America: The media giant of the world.

Disney. Macdonalds. America’s next top model. What do all these have in common?

They are American products.

The American mass media is the main operating enterprise that is used to export American products to the rest of the world, causing the globalization of American media. This is known as Cultural Imperialism.

An American media critic, Herbert Schiller, wrote: “The concept of cultural imperialism today best describes the sum of the processes by which a society is brought into the modern world system and how its dominating stratum is attracted, pressured, forced, and sometimes bribed into shaping social institutions to correspond to, or even promote, the values and structures of the dominating centre of the system.

Also, according to, Cultural imperialism is ‘the imposition of a foreign viewpoint or civilization on a people.’

Now, I believe ‘imposition’ is too strong a description, as it implies something forceful and perhaps negative. With the vast amount of American media available to us, there are bound to be negative AND positive effects that come along with it. I will be focusing more on the positive effects of Cultural Imperialism in my entry.

Cultural imperialism has been a dominant phenomenon seen in the context of Singapore culture these days. With the plethora of American television series featured on our local television channels, such as ‘American Idol’, ‘America’s next top model’, ‘Criminal minds’ and the popular soap opera ‘Days of our lives’ just to name a few. It is undeniable that their prevalence aid to retain, or improve the viewership count. Many may feel that this devalues our local television programmes as they are depicted as unpopular as compared to exported American series. However, there is positivity in depending extensively on American media instead of local, as this allows more of the countries revenue to be used on other perhaps more important issues at hand such as innovative infrastructure and tourist attractions, that too can help to spruce up our cultural identity, allowing us to create cultural recognition abroad.

Furthermore, since its evident that Singapore has a fairly small market, it is difficult for our media production industry to flourish. Hence, it is more feasible to cost effective to buy the license of western television programmes for local screening.

However, as the saying goes ‘Monkey see, monkey do,’ will too much consumption of American media become unhealthy and perhaps harmful to us?

I, personally believe that so long as we are able to stay rooted to our own national identity, whilst being open minded to the American culture induced in such American television programmes, there is nothing to worry about. Also, individuals can discern whether the media available to them is applicable to one’s own culture, and if there are good aspects that can be learnt from them. Hence, cultural imperialism can be beneficial to our society.

Reference: Unit 4 Lecture Notes, “Thinking through Communication: An Introduction to the Study of Human Communication” by Sarah Trenholm

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The man your man could smell like

At first glance, you would think this video was a prank of some parody made to make fun of the original commmerical. When I first watched this, I found it amusing but did not take it very seriously. I thought to myself, ‘If this was an actual commercial, then people would be total idiots in believing that such a body soap could make all these wonderful things come true.’ To my horror, after doing much research, I found out that this was an genuine commercial used during the Old Spice campaign, and that this commercial created a considerable amount of success for Old Spice.

In 2010, these were some key statistics made pertaining to the Old Spice campaign:

• Old Spice accounted for 75 percent of conversations in the category in the first three months of 2010.

• Half the conversations came from women.

• The YouTube/Twitter social media response campaign was “the fastest-growing and most popular interactive campaign in history.”

• More people watched its videos in 24 hours than those who watched Obama’s presidential victory speech. (Which most of us can agree is kinda sad.)

• Total video views reached 40 million in a week.

• Campaign impressions: 1.4 billion.

• Since the campaign launched, Old Spice Bodywash sales are up 27 percent; in the last three months up. 55 percent; and in the last month up 107 percent.

It’s hard to argue that this campaign doesn’t just smell like a man; it smells like victory.

According to the agenda setting function, it is established that the media has the ability to make you believe what they want you to believe; and gatekeepers, such as editors of magazines, newspapers, media owners, producers, advertisers and political groups, use this power to their advantage and monopolize on that to increase sales and popularity.

From this Old Spice campaign, it is evident that despite knowing that the product will probably not make you smell so good that things will magically appear, the hype of this campaign has caused a vast increase in sales. This definitely shows that the campaign has successfully instilled in the audience that this Old Spice shampoo is good for men, or that it is a great product to purchase.

