Thursday, August 30, 2012

Thoughts On Susan Douglas' Listening In: Radio and the American Imagination

Douglas' essay on radio is an enjoyable read, taking us on a historical journey of radio highlighting the nostalgia element the media evokes for so many, yet she seems disconnected from the innovative radio and television that is pulsing today in our country. What I wonder is how can she write about radio then and now (she does mention NPR) without mentioning KCRW, the non profit radio station that acts as the heart and soul of our sister city, Los Angeles, and our entire nation? She misses out on a whole culture of young and older generations who tune in to hear new music, books reviews, restaurant reviews, news and storytelling segments. Radio is not as obsolete of a media form post TV as she depicts. I listen to KCRW for the exposure to new music, the storytelling, the trips to the farmer's markets. Segments like Ira Glass' "This American Life" and "The Moth" storytelling series bring to life the lives of many Americans in an un-glossed manner, which harken back to a pre-radio age, when we told stories by the fire. If that isn't nostalgia, I don't know what is.

As for Douglas' criticism of television and how its rise has "stunted American imagination" I would argue that the best writing coming out of our fair nation is not through film, but rather through television. Across genres, television today is far exceeding the quality of our mainstream films. Has Douglas seen an episode of The Wire? Treme? Breaking Bad? Those are newer examples of the fine writing and acting on television, but television has been on the rise for quite some time. Of course, for every creative genius of a show there are a dozen brain cell murdering reality television shows. We all admitted to some form of it in our last class. With the tsunami of media today, it is more important than ever to streamline your exposure to debasing entertainment. For that reason, I have no television. I watch films and television series I am interested in rather than channel surfing and ending up watching something that will make me feel dirty in the morning. On that note, check out!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Praise for Radio

I would have to disagree with Joshua in that TV is the more honest media when compared to radio. As Susan Douglas, made clear in "Listening In.." radio allows the listener to be active rather than passive. TV allows mental activity only to a certain extent while radio leaves a great range of imaginary freedom for the individual . TV limits the ways in which we can use our minds to create settings, peoples, and detailed reactions by doing it for us in the form of the images. It does the thinking for us, robbing us of creating ourselves, and thus our own identities.

As Douglas says: "listening to radio... forged powerful connections between people's inner, thinking selves, other voices, from quite faraway places." People are simply more mindful when listening to radio. They create imagined communities and feel more of a sense of belonging with the knowledge that they are listening along with many others at the exact same moment. With televison, this sense of belonging is only possible through "Live" broadcasting which has progressively become limited with pre-taped shows and digital video recorders like Tivo that are becoming commonplace in American households. Also, I believe there is greater room for deceit on television with all the make-up, acting, and greater variety of "props" that could be used to lure the viewer into not thinking for themselves. There is simply more value and depth to listening to radio rather than watching television especially in today's times where we are bomabarded with images and information to such a great extent.

Susan J. Douglas Article: Another Viewpoint

The "Listening In: Radio End the American Imagination" interested me as well, but in a different way. I agree with Joshua Rosenzweig that language is what is not spoken, but I agree with Douglas that the radio expands the imagination. Without a visual of the radio host or singer, our minds can do the imagining for us. For example, when I hear St. John's voice on 99.7 I think of someone who might look like the famous rapper Pitbull ( Caucasian, bald, young. But in reality, St. John looks nothing like that ( In fact, I am still surprised that he looks like! The radio allows us to forget about the physical characteristics of the host out and instead, let's us focus on the content of what is actually being said.  While listening, it doesn't matter if the radio host is good-looking, a red-head, Asian, or in their 50's. What matters is that we can relate (positively or negatively) to what they are saying.

Douglas says, "radio has worked most powerfully inside our heads, helping us create internal maps of the world and our place in it, urging us to construct imagined communities to which we do or do not, belong". In our society today, so many things are superficial and materialistic that we tend to lean towards what is considered the "best" or "prettiest" or "popular". The radio connects listeners from different places, different social classes, and different races with real conversation. Instead of making assumptions or being biased about someone, our imagination can paint us our own picture of who is talking based on what we are hearing. These ideas are more pure because we can only judge them on what they say without real connection to definite person or thing. 

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Criticism of "Listening In: Radio and the American Imagination"

After finishing this reading assignment I felt that Douglas left out a couple of key arguments that could have been made. A quick summary of the article for those people who haven't read it would be that radio or audio media is better than television or visual media. That is a really shortened version of what I basically got out of the reading. But being an avid television/film watcher, I am going to pick apart and criticize some of the points she makes.

