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Notes on Media Violence by Barrie Gunter (2008)

GUNTER, B. 2008. Media Violence. American Behavioral Scientist 51, 1061 –1122.

Some overall points
• Gunter paper is a review of behavioural research on media effects on violence - extensive and useful, goes over the different types of research, etc
• The most fundamental difficulty is that everyone is different, media effects get filtered through individual cognitive and cultural screens, "certain forms of media violence can exert certain kinds of effects on some media consumers some of the time." (p1113)
– Real or fiction: people more likely to respond and be affected by real violence (or violence said to be real, e.g. in experiments)
– Also legitimacy: when violence is shown as legitimate, people more likely to repeat/be violent
– The lab experiments (mostly with college students) tend to show effects (violence analogue, electric shock, 'angered' subjects) - aslo the Bandura one - tend to support media violence causality, but these are always artificial situation (altho eg when children left to play after the experiment has 'finished' then arguably natural, socially complex, environment) (see also p1111)
– More effects on younger children - hardly surprising
– Tend to be more males apparently affected, but this leads to on bias present in many - people who are already violent probably prefer violent media content and therefore there is not necessarily a causal link, only an associational one
– Literacy: positive results when children taught to interpret the texts - this implies that without such training, there is more likely to have negative effects
– Statistical significance: what does it mean exactly? Correlation /= correlation... (pp1109)
– Many studies done on violence, and on youth - why? (Ruddock's political point). Somewhere in Gunter he speaks of this bias also, and one (meta analysis I think) showed that depending on initial assumption (violence, neutral, or non violent) the outcome tended to support the assumption (see also p1111)
– "A simplistic, unidirectional model of media effects therefore may hamper the achievement of a comprehensive understanding of why individuals respond to media violence the way they do." (p1112)

A Prezi which summarises the main points

Facebook: pay to promote your wall updates

One of the main concerns that has been expressed regarding the recent Facebook IPO is whether or not it can monetise its massive user base properly. As Rushkoff (I think) has said, all of us who are on Facebook are its product, not its users. Our personal data is number crunched and requalified as advertising targets.

If you want to see this in action, just try changing your gender, or your age, your location or other data, and see the ads change.

There is a new feature on Facebook now that enables you to promote your posts ( all details and pics taken from here).

So - in the example given. You take any post and say how much you want to spend
facebook promote page
All promoted posts will show in the news feeds of the people who like your Page and, when they interact with the post, to their friends. These posts will be labeled as "Sponsored" in the news feed. Promoted posts will not be shown in the right-hand column of Facebook.

facebook promote post
Your promoted posts will be seen by a larger percentage of the people who like your Page than would normally see it. It will also be seen by a larger percentage of the friends of people who interact with your post.

So – I guess this means that if you liked a page once, and never went back there (as happens), then instead of no longer showing up (as your feed is more likely to show those you regularly interact with) it will suddenly pop up. Also, it will be pushed to more of your friends.

It's not for everyone, you need to have at least 400 likes on your page, and it's limited to posts that you have done in the last three days. But the money is am "lifetime budget" so I guess if you pay a lot of money upfront it can keep running for a long time.

Just like with regular ads and sponsored stories, promoted posts will be reviewed by our Facebook Ads Team, but generally they should start running as soon as they're created.

I suppose this means that they do an automatic check for inappropriate content.

What does this mean? Well, just like all media we are going to have to get used to tuning out the advertisements, though these updates will look at first glance just like a normal one. By the time you have checked for the ‘Sponsored’ tag, you will have taken in much of the content. I doubt that Facebook will give you the option to not have any of these sponsored posts. One response could be to unlike the page, which may happen in some cases but most people will probably just live with it.

Over time, the interleaving of your personal posts and friends' posts with sponsored posts will highlight the commercial nature of Facebook, and therefore tend to make people more likely to leave to another service if they have the options.

Remote control, children, and television

I often hear parents telling me that television is a good way for their children (infants, toddlers) to educate themselves. I usually shudder inwardly and then tell them about this research that shows how too much television for infants is likely to cause short attention spans and possibly also slow learning of language, etc. (By the way he specifically mentions ‘Baby Einstein' DVDs as being a bad idea; also note that Disney had to *remove* claims that Baby Einstein was educational and offer refunds after legal action was brought against them in the USA.) One of the main problems is that the editing of TV programmes is so snappy, with new scenes every 10 seconds or less. We have not had television for a few years now, and when I do see television, I start to get annoyed at the way in which everything moves so quickly.

One of the reasons for this is the need to keep people interested, and to stop them zapping onto another channel if they are not stimulated in the next 15 seconds. So, imagine a world without the remote control - it's an interesting way to think of the effects of technology on our lives.

The inventor of the remote control just passed away, and he could reasonably claim to have been a major contributor to the current short attention span-friendly TV programming, with his invention of, as his patent application put it "a system to regulate the receiver operation without requiring the observer to leave the normal viewing position" (Rosen)

On the other hand, and in a good example of the need to avoid plain technodeterminism (i.e. the argument that technologies cause social change), it is instructive that one of the selling points of the ‘Flash-Matic' was its ability to "tune out annoying commercials" (by reducing the volume, Rosen), and the ability to avoid advertisements is still a motivating factor for most TV viewers.