This is how influential Media is. It is able to fed our expectations, instead of giving us the reality of the product. Yet, many of us, according to the cultivation theory“ that states the mass media does not influence the audience attitude directly, but cultivate it indirectly, become slaves to any products being advertised to us. Due to the ‘powerful effects theory’, I am pretty sure even after you see the next photo depicting how the burger king whopper looks like in advertisements as compared to reality, many of you will still go ahead and buy one.

That being said, everyone has their individual mindsets and can  resist such media messages if we wanted to.

So which one are you? The sort of audience that is influenced greatly by media messages? or the sort who can resist unrealistic advertising.

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Embrace it, don’t hate it.

It was established in this week’s class that cultures are the ‘templates for living’. It depicts who we are, what group we belong to and how we live our lives.

In this YouTube video, a UCLA American student named Alexandra Wallace publicly criticizes the Asian population in her university, stating that they have no manners and no consideration for their surroundings.

She also explains that Asian parents do not teach their children to fend for themselves, thus the influx of Asian family members visiting the UCLA dorms and lodging with them at times. Yes this may well be a personal observation, but clearly this is an exaggeration of great proportions. She is merely going through what we call a ‘cultural shock’. Cultures, though diverse, dynamic, multifaceted, and contain overlapping values and norms, should be embraced and accepted. Judging a cultural society as a whole because of a few horrible encounters is not accurate, and evidently (as shown in this clip) causes people to behave irrationally due to the uncomfortable engagement they are in.

In this rant by Wallace, a strong sense of individualism is showcased instead of collectivism. She judges Asian social behaviors, saying that Asians in America should ‘use American manners’. To some extent, I agree that we should be more mindful the cultural norms in the society we have been placed in (in this case Asians studying abroad in America), but we too must stand firm on our core cultural values. (eg. Asians have stronger familial dependency as compared to Westerners, which portrays unity) Hence, I feel there should be a mutual understanding of each other’s cultures; how different cultures function and their values of which such social behaviors stem from.

However, learning other cultures values has little or no effect unless they are being respected and practiced.

Cultural values provide the context within which a society’s norms are established and justified; and they establish what we can or cannot do in intercultural interaction. As we would like other countries to respect our cultures, we must too learn to esteem theirs.

For example in Japan, it is considered a form of table manners when one slurps his noodles loudly and enthusiastically with immense gusto. Furthermore, eating noodles too quietly can be mistaken for a lack of enjoyment of this food. However, a different culture is employed in western countries, where slurping is considered uncouth and uncivilized.

Hence, we need to learn the ways of other cultures in order not to disrespect them. Let’s embrace the different cultures, not hate them!

Source: Youtube

Reference: Unit 4 Lecture Notes, “Thinking through Communication: An Introduction to the Study of Human Communication” by Sarah Trenholm

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Leap in, the net will appear.

As an avid follower of the Wong fu Production team on Youtube, it came to know surprise that I immediately thought of this video during this week’s lecture on relationships. I felt that although this video depicts the 7 stages of a relationship, they overlap with the Knapp’s Model of Relational development stages that we were taught on during lecture.

Stage 1: Meeting – In this scene, boy meets girl during a jog around the neighborhood and initiates by informing her that her shoelaces were untied. This is stage 1, the ‘initiating stage’. (according to Knapp’s model) He was presenting himself to her for the first time, and this is how interaction between them first take place. A glimpse of stage 2 ‘experimenting’ is also shown when they continue to jog the rest of the way together and engage in small talk.

Stage 2: The chase – This part depicts both stage 2 and 3 of the “coming together” phrase of Knapp’s model, where they experiment and ‘feel each other out’ by going on dates and getting to know each other better, and on the other hand the boy attempts to intensify this relationship by chasing after her, texting her and meeting up occasionally and making her his ‘number one’ priority.

