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Global film

Film.

A phenomenon bursting with an amalgamation of ideas about people, lifestyles, attitudes, culture and possession. An experience where viewers can either associate with ideas conveying similarities in interests, or alternatively establish for themselves a view of a completely different manner of living. This unique experience has become available through the transnational flow of popular culture through the media, where we see the implications of cultural hybridisation taking a firm grasp on local industry.

Cultural hybridization is an emerging trend which occurs as a result of the romance between two cultures through transnational media communication technologies… the breeding of newer cultures has occurred with the aid of transnational communications through the global mass media, including satellite and cable television” (Iyorza & Ekwok, 2014).

This transnational movement is ultimately blurring the boundaries between traditional culture and contemporary incorporations, which can be seen especially through the ‘Nollywood’ film industry of Nigeria. Nollywood is currently the third largest film industry in the world, drawing upon circumstantial ideas from other civilisations including Argentina, Korea, Mexico and Venezuela, and merging these notions with protagonists of traditional significance.

“While there is no doubt that Nollywood exhibits the hybrid character that is obvious in many forms of African popular arts, it is its acute notation of locality that gives it an unprecedented acceptability as the local cinematic expression in Nigeria and indeed in Africa” (Onookome Okomem, 2007). Selling 50,000 copies of such films on average per week in local markets stalls and shops, I wholeheartedly agree with Okome here, as this somehow harmonic combination of intercultural elements has created an ongoing sense of relevance for Nigeria and its bordering African communities. This also serves as an example of how a periphery country can construct a unique niche and radiate a positive blend of enjoyment and authenticity for its local viewers. Although the uniqueness of Nollywood as a genre and its low production quality is frowned upon by certain Western film cultures, the supposed tension between global media influence and locality is somewhat insubstantial in this instance.

However, this sense of congruency is not always the case in other transnational flows of popular culture…

The traditional Japanese art-forms of ‘manga’ and ‘anime’ are increasing their popularity across the global media market; moulded and crafted to produce a unique, hybridised viewing experience for the Western audience. The highly stylised and somewhat abstract representations of character have had a profound influence on Western comic art in the past, and has more recently been trying to wriggle its way into the Hollywood film industry (Mio Bryce, 2010). The recent release of the film ‘Ghost in the Shell’ (an adaptation of the original Japanese animated film released in 1995) sparked much controversy. American actress Scarlett Johansson was cast as the main protagonist, raising questions regarding the whitewashing of Asian roles and the subsequent impact on tradition.

So we can see that transnational flow of popular culture through the media influences local cinema; drawing from elements of tradition and modernism to produce a new and unique experience for viewers. I feel as though there is a desire to participate in cultures other than our own, yet the product of this hybridity can influence communities in more ways than one…

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We need to open up!

It’s no secret that substandard treatment and recognition of international persons who come to Australian shores today is a prevalent issue, and this has had detrimental effects on perceptions of Australian morals and values across the border. The issue of internationalising education and cultural competence within Australia is one that must be improved if we are to repair this image, and with its amelioration comes a more enjoyable and enriched experience for our overseas population.

“Education is more than a profit making business, it is an educational and social experience with immense potential to enrich lives… if international education is to continue to succeed as a business in this country, the student experience must keep improving as an intercultural encounter” (Marginson, 2012).

To me, this is a serious matter of equity and student wellbeing, and here I agree with Marginson that the route to rectification lies with strengthening the relationships between Australian and international students to create a sense of social security and produce educational value for both parties. It has interestingly also become apparent that the majority of international students strive to achieve better relations with local students in schools and universities, however recent studies have revealed that this desire is generally not mutually shared (Vogl and Kell, 2011).

But why is this the case? Why is intercultural mingling and ethnic division a choice?

The answer is not entirely clear, however it may have something to do with the strong element of pride and patriotism that has uninvitedly overwhelmed the Australian population. Ethnocentrism is based on the attitude that one particular social group is superior to another; a concept that has been strongly associated with Aussie citizens who are supposedly “trapped within an Australian-centred view of a diverse and complex world” (Marginson, 2012: 2).

I do believe that this attitude is sculpted by our cultural background which creates an element of parochialism – a lack of media exposure and access to communication channels resulting in a limited knowledge about other cultures. I can’t help but wonder if the media channels that we do receive our information from accurately educate and inform us about happenings in the world. Nonetheless, this less than openminded attitude may play a role in hindering the process of internationalising education and cultural competence, as being a college student myself, I am constantly bombarded with pessimistic chit-chat regarding clashes in personality, lifestyle and interests from my fellow local Aussies about their international flatmates.

“All he talks about is his expensive cars! You’re not in Dubai anymore mate.”

“Can’t believe she doesn’t like the food here… I can’t see how the U.S. could do any better…”

Ethnocentrism and parochialism, even in mild forms such as this, results in a deprivation of educational opportunity.

We need to open up.

Broadening our awareness of these differentiations across nations is the key to an improved cultural competence. In return for an enriched Australian experience for our international students, the increased interaction we offer will develop our communication skills and widen the scope of our knowledge that we may not have access to in the global media.

