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Photojournalism (Week 12)

Photojournalism is simply the combination of photography and journalism. It is a way to portray certain news story or events through images. Over the years we are led to believe that whatever photos we see either in a newspaper or a magazine are trustworthy as we ourselves believe that the media are only interested in exposing the truths to the public. However, we would be fools to think that the media is solely serving the public’s interest as there are always political, religious or individual agendas behind it. The fact that we are living in the information age should already make us well aware that technology has the ability to manipulate or tamper photographs which distorts the truth.

Howard Chapnick (1982) eloquently summed up the dangers to journalism with such manipulations. “Credibility. Responsibility. These words give us the right to call photography a profession rather than a business. Not maintaining that credibility will diminish our journalistic impact and self-respect, and the importance of photography as communication” (pp. 40-41). As mentioned by Lester(1995), “Because images evoke almost immediate emotional responses among viewers, pictures have tremendous impact. With well-chosen words, visual messages combine to educate, entertain and persuade. But the flip side to such visual power is that images can also offend, shock, mislead, stereotype and confuse”. This contributes to the reason why photojournalism ethics is important which is to convey the truthfulness of reality. Also, it prevents the readers from misinterpreting the photographs as well as being deceived by the photographers.

Have a look at the images below.

The image on the above left shows ELLE’s cover of Gabourey Sidibe. Next to the magazine cover shows a photo of the African-American actress taken from Flickr. We can clearly notice that ELLE Magazine chose to lighten Gabourey’s skin in the cover photo which stirs up some issues which is quite similar to O.J. Simpson’s case where his skin was darkened in TIME magazine. We all know that manipulating images is quite common in magazines, but lightening a dark-skinned black woman only shows racism no matter what the original intent was. This means that these photos are not ethical as it does not convey the reality.

Doctoring a news photograph has more impact on the society as it changes their perception. Minor editing of images merely to improve the quality of the image is acceptable but changing a lot more than that in order to pass the image off as a reality is considered to be unethical. If  it is an illustration, then manipulation of the image can be accepted though photo illustrations are already considered to be unethical as reality is altered. ‘Presenting photographic illustrations is acceptable, provided that you make clear from context, or explicit in the caption that, that is what you are doing’ (Kieran, 1998, p.130). Editing of photos such as cropping someone out, or placing someone in the photo, changing the background or structures, altering facial expressions and features, are strictly prohibited as it changes the story or meaning behind the image. Look at the image below. There are many alterations made to the man in this photo by FOX news which made him look more like a terrorist compared to his actual appearance.

In conclusion, photographs can be altered to a certain extent, and depending on its use of purpose, these changes can be very limited. On the other hand, photojournalists would never be able to capture photographs that shows the whole reality as the photos taken will inevitably comes from their point of view. They can capture photos that can only present the visual aspect of a scene at a particular moment but they cannot show what happened before and after the picture was taken.

References

Kieran, M. (1998). Media Ethics. London, GBR: Routledge.

Lester, P.M. (1995). Photojournalism ethics timeless issue. Website: http://commfaculty.fullerton.edu/lester/writings/photoethics.html

Lester, P.M. (1999). Photojournalism an ethical approach. Website: http://commfaculty.fullerton.edu/lester/writings/pjethics.html

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Information graphics (Week 11)

We are living in a very modern information age where various type of information graphics are used. ‘Information graphics (or infographics) are primarily visual displays with accompanying labels and text that help explain an illustration’s meaning’ (Lester, 1995, pp.187).  Examples of  infographics are graphs, charts, pictographs, illustrations and so forth. All these infographics are used to quickly and clearly provide us with information that might be complex or hard to understand as well as to represent statistics and relationships.

Newspapers with lots of graphic images can be very effective to increase readership and sales especially among those who have short-attention span when it comes to reading. This is mainly because when different visual elements such as illustrations, photographs and clear texts combine, they provide an image explaining quickly and efficiently the whys, wheres, whens, whos and hows of an article.

Below are two examples of information graphics.

 

 

According to Peterson (1993), information graphics may be classified in accordance with different criteria, for example, purpose, medium, size and the time available for production. The following are well established types of information graphics: business graphics, expo graphics, instruction graphics, presentation graphics and etc. That being said, this also means that for each type of infographics, there are certain rules to be followed because not all graphs are suitable for every data, so this means that infographic designers have to choose the best graph which is suitable enough to represent a particular data or information. In reference to that, when choosing a graph that does not accommodate all the data or when there are missing information in the graph, this may cause misleading of information and therefore, the graph is unethical.

In conclusion, infographics aim to efficiently communicate information or trends in other words, to help people learn. The focus is usually finding interesting or important patterns in the data and displaying those data into attractive and easily understandable visuals.