Stage 3: honeymoon- The honeymoon period combines both stage 4 and 5 of the Knapp’s model. Putting their relationship on facebook and establishing it to public they are a couple shows the stage 4- integrating component; whist stage 5 – bonding where they knew every detail of each other’s daily life and were commited to seeing each other on a daily basis.

Stage 4: comfortable- Now this stage of where they simmer down to nomalcy isn’t really depicted in Knapp’s model, as he starts the ‘coming apart’ process (stage 6-10) with stage 6 ‘differentiating’ stage, where conflict occurs due to communication breakdown, or reaffirmation of individuality. However, wong fu claims that this stage just entails that both parties take each other’s presence and hence their relationship for granted, and don’t put that much effort into it anymore.

Stage 5 & 6 tolerance and eventually downhill- Stage 7 and 8 of Knapp’s model is evident in the tolerance period, where there is little interest in each other’s daily lives and feelings (stage 7: circumscribing) and merely going through the motion, where the relationship, according to the video, ‘wasn’t bad, but wasn’t great’ shows the lack of joy and excitement that causes the stagnation stage. (stage 8)

Stage 7: breaking up- this stage contains stages 9 and 10, but for this case, stage 10 (terminating) occurs before 9 (avoiding). In this video, both of them come to an agreement to break up and move on. However, the boy starts to miss her and tries to contact her, but she avoids his affection by being cold and reclusive towards him. He also shows instances where he still misses and loves her, and does not get through stage 9- avoiding successfully. Stalking her on facebook, and looking through old pictures clearly shows that he is still not over her, and the ‘coming apart’ process on his part is not accurate.

I feel that Knapp’s Model of Relational development does not have an accurate portrayal of ALL relationships. Every relationship is distinctive. Personally I believe which path a relationship veers towards really depends on the personality and communication skills of the people involved. Relationships are never fine and dandy, and friction is inevitable. Hence, the key is to practice proper communication for a better understanding of each other. Furthermore, the stages as mentioned in the Knapp’s model are not linear, and relationships may regress to a previous stage or skip a stage. Hence, I believe the Knapp’s model should be taken into consideration when establishing the development of a relationship, but should definitely be taken with a pinch of salt.

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How you doin’?

In our day-to-day lives, we rely not only on verbal communications, but on nonverbal communications as well. If one of the other is lacking, the receiver will not be able to grasp the right meaning and understanding of the intended communication; the chances of misinterpretation in communication can occur. In this week’s lecture, it is established that non-verbal cues and verbal cues complement each other in creating effective communication and evoking significant meaning to interactions.

Language is the primary tool for direct communication, but it can convey varying meanings, especially when certain diction contain multiple interpretations. Let’s take for example the word ‘football.’ According to the Americans, ‘football’ would refer to the game similar to rugby (where hands are used to catch the ball), except the players wear armor to protect themselves from getting hurt. However, in the United Kingdom, the term ‘football’ would refer to what some term ‘soccer’, where the teams use their feet to kick the ball around, and do not wear armor.

Similarly, multiple interpretations occurs for non-verbal communication as well. For instance, the o.k. gesture (where the thumb and forefinger is connected into a circle (the O). and the other fingers are straight or relaxed in the air) in America and England is given to mean everything is fine, well or good. In Latin America and France, however, it is considered an insult, similar to giving someone the middle finger.

Hence, from these two examples it is evident that verbal communication and nonverbal communication must work together into make sure there is little or no distortion of meaning in communication.

In this clip above, it depicts scenes from the popular American sitcom, Friends, where Joey, played by Matt LeBlanc, delivers his famous phrase “How you doin’..” in different scenarios. To most, these three simple words are a commonly used term during greeting, giving the implication that the person is interested what you’ve been doing lately or what’s new in your life. However, due to the nonverbal cues Joey uses, such as paralinguistics, kinesics, objectics, proxemics as well as oculesics, he has successfully altered the simple, perhaps ‘innocent’ meaning behind the phrase “How you doin’..”.