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References:

  • Kell, P & Vogl, G. International Students: Negotiating life and study in Australia through Australian Englishes, Centre for Research on Social Inclusion (2007).
  • Marginson, S. International education as self -formation (2012). University of Wollongong, Pp 1 – 11.
  • Mounsey, S. Ethnocentrism and Attitudes to Cultural Diversity and Immigration: A Review ; Ethnocentrism and Attitudes to Cultural Diversity and Immigration in Western Australia (2007). [online]. Available at: http://ro.ecu.edu.au/theses_hons/1145 (Accessed 12 August 2017).

Globalisation vs. Tradition

The term ‘globalisation’ and the effects that follow its widespread path across local terrain can be interpreted in a variety of ways; both for the greater good of the world and expectations of the worst.

It’s meaning entails “an international community influenced by technological development… characterised by a worldwide increase in interdependence, interactivity, interconnectedness and the virtually instantaneous exchange of information” (O’Shaughnessy and Stadler, 458).

I myself adopt a rather dystopian view of such a movement due to the intrusive manner in which it impacts the value of traditional culture; seeping its way into the cornerstones which are keeping a unique and diverse world from homogenising into a sea of similarity. Take American food outlets such as McDonald’s and KFC – these chains are beginning to dominate communities outside of the United States; diminishing the availability of traditional cuisine and hence reducing the ‘authentic’ element of that local environment.

But why is this so? What contributes to the influence of such a force?

The answer in part, I think, is due to the media saturated environment that we find ourselves immersed in day in and day out. Media saturation can be distinguished by a loss of meaningful connection and communication, as well as the loss of cultural significance to traditional communities. The ability of global media to determine how widespread a cultural practice can become, also has the potential to demean the traditional value of that practice.

Let’s explore this concept further.

In some traditional Middle Eastern and Indian cultures, for a woman’s nose to be pierced has symbolic purpose as the left nostril represents her reproductive system, and hence is believed to ease the pain of childbirth. Nose rings in recent decades have been adopted by many other civilisations, commonly seen being worn by American hippies of the 1960s as well as gothic communities throughout the late 20th century. Similarly goes for other culturally significant practices such as the use of stretchers in the ear in some African tribes to indicate age and wisdom. Considered now to be a popular statement of individuality or simply fashion, cultural value is not always the intention.

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The media saturated nature of our global communication environment offers access to an overload of information. This has allowed widespread audiences to view numerous individuals in the limelight sporting little jewel-encrusted studs and silver loops in their noses, including pop icon Madonna, Sinead O’Connor, Miley Cyrus and Lenny Kravitz; shaping our perceptions of what is considered to be trendy.

So the issue of media saturation in global communication can potentially have a demeaning impact on aspects of tradition such as sentimental jewellery wear; widening the scope of the definition for its purpose. I do wonder however, if the ever-growing extent at which global media is communicating such ideas will ever overwhelm a culture so much as to completely eradicate or erase any element of traditional significance? I feel as though this is an extreme thought, but perhaps something to appreciate.

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What a time to be alive…

It really confuses me – the fact that a non-human existence can obtain such a substantial social following online; feeding off this interest to communicate with the human world. What is it about these micro-celebrity ‘bots’ that is so intriguing and inspiring to media users? I don’t know for sure, but I tried to delve a little deeper into the issue…

An article by Bianca Boscer from the Huffington Post claims that Twitter bots in particular are “getting more influence than Oprah”, which truly is utterly mind-blowing to think about. A similar article by Alice Marwick proposes reasons for this popularity, stating that “although there is no way to determine the ‘authenticity’ of any celebrity practice, this uncertainty appeals to some audiences, who enjoy the game playing intrinsic to gossip consumption.” So this sense of mystery creates an extra level of interest, I mean I am pretty fascinated by the whole thing. I suppose then, as computer generated existences, these micro-celebrities can be programmed to be awe-inspiring and appealing to mass audiences based on analysis of social media trends. It really is quite a time to be alive.

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Apple vs. Android

There are currently a number of tensions between that of ‘free-flowing’ digital content as such, and those known as ‘locked appliances’. The most relevant example that I could locate of this notion lies with Apple and Android smartphones.

Now, as a manufacturer of iPads, iPods, iPhones etc., Apple only allow for downloads of apps that they approve, resulting in complete control over the user and associated downloaded content – a definite locked appliance.

Android however, is a free-flowing platform which allows for absolute consumer customisation, allowing them to engage with content that is not solely limited to the device.

This idea is supported by an article by J. Zittrain in 2008, stating that Apple has the ability to change its functionality through “remote updates” to ensure complete control of users. As a fond user of Apple myself, I was not at all aware of the extent of these restrictions, however I remain relatively unfazed as personally, I feel as though I still have access to everything I need and want to. However, I cannot speak on behalf of the millions of other Apple users among us who may, upon reading this, feel constricted.

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Transmedia Storytelling???