References

Lester, P.M. (1995). Information graphics. Visual communication: Images with messages (pp.187-211). California: Wadsworth Publishing.

Peterson, R. (1993). Visual information (2nd edition). (pp.169-175). New Jersey: Educational Technology Publications.

 

Are we cyborgs or humans in today’s world? (Week 10)

We live in a world that is dominated by science and technology. Our cell phones, clothes, cars, watches, shoes, glasses and  so much more are the devices that we need in our daily lives. There is no denying that we are becoming increasingly dependent on these technologies. That being said, we are no longer human beings but cyborgs. From my understanding, cyborgs are half human and half machine. If the source of energy of a robot can be replaced with a new one and that if the dying heart of a human can be replaced through a heart transplant, doesn’t this make us similar to them? If our body can be recreated, then it would mean that we are machines. We can naturally be human beings if we no longer need these technologies to survive, however this would mean living among the monkeys, after all they are nature’s humans.

According to Kennedy and Bell (2000), ‘Virtual reality is, or is imagined as, a combination of the objectivity of the physical world with the unlimitedness and the uncensored content normally associated with dreams or imagination’. This means that in virtual reality we can play god; we can change our name, physical appearance, thus changing our identity. In virtual reality, we can alter the virtual world in whatever way we wish as opposed to our imperfect reality of the real world. Being a member of social networking sites like Twitter or Facebook also means that we have become a part of a virtual community. We interact and communicate with the community in that virtual reality without having to see them face to face, yet we cannot be sure if the person we are communicating with is being truthful about who they really are. As stated by Robins (2000), virtual reality environments allow their users ‘to choose their disguises and assume alternative identities’.

We have certainly heard of online dating but what about online marriage? If a person got married online but have never actually met the other, I would personally think that it would not be a ‘real’ marriage. I mean, how do we know if the person on the other side of the computer is already married or of the same-sex? Online marriage is a game,and that is why we participate. Perhaps because such game has incorporated elements of play acting of an adult theme, grown-ups are also drawn to it. In the end it may be about communication. People who find it hard to express themselves, can breathe the free air of cyberspace and receive the kind of attention they do not normally get in real life. Could this be the case for the man( in the video below) who married a video game character?

Based on the video above, it is clear that technology itself has managed to change the nature of interpersonal relationships without directly meeting the other person physically but rather, virtually. If the man in the video can fall for a virtual character whom he now calls his ‘wife’, then this would mean that he is indeed a cyborg as the ‘union’ between him and the virtual character makes it clear that ‘she’ is now a part of his life just as how the technological devices we use everyday are a part of our lives. However, not everyone fall into the category of being a cyborg as there are technological conditions that must be met.

References

Kennedy, B. M. & Bell, D. (2000). The Cybercultures Reader. United States of America and Canada: Routledge.

Robins, K. (2000). Cyberspace and the world we live in.

Cultural literacy and the media (Week 9)

When you go on a vacation to a foreign country, let’s say to Thailand for example. Have you ever touched a monk? Well, if you are a female backpacker, touching the skin of a  monk is considered to be very disrespectful, if you are a male then it should be alright. Monks in Thailand are forbidden to have any physical contact with women. So, to avoid the temptation you must not touch them. If you do not have this knowledge on Thai culture, this means you lack their cultural literacy. According to Eric Donald Hirsch Jr. (1987), Cultural Literacy refers to the concept that citizens in a democracy should possess a common body of knowledge that allows them to communicate effectively, govern themselves, and share in their society’s rewards.In my understanding, it is the ability to converse fluently by using the knowledge you have in order to perform within discourses and ideologies of a certain context or culture.

For further example, lets talk about football. Well, I don’t really know much about football. I’m not even quite sure if I’m familiar with the rules of the game other than the kicker will score a goal if he managed to kick the ball into the goal net of the rival team. This obviously shows that I lack the cultural literacy of football. On the other hand, a football fanatic would have a strong cultural literacy on that subject because they know how the game is played, the rules of the game and perhaps even the players.

Below is a film clip, ‘Remember the Daze’ which illustrates the cultural literacy of youths in the USA.

This film is about a bunch of high school teenagers who are trying to get through the last day of their junior year and if you watch the movie, you will be able to see how the youths in the movie ‘party’ which involves smoking weeds , drinking alcohol, sex and etc. The film tells me about the film producer’s cultural literacy of the youths. The whole film was merely focusing on the negative side of the teenagers and I have yet to see any positives side of them which is worth watching where it does not involve vulgarity or any of that sort. It seemed that those involve in making this film are trying to show the viewers how today’s youths are like. Based on the film, I would think that they have a weak cultural literacy of the youths because not all youth act in a way that is being shown in this film. This is only a representation of the youths. However, these representation of the youths in the film are stereotypical and it can alter the way we perceive them.

