Sunday, February 27, 2011

Talking #5: From Knowledgeable to Knowledge-able

Wesch, "From Knowledgeable to Knowledge-able"

In "From Knowledgeable to Knowledge-able", Wesch argues that our social and environmental guidelines for learning and gaining knowledge are, essentially, outdated when compared to the information technology available.

"As we increasingly move toward an environment of instant and infinite information, it becomes less important for students to know, memorize, or recall information, and more important for them to be able to find, sort, analyze, share, discuss, critique, and create information. They need to move from being simply knowledgeable to being knowledge-able."

Wesch believes that learning institutions have put too much focus on authority and the memorization of information.  Even for professors who choose to break the typical binds of teaching - lecture hall, notes, tests expecting word for word answers - it can be difficult. For example, the History Department requires all History 161 classes to follow the same syllabus and assignments. Whether the teacher is comfortable with that style of teaching or not, they must use the "accepted" form. This is not unusual, and happens often in all levels of schooling. Even further, Wesch points out that multiple choice tests are depended on too often - standarized testing, such as the NECAPS, have become a mandatory graduate requirement for many high schools.

This leads to a focus memorization and ignores the availability and multitude of information circa the internet. Wesch sites websites such as WikipediaYoutubeBlogger, and multiple add on websites and applications as tools that can be utilized to enhance the learning experience. However, students are not always allowed access to these websites. For my personal high school experience, students were not allowed any form of personal technology - cellphone, ipod, or laptop. Even if a laptop was brought, there was no internet connection available to utilize it. Even in college, where it is much more accepted, many teachers have specifically requested they not be used in classes. Wesch describes this as the "Crisis of Significance" - teachers are afraid that they will no longer be depended on to relay information.

However, in the end, teachers are needed for something much more important - teaching students how to absorb, understand and analyze the information - Wesch argues it is "not subjects, but subjectivities." 

I wonder if this adjustment will ever be fully made - this is a socially constructed idea of what learning should be. We have been told by society that to learn, we need to be sitting in a chair, taking notes, taking in our teacher's expertise. Will parents and teachers, with memories of their own education, accept this approach to teach the future generations?

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Talking Points #4: A Tangle of Discourses

Raby, A Tangle of Discourses: Girls Negotiating Adolescence

While interviewing multi-generational women to research the phenomenon of being a teenager, Raby reveals a confusing and conflicting experience.

Grandmothers distance themselves from teenagers of other generations, claiming that they cannot be compared because they are so different. Yet, one grandmother says, "I think every generation of teenagers are the same. Just in different clothes, music..." (p440) The past tends to be romanticized. Many people view it as a more innocent time with better values. Raby discusses a discourse which states that teens are essentially the same over time, just that the current environment is more dangerous. While I agree that the environment is very different, I don't know if I would describe it as more dangerous. 

"Framing teenagers as being at risk allows adults to distance themselves from the actions of teenagers today: the social milieu was fundamentally different in the past, so their teenagehoods cannot be compared, and the causes of problems are assumed to be located in other peoples' families (as well as media, schooling and peers) rather than their own." (p435)

The difference is, I believe, our society recognizes our "horrors" more so than before. In the book "The Girls Who Went Away", Ann Fessler interviews women who gave up illegitimate children before the legalization of abortion. The focus on teen pregnancies in the current media has been monumental, with such a television shows as "The Secret Life of the American Teenager" and "Teen Moms" putting the focus on young mothers - teen pregnancy is treated as a recent occurrence. Yet Fessler writes that in almost every high school class before Roe vs. Wade (1973), there was at least one girl that went away with "kidney problems" or a "sick aunt" when they were really pregnant. They were hidden away, and made to feel like failures because they had done something terrible. Yet birth control was rarely taught about, and many girls interviewed discussed not knowing what sex meant before their first experience of intercourse.  

While I don't believe reality shows are the way to go about it, I believe the current society's more open approach to what parents see as the "horrors" of life can be positive. Instead of pushing sex, violence, narcotics, and even things such as racism, under the table and ignoring their existence, it is possible for teenagers to learn about them in educational manners before having to face them uneducated and unarmed. 

Another issue is that parents expect their child to be exceptions to the "teenager rule" - their teenage years will feature no rebellion or turmoil, and be easy and smooth. If that doesn't happen, the merest signs of rebellion can cause them to ask what happened.

"I mean I think a lot of kids sort of rebel because society expects us to. And I mean I think that a lot of the time... Just sort of being our own people is interpreted as rebelling against our parents and I think it's just, I mean they assume that all teenagers rebel just because this is the age when we start to become our own person." (p445)

I remember the first time this happened in my teenage years. My mother was enforcing a house rule that said we couldn't sing during dinner. When we questioned this rule, she told us "Because I'm the Mom" or some other typical phrase. One night, around the age of 14, I decided to ask her why she got to decide such an arbitrary thing like that based purely on the fact that she was the mom - surely, if there were four daughters of varying ages telling her it was ridiculous, it had to be, right? Of course, this blew up into a huge disagreement over me not respecting her rules.

Really, I just wanted to know why I couldn't include musical numbers in my story telling.

I think I end every article wondering the same thing. It's much like the eternal nature versus nurture argument - are we created by society, or is society created around us? Did my mom expect me to rebel because society told her I was going to, or have we just been rebelling for so long that society has worked itself around that? But further, why is every rebellion written as an irrational thing? Hasn't revolutions taught that it can be positive? One young woman is breaking glass ceilings, while another kid is shaking his/her parents negative beliefs of the world. Asking questions shouldn't be a bad thing.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

I Stand with Planned Parenthood

This has very little to do with the media, but an incredible amount to do with all of us. As some of you may know, the House of Representative's passed a bill yesterday banning Planned Parenthood from receiving any of the federal funding they receive under Title X.  Planned parenthood will no longer be able to provide any of their "Family-Planning" services to individuals for low fees, or even free. This is does not include abortion services, though this may be the main focus of congress' attack. This includes contraceptives, HIV services, STD testing, cancer screenings and pap smears. According to this breakdown, only 3% of services Planned Parenthood offers are abortions.