Toddlers want control, they need it. Which is why they keep saying ‘No'. It's an important part of how they develop a sense of their own individuality in the world. So it doesn't surprise me that they (apparently) pick up the use of a remote very quickly, and one research reported that
One subject, three-year-old Jimmy, was incapable of articulate conversation and could neither recognize numbers nor tell time, but he "had mastered the basics of RCD use." He "primarily used the RCD to change channels on the TV in order to watch his favorite programs," and when told the time, clever Jimmy "knows if his program should be airing." (Rosen)

Frankly, I can't help thinking that if poor Jimmy hadn't been given free reign of the remote he might have learnt more words, numbers, and the time. Let's hope that he eventually managed to learn to read.

Labouring lifestyle: assembling the lifestyle blog

This is a Prezi of a paper I presented last year at the 6th Asian Graduate Forum On Southeast Asian Studies at the NUS Asia Research Institute.

Here is the abstract:
Whereas the great majority of blogs are of the 'personal' genre - i.e. diaristic accounts of individuals' lives - academic research has focused mostly on the 'social-political' blogging genre and its relevance to the democratisation of the public sphere. Based on ethnographic fieldwork and drawing upon anthropological critiques of economic theory, this paper discusses the complexities of the articulation of personal blogging with existing models of media advertising in Malaysia. By conceptualising personal bloggers' provision of advertising space and 'advertorials' (paid blog posts), this paper argues that the monetisation of personal blogging has resulted in a new blogging genre, the 'lifestyle blog'.

The advertising industry in Malaysia has responded to the destabilisation of the advertising market enabled by blog affordances by seeking to internalise the bloggers who represent "voicy consumers" in the "economy of qualities" (Michel Callon). Robert Foster has argued that surplus value is created for brands "through the everyday practices in which consumers use branded goods to create social relations and shared meanings and affect." In effect, the diaristic practices of personal bloggers create both an opportunity for this process to take place and, for the more popular bloggers, a platform for advertisers to reach significant portions of a younger, more affluent, audience. By paying bloggers to incorporate brands in their blog posts, the advertisers seek to entangle the brand with the bloggers and their audience's shared network of meaning, or dynamic assemblage.

While these findings are based on the Malaysian context, they have particular relevance for Singaporean blogging, as well as potential relevance for blogging worldwide, which has seen an increased interest in blogs as an advertising platform embedded in local and contextualised markets.

Keywords: advertising, affordances, anthropology, blogs, Malaysia, marketing, media

My 2011

Well, it was a long year - most of which was spent writing my thesis which I handed in at the end of September! That was a relief, but immediately followed by the realisation that when it comes back from the examiners, there will be revisions, and no doubt some difficult questions. So it didn’t have the release that one usually gets from finishing exams, or a school year, when there is nothing more to be done.

The Australian doctoral system does not have a viva (i.e. an oral defence of the thesis) as is common everywhere else. Someone explained to me that this is due to historical reasons - previously it was too difficult to arrange for Australians to defend in person when their examiners were typically in the UK or the USA. Instead, the examiners write an evaluation and can ask questions which have to be answered in written form.

It’s kind of excruciating waiting for the examiners’ responses, which I hope to get soon, from time to time it pops into my head, and I wonder what they are going to say. No doubt they will have detailed questions and they are sure to find some flaws somewhere... That’s their job after all.

OK. Here goes for a rapid review of 2012.

January: Of course, Charlie has been the most enjoyable part of the year. I stopped posting about him because I started to feel a bit uncomfortable about pasting him on the internet - after all, it’s his life and he may not appreciate all his baby photos being online when he gets older :-) Anyway, in January he was learning to drink from a cup. By now that is not a problem and he is walking, talking, and just started his first (pre)school yesterday! Apart from that, the highlight of January was being invited to present at the Pecha Kucha event organised by Niki Cheong and the British Council. It was a good night, and the principle (20 slides, 20 seconds each) is a great discipline.

February: More Charlie and baby-led weaning. BLW basically means no spoon-feeding. It works and we’re happy we did it.

March: No blog posts. The whole year, up until September, I was trying to block off any other activities. Dividing time between taking care of Charlie for 2-3 days a week, reading, writing and analysing, with little sleep and much stress, sometimes I found myself despairing.

April: Only one post about the 1Malaysia email. It doesn’t seem to have had much take up yet, but I still think that eventually, having a state-certified online identity will become commonplace.

June & May: No blog posts. More writing. Doing a PhD thesis is probably the most difficult thing I have ever done. More than starting my first term teaching with five new courses, and about 250 students. The difference is that with a thesis, you need a lot of self-discipline - it’s easier to work with tight deadlines when you can go from one day to the next, completing each task as it comes to you. The whole point of a PhD thesis is to write something that nobody else has done - so, in the end of the day, you are all alone.