Everyday we are exposed to lots of information through the television, radio, newspaper, films, internet and so on. The media as we know is the medium where we experience the flow of information on many different cultures. Cinema and television, especially, are very useful mediums to obtain some level of cultural awareness on any topic because cultural literacy is obviously valuable as it helps in understanding the things that we hear and read on a deeper level. Socially, if you’re more culturally literate, it will be easier to strike up an interesting conversation with a key person at the right time.

References

Hirsch, E. D. Jr. Cultural Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1987.

Connor, Gerry (2001). Representation and youth: http://www.mediaed.org.uk/posted_documents/repsyouth.html

Photography as a cultural critique (Week 8)

Photography is often used as a medium to critique . Undeniably, photography have the ability to influence people’s views and opinions on the world they live in. As mentioned by Terrence Wright in his book titled Photography Handbook, ” Some photographers pursue the conscious use of photography with the aim of changing views and opinions–sometimes with the ultimate intention of changing the world”.

As you can see below, this is a photo I’ve recently taken near the beach. This photo is not meant to be pretty but it can be considered as a social document to show litter problem. There were many complaints to address the issue of littering on the beach by the people residing nearby and also other visitors and that issue was tackled by providing litter bins (as you can see in the photo) which are located in positions that most often have had rubbish discarded. Despite the effort, we can still see rubbish being littered around the area which is a problem because not only it is unpleasing to see, littering also pollutes the environment. This photograph is an evidence to show that the environment is being vandalized. It also shows that the local authority have done their part to ensure that the need of the public is provided, the problem here is that the public are not fully-committed to their individual roles in preserving the welfare of their surrounding. It also shows that some people do not appreciate what has been provided to them compared to people in other less-fortunate countries where in this case, rubbish is seen literally everywhere. This photograph can also be a form of medium to increase the social awareness and concern on problems which they do not see or even realize in order to promote the need for change within the public.

In conclusion, photography can be used as a cultural critique. However, not all photographs can be used to critique because it actually depends on the person behind the camera, be it a photographer or some random people who wants to take a good photo for instance, as it depends on what he or she intends to take a photo of, and what message they are trying to convey to the viewers. And this can be a photo either to critique or simply keep as a remembrance in a photo album.

References

Wright, T. (1999). Photography as a cultural critique. Photography handbook  (pp.135-151). London and New York: Routledge. Retrieved June 20, 2010, from UBD Ebrary Website.

Woo, C. W. H. (2010). Analyzing Visual Communication. Published by University Brunei Darussalam, Brunei Darussalam

Visual narrative and the media (Week 7)

The term ‘narrative’ simply means ‘story-telling’ which can be either spoken or written. In this modern world, narratives can be found in popular media such as film, television, radio, newspaper and so forth. They function as a way to structure and represent lived experiences. The nature of narrative can be divided  into two; story and discourse. Story is about trying to determine the key conicts, main characters, setting and events. Discourse is about how the content of a story is structured and arranged. In Aristotle on the art of poetry, he stated that  “A whole is that which has beginning, middle, and end” (Chapter 7, para 1). This forms the dramatic or a plot structure which concludes that a narrative must have a beginning, middle and an end.

In narrative, there are two types of theories. The structuralist narrative theory and the post-structuralist narrative theory. The structuralist narrative theory basically means that a narrative must be structured by following certain concepts. These concepts includes the subject which can either be the speaking subject or the subject of speech, the genre; the framework and discourses, the point of focus, temporality and the duration to describe the length of time and duration of speed. On the other hand, the post-structuralist narrative theory basically attempts to focus on the essential “incompleteness” of narrative or to simply put it, this theory goes against the narrative structure.

This is an example of  a film that has a structural narrative. The genre of this film here is an animated-fantasy cartoon. The characters involved are the princess, the prince, the fairy, the king and queen and etc. The discourses can be love, friendship, magic, marriage,violence and so on. All these makes up the paradigm. According to Daniel Chandler (2009), paradigm and syntagm are the structural forms through which signs are organized into codes. The syntagm here are simply the storyline or the plot.

In narrative, a story can be presented in two ways, through mimesis and digesis. Mimesis is the imitation of the supposed words of another, as in order to represent his or her character. In digesis, the narrator tells the story. In ‘Sleeping Beauty’, the story is being presented through digesis, which means that the story is being told from the narrator’s point of view.

