Monthly Archives: November 2013

Final Project Plans

Woodcut of a photo by Juergen Christ
Woodcut of a photo by Juergen Christ

Assignment: Individually or in groups of up to 4 members, design a project that speaks to one or more of the major themes from our course readings so far this semester. For this project, you will devise your own question about the relationship of the human to the media that we use, and attempt to answer or expand upon it in a humanistic essay that take a form other than academic writing.

You should choose a medium in which you have some measure of technical expertise, that fits your topic, and makes sense with your theoretical interests. Beyond this, be creative!

Presentation and Statement: On Dec 10 you should come to class prepared to present your final project, with a 2-3 page statement that identifies a) the question you’re addressing, b) your argument in the project, and c) the theorist(s) that influenced your thinking.

Comment below about your project plan (due by 8am on Tues, December 3).  You should include the topic, medium, and at least one key quote from a relevant theorist or critic. Include any AV needs for your presentation so we can plan ahead!

Creating Absence in a Connected World

In Sherry Turkle’s chapter “always on” she writes about the connected state that people now exist in. She begins the chapter discussing “cyborgs” at MIT in 1996, people who continuously carry around technology in order to be connected. This cyborg mentality, she argues, is now reflected in current technology: people always have their phones, they are always tuned in. Turkle plays with the idea of absence. Technological devices allow one to disappear into a different world. There is an agreed upon notion that when someone is involved in a technology, they are not present. She brings up one case where someone was upset from being put on “pause” while his friend answered the telephone. Our real interactions are dictated through our technological lives. I was in class last week and the professor asked if she could “delete what was on the board.” She caught herself and realized that what she really meant was erase. I have found myself at times looking at a book and wishing I could hit Apple + F in order to search something in it. We spend so much time in this other reality that it becomes the way that we speak about actual reality.

Turkle brings up a few different terms in her piece. The first is “moratorium” which exists as the free space online in which one can create an identity. This space allows one to experiment with who they wish to be. This term reminded me of our discussion on avatars. Avatars are able to exist in this free online space and be the tools through which we realize our ideal lives. The Internet does not work like a moratorium for the characters of Super Sad True Love Story. The characters in Lenny’s world cannot create their identities because the technology only appears honestly. One can choose particular images to stream, but generally one has very little control over what others can read through the äppäräti. This takes away the ideal nature of technology. Instead it now represents objective truth through statistics.

She also discusses the notion of “life mix.” Life mix is the combination of ones on and offline life. One judges one’s satisfaction with life through the life mix. In Super Sad True Love Story there seems to be no difference between the virtual life and reality. It is not a life mix, but simply life. In Lenny’s world, people are not seen as absent when they are connected to technology, it appears to work opposite to that in fact. Through their connection, people are always present. Their stats are constantly streaming, the technology becomes a part of a person to be read. At times a character will delve into the world of their äppärät, but this does not deem them irrelevant or “absent.” Lenny actually mentions the person and reflects on his or her actions in the technological endeavor. When a person does not have an äppärät in the book, like Lenny’s boss Joshie, it is noted. Their status is assumed, thus an äppärät is irrelevant. Towards the end of the book technological presence becomes extremely important. When all äppäräti service goes out, both Eunice and Lenny find it difficult to locate their families. Instead they ride on intuition that they are still alive. To be involved in technology is to literally be connected, to be present. Without it, people are unaware of others’ existences.

While Turkle’s ideas do not seem to apply directly to Shteyngart’s novel, they do apply in current life. Perhaps Shteyngart’s characters live in too futuristic of a reality for Turkle’s ideas to still apply. Technology is no longer a dual life for them, but instead just life. With that said, in this time people do deem themselves invisible when linked in to technology. There have been many times where I’ve been on the train and someone has been asked to speak quieter on his phone. This is usually followed with a small tiff – the complainer should mind her business. Tension ensues because the complainer is not complying with the agreed upon code that when one is on the phone, one is absent. This is mirrored in the avatars in Snow Crash. In the Metaverse people shy away from things like shaking hands that break the metaphor. The complainer has broken the metaphor of the speaker’s privacy and absence. Turkle’s interconnected world will continue to be more and more connected. Norms around technology will change and perhaps we will find ourselves in Lenny’s world, where technology is with us in every interaction, never turned off, ready to forego our loyalty to expose the reality of our true selves. Do you think that our world could develop into that of Super Sad True Love Story? Do you expect others to consider you absent when you are intertwined with technology? How do you make this clear? How have you utilized the “moratorium”?