Firstly, Joey also uses his personal identity as a actor from a popular soap opera to lure his woman companions and striking a conversation with them. Paralinguistics is apparent when Joey adjusts his pitch and tone to that of a deeper, husky and sultry voice whenever he uses this phrase. Kinesics is depicted through his occasional head nods and the use of his index finger, regulating his speech as he points to the woman as he asks her those three words. This captures the woman’s attention, knowing that his focus is on her. Oculesics is evident through his long and consistent gaze (eye contact) when he talks to women, and lastly, him inching in a little closer whenever he says his phrase helps to create intimate distance. All these nonverbal cues aid in clueing the women he meets that he is in fact trying to seduce them with his insinuating and suggestive question, implying that he is attracted to them. From this clip, it is clearly established that his combination of verbal and nonverbal cues have shown quite successfully with the ladies he meets as they are usually shown to be smitten and attracted to him afterwards.

Hence, if Joey had just stood still and said his phrase without expression or physical gestures, he would not be able to portray his attraction effectively. Therefore, this shows that verbal and nonverbal communication must work hand in hand in order for effective communication.

Source: Youtube

Reference: Unit 2 Lecture Notes, “Thinking through Communication: An Introduction to the Study of Human Communication” by Sarah Trenholm

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Are you a Belieber?

Me: “Doctor, doctor. I don’t feel too good”

Doctor: “Oh my, it seems to me that you have caught a bad case of Bieber fever.”

Me: “NOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!” I exclaim as I burst into tears, clamoring for a cure to this dreadful disease.

That’s when I wake up, hyperventilating and in a pool of sweat. Thank goodness it was just a bad dream.

Alright, I might be exaggerating a little (or a lot), but what is not exaggerated is the fact that this 17 year old pop sensation has taken the world by storm! Bieber fever has become an epidemic currently sweeping the nation, and is common in teenage girls, occasionally in a guy or two. Symptoms include: obsessive thoughts of Justin Bieber, stroke, heart attack, and seizure possibilities if meeting him, crying hysterically, screaming at a shrieking tone, fainting, and falling in love. Falling in love is most likely permanent and irreversible.

So far, this fever is incurable for those who have caught it.

(These girls definitely suffer from Bieber fever.)

While millions of teenage girls have shrines at home dedicated to Justin Bieber, I am the total opposite, cringing at the mention of his name. In my opinion, it definitely feels like the Bubonic Plague of the 21st century. That being said, everybody has his or her own mindset, and the way each and every one of us perceive and approach an idea or situation varies.

In this week’s lecture, we were taught that ‘Perception is the process of selecting, organizing and interpreting information in order to give personal meaning to the communication we receive.’ (Seiler & Beall, Communication Making Connection, 1999). Hence, it is evident that the perception of Justin Bieber varies due to the personal meaning and perhaps the importance we place on this 17 year old.

Perception is influenced by social factors. In this case, group culture such as peer pressure can influence the younger generation to love Justin Bieber. The constant news and gossip about Justin Bieber in the media also plays a vital role in influencing people’s perception of him, causing many to yearn for more Bieber.

However influences of selection varies from person to person. Individual characteristics such as cultural background, as well as beliefs and priorities can attract or hinder one from selecting the information perceived. In my case, the unsettling feeling I get whenever I hear his girly voice on the radio, knowing full well it’s a boy singing the song, defies social norms and my personal beliefs, causing me to be unreceptive to his music. Having more important priorities in life, such as my education and familial responsibilities, deters me from having any time to bother being engulfed into the Bieber world.

Cognitive schemata can also influence organizing of information. Personal constructs such as physical appearance and interaction can manipulate the way we perceive Justin Bieber. To his die-hard fans, Justin Bieber’s  baby-face, pint-size physique is alluring, plus his ability to make girl’s swoon and embracing it by voicing his love and affection makes them believe he’s confident and charismatic. On the other hand, people like me are not fooled by his ‘baby-face, pint-size physique,’ in fact, we perceive him to be androgynous and scrawny; and his interaction with his fans to be arrogant and unappealing.

