Rupert’s blatant denial of climate change, which saw (and continues to see) his papers including “The Australian”, become megaphones for the organised movement of climate change denial, producing a variety of articles debunking reality, evening going so far as to suggest the Bureau of Meteorology has twisted its data to exaggerate global warming.

This manipulation is replicated in other national issues including hostile literary attacks on the Australian Greens throughout multiple elections (McKnight 2012, pp 17-18).

Such evident cases of brutal media manipulation effortlessly conducted by Murdoch and his company lends me to entirely doubt the sources I access for news.

How do we know our sources are newsworthy? With Australia’s media ownership concentration being among the highest in the world , after changes in media law were implemented in 2017, it becomes almost impossible to know what news we can and can’t trust.

My suggestion for all of us? We must take everything we see with a grain of salt and exercise caution, remembering that the information presented to us has the potential to have been manipulated to align with the personal or political beliefs of whomever owns the platform. Conduct research, and then some more. Don’t live in a state of blissful ignorance as I have for the past 2 years.

Above all, attempt to find the truth in all circumstances.

Until next week,

References:

  • News Corp Australia. (2018). Brands – News Corp Australia. [online] Available at:  https://www.newscorpaustralia.com/brands/  [Accessed 7 Apr. 2019].
  • McKnight, D. (2012). Rupert Murdoch An Investigation Of Political Power. 1st ed. Australia: Allen and Unwin, pp.1-296.

“Enticement” & more …

In every sort of job whether it be a chef, a dancer, a salesman, or as it so happens – a journalist – the primary goal is to entice. To entice the critic, the audience, the reader etc. is to ensure that they’ll want more and that they’ll indeed come back for more.

Similarly, on every platform of media whether it be a social one such as Facebook, or an informative one like a televised news program, the primary goal is also to entice. To entice is to gain more likes, more engagement and more viewers, thus ensuring that they’ll come back for more.

This notion of enticement can be demonstrated in any or every other aspect of life (politics, blossoming friendships or relationships, blah blah blah you get the point) because we as humans are naturally attracted to anything that intrigues us.

So, this whole idea begs the question – how can I entice you as a reader? What can I say or do that will leave you with a vast desire for more? After all, this is just the beginning of an attempt to create an inaugural blog, conducted by a 19-year-old first year journalist student, who drinks far too much coffee and has never truly mastered the art of reverse parking.

Should I introduce myself in a comical way? Or would that leave the impression that I’m not serious or passionate about this blog? Should I try a more mature approach? Or would that suggest that I just lack fun? Yes, these questions have been plaguing me since I first opened this document 4 days ago and no, the fact that probably less than five people will ever read this does not help to calm my control-freak/perfectionist tendencies.

Well, how about I start simply with this. An introduction and a promise:

Hi, my name is Amelia but I prefer Milly. I like to talk, a lot. Pasta and I are in a long-term committed relationship. My lucky number is 11.

Oh, and, I fully intend to take on every mental breakdown that emanates due to the study of Journalism and turn it into something remarkable. It’s a promise, of which I’m sure you’ll find to be rather … wait for it… enticing.

A memorable audience moment –

Growing up, I never considered myself to be a fanatic of any sort. I can’t remember a period of time where I was whole-heartedly immersed in a cause. Sport never really captured my attention, I never thought I’d “totally freak out” if I got to see a particular boyband perform live and despite being an avid movie watcher, I never found myself totally engrossed in a film to the point of deeming it an unforgettable or life-changing experience.

So, when tasked with the discussion point of a memorable audience moment, I struggled to decipher if I’d ever even had one. Had there ever been a moment in my life where my chatter-box mouth had been shut long enough to share an experience with others that could be considered noteworthy?

Following some consideration, and a brief reading of a particularly embarrassing 2014 journal to get the ball rolling – I had an “ahhh, but of course!” thought. I had in fact experienced one of those moments – more than once. The first time however, went like this:

In late 2014, after being ill for a good week before, I begrudgingly had to attend a school excursion to Sydney, where, at the Lyric Theatre, I watched the iconic “Wizard of Oz” come to life on stage as a musical.

Upon sitting on the red-velvet cushioned chairs and indulging in sweets with my fellow peers, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of anticipation creeping over me. The theatre lights dimmed, the “candy bar” neon sign switched off, the low thrum of the orchestra gradually built to a roaring beat and the first line of “welcome, welcome to Emerald City!” was uttered. I was hooked.

The live acting created this profound level of engagement that the movies I’d watched simply couldn’t parallel. I sat there in awe, feeling as though the audience – myself included – were actually apart of the realm that Oz existed in. Whether it was the detailed costumes, incredible stage designs or the immersive music that had everyone in tears, it was clear that the audience was all-consumed from the start.

I felt thrilled, overjoyed and delighted all together at once – an onslaught of emotions if you will. The moment that encapsulated this was when “Defying Gravity” was performed. Having never even watched the movie, I was shocked to say the very least. For those of you who may not know what I’m even talking about, here’s a brief taster:

Skip to 3:15 for the moment I cried over ..

As the show came to an end, I started to come to the realisation that I may never again get to experience something so monumental. Shortly thereafter, I decided that perhaps that was the beauty of musical theatre – it can never just be “re-watched”.  A movie can be seen over and over and it will forever remain the same. Whereas a musical will always be unique in one way or another – and that is what made the experience so special.

Thus began my love-affair with musical theatre. I’ve seen many since: Legally Blonde, Dirty Dancing, Grease, Matilda and Mamma Mia to name a few.

Each new show is a chance to congregate with friends and family as a part of a greater audience in one place, at the same time, sharing an incredible experience together. Every new musical I see, I know without a doubt that a teary and somewhat overwhelming moment similar to the one had in the “Wizard of Oz” will occur but it doesn’t make me sad. Rather, it gives me a little bit of hope, that maybe the classical notion of an audience will never die, that maybe it will continue to thrive as it does in musical theatre.

Until next week,