Post-structuralists argues that nothing is universal and that interpretation of meaning is not fixed. This is an example of a post-structuralism film. It is a parody of the movie ‘300’. It follows the typical structure of the ‘300’ movie but the paradigm or ideology is changed. According to Walter Fisher, a narrative must have fidelity and coherence. In ‘Meet the Spartans’, the characters in the film do not act consistently in the plot and most of the characters involved are not connected to the story at all. For example, in the movie we see Britney Spears and Ellen Degeneres popping out from no where which completely makes no sense. Therefore, there is no coherence in the film because the story does not hang together. The story itself has no or less fidelity as most of the time it does not relate to our real experiences. For example,who would believe that a Spartan soldier can do a 360 head spin or break dancing? To summarize this, in post-structuralism, meaning is not coherent as intended by the producer of the text.

References

Aristotle . Aristotle on the art of poetry .Electronic Text Center, University of Virginia Library: http://etext.virginia.edu/toc/modeng/public/AriPoet.html

Chandler, D. (2009). Semiotics For Beginners. Retrieved August, 21, 2010, from Prifysgol Aberystwyth University Website: http://www.aber.ac.uk/media/Documents/S4B/

Fulton, H. (2005). Narrative and Media. United States of America: Cambridge University Press.

Griffin, Em, (2009). A First Look At Communication Theory. Narrative Paradigm. New York: Mc Graw Hill Company.

Rhetoric in advertisements (Week 6)

Everyday we are bombarded with advertisements in magazines and newspapers, on television, and absolutely everywhere on the internet. Most of the time we find these advertisements very tempting and hard to ignore. The question here is, why are we easily swayed by them? How do they manage to yank our chains until we fall into a victim? Well, this can be done by using rhetorical persuasion.

Rhetoric is an interpretive theory that frames a message as an interested party’s attempt to influence an audience.’ (Linda M. Scott, 1996) This means that by using the art of rhetoric, we are able to influence or persuade the audience indirectly. In visual rhetoric, images are used to create meaning or construct an argument. This can be accomplished by having propositions and arguments in order to allow the audience to be persuaded by their own thoughts or beliefs about a certain product or simply a concept that being advertised.

Look at the image above. This is a Timberland shoe advertisement. In the advertisement, you can see an image of a man looking as if he was running fiercely. The ad  provides an argument and that it tries to persuade people to agree that that this particular brand of shoes will help you to out run the grizzly bear and the hungry wolf as shown in the image. So basically, it tries to persuade people that they have one of the fastest running shoes and that you need their shoes that can run really fast otherwise you will end up as food the next time you go camping or into the woods.

According to McQuarrie and Philips (2008), rhetoric in advertising is more concerned with style than content. So basically, advertising style is vital to show an argument. This includes the visual elements and how they are arranged to form meanings.

This advertisement features the dead body of a woman as a result of a sexual assault. Judging from the tagline that says ‘WE ARE ANIMALS’, this tells me that this particular ad is trying to sell us the idea or propose that human beings are in fact, animals by nature. That being said, violence is inevitable as it is a part of human nature. As an audience, the dirty dark colour of the water surrounding her body tells me how intense rape issues are. The woman in this ad can be considered as an argument because most rape victims are young girls and women. Notice that her face is not being exposed to the audience. This is done in such a way so that the audience could relate to the image and put themselves as the victim being displayed. This ad will definitely stir up fear among many females and those who can associate themselves with the victim.

Here are examples to broaden our understanding:

Now look at the advertisements above. Both ads have models looking dead. The first ad is aimed at selling their products to women whereas the second ad is to men. As for the content, it’s obviously about women being sexually abused, violated and yet, as an audience I respond to each differently. I feel awful just by looking at what happened to the women on the first ad but I was outright disgusted with the ad on the right. I find both ads to be disturbing but the degree to which the advertisers have managed to evoke that feeling is different because of the way the visual elements are arranged. The second ad creates a stronger emotional reaction compared to the first ad. This is because of the grayscale colour of the ad, the way the women lies on her back with a rope around her neck while the man in the suit smiles as if he was amused by the whole thing. In conclusion, as stated by McQuarrie and Philips (2008), advertising rhetoric is more interested in how to say something as much as what to say.

References

Woo, C. W. H. (2010). Analyzing Visual Communication. Brunei Darussalam: Universiti Brunei Darussalam.

McQuarrie, E.F. and Philips, B.J. (eds.) (2007). Advertising rhetoric: An introduction. Go figure! New dimensions in advertising rhetoric (pp.3-18). New York: M. E. Sharpe, Inc. Retrived from University Brunei Darussalam Ebrary Website.

Woo, C. W. H. (2010).  Gestalt Effects and Schema Theories: The Whole Is Different From The Sum Of Its Parts [PowerPoint Slides]. Retrieved from Universiti Brunei Darussalam.

Linda M. Scott (1994). Images in advertising: The need for a theory of visual rhetoric. The journal of consumer research Vol.21. No.2  (p.252-273). The University of Chicago press. Website url: http://isites.harvard.edu/fs/docs/icb.topic565425.files/unit%203%20reading%204%20Scott.pdf