 

In her piece, Turkle briefly talks about the YouTube sensation: Do you want to date my avatar? It references the ideal nature of the web.

Click here to watch the video!

The Changing Present and Future of Focus in our Rapidly Advancing Technological World

In Katherine Hayles’s article Hyper and Deep Attention: The Generation Divide in Cognitive Modes, she explores how the increasing need to multitask on a daily basis due to the rise of media, is literally changing the way in which the younger generation’s brains are developing. According to Hayles, this change is especially a problem in education because while educational institutions require and teach towards the prolonged and focused attention spans of students, the technological world that we live in contradicts this method of learning with all the modes of cognitive stimulants that make it easy and rewarding to divide one’s attention between multiple platforms of information coming from different medias. Hayles argues that the problem in this is not necessarily our generational shift to “hyper attention”, but in educators’ lack of attention to this shift and in their reluctance to adapt teaching to fit the ways in which children’s brains are now developing.

Hayles’s article connects deeply to the world of  in Super Sad True Love Story  because in Shteyngart’s world of the novel, society has fully embraced and adapted to “hyper attention”—scanning and absorbing many screens and bits of unrelated information at once as the only approach to learning and interacting with media. This society has shifted to reject the practice of being completely absorbed in one activity or stream of data for a prolonged period of time. In Super Sad True Love Story, behavior that would be diagnosed as being ADD and ADHD today is just the way that everyone’s brains work.

Multitasking is a part of everyday life; even as I was sitting down to read Hayles’s article I grabbed my stash of granola and opened up a Stickie window so I could simultaneously take notes, eat, and read. The intensified multitasking with media that goes on in the book is initially shocking to read and hard to imagine becoming a part of our own lives. However, looking at a survey presented by Hayes, we see that kids from the ages of eight to eighteen spend on average 6.5 hours a day with media (including other forms of media it adds up to 8.5 hours). It’s clear that the way of life in the book maybe is not really that different or far out from our own lives today. As Hayes points out, even in 1999 kids spent the same amount of time on media as they did five years later, but today there are just many more kinds of media to multitask with. On top of this, there has also been a changes in type of media to adjust to the changing brain: media has become more visually stimulating with an increase of tempo because we don’t need as much time to respond to an image as we used to. The same is true for adults but to a much lesser extent. We are part of “Generation M.” Children’s brains are so moldable because of a process known as “synaptogenesis” in which all infants adapt their brain to their learning environment by making process connections used in making the brain stronger, while making connections not used disappear all together. Our media heavy environment is thus changing the way our brains work, and the older one is, the less this process happens within the brain. In the novel the generation gap is so present and further widened because the older generations are so disconnected to media and technology usage. As Eunice exclaims, “…what kind of freaked me out was that I saw Len reading a book…And I don’t mean scanning a text like we did in Euro Classics…I mean seriously READING. He had this ruler out and he was moving it down the page very slowly and just like whispering little things to himself, like trying to understand every little part of it (Shteyngart 144).” In this world the education system has obviously adapted to the changing interactions with technology and hyper-focus to the point where even reading a book is considered unimaginable.

Personally, being someone diagnosed with ADD and Executive Function at a very early age, and prescribed medication as well, this type of learning environment, although considered ideal for my hyper attentional mind, does not sound very appealing, but rather distracting and overwhelming. And in fact, in the experiments with interactive classrooms that Hayes describes, practices such as “Google Jockeying” (listeners search web for related content to be displayed on screen as the speaker is talking) and “backchanneling” (writing a running commentary—like tweeting during the lecture), both tended to undermine the speaker and become about finding related content rather than listening, even though it did make the audience pay more attention.