Transmedia storytelling – sounds fancy, but what exactly is it and what does it involve?

Well, put as simply as I can manage, this concept embodies a process whereby aspects of an original story or idea (such as a novel) are methodically distributed across numerous communication mediums. In one of his articles, Henry Jenkins describes the purpose of this process as “creating a unified and coordinated entertainment experience” which “reflects the economics of the media consolidation or what industry observers call “synergy””.

So each channel contributes its own unique participation to the developing story, deeming it to be the perfect manifestation for a generation of increasing collective intelligence.

Gianluca Fiorelli’s ‘Transmedia Storytelling: The Complete Guide’ of 2015 draws attention to the idea that a modern transmedia environment does not necessarily have to be fictitious. I do agree with this notion, as when you truly consider real world examples, think about how certain perspectives on global brand values (take Adidas for example) are shaped through what they devise for advertising purposes.

It can be a tricky concept to grasp, however modern media generally holds interest across a variety of what were once discrete industries.

Hopefully this quick video will clear up any remaining queries:

Copyright

The fairly recent introduction of copyright regimes in controlling user interaction with content plays a significant role in the trajectory of the convergence of ideas through media platforms.

But how is this so..?

As explained by Lawrence Lessig in 2004, before the implementation of copyright laws, any individual or group could reproduce content and use it freely for whatever purpose they so desired – in other words, the original creators did not have any claims that bound their content to them specifically.

This concept has since been controlled by notion of ‘fair use’, whereby a media user can potentially be sued for affecting the original value of the content produced. However, copyright practices are still widely prevalent in our current media culture.

But in terms of influencing the trajectory of media convergence, the future of the control of content is heavily dependant on how participatory media decide to utilise these copyright regimes. There are two possible outcomes here:

  • The art of copying and reproducing the ideas of others continues and develops to a greater extent

OR

  • We become encapsulated in a media society whereby permission is a requirement     for rewiring or recreating genuine ideas

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Remix Culture

Read-only culture: a one directional procedure whereby content is fed through a traditional media source… Users are delivered a specific idea that lacks the inclusion of other elements which add diversity.

In read-write culture however, the media user becomes more active; utilising the messages they receive and recycling elements of these in an imaginative way to create a new concept. This idea is explored through an article by Lawrence Lessig in 2008, detailing that this type of media culture promotes user empowerment and aids the process of the convergence of audience dynamics, especially in the format of remixes and mashups i.e. through music, which involves the combination of two or more different elements to create a new sound.

Personally, I am all for this type of innovation, as I myself have had exposure to the hype that can be generated from a popular song with a steady beat that has been revamped to include a bass drop or two. I’ve also heard my fair share of failed attempts at this, but it is a combination of these attempts and successes that provide the opportunity for new ideas to be stimulated, hence constantly developing a more intricate audience dynamic.

Here is my first attempt at a short remix of Axel Thesleff’s ‘Bad Karma’ and Estelle’s ‘American Boy’ for your enjoyment :’)

Trust Nobody

Facebook – currently the only alternative media source I use to derive my knowledge of world happenings… and I don’t even do it consciously. Whatever appears in my newsfeed, whether it’s ‘Luke Jones was marked safe during Hurricane Debbie’ or an article from the mysterious ‘UNILAD’ page, I generally absorb this information. However, since these forms of communication are the only version of whatever truths are out there that I receive, my understanding of the issue tends to be extremely rudimentary.

Seriously though, what criteria do we use to establish notions of source credibility? An article by Jay Rosen in 2008 details that our current trajectory of convergence grants anyone the ability to broadcast any message they desire through a series of online channels and sites (take 4chan for example), with no implicit filter or influence of gatekeepers to control the quality of the content being produced and exhibited for the wider world to see. However, allow me to transport you back to 2013 when a Danish news channel utilised the backdrop for ‘Assassin’s Creed’ as the Damascus skyline after mistaking images for war. With situations like this becoming evermore frequent, are my Facebook readings really any less trustworthy than the legacy media itself?

New Modes of Content Production

Content production is not going anywhere in the near future. In fact, it is the model of production that is currently in jeopardy, or more specifically, journalism. The emergence of new forms of content production from new media users has resulted from a communication trajectory whereby there are no gatekeepers to filter content, and this new participation is inflicting highly damaging affects on our current forms of legacy (or ‘mainstream’) media. Jordan Greenhall’s article ‘The Future of Organization’ of 2015 supports this idea, detailing that “it is easy for each member to simultaneously see and feel how his or her contributions contribute to the success of the whole”.

But why is such a movement causing so much chaos? We always revert to our trusted news sources for the real stuff, right?

Well, forms of legacy media such as distributed journalism are having to devise new strategies in order to prevent their audiences from acting as publishers in order to survive. These new mediums (namely the internet and its associated sites) are free of cost of entry and do not possess a quality filter, therefore there is no limit to who can post or what can be posted. This type of alternative media communicates from many to many as opposed to one to many; no restrictions, no one-sided story.

So, where will you go to for your news now?