July: One post on Visualising Assemblage. For various reasons, I decided to use Deleuze & Guattari’s theories for my thesis. This meant a whole lot of reading and trying to understand this complex theory. I think it was worth it, but it probably added a couple of months onto the thesis.

August to October: No posts. Heh. Sometime in July or August I realised that when I don’t sleep enough I get very bad tempered. I also started to feel extremely burned out. I learnt that you just can’t do without enough sleep for too long. It’s really not healthy and is unsustainable.

Actually, after I handed in the thesis we went to the UK and Belgium for a month. That was very nice, and after a couple of weeks I started to feel alive again. Spending the time with Charlie was great too, and he really took to travelling well - to our relief, as I was dreading a twelve hour flight with screaming toddler :-)

November and December: only one post about Forced Labour in Malaysia. I cannot ever look at foreign labourers the same again after reading those harrowing witness accounts.

So that was my year. Christmas was on the beach near Port Dickson - chasing crabs with Charlie and eating some homemade mince pies. New Year was a few beers and a great view of the fireworks over KL thanks to some friends.

But... that’s **not** all folks...

Please say hello to Neil!

We’re so happy to have another addition to our family - due in about five weeks :-)

All the clichés are true - having has a child has changed our life, and also brought us the most consistent source of joy ever. To think that soon we will have two is really exciting, and we are so looking forward to seeing them play together and grow up together (touching wood - I get superstitious sometimes).

Finally - all my best wishes for the New Year to you, dear reader, with thanks for taking the time to read to the end of this post.

Forced labour in Malaysia

Imagine coming home one day and finding out that your brother has been taken away to do forced labour. You don't know when you will see him again, and you can't go to the authorities for help - because they are the ones who took him away. You suspect they will come for you next, so you take what you can on you back, in a suitcase, and leave your country - not knowing when you can come back.
The army committed human rights violations in connection with oil, gas, mining and hydropower development projects, including forced labour, killings, beatings and land confiscation. (Amnesty International 2011 Annual Report)

Imagine the police visiting the house of parents, who are soon to be 60 and looking forward to a quiet retirement. They tell them that their son has been involved with an NGO, and they believe that he is working with an ethnic independence organisation. They say: 'We will come back here tomorrow, and we want to see him here. If not…' - the threat is clear although unspoken. That night, the parents and the son take what they can on their back and leave to the next country.
The government continued to repress ethnic minorities protesting in relation to the elections as well as those who peacefully opposed the impact of development and infrastructure projects on the environment. Authorities also persecuted ethnic minorities for their real or suspected support of armed groups. (Amnesty International 2011 Annual Report)

All this has happened, and is happening, in Burma (aka Myanmar). Many refugees from there have come to Malaysia - there are more than 90,000 refugees and asylum seekers in Malaysia, most of whom are from Burma.

Unfortunately for them, Malaysia does not recognise them as refugees, and this means that - amongst other things - they are not allowed to work legally. Because of this, in a bitter irony, many of them find themselves in forced labour right here in Malaysia. They cannot go home and they have to survive, so they take whatever job they can find. Often, unscrupulous and immoral employers exploit them as much as is humanly possible - denying them their full wage, locking them up, and threatening them with denunciation to the police (even though they themselves are doing something illegal by employing them).

The next time you get served by a waiter from Burma - think of this:
San (32), an ethnic Burmese asylum seeker, recalled how he was once confined by agents who promised him a job at the hotel. "He kept me at a house with other people from Burma and Indonesia, including 3 women. We were locked in when they went out. The agent said he would give me a job if available. There were three guards in the agent's house." Workers are usually shuttled back and forth from the restaurant to their living quarters. John is housed in a place he refers to as a "hostel," where he is not allowed visitors. He has to share a small room with five other people. (Witness accounts: Forced labour in the Malaysian service industry)

Or imagine how Min managed to keep his sanity when he was 'sold' for RM1,000 (note: an iPhone costs at least RM1,990) to a plantation owner by a restaurant owner who thought he wasn't "presentable" enough to work in the restaurant. He worked - with no pay - for a year, so that he could 'pay back' the money he was 'bought' with:
Min worked 11 hours a day, even when it rained. He was given only two meals every day, usually only rice and leftover vegetables from the plantation. "The boss gave me a container for me to collect rainwater for bath and other purposes." His main job was to spray insecticide, but he was not given a facemask. He even had to use clothes left by previous workers because the boss refused to "spend more money" on him.

Min said that the experience was really hard for him. "At that time, I couldn't even see myself as a human. The situation really drove me crazy and I felt like I wanted to die." It was also during this time that he heard about the deaths of his mother and younger sister. "There was no one for me to speak to. The pain I felt was unspeakable." (Witness accounts: Forced labour in Malaysian plantations)

Unfortunately, there are many more examples like this. In a recent survey, "61% of refugees and asylum seekers who had worked full-time in Malaysia had experienced forced labor." (See the video below.)

You can't change the world, nor help every refugee and asylum seeker out there, but you can make your voice and indignation heard. Ask the Malaysian government to recognise refugees and asylum seekers as humans who deserve the opportunity to live with dignity, free from exploitation and fear.