There clearly needs to be more of a balance between interactive learning in schools and the demand for extended attention because, “whether inclined toward deep or hyper attention, toward one side or another of the generational divide separating print from digital culture, we cannot afford to ignore the frustrating, zesty, and intriguing ways in which the two cognitive modes interact (Hayes 198).”

What ways do you think that the book combines these two cognitive modes, if at all? How much interaction do you think these modes should have and is it the responsibility of our education system to adapt to the changing technologies?

I watched this video last year, in my senior year of high school. I found that it spoke to me very strongly and still does in our society’s current educational system. Where does creativity fit into all this? We don’t have  answers yet, but I think it is very relevant to think about.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iG9CE55wbtY

Super Sad True Love Story

     Gary Shteyngart’s novel, Super Sad True Love Story, is a comically romantic tale that takes place in the near future where information technology has overrun the general population. This tale revolves around the relationship between two main characters: Lenny Abramov, a 39-year-old in charge of finding investors for his parent company; and Eunice Kim, a recent college graduate who has taken time away from her abusive family to travel in Rome. The lives of these two unlikely lovers collide when Lenny’s job sends him to Rome in search of “European HNWI’s – that’s High Net Worth Individuals” (Shteyngart 12). The company Abramov is employed by seeks to promote life longevity (to the point of immortality) by way of various healthy living options. Lenny and Eunice’s relationship illustrates the  generational gap which remains present thoughout the novel through two different perspectives: handwritten diary entries on Lenny’s part, and email-like communications on Eunice’s. This contrast between what is old and outdated versus new and interesting permeates the entirety of the novel. Lenny is in fact ridiculed at different points throughout the novel for the antiquity of his technological devices (“Good Fucking Christ. What is this, an iPhone?” – Shteyngart 69) and his lack of skill at utilizing them (communicating with women at the bar). This is contrasted with Lenny’s boss and father-like figure, Joshie. The audience first encounters this powerful and mysterious character saving Abramov from a hoard of cruel youths. ”Younger than before. The initial dechronification treatments — the beta treatments, as we called them — already coursing through him. His face was unlined and harmoniously still”(Shteyngart 63). Through both Joshie’s character and the romance between Lenny and Eunice,  Shteyngart stresses a key element of his novel, age. In the case of Lenny and Eunice, both characters, through their diaries or other communications to the reader, illustrate their slight obsession with this concept. From Lenny constantly referencing how “young” Eunice is to her description of him as an “old, gross guy”(Shteyngart 28), the idea of age is constantly at play in this work.

     When faced with the possibility of being overrun by technology, Super Sad True Love Story begs the question of how much, is too much? Similar to Facebook or MySpace, but in a much more aggressive form, characters in Shteyngart’s novel all carry around apparats – small computer-like devices which allow the public to access and see anything about anyone from their credit score to their “fuckability” (Shteyngart 89). To receive information from these devices, one simply points their apparat (which is usually worn around the neck) towards a stranger and voila!, all the information is there. This touches upon one of the current issues that the American public is grappling with: the amount of privacy users are entitled to when dealing with electronics. In the world of SSTLS, no information is sacred. One’s net worth, previous romantic escapades, and life story, are available at all  times, to anyone. Based on current events like the wiretapping scandals in Washington D.C. and the onslaught of access to digital media (Instagram, Twitter, Facebook) available to most individuals, do you believe that the world Shteyngart describes is on its way into existence?