"And the conclusion I believe on will come to is that while radio, banalities and all, expanded the imagination, its successor, television, constricted it, and we are the worse for it as individuals and as a culture." I am going to completely disagree with this theory. I do believe that radio does leave a lot to peoples' imagination; having to translate what they hear into mental images, but television let on a totally different type of inspiration. Yes, television gave up the ability to let people create the scenes they hear, but television gave people the ability to expand their horizons. Instead of listening to something and interpreting it into a visual image, you had to go beyond that and start 'imaging' what comes next. For example, someone on the radio might describe a city with cars whizzing by, hundreds of people walking and shouting, huge skyscrapers towering over you, etc. So in your head you are picturing everything you are hearing. When you actually see all of it, you aren't picturing it anymore but interpreting and analyzing. You might start thinking what city it is, questioning everything about the people you see, assuming where they are going, etc. It becomes an imagination where you don't have the details, you get to add to it. So I believe that there is a distinction between imagination used for the radio and imagination used for television.

Another thing I believe that Douglas overlooks is what isn't spoken. We have all learned that language is mostly what isn't spoken. The addition of television brought to the table body language and facial expressions as usable language. With radio you were left with just basic verbal language and markers like pitch and tone. For example, someone could have the most entertaining, angelic voice on the radio that could make you want to do whatever it told you to. But for all you know the person could be a complete joke. For example, you hear a presidential candidate on the radio and they are an amazing speaker, you would probably go out and vote for them. What you didn't know was that this candidate was speaking in a studio with no pants on, drinking whiskey and doing coke. You didn't know this because you weren't able to see it. And yes this is a highly exaggerated example but you don't know how real or honest a person is until they are able to do it in front of you and not hiding in a studio or whatever. Being on television demands that you have the complete package and not just the amazing voice/vocals to make it big on the radio. No one is going to believe what they hear if it is coming from someone who "looks" like they don't even believe in what they are saying.

There are also some other things Douglas fails to mention; things like how television created more jobs and such.

Guidelines for posting

In one section, at least, I didn't have a chance to describe my expectations for blog posts, so here's a quick rundown:
  • Keep the language professional. Observe the rules of spelling and grammar. (No "roflmao, imho, tyvm" action.)
  • That said, you can employ a more casual and entertaining tone here than you would use in your paper assignments. Part of the art of writing for the Web is knowing your audience, having something worthwhile to say, and getting your point across in an engaging way.
  • Say no to epic posts. Posts only have to be 2-3 full paragraphs (a paragraph is roughly 4-6 sentences, depending on how complex you make your sentences). Comments can be made in one paragraph.
  • Use the affordances of the medium. Why have a web(log) instead of a paper-and-pencil journal? So you can link to other students' posts or online content, add relevant images, etc.
In terms of content, the blog posts are responses to the assigned readings (so if you've signed up to blog for a Thursday, you will post something about one of the readings done for the Tuesday prior, since we'll be discussing the Tuesday readings in Thursday section). Don't feel that you have to tackle all of the readings, or even one reading in its entirety. Limit summary (unless it's useful to you), and instead try to pick out one point/claim, example, or comparison that you found interesting or controversial in some way. Feel free to refer to your own experience or previous readings to make a connection or draw out some subtext.

In essence, keep the blog posts focused, well-written, and open to further input--remember, we'll be discussing together as two sections. If you'd like to see some examples from previous class blogs I've moderated, visit Representing Nature or Good Old-Fashioned Futures.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Old Media, New Media


Welcome to Old and New Media, the Fall 2012 class discussion blog for sections 103 and 104 of Media Studies 102: Effects of Mass Media. Beyond your required posts and comments, please treat this online space as an open forum to air questions, engage in conversations, and generally pursue a greater understanding of our course materials and concepts.

Because our lecture and section discussion time is very limited, this is one additional way to iron out misunderstandings, get clarification, and highlight the points that interest you most. Discussion can spill over from class to blog, or blog to class. Students from both sections will be posting here, so this is also an opportunity to share our insights across registration boundaries.

Finally, a word on online etiquette. This may be a relatively informal web-based resource, but it is class-related and I therefore ask you to maintain a high level of written expression (for the love of spelling, please no "u mght b rite lol"). Be courteous and considerate in your posts and comments, though that certainly does not preclude disagreements or constructive criticism.

Looking forward to an exciting semester,