"More than six out of every 10 women who receive care in a Title X family-planning health center say it's their main source of health care — not a supplement, but a lifeline." - Planned Parenthood

I'm finding it really hard to explain how much harm this bill will cause if it becomes a reality. There is a detailed article in the New York Times and Planned Parenthood offers a breakdown of everything happening in Congress, as well.

Luckily, we still have a little time to fight, as the bill must go on to pass in Senate. This will happen in about ten days, giving anyone who wants to speak out about this bill time to have their voices heard.

There is an open letter being sent to both branches of congress that will only take a few seconds to sign online. If you feel that is not enough, NARAL is trying to send out 50,000 emails to the senate in the next few days. Send yours here - again, it takes mere seconds to do. Finally, Planned Parenthood has called for emergency donations. Anything you can do would be one more reason for Senate to refuse this bill.

"Ms. Tabar said many critics mischaracterized Planned Parenthood’s activities, which overwhelmingly involve family planning and preventative medicine. While clinics must obey local laws and use common sense when they suspect the abuse of minors, she said, they try to preserve a nonjudgmental atmosphere." - New York Times

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Talking Points #3: Unlearning the Myths that Bind Us

Christensen, "Unlearning the Myths that Bind Us"

Lindsey Christensen offers a unique look at the ideology media represents, due to her role as a teacher. She has the experience of trying to teach people how they are being manipulated. Part of her exercises included writing journals, so she offers not only her insight but also the thoughts and feelings of people who are becoming aware of the control media and society has on our culture and beliefs.

Christensen's main issue with the cartoons her and her student's dissect is the representation - how people are presented in the cartoons, if they are even included at all. I really liked that she focused on cartoons - in my opinion, the belief system does start in childhood. A child spends most of its formative life learning what is right and wrong - well, according to Croteau, "In essence, the accumulation of media images suggests what is “normal” and what is “deviant.” (The Media and Ideology, P163).The problem with the images cartoons present to children is the children are being "normalized" - every girl must look like this and act exactly like this; every person of hispanic descent must look and act like this. If a protagonist is presented differently, chances are they are treated as above all their peers and are exception to the otherwise dominant rule.

Grinner examined this in her article, "Hip-hop Sees No Color." Like "Save the Last Dance", many modern cartoons present positive, uplifting images surrounded by the usual stereotypes. Disney's Ariel plays the same sort of role - she is limited in the world due to her being, not only a mermaid, but a girl. She is spurred by a man - of course - to overcome her lack of fins and become a land dweller. Yet every other female is either a sea witch, or her compliant sisters. Even further, she is giving up what makes her different from all the young viewers, and conforming to what they see as "natural."

Something that was off to me about this article was how much of a "burden" the information was presented as and that some would rather remain "happy and ignorant." I found that, personally, though I become disheartened with both myself and society at times, I would never want to return to being unaware. Is this common? Is this why so many people refuse to see what is firmly in front of them? Are we afraid to acknowledge this unspoken bind on us?

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Talking Points #2: Hip-Hop Sees No Color

Grinner, "Hip-Hop Sees No Color"
When we sit down, as an audience member, we agree to accept and believe whatever is presented for the length of the piece. Sometimes, this is simply accepting that Dorothy could, in fact, go over the rainbow - other times, it is believing things about both ourselves and society.

In "Hip-Hop Sees No Color", Leslie Grinner explores the idea of SCWAMP - Straight, Christian, White, Able-bodied, Male and Property Holding. She defines this as framework to view the ideology that is presented through the media. Specifically, how people who do not fit these guidelines are represented and treated. Typically, this is not positively. People who are "othered" are most often portrayed negatively, or shown overcoming their circumstances and becoming as close to the SCWAMP ideal as possible. Many times, these individuals are praised for being uplifting and positive role models for audience members - it is expected the audience, in turn, will be inspired to "overcome."

In "Save the Last Dance", the leading male is Derrick, a young Black male from the south side of Chicago. He is shown as the only intelligent one of the entire school. Further, he is portrayed as the only one with a true future - his friends are coming out of Juvie and his sister is a teen mom. He is the only one on the level of the white, female protagonist. Through the movie, he "over comes" his situation of not fitting SCWAMP standards naturally.

This is not something that happens purely in movies or television. Nicki Minaj has been viewed as an powerful female force in the Hip-Hop world. She has, admittedly, taken the genre by force. Yet, in this verse of "5 Star Chick" by Yo Gotti, she brags about how established she is. Her arguments include: being able to afford expensive, male run brands (Tiffany's and Fendi); she references that she is always ready for sexual intercourse; she is able to pay her bills on time (males are the traditional bread winners) yet later in the verse she finishes establishing herself by referencing her connection to a male - Lil Wayne. She places herself above other females - she is, after all, the five star chick. She is not being powerful on her own terms, but on SCWAMP guidelines.

"The more comfortable we are with our media experiences, the less we question them; we dutifully support existing structures that are oppressive to ourselves and others. We don't often think about ideology, because it has been normalized and naturalized to the point it's no longer visible to us." (186)

I can't help but wonder if the creators set out to create truly positive media, but are hindered by the SCWAMP ideology's hold on society. Society has such a stereotypical, generalized view of itself - it is easy to create situations where protagonists - such as Derrick of "Save the Last Dance" - are exceptions to the otherwise controlling rule. Are audiences expected to see themselves in the exception, and never in the stereotypical versions of themselves?