Playing for Keeps in Transmedia Franchises’ Alternate Reality Games

The model of a transmedia franchise is the ultimate testament to convergence culture.  It fosters “collaborative relationships” on many different levels, between producers and consumers, fans and actors, and across different artistic practices.  So much more than just an enjoyable work, a really great franchise must develop a level of cult appeal (similar to a viral quality) that entices people to engage with it. Jenkins investigates what it takes to make a successful franchise like The Matrix, boiling it down to several major components.  First, the work must create a whole self-contained universe that is still accessible to the public.  One way of doing this is to play upon the collective knowledge of viewers, borrowing bits from archetypal narratives or artifacts from pop culture. “It must provide resources consumers can use in constructing their own fantasies” (100).

Ideally the work will create a feeling of déjà-vu in the participant.  (Neo often talks about how déjà-vu is a result of a glitch in The Matrix).  This happens through quotes, and a general openness to memory within the work.  “Additive comprehension” is also key.  This means that the story must unfold slowly and layer upon itself, with each segment developing from the previous but with enough self-sufficiency to entertain a novice fan. “The sheer abundance of allusions makes it nearly impossible for any given consumer to master the franchise totally”.   The world must be constructed in such a way that one allusion gives way to another secret and so that the fan believes, given diligent dedication, she can solve some over-arching mystery in the work. The biggest secret is that perhaps there is no ultimate key, but instead just the producer’s desire to perpetuate interplay between the the viewer and the form of media. Neil Young, the man in charge of the Lord of the Ring franchise, calls it the “origami unicorn” factor.  The term speaks to the elusive, enigmatic quality that keeps viewers interested.

I am excited about transmedia storytelling because of its potential as a new, more democratic and generous type of marketing.  Instead of the “industry” dictating our tastes, transmedia franchises rely solely on the reaction of the public to determine its success.  They are designed for longevity and evolution.

In February 2007 the rock group Nine Inch Nails released a concert t-shirt that had highlighted letters on it spelling out the mysterious phrase “I am trying to believe”.  The phrase was a URL which led to this website and several other websites in the same IP range showing dystopian images of the near future.  The name “Year Zero” which was in reference to the upcoming NIN album.  The band left USB drives stuck into the walls in the bathrooms at concert venues for fans to find during their European tour. One drive contained an mp3 of a song from the unreleased album. The metadata tag on the song contained a clue that led to a website with an image of a glowing wheat field. Clicking and dragging the mouse across the image revealed another image.   Clicking on that led to a forum about acts of underground resistance.

Phone numbers, emails, videos, MP3s, murals, and other media expanded upon the storyline woven through the album. Every medium released within the game has had a series of numbers hidden within it in the format of “24.x.y.”  Some had the number hidden in morse code on the music tracks, others were static in the video or a time stamp on an image.

All of this was promoting an Alternate Reality Game meant to take place in the year zero, when America was reborn after suffering several terrorist attacks.  The plot involves a moral civil war, drugs, and government censorship. At the end of the year, fanatics of the ARG signed a waiver and were taken to an undisclosed location for a private NIN concert. Trent Reznor played four more songs before a SWAT team arrived. Flashing lights and smoke bombs went off and men in riot gear stormed the stage.

Now that the album is several years old, the game has come to a halt but there are many ARGs that have happened since. It seems that in a culture with unprecedented levels of convergence, there are limitless ways of bringing fiction into reality, creating a lifespan for the work of art that could not have been possible before.

 

Would you have spotted the hidden message on this t-shirt?

Would you have spotted the hidden message?

 

Interactive Narratives

hyperlink-590x442Your assignment for next week (linked to your home page by 8am on Tuesday, November 19th) is this: You must create an interactive, hypertext-based story that uses at least 5 new pages to tell. Your only constraint is that you may not use a simple linear progression that renders the multiple pages irrelevant. Everyone should comment on this post by 8am Thursday (including Thurs posters, who will also comment on Allison’s post about Jenkins) to share with the class your plans and ideas for your hand-coded  HTML narrative. Did the form affect your choice of story? Did your chosen story affect the linked form you’re creating for it?

Most of you will likely choose to convey the story through text (here is a classic example: “afternoon, a story“), but you may also draw upon images, sound, video, GIF files, etc. Minimalism is fine – I’m interested in creativity and quality, not quantity for quantity’s sake.