With the stereotypical nature of mass media, combined with social, psychological factors and cognictive schemata, we process information a biased way and perceive them likewise. However, with that said, individual beliefs, priorities, and preference also plays a vital role, thus everybody select, organize, and interpret information differently, causing perceptions to vary.

All I can say is, one man’s meat is another man’s poison. Sorry Justin Bieber, I guess I’m just immune to Bieber fever!

Reference: Unit 2 Lecture Notes, “Thinking through Communication: An Introduction to the Study of Human Communication” by Sarah Trenholm

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What’s going on?

On October 30, 2001, a group of well-known recording artists came together to perform their version of Marvin Gaye’s renowned song ‘What’s going on’. Using the medium of a music video, the singers explored the use of blindfolds to illustrate the lack of awareness society has on pressing social issues, in this case the perennial issue of AIDS in Africa and other parts of the world. The metaphorical message portrayed by the blindfolded artists, combined with the additional and equally emotive lyrics inculcated into the song ‘What’s going on’, aided in establishing the existing and persistent issue of destruction, war and disease that affects many all over the world. Although the song was initially made to benefit the AIDS programmes in Africa and other impoverished regions, the ill-timed atrocity that we all know as the ‘September 11’ bombing took place shortly after the release of the after and a portion of the album’s proceeds benefited the American Red Cross’ September 11 fund. As unfortunate as it is, it further emphasized the importance of unity and harmony in the World to fight against such social issues that lead to wide spread destruction and despair.

What i found very interesting was the use of blindfolds with words printed on them used throughout the video. The words slowly wrapped off with each layer of the blindfolds illustrated the ignorance people have to the problems of the world because of the wide spread segregations that exists due to somewhat stereotypical catagories we’ve placed on ourselves. This created a huge impact on me, the audience, as it caused me to rethink the way i see myself in society today, and makes me wonder why I’ve been so ignorant to the things happening around me for so long.

With all that said, there is one issue came to my minde while I was watching the video. That is, do music videos and dedicated songs to these social causes really make a difference to the World? Do they aid in eradicating the problems of the World, or do they act as mere reminders to us of the disparity and hardship many others are going through?

I believe may argue that these artists are merely singing and doing what they do best to illustrate the pertinent worldwide tribulations; and possibly have the means to donate money to these causes, but do they really lend a helping hand to these causes? Furthermore, they are not accurate portrayal of the average being in the world, who might not be as rich as them, hence making it hard for people to relate to what they are singing about.

However, the opposite can be argued. I personally think that using the visual medium of recording artists getting together is an extremely effective way to bring about awareness to AIDS, as well as the extensity to which the September bombing affected the world. This is because using famous figures would undoubtedly catch the audiences attention to message they are bring across through song, as compared to random people, and would definitely persuade them more in changing their mentality towards pressing issues of the world, and help the less fortunate through monetary ways or volunteer work. Also, the thought-provoking lyrics used in the song such as What’s going on when our children can’t play, homeless can’t eat; there’s got to be a better way’ and ‘If there’s enough room here for you and me, there’s plenty of room for some humanity’ definitely strike a cord in peoples’ hearts, including mine, to decide to better society by being united in harmony and love instead of evil and fear. Lastly, the blindfolding metaphor establishes that the individual has to deal ‘with these modern day problems 
’cause of ignorance surrounding me and my constituents,’ which successfully brings across the message that we should stop being ‘blind’ and ignorant to the issues of the world just because it does not affect us directly, but instead we should unite in harmony and help one another during times of need.

Although this video was made in 2001, many new videos of artists getting together to raise money for current problems through song can be seen and heard all over the world via television, radio as well as the internet. These songs include ‘We are the world’ as well as ‘Wavin Flag’ for the Haiti relief.

Hence, I believe that the use of this music video that merges visual and audio mediums definitely brings across the imperative message of something has to be done to fight these diseases and wars happening in the World.

What do you think?

Source: Youtube

Reference: Unit 1 Lecture Notes, “Thinking through Communication: An Introduction to the Study of Human Communication” by Sarah Trenholm

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