Remember, the topic is open, and the story can be fictional or true (autobiographical or based on research), or some combination.  The narrative world of Snow Crash may be one fruitful place to go for your story, using it to develop a fan fiction-style narrative that explores parallel narratives, minor characters, unwritten scenes, or inserts new characters into the world.

For Thursday you should read the pages under the section “The Definition of Hypertext and Its History as a Concept” at George P. Landow’s site for Hypertext: The Convergence of Contemporary Critical Theory and Technology (in addition to your Jenkins reading on transmedia narratives).

The Power of Virtual and Physical Crowds

“The Cell Phone and the Crowd” by Vicente L. Rafael is an essay on technology and democracy in the Philippines, centered around the events in January of 2001 during which a “civilian-backed coup overthrew President Joseph Estrada.”Estrada was evading impeachment after running a corrupt government, and the middle-class was furious when “his impeachment trial was suddenly aborted by the eleven senators widely believed to be under his influence.” This revolt was special and revolutionary because of the role played by a new technology: the cell phone. It was through the use of the cell phone that a massive crowd was able to rapidly mobilize and stage a demonstration “at one of Metro Manila’s major highways, Epifanio de los Santos Avenue, commonly called Edsa.

The cell phone was introduced to the Philippines in the 1990s and became enormously popular because of its affordability and reliability. Land lines in the Philippines are expensive to acquire, as is the Internet and personal computers. With the availability of pre-paid phone cards, cell phones are the most affordable of modern communication technologies. Beyond that, postal services are “slow, unreliable, and expensive” as well. But cell phones proved “literally handy in spreading the rumors, jokes and information that steadily eroded whatever legitimacy President Estrada and his supporters still had during the impeachment hearings.” More specifically, Filipinos loved texting because it was close to free. In 2001 the Philippines was apparently the texting capital of the world.

Some Filipinos criticized the use of texting, just as I remember people criticizing it in the US. Rather than enjoying their face-to-face interactions, people would be staring at their phones at dinner with friends, at the mall, even at funerals! But the exciting part about this new technology was that anyone could do it, and that it gives the user “a sense of being someone, even if he or she is only a street vendor or a high school student– someone who can reach and be reached and is thus always in touch.” The cell phone became a part of the body– an extension of the fingers or the mouth. (Side note: it is remarks like this that make ask if the singularity has already begun. While we are waiting around for an obvious moment when we become part-robot, machines are slowly and seamlessly becoming a part of our biological selves.  :O )

Rafael describes how the norm of texting was to immediately forward a received text message to all of one’s friends as a way to spread news. This is a use of texting that is relatively unfamiliar to me, but is very similar to the way we use the Internet today. We share, retweet, and reblog on Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr as a way to spread news to a wider audience, but if we lived in a society where everyone could afford a cell phone but no one could afford a computer, we would certainly use texting for that purpose. I found it interesting that people seemingly treated forwarding messages along to their friends like a civic duty, especially surrounding the Estrada controversy. The network of cell phone users became like a manual Internet as the people continuously received and forwarded messages. Or perhaps they were like neurons in a brain. Either way, a greater consciousness and community arose. “The power of texting has less to do with the capacity to elicit interpretation and stir public debate than it does with compelling others to keep messages in circulation.” Through texting, people kept their fellow citizens in the loop.

After describing the awe-inspiring network of cell phone users in the Philippines, Rafael begins an urban sociology section on the Crowd. He describes the lack of effective urban planning in Manila, and how walking through the massive crowds on the dirty, congested streets can give one a “sense that there is no single, over-arching authority.” This is a common theme in urban sociology– discussing how design of a city can affect behavior. In large, private spaces like malls, they sometimes play very loud music as “a way of reminding mall-goers they [are] not in the streets, that someone [is] in charge and watching their actions.” Crowds in Manila break down social hierarchies, as they are dense and anonymous. “The power of the crowd thus comes across in its capacity to overwhelm the physical constraints of urban planning and to blur social distinctions by provoking a sense of estrangement.” Rafael describes the crowd as “not merely an effect of technological devices, but as a kind of technology itself.” It is exciting, it carries the potential of something unexpected to happen. The chance for something unexpected to happen– that is just what urban designers in the documentary Urbanized say is the magic of cities. For Rafael, it is the magic of crowds. The two seem interchangeable.

The organization and news-spreading around the impeachment of Estrada that happened through the use of cell phones was physically actualized, finally, in a Manila shopping mall, as Internet user Flor C. describes in the last section of Rafael’s essay. Flor C. let herself be carried by the currents of the massive crowd, relishing the power of its movements and sonic waves. She participates in the protests by herself, letting her body be washed away by the force of something bigger than her. At times she is ecstatic, at other times she fears for her life, being suffocated and trapped by the mass of bodies. But instead of panicking she trusted the patience and movement of the crowd and eventually got out safely.

The cell phone and the crowd are both opposites and complements in this story. They are both demonstrative of the power and numbers of the Filipino people in their search for justice. The use of the cell phone network created a virtual crowd, while the crowd created a physical network of people. Like in  Snow Crash, people carried out their business in both worlds, the real and the virtual.

How do you think the story of People Power II in the Philippines in 2001 relates to the political world we know in 2013? Do you see connections between the use of cell phones in Manila and the use of Twitter in more recent revolutions, like the Arab Spring? Do you agree that the network of cell phone users served the same purpose as social networks we use today?

tweet retweet

 

14-Year-Old Prodigy Programmer Dreams in Code

This is not the official blog post for Thursday, but I thought it was too cool not to post.

“Is it enough just to write that slew of code such that the program just works, or is the code also the artistic medium?”

“Beautiful code is short and concise, so if you were to give that code to another programmer, they would say, ‘oh, that’s well-written code.’ It’s much like if you’re writing a poem.”

Print Edition is Now a Thing of the Past: Pg. 1: Inside The New York Times

Newspapers are dying but the news is not. The newspaper industry’s decline is rooted in “new” media and how every connected citizen already has access to the information, faster and more efficiently than ever before. Pg. 1: Inside The New York Times gives examples as to why newspapers are falling behind, while also posing the question: how can they keep up? By exploring organizations such as “WikiLeaks” it becomes easier to understand the dilemmas newspaper companies are facing.

This documentary follows The New York Times in particular, and though they have managed to stay afloat, unauthorized organization such as WikiLeaks seriously stress the relevance of their presence. Why write articles, when primary sources are available? WikiLeaks is an organization that releases government documents and videos onto public internet platforms. Much of the information that is revealed is manipulated to create a narrative which could potentially shake media establishments and governments around the world. This organization embodies several issues that the newspaper industry face. The first of which is its “viral” content. Due to the leak’s intended secrecy and explicit material, WikiLeaks gained a quick audience. Before easily accessible computer technology, WikiLeaks would have had to release their information to news agencies. As a result, the extent of the leak would be in the hands of newspaper editors. This is not the case anymore. When WikiLeaks gained possession of a military video, showing the US Army killing several Iraqis, they simply posted it on YouTube.

Though The New York Times is struggling to compete with the immediacy of online news platforms, they are still an extremely reputable source that many rely on. When information is released, it is important that they narrate a fairly objective lens, providing the public with unbiased news they can trust. What happens when concrete documents are released online? How does The New York Times provide information about something that is already circulating and being talked about? This is the problem with organizations such as WikiLeaks; The New York Times have to be credible.

There are people at The New York Times who are working to technologize the paper. Brain Stelter, a blogger, was hired to bring “new” media to The New York Times. He is particularly interested in social media, and believes this is the most efficient way to keep people interested: “why talk when you can tweet?”. Stelter is essentially posting news updates in 140 letter limits. This way, people can scroll down a list and become informed in a matter of minutes. You can even curate your interests by choosing who you follow. Stelter believes this has revolutionized the way in which people read the news. Others were initially resistant to this transfer in technique, arguing that Twitter is not a forum for news broadcasting. For example: David Carr, but after a year of using twitter he says: “The real value of service is listening to a wired collective voice.”

This transfer from printed media to electronic media is explored in Katherine Hayles work: My Mother Was a Computer, Digital Subjects and Literary Texts. Hayles poses the question: “What is a text?”. She then describes how the definition of text has shifted as electronic media becomes more prevalent. This shift includes a separation from concrete text, “when a text is generated in an electronic environment, the data files may reside on a server hundreds of miles distant from the user’s local computer”. The ownership of a text no longer refers to a literal possession, rather the text is widely accessible through a server. Another change in text is the “actual order of words and punctuation” which used to be essential in the creation of written work, but with electronic media, this order “does not exist as such in these data files… rather, it comes into existence as a process that includes the data files.” Are concepts such as grammar, spelling, and punctuation important anymore? After all, acronyms are used constantly via text message and social media: lol, brb, hbu, smh, lmao, wtf, and more. If this is how we communicate, will it become integrated in academic thought / online news articles? Will we start seeing titles like: “WTF is Happening in Syria?” “SMH Obama, Drones Are No Good”.

“Good riddance to the mainstream media.” Though the newspaper itself is in decline, we still rely on news to make sense of the world around us. The media is a technological business, and has transformed from one medium to the next. It is now a matter of adjusting to this switch. It is interesting how consistent intentions have been, people have always wanted to provide and receive information. Carr argues: “the medium is not the message, the message is or the media.” This viewpoint contradicts what we have learned, but also holds validity. To Carr, it seems that regardless of the platform, people are still writing and reading information. Though people may acquire information differently, there is still a collective knowledge being built. There will always be news, but the way in which we absorb it, isn’t really up to us.

Is it?

Information, Crisis, and Catastrophe: The Televisual

Time serves as the principle and basis for television, as Mary Ann Doane puts it in her article Information, Crisis, Catastrophe. As Doane assesses the blurred lines between the continuous flow of information and “all-at-once” characteristic of a catastrophe by way of television, she highlights the effects and implications of time on this matter. What I found most interesting about this article is the fact that television thrives on its own forgettability and that Information “inhabits a moment of time and is then lost to memory.” In watching television, we think the information we’re given will be stored in a database somewhere in that big box, or should I say flat screen. In fact, storage is an alien idea to the medium itself, not to the media and television companies connected through the medium. What role do these companies play when addressing the output and memorability of information within television?

In speaking on crises and catastrophes, the question of what constitutes a catastrophe on television is proposed. On television, catastrophes usually involve  a report and segment around a large number of deaths in an unexpected and disruptive situation. This disruption is defined within a regulated and “normal” situation set by society. As Margaret Morse put it, “The news in the West is about the normal. It is almost always the ‘bad news. It is about challenges to the symbolic system and its legitimacy.” In reporting this bad news, news stations like CNN, won’t report an incident where two mothers and their newborns were run over by a car one night in Chicago as a catastrophe because of the scale of the disaster. Not saying that these mothers, their newborns, and the driver were not important people to the world,it’s just that the scale, in television’s terms, is not as great and won’t influence a large amount of people, as news usually does.

The catastrophe of MJ
The catastrophe of MJ

Another aspect that came into question was coverage on catastrophes. The media tends to block the vision of the trope, intensify its effect, and “obsessively confront it over and over again.” In reading this, I thought of the death of Michael Jackson, which was covered similar to a catastrophe, though it was never categorized as one. His death was intensified with the analyzation, speculation, and explanation as to how and why he died. This tragedy though could never be called a catastrophe in the eyes of television because of the scale of death – one person, though very influential to the entertainment and news industries.

How does the treatment of catastrophe in the news define the West? Does the technological interference in catastrophe  play a significant role in the storage of information?